Last Updated on 3rd January 2021
The karambit is a handy little tool, designed for precision work and safety. Because of their popularity out in the field, you can find folding karambits as well as fixed blade karambits. There are also custom karambits available should you want to add a touch of the personal to your tool.
The wide range of available karambits can make it a bit difficult to know which one is best one for you. This is where our double top 5 comparison review roundup should help.
Below you will find two handy charts. One containing 5 of the best premium karambits currently available, the other with our top 5 budget buys. For full reviews of each knife, plus a short buyer’s guide, keep on reading.
Top 5 Best Budget Karambit Knives
|Masalong OutdoorSurvival GhostTactical KnifeBear Finger
|Blade: 2.13 inchOverall: 5.78 inch
|Blade: 2 inchOverall: 5 inch
|Tac ForceDual BladeKarambit SpringAssisted Knife
|Blade: 2 x 2.5 inchOverall: 10.25 inch
|Tiger USAHawk BillGreen Skull Handlewith Black Blade
|Blade: 2.5 inchOverall: 7 inch
|BladesUSA E419-PPPolypropyleneKarambit TrainingKnife
|TRAINING KNIFEBlade: 2.5 inchOverall: 7 inch
Top 5 Best Karambits – Premium Knives
|TOP PICK:Spyderco KarahawkFolder C170GP
|Blade: 2.35″Overall: 6.50″
|Fox Knives479 KarambitBlack G10& Blade Flipper
|Blade: 3.20″Overall: 8.5″
|TOPS KnivesKarambit Fixed Knife TAC-01
|Blade: 7.13″Overall: 11.25″
|Emerson KnivesKarambit FixedBlade
|Blade: 3.2″Overall: 7.60″
|NO LONGER AVAILABLE
|Alan FoltsCustom Kera Minimalist G10 Black Cerakote
|Blade: 2.25″Overall: 5.00″
|NO LONGER AVAILABLE
What are Karambits used for?
The origins of the modern Karambit knife actually stem from Indonesia all the way back in the 11th Century. The earliest designs were based on a tiger’s claw, making the knives ideal for hooking, tearing and ripping. The curved, razor sharp blade meant that such tasks could be carried out with minimum effort and maximum efficiency.
The Karambit was very much the “every day carry” or EDC blade of ancient Southeast Asia, and was widely used as a utility blade for routine farming chores.
The Karambit has maintained the same basic design for nearly a thousand years, utilizing a curved or hooked blade, with a handle that usually includes at least one safety ring.
In Indonesia today, the karambit is recognized as one of the traditional weapons of the country’s indigenous combat art, Pencak Silat. As we explore below, the knife is exceptional in the field of self defense and combat.
For everyday use the karambit knife is popular and widely utilised because of its precision cuts, formidable edge retention and overall versatility.
The Karambit as a self defense tool
The karambit is considered the best self defense pocket knife by many, (some prefer a fixed blade boot knife). Used in the right (or wrong way depending on the way you look at it), the karambit knife is able to inflict some serious damage.
The curve of the blade allows the user to fluidly attack and counter in a single sweeping motion. Furthermore, the shape of the knife and the robust grip allows the user to change movement and direction with significant ease.
What this amounts to is a serious close combat weapon. By allowing the user to strike from multiple lines of attack while at the same time being able to hook, trap, rip, and slice any potential assailant, you have a knife that will put off even the most determined attacker if used in the correct way.
There is also limited stress to the wrist of the user, (far less than you would find with a straight blade for instance). This provides a combative advantage by helping you perform at a more optimum level.
The karambit’s curved blade is also useful for further reach onto the body of an assailant. The knife is able to wrap around the body to strike with accurate, devastating results.
[There are other types of self defence knife that you may be interested in. The fixed blade neck knife although small is a very handy tool. Alternatively, a boot knife is a favorite concealed carry knife for many. Follow the respective links to find out more.]
Are Karambits Legal?
A good question. As with any weapon carried for self defense you need to check the laws applicable to your state. Karambits can be carried around the neck or in a sheath which means it is very easy to keep them concealed. The laws on concealed weapons can be very strict, and again you are encouraged to read up on the regulations where you live if you plan to carry your knife around in a public area.
