The Best Defensive Folder for Under $50!

People are constantly asking me to recommend to them an EDC folding knife for self-protection. After all, I teach people how to use edged weapons, so it only makes sense they would ask me what kind of knife they should get.  The problems usually begin when I throw out some suggestions.  After providing a few recommendations consisting of high-quality folding knives, usually somewhere in the $200+ range, I will more often than not get the follow-up question, “Can you recommend something cheaper?”

I will be completely honest and tell you that for a long time, this question really discouraged me. I mean, “Your life could depend on your knife, but you’re not willing to invest a little bit of money to buy a reliable knife?”  I will go a step further and admit that I internally snubbed my nose at these people as I determined they must not be serious about their own safety.Kershaw-Emerson CQC-7K

Eventually, I came to realize that many people simply cannot afford to spend that kind of money on a knife. They have other priorities, like keeping the lights on, feeding their kids, and putting gas in their car to get to work.  It didn’t mean they were any less concerned about their own survival.  In fact, many times it was quite frankly a matter of their own survival NOT to throw two or three Benjamins at a knife.

Despite my newfound understanding, I still struggled with the answer to their question. Even though at the core of my system is the ability to improvise ANYTHING to be used as a weapon, I had a hard time putting my stamp of approval on a knife under $50.   Fortunately, after years of using, reviewing, designing, and even making blades, I believe I now have the answer.

The Kershaw Emerson CQC-7K might just be the BEST defensive folding knife you can buy for under $50! Now, before I go any further, let me just quickly say this is not a knife review.  I’m not going to get into the weeds and talk about on steel and all that stuff like I normally do.  This is simply my answer to a frequently asked question with a little bit of practical explanation.

My “primary” EDC defensive folder is the Spyderco P’Kal. This knife was a collaboration between Spyderco and Craig Douglas of ShivWorks.  Douglas is known for his reverse-edge tactics and this knife was designed for that purpose.  I train to deploy and stab with this knife in a single motion, and I can do so quite rapidly and efficiently thanks to my time spent training with the Spyderco P’Kal Trainer.

In my opinion the P’Kal may be the best defensive folder on the market in terms of quality, design, and function. The problem is that to purchase the P’Kal and the P’Kal-TR, you are going to drop somewhere in the neighborhood of $400.  That was a hard pill for ME to swallow, especially when the Trainer is the exact same price as the live blade!  (My dedication to training can be painful in many ways!)

Enter Scott Babb’s newly released Reaper Method – Tradecim DVD!  RMT is the Iaido-inspired, Libre Fighting approach to drawing and attacking with the knife in a single, fluid motion.  More importantly, RMT uses a reverse-edge methodology that is predicated on the use of an Emerson “wave shaped opening feature” (i.e. the Spyderco P’Kal).  As the release date drew near and anticipation for the release of the DVD was high, I noticed that Scott started recommending the Kershaw E-Train to those who were wanting to train RMT.  This training version of the Kersahaw-Emerson CQC could be purchased at the time for around $20.

Kershaw CQC-7K & E-Train

After doing a little research, I ended up ordering a trainer AND a live CQC-7K for under $40! This purchase was made for purely exploratory purposes, but after receiving them, I became convinced that this is the best knife/trainer combo you can buy for under $50.  Quite frankly, it’s probably the best you can buy for under $100.

The CQC offers a well-built knife in a versatile, purpose-driven package. In my opinion, four things that a defensive EDC folder MUST have are:  1) a pocket clip, 2) a blade-locking mechanism, 3) a single-handed opening mechanism, and 4) a draw-based opening mechanism (i.e. the Emerson wave).  The CQC has all of these and they are all well done at that.  Plus, the handle design offers a comfortable and secure grip in any configuration, whether forward or inverted with the edge inward or outward.

So, if you are looking to purchase a reliable defensive EDC folder that won’t require you to sell a kidney or work a pole on the side for the nest month to make ends meet afterward, then I can recommend the Kershaw-Emerson CQC 7K.

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Chad McBroom
Chad McBroom is the owner and founder of Comprehensive Fighting Systems, and specializes in practical empty-hand, blade, stick, and firearms applications. Chad is a regular contributor to RECOIL, ITS Tactical, Black Sheep Warrior,, and other tactical publications. He is the author, coauthor, and contributing author of several books on blade combat and the martial arts. Chad is also a blade designer and knifemaker, who uses his extensive knowledge of edged weapon tactics to design and create some of the most versatile bladed weapons on the market.

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