The basis for the Daniel Defense Folding Knife was the handle of the Kershaw Shallot. Precision machined from 410 stainless steel and finished with a stealthy black tungsten DLC (Diamond-Like Carbon) coating, it is also the foundation of a stout frame-lock mechanism. The handle is also home to a patented SpeedSafe assisted-opening mechanism that provides quick, reliable one-handed blade deployment. To clearly show the Daniel Defense “colors,” their logo is prominently laser engraved on the handle’s obverse side.
The dramatic blade shape of the Daniel Defense folder defies easy description. Although it is single-edged, it features a wicked dagger-like taper and an unsharpened swedge that stands slightly proud of the blade spine. Designed by Ken Onion to meet Daniel Defense’s desire to have an aggressive yet highly functional multi-purpose blade, whatever it’s best called, it hits the mark. The 3.5-inch blade has a partial flat grind and the first 1.25 inches of the combination edge is serrated. Like the handle, it has a handsome black tungsten DLC coating and is laser-engraved with Daniel Defense’s name, city, and state on the reverse side and “Patented, Made in USA” on the show side.
To deploy the knife’s blade, there is an understated but highly effective flipper that flows gracefully into the lines of the knife in both the open and closed positions. Closed, it extends about an 1/8-inch above the back of the handle. Open, it is contained in the handle’s forefinger groove, which provides a reassuring stop for the index finger to keep one’s hand off the blade.
The Daniel Defense Folding Knife offers two carry options: tip-up or tip-down carry, both on the user’s right side. The clip is secured via two Torx screws and those who like fobs and lanyards will be happy to know that the handle also includes a 0.15-inch lanyard hole.
Deploying & Opening
The folks at Daniel Defense rightfully acknowledged that most “tactical” folding knives are used almost exclusively for utilitarian purposes; however, they also admitted that one of their goals for their folding knife design was to function effectively as a personal-defense weapon. With that in mind, my first order of business in evaluating the knife was to assess the design qualities that would allow it to be carried, drawn, and quickly deployed under stress.
The knife came configured for tip-down carry. Although this is not normally my preference—especially for assisted openers—it actually made a lot of sense for this design. Since it has no thumb-opening option, the blade has to be deployed with the flipper. To do that, it’s necessary to grip the knife very high on the handle, close to the pivot pin. Drawing from tip-down carry and allowing the knife to pivot in my hand as it cleared the pocket soon became a fluid, positive motion.
The tip-down carry configuration of the Daniel Defense Folder also allowed the clip to cover the lock bar, providing both a solid grip and a “stand-off” when opening the blade. This is an important but often overlooked aspect of frame-lock knives. With many frame-lock designs, gripping the handle automatically places your fingertips on the lock bar. A firm grip pushes the bar against the blade or forces the detent ball into its recess, binding the blade and preventing it from opening smoothly. A broad, well-positioned clip provides a solid purchase and eliminates this problem.
Once gripped properly, the knife’s SpeedSafe mechanism did its job exceptionally well. The size and position of the flipper made it easy to find by tactile sense and offered excellent leverage to initiate the blade opening. Even better, the “over-center” leverage of the kick spring in the closed position, the lack of thumb studs, and the knife’s narrow profile collectively make accidental opening of the blade almost impossible. As I’ve noted in my previous writings for TK, that’s a serious concern when carrying assisted openers tip-down. If that’s still a concern, you’ll be happy to know that the knife also draws and opens very smoothly when configured for tip-up carry.
Thanks to its slim handle profile, the Daniel Defense Folder can also be grasped in more of a “foil” grip (with the thumb on the flat of the handle) during opening. Rather than using the tip of the index finger on the flipper, I used the middle segment of the finger. This grip puts more skin on the handle, providing greater control during opening.