The Cutting Edge

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Top 20 Knives with D2 Steel

top knives with D2 steel

This post was originally written in September 2017 and updated in March 2023 to include newer models.

Finding the perfect steel is tough. Not only are there so many types available but there are also tons of factors to consider — price, ease of sharpening, hardness, corrosion resistance, and more.

The perfect steel is ever elusive, but you can pick the right steel for the job. If you want a steel that’s nearly stainless but has great edge retention and wear-resistance, opt for D2.

D2 tool steel has been around for a very long time. It became popular as a tool steel during World War II in factories. In terms of knives, knife makers Wayne Goddard and Bob Dozier pioneered the use of D2 steel in knives. In fact, Dozier is sometimes called Dr. D2.

Here is an excerpt from Steve Shackleford’s Blade Magazine post on why D2 is still so great after all these years:

While D2 may not be stainless, it remains a top performer due in no small part to its high wear resistance/edge-holding ability. “It will hold an edge for a very long time before it will go dull,” says Paul Tsujimoto, director of engineering at Ontario Knife Co.  Combined with its relatively inexpensive price, this makes D2 a favorite of manufacturers and custom makers alike. “For us, it’s the perfect combination of performance and an affordable price,” notes Dietmar Pohl of Pohl Force Knives. Agrees Devanna, “It’s the best bang for the buck because it’s priced reasonably and works well.”

While D2 does sacrifice ease of sharpening and some corrosion resistance, it remains an excellent choice for knife users everywhere.

If you’re interested in seeing what D2 has to offer, I collected a list of 20 knives that showcase the variety of D2 knives. Take a look.

1. CRKT Pilar III

The CRKT Pilar has been an unexpected hit the last few years. Although the larger Pilar was fine, it didn’t live up to the original. But the Pilar III definitely does.

CRKT offers the Pilar III in D2 or 8Cr13MoV, but the D2 is obviously better. The larger blade is nearly 3 inches, and the handle is still perfectly angled.

OKC Rat-2

2. KA-BAR Dozier D2 Folder

As I said earlier, Bob Dozier is one of the pioneers of D2 steel, so it was only apt to put one of his knives on this list. Strangely enough, although the Dozier Folding Hunter has been around at KA-BAR for years, it only got the D2 treatment in 2021. Still, it’s better late than never!

This knife has a tried-and-true folding hunter design that also works as an EDC.

3. SOG Terminus XR

The Terminus XR has been an excellent EDC option, but this D2 version makes things even better. The 2.95-inch blade has a stonewashed finish while the Olive Drab G-10 handle adds some color.

The thing I love most about the Terminus XR is the fidget factor, thanks to the XR lock and multiple opening options.

4. CRKT Squid XM

The last few years, CRKT has been experimenting more and more with D2 steel in its higher end knives. The Squid XM is a perfect example.

The Squid has always been known as the best little big knife, but this is a full-sized Squid with a few upgrades like D2 steel and G-10/stainless steel handle.

No wonder it was Knife of the Week in November 2022.

5. Kershaw Natrix in Copper

The Kershaw Natrix is a popular little EDC knife from Kershaw and that’s allowed the brand to make it in different iterations. This copper version is quite intriguing, and it also has stonewashed D2 steel. The blade itself is 2.75 inches while the copper handles give the knife a different look and feel.

6. Benchmade Claymore

D2 is a tough steel, so it only makes sense to put it in the toughest knives. In terms of automatics, nothing is as tough as the Benchmade Claymore.

This beast, which features a 3.6-inch blade, has a robust design that can handle pretty much anything you throw at it.

7. Kershaw Leek Composite

Composite blades are a great invention. You get the best of two knife worlds combined in a single blade. Technology has advanced far enough so that the composite blade is reliable and seamless. In true Kershaw fashion, the company took the iconic Leek and equipped it with its composite blade technology. Although the blade is not completely D2 steel, the cutting edge is while the spine is Sandvik 14C28N.

This is an iconic knife that I’m sure most of you already have in your collection, and the composite blade makes it even better. I love the look of the wavy copper line that fuses the two steels together. Other than the composite blade, there’s not much left that needs to be said about the Leek.

8. Ontario Carter Prime Flipper

The Carter Prime was introduced only a few years ago and has already risen through the ranks as an underrated EDC knife. The knife is designed by Robert Carter, the son of Joe Pardue of Ontario Utilitac fame and grandson of Mel Pardue of Benchmade Griptilian fame.

The Carter Prime is a flipper with a 3.37-inch D2 blade and a lightweight anodized titanium handle. The sheepsfoot blade profile is surprisingly versatile and the knife works well as a hard-use EDC — somewhere between the Adamas and Kershaw Leek.

9. KA-BAR D2 Extreme

The KA-BAR is one of the most iconic designs out there. So if you want it in different steel, you’re in luck.

The D2 Extreme is essentially an updated KA-BAR that uses the same general design with a few updates, including tough D2 steel, Kraton G handle materials, and a gray look. This redesign has been well-received over the years. It recently came out in this plain-edge version.

