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. In my estimation, the best Leek is the newer carbon fiber Leek.
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.
4. Kershaw Cryo G10
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 first version of this article had the original Cryo in this spot, but the G-10 version is significantly better because it offers a better grip and lighter weight.
5. Kershaw Lucha
Unfortunately, we had to knock off the Knockout from this list to add the new Kershaw Lucha. This inexpensive balisong is high quality and made in the United States. It’s well-designed and a perfect intro to butterfly knives.
The Knockout is still available in limited quantities of the olive drab version if you’re still interested.
6. 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.
7. 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.
8. Kershaw Emerson CQC-6K D2
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 original version was discontinued but the new D2 version is just as great.
9. Kershaw Chill
The Kershaw Natrix originally occupied this spot for a few years, but over time, that knife has just lost its luster as a good EDC. The knife is still good, but there are a few classics at a better price that could take this spot.
The one that comes to mind the most is the Kershaw Chill.
The Chill is a no-frills EDC with a slim 3.1-inch blade and black G-10 handle. It doesn’t use premium materials or an assisted-opening mechanism, but you can’t beat it design and value.
Like the Leek and the Blur, the Chill is a classic Kershaw that has been around for a long time.
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
I really wanted to add the brand new for 2023 Kershaw Livewire to this list because first impressions of Kershaw’s first OTF have been extremely positive.
Unfortunately, the knife is not quite widely available yet, so it would be disingenuous to say it is Kershaw’s best if we haven’t spend much time with it. It is very likely this knife will nab a spot on the next list update.