If You Are Looking For An EDC, Hunting, Survival Or Bushcraft Knife Made in The USA This List Is The Best Place To Start
The US has birthed a lot of great knife companies like Buck, Gerber, and SOG, which have all created iconic American knives, and maintained a certain high reputation as American made. But at some point, all of them have had to cut costs or manage the cost of expansion by manufacturing overseas.
Now days it’s a given that a large knife company will have at least one overseas factory and split their releases along some kind of quality line. In some cases you don’t really have to worry where a knife is made because some company keeps a strict eye on quality control. Spyderco, for example, is pretty strict about their products and from what I understand maintain close relationships with both their Seki and Thailand factories. But it’s still nice to know where what you’ve got is made, so I decided to start keeping a list of all the major companies that manufacture in the USA and the major designs they keep in the borders.
As of this writing these lists are up to date with 2018 catalogs, and I’m almost positive they’re comprehensive for each brand, but there’s always a chance I missed a few knives or mislabeled them. There’s a lot of fluid information around the origin of a knife because companies change things up or source materials from different countries and then build in another. If nothing else, you can use these lists as a starting reference and I’ll do my best to keep this updated year to year.
If you see a knife on here that doesn’t belong, or don’t see one that does, feel free to let us know in the comments. I appreciate any help that saves me from doing more research. Also, if you’re more of a survivalist type, you might save some time by checking out our American-made Bowie knives blog.
Factory Location: Post Falls, Idaho
Buck is one of the most iconic American knife companies in history, so it was a special kind of disappointment when they started making knives on the cheap in Taiwan back around the birth of the millennium. That was back when they were still based in California, and money was starting to get tight, but even at the height of their economic trouble they never completely stopped manufacturing in the U.S. Which is impressive since they kept it up while literally moving all their equipment to Idaho. They’ve pulled way back on overseas manufacturing in recent years, but still make around 20% of their lines in China.
Factory Location: Golden, CO
Spyderco actually started out making knife sharpeners (and they’re still making some of the best sharpeners you can get these days). They’ve been making folding knives since the 80s, and were actually one of the first companies to experiment with one-handed open pocket carries. They had their first folder, the Worker, made in Japan, but now most of the blades for Spyderco knives are made and shaped in the Golden, Colorado factory because they’re really particular about how the blade should look and cut. And since they almost always use very hard, premium steels (usually something like VG-10 or S30V), they have to laser cut all their blades rather than stamp them, which requires fairly specialized equipment that is both expensive to buy and train for.
That being said, Spyderco’s other factories in Seki, Japan and Taichung, Thailand are not in use for cost reasons. Spyderco is too obsessed with performance to make such a drastic economic decision. They make stuff overseas partly because they needed to spread the workload around, and the blades they’re making over there are still top notch.
Factory Location: Oregon City, OR
They are particular about manufacturing only the USA. Anything that has the butterfly on it will be at the very least put together in the states. They used to manufacture a few lines overseas. Their Red Class, meant to be a budget line, was manufactured in China (I think), and at least some of what they made for HK and the NRA were imported. But they’ve cut all those lines out of their catalogs over the last few years, and now they seem to exclusively be a Made-in-the-USA company.
I’ve had trouble finding information on whether or not they still maintain factories overseas, but if they do they only make smaller parts for their products. On the whole, if you buy a new Benchmade, it’s pretty much guaranteed you’re buying American. The main reason I even bothered giving them a spot in the blog is because I’m still kind of waiting for them to announce a new budget line, and I’d like to have this spot ready to update when it happens.
Factory Location: Idaho Falls, Idaho
On the whole, Esee only manufactures Esee knives in America. More specifically they have their designs made by their partnered factory Rowen Manufacturing, which is based in Idaho Falls. I suspect the Esee team is too busy running out into the jungle and coming up with new designs to deal with running their own factory, and that’s also probably why all their designs hit it out of the park for survival.
