Why Are You Using a Defensive Knife vs. a Utility Knife?
 

Why Are You Using a Defensive Knife to Open Boxes?

By Bryan Black

Pocket Utility Knives 00

Utility Knife, Box Cutter, Razor Blade Knife, whatever you call them, today I’m going to discuss why I’ve started carrying one around with me daily and why I stopped using my EDC knife to open boxes.

A few years back, I was in a class with Jeff Gonzales and something he said really hit home for me. He mentioned that the knife he carries is for defensive purposes only, he doesn’t use it to open mail, cut a piece of rope, or open a box. It stays sharp and unused so that he always knows he has a sharp knife at the ready.

This was pretty eye opening, as I’d been using my daily carry knife to open boxes for quite awhile. I knew I was using the blade and that was ok with me. It would have to be sharpened from time to time, but I didn’t care much about how I was dulling it with daily tasks. I admit when I got busy, a long time would go by in between sharpening sessions and I became complacent with how sharp my knife stayed.

While this might not seem like a big deal to you, it wasn’t for me either until Jeff opened my eyes. I had a serious conversation with myself and honestly answered the question “If I have to use my knife for it’s intended purpose, will it be sharp enough to do the job? Until I started carrying a pocket sized box cutter, I couldn’t answer that question with anything other than a no. Granted, a knife can be a stabbing implement and even a dull pencil can work for that purpose. However, I don’t carry a knife to only be as good as a pencil.

Pocket Utility Knives

In searching for a backup for my EDC Knife, I’ve been trying out a couple of different types of pocket utility knives over the past few months and I wanted to share my thoughts here with how they’ve been working for me. Again, the purpose here is to use a utility knife to open boxes and for other utility related tasks; not my knife.

A few features I’ve grown fond of with these pocket utility knives are ease of use, small form factor and easy blade replacement. I think first and foremost size and weight come into play. My requirements are that it has to easily slip into a pocket, it can’t weigh too much and it has to use a common utility razor blade available at any hardware store.

What really sold me on carrying one of these was traveling. You can simply remove the blade, carry this on a plane and then pick up a new blade when you get to your destination. Easy! Here’s a few different pocket utility knives I’ve been evaluating. I’m not sold on any one in particular and each has its positives and negatives.

Gerber EAB Pocket Knife

Why Are You Using a Defensive Knife to Open Boxes?

Why Are You Using a Defensive Knife to Open Boxes?

The Gerber/Fiskars EAB (Exchange A Blade) Pocket Knife is my most recent acquisition. The sleek stainless steel industrial manufacturing and liner-lock folder design really sold me. That and the fact it’s only about $10 on Amazon. However, its downside is how slick it is. Meaning that when clipped into a pocket with the integrated clip, it’s so slick it can be tough to get a good purchase on. This is a testament to the clip though, it’s a good one and better than some pocket knives I own. It can also double as a money clip, but I haven’t used it like that.

Why Are You Using a Defensive Knife to Open Boxes?

Why Are You Using a Defensive Knife to Open Boxes?

Why Are You Using a Defensive Knife to Open Boxes?

Once you do get it out of your pocket, it also takes some practice to be able to open it one-handed. The setscrew that holds the blade in acts as a thumb stud to open it up and does a better job as a setscrew than a thumb stud. The weight is also over double of the other two pocket utility knives featured in this article. It weighs 2.4 oz. with the blade installed and is made in China.

Screwpop Utility Knife

Why Are You Using a Defensive Knife to Open Boxes?

I also have a Screwpop Utility Knife and it takes the prize for the noisiest of the three. The blade in the closed position rattles quite a bit due to more space than necessary. I may be wrong, but from what I can find, utility knife blades are a universal length and I feel that this design could have avoided the rattling by altering the design by 1/16th of an inch. It certainly wouldn’t take much. I hate to start out my thoughts on this with a negative, but there it is. I do like that’s it’s also around $10 though.

Why Are You Using a Defensive Knife to Open Boxes?

Why Are You Using a Defensive Knife to Open Boxes?

The Screwpop Utility Knife is made from stainless steel and adjusted by a lever mechanism that’s lifted and set into the groves at the top of a utility knife blade. With some practice this can be done one-handed and is easier to manipulate in this way than the Gerber EAB is. The front of the device also features a bottle opener that works pretty well for that purpose.

Why Are You Using a Defensive Knife to Open Boxes?

A large brass eyelet at the back of the knife can be used to attach the knife to a keychain if desired and the entire unit with a blade weighs just 0.8 oz. While it’s not available on the Screwpop website, I believe this is made overseas.

Rexford Knives RUT

Why Are You Using a Defensive Knife to Open Boxes?

Why Are You Using a Defensive Knife to Open Boxes?

