The Ultimate Firearms Destination for the Gun Lifestyle

Best Fixed Blade Knives For EDC (Under 4-Inches) [Hands-On Review]

If there’s one knife that’s a true multitasker, it has to be a small fixed blade. They’re stronger than almost any folding knife, handy to carry around, and ready to go once they clear leather or Kydex. Unfortunately, poorly written or poorly interpreted laws can make carrying a fixed blade illegal in certain jurisdictions. 

There seems to be one thing lacking in knife legislation — consistency. What can be perfectly legal in one state might be a felony in the state next door.

Writing for an international audience can make this task a bit tougher when trying to interpret laws for different countries, especially when in our own country, these laws vary from state to state and, at times, even counties, cities, or towns within those states.

Reflecting on a youth spent in New York City as a budding knife collector, the rule of thumb was always said to be “four fingers.” No, not Frankie Four Fingers, though one of these knives does have a slight connection to Benicio Del Toro. Four Fingers was a mantra used by NYPD and most knife collectors in the city at one time. 

If you were stopped or hassled by a police officer and had a knife in your possession, the cop would hold it up against the four fingers of his open hand to see if the blade was under 4 inches. If the blade extended beyond his four fingers, it was a Class A misdemeanor. If it was under that length, they would let you go. If your knife was particularly nice or worth more than $20, it was more than likely confiscated.

Although I left New York as a teenager to serve in the USMC, I still keep that rule in mind when going out with a small fixed blade. Most restrictive knife laws in this country are literal copies from other states’ laws on the matter. Always research the laws of wherever you’re planning to travel or pass through regarding blade length, blade configuration, carrying a knife concealed or open, and so on.

For a simple, everyday working knife, the short fixed blade can’t be beat. Whether you’re tasked with opening cardboard boxes, cutting a zip tie, slicing a piece of meat, scraping weeds out of your driveway, dressing a deer, batoning firewood, or even defending your life, knives like these are some of the best to have on hand. 

One key factor is they’re not excessively large or heavy, so you tend to keep them with you more often. 


Shivworks Clinch Pick 2.0

The Clinch Pick 2.0 by Shivworks is pretty much a defensive design intended to be carried discreetly. The Pikal blade takes an adjustment period to get used to unless you’re very familiar with Filipino martial arts. The top edge of the knife is sharpened, while the upswept portion is not. It’s primarily intended to be wielded in a reverse grip, with the edge toward the user. 


+ The handle is nice and plump, allowing for a good and quick grip when stressed without the stress of fumbling around with a blade.

+ Sandvik 12C27 steel is a lower-end steel in terms of cost, but it’s also a great knife steel. 


– I cut myself a few times on the sharp edge. It might be due to muscle memory, or maybe another ¼ inch of unsharpened steel on the spine is needed if you wear XL gloves.

– The Pikal-style blade isn’t for everyone. The Clinch Pick 2.0 is an excellent take on this design, but you should definitely take a course on its use.

TOPS Knives Tom Brown Tracker #4 Mini

The Tom Brown Tracker knife is one of the most controversial knives out there. The #4 Mini is a scaled-down EDC version that gives you some of the better aspects of the larger original. 

The blade doesn’t have a true tip; rather it’s profiled a bit more like a hatchet blade up front with a slightly thicker edge than the rear portion of the blade. On the top front of the blade, there are ingeniously cut serrations that work like a mini saw. The rear of the spine is a perfect place to secure the knife with your thumb. 


+ The Micarta handles are very comfortable and well contoured.

+ Three different edges may sound like a nightmare to maintain, but they performed much better than expected.


– The handle feels slightly too short at times.

– 1095 has the potential to rust, but it’s minimized with the coating that TOPS uses.

– The lanyard hole is a bit too small for a paracord lanyard.

Bradford Knives Textured Guardian 3.5 – M390

The Bradford Knives Textured Guardian 3.5-M390 really checks all the boxes to look for in a quality fixed blade knife. 

All Bradford knives have good handle treatments; this one is contoured to fit in the hand comfortably and securely. There’s a choil for safety and excellent traction grooves on the spine. Most importantly, however, is the choice of Bohler M390 steel — a favorite for EDC blades because it’s corrosion resistant and retains its edge much longer than most other steels. 


+ This knife can be configured by the user — different blade profiles, handle materials, handle colors, and blade finishes. Replacement handle scales are available, too. You can even opt for a longer blade length if desired.


