If you asked the average knife collector, “What is the best Spyderco knife?”, you would likely hear some hesitation. Even to the most experienced knife enthusiast, choosing a favorite Spyderco is like choosing a favorite child. So, if you’ve asked what the best Spyderco knife is, you should know that this simple question warrants a bit of a long answer, one we will attempt to provide here.
This list shows off some of the best-selling Spyderco knives, as well as some of our favorites. Every knife on the list offers great build quality, high-performance materials, and a design worthy of your adventures. The best Spyderco knife for everyone is impossible to choose, but with this list, we hope you’ll be able to choose the best Spyderco knife for you!
Although it was originally designed for military (or paramilitary) personnel, the PM2 has earned the favor of campers, hunters, survivalists, construction workers, and EDC-ers the world over. They love its tough and one-hand-operable Compression Lock, its slicey, distal-tapered blade, its needle-like point, and its attractive design. In fact, when we put out a poll in 2018 asking knife nerds what five knives everyone should own, the winning combination of features on the Paramilitary 2 earned it a spot high on the list.
As mentioned earlier, it’s hard to say what the Best Spyderco Knife is, but no matter who you are listening to, the Paramilitary 2 is all but guaranteeded a spot in the finals. It’s such a good knife, and it’s the result of two masters of production knives collaborating to make one of the best of all time. It came about when Sal Glesser, the founder of Spyderco, and his son Eric Glesser, who runs Spyderco today, took a new look at the popular Military model. Combining their collective mastery of ergonomic design, material science, and locking mechanisms, they shortened the blade, adjusted the ergonomics a little here and there, and integrated the newly patented Compression Lock, and the Paramilitary was born. A few years later, they updated the design based on feedback (part of Spyderco’s Constant Quality Improvement, or CQI program), and the iconic staple of the knife world, the Paramilitary 2, was born.
The PM2 comes with a CPM S30V blade and a grippy G-10 handle, although you can often find it with other blade steels and handle materials to suit your fancy. Be warned, however, Spyderco is always pushing the boundaries and trying new things, so many of their knives are in limited runs. So, if you see a PM2 with that fancy new blade steel, don’t wait! It might go the way of the Dodo (both the bird and the knife)!
Since its release, the Tenacious has earned a reputation as one of the best budget Spyderco knives you can buy. In classic Spyderco fashion, it employs a simple yet distinctive design, making it nice to look at, but more importantly, easy, comfortable, and intuitive to use. Its design has made it a favorite of budding knife enthusiasts, seasoned knife veterans, and everyone in between. You can get one and use it as a beater, or treat it to some replacement parts from the thriving aftermarket and dress it up all your own. It’s a great knife for everyone!
When knives meet the budget category, one often wonders what corners were cut. With the Tenacious, there were no corners cut. They built the absolute best knife possible for its price. It uses an 8Cr13MoV blade steel, reputed for its high toughness and corrosion resistance. If you want more edge retention out of it, Spyderco also makes Tenacious with a CPM S35VN blade (which commands a higher price tag) and an injection-molded FRN handle. A full steel liner strengthens its handle, so no matter how hard you bear down on the knife, it won’t flex at all.
There are knife snobs out there who will tell you that you have to spend lots of money and do lots of research to get a good knife, but we respectfully disagree. Yes, more expensive knives offer some wonderful features and incredible performance, but the Tenacious stands as irrefutable evidence that there are affordable knives that can easily handle years of hard use.
Originally released in 1997, the Native series was one of the pioneers of the double-finger-choil design. Like many knives, it has a cutout for your finger (called a choil) in the handle, but where the handle meets the blade, there’s another choil, allowing you to grip the knife much closer to the edge when you need a little more control over it. If you need a bit more leverage and power, just grab the knife further back. And don’t worry about using the knife hard, its lockback mechanism is tough-as-nails and will stand up to any use you give it.
The blade on the Native 5 is just as well-thought-out as its handle. The almost organic curve of the spine makes resting the palm and thumb comfortable and natural. The curve of the spine ends with a perfectly indexed point, making piercing cuts easy on the wrist. Its combination of features and design traits make it one of the most comfortable, usable, and carriable knives you can find.
In terms of materials, the Native 5 runs the gamut. You can get the standard model with a CPM S30V blade and a G-10 handle, get the lightweight version with FRN handle scales, or follow along to see which special steels or handle variations are running. One of our favorites is the Salt version with its yellow FRN handle and a MagnaCut blade! That steel might just make it the best Spyderco Salt knife! If knife collecting is your game, the Native series will give you lots of fun knives to hunt!
Since its release, the Paramilitary 2 has been extremely popular, but after a few years, people started asking for a mini. Some just wanted a smaller knife, and others lived in places where longer blades were prohibited, so in 2016 Spyderco released the Para 3 to instant success. Most people would say “let’s just take the Paramilitary 2, go to the CAD file, shrink it down 15% in every dimension, and call it a day,” but not Spyderco. Instead, they took the winning formula of the PM2, and through months of iterations, found out where they could shrink it down and where they should leave it full-size. The resulting knife, the Para 3, has the same DNA as its bigger brother, but it’s its own knife, not just a “mini-Paramilitary 2.”
It’s not surprising that the Para 3 is as good as it is; it’s built on the same winning formula as one of the greatest knives ever made. But some people still wanted it a little bit lighter. In response, Spyderco released the Para 3 Lightweight. That one uses an injection molded FRN handle and replaces the full steel liners with a simple lockbar on one side. This brings its total weight to a feather-light 2.5 ounces!
