The Cutting Edge

The official blog of Knife Depot

10 Best Kershaw Knives

Article was originally published in May 2018.

Kershaw Knives has a long history that dates back to 1974 when Pete Kershaw left his job at Gerber to form his own company. More than 40 years later, the Oregon-based company continues to flex its muscle and show why it remains one of the best knife companies around.

The company has evolved over the years with popular and revolutionary knife models coming and going, but we wanted to take a look at the best knives currently in production at Kershaw.

Note: Best is obviously a very subjective term. While there will be some bias in which knives to include, I will try to select the knives that receive generally widespread acclaim from professional reviewers and customers. Some knives may also get some bonus points for being important to the company. New knives often need a few years to gain the stature needed to be called the best but there are always some that are obvious additions.

If you feel any knives have been slighted or want to mention a knife you feel is the best, let me know in the comments.

1. Kershaw Leek

I’m kicking off the list with the most iconic Kershaw knife ever made: the Leek. This Ken Onion design has always been lumped in with the historically important knives (it made our own list of most iconic knives) and for good reason.

The Leek is simple, effective, and is a gold standard for EDC knives. The knife features a 3-inch modified Wharncliffe blade made from quality 142C28N steel, a stainless steel handle with a frame lock, and the SpeedSafe assisted-opening mechanism.

Because the Leek is a staple of Kershaw, it’s available in tons of varieties and colors. For example, you can pick it up with an orange handle or with a composite D2/142C28N steel blade.


2. Kershaw Blur

When people think of a Kershaw, they likely think of two knives. The first is the Leek, and the second is the Blur. Also a Ken Onion design, the Blur has been a part of Kershaw for years and acts as a sort of counterforce to the Leek.

Whereas the Leek is bright and light, the Blur is more brooding and workman-like. It has a longer 3.4-inch assisted blade made of 142C28N steel and an aluminum handle with Trac-Tec inserts for a better grip. Odds are if the Leek doesn’t meet your EDC needs, the Blur will.

The best version of the Blur is the one in S30V steel.


3. Kershaw Launch 1

This one is kind of a dark horse addition simply because it’s a knife not many people can carry. Why? It’s an automatic knife.

Kershaw has been killing it the last few years with its Launch line. Nearly all of the models in the Launch series have been excellent, but I still think the Launch 1 is a highlight of the series and Kershaw in general.

The blade is 3.4 inches and uses CPM 154 steel with a BlackWash finish. The handle is machined 6061-T6 anodized aluminum with a tip-up pocket clip. Of course, the knife engages with the push of a button in the blink of an eye. The design, manufacturing, and materials have helped propel this knife to become one of the best automatic knives on the market.

There’s also a Damascus Launch 1 version available.


4. Kershaw Livewire OTF

Unfortunately, we had to knock off the Knockout and the recent Kershaw Lucha from this list. While this new addition is also a bit niche, it’s easily one of Kershaw’s best knives.

The Livewire OTF is Kershaw’s first foray into automatic out-the-front openers, and it lives up to the hype.

This is an American-made OTF with a 3.3-inch MagnaCut blade and black aluminum handle that’s goes for over $100 less than similar knives from other brands.


5. Kershaw Link

The goal of the Link was to bring affordable yet high-quality knives back to America. For less than $45, you got an assisted flipper with a 3.25-inch 420HC stainless steel blade and anodized aluminum handle. That was insane value.

Unfortunately, the standard Link was discontinued, but Kershaw kept the premium Link with a 20CV assisted blade and olive green handle.

I’m not sure how much longer the knife will be in the catalog, but it’s still among Kershaw’s best available.


6. Kershaw Iridium

Kershaw has discontinued a ton of great knives that used to be on this list, like the Dividend, Bareknuckle, and Skyline. But the loss of those knives meant the addition of the fantastic Kershaw Iridium.

The Iridium is the newest knife on this list and its addition is well-deserved.

This knife was among the first to get the DuraLock mechanism, Kershaw’s take on the crossbar lock. To say they knocked it out of the park would be an understatement.

The Iridium was already a knife of the year in 2023, thanks to its 3.4-inch D2 blade and aluminum handle. For the price, this knife has quickly become one of the best new EDC knives we recommend.

There’s also a reverse tanto variation and a mini version.


7. Kershaw Emerson CQC-8K

The legendary Ernest Emerson has been in the knife business for a long time and has built quite the reputation for making excellent knives, including those with the pioneering Wave feature. Many companies have tried to work something out with Emerson, but he’s insisted on doing things independently — until he came to an agreement with Kershaw.

The result has been a line of affordable Emerson designs under the Kershaw umbrella. It doesn’t seem like these knives should be so awesome but here we are.

