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 | Bear and Son | Benchmade | Buck Knives | Bradford USA | Camillus | Case | Colonial Knife Corp (CKC) | Chris Reeve | Dawson Knives | Diamond Blade Knives/Knives of Alaska | Emerson Knives | Esee Knives | Gerber | Hogue Knives | Ka-Bar | Kershaw | Leatherman | Medford Knife | Ontario Knife Company | Pro-Tech Knives | Randall Made Knives | Southern Grind | SOG | Spartan Blades | Spyderco | Three Rivers Manufacturing | Utica Cutlery/Kutmaster | V Nives | White River Knife & Tool | Winkler Knives
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 you’ll see a lot of wildly colored options om US-made Buck knives. 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 not the case.
Check out our Buck Knife Reviews section to see how these knives perform.
Factory Location: Kent, Washington
I think this company’s big claim to fame still lies mostly in the Bradford Guardian 3, but they have a strong line up of survival and fixed-blade EDC knives.
Brad Larkin started this company back in 2012 after the success of the Gatsby steak he designed and sold as a custom knife maker. I don’t think there’s a whole lot more I could say that the Bradford site doesn’t already say except that I’m pretty positive their entire manufacturing process takes place almost entirely in the USA with the exception of some of their material sourcing. But things look good even where their materials are concerned. Most of the steels they use are from Bohler-Uddeholm, and the bulk of their handles are made from Micarta which I’m fairly certain is sourced from the states.
I don’t know where they’re getting their G-10 or carbon fiber scales, but I do know that Larkin had been working in manufacturing before he started his own company, and apparently already had some strong contacts where materials were concerned. Plus they’re still a small company with an as-yet untarnished idealism about quality.
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.
Colonial Knife Corp (CKC)
Factory Location: Various locations including Warwick, RI and Plymouth, MA.
Currently the company Colonial Knife Corp is actually under the umbrella of Colonial Cutlery International, which is the name they use to manufacture overseas now. The general line is that everything made under the Colonial Knife Corp name is molded and pieced together in Plymouth, but they have various components manufactured for them offsite. It’s tempting to assume those components are made overseas, but I can’t say that for sure. At the very least, they’re using some American parts and American labor to put the knives together.
For those unfamiliar with the name, the original Colonial Knife Company was a well-reputed knife manufacturer operating out of Rhode Island for the better part of the 20th century. Anyone who collects vintage switchblades might be familiar with the old version of the company, but a few people who have served in the military over that last few years might be more familiar with the reborn Colonial Knife Corp.
It was started by the Paolantonio family in the 1920’s. They had a long, healthy history making knives for the Navy and Air Force during WWII, and became the largest knife manufacturer in the USA in the 60’s. Things started going downhill in the 80’s, though, and the original CKC finally ended in 1998 when the company as it had been known for nearly a hundred years was auctioned off.
It was rekindled by Steve Paolandonio, a descendant of the original founders. Information on this new iteration is difficult to find, but it looks like Steve mostly rebuilt the company name on the backs of cheap imports. Now they have a few military contracts again, making a few different models for both military and police officers, and they do have a US-based factory with some limitations.
Chris Reeve Knives
Factory Location: Boise, Idaho
It feels silly to talk about Chrise Reeve knives like anyone reading this wouldn’t know about them offhand anyway, but here it goes.
Chris Reeve started out making and selling knives in South Africa. He was doing some business with an LA-based company but decided to expand into the US market by getting a table at the New York Custom Knife Show where he blew a bunch of minds. Long story short, he and his wife are the reason so many of us are now dropping hundreds of dollars on frame lock knives with Crucible powder steel.
They’re still a small company, though, operating out of Boise with a crew of about 40 people. They pretty much embody the principle of quality over quantity, so there’s no funky business with extra overseas factories. They’re pumping all of these things out of Idaho.
Factory Location: Prescott Valley, Arizona
Starting in 1973 by Barry Dawson, this company has continued to be a family tradition since its beginning. They make a wide range of fixed blades. It looks like anything from neck knives to katanas, and most of their work has kind of a wild, curving aesthetic. Most of their process still involves a lot of hand grinding and meticulous quality control, and even after their recent growth they’re a comparatively small company so it’s possible we’ll see a little bit of variation between individual knives and it’s probably reasonable to expect a lot of models to be sold out a lot as they learn to keep up with their growing popularity. But it seems that the overall quality of their stuff is meticulously good.
