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Have you ever been in a car crash and couldn’t get the seatbelt unlocked or the door open? I have. As I stumbled around the interior, concussed from the accident and with a broken arm, I desperately tried to free myself from the seatbelt that’d saved my life just moments before. But I couldn’t.
Luckily, I had a pocket knife with me and cut my way to the passenger door. Yet, the force of the side impact crumpled a lot of the car and that door, too, was busted. I ended up bashing it open, but it would’ve been far easier had I had a car window breaker and just climbed out.
A glass breaker tool is a helluva handy piece of kit, as with minimal force, it shatters a car’s window and allows you to exit the vehicle. Unfortunately, there are a lot of them on the market and most I wouldn’t actually trust to save my life. That’s why I put together this guide to help you out. There are only three options on this list, and that’s for a good reason. Let me tell you why.
|Brand-name quality at an affordable price.
- Lifetime warranty
- Easy operation
Smith & Wesson 1st Response
|Inexpensive and robust.
- Seatbelt cutter included
- Needs a good sharpening out of the box
|The best in the biz and sharper than a laser.
- Sharp AF
- Smooth operation
- Lifetime warranty
- Quality construction
I’ve had a few glass breakers since that fateful accident. Nearly every single one of them was attached to a pocket knife, and that’s for a good reason: it’s always on my hip.
Unlike standalone glass breakers which will get thrown into a glovebox, a storage compartment, or into your emergency kit in the trunk and not mounted securely on your dash, as is detailed in each hammer’s instructions, a pocket knife is always with you and always within grabbing distance. It’s there. In your pocket. Always. At least mine is, and so should your’s. And in an emergency, you want it easily accessible when you’re groggy from the hit or when you start panicking. You don’t want something too far to grab, which is why I don’t like the standalone units.
That said, if you're going to use this hammer correctly and mount it within reach, per the product's instructions and me telling you that's what needs to be done, then a hammer will work for you. However, you have to securely mount it well within reach. Otherwise, you might as well be attaching a banana to your dash. However, I did find that CRKT, a great knife brand I routinely trust, has a novel approach to the problem, which I think might be better than a hammer by leaps and bounds.
Each also has the ability to cut through a seatbelt if you run into the situation I did. A win/win.
I also picked knives and knife makers I trust. Brands that offer great warranties, have stellar reputations, and the brands I, well, use. I’ve personally used each of these three picks.
That said, I reserve the right to change my mind as quality improves or degrades, and new manufacturers heed my opinions or change pricing. So here are my recommendations.
Best Car Window Breakers: Reviews & Recommendations
Best Overall: Gerber Scout
Can’t think of one
If you don’t know Gerber, where have you been for the last many decades? The brand is synonymous with quality everyday carry gear, including its killer multitools and knives. One Gerber recently took an award in our Best Pocket Knife review which you should go read. However, this Scout knife, is the perfect tool for saving your bacon in the event of a car accident.
The Scout is one of Gerber’s new offerings and is constructed with a Micarta handle, a high bevel 440A drop point blade, an ambidextrous lock, and a glass break at its hilt. The blade itself is nearly three inches, while fully open, the knife extends past seven inches. That, to me, is a perfect length for most applications and will slice through a seatbelt like a warm knife through room-temperature butter.
What’s better, and why it takes my Best Overall award, is that it comes with Gerber’s Guarantee, which is the brand’s limited lifetime warranty. That’ll cover most, if not all, issues if you ever run into them. I’ve had numerous Gerbers throughout my life and have never encountered any.
It also has an unbeatable price of just $60 at the time of writing. That’s the price of most introductory pocket knives with far worse blades, far worse construction, and unknown brands. The fact that Gerber can offer so much at such a price is a testament to the brand.
Best Budget: Smith & Wesson 1st Response
Seatbelt cutter included
Needs a good sharpening out of the box
Before I upgraded to my Benchmade, I ran Smith & Wesson knives for nearly a decade. This was because 1) I was a broke writer who couldn’t afford most things and S&W’s knives were inexpensive, and 2) because despite the discount price tags, these knives worked and I could put them through hell.
