Benchmade 300 Review: One of Benchmade’s best!

When it comes to the Benchmade 300 Axis Flipper (also known as the 300SN) controversy, I am squarely in the camp that it is an awesome knife; in fact, I might say one of Benchmade’s best ever. For the longest time, Benchmade knives just didn’t really appeal to me, at least not enough to own one. I recognize that Benchmade has always produced top notch knives, so that was never my quip with them. It was always something far less tangible, perhaps even just the aesthetics.

But whatever power or force was drawing me away from Benchmade left in the blink of an eye the second I laid eyes on the 300. The machined G10, the blade shape, the flipper, the raw ruggedness of the thing… it spoke to me like no Benchmade had ever done before. To add to the mystique, I ordered it while I was living abroad in hopes that I could pick it up while making a quick return trip to the USA to visit family. I missed it by two days, so I had to wait an additional two months knowing it was sitting on my desk in the USA before I actually was able to put my hands on it.

First Impression

They say first impressions are everything, and this knife won me over with ease. The knife has a nice heft to it, which makes it feel robust and strong. To give you an idea of just how hefty, it tips the scales at 4.85 ounces. But while a weight weenie would view this as a bad thing, I actually feel it is a positive with this knife. No cheap feeling Zytel scales and no thin blades like some of the other more popular knives from Benchmade. The 300 has full steel liners, G10 that is 3/16″ thick, and an 1/8″ thick blade. When you pick this knife up, the weight conjures images of a nice fountain pen or a nice watch. Everyone knows that you want to resist gravity a little when picking up a quality timepiece or pen, and that is the same sensation that this knife gave me. In addition, it’s not like you don’t get anything for the extra ounces. The knife is built to be abused and will withstand anything you throw at it.

Specs

So let’s cover the specs real quick before we get any deeper. As is standard on most Benchmade knives, the 300SN comes with an axis lock. The axis lock is well known for being extremely strong. As an added bonus for lefties, the axis lock is ambidextrous and the pocket clip is reversible, although you are limited to tip up carry only. The drop point blade is 3.18″ long, which in my opinion is just about perfect for an EDC. Much larger and you make people uneasy, and much smaller and you start lacking sufficient cutting edge for some tasks. The blade is .13″ thick as mentioned, and is made with 154CM steel. I like 154CM in that it takes a nice edge and is easy to sharpen. I compare it to S30V in terms of these qualities. The blade also comes equipped with dual thumb studs, which are actually usable although 100% negated because the flipper is the coup de grace for the thumb studs. You can get the knife in plain edge or partially serrated and either come with a nice light stonewash. I recommend plain edge as usual unless you intend to cut lots and lots of rope or other fibrous material. Moving on to the handle, we find full length steel liners and machined G10 scales. The machined scales really set it off, as they provide tons of grip and really add to the aesthetics of the knife. The machined features make it look extremely tough and the G10 is layered in such a way that you get a two tone striping effect. The handle is 4.5″ which is perfect for my hands. When holding the knife, the bottom of the handle sits about a half inch proud of my palm, which would make it easy to use the knife for blunt force tasks such as glass breaking (or skull breaking if that’s your thing). The handle is almost 5/8″ thick, so you know without a doubt when the knife is sitting in your pocket. It doesn’t blend like some of the smaller knives. Finally, it should be mentioned that the 300 is part of Benchmade’s blue class.

A few other notes are that the 300 can be had in other colors. If you buy a 300-1, you get blue and black layered G10 with 154CM steel. If you buy a 300-1301 which is limited to 350 pieces, you get D2 tool steel with green and black layered G10. The normal 300 comes in coyote brown with 154CM stainless.

