Self-defense is a very nuanced topic. Some of the best tools for it might not be available. Or you might want to broaden your arsenal with something different.
Either way, a good fighting knife should be on your list of considerations. One of the most famous fighting knives is the kukri. Kukris have a long history of being both tools and weapons, making them a good choice for self-defense.
But why should you consider getting a kukri for self-defense, and what should you look for in a kukri? We’ve tested most of the modern-made kukris on the market today to help you answer those questions.
Like many of our round-up guides and best-of lists, I have experience with every Kukuri on this list. I own or have owned it, have had other knives from the same manufacturer, or have experienced it in another hands-on environment, such as a press release or factory tour. You can trust that each Kukri below will serve you well and is durable enough to rely on in a serious situation.
Ka-Bar Cutlass: The Best Option
This kukri style knife is stout, sharp and can be swung with force. If you are in a desperate situation, this is the knife you want to have.
The Ka-Bar cutlass is not a traditional kukri, in fact it would be better to call this a bolo more than a kukri. However, it offers one of the best combinations of durability and function.
The Cutlass features a long 11-inch blade with a wide belly. This will provide you a significant reach with a lot of chopping power. The straighter back design also allows for more straight stabbing. The curve of the blade’s belly offers similar cutting ability to a traditional kukri shape but without the awkward angles. This also makes it easier to carry.
The handle features a Kraton G handle which helps with grip and lowers the maintenance cost.
Ka-Bar Combat Kukri Knife
A more traditional Kukri design, the Combat Kukri by Ka-Bar pairs a forward-curving blade with their M2-style handles.
The blade is just slightly longer than their standard fighting knife, coming in at 8 ½ inches. The handle is a Kraton G handle with the Ka-Bar flat pommel. This adds more utility to the blade, allowing you to use it as a hammer in addition to using it as an impact weapon.
The Combat Kukri also features a small guard on the handle, bringing it more in line Western fighting knives. This helps keep the hand from sliding up onto the blade and also provides an additional point of contact should you be using it for utilitarian tasks.
Kershaw Camp 10 (1077)
Kershaw’s rendition of a kukri offers a more fighting-style option. Coming in at roughly 1 1/2 pounds, this blade allows for heavy chops and quick recovery. You won’t have to worry about the blade. It is affordable and durable with a wide belly and base. Some kukris narrow out significantly near the handle while this version keeps a wide, usable edge.
The handle ergonomics lock in your grip while adding additional protection. This protection is needed as the blade is straighter, coming close to the Ka-Bar Cutlass, but still with a forward-leaning curve.
These features combine into a fearsome weapon that allows you to stay in the fight longer.
Cold Steel Kukri Plus
This Cold Steel kukri machete is a monster of a blade. With an overall length of 21 inches, 13 of which is all blade, this kukri brings cutting power and a modernized grip.
The handle is closer to traditional kukri handles but with modern materials. The handle will let you control the blade without fear of losing your grip.
However, its size starts to make it a hindrance in closer quarters. Better for out in the woods than in a house. The blade doesn’t come with the sharpest edge, but the size and weight make up for it.
If what you want is an oversized and modernized kukri at an affordable price, you should give this one a look.
Condor Heavy Duty Kukri Knife
The Condor is a fantastic all around kukri, from survival and self-defense to yardwork, this one does not disappoint.
This kukri from Condor is more traditional in its design. The hand scales are wood and feature a palm swell at the base of the grip. This swell helps keep the blade from coming out of your hand when chopping. The knife comes with a very sharp blade that pairs well with the heavy weight of the knife. This weight helps make the cuts more efficient with less effort.
The knife also features a lanyard hole to help with retaining the blade. The spine of the blade also features an aggressive flattening of the curve, bringing the point more in line with the thrust.
The blade is wide, and the construction is full tang, adding durability to the knife. The factory edge might need to be honed to your taste, but once it is suitably sharp, it will power through a lot of material.
Light enough for backpacking and sharp enough to defend your home, the Kuk is a high value knife.
This kukri by CRKT is a little special. It features a very non-slip grip with comfortable ergonomics. On top of this it features a slightly modified traditional kukri blade curve. The blade’s edge helps narrow the point for more effective thrusts. Combined with weighing just under a pound, you have a great option for self-defense.
The KUK cuts very well while being lightweight. This makes it easy to swing and easier to control the cut. That control also helps with stabbing since you won’t be fighting any unnecessary weight with the blade.
Ontario 6420 OKC Kukri Knife
Ontario Knife is known for their wide variety of quality made blades. This kukri is one of their machete offerings. On par with most kukris at just over a pound, this one features a polymer grip with both a guard and pommel toe. The toe will help with drawing the kukri while helping guide the hand into position.
The blade is narrower than other examples but features a rather aggressive curve. The tip of the blade is more hatchet like, optimized for chopping rather than piercing. The blade is easily sharpened and is made from a durable steel. The blade length starts to make it a problem for in-home defense and it overall leans towards the survival side of things.
