While airsoft is best known for its real steel firearm replicas, an airsoft knife can have its place on the field, too, and can make games a lot more memorable and fun.
Don’t get us wrong, airsoft isn’t a video game and running into an airsoft match with nothing but a knife would be pretty silly and probably a great way to get slammed with BBs in short order.
No, an airsoft knife is meant for stealth above all else.
Imagine slowly creeping up on an unobservant opponent.
Sure, you could take them out with a quick shot from your primary and risk alerting other opposing players, or you could take them out completely silently with your knife.
One quick tap and they’re out, letting you move on to your next target.
If that sounds like a good time to you, then read on as we discuss the use of knives in airsoft, outline some of the commonly accepted rules for airsoft melee, discuss some of their pros and cons, offer some tips on picking up a good airsoft knife, and give you a list of some of our favorites.
What Is An Airsoft Knife
Much like an airsoft gun, an airsoft knife is a specialized accessory designed to replicate the look, feel and use of a military knife while still being safe to use in-game.
Airsoft knives are typically used for melee engagements, where players are able to replicate close-quarters attacks without actually hurting or injuring their opponents (ideally).
Much like their replica counterparts, users can pick up specific airsoft knives to be part of a detail-oriented milsim loadout (e.g. adding a rubber SRK to a Navy SEAL loadout) or they can prefer function or personal taste over real life accuracy (e.g. by using rubber balisongs, folding knives, daggers or just about anything else, really).
In general there are three kinds of airsoft knives out there:
Plastic Training Knives
Made of lightweight and fairly durable ABS plastic, plastic airsoft knives typically resemble real knives pretty closely and are a little harder and more rigid than their rubber counterparts, giving them a bit of a harder and more realistic feel at the cost of being a bit less forgiving.
Due to the way they are manufactured, they also tend to have the most detail in terms of markings, handles and blade design, especially when compared to their price.
That said, not every field allows the use of plastic airsoft knives and may only allow softer and more malleable rubber versions.
Rubber Training Knives
Rubber training knives are another popular choice among airsoft players.
These knives are usually molded out of softer and more flexible rubber materials, which can make them a bit more gentle and safe for melee encounters.
Although they have a little more “give” than plastic airsoft knives, rubber training knives are also quite realistic and are usually made out of fairly thick and hard rubber, preventing them from wobbling around, which provides a greater degree of realism in terms of their appearance and handling.
While they often are also highly realistic and may feature fun markings and design details, rubber training knives may be a little less detailed than their plastic counterparts on the whole.
They also tend to be slightly more expensive than plastic knives, although they are more likely to be accepted on airsoft fields and by other players thanks to their more pliable and safe nature.
Probably the least widely used knives out there in airsoft, prop knives are primarily designed for aesthetic purposes, for theater and film or for cosplay purposes.
Available in a wide variety of materials, including dulled metal, they often have the highest degrees of realism and design accuracy, being nearly 1:1 replicas of actual combat knives and can look fantastic in a loadout.
That said, these knives are really intended to be seen and not used on actual people and generally are far too rigid and hard for airsoft gameplay purposes, being likely to injure opponents (or break) rather than simply eliminate them.
As a result, we feel it’s probably best for airsoft players to stick with rubber or plastic training knives.
Knife Use and Melee In Airsoft
As with many other things in airsoft, there really isn’t one set of rules that cover all fields.
Every field and group is free to set their own rules for what they will and won’t allow, as well as for what counts as a kill.
Some fields, for example, pretty much give players carte blanche to bring and use whatever airsoft knife or melee weapon they like.
Others, in contrast, ban airsoft knives completely.
Most, however, fall somewhere in the middle and have a few rules about the construction and use of airsoft knives on other players, most of which are pretty common sense and bear repeating here.
Keep them soft(ish)
Generally speaking, you want an airsoft knife to be relatively soft and pliable.
Should it accidentally push up against or jab into someone (or yourself if you fall), a soft and springy blade won’t do any real damage, especially compared to wood or even unsharpened metal.
In fact, some fields even have requirements that any knife brought into a game be able to bend by hand to some set degree (usually 45-90) to ensure player safety in the event of accidental or undue contact.
Keep them smooth
While most plastic or rubber training knives should come pretty well-finished out of the box, some may still have some rough edges around them that can make things unpleasant for other players.
This roughness can also develop after a long period of use, usually as a result of dragging the replica knife across gear and equipment.
To save yourself a headache (and from developing a poor reputation), before heading out to a game identify any rough spots by rubbing your thumb or finger across the edge of your airsoft knife and sand it down if necessary.