They claim that they do everything in house and that all their materials are sourced from the states. I haven’t seen anything to indicate otherwise. They’re big fans of CPM-3V , 80CrV2, and 52100, all of which are steels developed and sold by US-based companies.
Factory Location: Southbridge, Massachusetts
The bulk of Dexter Russell stuff sits firmly in the budget kitchen cutlery category, which is a rare thing for a company that does as much in the states as they do. I had assumed initially that most of their production was overseas, but it turns out they get most if not all of their steel from an American company, and finish everything in their Massachusetts factory.
The only elements I’m not sure about are their blocks and their polypropylene handles. They have little to say about how they source that material, but I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt considering how consistent they are with everything.
Dexter Russell has a pretty extensive history going back to 1818 when it started as the Harrington Cutlery Company, then went through two more iterations before becoming Dexter Russell in 2001. For the bulk of their history, they made various kinds of tools and blades for frontier settlers, but now they’re the largest American based manufacturer of kitchen cutlery.
Recently I’ve seen a few of their Japanese style knives listed as made in Japan, but those same knives get listed as made in America in most vendors, so I’m inclined to say that’s a misunderstanding on the part of whoever is writing product descriptions for some companies.
Currently they make six different lines of knives: V-L, SANI-SAFE, Dexter 360, SOFGRIP, Traditional, and DuoGlide. All of them are made in the USA.
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, Idaho. 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.
If you want to learn a bit more about specific Esse knives, check out our Esee Knife Reviews.
“Esee knives” not made in America (The rest are made in the States).
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.
Check out our Gerber Knife Reviews section to learn more a about specific Gerber knives.
Factory Location: Shreve, Ohio
The Rick HInderer name is one of many that’s synonymous with “tactical gear”. The difference with Hinderer Knives is that many of the early designs were inspired by Hinderer’s experience as a first responder and fire fighter. Very often, “tactical knives” with this company is more broadly (and more appropriately) interpreted as emergency knives. In that sense it’s also a good source for high quality hard use knives.
There’s not a whole lot to say about the company in this context, though. Hinderer famously started out making showpiece knives in a little turkey coop, switched to making tactical knives as he went along, then dropped the XM-18 on the industry and took off like a rocket. Through all of that, Hinderer Knives has made, and continues to make, everything in the States.
Factory Location: Paso Robles, CA and Henderson, NV
Gun owners with custom pistol grips should already be familiar with this name, and with the two other companies partnered with the name: SIG Sauer, and Heckler and Koch.
Hogue has been around since the 60’s, but their venture into the knife world didn’t start until around 2010 when they partnered with custom knife designer Allen Elishewitz. Through all their brands, the company specializes in making tough tactical blades, usually with military and law enforcement in mind.
I can’t find any knives under any of these brands that are made overseas, so it looks like all three names are a signal of US manufacturing in their California and Nevada facilities, however they do outsource their MOLLE straps to Mexico and some of their heat treating is done by a third party in California. Other than that, they do almost everything in house, creating the components in California and assembling in Nevada.
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: Westfield, Massachusetts
This might be the oldest knife company you never heard of. Actually, the oldest in America if their About page is to be believed, but I think Dexter Russell might take issue with that claim.
Regardless, Lamson is a solid US-based company. They took a bit of a hit around 2014 when they moved their factory location from Shelburne Falls to Westfield, but they seem to have come back stronger from that with a more efficient operation.
It looks like they do all the grinding, pinning, and sharpening in their MA factory, but they use a lot of German steel, so I wouldn’t be surprised if they were sourcing their acrylic and G-10 handles from overseas as well. The important stuff is done in Massachusetts, though.
We have done some in-house testing on Lamson knives, and we were pretty impressed with the quality and performance. We liked them enough to add their Premier Forged set to our Best High End Kitchen Knife Sets article.
If you think you may want to buy one of their chef knives check out our review of the 8 inch Lamson Premier Forged chef knife.
Factory Location: Portland, OR
This company is pretty well known as the name behind the pliers-based multitool. They’re so established in that area that even when another company like Gerber makes a multi-tool with pliers, our instinct is to call it a Leatherman.
They started out doing things in Portland, and amazingly they’ve managed to keep their business there since 1983, making their tools in their factory then taking them up into the Cascade Mountains to test them.
