Spyderco Karahawk Review

For knife owners in the market for a more self-defense oriented piece, the Spyderco Karahawk is a new spin on an older style of knife. The Karahawk is modeled after a karambit, a curved dagger style knife of Indonesian origin with some modern changes and improvements.

The knife itself is thin and lightweight and is easy to carry and conceal. It is usable as an EDC knife but the primary purpose is self defense. As always, check local laws when attempting to carry a knife. For the form, function, and design of this knife we give it 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Spyderco Karahawk Review


  • Extremely slim and lightweight
  • Quick deployment action
  • Good ergonomics and contouring


  • Not suited for heavy cutting tasks
  • Lock system can be difficult
  • More difficult to sharpen

Spyderco Karahawk Features

Blade – The blade of the knife is made of VG-10 Japanese stainless steel. This particular steel is of high quality and retains good strength even for a thinner blade. The blade features a slight curvature similar in style to karambit knives and is good enough to prune vegetation or for light cutting. The point of the blade is incredibly sharp.

Handle – The handle is inlaid with black G-10 scales. G-10 is a fiberglass, epoxy polymer that is light and durable. The entire handle of the knife is supported by a stainless steel skeleton which improves overall durability while maintaining light weight.

The handle follows a similar contour to that of the knife blade and has finger notches cut out for gripping. The back end of the knife features a stainless steel finger ring for holding in reverse fashion, by placing the index finger through the hole.

Lockup –  The blade uses a lock back mechanism instead of a traditional liner lock in order to produce a smaller profile and increase safety. The spring inside the lock keeps the blade from opening and provides sufficient tension until such time as the blade is manually opened.

Deployment – The blade features two methods of deployment. The Spyderco round hole, for manual opening by hand and the Emerson Wave opener. The round hole is designed for users to pull the knife open using the hole on the backside of the blade and the Emerson Wave is designed as a catch that opens the blade as it is deployed from the pocket. Both methods offer easy deployment.

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Blade Form, Function and Use

The blade comes in at just under 2 ½ inches and features a karambi hawkbill style curve. It is made of VG – 10 Japanese stainless steel. This is a high grade steel that makes the blade razor sharp.

The curve of the blade makes it suitable for agriculture tasks like pruning plants and cutting vegetables or simpler cutting tasks like cutting rope, but is designed to be used for personal defense. The blade itself is incredibly thin at 1/10” yet it retains a surprisingly sharp point.

There is some debate over whether the knife is suitable for everyday carry, but the blade itself is high quality and holds its edge well.

Handle Design and Ergonomics

The entire handle of the knife is made out of black G-10 scales. G-10 is a fiberglass filled polymer that provides a flexible, almost rubberized surface, this gives the knife good gripping texture.

The entire handle is reinforced by a stainless steel skeleton down to the ⅜” inch finger ring at the base. The stainless steel provides the bones of the handle so that it can sustain grip pressure throughout use. The skeletonized steel keeps the knife lightweight without sacrificing structural integrity.

The finger ring at the end of the handle is designed to hold the index finger for a reverse grip. This makes the knife function for quick slashing and stabbing action in the event of self defense. Some users complain of rough edges around the finger hole and a need for thicker or sturdier scales although the knife still functions properly despite these factors.

spyderco karahawk review

Deployment and Lockup

Some of the more unique features of the Karahawk are the deployment and lockup methods for the knife.

For deployment there are two distinct options: The Spyderco Round Hole built into the back of the knife is for manual opening with two hands when the knife is held with one hand and the hole is used to pull the blade into the open and locked position.

The second option is the Emerson Wave Opener. This option is for rapid deployment as it is designed to catch the knife on the pocket and pull the knife open as it is being drawn. Both methods offer safe means of rapid deployment in case of emergency.

The lockup mechanism is also unique in that it features a spring held lock back mechanism. Similar knives use a liner lock that has a propensity to slip when pocket carried or under heavy use.

The heavy tension provided by the spring in the back lock system ensures that the knife will not open unless it is intended to as the knife will close down unless enough pressure is applied, either by the wave feature or through manual opening. This prevents injury or damage to clothing and other belongings.

Spyderco Karahawk Review – Final Thoughts

This reinvention of a classic knife has opinions split as to whether it is useful as an everyday carry knife or a self defense knife. The quality of the blade makes it an excellent choice for many easy cutting jobs and the sharpness makes it highly effective for self defense.

The thin and slim fit of the knife makes it easy to carry and conceal in a pocket. The curvature of the blade continues into the handle which makes it fit nicely into the hand. The polymer based scales and stainless steel skeleton give the knife surprising durability even under pressure.

The dual deployment methods make the knife easy to open either manually or from the quick action wave feature for rapid deployment in any situation. The lock back mechanism keeps the knife closed until it needs to be opened.

Overall the Spyderco Karahawk is suitable for self defense and still serves the purpose of having a knife for cutting things as well.