Karambits (or kerambits) are an efficient and intimidating weapon for self-defense.
The traditional karambit comes from Southeast Asia (and still used by law enforcement in Indonesia), these claw-like knives are beautiful and functional tools, especially when combined with martial arts.
Despite their generally short blade length, a karambit knife is an effective and deadly weapon.
If you are thinking about purchasing the best karambit for the money, there are a few things you’ll need to keep in mind. An educated decision hinges on being able to compare its features (such as blade length, amount of curvature, and the quality of the materials) against the price.
Don’t worry though. We’ve researched most commonly available karambits and examined hundreds of user reviews to help guide you. We’ve also listed a few of our top picks.
In this guide, we will cover:
- Why You Should Own a Karambit
- Karambit Blade Types
- Quality & Style
- Fixed-Blade or Folding Karambit?
- Our Top Picks
Why own a karambit?
Karambits, like the tiger claws they were inspired by, are deadly and efficient weapons. If you’re interested in a small, but effective, self-defense tool, a quality karambit will not let you down. The curved blade is intended to offer the user protection in any environment, even in cramped spaces.
Karambits fit in your pocket with ease and can be deployed in seconds. They look very intimidating to an attacker. These are sexy knives, with a variety of styles available in a range of great looks. Consider adding a karambit to your loadout, be it for everyday carry or as a collector’s piece.
Because of the curved blade design of karambits, even short blades are an intimidating and effective self-defense tool. The overall length will impact how well it fits in your pocket, and how well it remains hidden. That’s going to be a deciding factor if you intend on using it as your concealed carry weapon.
It’s also important to consider how easy it is to draw the knife. In a self defense emergency, time is vital. A fixed blade model is sturdier and more readily accessible than one that folds out, but is more difficult to conceal.
Most experts agree that a double-edged blade on a karambit doesn’t offer much benefit. They can even be dangerous to the user. While generally not suitable for multipurpose use, some karambits feature a half-serrated edge that can greatly increase their overall utility.
Rather going for a jack-of-all-trades (master of none), it’s better to focus on the karambits that excel in the purpose for which they were intended: close-quarters combat.
Quality & Style
Next up is determining the quality of the knife. Even cheaper knives should be designed to last a long time. Quality blades shouldn’t warp or rust, and the handle should be comfortable to hold and durable. Many karambits also feature a ring for additional weapon retention.
If you’re thinking about getting an assisted-open knife, test it to ensure the mechanism is sturdy. The last thing you need is to deal with a faulty spring in an emergency!
Like any tool, a karambit should fit your sense of style and taste. Some are more tactical and functional, while others are decorative
Fixed-Blade or Folding Karambit?
If you invest in a karambit, first decide whether you want a fixed blade or assisted open. Folding karambits offer a fantastic self-defense option. They are small but have a deadly efficiency and look intimidating- for those reasons, they are still used by law enforcement to this day in some parts of southeast Asia. Unlike a fixed-blade knife, a folding karambit can fit snugly in your pocket until needed, but be deployed rapidly.
There are videos of men removing their karambit from their pocket, opening it, and being ready for a fight in a matter of moments. In an emergency, you don’t want to be fumbling around trying to open your blade. They are excellent options for concealed carry, and can be very beautiful knives.
Our Top Picks
Ka-Bar TDI Law Enforcement Knife Fixed Blade
Designed by John Benner, founder of the Tactical Defence Institute, this fixed-blade karambit from Ka-Bar is a fantastic final-option knife. Many law enforcement officers have praised how easily concealable, effective, and high-quality this knife is. Featuring a stainless steel blade, this knife will stand the test of time.
While small, it’s ideal for a “final-option” situation, such as when you cannot access your handgun. Reviews say it’s even faster to draw than folding knives, but still safe and secure to carry using the included sheath. It’s also ambidextrous, and users have carried it on both the weak and strong sides of their bodies.
Most of the complaints regarding this knife were about the sheath. The manufacturer has since updated the sheath to a much better version. From such a well-respected company as Ka-Bar, and with the Tactical Defence Institute design, it’s surprising to find that this self-defense karambit is available at an affordable price. While not the cheapest model, this is a knife that will endure the test of time.
Tac-force Spring Assisted Open Skull Skeleton
The Tac-force folding pocket knife one cool-looking blade, made to an outstanding level of quality—especially when you consider how inexpensive it is. The spring-loaded 3.5 inch blade makes for a fast assisted open, which operates smoothly and efficiently.
While some people don’t like the “H.R. Giger”-esque design of the knife, the textured handle provides a good grip. Most buyers say they enjoy the overall look of the knife. Perhaps those who dislike the unique design are those who associate skull handles with cheap imports sold at flea markets. This karambit, however, is a quality, sturdy knife offered at an incredibly low price.
TAC Force TF-816 Series
While technically and advertised as a hawksbill blade, this 6-Inch (closed) knife is a great karambit. Everyone agrees TAC Force is a great company for knives, and the quality of this knife is hard to beat for the price. As a self-defense or EDC knife, buyers say they’re happy with it.
Many users absolutely raved about the speed of the spring assist opening, because a rapid deploy is so important. Most people say it’s a comfortable knife and a good size to keep in your pocket, although it depends on your size, actions, and your pockets themselves. This knife isn’t technically a karambit, but it is very similar and much more useful for daily use as an every day carry.
While not suitable for actual self-defense, this training knife is the perfect road to take when preparing for a knife fight. There are many very happy people who have used this knife for training. The solid plastic blade is strong and built to a very high quality. There is also a nice finger ring for multiple grips.
Buyers have said that it will stand up to even very hard training against a punching bag or a person (remember protection even with a plastic blade!). One downside is that this practice knife isn’t folding, and it is a little bit lighter than the real thing. However, for training purposes, it is fantastically built and more than suitable.
Sleek, subtle, and deadly
Karambits are beautiful but deadly knives. They’re perfect for everyday carry or as a backup in case you lose access to your sidearm. As effective as a tiger’s claws, but easily concealable, these fantastic weapons are great defensive weapons.
Our top pick for the best karambit knife for the money is the Ka-Bar TDI Law Enforcement Knife. While small in size and not the cheapest option, it’s made by one of the best knife manufacturers working in conjunction with a renowned self-defense institute. The Law Enforcement Knife is built to the highest standard of quality. It’s both easily concealable and quickly-accessible from any side of the body. This karambit is an effective emergency tool for self-defense, and many law enforcement professionals agree.
Image credit via Flickr Creative Commons: DVIDSHUB.