It is a more middle ground option for those who would want an “everything” tool that can also be used for self-defense.
Sheffield 12145 McCall 8.5 Inch Kukri
This small kukri comes in with an 8 ½-inch blade. This places it closer to standard fighting knife lengths. The Sheffield kukri is a budget-friendly option that provides a number of features that help with close quarters fighting.
It won’t have the reach of some of the other kukris on this list, but it is easier to handle in smaller spaces. This kukri has a smaller reach than the KUK, which has roughly a 3-inch longer blade, while they both have a similar weight.
The curve of the blade is similar to the Ka-Bar cutlass and only has a slight forward curve. The blade features a drop point blade to help with piercing.
The handle features a finger knurl to help index the blade, bringing the tip in line with the hand. This handle is closer to other typical knife handles than kukri handles.
For the price, it is a good option, but the steel is on the lower end of the quality spectrum. This might affect durability, but if you are on a tight budget it will work.
Condor K-Tact Kukri
- Crafted from the highest quality materials
- Built for performance and durability
- Made in El Salvador
If you want a great kukri and are willing to pay for it, the Condor K-Tact is what you’re looking for. Coming in at 2 pounds, this knife has some added heft to it. Combined with a 10-inch blade, this will certainly chop with ease and emphasis.
The blade tip narrows to an effective point without too great a curve to it. The handle is well shaped with a flared bottom. This again helps with retaining the kukri and creates another impact point.
An additional feature is the kydex sheath that is included. The other options might come with a nylon or leather sheath, but this one comes with a durable, ready-to-use kydex sheath with active retention.
You really do get what you pay for and the K-tact Kukri provides the best performance but with a hefty price tag.
GK&CO. Kukri House 10″
Now, I know above I said to stay away from the movie prop kukri, but I thought it was only fair to try one of the so-called “genuine” kukris. When you need to go all authentic, there is no better option than Kukri House. The issue is that Amazon and the internet are full of fake junk, so do your research before you spend your money.
I’ve watched many YouTube videos that show guys in Nepal making kukris from truck leaf springs and when you hold this 10″ monster in your hand, it feels like it was made from a truck. I wasn’t expecting much, but I have to say it’s a pretty cool knife. It is heavy with a very thick blade, but it did chop wood with ease and was sharp right out of the box.
The one I bought has rosewood handles with a heavy leather scabbard. If you want that authentic Gurkha Soldier look, then this is the one to buy. I wouldn’t take it camping or on a backpacking trip, but for working around the house it’s a good option. And since we are talking about self-defense here, it will certainly crush the skull of a home invader.
The only downside here is the blade is untreated / coated. You will have to keep it well-oiled or it will get surface rust in just a few days.
I have a Condor Kukri with a wood handle I keep in a nice stand in my office at home, but this guy is going to replace it. For around $100 I think this worth trying out.
Tops TPBKUK01-BRK Bushcrafter Kukuri
If you want the ultimate chopping tool, the Bushcrafter Kukuri is what you’re looking for. TOPS Knives provides a high-quality, high-price blade. This is one of the shorter options on the list, coming in at 7¾-inches in the blade. The blade is extremely curved with a very wide belly. And coming in at nearly 2 pounds, it will chop what you swing it at. The curvature of the blade and the weight combine to produce this powerful cutter in such a small package.
However, the drawback is that the wide belly sacrifices tip narrowness. This ultimately leads to it being a chopper only, with no real piercing power.
Additionally, the price will stagger you too. Edging toward the $200 to $300 dollar mark, this is not a cheap knife. It will perform amazingly in its role but it will cost a pretty penny to get that performance.
SOG SOGfari Kukri Machete
This kukri is a mixed bag of quality and very strange options. The sheath is durably built but the blade itself is odd. A wide chopping blade that has a moderately useful point makes this kukri a very capable chopper. Add in the kraton handle design and you have a very appealing blade. It has good grip retention and blade control.
However, this kukri also features a thick sawback to the blade. This adds some additional functionality, but not enough to warrant any hassle the sawback is going to cause. The saw tends to take more effort to use than a purpose-built item.
Additionally, it runs the risk of catching on the sheath. This will slowly but surely wear away the durability of the sheath.
The price point is appealing and the general design is useful, but the sawback will cause issues down the line. If it were removed from kukri, it would be a steal of a deal.
WEYLAND Kukri Machete
A big performer for just a few $$$, this one surprised us!
If you are just looking for an inexpensive kukri for self defense then the Weylandn Kukri is a great option. Coming in at under $35 it really surprised me in the performance department. It has one of the thinner blades of this group and is closer to a machete but the Weyland is no slouch in chopping, slicing or cutting. I ended up testing this one on a lot of different materials because I was so taken aback at how it performed.
