We spoke to four knife designers about why they devised their blades...
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In case you haven’t noticed, there’s an ongoing theme to our Pocket Preps column: It’s helpful to carry the right tools for the job. If you’re trying to work loose a screw, a multi-tool with a built-in screwdriver will make it easy. Trying to use the blade of your knife, a coin, or your fingernail will not. If you need to see in the dark, you want a dedicated flashlight, not a BIC lighter or the tiny LED on your expensive and fragile smartphone.
When it comes to self-defense, your mind may automatically jump to a gun or knife as “the right tool.” While we’ve often emphasized the value of carrying each of these items, they’re not the ideal solution to every scenario. There are plenty of cases where carrying a gun or knife is impractical, or even illegal — but that doesn’t mean you have to face your attacker bare-handed, either.
Handheld impact tools serve as a less-lethal force-multiplier, amplifying the power of punches, hammer-fist strikes, and submission holds. These are commonly referred to as pocket sticks or self-defense keychains, and can be made from wood, metal, or hard polymer. Purpose-built tools such as the Kubotan (or genericized kubaton), yawara, and koppo stick also fit the theme. They can be used lightly to inflict pain and deter a threat, or slammed hard against flesh and bone to deal more lasting damage.
Although flashlights and tactical pens can serve as impact weapons, that purpose is secondary. So, today we’ll take a look at some pocket-sized tools that are more specifically oriented toward self-defense. Many of them contribute other helpful functions to your EDC loadout, and each offers an effective way to put the hurt on a bad guy. As always, check your local laws to make sure these are legal in your area before purchasing.
OAL: 5.1 inches
Weight: 2.8 ounces
This impact tool was designed by Rainer Wenning as a modernized variant of the Japanese koppo stick, traditionally a wooden rod with a retention loop around the middle and ring fingers. Wenning’s version is constructed from lightweight Grade 4 titanium, with dual cord loops for the fingers and thumb. These help the user hold onto the tool, even when repeatedly striking adversaries with the round tip. However, this isn’t solely intended as a weapon — Boker says it was also developed as a massage tool for relieving muscle spasms and encouraging lymph drainage.
OAL: 5.5 inches
Weight: 1.1 ounces
MSRP: $8 for 6 / $1.33 each
Hilariously described as an “aluminum anti wolf tool keyring for women teens man” on Amazon, this generic kubaton proudly proclaims its ability to “reject and resist hurts of life.” We purchased a six-pack for just $8, including free one-day shipping. The following afternoon, we received a plastic bag with the individually wrapped aluminum impact tools, each with a different anodized finish. Four finger grooves and a flat end offer a comfortable and secure grip, and the tapered tip is more than sufficient to inflict pain on an attacker. Key rings are included.
OAL: 5.9 inches
Weight: 2.1 ounces
The Krubaton serves three functions. First, as indicated by the name, it’s a blunt impact weapon — or as designer Louis Krudo calls it, a “pain compliance tool.” At just under 6 inches long, the titanium body offers more than enough length to hammer an attacker’s weak points. Unscrew the cap on one end to reveal a tungsten carbide glass breaker; unscrew the other end to access a pen that accepts standard Parker ink refills. These caps are conveniently reversible, and one features a slim, removable pocket clip. Three finishes are available: brushed, matte blue, and matte gold.
OAL: 4.2 inches
Weight: 1.6 ounces
Italian knifemaker LionSteel created the Eskaper as a multi-function keychain tool with an emphasis on elegant aesthetics. The 303 stainless steel body is machined with a spiral pattern and bears a satin finish. At the top of the tool, there’s an included keyring and a bottle opener cutout. The tip is finished with a threaded tungsten carbide glass-breaker insert, which is removable and replaceable. As a dedicated self-defense impact tool, it’s on the small end of the spectrum, but would be sufficient in a pinch.
OAL: 5.6 inches
Weight: 2.2 ounces
MSRP: $155 + $28 for tungsten tip
Contributing writer Jared Wihongi has spent decades studying the Filipino martial arts system of Pekiti-Tirsia Kali, which emphasizes edged and impact weapons. He teaches these skills to military and law enforcement organizations around the world. While working in South Korea, he collaborated with local gear maker RaidOps to create his signature edition Kubo Aro. It’s composed of solid Grade 5 titanium alloy, which is double heat-treated and finished in a subtle dark brown. The ¾-inch diameter is reminiscent of a flashlight, but its one-piece construction is far more durable. Recessed threads in the crenelated end accept an optional carbide tip.
OAL: 6 inches
Weight: 3.3 ounces
Made in America from a single piece of CPM-3V steel, the Tusk delivers the high-end build quality we’ve come to expect from RMJ Tactical. It features a chisel-like prybar tip on one end and a cord/line cutter on the other, as well as a removable titanium pocket clip. However, we have mixed feelings about the circular blade, which is surface-mounted atop a hook-shaped guide. There’s not much to protect its edge, especially if you’re tightly pressing it against your skin while using the tool.
OAL: 4.6 inches
Weight: 2.6 ounces
Pingvin is the Norwegian word for penguin, and this tool resembles the side profile of that strange bird. The body is machined from a piece of super-durable O1 tool steel, and the “wing” is a Grade 5 titanium pocket clip — a variety of color and surface texture options are available for each. A large index finger ring enables the user to draw it quickly from a pocket and strike with two “attitude adjuster” knuckle spikes (they also function as glass-breakers). The base of the tool incorporates a bottle/package opener and prybar/scraper.