The Kershaw Emerson CQC-8K is the perfect example. Based on the iconic Emerson CQC-8, this version of the knife has a 3.5-inch blade with wave and G-10 scales. The knife has been praised from all parts of the knife community.


8. Kershaw Launch 16

I was initially hesitant to put yet another Launch knife on this list, but it’s hard to ignore the quality, design, and craftsmanship of this knife.

The Kershaw Launch 16 is a purpose-built automatic with a 3.45-inch blade made from M4 steel. It uses a tanto blade with partial serrations for something that’s truly designed for work.

The handle is aluminum with Trac-Tec inserts to keep the knife in your hand.


9. Kershaw Dividend

The Dividend was on this list a long time ago when there was still the standard variation, but it fell off the list when that was continued. Well, it’s back on because Kershaw revived the Dividend and with MagnaCut steel.

It’s really hard to beat the value on this knife when you factor in materials, US-made construction, and dependability.


10. Kershaw Launch 4

I know we already have one Launch on this list, but the Launch 4 is probably one of the most popular from Kershaw. It is a tiny California-legal automatic knife with a sub-2-inch blade. You might think it’s a bit silly, but it works well and it’s unassuming.

Despite its small size, it excels as a lightweight EDC or tool around the house for opening boxes and whatnot.


Best Kershaw Knives Honorable Mentions

Others that deserve a mention are essentially every knife in the Kershaw Launch series.


  1. I purchased a Leek like the one pictured except I have the combo edge with serrations because for whatever reason, they were marked down and a lot lower in price than the straight edge or the black stone washed model.

    So I bought one and am amazed at how swiftly it opens. The blade really shoots out like a whip with can only be described as recoil. While I find handles to with odd angular lines not as interesting to my tastes, the smooth polished edges of their rounded or curved handles are very attractive, at times even elegant with a nice finish. It feels very light, almost too light for my large sized hands, but it’s nice to have a light, smooth functioning knife for times when you just don’t feel like carrying anything heavy or want an extra knife handy. It looks and feels as if there is more to it than you can tell.

    I’d like to mention I don’t own the Cryo because I fear it has too short a handle like the Shuffle (I am looking to get a Shuffle 2) , but I own the Schrade 311s which is similar with a sturdy body and it’s a framelock. This or these kind of knives appeal to me as they look nice, but are built sturdy.

    I am curious how people feel about the CRKT M16 models. I don’t own one, but I have a Gerber Evo and like the design. I prefer heavier, thicker and beefier knives usually, but like the Leek appreciate a light sleek knife that is a slight as a couple of quarters or a pen.

  2. The Launch 4 should have been on this list. Super tight action, easy to keep sharp, extremely attractive, very portable and concealable.

    • Tim

      November 15, 2018 at 10:46 am

      It was tough to leave the Launch 4 off. The 1 got the nod, but I did mention that the other models in the Launch series were excellent. Although the 4 is considered a “specialty knife” because it is CA legal, it is a great carry anywhere (that’s legal).

  3. I have had Two CQC-6K’s for the past year – One is so off center that using the wave feature is almost futile – it drags so bad on the non-lock bar side – I tossed it in the vehicle bag I keep in the truck – I never carry it.

    The second knife is off center to the lock bar side but was good enough to carry and the wave feature worked – but over the past year it has not held up well at all. The drag is no worse but the blade is not locked in solid any longer now and it has both horizontal and vertical play.
    If I tighten the pivot screw to reducer the play it makes the pivot SO TIGHT that I need to open Two handed and the wave is locked out.

    Where the lock rides on the blade it has worn a grove in to the blade and the lock itself on the shoulder that first drops in to the blade area is starting to round off – I am just about ready to retire this after only a year of use, but then again, I kind of expected this form a $30 knife. I also use my knives as tools and have no reservations beating the heck out of them – they work or they get replaced.

    On the other hand I own Three Leeks and would not hesitate to buy more – they hold up phenomenally well and recommend them with out hesitation or reservation.

    • Tim

      November 15, 2018 at 10:44 am

      There is definitely a tradeoff with cheaper knives (there really shouldn’t be though). The quality control can be hit or miss. I’ve heard people with a perfect CQC-6K with no issues too. The US-made Kershaws are much more reliable in terms of quality.

  4. I bought a Kershaw Flourishb art my local Big 5…i love it! And for only 19.99, you can’t beat it!
    Thanks Kershaw!

  5. what about the fatback? I like it very much!

  6. I was a loyal customer of Kershaw ,my problem is they will not answer their emails. I have asked them the same question and they never responded. I will never purchase another knife from them,I have been carrying the Kershaw brand for over 20 years

    • Tim

      March 7, 2023 at 6:00 pm

      Really? That’s sad to hear. I’ve had nothing but good experiences with Kershaw knives (knock on wood!).

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