Not Your Daddy’s Lock Back: Spyderco Civilian

August 1, 2016  
Categories: Knives and Axes

The Spyderco Civilian is one of those iconic tactical knives with a dark pedigree. In the 1990s, the bulk of Spyderco’s catalog included knives named for their intended use or user’s occupation: Police, Military, Worker Co Pilot, Mariner, etc. One of their models was named the Civilian.

Spyderco Civilian: Not your Daddy’s Lock Back

Some of our pseudo-tactical friends dismissed it as a working man’s knife on the name alone, and longed for the “Gunge-Fuck Model”. But the Civilian’s purpose was as a quick last-ditch backup weapon for law enforcement officers who had no particular training in hand-to-hand combat or knife fighting. All that the officer needed to know was how to slash and stab and possibly break off that slender tip in a bad guy if that’s what it took to stop him.


Of course, if you judge knives by their names only, you’re probably better suited to carrying nail clippers and an emery board for your working needs.

Spyderco Civilian Specs

The Civilian has one of the longest blades ever found on a Spyderco folding knife at 4 1/8″. The cutting edge seemed longer as this claw-like blade was ground in what Spyderco refers to as their “Reverse S Curve”, with a tip that looked like a vicious fish hook ready to rend flesh. The original version featured a fully serrated blade with a thin tip and deep belly. It wears a Spyderco pocket clip in the tip-down position, relies on Spyderco’s round hole for deployment, and is a lock back. The latest models feature VG-10 steel.

A plain-edge version was made, but did not prove very popular since the serrated version looks more menacing. The original handles were made from Tuff Ram aluminum with rubber inserts for retention. In later years the handle material was changed to Black G-10 fiberglass and a small run was released in Carbon Fiber. Spyderco later made a downsized version with plastic handles called the Matriarch for customers from South Africa, who requested a slightly smaller and more economical version of the Civilian.
SpyderCo Civilian on


Spyderco Review

One complaint about this model is that it’s too specialized and not practical for the chores typically demanded of a pocket knife. Some armchair critics call them fragile, but in over twenty years of owning these knives, I find them more durable than they’re given credit for.

The Civilian model has changed slightly over the years with the newer handles. It could really be improved by using a different mechanism than a lock back, which is secure enough, but makes the knife slow to open. The scaled-down version known as the Matriarch is currently being offered with Emerson Knives’ wave-shaped opening device and a tip-up mounted clip to facilitate faster opening. It might be nice to see these features on the Civilian in the future.

There may be other knives more suited to the tasks and demands of everyday carry, but the Civilian is there when you need a knife to stop a threat and don’t have easy access to a firearm.


Spyderco Civilian at Knife Country USA

Spyderco Civilian at Blade HQ

SpyderCo Civilian at Smoky Mountain Knife Works

SpyderCo Civilian at Sportsman's Warehouse


⚠️ Some hyperlinks in this article may contain affiliate links. If you use them to make a purchase, we will receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. It’s just one way to Back the Bang. #backthebang 

Nate Murr

Nate Murr

About the Author

Nate is a former USMC Sergeant turned nasty civilian and idiosyncratic inventor. He lives largely on nicotine, whiskey, and hate and can be frequently found orating Kipling poems to frightened hipsters. A renowned procrastinator and storied adventure protagonist, Murr is a graduate of the Camp Lejeune School for Wayward Boys. A combat veteran of multiple tours in Iraq and Africa, he was a Marine NCO, Infantry Platoon Sergeant and Scout Sniper team leader. Murr is a fully qualified American Jedi, self-described handsome badass and world-renowned field barista (true story - he's brewed great coffee on at least four continents). As anyone who has spent any time talking gear with him, Murr is something of an idiot savant when it comes finger-fucking stuff to make it work better. Nate only chain smokes when he's drinking, and only drinks every day. We reckon he is probably best described as a sociopathic philosopher with vestigial cutthroat (though poetic) tendencies. Thus far Murr's writing has appeared in such places as here on Breach-Bang-Clear, on, in field shitters and portajohns on at least 3 continents, in RECOIL Magazine and of course Penthouse letters. You can follow him and his company at @frontier_resolve on Instagram.

1 Comment

  1. JAS

    I’ve owned one for quite awhile now. The tip is like an ice pick and will catch on anything. I mostly carry it during the winter months as it serves double duty as a gut hook defensive blade and a safe reliable seatbelt cutter. This blade will easily disembowel someone with little effort. And yes you will need to carry a regular blade for all your other chores.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Popular Articles

Primary Arms 12% off sitewide sale back Breach-Bang-Clear

Find what’s in stock, and where, and compare prices. 

⚠️ Some hyperlinks in this article may contain affiliate links. If you use them to make a purchase, we will receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. It’s just one way to Back the Bang. #backthebang 

Get Patched In

Wretched Minion Patch