By Richard Douglas
You just got a beautiful new knife, and breaking up its slender physique is a seemingly out-of-place clip. It seems almost as an afterthought. Why would the manufacturer go through all the trouble to produce such a fine specimen, then tack on such a tacky and seemingly superfluous appendage to it?
On the flip side, you have a nice new folder swimming around at the bottom of your pocket and are wondering why it seems that everyone else clips it to their pockets. What gives? Should the clip stay, or should it go?
I’ve combed through dozens of forums and found real opinions from real folks. It seemed mostly in favor of the clips, but some real stalwarts out there swear by removing them. And while their reasons are few, they are convincing nevertheless. We’re about to have a look at both. But first, a quick primer on clip types.
Pocket Clip Types
Regular clips are just what they sound like. They secure the knife high up in your pocket (so it’s not swimming around in a jumble of keys and pocket change) and can be accessed easily.
Deep Carry clips are very popular because they sit deeper in the pocket and aren’t exposed for the whole world to see. It doesn’t slip out quite as easily, and its low profile might be more favorable (more on why that’s important later).
Short Deep Carry is self-explanatory: it’s a Deep Carry that is slightly shorter and weighs less.
Carabiner clips aren’t terribly common, but they fasten more securely and can be attached to anything. They favor function over form.
Wire clips are lightweight and low-profile and look slightly less like a knife clip, which may come in handy depending on your surroundings.
Lastly, milled clips are the more decorative variety and come in different designs and colors.
Pocket Clip Pros
The most commonly cited reason for pocket clips is because a clipped knife doesn’t take up valuable real estate in your pockets. Most folks have pockets dedicated to each item they carry in their daily loadouts, such as phones, wallets, keys, and other important stuff. A knife, especially a heavier one, can infringe on the space those things enjoy, so keeping it perched on the rim of your pocket keeps everything in its place. It also keeps the knife in its place, which is important for two reasons:
- It’s always right where you need it and ready at a moment’s notice.
- If it’s too cumbersome to fish out of your pocket, your precious blade is in danger of falling into disuse. We don’t want that, now do we?
Aside from the convenience and comfort, a clip also makes your folder much harder to lose. Things fall out of your pockets. Just check under your couch cushions and you’ll probably scrape up a few bucks. Clips make that much less probable.
A clip also gives its owner the option of where and how they’ll carry it. This might be especially useful for you Lefties out there who want a tip-up orientation on their left side. Of course, this depends on the knife. Some clips are four-position, meaning they can be clipped to either side for tip-up or tip-down carry. Either way, this allows for quick retrieval.
Lastly, let’s be totally honest: You can’t deny that one of the benefits of brandishing that clip on your pocket is that it can be a great conversation starter with fellow enthusiasts. Hunters, police officers, military, EMT, outdoorsmen, long-range shooters, all walks of life. It also can signal to the people who mean to do you harm that you’re not an easy target. Sure, a knife isn’t the best self-defense, but it’s a lot better than a fist.
Pocket Clip Cons
A clip might be a good conversation starter, but that is a double-edged sword: It can also attract unwanted attention. This is a funny thing, because despite how easily spooked a lot of folks are when they know you’re carrying a knife, they’ll be equally impressed by your preparedness when something needs cutting. The most important thing to know is what your state and local laws say about carrying a weapon in your pocket or concealing it within. Different cities and towns interpret the laws differently, so you need to know what your particular jurisdiction says about it; otherwise, you could be fined, have your knife confiscated, or worse.
Another major con has to do with the overall ergonomics and aesthetics. The people who prefer clipless knives usually cite that it simply feels better without it. It handles better, and there aren’t any hotspots where the clip digs into your hand causing it discomfort. In the same vein, having a folder clipped to your pocket can mean that the knife scrapes the back of your hand, which is more common among our larger-handed friends. But as far as aesthetics are concerned, some knives are just so beautifully made that the clip hurts it more than it helps.
Unless it’s a four-position clip, you’ll be limited in how you can carry it. If you can’t personalize the orientation of your knife, it might be best to keep it inside the pocket.
Clips cause wear and tear to the pants and other fabrics like upholstery and car seats. They bend and break, and they snag other things. If you take a corner too tightly, you might bring the house down, so to speak. Lots of folks will take the middle road and keep the knife loose in their pocket but still leave the clip on so they have the option down the road.
To Clip or Not to Clip?
Ultimately, it comes down to a value judgment. How do you organize your pockets? Will a knife get in the way? How quickly do you need to be able to retrieve your blade? How often? How visible can it be in your region? How does it feel in your hand? These are all important considerations that each person needs to make on their own. And if you want the best of both worlds, go get yourself some tactical pants with a special pocket just for knives. That way, it’s both easily accessible and out of the way at the same time.
Thanks to Richard Douglas, Guest Contributor
Richard Douglas is a firearms expert and educator, and a lover of knives. In fact, having a knife is part of his EDC gear. Richard’s work has appeared on large publications like The National Interest, Daily Caller, and ODU Maga and on his Scopes Field blog.
Photos courtesy of AKTI member Blade HQ