This is one of those household names you generally expect to have expanded to make some kind of budget line made in China, but Leatherman has stayed pretty true to form. They’ve been doing everything in Oregon since they started, and now their factory is probably one of the biggest technical marvels in the US knife world.
According to Medford’s About page, the founder, Greg Medford, is “dedicated to hand crafting and small manufacturing as a part of the new small factory industrial rebirth of America.”
A quick look at their prolific YouTube channel proves the truth of those words. This company does everything in house, including heat treatment of their steels, which is pretty rare for an operation this small. They also source all their steel from American Metal Xchange, which is based in California.
So, USA through and through. It looks like they even make their own Kydex sheaths. There’s nothing I can find that’s outsourced outside the country.
Factory Location: Bradford, PA
If you’ve seen an action movie involving any kind of character wearing a suit made since 2010, you’ve probably seen a Microtech. For better or worse, they’ve become the de facto “urban tactical” company for most of the American population.
They’re very vocal about being a company with exacting standards that “utilizes exclusively American-Made manufacturing, materials, and labor”. They do almost all the manufacturing in house and source all of their materials within the U.S., as per their Legacy page (Although I can’t help but notice how many of their knives are sporting Bohler M390, which is sort of an Austrian/Swedish developed steel, but they can be given some leeway for the sake of using a good steel).
As of now, I can’t find anything to indicate they do any manufacturing overseas, so Microtech is effectively a fully American-based manufacturer. All their knives are made in the U.S.
Ontario Knife Company
Factory Location: Franklinville, NY
This is probably one of the oldest companies on this list (that “1889” number you always see tastefully plastered next to their name is the date the company was founded), and yet it has a surprisingly simple history.
As per OKC’s website, their history is “shrouded in mystery” but basically consisted of three guys with a grindstone and a pushcart selling knives around Ontario County in New York in the 1890’s. They expanded quickly, incorporated under the same name around the turn of the century, and set up shop in a larger building out of which they are still operating. To add to their long tradition, OKC came out with the Old Hickory line in 1924 and have consistently pumped out variations of that line ever since. They’ve added and subtracted from that line up over the years (lately mostly added), but the Old Hickories you can get today aren’t all that different from what people were getting in the 1920’s.
The bulk of their knives are made in their Franklinville factory, however it seems like they do maintain factories in China and Taiwan, and have even done a few collaborations with Italian makers. I’ve noticed they make a lot of their sheaths and accessories in China along with a handful of folding designs, so it’s possible that even when an OKC knife is made in the US it has some Chinese hardware. But I’ve also noticed a clear line between their designs where all the fixed blades are made in the US and all the folders are from overseas, so there’s only so much hardware to overlap.
We have a few in-depth reviews of OKC knives on Ontario Knife Company Brand page. They are probably worth the read if you think you may want to but a knife from this American made company.
OKC Knives Made in America
- 18” Machete line
- 498 Combat Knife
- 499 Survival Knife
- Agilite series
- Blackbird ML5
- Camper machete
- Chromatics series
- Heavy Duty machete
- Hiking knife
- Hunt Plus line
- Industrial and Agricultural series
- Mark III Trench Knife
- Old Hickory line
- RAT 3
- RAT 5
- RAT 7
- RTAK II
- Spec Plus line
- TAK 1
- TAK 2
Factory Location: Artesia, CA
Founded in 1999 by Dave Wattenberg, Pro-Tech is best known for automatic knives. Wattenberg’s first model was a California-legal 2-inch auto called the Runt which launched the Pro-Tech name toward what it is today. To make the whole thing just a little more of an outlier, Wattenberg was also a middle school teacher when he started making these knives. So he’d teach during the week, make knives on the weekend, and then in the summer he would drive around the country selling them off.
Pro-Tech does everything in house. They make everything that’s practical for them to make themselves, since Wattenberg apparently ran into a lot of supply chain problems when he started out and was still outsourcing all his materials. So now every thing by Pro-Tech is designed, billeted, stamped, carved, and pieced together in California.
Randall Made Knives
Factory Location: Orlando, FL
I’m hesitant to add this company to the list because, even though Randall Made Knives are iconic and blooded in US history, they are hand made, expensive, and can be difficult to find.
But they’re also worth knowing about, if you don’t already.
