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 Taiwan 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.
I’m almost positive these lists are comprehensive for each brand. I spend quite a bit of time with the most recent catalogs of all of them each year when they come out, 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.
Bark River Knives
Factory Location: Escanaba, Michigan
This is a pretty well established outdoor knife brand, despite only existing as a company since 2001. They’re interesting because a lot of their knives are semi-production and semi-handmade. It’s a family-owned business full of really skilled people who pay very close attention to each knife. From what I’ve seen, their base blade stocks go some kind of cnc production but all the polishing, handle shaping, and sharpening is done through hand grinding. As a result, all of their knives tend to run around the $200 mark, but their knives earn that price tag. Bark River fixed-blades are pretty widely considered some of the best you can get. They’re also one of the few companies still making common use of the convex grind.
As far as I can tell, they do everything within the USA. Alal their materials are sourced from and put together in the states. They’ve expanded they’re original factory several times to make room for new manufacturing departments like sheath making, which just goes to show how dedicated they are to keeping everything close to home.
Bear and Son Cutlery
Factory Location: Jacksonville, Alabama
This is family company that started in the early 90’s. For a while now they’ve been a good source for traditional-style lockback knives. They also make a lot of butterfly, tactical, and one-handed EDCs in a broad range of styles, but I think it’s fair to say that most people associate Bear and Sons with trapper knives.
Since their start they’ve launched some well-themed divisions within their company:
The base Bear and Son Cutlery name covers a lot of ground from traditional lockbacks to butterfly knives to fixed-blade survival knives.
The Bear OPs division is more tactically oriented designs, including butterfly knives, assisted-open knives, and fixed-blade knives.
The Bear Edge division seems to be their budget line, and the only place I’ve seen them use the word “imported”. It mostly consists of EDC folders along with some interesting updates of the trapper design and some stripped down survival fixed blades. This is the only line that has any kind of Chinese manufacturing.
They’re very proud of the fact that every stage of their knife manufacturing takes place in the US. All the washers, scales, steel, screws, and beyond (for most of the their knives) are done in their own factory. I don’t know exactly when they launched their Bear Edge line or the nature of the factory they use for it, but it seems to serve as a good source for hunting knives under the $50 mark.
So short version: despite their pride in American manufacturing, only knives that are Bear and Son Cutlery or Bear OPs are completely US-made. If you see Bear Edge on the knife, it was likely made in China.
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 be an exclusively 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: 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.
A recent-ish update: In early 2018, Buck announced the new Cerakote machine they set up in their Idaho factory. Basically that means that starting in 2019 we’re going to see a lot more color variation in their American-made knives, especially with their new releases like the Sprint. Previously, I would have said that a wide choice in color and designs was a sure sign of Chinese manufacturing, but, for Buck at least, that’s no longer the case.
Factory Location: Rocky Mount, North Carolina
Camillus is not the same company it was before 2007, but that’s not to say it isn’t good. It seems to be benefiting from several innovations that come along with being owned by Acme United, namely the titanium bonded materials they use for handles and blades. They don’t, however, make any knives with those innovations in the US. All their American-made knives seem to be hunting and bushcraft designs with 1095 steel, so I’m guessing all their titanium bonding equipment must be overseas in China or Taiwan.
The Camillus site has a section dedicated to all the knives they make in the USA, which you’d think would make this an easy section to fill out. Their USA knives page doesn’t tell us exactly where their USA factory is, though, and that just seems weird to me. After some digging, I did find that Acme United purchased a factory and distribution center in Rocky Mount, North Carolina back in 2016, and since I can’t find any reference to any other USA factories, I’m going to assume that’s where Camillus makes their American-made knives.
So, unless I find something that tells me otherwise, here’s all the knives Camillus makes in the USA, possibly in Rocky Mount, North Carolina.
Camillus Knives Made in America
- 8.5 Inch Bushcrafter Fixed Blade
- Choker Fixed Blade
- CK-9.5 Fixed Blade
- DAGR Fixed Blade
- SKOL Fixed Blade
- Sword Brand Kodiak Hunter
Factory Location: Bradford, PA.
The American tradition of owning a Case knife is almost as strong as owning a Buck. There are probably still hundreds of the old Case Trappers riding around in the pockets of fishers and hunters around the country. They are not quite the same company they used to be, though. For one, they’re owned by Zippo now. Whether or not that’s a good thing is up for debate between the nerds who collect them, but either way they’re still making knives in their Bradford factory.
There was some confusion a few years ago when they announced they would be making a few knives in China, because of course people worried (including myself) that meant some Case knife models were being outsourced. It turned out they were just starting a new line of more modern/tactical knives called TecX. So instead of listing out a bunch of individual knives, I’m going to take a shortcut and clarify one thing:
All Case knives are still made in the US. TecX knives, however, are all made in China.
Diamond Blade Knives / Knives of Alaska
Factory Location: Deniston, Texas
This is an odd company (or set of companies). Knives of Alska was founded by Charles Allen, an Alaskan wilderness guide and Texan biologist.
This man apparently came up with a new way of forging knives called “friction folding” which essentially involves an immense amount of pressure applied in a stirring motion along what will become the edge of the knife. It was inspired by the way submarine hulls are welded together. The result is immensely hard knives, supposedly getting edges up to 70 HRC while the rest of the blade usually sits at a lower tool-steel level of hardness. This process is done under the Diamond Blade Knives company name.
Field & Stream has given them a bit of attention if you want to read some good reviews, but they aren’t widely distributed. They don’t seem to have a huge operation as of this writing, so getting one of their knives might take a while, but it seems like anyone who’s gotten one will tell you ecstatically that it’s worth it.
Factory Location: Los Angeles, CA.
The Emerson name gets around a lot these days, especially under the Kershaw brand. The Emerson CQC-7 broke the wave on folding tactical knives, and the Emerson factory has kept up a good pace of designing since then.
The philosophy of Emerson Knives is mostly tactical in nature. Earnest Emerson is an avid martial artist who’s been inducted into the Martial Arts Hall of Fame and has taught classes to various military and law enforcement.
Every Emerson knife I’ve seen personally has been made in the USA, and it’s hard to find anything with his signature that wasn’t. The only knives made under this company’s name that came from overseas seem to be some kind of multi-tool like the multitasker EDC-1 and 2. It looks like all those overseas designs have been discontinued, though, so it’s safe to say that every Emerson knife is a USA-made knife.
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 separate 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 a 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 what 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 in 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 and 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.
Update: Ka Bar has recently made a similar partnership with Spartan Blades (now under the Pineland Cutlery Inc name), and are now making the Silver Grade knives for Spartan Blades in their New York factory.
|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 for 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: 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, Taiwan 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: 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.