Top 5 Pocket Knives Under $100
Many factors go into determining the price of a pocket knife. When you consider details like steels, bearings, and scale materials, the discrepancy between a sub-$100 and $1,000-plus blade becomes clear. The design and materials of a knife are generally what dictates its overall quality and durability. But there are some blades that break the rules—blades that perform and hold up much better than their prices suggest.
That said, there are also a lot of sub-$100 pocket knives that aren’t worth much. Thousands of knives fall into this price bracket, most of which are mediocre at best. Narrowing down such a vast expanse of products would be time-consuming. Ridgerunner Blades doesn’t want you to have to go through all of that, which is why we’ve done the homework and testing for you. Here are our top five picks for a pocket knife under $100:
1. Kershaw Launch 11
The Kershaw Launch 11 is one of the newer knives on this list, and it doesn’t disappoint. It’s a great-looking knife, with a unique hole in the handle that not only adds aesthetic value but also aids grip. The Launch series offers many different sizes, and the 11 seems like the ideal size for everyday carry; it’s larger than the 4, 9, and 10 and smaller than the other models. Fans of the Kershaw Leek will appreciate that the Launch 11 is very similar in size.
This knife comes with a 2.75-inch CPM-154 blade finished in black-oxide blackwash. Though technically a modified drop point, the Launch 11’s blade is unlike any other traditional shape, as it offers an elongated slicing edge and reinforced tip. This means that it will provide slightly more strength and durability than the Leek in terms of precision work and prying.
The Launch 11 is a push-button, out-the-side automatic knife. Even the most serious enthusiast will appreciate the satisfying snap of this knife when engaged. Crafted with black anodized 6061-T6 aluminum, the handle is handsome and gets a subtle pop of color with its bronze anodized pivot collar.
Weight is another perk of the Launch 11, as it comes in at only 2.1 ounces (among other factors, the hole in the handle lends to this). The knife measures 3.8 inches closed and 6.75 inches overall. It offers a slimline ambidextrous tip-up pocket clip for safe and easy pocket carry.
All and all, the Kershaw Launch 11 is hard to beat as a budget-friendly EDC. Particularly if you’re into the Leek and able to carry an OTS automatic knife on your daily grind, this knife should be your first consideration, as it’s a little bit smaller and lighter. However, even if you don’t normally care for Kershaw products or know much about them, there are plenty of aspects of this blade to appreciate.
2. Bear OPS Mini Bold Action V Tanto Auto
Bear OPS is a newer subsidiary of Bear and Son—a cutlery manufacturer with a rich family history. Bear and Son has long been considered to be among the best cutlery companies in the United States, and it handles every step of the design and production processes in-house with a world-class staff. The company even builds its own tools for goodness’ sake!
Bear and Son has taken its expertise and fully self-contained factory processes and applied them to tactical knives. Like other knives by Bear OPS, the Mini Bold Action V Tanto Auto is the prime example of a high-quality product at an affordable price point.
This knife is all about function, yet it also happens to be among the best-looking knives on the market. The Bold Action knives feature both a button and a switch, which are used to achieve the manufacturer’s mission of providing carriers with the “best of both worlds”—the deployment speed of a fixed blade with the easy carry of a folding knife.
The Mini Bold Action V Tanto Auto knife’s blade is made with Sandvik 14C28N stainless steel, which is known for its exceptional hardness, edge performance, and corrosion resistance. The 3.25-inch recurve tanto blade profile provides top-notch utility and cutting action. Heavy cutting and piercing tasks are aided by a reinforced bevel at the forward tip edge. The recurve main bevel is double hollow ground and can slice through pretty much anything.
The knife’s frame scales are machined from tough, subtly-textured G10, and the two-tone black-and-green handle is as classically tactical as it gets. The handle is grippy yet not overly aggressive to the touch, and heavy cutting is assisted by angular finger grooves on the handle. The Mini Bold Action V Tanto Auto measures 4.25 inches long closed and 7.5 inches overall, and it weighs 4.2 ounces. If you’re looking for a high-quality tactical pocket knife for your upcoming adventures, this is a solid option.
3. CRKT Carson M21-02G Flipper
Columbia River Knife & Tool is known for producing quality pocket knives for unbeatlable prices. There may be better knives on this list, but the CRKT Carson M21-02G Flipper perhaps offers the most bang your buck. In other words, don’t scoff at the sub-$50 price tag just yet!
The Carson M21-02G Flipper comes with a G10 handle and a skeletal structure that makes for excellent grip and blade-to-handle weight ratio. For the average person, this knife is uber-comfortable in hand. And in tactical situations—when your hands become sweaty and shaky—the G10 handle can come in quite, well, handy.
