With 2023 turning out to be a train wreck of a year, it’s a good time to be thinking about safety. Carrying the best rescue knife can be the difference between life and death – so it’s worth spending a little time and money on. Nobody likes gimmicky products – and that’s true for us too. We’ve taken the time to go through the countless option available to bring you awesome and reliable knives that fit the bill.
Our goal is to show you what you should expect from your next (or first) rescue knife, and where to get your hands on one of these essential carries. You’ll know what features are essential and which one suits you best. Let’s jump into the guide!
Top 7 Best Rescue Knives Reviews in 2023
We’re going to go in-depth into what’s unique and stands out about each of the rescue knives we’ve chosen to review. You’ll find out their key features and you’ll have a good idea of how they perform in the real world. We want you to find a knife that suits your needs and your budget – so we’ve got a couple of different options to show you.
We’ll finish off each review with what we did and didn’t like about each knife. By the end of the guide, you’ll be ready and able to make an informed decision. These knives matter and all it takes is one moment of bad luck to realize how important they are! Let’s dive into our best rescue knife reviews!
Swiss Safe Fire & Rescue Tactical Knife
Let’s start with a knife that checks all the right boxes. It has a glass breaker at the tip of the base of the blade; a high-quality seatbelt and wire cutter; and a very sharp serrated blade. This knife gives you the versatility that many first responders have at their disposal in an emergency. The 3.5” stainless steel blade is thick and strong.
It’s coated in black rust and corrosion-resistant coating to keep it clean and ready for action. In its 5” folded position, this knife fits perfectly into the Swiss Safe EMT holster. This gives you adequate protection and quick access when you need the utility this knife offers. You’re getting a very sharp blade and a lightweight aluminum handle.
It’s designed to give you enough of a grip to avoid slipping, while still being light and comfortable when applying force. This affordable knife comes in a couple of different colors and gives you great value for your money. It’s one of the best rescue knife options at this price point – and reliable addition to your emergency kit.
- Affordable and offers big value for money
- Lightweight and easy to control
- The serrated portion of the blade is extremely sharp and capable of making tough cuts quickly
- Fits the Swiss Safe EMT holster well
- The blade locking mechanism is on the sharp side of the blade and therefore riskier
- Handle dents and scratches easily
SOG Trident Elite Rescue Knife
Here’s an awesome larger 3.7” rescue SOG knife. The blade is crafted from high-quality AUS-8 stainless steel. It holds its edge impeccably and lasts for ages. It’s a bit of a mission to sharpen, but this doesn’t need to be done too often. It’s a fantastic high-end outdoor rescue knife with a robust and durable handle.
The rubberized inlays give you all the grip strength you’ll need in the rain or with oily hands. You’ll find the cord-cutter to be extremely effective and swift – especially when cutting seatbelts. We would love to have seen a serrated edge on the blade to help with the rougher and tougher cutting tasks. The arc actuator is super-responsive and the action is snappy.
It’s an assisted opening blade, so it’s also well-suited to beginners and first-time users. This is one of the high-end best rescue knife options for the money. You’re getting what you pay for. The quality is exceptional and the performance lives up to the claims made. Overall, you’ll get a reliable and trustworthy rescue knife you could bet your life on.
- High-quality steel and excellent edge retention
- The blade is very sharp and handles tough cutting like clockwork
- Cord cutter is one of the best on any rescue and tactical knife
- The handle is ergonomic and the rubber inlays give you a solid grip
- There’s no serrated edge on the blade
- Harder steel is quite hard to sharpen without the right tools
Kershaw Barricade Rescue Knife
You’ll quickly fall in love with the SpeedSafe assisted opening blade. You can release it instantly with one hand with a smooth and snappy action. If you’re not a fan of assisted openings, you can use the one-handed flipper node to release the blade. It’s slightly slower but feels solid and reliable. The blade is secured by a good quality linear lock.
It’s safe, strong, and doesn’t slip like many other linear locks occasionally do. You’re getting a treated and coated blade that’s corrosion-resistant and holds its edge well. You’ll need to touch it up once in a while, but edge retention is above average. The pocket clip is only single-direction which is a little unfortunate.
