Tanto vs. Drop Point
Some knife blades are made to be able to perform almost any task well, some are for utilitarian purposes, and many are designed for specific purposes. There are about eight popular and commonly used points, but today we are only going to go over the advantages and disadvantages of tanto and drop point tips. Which one of these two shapes is going to work best for you?
The tanto point blade shape was invented in the 1970’s and gained most of its popularity in the early 1980’s. The shape was invented by the cutlery company Cold Steel. They got the idea for this shape from the stellar Japanese cutlery craftsmanship. Tanto points are known for how strong they are, how much power they have behind them, and how high quality their pommel is. What does a tanto point look like? The tanto sports a flat grind, but it does have a high point. Tanto’s do not have belly’s, so slicing is going to be a little bit more difficult than a different shape, but for what you lack in belly, it makes up in strength.
An example of a knife with a tanto point is the Boker Kalashnikov 74 auto knife.
For starters, the tanto point is extremely strong. Its strength is what most people first notice when they are using a blade with this type of point. The flat grind and high point create a triangular shape—which in an engineering standpoint, is the strongest shape. This is achieved because the unsharpened edge of the made meets the sharpened edge at an angle, instead of the usual curve. Because of this shape, the blade is able to stab through the harder materials. When you have a blade with this shape, you do not have to worry about your blade snapping while stabbing through things.
The second main characteristic of this shape of blade is how it closely resembles a chisel point. Chisel tips are known for having more power and durability than most of the other blade shapes, this is because a good chunk of the overall metal count is closer to the blade’s point. The Tanto shape is similar to that design because it has a thick tip, a lot of its metal is near the tip of the blade. Because of this, it is a great shape for your defensive tool; the tip is able to absorb the impact or pressure from piercing, even repeated piercings. If you have almost any other knife shape, repeated piercings would causes your blade to break. Because the tip is so strong, you can actually pry with it as well. This knife is designed to be a survival knife, but if you got stuck in a survival situation with this style, you would not be in a bad position. The strong tip makes it able to perform tasks that you wouldn’t usually throw at a knife, such as prying.
Another fantastic benefit to the tanto style is that they are relatively easy to sharpen, especially when you are in the field. This is because they have two flat edges, without a curve. This means that if you do not have your usual sharpening equipment, or any actual sharpening equipment, you will still be able to get it sharpened. As long as you have a stone, you are going to be able to sharpen your knife.
Something that most tanto fans love is that they are designed after Japanese blades, especially the Katana blade. Both of these styles have a tip that aligns perfectly with the knife’s spine. The fact that it was inspired after Japanese blades gives it an aesthetic that most people wouldn’t expect.
Now that we have gone over why a tanto is such a great design, we should touch on what makes people dislike the tanto style.
For starters, tanto’s do not have a belly whatsoever. This means that slicing tasks are going to be particularly difficult. Slicing a rougher material is going to be especially hard.
Another reason that people tend to shy away from purchasing a blade with a tanto shape is because sharpening them can be a hassle. I know, this sounds like a contradiction because I just said that they are going to be easy to sharpen in the field. While they are relatively easy to sharpen because they do not have a curve, they are also a pain to sharpen because they have a double bevel. This means that instead of sharpening one edge that spans the length of the blade, you are going to have to sharpen two different edges. While this is a hassle, the sharpening of each edge is going to be easy. I honestly wouldn’t let this characteristic deter you from purchasing a tanto style knife.
Lastly, tanto knives can feel impractical. These knives are made to stab things and to be able to work with thick, hard, rough materials. But usually, your everyday tasks don’t involve stabbing through hard tasks—most likely, you are going to be slicing on an everyday basis; which a tanto isn’t going to excel at.
Tanto knives are designed to do everything, but they are designed to do one thing really well. If you know that you are going to be piercing through harder materials on a common basis, this is the style of knife that you are looking for.
Pros of a tanto blade:
- Crazy strong blade, with a stronger point.
- Excels at stabbing through hard materials.
