The Best Knives of SHOT Show 2020

From folders to fixed-blades, these are the hottest new knives of the year

Let’s get specific—that was a new knife theme for SHOT 2020. While there were great new general purpose knives on the runway, special-purpose blades and materials were a highlight. In the EDC category, a shift away from smaller blades to lighter, more substantial knives was a welcome twist for outdoor users. And there was even some throwback love with renovated historic brand lines and new knives with a vintage flair. But everywhere, utility was the mantra. These are knives designed for life outside the sheath and jeans pocket.

Folding Knives

SOG Aegis AT Blue

SOG Aegis AT Blue
The Aegis AT Blue is a tough lightweight new offering from SOG. SOG Knives

Known for its mission-oriented tactical blades, SOG hit the reboot button with a strong move into the general outdoors category in 2020. With a clip-point blade, ambidextrous assisted opening technology, and a nicely textured and contoured glass-reinforced nylon handle, the SOG Aegis AT is bound for crossover hit status. The cryogenically treated D2 stainless steel is a tough steel choice, and coating with a black titanium nitride finish is a handsome nod to SOG’s tactical roots. I prefer a seriously-sized folder, and the 3.7-inch blade feels perfect, especially since SOG shaved enough bulk and weight to keep the knife at a relatively lightweight 5.15 ounces. A deep-carry reversible pocket clip is tucked next to a lanyard loop for multiple carry options. The Aegis AT comes in four colors: Indigo/Acid, Forest/Moss, and a pair of Blaze/Tan layups. $94; sogknives.com

Benchmade Bugout Black CF-Elite

Benchmade Bugout Black CF-Elite
Benchmade Bugout Black CF-EliteBenchmade

It’s not like the popular Bugout platform needed a refresh, but wow—the new blacked-out Bugout is a head-turner. Benchmade didn’t change the basic chassis—it uses the same drop-point blade with a partial swedge to give it a finer, piercing point. The AXIS lock is ambidextrous and bomb-proof. The reversible deep-carry mini pocket clip is as unobtrusive as ever. But using new carbon-fiber-reinforced nylon scales—which give the CF-Elite its signature gray-flecked appearance—the knife racks up a 17 percent reduction in weight over the original, and a 50 percent increase in rigidity. The CPM-S30V blade steel on the new version has a skin of DLC (diamond-like coating) for additional corrosion resistance and low friction. The standard Bugout was known for its easy-to-carry weight. The new Bugout packs even more into a 1.8-ounce package. $170; benchmade.com

Browning Wicked Wing Folding Waterfowl Knife

Browning Wicked Wing Folding Waterfowl Knife
For breasting out a duck, look no further than the Wicked Wing Folding Waterfowl Knife.Browning Knives

There’s a little piece of meat on a mallard that drives me crazy. When you fillet the breast, a sliver of prime Grade A duck flesh resides deep under the clavicle, and getting at it requires a knife with a piercing point, a sweeping cutting edge, and blade thin enough for finesse work. All of which describes the new folding waterfowl knife from Browning. The flipper mechanism is easy to open with one hand—while the other hand wrangles with a duck. The trailing point blade profile cleaves breasts with ease, and the G10 scales set into a machined stainless steel handle afford a sure grip when your other hand is clotted in pin feathers and blood. You wouldn’t fillet a fish without a fillet knife. Might as well up your duck cleaning game with a knife designed for the purpose. $50; browning.com

Spyderco Manix 2 CPM SPY27

Spyderco Manix 2 CPM SPY27
Spyderco's new Manix 2 CPM SPY27 makes use of a proprietary steel made by Crucible Industries. Spyderco

Spyderco is known for its pioneering use of exotic steels in manufactured blades, fueling a collector’s rage with its limited sprint runs. For 2020, the company worked with Crucible Industries, makers of some of the best particle steels on the planet, to produce a proprietary steel that will be used in select Spyderco knives. CPM SPY27 includes a mix of vanadium, molybdenum, niobium, and nitrogen, with an enhanced jolt of cobalt for better ductile strength and corrosion resistance. Think of it as a step up from VG10 or S30VS. To introduce the steel to market, Spyderco chose the venerable Manix 2 platform (along with the Para 3). With its deep double choils in both the handle and the blade, heavily jimped handle and thumb ramp, and the rock-solid ball bearing lock mechanism, the Manix 2 is a workhorse that excels at precision cutting tasks, too. $200; spyderco.com