Conclusion

All in all, I think the really great thing about the 300 is that Benchmade finally put all the pieces together. They make an absolutely killer lock system, but often pair it with cheap materials and thin knives, or with knives that have taken the robust thing too far. They finally seemed to have hit the middle ground with high quality materials with all the right features in a right sized knife that rides low in the pocket. In addition, they have added a unique twist on this one with the flipper and machined G10. While some purists might shy away from the knife for this reason, I think it’s a huge plus and a reason to gravitate towards it. I like to see knife manufacturers push the envelope a little bit and try new things that they haven’t done in the past. Benchmade has been pretty conservative from this perspective lately versus some of the other big boys like Spyderco and Kershaw, so it’s nice to see them take a stab at it (see what I did there?). The 300 is also reasonably priced as well, coming in at just a little bit over 100 bucks. This puts it in the Spyderco Paramilitary 2 price range for reference.

Overall, I highly recommend you check one of these knives out, whether you are a Benchmade fan or not. I think it will treat you well if you want a heavy duty knife or a stout every day carry knife.

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Kershaw Skyline: An Excellent Knife for Every Day Carry

The Kershaw Skyline has been in my every day carry rotation for quite some time now. It has been in my pocket on mountain bike rides, been tucked away in my backpack while hiking through the California coastal mountains, and even seen some action in the Nevada snow. It is a knife that brings everything you want to the table, but doesn’t come with many extras. Its strength it truly in its simplicity, and it can be had at a cost that is entirely reasonable. However, just because Kershaw didn’t outfit this knife with some of the usual gimmicks like Kershaw’s Speedsafe assisted opening or rainbow colored scales doesn’t mean it’s any less capable than some of their more high end knives. I really like the fact that the knife is made in the USA at Kershaw’s Tualatin, Oregon factory because it is so rare to see knives made in the USA at this price point. Additionally, as I write this the Kershaw Skyline gets 9.2 / 10 overall based on 13 reviews on the main site. A rating like that is pretty hard to argue against.

Knife Features

The very first thing you’ll notice when you pick up a Skyline is its weight. It is extremely light, tipping the scales at a mere 2.5 ounces. For a blade length of 3.1 inches, this is pretty damn good. The blade steel is Sandvik 14C28N stainless, which is typical of many of Kershaw’s knives. The steel takes an edge quite nicely, and holds it well enough. The blade is also equipped with a flipper, which is the primary mode of blade deployment on the Skyline. The flipper is good and provides lots of leverage, only requiring a quick flick of your index finger to get the blade out. Don’t be fooled by the thumb stud, it’s really just a blade stop. It’s not meant to be used to actually open the blade. The blade has a saber grind with a secondary bevel on the spine, so for the size it’s pretty robust. While I have never tortured mine, I have beat on it a little bit and it has never given me any issues. The handles are G10, which is popular in the knife industry and is known known for its heat resistance, chemical resistance, and water resistance. G10 is used in many military gear applications and is field proven. The G10 scales have a reversible pocket clip for tip up or tip down carry. This allows you to choose how your hand is positioned in relation to the flipper so you can minimize grip changes required to comfortably open the knife. The locking mechanism is a liner lock, which is one of my favorites. My knife exhibited no discernible blade play.

Build Quality and Ergonomics

As you’d expect for a knife made on the chaparral covered West Coast of the USA, build quality is excellent. Kershaw has good quality control procedures in place and they result in quality products. The knife is reliable. Ergonomics make the knife a good fit for my hand, and the knife is small and light enough to blend into my pocket nicely. There is no jimping on the knife to speak of, except for a little bit of texture on the liner lock. When the blade is deployed, the flipper acts as an extension to the choil which allows for worry free piercing.

Uses

So where would I recommend that you use the Kershaw Skyline? First and foremost, it makes a great EDC. It is unobtrusive so it makes an ideal candidate for use around the office or shop floor. Nobody is going to see it and freak out as a result. The knife is equally at home on the trail, and would make a great knife for hiking day trips where you might need a knife to prepare food or other basic wilderness functions. Additionally, it would make a fine knife for weekend camping or car camping as it has no problem whatsoever cutting through rope, twine, or general whittling. If you are the high adventure type who routinely makes trips to the deep wilderness under harsh or extreme conditions, I think you would want something a little more robust and geared towards survival. Kershaw does not market this knife as a survival knife, and rightfully so. For the tasks that most knife carriers perform day to day, the Skyline is a great choice. I am skeptical that it would stand up to repeated and heavy abuse, but this is no problem because this isn’t the reason Kershaw designed this knife.

