6 Best Neck Knives [2019]: Not Just For Mall Ninjas

Neck knives may be all the rage with the mall ninjas of the world.

Mall Ninja
Mall Ninja

Right up there with dull throwing stars samurai swords made from the mildest of steel…but that doesn’t necessarily mean you should discount them as tools or even self-defense options.

CRKT Minimalist Neck Knife, Bowie
CRKT Minimalist Neck Knife, Bowie

A tiny little 1 oz knife on a neck chain where it’s all but invisible?

Hidden Neck Knife
Hidden Neck Knife

As long as you’re not going through a metal detector or getting patted down by a pro, no one will even know its there.

Sound like something you’re interested in?

Let’s talk more about how to choose a neck knife, and which ones are worth looking at.

Why Have a Neck Knife?

Neck knives can actually be very practical and are great for either a holdout weapon for dire emergencies or just for opening pesky boxes and cutting into the packaging.

I personally was always a pocket knife guy until I was given one as a gift.  I didn’t want to be rude, and it was a nice little knife (which is why I included it on this list. I’ll tell you which one at the end of the article) so I wore it around the house.

And then outside the house.

And then I started feeling weird going out without it.

I used it more than I thought I would, and I actually found it to be really practical for quick tasks like opening boxes or what have you.  

And while I wouldn’t choose a neck knife over my GLOCK 19 (Best Beginner Handguns) in a self-defense situation, a handgun isn’t always practical or even allowed everywhere.

Choosing a Neck Knife

Choosing a neck knife is, not surprisingly, a lot like choosing any knife, with a few additional concerns.

Construction and Materials

First and foremost, what is the knife made out of? There are some push daggers and spikes that are made out of high-density plastic designed to be used as a last-ditch stabbing implement in an emergency.

More common are steel knives, either stainless or high-carbon, that come in a huge variety of designs.  These knives are more practical and utilitarian, but won’t pass a metal detector.

Frankly, I don’t want to advise anyone to look for a knife based on whether or not it’ll trip a metal detector, because I can’t think of a non-nefarious reason why you’d want to do that.

Also, I’m on enough government watch lists I’m sure, so I don’t want to push it.

atf 16inch meme

We’ll be sticking to steel knives here then, and the big decision there is high-carbon steel vs stainless.

Stainless is generally cheaper and is much more corrosion resistant (but not really stainless or rustproof, so you should still oil your knife and keep it dry when you can).

On the other hand, high-carbon steel knives are better at holding an edge, but require more maintenance and care, like oiling and rust removal.

So, construction comes down to more sharpening or more cleaning. Personally, I use my knife a good bit, so I’m more prone to carbon steels that will hold an edge longer, even if I do have to oil them more often.

Intended Use and Design

Something else to think about is what the knife’s intended use is.  If you’re looking for a general-use knife to open packages and do miscellaneous work, you won’t want a push dagger or spike.  If you’re looking for a self-defense tool, you may not want some fancy carbon-steel thing designed to chop wood.

Always match your tools to your task, and that goes double for your knives.

Size and Weight

First and foremost, what’s legal in your state size wise? Are neck knives legal at all? What kind of blade length can you have?

If you are looking to carry your knife concealed, what size and weight of knife can you comfortable hang around your neck.  If you’re frequently wearing tight or fitted clothing, do you really want a bulky knife outline on your chest?

...Don't be this guy...
…Don’t be this guy…

Comfort is also a concern.  Length and weight are going to matter a lot when you’re carrying a knife on a necklace, so you’ll want to get something that works for you and isn’t too long or too heavy to actually wear in comfort.

Sheath

Unless you’re some wackadoo that wants to carry a naked blade just a few inches from your jugular, you’ll want a good sheath. Maybe your goal is to walk around and dare God to kill you, I dunno.

For me though, I want all my knives stored safely when not in use, and that goes triple and quadruple for ones that are hanging on my chest.

A good sheath is incredibly important for a neck knife.  Test your sheath by picking the knife up and shaking it a bit, whatever you think is reasonable for your activity level.  It should be able to retain the knife just fine, otherwise start looking elsewhere.

You may also want a sheath with snaps or some other solid closure, but then you have to look at your purpose again.

If you’re not looking for a defensive tool, it doesn’t matter if it takes an extra second to get your knife out.  If you’re looking for something that you might use to get between yourself and that crackhead with the broken bottle who just jumped out of an alley at you, do you really want a snap or button? Probably not.

Indi Knife Fight
Never bring a knife to a gun fight…Best CCW Guns by Caliber

Again, match your tool to your purpose.

