Most people buy, sell, trade, or gift pocket knives and folding knives off and on throughout their lives, without any understanding of the blade shapes and their purposefully designed uses.
Blade shapes are not always easily understood, but they matter more than you might realize. For instance, drop point vs clip point blade shapes have specific uses, although they are both useful for similar tasks as well.
Using a knife for something it’s not designed for, especially if you do so frequently, may end up harming the blade. At the very least, it will limit its durability and effectiveness. You may find yourself sharpening it far too often or making poor cuts when you don’t intend to.
Drop point vs Clip Point Knives
There is an aesthetic difference between the two knives. That difference is also practical, in terms of what both knives are capable of.
Drop point knife
A drop-point knife features a spine that “drops” down from the handle, meaning that at no point does the curve of the spine rise above the level of the handle, assuming the knife was held sideways and the handle perfectly horizontal.
As the spine drops, the curve of the spine ends at the point, hence the term, drop point. While there are a lot of different drop point designs or variations, they are all considered drop point knives if the spine drops from the handle to the point.
Clip point knife
A clip-point knife features a spine that curves away from the handle before it drops back down to the point, sometimes in a perfect curve and sometimes at a very wide angle. If you help the handle horizontally, the spine would curve above the level of the handle before curving or angling back down.
What are they best used for?
Clip-point knives are easily the most popular blades. That may be just because more of them are manufactured, and the marketing is better, or it could be because people simply prefer them.
Unless you talk to someone that knows their knives, most aren’t going to have any idea what you’re talking about if you bring up the terms “drop point” and “clip point.” Clip-point knives are designed for precision.
They have weaker tips since their points are narrower than drop-point knives. Clip-point knives are better suited for everyday tasks that require piercing and cutting, like cutting through cardboard. It’s considered a good jack of all trades, master of none knife.
Drop-point knives are better suited for skinning, cutting twigs for kindling, or splitting wood. Since they lack a narrow, defined point, they’re less likely to snap at the tip. The cutting edge of a drop-point knife is typically longer than a clip-point, so skinning is faster and more precise.
Which is best for self-defense?
Generally, a clip-point knife is the go-to blade for self-defense. Though it can’t match the cutting-edge length of a drop-point, a clip-point has more penetrating power. You’ll notice very quickly that most knives marketed as self-defense knives feature clip-point designs.
If you ever get into a situation where you have to defend yourself, and the only knife you have on you is a drop-point, it’s still a good cutting and stabbing weapon. While it’s not the same as a drop-point, a clip-point will do immense damage with a finely honed, cutting edge.
If you had to choose, however, a clip-point blade just has more positives going for it in terms of close-quarters combat. The closest blade shape that a clip-point resembles is the Tanto blade, which is inspired by short-sword designs. It’s not as effective as a Tanto, but it’s a lot closer than a drop-point.
Clip-point and drop-point blades each have their uses, and their design differences are often more subtle than they sound on paper. This is especially true when you get into the number of drop-point subcategories.
It’s easiest to remember the differences between the two when you think of the term “utility” with drop-point knives and “survival” with clip-point knives. That doesn’t mean that the two can’t be used interchangeably.
A drop-point knife is useful for skinning, but it’s like using a knife to strip a wire instead of an electrical wire cutter. The latter just makes more sense because its expressly designed for stripping wires. Each blade has its uses, and you’ll get the best out of both when you use them as intended.
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