Whether you are someone who needs a pocket knife on hand in case of emergencies, or you are looking for a gift for a handy or outdoorsy person, you have probably done some research and discovered that there are hundreds of everyday carry (EDC) knives on the market. With so many options, it is hard to find an effective means of narrowing your search, especially if you’re on a budget.
What are the best pocket knives under $50? The Kershaw family of knives are some of the most complete and highly rated pocket knives on the market. The best pocket knives under $50 will offer a strong combination of blade quality, long-lasting durability, and a fine selection of secondary features.
Due to a variety of reasons, many modern pocket knives can carry quite the price tag, as they offer a convenient replacement for some small tool kits. Therefore, it is important for you to know which qualities you rate most highly in a pocket knife before narrowing down your search and making a purchase.
Why Are Pocket Knives So Expensive?
Although pocket knives are small enough to fit in your front pocket or attach to a key ring, some models can come with a surprisingly high price tag. This may leave you thinking that the price is exceedingly high in relation to the cost of making it.
While there is some truth to this, there are several factors to consider when thinking about what drives up the final cost of a pocket knife.
Cost of Blade Fabrication
As a major component of pocket knives is the steel blade, you may be thinking, “Just how expensive can a small piece of metal be?”
Well, first and foremost, as you will see as you read through this guide, most of the knives on the list are made of high-quality and specialized alloys.
However, there is more to the cost of a blade than just an expensive piece of metal. It is important to consider the myriad factors that are combined to drive up the cost of that final piece of steel:
- The unfabricated steel must be purchased from a supplier.
- Blade blanks must be cut to start the formation of the blade.
- The blanks must be heat-treated, ground, and sharpened.
- A finish must be applied to the sharpened blade.
- The final, treated blade must be checked to ensure compliance with the rest of the knife’s components.
For each step in this process, there are costs of rent, labor, machines, and employee wages that must be applied, adding incrementally to the cost of the final product. Additionally, any defective pieces will increase expenses as they are re-forged or written off as a sunk cost.
Cost of Assembly
There is a chance, especially for the handle, that other components of the knife are manufactured in-house. However, even outsourced items will carry a cost and require people and machines to assemble them into the final product.
Some additional costs, as they relate to factors of assembly, include:
- Siding for the knife handle
- Clips, tools, pegs, and other attachments that will be a part of the final product
- Screws and adhesive to hold all the components together
Transportation and Delivery Costs
There will be expenses involved with getting the fabricated knives distributed to retailers and other wholesalers.
There is an old saying that goes, “You have to spend money to make money.” Companies will not be able to sell pocket knives if customers do not know they exist. Therefore, the final product must be priced in a manner that allows companies’ marketing efforts to be worthwhile.
Marketing is anything that can help facilitate exchange, which includes, but is not limited to, the following:
- Digital and online media charges
- Printing costs for any flyers or posters made
- Packaging to make the knife attractively positioned in stores
- Fees for trade shows and product demonstrations
One of the most significant factors that drive up the cost of pocket knives are those associated with status. For example, while the cost of materials to assemble a BMW is not appreciably greater than that of an economy car, the status of driving a BMW resonates with consumers, allowing the company to charge a premium.
While you may be thinking that pocket knives are not luxury cars, there is a very robust community that places a premium on specific knives, causing the price of some models to soar into the hundreds of dollars.
However, despite the hefty price tag on some pocket knives, there are still many excellent, affordable options on the market, with plenty of quality pocket knives checking in at under $50.
6 Pocket Knives for Under $50
Many terms may refer to a pocket knife: pocket knife, EDC knife, all-in-one knife, and Swiss Army knife are a few common ones. Do not let this confuse you, as the terms are mostly interchangeable, referring to any concealable knife that can be conveniently folded and carried in your pocket or on a keychain.
Some pocket knives offer little more than a foldable blade, while others contain secondary tools such as corkscrews and fingernail clippers. There is no end to the features or combination of features used in contemporary pocket knives, so let’s look at some of the most popular and highly rated EDC knives on the market to get an idea of what each offers.