Lanyard/Necklace/Chain

How the neck knife hangs around your neck is pretty important too. Make sure you get something comfortable (steel bead chains are only good for dog tags, anything much heavier can get uncomfortable quickly) and something that is either the right size for you or is adjustable.

Legality

Like gun laws…there’s a lot of them that vary from location to location…so always double-check for your city, county, and state.

Best Neck Knife

So, now that you know how to pick the best neck knife for you, take a look at the knives we like. These are either knife I’ve tested, someone on staff has tested, or something one of us owns.

And one of them is hanging from my neck as I type this.  

Let’s take a look at the best neck knives money can buy (or at least the best ones we can find).

1. CRKT Minimalist Bowie

Let’s start with my recommended favorite.

CRKT Minimalist Neck Knife, Bowie
CRKT Minimalist Neck Knife, Bowie

For a general-use knife that’s just as at home in the wilderness as the urban jungle, the CRKT Minimalist Bowie is a great EDC knife, whether you’re just opening up a delivery at the office, or whittling a spear in a survival situation.

The Bowie blade is super useful and it has aggressive finger grooves on the handle which make it easy to handle and hard to drop.

CRKT Sheath
CRKT Sheath

Check it out in action!

The blade is made of high-carbon steel and will stand up to quite a lot of use before it needs sharpening, making it perfect for those who spend a lot of time away from civilization.

CRKT Neck Knife, Other Side
CRKT Neck Knife, Other Side

In a pinch, it’ll also do just fine as a defensive tool, and I’d feel comfortable recommending it to someone for this purpose, even if they just wanted it as a backup weapon and didn’t plan on using it as an EDC, general-use knife.

Plus…unless you’re wearing it outside…no one will ever know you have a blade.

CRKT Neck Knife Lanyard
CRKT Neck Knife Lanyard

Finally…it’s a reasonable price so it’s an easy start…and not the worst thing if you lose it.

20
at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

What’s your take on the CRKT?

Readers' Ratings

4.92/5 (92)

Your Rating?

2. SOG Snarl

The SOG Snarl is somewhat unique when it comes to neck knives. For one, its the smallest option on this list at just 4.3” with a 2.3-inch blade.

Impressively minimalist and is small enough that from any real distance, you’re unlikely to alarm anyone when you pull it out to open your mail, and in a defensive situation, it’s going to be hard to spot for an attacker.

Most Versatile Neck Knife
30
at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

This is due to the Snarl’s unusual design. Forgoing a handle, it actually has two finger rings and an indentation for a third, almost like a modified set of brass knuckles.  This ensures it’s virtually impossible to lose the knife in a defensive situation and it also gives you good control and ease of use when you’re just whittling or slicing packing tape.

3. Spyderco Ark

We like Spyderco knives around here, as you can probably tell from our EDC knives list, but the Spyderco Ark proves that they can make more than just fancy flippers.

70
at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

This fixed-blade neck knife is just a hair or two under five total inches long and has a 2.5-inch blade. It comes with a neck chain and a surprisingly nice sheath for its H1 steel blade. It’s definitely one of the longer blades on this list, but it’s still light enough to wear comfortably, while still being long enough to grip like a real knife without many issues.

4. Cold Steel Bird and Trout

Are you a game hunter that finds yourself with a need to carry a small knife for processing things like quail and dove? Have you ever needed to pick all the little fiddly bones out of a piece of trout? Do you ever find yourself wishing you had an extremely light and compact knife that’s scalpel-sharp on hand?

15
at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

If you answered yes to any of these hypothetical questions, the Cold Steel Bird and Trout may be for you.  It has an extremely narrow and sharp point, almost like an Exacto blade, and it is made from AUS 8A Japanese steel, making it great at retaining an edge.

Its unique design gives you a six-inch length, but at just .8 oz, it’s one of the lightest knives on this (or any) list. If you need a backup knife for small, detail work, or just like the idea of a tiny pig sticker that’s still shaving-sharp, this is a good one to look into.

5. Ka-Bar TDI Law Enforcement

This next knife is also made of AUS 8A steel, but it’s more for cutting your way out of a bad situation than for cutting up a dead bird or fish.

The Ka-Bar TDI Law Enforcement is a true backup weapon, designed to be worn under a uniform shirt, or clipped to a duty belt with the multi-function sheath and used as a fighting knife.

34
at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

And make no mistake, this is a terrible EDC knife.  The shape and ergonomics are all wrong for anything but use in difficult times against someone determined to kill you. If you’re looking for a solid backup to a carry gun, or just something a little less conspicuous that can still be used to defend yourself, this is a great option.