– M390 can be nearly impossible to sharpen without diamond or ceramic stones.

– The leather sheath is very well-made and secures the knife, but not everyone likes or can wear a horizontal sheath.

Krein Knives K9 Model 6

The K9 Model 6 has a slight offset cant to aid in cutting power, along with full tang construction. The G10 handle scales have three indexing holes that go through the tang. Your middle finger should make contact with one whether in a forward or reverse grip. 

As it’s a fixed blade, it comes in a solid Kydex sheath that locks in the knife with a positive click and secures to your belt or pack via a well-made Tek-Lok.


+ The handle length is well-formed and contoured. 

+ A drop-point flat-ground blade takes on superb cutting and slicing characteristics with just a slight cant to it.


– D2 is a great steel and even though it has a bit more chromium than other tool steels, it can rust.

– Although the blade is under 4 inches, this knife gives the illusion of being bigger due to the canted blade.

– Small-batch production makes knives like this available only at certain times of the year.

ESEE Knives ESEE-3

ESEE Knives have been popular choices for users all over the world. They offer a series of fixed blades of 1095 high-carbon steel made in the USA. The ESEE-3 sports a drop-point powdercoated blade. The handle has a great contour and a decent swell in just the right spot.

It’s easy to see why ESEE knives are so popular with outdoorsmen and the tactical crowd alike. The knife is a straight-up performer.


+ The ergonomics on this handle are great. Scales can be swapped out easily for other colors and styles, or they can be removed for a more minimalist style.

+ ESEE is known for having one of the best warranties of all time. They’ll replace anything with no questions asked.


– The sheath gives the impression of being cheap, even though it’s fairly robust. You may wish to upgrade to an aftermarket leather or Kydex model.

– While 1095 steel is corrosion prone, be thankful for the powdercoating.

Cold Steel Finn Bear

The Finn Bear is a more modern take on the traditional Scandinavian Puukko. They’re characterized by a Scandi grind and most typically a leather sheath that envelops almost the entire handle. 

Cold Steel went with a hollow grind along with a synthetic handle and a nylon sheath. The Finn Bear still makes for a great design in spite of these changes. You can’t beat it for a $20 blade. 


+ A low cost, but pretty effective all-around work knife 

+ 4116 is a low-end stainless steel, but offers excellent corrosion resistance, edge retention, and very easy sharpening.

+ Extremely light at only 2.5 ounces


– The blade measures at exactly 4 inches. If you get stopped or hassled by the police in one of those anti-freedom locales, perhaps hope for a fat-fingered officer who’s not into knives. 

– The sheath is effective, but has a cheap feel to it. Unfortunately, a quality sheath would easily be double the price of the knife.

Emerson PUK (Police Utility Knife) 

This design made its big-screen debut in Tears of the Sun lashed to Bruce Willis’ character’s gear. Originally designed as a knife geared toward military and law enforcement types, the PUK has a strong following. 

It has a basic clip-point blade with perfectly executed textured G10 handles. Optional serrations on this particular model make short work of nylon webbing, seatbelts, cardboard, or carpet.


+ The ergonomics on this handle are amazing. There’s a generous choil for safety, a serrated thumb ramp on the spine, and two lanyard holes.

+ The new sheath for this model is straight-up Kydex, which makes for a more urban carry.


– Black-coated blades aren’t to everyone’s liking; after hard use it may scratch and wear down. However, a stone-wash version is available.

– Emerson’s production factory makes these knives in small batches, so tracking one down can be challenging.

Enter Your E-Mail to Receieve a Free 50-Target Pack from RECOIL!

NEXT STEP: Download Your Free Target Pack from RECOIL

For years, RECOIL magazine has treated its readers to a full-size (sometimes full color!) shooting target tucked into each big issue. Now we've compiled over 50 of our most popular targets into this one digital PDF download. From handgun drills to AR-15 practice, these 50+ targets have you covered. Print off as many as you like (ammo not included).

Get your pack of 50 Print-at-Home targets when you subscribe to the RECOIL email newsletter. We'll send you weekly updates on guns, gear, industry news, and special offers from leading manufacturers - your guide to the firearms lifestyle.

You want this. Trust Us.

One response to “Best Fixed Blade Knives For EDC (Under 4-Inches) [Hands-On Review]”

  1. Timothy Youtsey says:

    T KELL knives are amazing, you might want to check them out

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

View Comments

Subscribe to the Free