There is no right way to carry a knife — unless you ask the millions of people who carry knives. Some will insist that the only true way to carry a knife is clipped to the pocket so that the blade tip is pointing up.
A smaller but still vocal minority say that’s preposterous and that one should carry a knife in the pocket with the blade pointed down.
The truth is that it’s simply a matter of preference.
According a survey in Knife News, 64 percent prefers tip up and 19 percent prefers tip down while 15 percent don’t care and another 2 percent prefer no clip.
This post isn’t to persuade anyone to carry a knife a certain way but to enlighten those who don’t carry their knives tip down.
So if you can’t understand why anyone would carry a knife tip down, here are a few reasons.
Better Positioning for Larger Knives
One of the main advantages of carrying a knife with the tip up is that you can slid your thumb into your pocket, pull out the knife, and already be in the natural position to open it. This is true… for most knives.
Larger knives — like those with blades longer than 4 inches — are a bit trickier.
When you slide a larger knife like the Spyderco Resilience out of the pocket when it’s tip up, you won’t be in a natural position to open it. You’d end up need to adjust the grip a little to open it effectively.
However, if the larger knife is in a tip-down position, you can pinch up near the pivot and then swing your palm down. You’d be in a much better position to open.
Quicker to Open Certain Ways
This is somewhat of an extension of the first point. With larger knives, it’s definitely quicker to open with a tip down — unless there is some sort of Wave or thumb disk feature.
Another argument for tip down is if you have your own opening technique. For example, some people use something called the SpyderDrop. That’s when you hold the hole of a Spyderco and use inertia to open it. Here is a quick video demonstration:
The legendary Michael Janich can open the knife this way with speed and precision (though I believe he does it out of his back pocket).
This can also be somewhat true with flippers carried in a tip-down configuration. You have the flipper right at your finger tips instead of buried in your pocket. There are some other complications carrying a flipper in tip down position though. You don’t want your pocket seam brushing up against the flipper to accidentally engage it.
It Can Be Safer Than Tip Up
Accidental engagement in the pocket is rare, but a number of people have reported the phenomenon.
If a knife in tip-up position opens, it could mean big trouble if you stick your hand in your pocket. I’ve read some people over at BladeForums say they will never carry tip up again after cutting themselves. While you should always position a tip-up folder so that the blade opens into the seam of your pocket, minimizing the damage, pocket clips can move at times.
A knife in the pocket in tip-down position is inherently safer. There is still a risk of getting cut when sitting down if a tip-down knife opens in the pocket. For even more safety, you could slide it against the seam as well so it won’t open easily.
Of course, there are people who have carried tip-up knives for decades without a single incident.
More Comfortable on Some Models
Designing knives is hard. Making a knife so that the pocket clip is fluid within the design is even harder. Some knifemakers just add a pocket clip as an afterthought while others factor it into the design to prevent hotspots. In some cases, a knifemaker will design a knife so that the clip is most comfortable to use in the tip-down (or tip-up) position.
Because a tip-up carry knife has a clip that is near the rear of the handle, it might dig into your palm when you’re holding it (though some may argue the inverse is true for tip down).
This has more to do with feel and comfort than anything else so do your own experiments.
May Be More Aesthetically Appealing
We’re in the superficiality territory, but if you’re carrying a knife, sometimes looks matter.
The Kershaw Leek, for example, already has a pretty ugly pocket clip. But it looks and functions worse when it is in tip up position.
Here’s a look at the Leek with tip down.
And a look at the Leek with tip up.
Not only does a larger portion of the knife stick out of your pocket but it’s also the part that has the safety mechanism and some screws. You can get aftermarket clips, but you can bet that they won’t be as comfortable as the original.
I’ve read some people say that they think the Spyderco Paramilitary 2 in tip up looks downright silly while others say just the opposite.
This one is truly a matter of opinion.
It’s the Only Option Sometimes
Finally, we get to the most compelling reason to carry a knife tip down: It’s the only option.
Whether it simply doesn’t go with the design or the manufacturer was trying to shave off some cost by not drilling more holes, there are tons of knives only available with a one-position, tip-down clip.
Only of my favorites is the sleek and sexy Kershaw Blackout, but alas it’s only available in a tip-down configuration. Some insist that’s a dealbreaker, but they’d be missing out on a ton of great knives.
If I missed any other arguments in favor of tip-down carry, let me know in the comments.