The 1st Response is a great knife as it not only has a glass breaker, but also a seatbelt cutter. Yes, the blade could be used as a seatbelt cutter itself, but a knife with a dedicated seatbelt cutter often works better as the blade is more in line with a utility knife and sharper. It also stays in line with Smith & Wesson’s dedication to inexpensive offerings, as at the time of writing, the 1st Response costs just $32. That’s a helluva deal.
However, you will need to sharpen the blade as while it comes semi-sharp, it doesn’t meet its full sharpness potential right out of the box. A good bladesmith will be able to get it nice and razorlike.
Best Premium: Benchmade Bailout
This is my latest everyday carry and part of the reason why that is, is because the Bailout has a glass breaker on its hilt.
Yes, I don’t feel comfortable in a car without a knife at my side, but I also don’t when the knife doesn’t have a glass breaker. Most knives, however, don’t come with one. But when Benchmade released this knife, I knew I had to have it. For those unaware, Benchmade is one of the best knife makers in the business, offering a lifetime warranty, and lifetime sharpening and fixing services for every knife the company makes. The blades are all incredibly sharp, the manufacturing is incredibly well done, and they feel great in your hands.
The Bailout, in particular, feels spectacular and won the top spot on my Best Pocket Knives review not too long ago. It’s light as hell, the action feels automatic due to its smoothness and will slice and dice with the best of them.
Yes, it’s expensive, but you get a lifetime warranty and sharpening, and this is a one-and-done knife. It’s a knife you’ll have for your entire life. And it’s a knife that when push comes to shove, can save your life in an emergency thanks to that glass breaker.
Best Attach-to-Seatbelt: CRKT Exitool
Seatbelt cutter included
LED light included
May rub at your stomach slightly
As stated above, if you do everything you’re supposed to with a glass-breaking hammer, i.e. mount it within reach, I have no problem with the tool. However, Columbia River Knife and Tool (CRKT) has come up with an innovative design with the Exitool that feels like a quantum leap forward in terms of having a standalone tool for such occasions.
Instead of a pocket knife in your, well, pocket, or a hammer that’s mounted to your dash, the Exitool is designed to clip onto your seatbelt and then stay there until you need it. Brilliant. The tool comes with not only a glass breaker, but also a seatbelt cutter, and a small LED flashlight. What makes the design so brilliant is how small and out of the way it feels, but is perfectly within reach if you ever need it. I mean, it’s literally laying on your stomach while attached to your seatbelt. What more could you ask for?
What I will say after using the Exitool in my own truck is that for smaller framed individuals, it can rub into your side which can be somewhat annoying. It’s not a dealbreaker, and I got used to it. But my initial impressions caused me to play with it a little each time I sat down in the seat. I think that most folks will have to get over that hump, too. Once you do, however, you’ll be incredibly safe.
Our Verdict on the Best Car Window Breakers
I think I’ve made my point clear in that I don’t particularly like most glass-breaking hammers. I don’t think they’re bad tools, but tools that don’t have a particularly good design in ensuring that people will actually have access to them when they need it most, rendering them useless. That’s why I think these knives and CRKT’s Exitool are great. They ensure you have access to them when you need it most.
But again, if you want the shiny orange hammer, just make sure you mount it within reach. If you want to live, however, get one of these knives.
You’ve got questions. The Drive has answers.
Q: Is it dangerous to shatter a car window?
A: Car glass is designed to shatter into small pieces, as huge shards would be understandably quite dangerous. The smaller pieces of glass make it easier to exit or retrieve a person from the car. However, they’re still glass, they can cut you.
Q: Can you break bulletproof glass with a glass breaker?
A: Yeah, that’s a big no, dawg. If a .556 or .45 won’t go through it, do you really think your steel or tungsten carbide bit will? If that were the case, wouldn’t you think most bullets would come with tungsten tips?
Q: Can a glass breaker work on laminated glass?
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