Under 3-inch pocket knives are helpful for everyday cutting needs and may be suitable for official places like offices, unboxing, and minimal cutting. Under 3-inch pocket knives are easy to carry around as they easily fit in your pockets, wallet, key holder, etc.
If you are struggling to choose the best pocket knife for your needs, come with us to the next section as we look into the essential factors you should consider before picking one.
How to choose under 3-inch pocket knife
Before you purchase an under 3-inch pocket knife, here are essential factors you should look into.
Most pocket knife blades are made from steel. However, there are different types of steel in knife making. With that in mind, take time to understand the properties of the steel used to make the brand of pocket knife you want to take home.
For the best choice, consider the corrosion resistance, toughness, edge retention, wear resistance, and ease of sharpening the steel, depending on your needs.
Suppose you want to buy a knife used in highly corrosive environments. In that case, the steel you choose should offer high corrosion resistance properties.
My overall quality blade steel recommendation will be stainless steel with good edge holding properties that don’t need frequent sharpening.
Varieties of pocket knives with these steels CPM S35VN stainless steel, CPM S45VN stainless steel, VG10 stainless steel will not disappoint.
Knife handles are made of different materials, including wood, rubber, Grivory, aluminum, Derlin, bone, to mention a few.
Choosing the right handle can be challenging with the many options to choose from. To make the best choice, consider a knife handle that is comfortable with a quality grip and easy to carry.
You will not go wrong with any of these three options; Spyderco FRN handles are lightweight and highly durable.
G10 scale, on the other hand, is not as light as FRN, but it does provide excellent grip even in wet conditions. Micarta is another composite material that will offer a good grip and survive demanding applications.
The Pocket Knife opening mechanism
The opening mechanism is another important consideration when buying an under 3-inch blade pocket knife. For the best experience, purchase a knife that opens quickly and smoothly. Some fast opening mechanisms include thumb stud, assisted opening, or automatic opening.
However, some knife opening mechanisms like automatic opening are illegal in some states. Therefore, you should research to ensure that the kind of knife you want to buy is legal in your location.
The pocket knife Locking mechanism
Another important consideration when purchasing a pocket knife is the locking mechanism. If you have made the right choice regarding the opening mechanism, settle for a blade that does not lock accidentally. You do not want a knife that keeps on snapping on your fingers.
There are different locking mechanisms to choose from including, liner lock, ring rock, lock back, frame lock, and lever lock. Most pocket knives use the liner locking mechanism and frame locking mechanism.
These two are incredibly safe, and you won’t have to worry about them. However, you can choose any other locking mechanism as long as it is effective and upholds your safety.
There are different blade shapes to suit the needs of every knife. Some of the most commonly available under 3-inch blade shapes include tanto, drop point, and sheep’s foot.
A tanto blade is perfect for piercing and puncturing as it offers a solid broad point. A drop point is a multipurpose blade type used indoors and outdoors. A sheep’s foot will be most suitable for slicing but not piercing.
Other blade types include but are not limited to Clip points, trailing, Wharncliffe, spear point, modified drop point, and the popular Spey blade. The choice of blade type should be based on the use scenario of the pocket knife.
There are three major types of blade edges, including plain, fully serrated, or partially serrated. The best one for you depends on the cutting you will be doing.
Plain edges are suitable for push cuts because they allow for clean cuts. Fully serrated cuts are best for pull cuts, the opposite of plain edges, and best used on wood and ropes.
Lastly, partially serrated blades are versatile and can perform push and pull cuts because the blades are half plain and half serrated.
A blade grind is basically how a knife cutting edge is shaped. Each blade grind has its specific job, and none is referred to as the best since they are all used for different tasks. Read more on the Blade Grinds here 6 common types of knife Blade Grinds
Cost and Knife brands
There are many knife brands today. Some brands have been in the market for a long time and have built a good reputation. In contrast, others are upcoming and manufacture reliable knives as well.
The brand you go for depends on your preference and your budget. Top brands like Spyderco, Kershaw, Victorinox, to mention a few, are costly but are proven and have a mass following.
An under 3-inch pocket knife is an asset as you can use it as a small office EDC blade; however, choosing the best one for your needs can be daunting.
We hope that this guide will help you make an informed purchase decision. Here is my recommended list of under 3-inch knives to satisfy your needs.
Best under 3-inch pocket knives
- Benchmade Mini Griptilian
The Mini Griptilian belongs to the Griptilian series of knives; there is a standard size and this smaller mini Griptilian version.
This is pretty much the holy grail of small knives, and It is a perfect fit for all hand sizes. The G10 handle has a neutral shape with no aggressive finger guards, ideal for small or big hands.
The Mini Griptilian is also an ambidextrous knife featuring an axis lock. The crossbar goes through both sides of the blade, making it suitable for left-handed and right-handed people.
The pocket clip on the knife is also reversible so that you can attach it to your most comfortable side.
The blade is under 3 inches at 2.91 inches with different steels. You can get one with CPM S30V Steel or a premium 20CV steel blade.
You will get incredible edge retention, great corrosion resistance with either of these two blade steels.
The mini griptilian pocket knife also offers a range of blade shapes to choose from; there is a tanto, a drop point, and a modified sheep’s foot.
A tanto will be great if your use case requires strong piercing and puncturing. A sheep’s foot will be perfect for slicing and a drop point for outdoor butchering tasks like cutting and skinning.
- Kershaw Scallion
The Kershaw Scallion is one of the most popular knives with under 3 inches blades. Designer Ken Onion publicized it, characterized by his proprietary speed-safe assisted opening mechanism.
The Kershaw Scallion features a 2.4-inch blade with 420HC stainless steel. This low alloy entry-level steel will offer good corrosion resistance, decent edge retention and is easy to sharpen when needed.
The steel makes Kershaw Scallion affordable at under $70 mostly.
The pocket knife features a unique recurve at the back that enables it to get a slightly more sharp edge towards the handle, increasing the edge size.
This feature makes it perfect for opening packages when drawing back as it enables more edge contact on the back end.
You can find Kershaw Scallion in a liner or frame lock version. There is also a bunch of aesthetically attractive handle materials to choose from.
I personally like the brightly colored ones as they are more socially acceptable and feel less intimidating in public.
- Spyderco Dragon Fly 2
Spyderco Dragon Fly 2 offers a classic mini design loved by many. It is a popular under 3 inches knife with excellent performance.
Spyderco Dragonfly 2 comes in a wide variety of selections with different handle materials, blade profiles, and blade steel.
I particularly like the one with the drop point Japanese VG10 steel at 2.3 inches. This is a stainless steel blade with great edge retention and a good toughness level.
The knife features a lightweight FRN handle and a back lock opening mechanism.
The other benefit of this pocket knife is the full-size finger choil. This enables one to get a full grip on the knife when exerting a lot of pressure and control on the cutting material.
It works great for opening rigid luggage and boxes.
My name is Jonathan M, and I’m a passionate Mechanical Engineer, a knife enthusiast, and the author of this website. I have a bachelor's degree in Mechanical engineering with a specialization in material science. I am particularly interested in researching knife steel, knife properties, and brands. I hope you will find value in the articles on this website. Contact me if you have any questions or input!