February 20, 2018 at 12:01 pm
I’ve carried probably a dozen or more different knives on a daily basis over the last 40+ years. For the last 5 or so, I have carried a Kershaw Leek—with the tip up. It’s the only way that I can simply and securely one-hand draw and open the knife and still have a “ready to go” grip. You didn’t address carry side but you cannot carry it tip down in the right hand pocket and still have the blade open backwards, into the outer seam of the pocket. And I don’t care what it looks like since I’m not wearing it as a fashion accessory. (Sorry to those of you that do!) I own several Kershaws, including a Chive which, due to the same action but smaller size, is my carry of choice when the larger size is inappropriate.
July 20, 2021 at 1:19 pm
The only way? And you’ve carried a pocket knife for 40 years?
February 20, 2018 at 4:45 pm
I have always carried a pocket knife, have had many different models and brand for the last 4-5 years I have had a Kershaw Blur which is by far my favorite over the years, love it so much I bought a new one over a year ago to keep until I wear this one out… this is Tip Down and easy to sharpen good steel, part serrations but I love it! and snaps open so fast.. Bam
February 21, 2018 at 10:15 am
I draw by placing my thumb in my pocket ahead of the knife then press up with my 2 middle fingers against the bottom of the knife. This pops it right out into my palm with the thumb stud in precisely the right location to open the blade-quickest, slickest draw there is, no need for flippers or any other nonsense. Of course, this requires tip-up carry.
May 11, 2018 at 3:11 pm
Consider both up or down like automatic or standard transmissions. Should one do and employ what they are most comfortable with? Yes. However, in my opinion striving to be capable with either isn’t a bad thing. Zombie appocolyps occurs and you loose or break a knife, buying your preferred may be impractical or not viable. Last I heard, 65% of Canadians don’t know how to drive a standard. Being able to start a vehicle on a hill with a dead battery be dammed, if you can only drive an automatic but can’t find one, do you walk past 3 vehicles with standard trannies and just keep walking? Meh, just my thoughts on not limiting ones abilities or getting hung up on design and function.
September 3, 2021 at 2:38 pm
Lol you just compared EDC clip/tip preference with morally impacting decisions post-apocalypse, what an enormous jump to extremes – you might be putting up with Unpreferred* things in life in anticipation of a zombie take-over. My friend please enjoy yourself and try things you like rather than putting up with what you don’t like. Much love!
My 2 cents would be to carry what is most comfortable because accidents can always happen, just learn from mistakes and accidents to improve your experience along the way. The safest would be to get opposite carry clip and use tip down so a right handed person could have the knife pointed down and toward the crease in the pocket so it won’t ever be able to fully open, but you lose comfort. Somewhere in the middle is each of our own unique compromises. Everyone shall be different. For example I won’t ever be going clipless in the back pocket to look cool with the spydiedrop because I prefer tip up right handed in the right pocket. It’s just most natural feeling to me and maybe one day things will change, that’s the beauty of a preference. It’s up to you baby.
November 15, 2018 at 5:10 pm
Thanks for the suggestion. I just changed my PM2 from tip up to tip down and I find it faster to deploy.
November 29, 2018 at 11:47 am
I’ve been carrying an edc for almost 20 years now. I could not tell you whether any of those knives were tip-up carry or tip-down carry with the exception of my current knife (tip-down). Never paid any attention to it at all until I started reading up on knives and knife design over the past few months.
November 29, 2018 at 1:34 pm
Interesting. I find that muscle memory takes over. When I carry a knife that’s tip up only and then switch to a knife that’s tip down only, I need some time to readjust. Then again, my job requires carrying a bunch of different knives all the time. If I were just carrying the same one every day I probably wouldn’t think twice about the orientation.
December 28, 2018 at 6:04 pm
I have had a tip-up knife open in my pocket and cut myself while holding my 4-yr old at a parade. Quite a mess but with cool head I was able to hold the wound closed while closing the knife carefully. Ruined the knife (a Kizer) for me, blaming combination of detent and flipper, not the orientation. I still carry tip-up. I guess the experience made me consider the stab in the thigh a worse potential outcome. I am much more careful to ensure knives are snug against the back of my pocket.
January 3, 2019 at 10:34 am
Wow. Sorry to hear that. It’s possible for a knife to open in your pocket in either orientation really — unless you have some sort of safety on.
July 29, 2019 at 9:42 am
tip down…because in a hurry or cramped position..you need the large frontal area of the knife to get a good purchase and draw it out.
September 17, 2019 at 10:11 pm
Maybe the real issue is not tip or tip down, but how one grips the knife, how they wear it, deploy it and the amount of tension and strength it takes to remove and operate it.