To round out my acquired pocket utility knives, I also picked up a Rexford Knives RUT. This is by far my favorite of the three, but significantly more expensive due to being made from titanium by a reputable custom knife maker. They run about $135 at Blade HQ, but I’ve found it to be the most versatile pocket utility knife. It weight 1 oz. and is super simple to operate one-handed, but allow me to explain. You press a tab on the spine of the RUT to the side, which releases the mechanism that locks in the utility knife blade.

Why Are You Using a Defensive Knife to Open Boxes?

Why Are You Using a Defensive Knife to Open Boxes?

This action is the same to move the blade out to use it and to replace it, meaning that if you let gravity carry the blade too far it will fall out when you’re pressing this tab. I’ve found it easy to hold the RUT directly above what I’m wanting to cut and then pressing the tab. If the blade is close enough to the cutting surface you can use it to get the blade to the right length to allow the liner-lock tab to catch the utility knife blade in the right spot to lock it open. When you’re finished, just point it towards the sky, press the tab and the blade falls back into the closed position.

Why Are You Using a Defensive Knife to Open Boxes?

There’s also a bottle opener and a flat head screwdriver that doubles as a pry bar (probably not officially though) I’ve found it very useful for a lot of things, including a flat head screwdriver. There is a slight rattle of the utility knife blade inside the titanium RUT housing, but nothing compared to the Screwpop. I don’t hear it at all rattling around in my pocket like I do the other.

Wrap Up

In typical fashion, the more expensive device outperformed the less expensive ones, but that’s not to say its just because of price. There were also more features and better craftsmanship on the Rexford RUT. I’m not 100% sold on any of these yet; my search continues.

Are you carrying a pocket utility knife? If so, what do you carry?

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Discussion

109 comments
Dex Carther
Dex Carther

The Screwpop Ron's Utility Knife 3.0 is out now, check out their web site.  It is perfection, I carry it daily. You have the first generation in this article.  The third generation (3.0) uses a rare earth magnet to keep the blade quiet and quick blade re-tractor and it also acts as a lever stop. It holds the knife on the refrigerator great too for bottle opener use too!

RGideon
RGideon

I carry a variety of knives.  Currently I'm carrying a Husky box cutter.  I have them in a couple of different colors, red and blue.  I like these box cutters because they are inexpensive and they are light.  I keep a sharp knife almost all the time.  I have sharpening stones at home, in my office, and a steel in my vehicle, but sometimes it's nice to have something that's easiliy sharpened and a box cutter fits the bill.  Just yesterday I purchased more blades for it.

I use a knife for a large variety of tasks and the only real struggle I have with a box cutter is cutting fruit.  Otherwise, it pretty much fits my EDC needs.  Typically, most knife encounters are slashing and splaying of muscle.  The box cutter isn't a deep cut like a knife with a sway belly, but I believe it will create a sufficient wound.  Knives which are long enough for stabbing and reaching vitals will need to be longer than the typical "corporate approved" pocket knife 3" blade maximum anyway.  A box cutter helps to ease coworkers, and corporate security's, concerns about safety in the workplace.

Lastly, the point of the colors I chose are a matter of opinion, but I feel the colors don't present the threat that a box cutter can be to the "public".  I'm a nice guy, why advertise any differently?  I'd use any tool that is handy to defend myself, a chair, a stapler, a ball point pen, a rock, etc.  But, I'm not going to present them a weapons, the same with my EDC knives. 

Roy



bart
bart

For the same reason you don't carry a "tactical" pen, but just a regular metal pen, I most often don't carry a "tactical" or "defensive" knife.  I happen to use an old-fashioned slip-joint pocket knife.  It has two blades.  I use one for utility purposes, and I keep the other sharp.  I'm realistic about the defensive capability of a knife like this.  First, it's legally a "deadly weapon," and second, it's not likely to win a gun fight.  I'm sure the defensive utility of a knife could be debated endlessly, but my point is made by simply examining a few knives.  Look at a classic Buck 110 and compare it to a Zero Tolerance 350.  Look at a Victorinox Trekker vs a Benchmade Griptilian.  The "scary black" knife is marginally more suited to combat, but probably not enough to make a difference in outcome.  If you're looking for a duty knife, go for it, and get the pen from the pistol company too.  But if you're better served by a discreet EDC item, and you don't need to look like a tool when you pull out your Cold Steel Vaquero to open a box, the Swiss Army knife has a blade for every purpose.  My old school slip-joint is another step down from the Buck and Swiss Army models I compared to tactical knives, but I decided it serves my purposes best.  Other bigger knives I would consider for EDC that are also more "benign" in the impression they give, but have every bit of all-purpose utility are the Opinel series of folders, and the Morakniv fixed blades.

