CRKT was founded by Paul Gillespi and Rod Bremer, both formerly of Kershaw Knives, in 1994. However the company did not truly take off until the 1998 Shot Show when the K.I.S.S (Keep It Super Simple) knife was introduced. The small folder, designed by Ed Halligan was a success. Within the opening days of the show the years worth of the product was sold out. They sold at 4-5 times original production numbers resulting in a tripling of production efforts.
On October 3 of 2000 US Customs seized a shipment of 80,000 CRKT folding knives worth more than $4.3 million. All 50 models seized had always passed every Customs test in prior situations. The shipment had cleared Customs on September 29 but on October 3 an inspector decided that they acted like switchblades despite the fact that none of them fit within the definition set forth by the U.S. Switch Blade Knife Act of 1958. On October 17 a letter was co-signed by Oregon U.S. Congresswoman Darlene Hooley and Senator Gordon Smith that petitioned the head of Customs to aid CRKT. Because of their action there was a Federal inquiry of the US Customs actions that had to be answered within thirty days. On October 20 the company was once again allowed to move their product. However this was not before losing over $1 million in sales and spending over $30,000 on legal fees.