The Best Budget Pocket Knives

Published: November 12, 2013

I love collecting pocket knives. But I'm not super rich, so I gotta buy pocket knives on a budget. I've created a "Best of" list of the top knives that you can get for under $40!

Judging requirements:

1. Quality overall - Solidly built? Eye appeal (e.g. screws sticking out? mishaped pieces?)

2. Blade metal properties - You'd be surprised how tough China-made metals are compared to USA-made.. but only if you know which ones are good).

3. Post-purchase expenses - Is it still under $40?

  1. Spyderco Tenacious- Typically $33-$37


    Picture & price source:


    Spyderco is a knife company known for it's high-end products with high-end price tags to match. They use the best materials and usually use the best factories here in America or over in Japan. Budget knife collectors like myself can only sit in awe browsing through their web selections of $200 pocket knives with military-grade G10 handles and CPM S30V American-made steels that never seem to bend or break no matter what cutting task you use it for.


    We're clearly interested in Spyderco knives, so why not sell to us? Well, that question was answered one faithful Spring of 2008 when Spyderco had a brilliant beyond brilliant marketing idea: Make knives for the budget-knife collectors. Even more brilliant, they did so without cutting corners.

    The Spyderco Tenacious was born, a 3" bladed masterpiece of cutting awesomeness weighing in at only 4oz! It uses the same G10 handle slabs as its expensive-counterpart(s), has a reversible pocket clip, and has skeltonized metal liners (holes cut out of the unseen inner-lining of metal in effort to reduce weight without sacrificing solidness; this is something even some high-end knives don't have!). Its blade is a China-made 8Cr13MoV steel.. Wait, didn't I just say they didn't cut corners? Let me explain. Though produced over seas for a fraction of the price, China-made steels have proven themselves over the years to be just as a good -and in some ways better- than their American and Japanese counterparts. You can tell if a knife is quality just by looking at its metallic properties. Notice the cryptic name of the steel: 8Cr13MoV. That means the steel is 0.80% Carbon (the "8"), 13.00% Chromium (Cr), contains at least some Molybdenum (Mo) and at least some Vanadium (V). Without going into an encyclopedia's worth of explaning what this all means, here's a link to a chart:

    The American equivalent of an 8Cr13whatever is 440B. The Japanese equivalent is AUS8. Notice how similar they are? The only downside to the Chinese version is that it rusts easier, probably due to the lack of Chromium among other things. Other than that, the Chinese steel is "the same thing" as the more expensive US and Japan versions.

    Finally, the budget price. The Spyderco Tenacious can be found cheapest on for $32.96 currently -I mean right now, as I type, and it will literlly most likely change by a few pennies as soon as I'm done typing. Some local stores (e.g. gunshops) sell the knife for over $60, likely to profit off of the knife's hype and demand. So I suggest buying it online, and with Amazon's $25-or-more Free Shipping, you'll pay just what I said earlier: $32.96.

    And will you be buying complementary items to go along with your new Tenacious? Not likely. You don't need a holster or carrying case: its pocket clip slips easily onto any standard pair of pants, pocketed or pocketless (though safely recommended to NOT hang outside your pants). You won't need a knife sharpener for a fairly long time: 8Cr13MoV endures and endures and even remains phonebook-paper-slicing-SHARP after many uses. Here's one knife owner putting this to the test

    So that's why the Spyderco Tenacious is #1 in my book. If asked to label the pocket knife in one word that expressed it's overall awesomeness and budget-friendliness, I'd have to sheepishly yet appropriately deem it as.. Tenacious.

  2. Kershaw Skyline- $36-$40


    I've done it again. I've written way too much for my first entry, and now I've run out of time. I apologize ahead of time that knives #2 and #3 are going to be a bit sporadic and rushed. And #4 and on.. just won't exist. At least not today they won't.

    So, the Kershaw Skyline. Very solidly built by a well-known knife-maker under the parent company Kai. Who is Kai? Well, Kai makes samurai knives. Question answered?

    Though amazingly thin and light -weighing at just 2.6oz- this 3.25" bladed knife packs quite a punch. Without spending too much time on the subject, I can clearly back this assertion with real-life examples. One, I bought this knife, and it's just a monster of a knife disguised as a small everyday carry. And two, I gave my knife to a friend for Christmas, and he cut himself. Badly. He lost blood. A lot. How did he cut himself? He was cleaning the blade with a cloth, and the cloth cut in half and went straight for his hand. This was after the first wipe.

    Knife steel? It's a US-made Sandvik 14C28N, a slightly better US equivalent of the previously mentioned 440B.. which is also made in the US. Well, no wonder most knife-makers don't use 440B anymore. Any questions? Yes? Well I don't have time to answer them. Just joking. Not really. I gotta go to work.

    Price wise, I've seen this go as cheap as $36.89, again on It has a pocketclip, so no need for a holster. And the steel itself endures just as long as the 8Cr13thingermabob of the Spyderco Tenacious. As a plus, it's quite rust resistant- one of the key improvements in the Sandvik 14C28N steel that beats out its predcessor 13C26 (which is roughly a 440A to 440B).

    So yes. #2 is done. #3. Do it!

  3. Kershaw Cryo- $27-$30


    The Kersahw Cryo is a Rick Hinderer design. Why is that relavant? Hinderer designs are among the most desired of pocket knives in the entire industry. Rick is a private maker, and hand-makes his own line of knives that only sells through custom orders. His knives are special because of his backstory: Rick was an EMT on a rescue operation and needed to cut something. His pocket knife at the time did the job well, but immediately after, it broke. His pure adreneline in the heat of the moment caused him to overtravel the closing mechanism (framelock), rending it useless. Luckily, as I said, this happened after the fact. But I can still reflect upon the worries of anyone in either the rescuer or rescuee postion in regards to this broken rescue tool: this is just damn unacceptable.

    Hinderer had a brilliant yet simple idea to innovate the locking mechanism by placing a small metal disc preventing overtravel, and as a bonus it also prevents one from crushing the locking bar by gripping too hard. He dubbed his little disc the "Lockbar Stabilizer".

    Hinderer's custom-order knives use the best-of-the-best materials and his own personal touch of perfection in every build. Wouldn't you want a tool that's best-of-the-best if you were trying to rescue someone? And the cost of that tool? One Hidnerer knife can range anywhere from $600 to infinity dollars (it feels like that anyway).

    Hence the Kersahw Cryo.

    Aaaannnnd I will tidy this up later.

    Main points:

    Quality, Kershaw-solid!

    Steel: 8Cr13MoV! See above! I mean it.. I'm not retyping it all again even if I do have time XD

    Price price and price: it has a clip, and the steel is 8Cr13thingo-maboober-whatchamacallit-dennisrodman-pickles so no, you don't really need to buy complimentary items.

So there you have it. A "Best of" budget pocket knife list that progressively became less professional, more stupider, and yet equally as informative (not really). Nonetheless, it's clear in my opinion that the Spyderco Tenacious is truly the benchmark of the budget knife world. I mean really, I must've mentioned it on each and every single one of the listed items (pretend I listed like 10 knives, and then nod your head sternly like you agree).