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There’s a group of people, a silent minority, which sits ignored and abandoned in the background of society. They make up approximately ten percent of the population. The ranks of this exclusive club includes multiple US Presidents – George HW Bush, Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan to name a few. It also includes noted Americans Benjamin Franklin, John McCain, Henry Wallace, Dan Aykroyd, Tom Cruise, Charlie Chaplin, Robert DeNiro, and Mark Hamill! I could go on forever.
We’re talking, of course, about left-handed people. The term is somewhat grey because most people have some fine motor use of their non-dominant hand (like, for eating utensils) but here we are referring to people that primarily use their left hand for writing and tool use in our right-hand dominated society. People that are truly ambidextrous make up an even thinner slice- about 1% of society who are able to use both hands equally.
One thing this exclusive crowd have in common is that there aren’t a whole lot of knives that cater to them. Which is weird, because 10% of the population is an awful big demographic to just ignore, isn’t it?
Most pocket knives cater specifically to right handed people in a number of ways – the primary one being operation of the lock. Liner locks, frame locks, and compression locks are by nature one-hand dominant for the direction the lock travels as well as access to the lock bar. Deployment methods also can be one hand specific, like knives with only a single sided thumb stud – or asymmetrical thumb studs. Also, many knives have pocket clips that are only configured for right hand carry, making them annoying or even unsafe to carry for left handed people.
In this list we’re going to look at two different kinds of knives – both left-hand specific knives, which are basically mirror image of right hand specific knives – as well as fully ambidextrous knives that can be used with equal ease either way. So to all our southpaw readers – you’re not alone out there. Here are some knives that cater just to you.
Many, many gallons of ink (or kilobytes of letters?) have been spilled about Benchmade’s 940 series of knives. They’re considered by a lot of enthusiasts to be one of the best EDC knives in the world, and with good reason. They’re also arguably the flagship of the brand. The Osborne-designed 940 packs a lot of blade into a slim package, the unique reverse-tanto blade shape gives the knife a stout tip without excess blade stock thickness or height. Packing 3.4” of blade and a 4.5” of handle into a package that weighs under 3 ounces is a neat trick, but the upgraded 940-1 is even lighter, with carbon fiber handle scales that lower weight to below 2.5 ounces. The standard model uses CPM S30V and the 940-1 upgrades to CPM S90V super steel for even longer edge retention.
The calling card for the 940 series is the axis lock, which is fully ambidextrous – when the knife opens, a pair of omega-shaped springs force the axis bar on top of the blade tang to lock it in place. It can be operated from either side equally, and the 940 includes a pair of symmetrical thumb studs to open the blade with as well. Carry is tip up only but reversible for left or right hand carry, and it disappears in whichever pocket you choose to put it in.
The Japanese-made Delica and Endura are the bricks that Spyderco’s empire was built on. They’ve been around for decades and are now in their fourth generation, which brought improvements like screw-type construction and better clips. While Spyderco these days spends a lot of time focusing on expensive custom maker collaborations (and we’re fans, for sure) one can’t forget that the brand was originally known for their tough, simple working knives – and the Delica/Endura are the embodiment of this principle.
Both are lightweight backlock knives with FRN handles over nested skeletonized stainless liners. The handles have Spyderco’s “bi-directional textured FRN” which give you a more positive grip in hand. They both feature long drop point blades (most of them are full flat ground, but some –including the Emerson wave variants – are saber ground) with the trademark thumb-hole opener for deployment. They are as ambidextrous as knives get: perfectly symmetrical, a thumb hole doesn’t favor one side or the other, the backlock with a boye detent to avoid accidental closure is just as easily operated with left or right hand, and the handles are tapped for four-way carry. That means the pocket clip can be configured for left or right hand tip-up or tip-down carry. Regardless of which hand you favor, both are light and effective tools: 2.5 ounces for the 2.88” Delica, and 3.7 ounces for the 3.75” Endura.
I’ve been a cheerleader for the Buck 830 Marksman for years, feeling like it’s never gotten the recognition it deserves. After getting one several years ago, I was blown away by its clever design and useful blade shape. It’s designed by Grant & Gavin Hawk, and its calling card is the strange lock it uses. Called SLS (for Strong Lock System) it’s an adjustable strap lock that acts as both lock and closed detent with the shape of the blade tang. Because the knife uses caged ball bearings and there’s no tension on the blade between the closed and open positions once you’ve passed the detent, the Marksman is arguably the best flipper in the mid-price market I’ve come across yet – it requires very little detent pressure and opens fully every time. It can also be closed one-handed without your fingers getting in the path of the blade, much like the Spyderco PM2.
It’s also got a useful drop point blade made from Bos heat-treated 154CM steel, and the whole body is textured aluminum so it’s fairly light at 4.3 ounces. A choice between a thumb hole or flipper operation is fully ambidextrous, and it has a deep carry pocket clip that’s reversible for tip up left or right hand carry. The strap lock itself is symmetrical so it doesn’t favor the left or the right hand, so the knife can be configured for native left handers with no difference to the right-hand setup. Buy something different! The Marksman is a great knife.
