Tanto Knives: All You Ever Wanted to Know

Tanto Knives

There are some blade shapes that have been garnering a lot of interest lately, and one of them is the tanto knife. There are several styles of this blade, from the traditional tanto that was used by the samurai, to ultra-modern reverse tanto flipper knives. The one thing they all have in common is a strong tip and unusual shape that gets attention wherever it goes.

A Brief History

The tanto shape was first seen in Japan between 800 and 1185 as a standard, no frills blade. It was a simple knife, anywhere from 6 to 12 inches long, and was designed for both stabbing and slashing. It has a mostly straight blade with a slight curve to the tip. The styles and appearance fluctuated over the centuries, depending on whether the country was at war or not.

In the 80s, Cold Steel popularized the American version of the tanto. This style has a relatively straight blade which sharply angles up to the tip, creating two distinct edges.

Differences Between a Tanto and Reverse Tanto

As you know, the tanto has a sharp upward angle to the tip and a very little belly. The tip’s strength resembles that of a chisel, making it far stronger than most knives you’ll see.

The reverse tanto angles down to the blade, so the line of the angle is on the spine rather than the cutting edge. This creates a few differences, one of them being the reverse tanto has more of a belly.

The primary distinctive feature of these knives is the triangular shape created by the angles. This is what helps distinguish a reverse tanto from a cleaver.

Advantages of a Tanto Knife

A tanto’s main use is as a combat and tactical knife. That is what it was designed for, and very little has changed over the centuries. It has an incredibly strong tip, so it can withstand puncturing materials that would break another knife.

The reverse tanto has a slight belly, making it much better for cutting and slicing while still retaining that tip strength that made the tanto famous. It’s much easier to sharpen a reverse tanto as you only have a single edge to deal with.


The American tanto shape means that the knife isn’t particularly good for cutting or slicing. The double edge can be difficult to sharpen as well. In fact, other than for combat or self-defense, it’s not particularly versatile.

While more functional in day to day tasks, a reverse tanto still isn’t as beneficial for an EDC as a drop point or similar.

However, there are as many modifications on both these styles as there are knife makers. Most of these address some of the disadvantages, making them more functional. So whether you choose to buy reverse tanto flipper knives online or American tanto online or in store, you’re buying an awesome looking, durable blade.

About the Author

Kevin Moore

Hi, my name is Kevin Moore. I was born in San Diego, CA and studied at the University of San Diego. I am passionate about sharing my knowledge with interested people and have years of experience in the field of business, health . information technology.

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