Wearing a neck knife is a great way to incorporate a blade into your everyday carry routine in a low profile location that is likely to escape casual observation and even a lazily done frisk.
The small, flat and compact nature of the neck knife along with this positioning allows a relatively quick ambidextrous draw so long as you can keep your clothing in check.
However, there is more science and art to the process then you might expect, certainly more than just throwing on the knife like your favorite necklace before heading out the door.
Failing to properly set up and practice drawing your chosen neck knife is a great way to fumble when you can least afford it, and an attacker is in your face.
In this article we will tell you the right way to wear a neck knife along with other considerations that will ensure you are set up for success with one of the smallest and sneakiest knives out there.
Table of Contents
Assessing the Neck Knife
Before we get into proper carry of the neck knife, it is worthwhile to consider what a good neck knife is.
Nominally, one may carry any size knife they want around their neck so long as the sheath will hold it securely and the chosen necklace or cord can support it.
In strictly utilitarian settings this might be okay, but for a purpose designed neck knife that is typically worn as a deep concealment or backup defensive weapon, size is everything.
The knife and its sheath must be as compact as possible in order to avoid detection. This is especially crucial when one is wearing light layers, or is dealing with a little bit of extra weight, as the knife will easily silhouette through most clothes when pressed against the fabric.
Generally speaking, a neck knife should not have a blade longer than 3 inches, and the handle should be only long enough to allow a full-fingered grip or even a three-fingered grip.
Sheath selection is just as important, with kydex or similar materials being the overwhelmingly popular choice owing to its unbeatable combination of thinness, strength and excellent retention when it is molded for the task.
Tip Up or Tip Down?
Tip-up or tip-down carry is a perennial topic when discussing the carry of a knife, particularly a folding pocket knife.
This question sometimes crops up in the context of a neck knife, and though there are historical examples of various people and cultures throughout history carrying neck knives tip-down, with the handle presented upward under the chin, tip-up carry is virtually ubiquitous, as well as recommended.
Consider the typical mode of carry of a defensively driven neck knife, with the knife being beneath clothing and accessed by reaching up behind the outermost garment from the bottom.
The handle of the neck knife would be encountered, the grip established, and then the knife would be withdrawn.
It should be noted that this style of carry supports a conventional saber or hammer grip, and is not conducive to the use of the reverse or ice pick grip.
Tip down carry would support an ice pick grip immediately from the draw, but establishing this grip from beneath clothing worn to conceal the knife is a losing proposition much of the time.
Plan on carrying your neck knife in the tip-up (handle down) configuration.
Working Around Clothing
Chances are you’re going to be wearing your neck knife under your clothing. Precisely how you arrange your clothing around the knife depends on your typical mode of dress and how much accessibility you need.
Note that there is no tried and true or final answer: the mission drives the gear selection and setup, and this includes your neck knife.
A person who needs a neck knife for deep concealment as a last ditch or backup weapon and dresses in typical office wear might be well advised to keep the neck knife beneath every layer of clothing, and directly against their skin.
With undershirt and shirt tucked in over the knife, the knife is less likely to sway out of position, or be visible through multiple layers of fabric. If you only have one layer, though, it’s likely to be seen pretty easily:
A person who is more likely to depend on their neck knife at speed and under pressure will only want the knife placed beneath the outermost layer of clothing, so that they only need to clear one garment to get their hand on the handle of the knife, like so:
As speed of access and concealment are both crucial, this can present a challenge. More on that in a moment.
Also consider the ride height of the knife. Generally, you want the sheath of the knife to be anywhere from just above to just below the sternum – depending on preference, comfort and concealability.
If the knife is too high, you’ll waste too much time trying to get to it:
If the knife is too low, you’ll have a very hard time concealing it.
In short, you should position your knife in such a way that your dominant hand will arrive in the proper position, and do so with a minimum amount of fuss and clothing to clear.
For those who need maximum concealment or just don’t want a knife flopping around on a chain all day long, it is possible to further stabilize the neck knife by adding a horizontal cord or strap that can be cinched, tied, or otherwise attached around the torso like so:
This strap should be attached or threaded through the sheath on the end opposite the attachment point of the necklace.
This will hold the sheath flat against the body even when you bend over and will further increase security. Whatever option you choose, make sure that it can break away in an emergency so that it does not present an entanglement or snag hazard.
Choose the Right Cord!
Speaking of cords, choosing the right necklace for your neck knife is an important consideration.
The necklace is essential for supporting the knife during the draw, but on the other hand, it must not be an obvious telltale as to what is suspended around your neck or that you are the type of person who would carry a knife suspended around your neck.
Additionally, the cord cannot be so strong that it will not break away if tangled up or grasped by an attacker.
A knotted length of paracord is popular, but paracord is so strong that it can easily be used to garrote or strangle a person.
A traditional option is beaded chain akin to what dog tags or badge holders are carried from, as they are tough enough to support the draw in defeating typically stout retention found on neck knife sheaths, but they will break away when serious force is applied to them.
Also keep in mind that the folks you are worried about “making” you can easily recognize what that beaded chain or a length of paracord indicates.
You should not discount the use of traditional, but sturdy, decorative necklaces or even a tasteful, thin length of leather cord. These will not get people wondering what you’re wearing when they see them sticking out of your shirt or t-shirt.
Some sacrificial testing will quickly show you the performance limits of your chosen necklace, and ensure that it will break in a bad situation when needed.
Yes, You Can Wear Neck Knives
A neck knife is an excellent, low profile way to carry a blade and can serve as a convenient and capable backup option to a larger carried knife or a firearm. These knives are also at home in a deep cover or last-ditch weapon role.
However, many users underestimate how much nuance and forethought must be used to properly set up, position and access their neck knife.
Follow the guidelines laid down in this article and you’ll be sure to have your neck knife comfortably on you at all times and ready to go.
Tom Marlowe practically grew up with a gun in his hand, and has held all kinds of jobs in the gun industry: range safety, sales, instruction and consulting, Tom has the experience to help civilian shooters figure out what will work best for them.