3 styles of knife that can serve you on duty

These categories of knives can absolutely work for you on your tour

The omni-present blade has been one of law enforcement’s most stalwart companions for a very long time. Having a traditional pocketknife may have been the favored choice for officers of yesteryear, but these days there are myriad options allowing for greater diversity.

While there are still great generalized cutters, officers can now also choose mission-specific knives to assist them on the job. Choosing from one, or all, of these categories can help officers better stand ready for any call of duty.

1. Defensive/Backup

With a strategically positioned backup blade, law enforcers can still use one hand to maintain critical retention of their firearm, while deploying the blade to stop the threat.
With a strategically positioned backup blade, law enforcers can still use one hand to maintain critical retention of their firearm, while deploying the blade to stop the threat. (Photo/PoliceOne)

One of the first categories of knives that comes to mind is the backup. This may be counter-intuitive to a lot of people ‒ thinking an officer might need a knife for self-defense when they carry a firearm on their side. Where this specific type of blade shines is in keeping that very firearm.

Carrying a sidearm may seem pretty cool to the uninitiated, but if reason is applied, the weapon is also a potential liability. This is why weapon retention for officers has become such a focus over the last 20 years. In addition, it is why holsters have evolved with increasing retention levels, building in still more fail safes in order to keep a pistol from being deployed until the officer absolutely wants it. All a suspect has to do is grab an officer’s holstered gun and a deadly force scenario ensues.

With a strategically positioned backup blade, law enforcers can still use one hand to maintain critical retention of their firearm, while deploying the blade to stop the threat from disarming them. This is an ultimate case of an ounce of prevention being worth a pound of cure. Find a blade that will mount within easy reach of your support hand and don’t forget to train your weapon-retention drills. A Karambit style blade is a natural fit because you can still manipulate your firearm with one in your hand.

2. General Purpose Cutter

The general-purpose cutter covers a wide swath of knives. Officers may carry a large fixed blade on their belt or vest, or they might have a small folder clipped to their pants pocket. There are few things as handy as a generalized cutting tool that can be quickly deployed and used when needed.

Scenarios for the general-purpose cutter range widely depending on the officer’s role. With SWAT and other tactical units, officers need to be able to wedge doors, cut zip cuffs, or even preparing charges for breaching. Patrol officers can benefit from a pocket folder for just about any cutting scenario. Nearly any law enforcement agent can develop acute needs to cut various materials such as a seatbelt to free a crash victim, or free an entangled animal.

As mentioned, the general-purpose cutter can range from just about any size and configuration a long as the officer can normally deploy it within their normal mission parameters. For tactical officers, consider good fixed blades for big cutting jobs. Patrol officers might benefit from a more compact, utilitarian blade such as tactical folders available in many different blade configurations. Finally, the non-uniformed ‒ whether plainclothes or suit and tie ‒ should consider lighter carry options for their day-to-day cutlery. Look for an unobtrusive, lightweight option that balances good cutting power with something that won’t damage your dress clothes.

3. Multi-tool

Having a cutting tool that generalizes is great, but what about specific situations? There are some specific cutters that can be applied to fixed scenarios law enforcement encounters that will give you an advantage should those situations occur on your shift. Without a doubt, some tools are meant to cut more optimally in certain scenarios. With the multi-tool, you can have the best of both worlds.

Responding to vehicle crashes is a common call for law enforcement. Any roving officer will eventually come upon or respond to a vehicle on its top or over an embankment. In order to get to victims trapped in vehicles it is often necessary to break the glass because the frame of the car is twisted or crush in the crash and the doors will not open. Having a specific cutting tool designed for glass-breaking is outstanding should the need arise.

Engaging a seat belt of a trapped car crash victim can be a dicey bet. If the vehicle is off its wheels, the belt may be holding the victim in place with tension creating a thin margin of error for cutting. Easing a pointed blade in to free them is a risky gambit. Many multi-tool designs have incorporated this very concern with a seat belt cutter. If you ever use one to snip a belt as opposed to sawing though one with a normal knife, you’ll understand. Cutters designed for seat belts or even rope do a grand job.

The Right Tool for the Job

Officers have a wide array of tools they can carry in their vehicles or on their person to answer a number of challenges they face in the field. Find a blade that will serve as your backup, helping you to retain your firearm. Also, look for a general cutter, it is always a good choice both for on- and off-duty. Finally, pick up some mission-specific multi-tools that will assist you with some of those critical cutting needs that confront you in the field. A quality knife is always a good investment.

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