Value

Plainly put, the knife is high value. It’s made in the USA and performs great. What more could you want? At the moment, the knife can be had on Amazon.com for about 36 bucks. As far as I’m concerned, that’s a pretty nice deal for what you get. Of the 13 users who have reviewed the knife on our main site, the average was a 9.6 / 10 for value, so that should say something.

Conclusion

All in all, the Kershaw Skyline is a great folding knife that will treat you well in all but the most extreme conditions. The lightweight nature of the knife coupled with good ergonomics and the fact that it is made in the USA make it a winner. I would recommend it to anybody considering a new EDC knife.

Top 8 Reasons You Should Carry a Knife

Those of you who carry knives already know how often people ask why you carry one. Most of the time, the person asking is genuine and the question is benign, but every once in a while you’ll encounter a rather self-righteous person who seems to have already pegged you as a serial killer because you carry a pocket knife. Early in my days of answering this question, particularly when answering people of the high-and-mighty variety, I used to deflect with jokes. However more often than not, this was met with a negative reaction so over time I slowly shifted towards answering the question honestly. The following is a list of reasons I use, in case you ever need some fodder when fielding this question.

1. You Are In A Position To Help Should You Stumble Across Someone In An Emergency Situation
It is becoming more and more often that I read in the news about how a quick thinking bystander came to the rescue of someone in need by using their pocket knife. Whether it’s a child with hair or shoe laces caught in an escalator, a diver caught in a fishing net, or unfortunate drivers trapped in their seat belts in a burning car, you will be ready. I can only imagine that nothing would make you feel more helpless than standing by idly when somebody is in trouble because you are unable to do anything about it. Always carry a folding knife on you and you won’t have to worry.

2. You Can Help Yourself if You Are In An Emergency Situation
Much like you could help someone else who is in trouble with your pocket knife, you can also help yourself should nobody be nearby to assist you if you are in a similar situation. If you EDC a pocket knife, you can have peace of mind that should it ever come down to it, you are prepared.

3. You’ll Never Bite Into Another Worm In An Apple
If you buy all your apples (or other fruits for that matter) from the grocery store, this probably isn’t much of a problem for you. However, if you eat raw and pesticide free foods, then the story is a little different. Having grown apples in our backyard for a few years now sans fertilizer and pesticide, I can assure you that worms and other critters do occasionally get into apples. If someone else has a worm in their apple, it looks pretty non-threatening. However when there is a worm coming out of your apple, I can promise that it will look more akin to the aliens in Tremors than an ordinary worm. In light of my experiencing this drama more than once, I started cutting my apples with my knife. I can safely say that I am yet to bite into anything other than apple when using this method. Plus, that’s how your grandpa used to eat his apples, with a knife just like this.

4. You Can Laugh At Heavy Packaging
Have you ever bought a consumer electronic device and think that the people who designed the packaging would be better suited to design fortresses and citadels? Probably, because with how insane packaging is these days, it’s practically true. Let’s not forget about the wrappers on snacks. With a knife, you will be able to effortlessly slice through these types of packaging, and as an added bonus, you probably won’t break your newly purchased device by slamming it to the ground in frustration before you can get it open.

5. No Need to Invest In A Pencil Sharpener
I know what you’re thinking, and no, not everyone uses mechanical pencils. Sure, for day to day writing, but most colored pencils are old school and they are commonly used in art and drafting activities. Electric pencil sharpeners are expensive, and those cheap little manual ones are clumsy and can easily break. Instead of using a sharpener, knife carriers quickly stroke the hair on their chest (yeah, yeah unless they’re a girl) before whittling the tip of their pencil into a perfect point.

6. You’re Less Likely to Get Mugged
I have always contended that a knife makes a bad tool for self defense, but just the sight of a folding knife clipped to your pocket is enough to deter a potential robber. Robbers are looking for easy targets, and something about a knife within an arm’s reach of you makes you look like a much less attractive prospect.