Much like with airsoft guns, while practice knives can be pretty safe, they can also be dangerous in the wrong hands or if misused.
As a result, most fields are pretty strict about how airsoft knives and melee weapons can be used in game and usually have rules that state that a melee kill is achieved by gently tapping your opponent.
Some fields hold that a tap on any part of the body is acceptable, while others say that you must tap a vital area (neck, arm, head, etc) for a kill.
(Always check your local field’s rules on the matter beforehand to avoid tedious and childish arguments).
In any event, it is important to note that you should never use an airsoft knife to stab, slice, or otherwise poke your opponent.
Even if you mean to be gentle, “gentle” is a pretty subjective term for people and, in the excitement of the game you may not be fully aware of how much strength you’re using.
In addition, if your target flinches, startles or jumps they might end up injuring themselves on your weapon somehow.
Most of all, however, people just don’t like to be snuck up on and poked or jabbed with things…imagine that.
There are enough things flying around an airsoft field to worry about without adding throwing knives into the mix.
Although made from rubber or plastic, practice knives are still fairly weighty objects with a point on the end of them and, for obvious reasons, lobbying them at opponents is a recipe for injury and a quick ban…even if it is from a close distance.
Take your hits quietly
Unlike traditional airsoft gun use, if and when you do get eliminated with a knife, it’s generally considered proper airsoft etiquette to quietly return to the field’s respawn point.
While it may be tempting to ham it up with a few loud gurgles and cries of anguish, the whole point of airsoft knives (aside from looking cool) is to introduce an element of stealth into a game – i.e. being able to eliminate opponents from close range without alerting nearby players – and a screaming player usually tends to attract some attention from those around them.
What To Look For In An Airsoft Knife
Although they aren’t the most complicated accessories around, there are a few things you might want to keep in mind when shopping around for an airsoft knife.
Compared to the cost of a good AEG or GBB rifle (or compared to the cost of an actual combat knife), airsoft knives aren’t all that expensive and can usually be picked up for around $20 or so and really cheap options are available for far less.
That said, you don’t want to cheap out too much with these things, after all you do want the rubber or plastic to be of good quality (so it doesn’t break or rot) and you do want it to have some nice details and look like something more than a hunk of plastic.
Look and design accuracy
If you’re going to be using an airsoft knife, you want it to look good and if you’re planning on creating an authentic-looking loadout, your knife should at least somewhat match the real life versions of the forces and time period you’re looking to emulate.
For example, if you’re setting up a US Marine loadout chances are you want something that looks like a KA BAR, rather than a fantasy-inspired folding knife or a machete.
It should also be noted that some higher quality military-inspired airsoft knives, unlike those intended for cosplay, martial arts or for prop use, can come with functional bayonet mounts, which if you’re interested and have an airsoft rifle with a functional lug, might be something to consider.
As with a real knife (or as with an airsoft gun), size isn’t necessarily everything.
Sure, running around the field with a giant, intimidating knife sounds cool but remember that you do have to actually carry it around and draw these things from in your loadout (keeping in mind that giant bulky knives come with giant bulky sheathes).
Unless your loadout demands it, it’s usually a good idea to pick knives that are comfortable in hand, easy to store, light and easy to handle/maneuver around with in extreme close quarters.
Comfortable Textured Grip
A good, textured and easy to hold grip is key when it comes to an airsoft knife.
Cheap practice knives can come with smooth handles (or smooth skeletonized ones), which can make them harder to hold onto if your palms are sweaty, in wet weather or if you’re on the move.
The last thing you want is to creep close to an opponent and drop your knife at the last second.
While everyone has their favorite type of grip, we tend to favor grippy rubber ones with deep cut texturing, ideally in a cross cut or diamond pattern.
Some Airsoft Knife Options We Like
The KABAR has been the United States Marine Corps’ fighting knife of choice since WW2 and an icon in it’s own right.
Big, chunky and with a long blade and very distinct look, the KABAR is nothing if not intimidating.
It’s also pretty much a requirement for those building a USMC loadout, whether that be of a Vietnam-era grunt or a modern Raider.
Due to their iconic status, KABARs and similar knockoffs are in pretty high demand.
Unfortunately, there aren’t generally a ton of 1:1 replicas out there of the KABAR, with the closest replicas out there being closer to M9 or M10 bayonet knives.
They also tend to be quite big – about a foot long in total length they can be a bit much for some kits.
That said, when it comes to pure cool and historical importance, few knives out there rival the legendary KABAR.
Our Pick: Cold Steel Leatherneck SF Training Knife
The Cold Steel Leatherneck Training Knife is pretty much a 1:1 replica of a KA-BAR and about as accurate as you can get without having something that can open up your opponents like so much canned rations.