Medford Knife & Tool Praetorian Slim

Medford Knife & Tool Praetorian Slim
Titanium scales and other components help keep the Praetorian Slim at 3.7 ounces. Medford Knife & Tool

Oversized, overbuilt, and hardly underpriced, Medford knives might be an acquired taste, but legions of fans eat ‘em up. The new Praetorian Slim seeks to deliver the Medford DNA in a slimmed-down, lighter package. Every component other than the 3.3-inch S35VN blade is made of titanium—handle scales, the single spacer at the end of the open-frame handle, pocket clip, the works. Deep scallops in the handle offer purchase, while the tapered grip helps cut the knife’s weight to 3.7 ounces. A deep fuller in the blade serves as a thumb catch for opening. Medford offers a wide range of custom options for its blades, from color anodizing to heat flaming. $525 in drop point, $550 in tanto; medfordknife.com

Zero Tolerance 0308

Zero Tolerance 0308
The opening friction on the Zero Tolerance 0308 is fully adjustable. Zero Tolerance

On the one hand, there’s an industry fetish for lightweight knives and pared-down profiles. And on the other hand—or in the other hand—there’s this: A palm-filling, eye-popping, unapologetically large folding knife from one of the industry’s design leaders. Let’s start with the whopper of a blade: The 0308 blade is 3.75 inches long, made of CPM 20CV with a stonewashed finish. When closed, it resides inside a handle that pairs a tan G10 scale on the front with a bead-blasted titanium scale on the back. It all opens with a KVT ball-bearing-assisted flipper mechanism and stays open on a hardened steel lock bar within the titanium back scale. The beefy quarter-inch pivot wears a custom nut that can be adjusted with a wrench to tailor opening-friction however you like it. As long as you like it big. $375; zt.kaiusaltd.com

CRKT M40-03 Spear Point

CRKT M40-03 Spear Point
CRKT brought a previously unreleased Kit Carson design back to life with the M40-03 Spear Point. CRKT

When a never-before-manufactured design by famed bladesmith Kit Carson was uncovered in a private collection, CRKT sprang to action. Carson is perhaps best known for his M16 tactical folder, a design named one of the top 10 tactical folders of the decade by BLADE magazine. The M40 carries on the tradition with similar lines, and the 03 is one of three knives in the series. The 3.45-inch spear point blade is made of 1.4116 stainless steel with a bead-blast finish. Where the knife really shines is in the merger of the flipper-based IKBS opening system and the Deadbolt lock platform with its prominent deployment button at the pivot point. It’s a stout knife at 4.2 ounces. But a knife designed to honor Carson couldn’t be anything but. $140; crkt.com

Fixed Blade Knives

ESEE Xancudo

ESEE Xancudo
The Xancudo is ESEE’s newest fixed-blade hunting/outdoor knife.ESEE

Designed by jungle survival experts, the ESEE platform of hard-use survival knives takes a step into the hunting and outdoor use world with the new Xancudo fixed-blade knife. It’s just enough: The 3D G10 hande has just enough texturing to stick to your palm like putty. The 3-inch full-tang blade is just long enough for opening up a deer or carving tent stakes. The S35VN steel is just high-techie enough to sate the need of steel-lovers looking for higher-grade blade materials. And there’s just enough jimping on the handle spine to keep your thumb in place. The Xancudo comes in two models, and I’d opt for the one with the hole in the handle so it can be carabiner-clipped to pack webbing or a shoulder strap. That’s just nifty and useful enough to take this knife to the next level without being gimmicky. $186; eseeknives.com

Rick Hinderer Ranch Harpoon Spanto

Rick Hinderer Ranch Harpoon Spanto
Rick Hinderer's Ranch Harpoon Spanto is shown here with modern canvas micarta scales. It is also available with a walnut and linseed oil finished handle in Hinderer's Vintage Series. Rick Hinderer

This Ohio knifemaker’s street cred as an EMT and rescue diver finds expression in his new, all-purpose fixed blade. “Spanto” is a mashup of a spear point and a tanto, merging the slicing ability of the former with the strength of the latter. With a 5.25-inch blade, the Ranch Harpoon Spanto is no shrinking violet, but Hinderer’s new vintage aesthetic softens its beastly fangs. The knife is offered in a “modern” version built with CPM-3V steel and a canvas micarta handle, but it’s also available in a Vintage Series layup. Hinderer is a vintage weapons collector, and borrows from the past an aesthetic expressed with natural walnut scales finished with linseed oil and a Parkerized O-1 tool steel blade. A specifically commissioned Amish-made leather sheath completes the look. $400; rickhindererknives.com

