Full tang, half tang, walla-walla-bing-bang. When choosing a knife for your everyday carry, you will find the concept of tang thrown around a lot. Unless you are researching drinks enjoyed by astronauts, the tang of a knife (or any tool) refers to the shank, or the back portion of the blade that extends in to the handle or stock.
If you have ever used a cheap kitchen knife that has broken at the handle as you cut a piece of fruit (read: chocolate bunny), you already know the dangers of using anything less than a full-tang blade for cutting tough material.
A full-tang knife extends the blade the full length of the handle. If you can imagine, the handle of a full-tang knife is, in effect, the blade itself. The blade is a single piece of material, sharp on one side (the blade you think of) and rounded off on the other (the handle you think of). If there is any handle in a full-tang knife, it is just a pair of scales or a wrap around the solid piece extending from the blade.
The tang need not be the same width as the blade to be full-tang, but must run the entirety of the knife in length. This allows for increased force on the blade without breaking (assuming the metal isn’t flawed or of lower quality). Additionally, a full tang knife is typically better balanced in the hand — partial tang knives typically have plastic or wood handles, lighter than the blade.
Partial-tang knives have, as you might already guess, partial tangs. On a fixed blade knife, there is no reason to actively seek out a partial-tang knife; at best, if kept extremely sharp, a partial-tang fixed blade knife may not pose any real risk of injury. At worst, partial-tang fixed blade knives may snap off while force is being applied to the handle, resulting in injury.
The exception to the general “avoid partial-tang knives” advice is the folding knife. As you would expect, a folding knife such as a Swiss Army Knife (SAK) cannot be full-tang, or it couldn’t fold. The tang of a SAK or any other folding knife extends only as far as the pivot point, or hinge, of the knife. For this reason, folding knives should generally be avoided in applications where a lot of force is put on the handle and blade.
Some Best Bets
|Full Tang||Partial Tang (Folding)|
|Morakniv Companion Fixed Blade Outdoor Knife, 4.1 inch.|