The blade on this knife is made of 8Cr14MoV, which is a Chinese steel with a reputation for superb edge retention and resistance to rust and corrosion. You can expect the three-inch spear point blade to be razor-sharp out of the box. You can also expect it to cut through heavy cardboard, nylon ropes, and similar materials with no problem. And the blade will stay sharp for a long, long time.
Another feature that sets the Carson M21-02G Flipper apart fom other budget-friendly knives is the flipper, which is located on the back of the handle and provides exceptionally fast and safe deployment. The flipper essentially eliminates the need for a blade-assisted open, and it keeps your hand away from the blade while opening. It’s important to note that this is not a switchblade, so don’t treat it like one! As long as you point the knife to the ground and engage the flipper, it will open smoothly and safely with a nice, satisfying snap.
Furthermore, the knife’s flipper feature serves as a blade guard when the knife is in the open position. This helps to keep your hand from slipping onto the blade when the flipper is engaged, protecting you from that sharp edge and the damage that could ensue! Measuring 4.25 inches closed and 7.25 inches overall, this 3.8-ounce pocket knife is the perfect buy for an inexpensive EDC.
4. CRKT M16-01KZ
Designed by Kit Carson, the CRKT M16 has been around for a long time and comes in many different sizes. While every knife in the series is designed to meet an impressive number of EDC and tactical needs at an unbeatable price, we’re choosing the 01KZ for its compact size and practicality. This knife has a carry weight of only 2.3 ounces and measures four inches closed and 7.125 inches overall.
Like its brother, the Carson M21-02G Flipper, the M16-01KZ comes razor-sharp and will retain its edge through a lot of use. The 3.125-inch spear point blade is made of 8Cr15MoV stainless steel, which means excellent edge retention and rust resistance to go with moderate sharpening difficulty.
This knife handle features a stainless steel liner with Zytel scales, the frame has a series of holes in various sizes, and the corners are nicely rounded. These factors combine to provide a comfortable and sturdy grip while also keeping the knife lightweight. Overall, the handle design is simple, and the flipper helps protect your hand from the blade during use.
One of the most surprising aspects of the M16-01KZ is its deployment. It’s so smooth and fast that you might assume it’s an assisted opening knife. It also features CRKT’s Auto LAWKS system (by the way, the same system is found on the Carson M21-02G Flipper). The Auto LAWKS system exists to protect you during heavy use, as it requires you to pull a lever before disengaging the lock. Some people are not crazy about this feature when it comes to easy EDC tasks, but it certainly can prove valuable in tactical situations.
The tip-down pocket clip on this knife is simple but effective; it offers great retention and allows for a deep carry. For a pocket knife in the $30 range, the CRKT M16-01KZ is an exceptional buy.
5. Kershaw Leek Assisted Opening Knife
We mentioned the Kershaw Leek above, and we didn’t feel comfortable with the idea of leaving it off of this list. Simply put, it’s just too great of a knife. Considering the cost, the Kershaw Leek Assisted Opening Knife is the cream of the crop when it comes to all-around usefulness and durability.
Designed by Ken Onion, this Leek is elegant and well-crafted. The three-inch stonewash wharcliffe blade is made of CPM-154 steel. It’s exceptionally sharp and will hold its edge with the best of them, even through frequent use. And it feels nice when you’re cutting, which is always a good sign that the knife is doing the work for you. The blade is thinner than some others, which means it’s excellent for use while camping, in the kitchen, and in other everyday scenarios. However, the thin blade point could be a concern for heavier cutting and prying.
On the whole, the Leek is thin and small, measuring four inches long when closed and seven inches long overall. It weighs just 2.41 ounces. It will fit so seamlessly in your pocket that you may even forget you’re carrying it (but don’t!). Fortunately, the pocket clip offers superb retention and allows for secure carrying. The clip can also be easily changed between tip-up and tip-down.
Furthermore, the Leek Assisted Opening Knife uses Kershaw’s Speedsafe assisted opening mechanism for a fast and secure deployment. And you can quickly disengage the lock with the provided thumb slot as you close the blade. If you’re looking for a superb all-around EDC with a beautiful, slim design, this could be the knife for you.
One Benjamin Franklin can get you a great knife. But not all sub-$100 blades will perform or stand the test of time like you want them to, so you want to be selective when making an investment.
Overall, the Kershaw Launch 11 is tough to beat as an EDC in this price range. The Bear OPS Mini Bold Action V Tanto Auto is probably your best option for tactical situations, and both the CRKT models are much more impressive than their prices suggest. If you’re a sucker for slim, elegant design, then you might fall in love with the Kershaw Leek Assisted Opening Knife.
At the end of the day, what matters most is that you have a blade that’s comfortable, easy to carry, and will get the job done for years to come. While these are some of our favorite models, feel free to browse our wide variety of knives at RidgerunnerBlades.com to see more!