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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I was pretty shocked when Kershaw discontinued the Dividend because it was the beloved little brother of the Link. But they replaced it with the larger US-made Bareknuckle.
This model is essentially a better-built version of the Kershaw Natrix, which is featured a little later on this list. It has a 3.5-inch blade and gray aluminum handle.
Another dated but beloved design that was on a previous version of this list was the now discontinued Kershaw Skyline.
Kershaw Emerson CQC-6K D2
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 original version was discontinued but the new D2 version is just as great.
I originally wrote and published this post back in May 2018 and while nearly all the knives stayed the same, I had to quick off the budget brawler for the newer Kershaw Natrix.
The Natrix is a budget version of the old Zero Tolerance 0770 from back in the day. This version has quickly risen to become one of Kershaw’s best. But perhaps the best version of the knife is the Kershaw Natrix in copper.
It has a 2.75-inch D2 blade with copper handles and a sub-frame lock. The great thing about the Natrix is that there are tons of variations already too, so you can get exactly what you want.
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.