Top 5 Best Premium Karambit Knives
1. TOP PICK: Spyderco Karahawk Folder C170GP
The Spyderco Karahawk is this world class company’s take on the traditional karambit. And boy is it impressive.
Superior resources went into the inception of the knife with none other than Spyderco’s founder, Sal Glesser, stepping in to lead the design team.
The Karakawk features a gently curved hawkbill blade that has been precision machined from VG-10 stainless steel. The ‘Spyderhole’ trademark round hole is ever present on the blade too.
A reinforced ring on the butt end of the handle allows for a serious level of control. Just slip your index finger in there and you can spin the knife for a wide range of martial arts techniques.
Furthermore, the internal corners of the ring have been constructed with a slight chamfer to ensure increased user comfort.
Spyderco have also employed the Emerson Opening Feature. Adding flip knife operation to a karambit really is taking the design up a notch. Swift, positive blade deployment is the name of the game here.
Build quality throughout the knife is what you would expect from a premium purchase. Spyderco’s Constant Quality Improvements (CQI), mean that this new design features a reinforced layer of G10 between the liner on the ring.
The knife also features a high-strength back lock mechanism. This has been built to withstand the stresses of combat, martial art use.
For easy mounting Spyderco have fitted the knife with a reversible hourglass clip. Carry configurations include tip-up standard-grip and reverse-grip on either side of the body.
- Closed: 4.50″ (114 mm)
- Overall: 6.50″ (165 mm)
- Blade: 2.35″ (60 mm)
- Edge: 2.05″ (52 mm)
- Blade Thickness: 0.098″ (2.5 mm)
- Blade Steel: VG10
- Grind: Saber
- Handle Material: G10
- Weight: 3.8 oz. (108 g)
- Made in Japan
Pros of the Spyderco Karahawk Folder C170GP
- Superior build quality with g10 stainless blade and reinforced butt end ring
- Comfortable design with excellent balance (ideal for martial arts karambit use)
- Assisted opening design with the Spyderhole and emerson opening feature built in
- High strength back-lock mechanism
- Thin and lightweight yet sturdy construction
- Practising the moves while incorporating the deploy is no easy task (not a fault of the knife but of the learning curve involved with perfecting the skill of karambit knife training)
- Closing the knife is an effort with one hand until you acquire the right technique.
Spyderco really have come up with the goods with the Karahawk Folder C170GP. Beautifully designed with superb build quality and balance. Add that to the assisted opening features and you have a karambit that when used properly, takes the art form to a whole new level.
Now we have another premium karambit flipper, this time from Fox Knives. Looking at the pictures you can see how satisfying the finish is on this bad boy.
The blade is constructed from Bohler N690Co cobalt vanadium stainless steel that utilises a striking black coating. The handle continues the aesthetic with textured Black G10 scales. There butt of the knife has the obligatory finger ring for multiple grips.
The G10 scales are torx screwed to the stainless liners of the knife, one of which efficiently forms the blade lock mechanism.
Being a karambit the knife features a hawkbill-style shape blade that measures in at 3.20 inches. The key design element here is the triple threat deployment of the blade. Not only is there are thumb-hole opener, the knife works as a flipper while also featuring the patented Emerson Wave opening system.
A triple whammy of blade reveal choices, making this an ideal tool for karambit martial art enthusiasts.
A reversible tip-up carry clip is also included.
- Blade Length: 3.20″
- Closed Length: 5.25″
- Overall Length: 8.5″
- Blade Material: N690Co Cobalt Vanadium Stainless
- Blade Thickness: 0.11″
- Blade Style: Karambit
- Blade Finish: Black
- Handle Material: Black G10
- Handle Thickness: 0.49″
- Locking Mechanism: Liner Lock
- Pocket Clip: Tip-Up, Left/Right Carry
- Weight: 4.1 oz.
- Made in Italy
Pros of the Fox Knives 479 Karambit Black G10 & Blade Flipper
- Extra strong N690Co Cobalt Vanadium Stainless steel blade
- Triple blade deployment system – thumb-hole opener, flipper and patented Emerson Wave opening system.
- Sleek all black aesthetic
- One customer has cited a problem with the lock play after extended use.
Overall the Fox Knives 479 Karambit Black G10 & Blade Flipper is an excellent pocket defence knife with a functional, elegant style that will impress. Highly recommended.