Let’s be honest, there are downsides to the Cold Steel Broken Skull. One of them is that it’s called the Broken Skull, and it says “BROKEN SKULL” in big letters on the blade. Also, it was designed in collaboration with “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, which – okay, this knife is sweet, so maybe Steve Austin has good taste.
The Broken Skull is like if Buck reimagined the 110 but with modern materials and a better lock and made it actually pocket-able and with suitable build quality for the price. I mean, they did that with the 110 Lightweight, but Cold Steel and Steve Austin did a way better job. The Broken Skull (ugh) features a 4” clip point blade made from CPM S35VN steel (early production models used CTS-XHP) and black DLC coating. The handles are relatively thin at 0.36” across and have grippy G10 in a variety of colors. Like most CS knives, the Broken Skull uses Andrew Demko’s Tri-Ad lock, which is an improved variant of the backlock but with a hardened stop pin between the blade tang and the lockbar to distribute loads that normally wear on the lock interface. It’s incredibly strong and also makes a satisfying “thunk” when opened.
The Broken Skull is fully ambidextrous, with dual symmetrical thumb studs and standard lock-back operation that can be equally operated by left or right hands. One neat thing about the Broken Skull: it comes with a pair of mirrored pocket clips. Since the clip is curved to match the shape of the handle, left hand users can remove the right hand clip and attach the left hand clip for proper pocket fitment via three torx screws. As far as I know, Cold Steel is the only brand that puts this much thought into the details for lefties. Carry is ambidextrous tip-up only. Despite being 9.25” long when open and having a solid lock, the Broken Skull only weighs three ounces. Don’t judge a book by its cover, this is EDC excellence for only ~$85.
The Spyderco Paramilitary 2, colloquially known as the PM2, is probably the most popular knife the Colorado brand makes – at least among knife nuts. Everyone loves the PM2, from knife collectors to hard users to preppers. Everyone that is, except for southpaws. There’s a long list of reasons why Spyderco’s compression lock is the best lock system in the world – it’s super strong, it’s imminently fidgetable, it’s safer than a liner lock because your fingers are never in the path of the blade closing, it’s easy to use, it gives you plenty of options for opening technique – really, it’s a killer lock. But it’s designed for right handed users, and it’s awkward for a left handed user to operate.
Spyderco has remedied this by releasing a version of the standard PM2 for lefties, with a mirror image of the locking liner that lets left handed users close the lock with their thumbs. It seems simple enough but so many manufacturers ignore this! For the time being it’s only available in standard PM2 configuration – meaning black G10 scales, CPM S30V steel (with a 3.4” clip point blade) and not in any of the various upgraded versions the PM2 is famous for, like the Blurple/S110V model. It still uses the polished stainless “spoon” clip that’s tapped for 4-way carry (tip up or down, left or right hand carry) in case for some reason you want to carry a left PM2 in your right pocket. Hey, options are options, right?
Oh, you’ve heard of the Sebenza? Odd. It’s not really a known quantity in these circles, we’re shocked.
Sarcasm aside, did you know that Chris Reeve makes dedicated left-handed versions of all of their framelocks – including the Sebenza, Inkosi, Mnandi and Umnumzaan folders? The fact that they go out of their way to serve the lefty market is pretty unusual, and picking just one is hard. But if it’s gonna be a CRK, it has to be a Sebenza, right?
The iconic titanium framelock has been a mainstay in knife enthusiast circles for decades, and CRK announced a series of updates to the popular model at Blade Show 2019. The Sebenza 31 (for the number of years it’s been around!) replaces the Sebenza 21, and changes include a ceramic ball detent lockbar interface (like the Inkosi and Umnumzaan have had) and better integrated inlays as well as cleaner hardware and an angled pocket clip to keep tension off the lockbar. They’ve never been cheap – $375 is the starting price for a plain small Sebenza and it only goes up from there for a large or adding options like inlays, Damascus or CGG handle patterns. But being able to get an absolute top-quality framelock in a dedicated left hand pattern is cool, and there’s no price penalty for the lefty version either.
Want something that looks like a custom folder with a left hand build but don’t have thousands to spend? WE Knife makes a native left handed version of the Chimera folder.
The styling is wild. It’s got a dramatic 3.9” clip point with a double curve to the spine, and a black stonewash finish on the S35VN steel. The handles are titanium with a black & bronze finish, with a lot of intricate machining details all around – a series of organic looking “bite marks” along the bottom, deeply chamfered edges, robotic looking holes towards the spine, and an oversized decorative logo pivot pin. Even the pocket clip is a piece of art, 3D machined from a chunk of titanium with a curvature to match the handle. The backspacer is pretty too, cut away in arcs in two spots with the flats matching the surface of the spine, and a protrusion at the end forming a lanyard hole.
The Chimera is a mirror-image left handed framelock, so the user can easily unlock it with their left thumb. Deployment is by a unique “hollow” flipper tab with jimping on the outside, and like most WE knives the Chimera uses caged ceramic ball bearings for superlative flipping action. It also has a bolt-in stainless steel lockbar insert to prevent lock stick and wear. The clip is only configured for left hand tip up carry. It’s certainly a looker.
