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.
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.
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.
Sometimes a knife just hits all the right spots. Upon first look, the Kershaw Skyline seems like a regular knife, but when it was released in the late ’00s, the knife captured the hearts and minds of knife enthusiasts everywhere.
Created by in-house designer Tommie Lucas, the Skyline is an unassisted flipper with a piscine look. The 3.1-inch blade is a simple drop point design that engages quickly and smoothly with a flipper tab and locks into place with a liner lock. The handle is G-10, and the blade is Sandvik 14C28N steel.
Although the price has crept up the past few years, the lightweight Skyline remains an excellent value and one of Kershaw’s finest.
We’ve arrived at our first knife on the list not made in the United States. Despite the overseas manufacturing, the Cryo has many great things to curry favor among knife fans everywhere — the first and foremost being that it’s a Rick Hinderer design.
The knife is a solidly built assisted flipper with a perfectly sized 2.75-inch blade made of 8Cr13MoV steel. The stainless steel handle houses the frame lock mechanism with lockbar stabilizer. This knife boasts an excellent value, especially since you get a Hinderer design without breaking the bank.
Like the other knives on the list, the Cryo is universally loved. However, some of the biggest complaints are about the lack of texture and heavy weight, which is why I argue the Cryo G10 is the best version of the Cryo.
We’re back in the United States with the Knockout.
This assisted flipper has the distinction of being the first to feature Kershaw’s Sub-Frame Lock. Instead of using the aluminum frame of the knife to create the frame lock, a stainless steel plate was inserted instead. This gives it an even stronger and more reliable lock while maintaining an overall lighter weight.
The Knockout is an excellent working man’s knife with a 3.25-inch 14C28N steel blade and aluminum handle. It weighs it at 3.4 ounces and has an excellent deep carry pocket clip. There is also an olive drab version.
The goal of the Link was to bring affordable yet high-quality knives back to America. To say the Link — aptly numbered model 1776 — succeeded is an understatement. For less than $45, you can get an assisted flipper with a 3.25-inch 420HC stainless steel blade and anodized aluminum handle. That is an insane value.
For even less you can get the Link with a glass-filled nylon handle, which offers a better grip. The Link comes in several different designs like the Tanto Link and if you look in the right places, you can get the knife in premium steel.
The Dividend is a direct response to the success of the Link. Capitalizing on the affordable US-made market, Kershaw made a smaller and just as value-friendly Dividend. The knife is slimmer with a 3-inch blade and narrower aluminum handle. It also weighs about 2 ounces less than the Link.
Despite being pretty new, these knives have jumped into the list of best knives currently available from Kershaw. That’s no easy feat, so it shows just what these knives can do.
Kershaw Emerson CQC-6K
There is a trend among the best knives from Kershaw. If they’re not American-made, they’re designed by a legend. The Kershaw Emerson CQC-6K is no exception.
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-6K is the perfect example. Based on the iconic Emerson CQC-6, this version of the knife has a 3.25-inch blade with wave and G10/stainless steel handle. The knife has been praised from all parts of the knife community.
The Kershaw Brawler bucks the trend of US-made knives or knives made from famous knifemakers. In fact, this is an unlikely addition to the list.
Not only is this a Chinese-made folder, but it’s also the cheapest on the list and designed in-house. Yet the Brawler is consistently raved about from casual users and knife snobs everywhere. The tanto-like blade is 3 inches long and uses adequate 8Cr13MoV stainless steel. It uses a liner lock and durable glass-filled nylon handle scales. With the flipper, the knife springs to life solidly every time.
So how is the Brawler mentioned with the all-time greats? The knife is strong, inexpensive, well-made, thoughtfully designed, tightly manufactured, sleek, and dependable. When you add up all those factors, you get one of Kershaw’s best.
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 six 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.