To round up our top 5 premium karambit reviews we have the TOPS Knives TAC-TOPS Karambit Fixed Knife TAC-01.
This is one beast of a knife with a blade that comes in at a whopping 7.13 inches. If you like your karambits to be big, this is going to get your attention. The fact is, with that extra long talon reach this offering from Tops Knives could do some serious damage in the wrong hands.
To help stabilise the action, (and balance out that blade length) the knife features an oversized grip and finger hole.
The pedigree behind the knife and the reason for its inception is also rather impressive. Designed by C. Despins of Max Venom Product Group the brief was to create a tool suitable for harsh environments and versatile enough for dangerous close quarters combat.
To meet those demands the knife utilises a full tang 1095 tool steel construction. This has been black traction coated for what not only looks deadly, but offers a non-reflective finish so as not to give away your position.
The deeply curved talon blade (which actually amounts to almost 6 inches of cutting edge) is designed to exert maximum penetration upon contact.
The handle is slightly curved and is built around the full tang construction. Forward or reverse grips can be comfortably accommodated. Black micarta handle slabs fill the palm nicely whichever way you choose to hold this karambit.
Top Knives also provide a black molded kydex sheath with Beta Loop for convenient carry options.
- Blade Length: 7.13″
- Cutting Edge: 5.75″
- Overall Length: 11.25″
- Blade Thickness: 0.19″
- Blade Material: 1095 Carbon Steel
- Blade Hardness: 56-58HRC
- Blade Style: Karambit
- Blade Finish: Black Traction Coating
- Handle Material: Black G10
- Sheath Material: Black Kydex
- Weight: 10 oz.
- Weight w/ Sheath: 14.5 oz.
- Designer: Colin Despins
- Made in the USA
Pros of the TOPS Knives TAC-TOPS Karambit Fixed Knife TAC-01
- Brutally large 7.13 inch blade (almost 6 inches of sharpened, cutting edge)
- Oversized handle and thumb hole for increased stability
- Full tang 1095 Carbon Steel construction (56-58HRC)
- Aesthetically pleasing black traction coating (no reflective with anti-corrosive properties)
- The oversized nature of this tool will put some buyers off.
- This thing means business and isn’t exactly an ideal concealed everyday carry
Overall the TOPS Knives TAC-TOPS Karambit Fixed Knife TAC-01 is a formidable tool for those that are looking for extended length and increased penetration. If that’s you, this knife has your name on it.
For those that do not want the extra complication of moving parts and opening mechanisms in their karambit, Emerson have released this quality fixed blade option that is more than worthy of our top 5 round up.
Constructed with superior strength in mind, this tiger claw Karambit features a chisel ground hawkbill blade made from a full tang of stonewashed 154CM steel. With the one piece of steel going right through the length of the knife, you are assured of a tool that is built to last.
The tiger claw is nature’s efficient answer to both aggressive combat as well as self defense. You put this into knife and you have an ideal tool for martial arts training.
And just because the Emerson karambit follows a simple fixed blade design doesn’t mean this blade is boring to look at. Far from it. The textured black G10 handle scales look sleek and minimalist and stretch across the tang. The aesthetic is complimented by the oversized finger loop on the butt end of the knife.
Being a fixed blade karambit Emerson provide a black molded kydex sheath. This comfortably holds the knife in place while not in use and prevents that ultra-sharp blade from doing any unintended damage.
The sheath features a large tek-lok so you can easily attach it to you or your gear.
- Handles: Black G-10 epoxy / glass laminate
- Blade: 154 CM Stainless Steel
- Finish: Stonewash
- Grind: Chisel Grind
- Overall Length: 7.60 in.
- Blade Length: 3.2 in.
- Blade Thickness: 0.125 in.
- Hardness: 57-59 RC
- Weight: 6.4 oz.
- Made in USA
Pros of the Emerson Knives Karambit Fixed Blade
- Robust, fixed blade design (no moving parts)
- Durable, full tang 154CM steel construction
- Tiger claw shape for serious karambit martial art training
- Comfortable textured black G10 handle that really looks the part
- The fact this doesn’t have the folding functionality of the top pick Spyderco will put some people off.