The Smock is a collaboration between Spyderco and industrial designer Kevin Smock. It’s earned a cult following in the knife community thanks to its distinctive design, slicey hollow grind, and its interesting locking mechanism. Like a few other knives on this list, the Smock uses Spyderco’s patented Compression Lock, however this one comes with a twist.
A quick glance at the Smock would make one think it uses a button lock, but closer examination reveals that there’s a little more going on. Instead of locking the blade with the barrel of the button, the Smock’s button depresses a lockbar on the back scale. That lockbar compresses between the tang of the blade and the stop pin when open, so it’s a true Compression Lock, just actuated with a button. This legendary combination gives the user the strength of the Compression Lock with the fidget factor of the button lock! It’s a match made in heaven, and one of the best Spyderco folding knives.
For many, the Spyderco Delica 4 is a standard by which all other pocket knives are judged. It uses good blade steel, has solid build quality, it’s ergonomic, it’s ambidextrous, a great warranty backs it, it’s tough, it’s lightweight, and it’s fairly priced. These features have made it popular for years, so popular, in fact, that Spyderco has started making it with various combinations of shape, steel, and color.
Perhaps the crowning feature of the Delica 4 is its lockback mechanism. Spyderco went through numerous iterations to make it perfect, eventually landing on what we have now. They used the lockback because it’s perhaps the strongest locking mechanism there is, and they’ve made it just right so you can close it one-handed. Just pinch the knife between your thumb and your fingers, depress the lockbar, shake the blade forward, and the ricasso will land safely on your index finger. Then reposition your grip and shake the blade forward one more time, and the knife is closed!
Spyderco is renowned for innovation, and the Manix shows this off. Designed for all-purpose use, the Manix employs the strong, one-hand operable, ambidextrous Ball Bearing Lock. One could be forgiven for thinking it’s like a typical crossbar lock, but it has a trick up its sleeve. Instead of a full bar, it wedges a ball bearing between the tang of the blade and the closed backspacer to lock the knife. This means the entire locking mechanism is enclosed, and is therefore less susceptible to dust, lint, dirt, etc. It also provides an incredibly smooth action; instead of a bar sliding against the tang of the blade, it’s a ball rolling.
The Manix is popular for more than its lock, though. Its design lends itself both to everyday carry and to hard use. The scales are flat G-10, so the knife lays flat in the pocket and doesn’t bother you during use, but the outline of the handle ensures that the blade will sit nicely in your hand without wearing you down. The blade stock is thick enough to tolerate some pressure, and its full-flat grind guarantees a thin edge. The Manix 2 is one of the most well-rounded knives in the Spyderco lineup, and for many, it’s the best Spyderco EDC knife!
In a conversation about budget fixed blades, the Spyderco Bow River is bound to come up. It’s a true outdoors knife, with a design and selection of materials that make it excel in everything from hiking to hunting! The blade is made from 8Cr13MoV, a reliable steel that has user-servicability in spades. It’s tough, doesn’t rust easily, and you can take a smooth river stone and put a shaving edge on it in no time at all. The blade has a full distal taper, which means you get a strong, stout edge near the handle and a delicate and flexy tip. This makes it perfect for all kinds of outdoor tasks. Carve feather sticks with the edge near the handle, process fish and game with the tip.
The handle scales are made from thick slabs of G-10, so the knife is ever-so-slightly handle-heavy. This means the knife will stay in an open hand, making it easier and safer to use. G-10 is also impervious to the elements, so you don’t have to baby your knife in the field. The knife rides safely in a leather belt sheath, and it’s small and light enough that you’ll forget it’s there while out and about!
So you like the Native 5, but you need something a bit bigger to tackle the big tasks with. That’s where the Shaman comes in. It’s the granddaddy of the Native series, and it means business. It makes the user feel like they can take on the world. Instead of the full-flat grind you find on the Native 5, the Shaman uses a high saber grind, giving you a bit more meat in the edge for those hard-use tasks. Its longer blade gives you more leverage and cutting power through all kinds of materials, and its premium blade steel can work as long and hard as you can.
Perhaps the biggest change in the Shaman is the lock. Instead of the lockback the Native series uses, the Shaman employs the Compression Lock. This makes one-hand operation a sinch, and it’s plenty strong to handle even the hardest days of work. The knife has a four-position reversible pocket clip just like the Native line, so it’s great for righties, lefties, and for carry in any pocket. This behemoth of a knife might be the author’s favorite Spyderco knife!
If you’re looking for the best small Spyderco knife, it might just be the Dragonfly. It looks small in the picture, but it’s even smaller in person. Yet somehow it manages to fill out the hand fully and provide cutting power that belies its small size. When closed, it takes up a footprint only 3.3” long, and weighs an unnoticable 1.20 ounces. It employs the strong and ambidextrous lockback, so you don’t need to be afraid of really using it. It’s a small knife, but it’s no toy!
It comes standard with a VG-10 blade steel and an FRN handle, but it often comes in other variants with upgraded blade steels, different handle materials, and more. This little knife makes a great EDC, especially if you have smaller pockets or don’t like carrying big, bulky knives. It’s a solid choice for a backup knife, a knife for gym shorts, a first knife, and especially a gift. With such a small size and inoffensive design, anyone can find a use for a Dragonfly in their life.
Be it from their factories in Golden, Colorado, Seki City, Japan, or anywhere else Spyderco knives are made, you can bet that each knife with that signature round hole will be a top-quality tool you can count on. One of the founders of Blade HQ said it best – “Lots of people carry knives, but those who know carry Spyderco.” Their deep commitment to quality control and improvement, pushing the boundaries of material science, and constantly innovating has made Spyderco knives some of the best you can buy. If you don’t have one in your collection, it’s high time you got one!