Knives vs. Multi-tools – Which Do You Need?

Sometimes the amount of choice we have can be overwhelming. Whether that is in our everyday life or in our workplace, we can be presented with numerous decisions to make. On some days, that can be no big deal, while on other days, making decision after decision can add an extra level of stress you just don’t need.

The easiest way to make a decision is to lay out the facts. In trying to determine whether or not a knife or multi-tool is the appropriate addition to your gear, let’s look at the merits of each one and determine what is necessary for your job – law enforcement, firefighter, or EMT. Hopefully by the end, you’ll have a clearer picture of what tool is right for you.

First, let’s discuss your needs based on profession. Some departments have a policy that may prevent personnel from carrying a multi-tool and/or knife while on duty, so be sure to check with your individual department or office to see what standards and policies are in place. Here are some reasons, by profession, why a multi-tool or knife may come in handy.

Firefighter

  • Cutting wire
  • Breaking windows
  • Cutting seat belts
  • Gas shut-off wrench
    • Residential
    • Commercial

Police officer

  • Breaking windows
  • Cutting seat belts
  • Cutting wire
  • Removing license plates
  • Popping trunk locks
  • Prying off windows to get into a home

EMT

  • Cutting wire
  • Cutting seat belts
  • Breaking windows
  • O2 tank wrench
  • Trauma sheers

Next, let’s break down the multi-tool and examine its benefits.

Multi-tool

If you’re using a multi-tool, it’s probably going to need to be able to take a beating and handle a lot of rough use. Therefore, you should look for one that’s durable, yet lightweight. The most important thing is determining what tools you need in your multi-tool. Typical options include:

  • A knife, often serrated
  • Strap cutter/seat belt cutter
  • Phillips screwdriver
  • Flathead screwdriver
  • Needle-nose pliers
  • Wire cutter
  • Window punch

Although it can be exciting to see all the options a multi-tool can offer, you want to make sure you actually need each tool. You don’t want to carry around a heavy, bulky tool set if you only use two or three of the options on a regular basis. If you can identify three or more tools you won’t use, it may be best to move on to another option.

When choosing a multi-tool, you’ll also want to consider the safety options. A liner-lock feature prevents a tool from accidentally closing or folding during use, and helps prevent cuts, scrapes, bruises, and other injuries.

Moving on, let’s explore the features to look for in a knife (folder).

Knives

Here you’ll want simplicity, something that’s easy and convenient to use. Look for a spring-assisted style opener, which makes it easier to use with one hand or with gloves.

When researching knives, your first thought might be to look for something with a sharp tip, but this isn’t always the wisest choice. It can be dangerous to both you and someone you’re trying to help if the tip of your knife is extremely sharp.

The benefits of a knife include:

  • It’s great at actually cutting things
  • Strong locking system, helping ensure safety
  • Thin design
  • Easy and fast to open
  • Light weight

So what are the major differences between a dedicated folding knife and a multi-tool?

  • Multi-tools tend to be heavier and more cumbersome to carry
  • Multi-tools give you many options for many different situations
  • Knives have stronger blades than multi-tools
  • Some things can’t be easily cut with a knife, so a multi-tool’s scissor option may come in handy
  • Locking mechanism on a knife is generally better than that of a multi-tool
  • For some, the pliers function of a multi-tool will often come in handy

Many people like to carry a dedicated knife on their person for their day-to-day activities, and keep a multi-tool nearby, like a car or duty bag, for when the situation calls for one. You must ask yourself – does your job or day-to-day activities require the use of a multi-tool, or will a simple knife get the job done? If your daily duties will not require multiple tools, the best option is probably a knife for your pocket.

There you have it. Knives and multi-tools are both great options for first responders to carry with them. We’ve outlined the merits and the differences and hope that we have aided in your decision-making process, although the decision might be as simple as being prohibited from carrying a multi-tool while on duty. However, if the option is yours, check out a few of our favorite knives and multi-tools and choose the one that best meets your needs.

Smith & Wesson SWAT MAGIC Knife

This fantastic looking option from Smith & Wesson features a sure-grip handle, pocket clip, and assisted-opening mechanism for single-handed opening. It offers tremendous versatility and buyers can choose from either a fine edge or serrated edge.

5.11 Tactical CS3 Dagger Liner Lock Knife

This striking option from 5.11 Tactical features a bayonet-inspired blade and liner-lock design so it can be operated safely every time. Users can be sure of a good grip thanks to the deep finger choil, and it comes with a four-way pocket clip for easy storage and access.

Gerber Pro Scout Multi-Plier 600 Multi-tool

This versatile multi-tool comes with just about every option you can imagine, including scissors, needlenose pliers, wire cutter, screwdrivers, saw, and wire crimper to name a few. This tool also features Gerber’s patented SAF-T Plus locking system so all tools lock open for safety. All tools are stainless steel making them highly durable. It also comes with a ballistic nylon sheath for convenient carrying.

Leatherman Rebar Multi-tool

Users will love the new Rebar pliers which have been optimized for strength and feature replaceable wire/hard-wire cutters. It also features a wood/metal file, both flathead and Phillips screwdriver, wire stripper, needlenose and regular pliers, and a can and bottle opener. This stainless steel beauty also comes with a 25-year warranty from Leatherman.

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