The company was founded by Bo Randall in 1939, which gave him just enough time to develop his craft enough that he made something that became heavily relied on by soldiers during WWII. The company boomed after legends of his knives spread through the ranks and he was flooded by letters with personal requests to buy his knives. That set the pattern for Randall Made Knives. Their history is full of desperate professionals coming to their shop to ask them to make a special design for their job, including NASA, soldiers slotted for Vietnam, and Alaskan bush pilots.
Through the decades, this has remained a family business. Randalls still run the shop in Florida, passing the craft down to each generation, and all of their knives are still very much made by hand in the US.
Factory Location: Peachtree, Georgia
The Southern Grind name should bring up images of the Spider Monkey and Bad Monkey folders. They make some decent modern-style folders that usually sell at a premium, which isn’t to say that don’t make some interesting fixed blade knives, and there’s certainly something to be said for some of the carry systems on their sheaths. When Zack Brown started the company he had the idea to make rugged knives with state-of-the-art materials, so you’ll see a lot of titanium, carbon fiber, and new CPM steels on their designs.
This company was recently bought by Diamondback Firearms (not to be confused with Diamond Blade Knives). As far as I can tell, the switch in ownership hasn’t turned into a change in location. I think they’re still using the Georgia factory. It looks like all their materials are staying top notch, and while I don’t know exactly what direction the company is headed, I haven’t caught wind of any new designs coming out from an overseas factory.
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.
Factory Location: Southern Pines, NC
Spartan Blades was started by a pair of retired Green Berets working out of a mule barn back in 2008. As they’ve grown they’ve kept that production to pretty much the same area. They opened a larger factory in Southern Pines in 2014 and continued their rise, although they always seem to insist on prioritizing quality over quantity, which tends to put their knives on the pricey side of the industry.
Now, though, they’ve started a new umbrella company called Pineland Cutlery Inc. which partnered with Ka Bar to release three new series of knives: Elite, Pro, and Field (or Gold, Silver, and Bronze). These provide designs in a wider range of prices in order to make their knives more accessible. According to the owners, the Gold Series Spartan knives will still be made in the same North Carolina factory, the Silver will be made in New York by Ka Bar, and the Bronze series will be made overseas. There isn’t much information on where exactly overseas the Bronze series is being made, but the partnership with Ka Bar would suggest they’re using the same places based in China and Taiwan.
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.
Three Rivers Manufacturing (TRM)
Factory Location: Three Rivers, MA
Some people in the industry might already be familiar with the TRM founders, Marianne and Les Halpern. They’ve been making custom parts and knife designs for people and other knife companies since 1997, and continue to do so under the name Halpern Titanium. They keep their client list pretty close to their chest, but at least one well known partnership is Spyderoco, who outsourced manufacturing of G10 handles for a few designs to them. The Halperns decided to make knives under their own label around 2016, and have been working hard to expand that label ever since.
Three Rivers Manufacturing is still small. They don’t have a lot of distributors besides BladeHQ and their own site, and it’s common to see all their models sold out. But their businesses as a whole have been on a steady incline for a while now so distribution is likely to increase soon enough. You can also be pretty sure that pretty much every step of their manufacturing happens in the USA since, most of the time, they’re the people other companies outsource parts and material manufacturing to.
Factory Location: Idaho Falls, Idaho
Born in 1998, TOPS Knives is a fairly new company compared to a few others on this list. They’ve since built a solid reputation as a reliable source for good tactical and outdoor knives by finding various designers with backgrounds in military, law enforcement, martial arts, and survival to come up with purpose-built concepts.
In part because of that strategy, TOPS might be the most prolific manufacturer of outdoor and tactical knives in America right now. If not in terms of raw numbers of product shipped, but certainly by how many different designs they put out every year. According to their own blog, TOPS has over 250 models, but maintains fewer than 50 employees which makes them a relatively small company. It looks like they manage to do everything in house in their factory, though, from cutting bar stocks of steel down to form to milling out G-10 scales and doing final fit and finish.
It’s actually a little tricky to say outright that they make everything in the states, because they do a lot of collaborations and I see them put out one-off models from factories around the world. For example they make a couple training knives out of a Chinese factory. I haven’t seen anything else come out of that factory from them, so I assume it just has to do with not having the machines for molding polymer in their US factory.
Aside from that, the only current knives with the TOPS name outside the states are their fairly recent collaborations with Fox Knives: The Magnums, the Thunder Hawk, and the Mini Scandi Folder are all made in Italy.