The handle is black Zytel, a material so tough that they make other knives out of it, and at just under six inches in length with a 2.3-inch blade, it’s perfectly sized to do the job it was designed to do.

6. ESEE Izula II

The Esee Izula is the Cadillac of neck knives. With a blade at 2.63’ long and weighing in at 3.2 oz., its one of the largest knives on this list.

It’s also one of the best. It’s made with high-carbon steel and wrapped in a slip-resistant checkered polymer that makes hanging on to the knife in slippery situations a breeze.

Best Overall Neck Knife
70
at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Its geometry makes it a damn-near perfect multipurpose knife while still leaving plenty of capability to put a hurt on an attacker if needs must.

ESEE Izula Blade HQ video
Blade HQ did a review of several neck knives and spoke highly of the ESEE Izula!

The only fault I have with it is the price, and that’s the reason that I don’t recommend it for just everyone. At almost $80, you could have four other neck knives for the same price and you probably wouldn’t notice the difference.

For those that won’t settle for anything but the best, however, settle for nothing else.

Parting Shots Stabs

Neck knives may seem pretty silly at first, but if you take a serious look at what they offer, I doubt you’ll be laughing.

CRKT Finger Grip
CRKT Finger Grip

These knives are tested and tried, and I’d stake my reputation as “that guy with all the knives” that any one of them would work just fine for most people.

Again…my go-to is the CRKT Minimalist in Bowie.

20
at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

I know I quite enjoy mine quite a bit!

Which one of these knives did you like the most? Maybe a neck knife isn’t for you though, but you still need a knife to carry. Out 8 Best EDC Pocket Knives article is just what you need!

best edc knives
Tested EDC Knives

12 Leave a Reply

  • John Clark

    Until now, I thought a neck knife was like one of those James Caan carried in El Dorado. "It shouldn't have taken four of you, Charlie."

    1 month ago
  • Baron Crooke

    I wear a tops Bartender Defender XL every day its great for work and daily chores plus you can never have enough beer bottle openers

    1 month ago
  • Mark

    This may be a ho hum comment but comes from working in mental hospitals and like facilities. All the name badges have to be made out of a breakaway system e.g. velcro to attach two ends of the cord so that the cord cannot be used by an attacker to choke you. I know we're thinking that we wouldn't let that happen but sometimes you just don't see things coming and I wouldn't want to lessen my odds of survival even if the possibility seems minuscule.

    2 months ago
  • Luca J Fimiani

    I have a Spyderco Dogtag in Carbon Fiber and I wear it openly and everybody thinks it is a cool necklace. S30V steel, lightweight, cool looking, should be on the list

    2 months ago
  • John Shirley

    Good article. The first factory prototype of the ARK Spyderco sent me was an awesome little knife, but built like a tank. I had them reduce the thickness considerably, because having a knife thin and light enough to wear all the time was more important than having it be bulletproof. I'm as happy as possible with the final product. I think pocket knives are, in general, more useful, but neck knives can fill certain gaps better. When I went ocean kayaking in 2015, I carried an ARK, and I kept an ARK lashed to my flotation vest when I would go kayaking in MD.

    5 months ago
  • Les Ingram

    I'm apparently not only one, which do you wear/carry?

    6 months ago
  • Beobear

    I read this several times and still didn't see where you tell us which one of these knives you carry. Did I fail at reading comprehension or did you fail at proofreading and not include it at the end of the article as you said? It's late so it very well could be me.

    8 months ago
    • Eric Hung

      We fixed it now!

      2 months ago
  • Ryan M Staebler

    I got a CRKT minimalist for duck hunting. Just for something to keep a blade on me, without having to go through my blind bag to have one on hand. Then I started wearing it around, and then to work, and now its one of my favorite/most used knives. I even find myself going for it before I reach for my pocket knife. I find it very handy and it is a pretty little knife (the micarta handle ages nicely). It will definitely draw some mixed reactions from your friends/family, but you'll find people who regularly have a need for a knife / are into this kind of thing will keep asking you if they can try it on. Overall, I like it and at $20 if you have been eyeing this knife or flirting with the concept of a neck knife, it is a very affordable way it give it a whirl.

    9 months ago
  • Harold Callahan

    For folks considering the SOG Snarl, make sure you are aware of your local laws on Metal Knuckles. This knife may be legal as a knife, but fit the definition of Metal Knuckles in your area.

    10 months ago
  • conrad

    Murray Carter neck knives using his Blue Super Steel are a premier choice. I used and abused them for many years.

    10 months ago
  • Drew

    So which one is yours?

    10 months ago
New to Guns ? Check out our beginners guns video course. Start Now