Tierlieb
Tierlieb

I never got this argument of not using a self-defense knife. I think the opposite is true: Your your knife all the time. This means that when you need it desperately, you will have thousands of repetitions of drawing and opening it under all circumstances.. You will know exactly the right spot to put it for convenient access it. 


Imagine someone carrying the perfect 1911, some extremely expensive officer sized model, optimized for reliability, ease of draw, lightweight, in the $3000+ range... but not using it and practicing with a Glock, because if that one breaks, you can simply buy a new one.


In addition to that, I wonder what people worry about sharpness: A gun is always loaded, a knife is always sharp. People mistake this rule of thumb for a safety rule, but it is also a mandatory requirement. Learn sharpening your knife. Make it a habit. 

True West
True West

Re the Screwpop: a stupidly half-assed design, esp. since the utility blade also rattles when extended for use, since the locking bar fills only 1/2 the width of the stop-notch. (One has to wonder if anyone actually tested it before putting it into mass production.) Easy solution for the rattling, extended and retracted, is to apply a strip of tape to the inside of the Screwpop housing, or conversely to the backside of the blade itself. I find there's ample room actually for two blades (i.e., +1 spare) and a strip of clear packing tape. All that said, I much prefer using the awl/reamer on my Pioneer SAK (but any 91mm Alox model will do) to open boxes, since packing tape invariably gunks up any knife or utility blade...

True West
True West

Re the Screwpop: a stupidly half-assed design, epecially since the utility blade also rattles when extended for use, since the locking bar fills only 1/2 the width of the stop-notch. (One has to wonder if anyone actually tested it before putting it into mass production.) Easy solution for the rattling, extended and retracted, is to apply a strip of tape to the inside of the Screwpop housing, or conversely to the backside of the blade itself. I find there's ample room actually for two blades (i.e., +1 spare) and a strip of clear packing tape. All that said, I much prefer using the awl/reamer on my Pioneer SAK (but any 91mm Alox model will do) to open boxes, since packing tape invariably gunks up any knife or utility blade.

C3rvantes
C3rvantes

I have a box cutter in my rolling tool bag.. I use it when I'm stooped over a box I want to open and my tool bag is right there.. BUT I normally use my ColdSteel Voyager XL.. I sharpen it every 20 days.. some weird habit I got into.. but it's always sharp enough to break down boxes and I will not run it across my flesh cuz that thing is daggum sharp.

Grunt
Grunt

To be honest, folding knives aren't great for self defense. They're mostly designed to be used as a tool, not a weapon. By the time you get it out of your pocket and opened the other guy can already be in your face beating the snot out of you. Knives with a fixed blade are much more useful for self defense. That's why combat knives have fixed blades. I get that you probably don't want to carry around a big clunky knife, but if I bring a weapon that will elevate an altercation to a lethal level I'd want it to be designed for that purpose.

Holomon
Holomon

Two knives, two wallets....where do you find all the pocket space?!?


Seriously though, there is no way opening a couple of boxes between sharpenings is going to blunt a decent knife. Seems to me the answer is more about buying a good knife that holds an edge rather than carrying an assortment of cutlery.

puma
puma

@Holomon Just read one of his reviews with some swoopy pants in the 10+ pocket range.

Oh Be One
Oh Be One

My lightsaber covers most of my daily tasks.   It's my EDC in addition to being an elegant weapon for a more civilized age.

Jared
Jared

Far be it from me to differ with Jeff G., but to me using your EDC knife for utility tasks translates to a lot more reps drawing and deploying the knife and a lot more time with your hand getting used to the feel of it, many more opportunities to turn and move the knife in motions (some realistic some unrealistic) than you'd ever have given the average-joe's limits on training time.

Jack Spirko
Jack Spirko

Agreed, been recommending the EAB for about 6 years now.

JS
JS

I like ITS. I love the articles and insightful thought that goes in to a lot of the things I see here. But this one is a bit ridiculous, in my opinion. Lets take a trip down memory lane. Back in the day, young boys (and most men, for that matter) carried one knife. It was in the their pocket daily, and always at the ready. It may have been a jacknife, or a Boy Scout style camp knife. Whatever the case, they cut everything with it. They whittled, opened cans, boxes, skinned and fleshed small animals, and then (hopefully) cleaned it, put a drop of motor oil on the pivots and backsprings and put it away- back in their pocket. No matter how high speed some of things are on this site (and no matter how many of them I have adopted for my own life), this one is too out there. I carry one knife in my pocket. I use it for everything. If it gets dull, I sharpen it. If it gets dirty, I clean it. Not only does it reinfoce the fact that I can do more with less, it teaches me that I need to take care of my equipment. Come on man, I feel like you guys were hurting for an article, and came up with this one. 

green_vaccine
green_vaccine

Bryan, it appears that the Screwpop unit will hold two blades side-by-side. That would be the reason that you're experiencing the rattling that you spoke about.