If you’re left-handed or want to mount the knife in a different position, you might need to change the clip out with something more versatile. You’ll immediately notice the luminous orange handle. While not being super-discreet, it helps you quickly find the knife at night or when your vision is impaired. Overall, this is a reliable and affordable pick for the best rescue knife.
- The luminous orange handle is easy to find in low light
- Rust and the corrosion-resistant coating is good quality
- The linear lock isn’t prone to slipping
- Has a flipper node if you don’t want to use the SpeedSafe assisted opening
- No serrations on the blade
- The single-direction pocket clip is limiting
StatGear T3 Tactical Auto Rescue Knife
Here’s an awesome rescue knife that’s riddled with useful and high-quality features. First off, you’re getting a spring-loaded window breaker. This is unique to find on a pocket knife at this price point. It takes the hit-or-miss out of breaking a window.
The 440c stainless steel does a good enough job at resisting rusting and unnecessary damage, while still being light and strong enough to do heavy cutting work. We love that they’ve included a serrated portion to the blade. This helps you preserve the edge on the main blade and gives you extra cutting power.
On top of these features, you’re getting a top-quality seatbelt cutter and tactical LED light attached to the handle. These combine excellently for emergencies and the features don’t get in each other’s way when they’re working together.
The icing on the cake is the heavy-duty nylon sheath. It’s very robust and does a good job of keeping rainwater off the knife. It’s one of our favorites for the best EDC folding rescue knife – made even better when you consider how light on your wallet it is.
- LED light is bright enough to light up a nearby scene
- The serrated portion of the blade is super-sharp
- Spring-loaded window breaker works phenomenally well
- Awesome quality and robust nylon knife sheath
- You’ll need to fidget with the spring-loaded window breaker until it clicks into place when you first get the knife
- The belt cutter and knife are a little slow to unfold
Victorinox Swiss Army Rescue Tool
If you’re looking for a rescue knife, but don’t want the versatility of a Swiss Army knife, here’s something you might like. You’re getting up to 15 different functions from 8 tools. While the opening times of the tools are slower, it’s made up for by their sturdiness and functionality. There isn’t a whole lot you can’t do with this knife.
There’s a one-handed serrated locking blade and a disc saw to cover almost all your cutting (in combination with the main knife). This compensates for not having the same size knife as many pocket knives do. The luminescent yellow coating on the handle gives it non-slip traction and makes it highly visible in low light situations.
You’ll have to pay a pretty penny for this knife, but it’s worth every one you invest. It’s made from premium-quality steel and kept to the highest quality standards. This is the best rescue knife that you’ll have for a very long time if you take good care of it. It’s possibly the best high-end rescue knife with this level of versatility and functionality.
- Extremely versatile while not sacrificing quality
- The non-slip coating is luminescent and easy to locate
- Disc saw and straight saw both have quite excellent cutting power
- Not too heavy despite the larger size and number of tools
- Quite bulky to carry in your pocket
- Expensive compared to many pocket knives in this list
Magnum Compact Rescue Knife
Here is a cheap and compact best rescue knife. It’s great if you don’t have loads of carrying space, or you simply don’t enjoy carrying large and bulky knives around with you. It’s a fantastic choice for your first rescue knife due to the low cost and the shorter profile. You’re getting the utility of a window breaker and a belt/cord cutter, while not sacrificing an ergonomic handle.
The shorter blade has a decent serrated edge. We would have liked the serrated portion to be a little shorter, and the straight edge to be a bit longer. You’ll find the tip of the blade is close to the centerline of the knife and has good piercing power. This is exactly what you need for emergencies.
While the short blade isn’t the most versatile, you’ll get decent cutting power a utility – all at a super-low price. The linear lock is a little finicky but generally works well. There might be a few occasions where you struggle to unlock and fold the blade back into its place. This is one of our favorite picks for the best cheap rescue knife.