Most of my folders are tip down as sold and I have no problems with them. So far I have not had a knife open up on me, although to be fair, I have carried some more than others and the one I carry all the time on a pocket is tip down. I used to carry an extra knife in a waist pouch or sometimes one in a cargo pocket (Most common for me) and maybe another in a front or rear pocket. But the goal was not or is not always for self defense, but simply to have a blade for utility or survival.
If self defense is the goal I would carry an assisted opening knife like the Kershaw Leek (Hammond Special Ops, etc) that spring open in a flash. I have a few, but prefer manual openers since they have no spring to wear out. And sometimes carried inside a pocket is a better choice so that a threat does not see the knife and know you have it, or people who fear knives, but again how, what and where are always debatable and what’s best depends on the situation or simply personal preference.
September 17, 2019 at 11:50 pm
My EDC for years has been a CRKT M16-13Z and it came clip installed from the factory, tip down carry. I prefer it that way for this particular knife. It is a Flipper, and the way it is designed, it slips out of the pocket quick and smooth, with the flipper tip right under my right index finger tip, and it can be deployed in just a fraction of a second . I would match it any day with an automatic.
December 14, 2019 at 6:51 pm
I cut my thumb on a tip up knife and that was the end of tip up knifes for me. After a few weeks of tip down it was just as fast and natural.
March 18, 2020 at 12:45 pm
Another reason: pocket lint collects at the bottom of the pocket. Tip up places the pivot deep in the pocket, where it’s more likely to collect lint. Tip down keeps the pivot pin cleaner. And how about another: tip up puts opening studs and flippers – things that are usually rough textured, hardened steel – deep inside the pocket and free to move, scratching whatever else you might be carrying in the same pocket as your knife. (However, I’m definitely a personal preference sort of guy on this topic. Do what you wish.)
October 22, 2020 at 8:42 am
I wonder how many situations there really are where people have to draw their knife fast. Are all these knife people Rambo? I only have one pocket knife and since I mostly bring it to slice apples and bread and the occasional plastic/cordboard box, it makes no difference whatsoever. I get the one-hand action deployment is preferable in many work situations. But I have never been in a situation that required me to draw it like a gunman. Doubt I ever will. Mine goes tip-down btw.
January 18, 2021 at 12:43 pm
I just purchased a Kershaw Gaylean Launch 7. What a beautiful knife. I was not paying attention to which way was the tip pointing and in a lot of knives it’s reversible. This was one of my only knives I’ve purchased that was a tip up carry. I attempted many times to get used to pulling it out but it is such a long knife I had to change my grip to get to the launch button. Alas, what I found is Kershaw at this time makes no tip down automatics that I could find. They make beautiful knives so I had to send my knife back for a return and not start a search for another beautiful usable tip up automatic or a spring loaded flipper.
June 25, 2021 at 8:11 am
I had a well known brand folding knife with a lattice type handle/grip. (I can’t remember and I don’t have the knife anymore) The spaces were too wide in the grip and one day I found I was bleeding after going into my pocket for change my finger was able to contact the edge through the lattice.
September 24, 2021 at 5:15 am
I carry fixed blade every day now and only add a folder as sort of a after thought as a second or third knife. That means I’ll typically carry my Esee 3 on my right hip and my Izula in my off hand cargo pocket. My pocket carry would be in my off hand front pocket, tip up for now but that may change. Since my folder options are never primary carry and all small, I may just end up pouch or kydex carrying horizontal at 11 o’clock. In the past, before I switched to fixed blade carry, my folders were tip up. Sometimes with a clip, sometimes with out. Any knife that became too easy to open wasn’t carried anymore. No reason to stab myself just to carry a knife.
March 30, 2022 at 12:24 am
My normal working knife is a traditional 3-blade stockman. It gets called on to open packages, trim excess hardened caulk, cut off a piece of cloth, carve a stick for a quick stopper. Stays in my left back jeans pocket.
But I occasionally carry a knife for the possibility of dealing with social problems, and it’s one of several that I rotate carrying clipped to right front pocket, tip up. I practice quickly drawing/flipping them open. And that knife (those knives) NEVER are called on for any edge dulling task. They are to remain sharp for one and only one purpose.
I’ve never had to draw a knife for protection. It probably helps that I’m big and have one weird evil-looking eye. It probably also helps that the protection knife is slightly visible clipped to my pocket. People who might be inclined to cause problems tend to note such things.