Emerson are a very reputable brand in the EDC knife arena, and their various attempts at the karambit have all been met with much appreciation, this latest fixed blade incarnation is no different. Highly recommended.
The Alan Folts Custom KeraMinimalist G10 Black Cerakote is smaller than many of the other premium karambits that made it into our top 5. The blade comes in at a mere 2 inches long.
However, this helps make it an ideal fixed everyday carry. Ready as and when you need it, but discreet enough to not get in the way.
The design incorporates the vicious talon style blade you have come to expect from a karambit, with the easy operational ergonomics of the well received Folts Minimalist line of knives.
Other benefits of the smaller size obviously come down to weight. The Alan Folts Cerakote is lightweight and extremely well-balanced.
That construction is strong with the stainless steel blade being full tang of course.
The handle features 3 deep finger grooves. With the addition of the attached lanyard you have a tool that is comfortable to hold while providing a very reassuring grip. The handle is also finished with textured and contoured black G10 scales.
Finally a custom molded black kydex sheath is provided with the knife. This also features a paracord neck chain and cord lock.
- Overall Length: 5.00″
- Blade Length: 2.25″
- Sharpened Length: 2.00″
- Blade Material: CPM-154 Powder Steel
- Steel Type: Stainless
- Handle Thickness: 0.375″
- Handle Material: Black G10
- Weight: 1.75 oz.
- Sheath: Kydex
- Sheath Weight: 0.80 oz.
- Country of Manufacture: United States
Pros of the Alan Folts Custom Kera Minimalist Black G10 Black Cerakote
- Small 2 inch karambit blade making it ideal as a everyday concealed carry
- Robust full tang construction
- Cofortable handle with 3 finger gooves for superior grip
- Versatile sheath that can be worn around the neck
- The 2 inch blade will certainly not be for everyone.
The Alan Folts Custom KeraMinimalist is an excellent little knife for those that are looking for a convenient carry karambit. The design will not suit all needs, but if small and sturdy are your prerequisites, this is the knife to buy.
Top 5 Best Budget Karambit Knives
The Masalong Survival Ghost Tactical Knife Bear Finger gets our number one pick because of the excellent balance of quality craftsmanship and price. With its competitive list price you are getting one of the best karambits for the money in our opinion.
Let’s take a closer look
First the D2 steel blade comes extremely sharp out of the box. The well designed handle fits snugly in the hand, (might be a bit too snug if you are a 6 foot plus giant with spade palms) with the blade protruding nicely on the Ulnar side of the wrist.
The safety ring is very robust and feels comfortable, as does the belly of the handle which supports the middle and index fingers well.
Furthermore, because the ring is the same thickness as the rest of the tang, you can expect excellent protection for your finger when you are using the knife for impact strikes.
The handle is made out of Miketa material which helps ensure your steadfast grip, while at the same time looking good to boot, (our review model came in a rather nice lemon green color).
The total length of the knife is 14.7cm / 5.78 inch, with the blade coming in at, 5.4cm / 2.13 inch. With a blade thickness of 0.8cm / 0.32 inch the Masalong Survival Bear Finger is a sturdy tool while being essentially compact and lightweight. Blade width is 2.0cm / 0.8 inch.
This is a top notch Karambit knife when you consider the price. Whether you are using this as a self defense pocket knife, a tactical knife while in the field or an all out martial arts weapon, you will not be disappointed with the Masalong Survival Ghost Tactical Bear Finger. A highly recommended purchase for anyone looking out for a quality Karambit.
2. MTech USA Fixed Blade Tactical Knife G10 Texture Handle with Holster 2 Inch Blade
If you’re a fan of Mtech, and like your knives to have color, you’re going to love this rather striking karambit knife.
They have gone for a very unique look with the electroplated bright blue blade, (other colors are also available). And while that might not suit all tastes, we happen to think the coloration is spot on. It looks fantastic.
The G10, texture black handle feels robust in the hand with the overall balance of the knife feeling very good.
Mtech opted for a full serrated blade made from stainless steel. Our only gripe would be the rather small 2 inch blade size. Again, personal tastes will vary but this is very much on the lower end scale as far as dimensions we recommend. The full length of the knife comes in at only 5 inches.