Morakniv Floating Knife

Morakniv Floating Knife
Like its serrated predecessor, the Morakniv Floating Knife will float even while in its sheath. Morakniv

Known for producing tough, no-nonsense, seriously sharp knives, Morakniv has a cult following in the bushcraft and survival worlds. This year’s Floating Knife is built on the same frame as last year’s Serrated Floating Knife, which was geared more towards commercial fishermen. It sports a 3.8-inch drop-point blade of Swedish Sandvic 12C27 stainless steel, mated to a lightweight polymer core sheathed in cork. The 1.73-ounce knife floats whether alone or in its polymer sheath, which means you’ll likely never lose it. Although you could replace it easily enough—Morakniv is also beloved for its best-bang-for-buck approach to hard-use cutlery. $27; industrialrev.com

Old Hickory Fish and Small Game Knife

Old Hickory Fish and Small Game Knife
Ontario Knife Company, the same company behind Old Hickory is offering a purpose-built Fish and Small Game Knife for 2020.Old Hickory

In my kitchen drawer today is my grandfather’s Old Hickory knife, the blade wearing a pleasing patina from years of use, the handle still rock-solid in its brass pins. Old Hickory has been around since 1924. It is a line of knives originally designed for the kitchen but frequently pressed into hunting, fishing, and bushcraft service because they are well-built, unpretentious, and tough. All of which prompted Ontario Knife Company, parent of Old Hickory, to produce a new line of Old Hickory knives designed out of the box for skinning and processing game. The new Fish and Small Game Knife carries the banner well. A 4-inch drop-point blade is built with a full tang into the overall length of 8.7 inches. The high-carbon 1075 steel is easy to sharpen, and resides in an old-school leather sheath. For the price of two fancy cocktails, this is a knife your grandkids will use. $28; ontarioknife.com

Silver Stag Short Alaskan Fillet Knife

Silver Stag Short Alaskan Fillet Knife
Silver Stag's new Short Alaskan Fillet Knife takes the humble fillet knife to a new level. Silver Stag

Most fillet knives are rather uninspired. They have an almost throwaway feel, as if they’d be lucky to stick around for the next fishing season, much less the next generation. Not so with Silver Stag’s latest model. The white-tailed deer antler handle with deep sanded finger grooves gives it gravitas without added weight. The flat-ground D2 steel blade is several levels above the material used in most filet knives, and while it flexes enough for fish use, it’s stiff enough for boning and butchering tasks. The stitched leather sheath with an antler tip tie makes for a nice presentation. A 7-inch blade might be a bit much for panfish, but for anything larger than a pond bluegill, the Short Alaskan Filet cuts a stylish figure in a category not known for fine design. $160; silverstag.com

Spartan Blades Alala

Spartan Blades Alala
The Alala from Spartan Blades is a great choice for rough use and general-purpose tasks around camp. Spartan Blades

Located in the sandhills of North Carolina, in the heart of Special Ops country where Fort Bragg and Camp Lejuene soldiers train, Spartan Blades produces serious hard-use battle and survival blades. Its new line of knives manufactured with KA-BAR brings a welcome level of affordability and general use design to its offerings, and the Alala is a perfect example of the breed. A 3.75-inch flat ground, drop point blade is crafted of 1095 Cro-Van steel with a black powder coat—perfect for daily chores and camp tasks and easy to resharpen. The knife rides in a molded sheath with a retention lever that must be depressed to release the knife. $159; spartanbladesusa.com

Gerber Randy Newberg EBS

Gerber Randy Newberg EBS
The blades on Gerber's Randy Newberg EBS are interchangeable for different tasks in the field. Gerber Knives

Unlike most exchangeable-blade systems, Gerber’s new collaboration with Randy Newberg uses 3 stainless steel blades designed to be re-sharpened, not thrown away. Two years in the making, the EBS weighs just 6 ounces yet retains the feel of a fixed-blade knife. There’s a fully serrated edge, a stout task blade for general gutting and dressing work, and a finer caping profile. The knife is built around Gerber’s SplitSec Tech system for swapping blades without the use of tools, and the entire package—including the skeletonized handle—nests in a carry case that’s primary design function is to hold the components with zero rattling. $60; gerbergear.com