10. Cold Steel Leatherneck SF

Cold Steel has its own take on the classic fighting knife in the Leatherneck SF. This knife features the overall same design as the KA-BAR with a long clip point blade, hand guard, and ergonomic handle. The black-coated D2 blade is 6.75 inches long and the handle is not stacked leather but rather Griv-Ex.

The SF stands for Semper Fi, and the knife is considered an excellent alternative to the KA-BAR at a lesser price.

11. CIVIVI Elementum

The CIVIVI Elementum is the go-to knife I recommend to anyone getting their first knife. Not only is the design fantastic but its D2 steel blade means you don’t have to worry about babying it.

It comes with a ton of variations, but the one with Micarta is fantastic.

12. CRKT Razel

We kicked off the still great CRKT Trask from the list and replaced it with the new CRKT Razel. Based off Jon Graham’s infamous custom knife with its very unique chisel style blade profile, the CRKT Razel is a pocketable fixed blade that excels at pretty much everything.

It has a 2.97-inch D2 fixed blade with a resin-infused handle.

13. Kershaw Monitor

Even though this knife is brand-new for 2023, it has already made a name for itself as one of the best EDC knives from Kershaw, thanks to its new DuraLock and functional D2 blade.

The Kershaw Monitor is available at a competitive price and has a fantastic look.

14. CRKT Provoke

If you want innovation, CRKT is the place to look. Just take the CRKT Provoke, for example. Designed by Joe Caswell, the Provoke is a morphing karambit with a unique opening mechanism.

The blade on this version has a 2.41-inch D2 blade with black coating. The handle is made from 6061 T6 aluminum.

15. Gerber FlatIron

Gerber is known to be hit-or-miss, but the FlatIron is definitely a hit. The base model is fine, but this upgraded folding cleaver with D2 steel and Micarta scales is superlative.

16. Boker Plus Wildcat

The Boker Plus Wildcat is an interesting knife. The folding karambit has a D2 blade that’s under 3 inches and G-10 handles. The handle itself is very ergonomic and conforms right to the hand.

If you’re really interested in learning the knife for self-defense, there’s also a trainer version.

17. Kershaw Tumbler

Dmitry Sinkevich knows how to make a darn good knife. The Kershaw Tumbler is a sleek, sexy, and curvaceous folder. The flipper blade is 3.25 inches of D2 steel while the handle is a composite of G-10 and carbon fiber. This gives it a unique look and feel.

18. Boker Plus PryMate Pro

Some people say little knives should be seen and not used, but the Boker PryMate Pro says otherwise.

This tiny knife boasts a 0.19-inch thick blade stock that allows you to use the 2.95-inch D2 blade for absolutely everything… yes, even some prying. You might not think so, but the PryMate Pro from Jesper Voxnaes will quickly become your go-to EDC.

OKC Rat-2

19. Benchmade Infidel

When it comes to OTFs, the Infidel is widely considered one of the best. Part of the reason is that it uses D2 steel, which is tough and razor-sharp.

This all-back version has a 3.95-inch dagger blade with aluminum handle.

20. Kershaw Emerson CQC-6K D2

The Kershaw Emerson CQC-6K has always been one of our favorite budget folders. It just offers so much in a compact package at a great price. So when Kershaw discontinued the old version and made it in D2 steel, we were ecstatic.

This version has the same exact design and specs of the original Kershaw Emerson collaboration but with D2 steel. You can’t go wrong with one of the best knives in D2 steel.


  1. I’m surprised you didn’t find room for a Brous blade in the list. His dedication to D2 is obvious and worth mentioning.

  2. The $20 ganzo firebird fh11 or fh13 (many similar but same design with D2) in D2 is impossible to beat for the price and should be on this list…

    • Tim

      December 3, 2018 at 11:16 am

      That’s a tough one, Wade. Ganzo gets a lot of flak for borrowing designs (or stealing, depending on who you ask), but there’s no denying they can put out some inexpensive knives with pretty good designs and materials, such as the Firebirds in D2 you mention. I’ll have to pick one up eventually though.

    • Ripping off designs I won’t support them

  3. I still like my cold steals and sogs made in Japan best knives I’ve ever owned

  4. Your #2 blade description Benchmade Adamas posted a thickness of 16 thousandths! Probably should be 160 thousandths .160 not .0160

  5. It was the last one on your list but man, every time I see that Artisan Tomahawk I want one. I know it is a fairly specialized blade shape and i probably wouldn’t find an excuse to carry it often but there is just something about that blade that catches me every time I see it.

  6. I have read your article deeply, the points you mentioned in this article are helpful

  7. very informative I have read your article and knowing about the D2 steel knife. thank you Tim.

  8. The very best bushcraft knife should be extremely durable with an especially precise tip.

  9. What about the civivi brazen?

  10. Excellent information, good contribution to the blog.

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