A couple of minor flaws but not deal breakers would be that the blade could be a little sharper out of the box, (obviously this is easily rectified with a bit of home sharpening should you have the tools).
The sheath is also a little bit below par. On our review model, it felt as if the knife blade just didn’t fit quite correctly, it was tight enough so no worries there, however with the knife pushed in snugly, the tip did begin to protrude through the base of the sheath.
Overall, a great looking budget karambit knife with a sturdy stainless steel build quality.
If it were not for those couple of issues surrounding the sheath and the diminutive 2 inch blade size, this would have been a real contender for the number one spot. Still worth a look, especially for any Mtech fans out there.
3. Tac Force, 10.25″ Dual Blade Karambit – Spring Assisted
This 10.25″ dual blade karambit from Tac-Force is an extremely interesting bit of kit. The clue is in the name; dual blade.
If you have the dexterity to handle such a knife, (or are just simply up for a challenge) we assume your interest will be peaked.
Tac Force have opted for 2.5 inch black stainless steel blades here. The release mechanism is spring assisted and each of the blades can open and close independently.
A nice touch is the fact they have provided one blade with a serrated edge and the other straight. Versatility at its best.
The knife features a 5.25″ black aluminium handle with a contrasting bright red coloration on the pivot pin rim opening mechanism. Add that to the fact the blades are a black matt and you have one mean looking karambit.
A belt clip and ring are included with knife, however no sheath. This is a bit of an oversight on the behalf of Tac Force, and does let the overall package down a bit.
On the plus side, the overall length of 10.25″ does make for quite a formidable knife.
Another top Karambit knife worthy of our top 5. This is a good looking knife with the red and styling working very well indeed.
There’s also the dual blade aspect which really does set it apart from the competition. If you are up for the challenge of wielding a double blade karambit, (or maybe you simply want to use the blades one at a time in a more normal configuration), this offering from Tac Force is definitely worth a look.
4. Tiger USA – 7″ Hawk Bill Green Skull Handle with Black Blade
While we would always recommend that you purchase as good a quality knife as you can afford, (and more often than not, that involves paying a bit more), it would obviously be slack of us not to look at some of the lower priced karambit knives currently available.
Well here you have our pick of the bunch. This 7″ black blade assisted opener from Tiger is a steal at the current price point. We are pleased to state that it is a very good option if you’re looking for a reliable karambit.
Let’s take a closer look
First, this is actually sharp out of the box. The steel quality is not as good as the other knives in the list, however the overall look of the knife is not bargain bin either.
The combat green and black effect over the 4.5 inch handle of the knife works well. If you look closely you can also see the faint overlay of various skulls within the handle print. A bonus if you like such a embellishment, off putting if you don’t.
One very obvious negative is the lack of sheath. However, with it being an assisted opener the need for one is greatly reduced. Besides which a belt and pocket clip are provided for easy harnessing.
A very affordable knife that punches above its weight. If you are in the market for only spending a small amount on your Karambit knife, then this is the model to go for.
5. BladesUSA E419-PP Polypropylene Karambit Training Knife
The final tool in our top 5 best Karambit knife round up is the BladesUSA E419-PP Polypropylene Karambit Training Knife.
So in other words it is not a fully functioning karambit. However, considering one of the main reasons to own a karambit in the first place is for use in martial arts, it stands to reason that when practising the art, you want something a little less severe.
And that’s exactly what the BladesUSA E419-PP does. Made from polypropylene it allows the user to perfect close combat training with a karambit, without causing harm to yourself or training partner.
So how does it shape up as a training tool? Very well indeed. The curved blade features a rounded tip to avoid any accidental penetration, while the handle itself (complete with thumb ring) replicates a genuine karambit knife perfectly.
One issue is the weight however. Considering the length of the knife (7 inches overall) it does not come even close to replicating the weight of a real knife of the same size.
This makes for an uneasy balance that feels far removed from using a steel blade karambit.
With all that said, the sturdy polypropylene is robust enough for serious training, and is a big step above using rubber alternatives that can actually wobble on impact.
Overall the BladesUSA E419-PP Polypropylene Karambit Training Knife is an excellent tool for those wanting to fine tune their martial arts training. Marred slightly by its light weight, this nonetheless comes highly recommended.