They do license out designs to other companies sometimes, though, and those companies might manufacture overseas. Basically what that means is a knife might have the Esee stamp on it because it’s their design, but all the manufacturing, advertising, and warranty issues are handled by a seperate company. So it’s actually easier to just list all Esee knives that aren’t made in America, which is actually only two made by Blue Ridge Knives in Taiwan.
“Esee knives” not made in America
Factory location: Portland, Oregon
With Gerber you can usually tell where a knife is made just by checking the steel (aside from looking at the Made in USA stamp, I mean). Generally, if a Gerber knife has sa Cr steel like 5Cr15MoV then it was made in China. If it’s 420HC or (more rarely) S30V or 154CM, there’s a good chance they made it in the states. There are a couple instances of the Chinese Cr blades getting shipped to America and then put together here, but from I can tell that only happens with a couple models. Now settle in, because Gerber makes a lot of knives, and maybe about half of the products in the new catalog are made here which actually made me feel the need to separate everything into Folding, Fixed blade, and Multi-tool subcategories. I hope you’re happy, you damn knife nerd.
Ka-Bar / Becker Knife & Tool
Factory location: Olean, New York
The Ka-Bar Mark II has a similar iconic status in America to the Buck 110 and Bowie knife. It enjoys a long history in war and hunting and a beautifully simple design that gets copied endlessly. Most of the time when you say “Kabar” people assume you’re talking about the Mark II. They have a pretty interesting history where the manufacturing of the knife and the name branding actually precede the company as we know it today by several decades.
Their own journey with importing knives started back to the sixties when it ceased to be a family owned business. It traded hands between several different corporations that started manufacturing overseas and taking advantage of the Ka-Bar name. It was partially saved from that fate by a few ardent collectors of original Ka-Bar knives, and then completely saved when Cutco purchased it in the 90’s. Since then they’ve pretty much always been manufactured at least in part in the US.
Ka-Bar has owned Becker Knife & Tool since 2007, when the company that had been manufacturing for them went bankrupt. They’ve been collaborating ever since and I believe knives from both companies share factories.
Ka-Bar abd BK&T work independently from Cutco for the most part, but as I understand it, any Ka-Bar or Becker knife made in America is made in the Cutco factory in Olean, New York. They also all seem to be fixed blade, which actually gives us a pretty convenient reference point. If it’s a folder, it was probably made in China or Taiwan.
|USMC Style Ka-Bar knives||Becker Knife & Tool knives||Other Tactical and Survival|
Factory Location: Tualatin, Oregon
So here’s a fun fact: Kershaw is basically the budget line for Zero Tolerance now. Which is weird since Kershaw has been around since the 70’s and the parent company Kai USA didn’t open the Zero Tolerance factory until 2006, but here we are. While Kai makes everything Zero Tolerance exclusively in America, they spread some of the Kershaw manufacturing around between Japan, China, and Taiwan. Otherwise, Kershaw pumps their stuff out more or less alongside Zero Tolerance blades in Oregon.
Factory Location: Coopersville, MI and Lynnwood, WA
SOG makes most of their knives in China, Taiwan, and Seki, Japan, and mostly focus on more urban tactical designs. They did start pushing hunting and survival designs back in 2014, but they’re still known better for their assisted open and multi-tools than anything.
Over the last couple years they’ve released a handful of knife designs made in their two factory locations in the States with a promise to release more eventually. They put a premium on all of them. I don’t think any run below $150, probably because they’re all sporting S30V or S35V steel, so they seem to be pushing the idea of high quality domestic manufacturing. They didn’t roll out any new designs in the 2018 catalog, so maybe they’re still feeling out the waters with this thing. Either way, we’ll keep an eye out.
Right now, a general rule you can follow is that if a SOG knife is sporting S30V steel, it was put together in their American factories. With something like AUS8 or VG-10 you’re probably looking at Taiwan or Japan, and of course any variation of 8Cr13MoV steel is very likely from China. There are some exceptions to that rule like the Zoom, which has an S30V version made in Taiwan, but the steel still serves as a helpful reference point.