- Very similar in shape to a chisel point.
- Relatively easy to sharpen, even in the field. All you need is a stone.
Cons of a tanto blade:
- Tanto’s do not have a belly, so slicing is going to be difficult.
- Sharpening is a hassle because of the double bevel.
- Tanto’s aren’t designed to do everything, so they can feel impractical.
- The tip can be hard to control.
The drop point style is one of the most popular shape for blades. It is designed to be an all-purpose blade.
An example of a knife that sports a drop point style blade is the Chris Reeve Nyala.
As you can see, the back, or unsharpened edge of this knife goes right from the handle to the tip of the knife in a slow curve. A better where to describe this is calling it a convex curve, which means that the spine of the knife seems to “drop” towards the tip of the blade where it meets the tip. This style is very similar to that of the clip-point, however, this one has a stronger tip, and is actually less suitable for stabbing.
One of the favorite characteristics about a drop point style is the long cutting edge. This makes it a perfect shape for your tactical or survival knife.
Another favorite characteristic about a drop point style is that the tip is very easily controlled, so it is a great option for your hunting knife. Hunting knives are where you will most commonly find a drop point shape. The tip is lowered, which makes it easier to control. And when you can control your hunting knife, you are less likely to cut the organs, which will ruin the meat.
Another reason that this knife shape is an excellent choice for your hunting knife is that because the tip isn’t super sharp or defined, you can use the entire length of the blade while you are skinning a knife. Because you can use the entire length, your skinning time will be dramatically reduced.
A third characteristic that people love with this shape of knife is that it has a large belly, making slicing a breeze.
Fourth, because the drop point has such a straight back, or unsharpened edge, it is perfect for batoning. This is the process of cutting or splitting wood by repeatedly striking the spine of a knife with an object, usually another piece of wood, to drive your knife deeper into the wood. This allows the user to have more control over the situation and it takes minimal effort.
While it is starting to seem like a drop point shape can do almost anything, it wouldn’t be right of me to skip over the negative aspects of this style.
Really the only major disadvantage to choosing a drop point blade is that it has a broad tip. Because of this, you aren’t going to be able to stab things well at all.
A drop point blade is a great option for your everyday, all-purpose knife. Almost any situation that comes up, you are going to be prepared to take it on and get out of it in great shape. These are very versatile blades. They work great for a hunting knife, they work great in survival situations, they work great for tactical situations.
Pros of a drop point blade:
- Long, uninterrupted cutting edge
- The tip is sharp enough to perform precision work.
- The tip is lowered, so you have excellent control over it.
- The drop point style sports a large belly, so slicing is a piece of cake.
- Because the back is relatively straight, this knife is great for batoning.
- This is an all-around knife that can perform most tasks.
- This is an excellent option for your hunting knife.
- This is also an excellent knife for everyday carrying.
- If you have this knife during a survival or tactical situation, you are going to be set.
Cons of a drop point blade:
- The point is pretty broad, so stabbing isn’t going to be a piece of cake.
After reading this article, I’m sure many of you are wondering why anyone would even pick a tanto blade. The point is not to turn you away at all, it is just to inform you of all your options. What are they both good at? They both have relatively straight backs, they are both great in survival situations because you can use them to dig and pry. While a drop point knife can arguably do more in everyday life, a tanto blade is designed for a specific set of circumstances. The main question that gets asked surrounding tanto blades is would you rather have a knife that is good at a lot of things, but not great at anything. Or would you rather have a knife that is not good for a variety of uses, but is fantastic at one specific thing? You have to take in how often you are going to be using your knife. Do you expect to use this knife all the time and have it for your everyday carry? Or is this knife going to be more of a backup, or hideout in an emergency backup until the need arises? Once you have truly figured out what it is that you want your knife to be able to accomplish, you will have a better idea of which knife shape you would be better fit to buy. Whether you pick a tanto style or a drop point style, you are going to have an excellent knife on your hands. To check out a variety of either of these two blade styles, log on to BladeOps and order your new knife today.