It’s possible there are more. TOPS and Fox are both frustrating to find manufacturing data on, but it looks like all the Italian made knives have Bohler steel, so if you see that on a TOPS, that’s your first clue it isn’t USA-made.
Factory Location: Utica, NY
This was one of many cutlery companies that started in the early 1900’s and got kicking on knives during WWII. Utica Cutlery in particular was making bayonets for the Army. They expanded far beyond cutlery over the following decades, though, and now they’re an umbrella company several other names like Walco and KutMaster, which is the branch that makes all their outdoor-related knives.
A big company like this is pretty much guaranteed to be dealing all around the world. They do a lot of overseas manufacturing, but they still have a pretty decent selection of Made in the USA products.
Utica Cutlery / KutMaster knives made in the USA
- Cheyenne I
- Cheyenne II
- Classic Slayer I
- Classic Slaery II
- Classic Slayer III
- Fishing Minitool
- Horizon Blade
- Original I
- Original II
- Ridge Blade
- Stealth I
- Stealth II
- Stealth III (models D52-1 through D52-4 and D52-6)
- Stealth IV (models D53-1 through D53-4)
- Stealth V (models D54-1, D54-2, D54-5, and D54-6
- Stealth VI (models D55-1 through D55-6)
- Stealth VII
- Stealth QD
Factory Location: Puyallup,WA
This is a fresh company out of Washington that started selling production knives on a mass mass scale around 2017 (you can see part of their origin story in the Fox Knives USA part of this blog). They run with the line that V Nives are made “in America and other places on planet earth”, so they’re pretty open about manufacturing in a few different countries. They do a lot of collaborations, and when Mike Vellekamp started the company, he opened with a huge product line hitting just about every price bracket in a way that he probably wouldn’t have been able to achieve without making use of larger factories already in place around the world. He claims that he’s modeling his company closely on the Spyderco structure (something he’d know pretty well since he worked for them for 12 years), which makes use of carefully vetted factories in both Taiwan and Japan.
It looks like V Nives maintains factories in the US, Taiwan, and China, but it’s been difficult to pin down exactly which models are made where. I’ll update this section if I ever find a good source on that kind of information.
White River Knife & Tool
Factory Location: Fremont, MI
This is a small family owned company. They make everything in their Fremont factory in Michigan, and almost everything they use to make the knives is sourced from the States. The Cammenga family who founded White River Knife & Tool named it after Michigan’s White River, which flows through part of their property.
They’ve spent a lot of time hunting, fishing, kayaking, and generally being outdoors-y on that river, and they like to make knives to reflect that. They have a pretty impressive selection of fixed-blade bushcraft knives from thin fillet knives to their bulky survival Firestarter series. What makes them stand out from other survival-oriented companies like ESEE is their emphasis on making the knives look good. These are the kinds of knives that tend to draw your eye from across the room, and pretty much always feel great in hand because of the amount of hand crafting detail that goes into making them. In that sense they’re a lot like Bark River Knives.
Factory Location: Boone, NC
This is a small-batch operation with a tactical-oriented run of designs. It was founded by Daniel Winkler, who’s been a bladesmith since 1988 and was accredited as a Master Bladesmith in 1993. He started Winkler Knives in response to requests for “specialized breaching tools”, according to their About page.
Much of their process involves hand finishing, although they do make use of some CNC machines for cutting pieces. You can usually expect to pay in the range of $300 for a Winkler knife, and don’t expect two copies of the same model to be quite the same, which means that even their sheaths will vary knife to knife since they mold them all specifically to each copy.
They’re particular about the materials they use, and it looks like many of the steels, at least, that they use are sourced from the USA. All manufacturing of the knives and their parts is definitely done in the States, though.
Factory Location: Tualatin, Oregon
You won’t learn much here that you didn’t by reading the Kershaw entry farther up, but people keep giving us sass for not having a ZT section, so here you go you go, you damn vultures:
Zero Tolerance is the high end EDC knife brand under Kai Group which is the Japanese company that also owns Kershaw and Shun Cutlery. ZT knives go through pretty much the same factory process as any Kershaw knife that’s made in Kai’s Oregon factory, except the materials are better on the whole.
I’ve seen a few blips in their history here and there from knives that might have been made in Japan or China, but whatever they played around with in the past, it seems like Zero Tolerance is meant to stay firmly as a US-based operation, which makes sense. If Kai really wants to put out a knife with lower factory costs or materials they generally put it under the Kershaw name.