Know Your Knives: The Seatbelt Knife.

Image courtesy Wikipedia


We love playing ‘Stump The Band’ around here. If there’s a question we can’t answer ourselves, we know we can crowd-source the answer in a jiffy. Reader JAS wants to know:

Which knife will cut a seatbelt with a single swipe every single time?

Good question, JAS. Here’s the scoop:

If you’re carrying a general-purpose blade, a blunt-tipped knife with serrations is a much better plan than anything pointy or plain-edged. But there’s a special-purpose rescue blade which will cut through any seat belt or webbing quickly and efficiently in a single swipe. It’s not much good for anything else except for cutting animal hides and very small ropes, and it’s not found on most pocketknives or EDC knives,

It’s called the ‘Seatbelt Hook’ or a webbing hook, and the actual cutting part usually looks a lot like this:

Image courtesy Benchmade Knives

Benchmade’s ‘Safety Cutter’ is a great example of the species, and it’s also on my mind because I met the guy who makes and sharpens every single one of them. The ‘Safety Cutter’ is a stand-alone tool, but many EMS and police-designed knives have a primary cutting blade and a secondary hook blade like this for safely cutting through clothing and webbing.

Image: Chris Dumm for TTAK

‘Captain Hook’ (okay, they don’t dare actually call him that) buys webbing like this by the mile just so he can cut it to ribbons. If one of his webbing hooks doesn’t cut cleanly, he goes back to the bench and sharpens it until it does.

Image courtesy Joe Grine for TTAK

This was a pretty clean test. Joe pulled this hook through the seatbelt webbing with almost no effort at all, and this is how it’s meant to happen.

And this is how it would be used in the field. It won’t slice through padded leather boots, but this kind of blade makes really short work of even the sturdiest webbing and clothing.

If you’re an EMT or any kind of first responder you’ve probably got one of these in your kit already. The rest of us? Not so much.


  1. Matt in FL says:

    Flipping the chest rig off and going through the boots was pretty neat on that second sequence.

    Thus is the definition of a niche item. Sure it’s important to be prepared, but I’ve gotten through my entire life without ever needing one of these. If I had a job where I encountered this sort of issue on a regular basis, you can bet I’d have one on my belt.

    1. jwm says:

      Yeah, it’s too specialised. Most people, I figure, that buy a seat belt cutter/rescue tool probably have it floating around in the junk that clutters up their car.

      I keep my knife on my person. I bet I can free myself from a jammed seatbelt faster than most people could locate their specialised tool in an emergency.

      1. Roger says:

        Good luck reaching your pockets with broken or disjointed arms or with the steering wheel pinning or obstructing your lower extremities while the car fire reaches closer and closer to your head and you’re possibly bleeding out.

        Carrying a knife with the belief you’ll be able to use it to escape a car accident is silly. Especially with the advent of concussion bags and other safety devices. You are much likelier to die or get rescued before you regain consciousness than any other scenario in which your seatbelt would need cutting. And a big reason for that is these knives.

        1. jwm says:

          I don’t carry a knife just to cut a seatbelt. I have been in a couple of wrecks(adventerous youth) including a rollover. I’ve never been knocked out or pinned. Knock wood.

          I know from my rollover and a head on that anything loose in your car will not be where you left it. In the headon the glove box popped and puked its contents all over the inside of the car.

  2. Mike L says:

    Can I suggest that a dedicated single function item probably is less appealing to most folks. I looked into this a while back and settled on the RESQUE tool (10 bucks on Amazon). It has a window breaker and a blade for seatbelts. While I may not need one in my lifetime (I pray. The only I did, EMTs where on site in minutes) every time I see some folks stranded in the middle of a raging river I think of the tool I have.

  3. AW1Ed says:

    Very similar to the Navy issue shroud cutter or “J-Knife” I carried in my survival gear, back in my flying days. The idea was to use it for free oneself if your parachute caught up in a tree.
    Thankfully, I never needed it.

  4. MD Matt says:

    Any other major makers have items for this (looking at you sog)?
    I’d like some sort of multitool.

  5. DrewN says:

    The skydiving industry has many cheap plastic versions of these ranging from $7 bucks or so. ,for instance.

  6. Larry says:

    It’s easy to find someone to do / make something cheaper,the trick is to find those who do it better.

    I’d imagine that a skydivers hook knife would be kind of single use, in other words more or less disposable ,while Benchmade’s is for constant use by first responders ,combat medics and the like.

    We happen to carry a similar one on the load ,a large one made for air crafts rescue,even with new replaceable blades it cutting is less then stellar .

  7. Mike says:

    I have the smaller of Benchmade’s Rescue Hooks and carry it with me all the time. It fits snuggly on my belt at the small of my back. It’s an inexpensive insurance policy that I hardly notice but will pay for itself should my or another’s seatbelt gets jammed in an accident (or perhaps its adrenaline and lack of motor skills). I also carry the ResQme tool on my keychain, though that is only a razor blade as opposed to the 1/8″ thick Benchmade. And the Benchmade has a bottler opener:)

  8. 2hotel9 says:

    “Which knife will cut a seatbelt with a single swipe every single time?”

    A sharp one.

  9. T says:

    Gerber makes a smaller version from aluminum. It could be useful for people that fly frequently and have to go through metal detectors.

  10. Rick says:

    I have one hanging from the front passenger headrest behind the seat on a loop of rope. If I’m buckled in, I should be able to reach it regardless of the position of the vehicle. So far (knock wood as jwm has noted), I haven’t had to test the cutter.

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Know Your Knives: The Seatbelt Knife.

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