The Kershaw brand is a recognizable one in the knife community, with Kershaw designing a wide range of knives to fulfill a variety of specific purposes. In terms of pocket knives, the Shuffle family is extremely popular, with the DIY Compact Multifunction at the top of many people’s EDC knife list.
The Kershaw Shuffle DIY Compact Multifunction comes equipped with the following features:
- High-performance steel – The blade does a better job of holding its edge than other EDC knives because it replaces slightly less nickel with carbon; this provides increased durability, offering protection against both adhesive and abrasive wear.
- Sleek blade coating – A black oxide coating converts the surface of the blade to steel magnetite, which offers a trinity of benefits: added rust-fighting properties, a sleek and classy appearance, and less glare from reflecting light.
- Fast deployment – A classic built-in flipper allows the user to flick the blade out swiftly, smoothly, and safely of the handle when holding the arm at a 90° angle and throwing the wrist outward.
- Convenient pocket clip – The pocket clip is designed to support the heftier construction of the DIY Compact Multifunction. The clip down orientation allows for the knife to be carried with the blade pointing down when not in use.
- Durable handle – Nylon synthetic polymer reinforced with glass gives this handle a versatile and durable construction capable of withstanding heavy use while offering a secure and stable grip and resistance to high temperatures.
- Secure locking system – A pair of steel lock bars inside the handle scales safely and securely holds the blade open and prevents unwanted closures. When ready to close the blade, the lock bar can be pushed to the side, opening the path for the blade to be closed.
- Interchangeable screwdriver bits – Most EDC knives come with a screwdriver built-in, limiting the user to one size and head option. This model comes with a screwdriver bit port and grooves for carrying extra bits, allowing you to interchange the bit heads, as needed.
- Drop point design – This adds strength to the tip and eliminates pitch momentum, making it an ideal outdoor survival knife due to the controllability when slicing.
One drawback to this knife is that the screwdriver bits slide in and out very easily, making it easy for the bits to fall out and get lost when handled with frequency. However, it is a true leader in terms of providing customizable features while maintaining durability.
Price Range: $22 to $24
Another product from Kershaw, the Shuffle II provides many of the same quality of construction features as the DIY Compact Multifunction, with the following unique selling points:
- Built-in add tool kit – This EDC knife offers a flathead screwdriver, a bottle opener on both sides of the knife, and a hole that makes for convenient use with lanyards.
- Tanto blade – This is a favorite design among EDC carriers due to its superiority in stabbing into and slashing hard materials, making it ideal for box breakers and warehouse workers.
- Reversible clip – With the ability to switch the clip, both left-handed and right-handed carriers can carry this knife with the tip down.
- Dual thumb studs – Positioned on each side of the blade, the thumb studs make for a seamless manual opening for both right and left-handed users.
This is a more rugged, frilled-down EDC knife, in comparison to the DIY Compact Multifunction, that offers an update to the popular Kershaw Folding Pocket Knife and is a major favorite in the community.
Price Range: $20 to $22
Moving away from the Kershaw brands, the CRKT Pilar EDC Folding Pocket Knife is another favorite among carriers. The knife was designed by Danish adventurer Jesper Voxnaes, who is known for designing quality knives to help in camping and off-roading in the wild fjords of Denmark.
The following are some benefits of the CRKT Pilar EDC Folding Pocket Knife:
- Wharncliffe blade – This distinctive blade has a straight cutting edge with a spine that tapers to meet it at a sharp point, making this knife ideal for big slicing jobs.
- Precision point – The sharp and delicately tapered point allows for precision punctures when attention to detail is a priority.
- Easy handling – A few extras leave the handle smooth, making for an easy transition into and out of pockets. Also, an engineered blade thumb slot makes for quick and smooth deployment of the blade.
- Hard, durable steel – In comparison to many other EDC knives on the market, this CRKT has a blade that will stay sharp through repeated, heavy-duty use.
- Limited lifetime warranty – This knife will be replaced by Voxnaes if the knife fails due to defects in manufacture or design.
A complaint about the CRKT Pilar is that it does not come with as many of the “Swiss Army Knife” features of the Kershaw models, with its features restricted primarily to the blade.