It cut hemp rope, paracord, sliced through thick rubber hose and even broke down a bunch of boxes. Since it’s a thinner style blade, it lends itself to being a better slicer. But I did try to chop some hard wood branches and logs and for what you pay it did an awesome job. This kukri also makes a great camp tool for kids or someone who is not as experienced. It’s lighter weight and compact size make it easy to handle.
As it pertains to self defense, you could do some serious damage to an intruder with this in your hand. All in all it’s a five star rating from me. I would definitely buy this over the SOG any day. I ended up buying it because their Amazon listing was so detailed I wanted to check it out to see if they were making stuff up.
Why a Kukri For Self Defense?
Kukris were developed in the Indian subcontinent and have filled the role of utility and combat knife for hundreds of years. Most famously, the kukri has been used by the Gurkhas in their native lands and in the military units that have been formed with them.
However, the kukri is not isolated to these capable warriors. Its utility and combat effectiveness has caused it to be adopted the world over.
The kukri is like a small sword. It has a traditionally forward-curving blade and comes in a variety of lengths and blade shapes. It’s large enough to extend your reach and power, but small enough to carry around comfortably.
Most traditional kukris fall within a 16 inch to 18 inch overall length with a weight of 1 to 2 pounds. This places it on the large side of historical fighting knives and is why it has mostly been associated more with machetes than knives.
The kukri’s size and weight helps emphasize cuts, causing it to cut like a much larger blade. This is from the blade’s curved design and weight distribution. The blade’s curve also allows for a wider variety of angles to be used in close-quarters combat, making it a very effective fighting knife.
The kukri can deliver debilitating cuts and thrusts because of that curve. However, some styles feature extremely aggressive curves while others have less pronounced curves. Those with little to no curves appeal to more Western leaning techniques which we’ll cover later.
Defense: In-Home or Outside
Before we get into how to use a kukri we first have to consider where we will use it. Home defense always provides interesting problems that hamper our ability to effectively defend ourselves.
Houses usually have confined spaces and areas that are difficult to move around in. This is because of house design, furniture, or household items that are left on the floor. Kukris provide an effective tool at close distances while being able to be used in tighter areas.
Outside of the house, this is less of a problem. The kukri’s size allows you to reach out farther than many self-defense knives on the market today. However it lacks the concealability that those smaller options have.
It forms a middle ground of not being too long or too short. This allows you to be able to face multiple styles of threats without being “under knifed.”
The kukri’s blade style opens up a realm of possibilities when it comes to techniques. The curve allows you to reach around some popular defense techniques by achieving new angles with the blade.
Due to the chopping nature of the blade, cuts and strikes from the dominant side or more primal “cave man swings” will be extremely effective. Because the blades tend to be thicker or more reinforced, kukris perform better than machetes in combat.
Kukris also have another advantage over machetes in that they still have the ability to stab. The point of a kukri blade still allows you to thrust effectively with it. Traditional kukri users in historical accounts generally used the kukri to stab as their first attack.
This stab was usually aimed at the stomach or softer areas of the torso. If the stab was successful the blade’s curve would be used to create a massive wound since the curve would cut on the way out – a grizzly but effective technique.
This stabbing motion is similar to a punch which doesn’t follow most Western styles of stabbing. The curve of the blade makes a more ergonomic stabbing angle but it does not mix with Western martial arts.
Something to keep in mind is that while other large fighting knives have protection for the hand, the kukri traditionally does not. Some variations and modern designs incorporate hand guards, but purely traditional Nepalese styles do not feature handguards, instead relying on motion or a shield to protect the hand.
We should talk about why we’re selecting mostly modern kukri on the list above rather than a traditional one.
Kukris made in a traditional style tend to be less durable than modern kukris. This is because they were designed with certain parameters in mind. A traditional kukri, built more for combat, will not be as durable as one designed primarily as a tool. On top of this, getting a quality kukri built to historical dimensions is hard to do. Properly made or robust kukris are either unavailable, expensive, or antiques. No one wants to defend themselves with an antique.
Other cheaper alternatives in traditional styles are more collectors’ items rather than good tools or weapons. If you come across a “traditional” kukri and it looks like a museum piece or something someone picked up on safari, it’s best to pass on it. These are usually low grade replicas.
As always, there is a wide variety of quality available for each knife style. The preferred option in this list is te Ka-Bar Cutlass. This is because it is similar to more standard knives while providing excellent quality and durability
However, budget or preference might guide you to a different choice. The kukris on this list are some of the best options we have tested so you don’t have to waste your money finding out for yourself. Each one will do the job you need it to do.
Blair Witkowski is an avid watch nut, loves pocket knives and flashlights and when he is not trying to be a good dad to his nine kids, you will find him running or posting pics on Instagram. Besides writing articles for Tech Writer EDC he is also the founder of Lowcountry Style & Living. In addition to writing, he is focused on improving his clients websites for his other passion, Search Engine Optimization. His wife Jennifer and he live in coastal South Carolina.