The knife is made of a durable rubber material and has been fashioned into a full-size, single piece knife complete with a decently thick 7 inch blade and distinctive washer handle and tang.
Interestingly, and unlike the traditional leather-washers found on real KA-BARs, the Cold Steel Leatherneck’s handle is textured with a kind of stippled effect that, combined with its indentations, lets users get a very firm grip in all weather conditions.
The only real issue for airsofters with this knife lies in its solid and durable construction – made from Santoprene rather than soft rubber, it doesn’t really readily bend as easily as some other knife options, meaning you’ll have to make sure your local field allows its use.
That said, for the money you don’t think you’ll find a more realistic or well-made training KA-BAR.
Fairbairn Sykes Fighting Knife
The British Fairbairn Sykes Fighting Knife is one of the worlds most famous fighting knives period and its profile has graced commando and special operations unit tags around the world since WW2, including such heavy hitters as Delta Force, Canada’s JTF2, the SAS and more.
With a narrow, tapered blade and rounded grip, the Fairbairn Sykes has a sleek, beautiful knife design that’s easy to slip into and deploy from a vest or boot and is very easy to grip and use.
Getting this unique design right in rubber or plastic, however, is a different story and, sadly, while there are plenty of homage practice blades out there, few if any get it exactly right.
That said, if you’re building a commando or SAS loadout, or just love a good special ops inspired tactical training knife, a Fairbairn might just be worth a look.
Our Pick: Boker Applegate Fairbairn II Rubber Training Knife Set
Sadly, it is quite difficult to find a ready copy of an authentic Fairbairn Sykes in rubber or plastic.
The Boker Applegate Fairbairn rubber knife set, however, offers a decent approximation of the famous commando knife, being a replica of the Applegate–Fairbairn (or A-F) version rather than the original WW2 model.
It is about 6.5 inches long and, while not it doesn’t have the exact stiletto profile of the WW2 classic, it does do a decent enough job at getting its tapered look right.
More than that, however, the Applegate Fairbairn feels comfortable to use.
Its slim profile, lightweight nature and ergonomic/textured grip makes it very easy and quick to handle, while its neoprene rubber construction makes it pretty safe and flexible enough to be appropriate for just about any field.
As a bonus, although fairly inexpensive, the knives come in sets of two, which gives you a backup to your backup in case you need it.
Since its introduction in the 1980, the M9 has been the US Army’s multipurpose field and utility knife of choice.
Largely considered a rival to the USMC-associaged KABAR, the M9 sports a chunky and intimidating 7 inch blade, a cool washer-stype polymer handle and, importantly, attachment point for M4 and M16 rifles.
In other words, if you have an airsoft AR with a bayonet mount (or have added one) you can feasibly strap one of these and charge at your foes.
Our Pick: Matrix Airsoft Tactical Rubber Bayonet
Right off the bat, this airsoft knife has a strong advantage over most other knives we’ve listed because it’s a functional airsoft bayonet.
The Matrix M9 knife easily attaches to most standard airsoft lugs and AR-style flash hiders, and its lightweight design makes it easy to handle and move around when used as a plain knife.
The knife is a two piece design, with a 7 inch flexible rubber blade fitted to an accurately designed M9-style polymer handle.
We actually really liked the Matrix’s handle design, being textured with a super grippy and modern diamond pattern pretty much all the way down to the tang.
Further, because the blade is made from a very pliable rubber it is pretty safe to use and shouldn’t fall afoul of any rigidity-related field restrictions.
Finally, the Matrix Tactical Rubber Bayonet is also very affordable.
Often sold for under $10, it should easily fit most budgets and can be a great choice for those who might only take their knife to the game occasionally.
On the downside, it is pretty big.
At over 14 inches tip to tang, it certainly isn’t a compact addition to a players loadout and cam take some getting used to (not to mention it may look a little odd on very short AR builds).
That said, it does come with it’s own nylon sheath, so finding a place to put it when it’s not in use isn’t a problem.
An airsoft knife can be a cool addition to a loadout, adding a bit more realism and a welcome stealth element to games.
When picking an airsoft knife, players need to make sure that those they choose aren’t dangerous, are well made, legal to use on the field and, most importantly, that they themselves adhere to some basic safety precautions that will ensure that everyone finishes the game safely and in one piece.
David Lewis – A longtime airsoft and airgun enthusiast and collector, our editor David’s lifelong passion for tactical sports began in high school with some friends, a cheap knock-off airsoft M4, and an open field behind his parents’ house.
When he’s not plinking around, he enjoys sharing his knowledge of airsoft and helping those just starting out.