Kurt Schneider
Kurt Schneider

Ouch. Horrible way to go. Still, I'm not going to carry one. ;-)

CookieandTom Rader
CookieandTom Rader

Cookie had a friend that was stabbed to death with a butter knife. Something like 70 times.

Kurt Schneider
Kurt Schneider

Ask your first responder buddies how many people they've seen who are alive only because the other guy didn't have a sharper knife.

Stylles Rusling
Stylles Rusling

Brian Geiswite if you carry a "good knife" it shouldnt be worn down enough from cutting cardboard that it wont even cut human flesh....if you carry a knife that gets that worn down from cutting cardboard then either your knife fuckin sucks or you should look up the defenition of good....try again buddy

Brian Geiswite
Brian Geiswite

the point is not to put extra wear on your good knife. cardboard is horrible on knives.

Brian Geiswite
Brian Geiswite

boxes contain natural abrasives that damage knife blades. I have ruined a good many edc blades this way

Matt F
Matt F

I also carry 2 knives. A Gerber Ghost Strike fixed bald on my weak side for defense, and a Gerber Downrange Auto for general utility use in my strong side back pocket.

ShineAgain
ShineAgain

I just ordered the TAD version of the RUT.  I'll be carrying it in my right front pocket with my overpriced car remote and know the metal is going to bang up the remote. Do any of you have a suggestion for a pocket sheath for the RUT V2? Thanks!  I like the idea of not using my Spartan Phrike or Enyo for cutting stupid crap and opening boxes!

Wes Allen
Wes Allen

Brian, I feel compelled to defend you on this article.  I was surprised at how many negative and disrespectful comments it brought about.  I have been separating defense knife and utility knife for better than 15 years now.  it's not difficult.  But it is a discipline much like the choice to make accommodations to carry a pistol.  But to defend this concept directly, the difference between a purpose made combat knife and a good utility knife are like unto a phillips heads screw driver and a ball point pen.  Yes, you can cut a person with a dull knife but most people don't walk around naked.  A razor sharp blade with the optimal length and profile however, will go right through denim and or layers of various clothing material with ease as well as divide flesh deeply to vital underlying structures.  You cannot accomplish this with just any average utility blade of less than a perfect edge.  Just my two respectful cents on an intelligent article.  

LONGSHOT10X
LONGSHOT10X

LEATHERMAN AND DAGGER DA... WITH ALL DO RESPECT

nDjinn
nDjinn

I like that RUT. I am guilty as well, a bad habit from working as a retail manager and opening shipments. I do have a good tip if you want to keep just one sharp on you; I flip my knife over and use the tip and non edged side.

Guy Reynolds
Guy Reynolds

I have two porcelain sharpening rods around the house. Two or three passes and I can shave with my knives again. Know your blades and you know what they need when they need it.

Joshua Kivler
Joshua Kivler

Because it has a sharp edge. Knives arent really one trick ponys ..it's a tool with countless uses

Justin Coyle
Justin Coyle

My go to utility blade has been a Gerber folding razor blade for years and it doubles as a money clip

Daniel Cano
Daniel Cano

Very cool, I'm wanna share that one bro.

Duane Dibley
Duane Dibley

Not as dull as this story Thomas Buonomo ;-)

Lars Mårten Rikard Nilsson
Lars Mårten Rikard Nilsson

There's no such thing as a defensive knife... Unless you're really good at fencing. It is an offensive weapon.

Dominic Ancona
Dominic Ancona

Hell might just throw it away for a tactical spoon.

Dominic Ancona
Dominic Ancona

Because i want to ensure its as dull and painful as it can be.

Al Lawrence
Al Lawrence

A knife is a knife it is used for cutting anything ans everything and if your blade dont hold up to it you need to get a new one

Greg Green
Greg Green

Boxes are so strong ! carrying one knife to do all jobs with your favorite design is pretty cool, a good knife is a versatile tool. It's like a jewels. A karanmbit is a defensive knife, not good to do a sandwich. If I look the picture I can see Emerson a100 the less defensive knife from this knifmaker, it's a little EDC, to do the classic job.

John Budinger
John Budinger

Youll be suprised how dull people let their knives get

John Budinger
John Budinger

Just sounds like an excuse to carry another knife.

Ray Kang
Ray Kang

I love my TAD RUT. It's a great EDC tool.

Joshua Payne
Joshua Payne

I don't know if anyone said this yet, but in the amazon link for the screwpop utility the picture shows it carrying two blades, have you tried sticking a spare blade in it to get rid of the rattle?

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