- Super-compact and lightweight for easy mobility
- Good cutting and piercing power
- Ergonomic handle that doesn’t slip and slide
- Excellent value for money
- The short blade can be quite limiting at times
- Belt/cord cutter isn’t very effective
CRKT M16 Folding Rescue Knife
If you’re looking to jump straight into getting a premium knife that isn’t quite as expensive as some other premium options, this might be right for you. You’ll notice how effective the triple-point serrations on the blade are the first time you cut with them.
They’re extremely sharp and can cut through the toughest of materials. The automated linear safety lock is top-of-the-line quality and works consistently and reliably. You’re getting one of the better window breakers as it’s made from tungsten carbide.
You’ll have no issues breaking through car windows and other resin-reinforced glass. The blade is fashioned in the tanto style, meaning the tip is impeccably sharp and your piercing power is nearly unmatched among pocket knives.
- Premium material quality and craftsmanship
- Exquisitely sharp tip and well-centered and powerful
- Triple point serrations cut through nearly all tough materials
- The seat belt cutter is very effective
- The blade flipper is in a bit of an annoying position
- Safety lock takes quite a lot of time to get used to
What Are the Essentials of a Great Rescue Knife?
Rescue knives have many features that can be sacrificed if you want a reliable, consistent, and functional knife. It’s worth taking the time to get familiar with the features that matter most. Make sure you have taken them into account before making any buying decision. Let’s take a look.
Sharpness and Serrations
Almost all great rescue knives (especially river knives) have super-sharp serrated cutting edges. This isn’t to say that the whole cutting edge is serrated; it’s usually a large portion or one side of the blade. These serrated edges need to be very sharp to cut through rope and other material in an emergency.
I prefer more “wavy” serrations as opposed to more closely spaced and deeper serrations. They tend to cut more smoothly and consistently.
Folding VS Fixed Knives
Rescue knives need all the sturdiness and durability they can get and they’re often used in life or death situations. Folding knives are easier to carry and are lighter, but it’s not worth the loss in durability and strength if you’re looking for a serious rescue knife.
If you just want a general utility knife for the outdoors, then a folding knife is okay. Try to go for a fixed knife with a full-tang and decent quality steel if you have the budget.
A non-slip textured handle that’s grippy even when used with wet/oily hands is essential. You need to be able to cut with full-power with bloody or slippery hands. You should also get a knife with a luminescent and bright color. Orange and bright green are the most common. The handle also needs to be ergonomic, with hand guards and contouring being useful (but not essential) additions.
Cord Cutter and Glass Breaker
These aren’t essential but will go a long way to improve the knife’s functionality and reliability. The glass breaker is usually at the base of the handle and the cord-cutter is often on the blade’s spine or spine-side of the handle.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Q: What Is the Best Steel for Rescue Knives?
A: Stainless steel is essential as you’ll be using the knife outdoors and in wet conditions (possibly even involving blood and dirt). Stainless steel will give you the corrosion resistance you need. As far as hardness goes, an HRC rating of around 56-58 will offer the best balance between sharpness, edge retention, and durability.
Q: Do I Need a Sheath for My Rescue Knife?
A: A sheath will greatly improve how well your knife is protected while hiking/traveling/trekking. It will also improve the moisture resistance and keep the edge safe from knocks and nicks. You should get a sheath that can attach to your PFD belt without much hassle while still allowing you quick access to your knife.
Q: Why Do Rescue Knives Have Luminescent Handles?
A: They improve low-light visibility and so that you can accurately reach for the knife using only your peripheral vision. They also reduce the chance of you losing the knife when you place it on the ground or aside during a rescue.
You should have a clear idea of what you’ll need in your next rescue knife. These knives need to be well suited to your needs and planned uses. If you have large hands, go with a knife that has a larger ergonomic handle. The better the knife suits you, the more value you’ll get for your money.
Take some time to go through the options that you’re interested in before making your choice. Once you’re ready, go ahead and put it on order. With the best rescue knife and a little practice, you’ll be ready for any emergency – you might even save a life!