However, some carriers feel they never use the extra features, claiming that they get in the way and reduce functionality. So, this knife may be the best option for those who need an EDC knife simply for puncturing and slicing, as this model has redoubled efforts to create a highly functional, durable blade.
Price Range: $29 to $31
Taking a little bit of a detour from the normal path of EDC knives leads to the Gerber Flatiron Folding Cleaver. While many EDC knives hang their hat on versatility, the Gerber Flatiron carves its niche: a specialized cleaver blade that makes it great for chopping and slicing.
Here are some of the features of this particular option:
- Cleaver blade – As its name implies, the cleaver blade is the primary selling point of this knife. Just like full-size meat cleavers, the small cleaver blade in this Gerber model makes for convenient chopping and slicing on raised surfaces. Cleaver blades in EDC knives are also getting increasingly popular, so this knife can put you in with the trend.
- Convenient thumb opening – This allows for easy single-hand opening of the blade for quick use.
- Finger choil – This blade features a prominent finger choil, allowing for greater control when “choking up” to make powerful, precision cuts.
- Textured G10 handle – The textured handle not only makes for a comfortable and secure grip, but its fiberglass mesh cloth construction bound with epoxy resin makes it durable enough to handle heavy use in a wide array of conditions.
- Length – This knife is appreciably longer than many other models, reducing cut time for larger tasks.
There are a couple of complaints about this knife. First, some blade play is noticeable during use, meaning that users can detect a slight wobble of the blade while cutting. Also, some have noted that the blade is difficult to flip open, as the choil is too close to the handle joint to offer sufficient opening leverage for those with large hands.
However, once locked open and cutting, the Gerber Flatiron Folding Cleaver gives the impression of a full-size knife better than almost any EDC knife on the market.
Price Range: $40 to $45
Like the Kershaw brand, Spyderco is another name that is recognizable and widely popular in the EDC community.
While the company offers an extensive selection of pocket knives, the Tenacious is a superior choice for those looking to acquire a great value, offering the following features:
- Leaf-shaped blade – Because this blade is ground flat from the spine to the cutting edge, this tough design provides the utmost strength for an EDC blade design, allowing for non-stop cutting.
- Superior grip – Another handle designed out of the durable G10 laminate, the Spyderco Tenacious is ergonomically designed to fit in your hand for comfortable cutting.
- Easy to open – A large, round, and logically positioned blade choil makes for convenient one-hand opening with a flick of the wrist.
- Customizable pocket clip – This knife features a 4-way pocket clip that allows it to be set in a variety of pocket positions: tip-up, tip-down, right-hand, or left-hand.
Like the CRKT Pilar, this knife offers no features other than the blade itself, perhaps putting it behind the Kershaw models that provide a bevy of secondary features. It also draws some criticism for being notably pricier, despite not being fabricated with more advanced blade steel.
Nonetheless, if you want a knife that offers the best ergonomics and ease of use while providing an authentic military pocket knife feel, the Spyderco Tenacious could be the knife for you.
Price Range: $45 to $50
If you are in the market for a big and burly knife at an affordable price point, you will want to turn your attention to the Ontario Knife company, as their Rat I and Rat II folding knife give a full-size knife feel to your EDC life.
This could be the knife of choice for those who like the secure feel of a heavier EDC knife in their pocket. However, the Ontario Rat I does offer many of the same features of its smaller competitors, including:
- Versatile clip – Like the Spyderco Tenacious, this model offers a 4-way clip to appeal to those in need of specific clip orientations.
- 3 ½-inch blade – This blade length rivals the Gerber Flatiron Cleaver as providing the longest EDC cutting edge on the market.
- Easy cleaning – A full, flat grind and open construction leave no inconvenient nooks in this knife, providing ease and convenience for cleaning.
The main downside to this knife, which is probably its greatest selling point to some, is that it is hefty. If you want an EDC knife that you do not notice in your pocket, this is not the option to choose.
Price Range: $24 to $26
In conclusion, with the number of pocket knives available on the market, it can be hard to find one that fits both your needs and your budget. However, the above list is sure to help give you a starting point in your search.