Almost everyone that’s ever tried one out has wound up loving the Kizer Gemini, Anthony Sculimbrene included. It’s part of Kizer’s Bladesmith series of knives, a collaboration with custom maker Ray Laconico based on his Jasmine folder. Anthony liked the Kizer better than the actual custom – that’s how good these knives are.
It checks all the EDC perfection boxes. It’s got beautiful titanium handles with a bit of curvature to fill your palm, it has clean and simple aesthetics with high end materials. The blade is a model of practicality, a 3.125” drop point with a full flat grind made from CPM S35VN steel and a stonewashed finish. It’s an awesome flipper thanks to smooth caged ball bearings and a well-tuned detent. All the handle edges are smoothed out, and it only weighs 3.5 ounces.
And now there’s one for lefties. It’s an exact mirror image of the original Gemini, the only real difference being the lack of blue anodized screws and pocket clip. It uses the same blade as the standard Gemini, and just like the righty it has a bolt-in stainless lockbar insert on the titanium lock. Like the WE Chimera listed above, it’s ONLY configured for left hand tip up carry – probably because all the extra screw holes would ruin the clean simple lines of the Gemini. It’s a pretty good deal at ~$170 too, and Kizer makes a couple of other Bladesmith models in left hand configuration if the simple lines of the Gemini aren’t your thing – including the Sheepdog and the Megatherium.
DPx Gear is the brainchild of international badass Robert Young Pelton, a conflict journalist from Canada who’s done more exciting stuff in his life than we have time to describe. DPx makes tough, overbuilt knives to hack things up in the jungle with, including the well-liked H.E.S.T./F folder.
Made in Italy by LionSteel, the H.E.S.T./F is a heavy duty titanium framelock available in a variety of handle scale and blade materials and colors. It uses prybar-thick blade stock with a tall flat grind – but don’t expect to use it as a kitchen knife, it’s a lot better for batoning wood. Blade steel on the standard model is D2 but some models use Niolox. The H.E.S.T is loaded with extra features built in, including the LionSteel designed Rotoblock which prevents accidental lock release when it’s turned to the left. There’s a carbide glass breaker that also serves as the mounting screw for the deep carry pocket clip, a series of wire strippers in the blade’s spine, a ¼” hex bit driver in the handle, and a wave opener/bottle opener on the spine.
DPx makes a mirrored version of the H.E.S.T./F for lefties, and on this knife the only thing they’ve had to change is a mirrored lock bar and handle scale. Because the H.E.S.T. uses symmetrical thumb studs and the pocket clip actually mounts to the butt of the handle with a single screw (so you can loosen the screw and flip the clip around) not too many changes were needed. So now the left-handed among us have an overbuilt heavy duty knife they can rely on when they travel through the mountains of Peru. Or open letters at your cubicle, we aren’t judging.
The Malware is a recent release from Bestech, an up and coming knife company from China. It’s a production collaboration with Todd Knife & Tool, and most unusually they’ve released a dedicated left hand version at the same time.
The knife itself is quite a looker, with a very long narrow needle point wharncliffe blade measuring 3.875” long. S35VN steel with a stonewash finish is expected for this price range, and the long skinny build of the knife means it’ll disappear into your pockets. For an 8.75” knife (open) the 3.7 ounce weight is not bad, considering the full titanium build of the handles. It’s got a very futuristic look to it to my eyes.
It’s also great for left handers, thanks to dual opening options – both a thumb slot as well as a flipper tab are ambidextrous options, deployment being aided by a ball bearing pivot, and the lockbar has been mirrored for this left hand exclusive version. The single position clip is left hand tip up only, and like a lot of high end production knives these days it’s a single piece 3D machined titanium clip. A piece of malware it’s safe to download into your collection.
As a bonus to our list, let’s throw in an automatic specifically made for left handed users – really a very rare thing at least in the production knife market. ProTech is one of the biggest names in automatic knives, known for the lightning fast deployment of their autos as well as their impeccable fit and finish. The TR-3 (Tactical Response) model uses a 6061-T6 aluminum handle anodized black, and the blade is a stonewashed drop point measuring 3.5” long which is made from 154CM steel. The TR-3 uses a plunge lock for deployment as well as locking which is typical of many automatics.
For the left handed version they’re able to use the same mechanical hardware but make mirror imaged handles so the deployment button is on the opposite scale for lefty use. The clip is bent steel and painted to match the handle, configured for tip up left hand carry only. ProTech makes super high quality knives but I’ve included this entry as a bonus because not everyone is legally able to carry an automatic, even though it’s a distinction without a difference these days – so check your local laws before you buy!
Are you left-handed? Do these knives fit your needs, or do you just grin and bear it with right handed knives since there’s so much more availability in that market? Do you prefer fully ambidextrous knives or dedicated left hand knives? Let us know! Get in touch with any comments.