7. Your Hands Will Never Get Bored
Yep, sometimes knives are just fun to play with. If you get bored and won’t alarm anybody, it’s fun to flick them open and closed. I don’t recommend doing it all the time as it can wear your blade out prematurely, but every once in a while you can use a knife to kill some time.

8. You Can Cut Things
This one is painfully obvious and general, but it’s my most common response when people ask why I carry a knife. Knives are pretty good at cutting things. Duh.

So now you have eight solid reasons why you, or anyone asking you should carry a knife. Next time someone asks you why you carry a knife, you can proudly respond with any one of the above reasons and further insist that they start carrying one too! If you don’t know which one to carry, I suggest taking a look at my recommendations for the best folding knives or best pocket knives.

Kitchen Knives: Zwilling Cronidur Review

It’s funny, because as a knife guy, I still do most of my cutting in the kitchen. Nonetheless, I have spent countless dollars agglomerating an assortment of pocket knives and camping knives yet until recently, I was still using an old set of hand-me-down Chicago Cutlery knives that were roughly 40 years old. Not to say they didn’t function adequately, but considering how invested I am in this hobby, it was finally time to get into a good set of kitchen knives.

Enter the Zwilling J.A. Henckels Cronidur knives. I picked up a few knives including a chef’s knife, a 5″ santoku, a paring knife, and a bread knife. They say that to have a fully functional kitchen knife set, you only really need three essential knives: a chef’s knife, a paring knife, and a bread knife. I got each of these as well as splurged on the santoku knife for chopping vegetables. I may yet go back and get a serrated utility knife, but I’ll see if I need it first. Zwilling also offers a 7″ santoku knife, a prep knife, a carving knife, and a honing steel available. In all honesty, my needs in the kitchen as a chef are pretty minimal as I’m not really cooking presentation quality food, just the food that I like to eat. As such, I saw no reason to spend money on additional knives I didn’t need.

To speak to the Cronidur knives in general first, they tug on all the right strings of a knife guy’s heart. From a build quality standpoint, they are superb. The fit and finish is impeccable. The knives are forged and employ a unique profile that allows easy and comfortable use of the pinch grip. They were designed by Matteo Thun, and are aesthetically stunning with the hidden full tang that is really set off by the black linen micarta handle. The steel that these knives are made with is one of the real highlights: Cronidur 30. Cronidur 30 is a nitrogen steel, meaning that the carbon is pared back in the material in favor of nitrogen. In addition, Zwilling touts their use of their Friodur treatment on this particular set. What this means is that they use an additional chilling process on top of their heat treatment to eek out a little more hardness out of the blade. Material science aside, the ultimate significance to the user is that these knives have an extremely hard steel that is particularly resistant to corrosion compared to other stainless steel kitchen knives. In light of this, the knives will also hold an edge for a very long time if used properly (meaning cut on a cutting board made from plastic or wood as opposed to a granite counter top or the like). So far, each knife has been absolutely laser sharp out of the box.

So now let’s talk about each knife individually to discuss what makes them so great.

Chef’s Knife

As any professional chef will tell you, the knife they reach for first and use most often is their trusty chef’s knife. As such, if you are just looking one single knife and aren’t sure which one to get, get a chef’s knife. It is by far the most versatile and can handle most cutting tasks that other knives can so long as you use a little grace.

That said, the Cronidur chef’s knife is a particularly great chef’s knife. Upon first glance, you will notice that the belly of the blade has a slightly higher curvature compared to other chef’s knives which are typically a little more flat. I find this shape to be much more useful than other knives I have used because it allows greater ease and larger range when rocking the knife during cuts. The handle is smooth, but the ergonomics are great so you don’t have to worry about any slip when your hands are wet. In addition, the geometry where the blade meets the handle is ideal for using the pinch grip, as mentioned previously. The chef’s knife is also particularly well balanced and just right in the weight department (heavy but not too heavy). The chef’s knife is 8 inches long, and makes cutting herbs, vegetables, fish or meat a breeze.

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Paring Knife

The paring knife is great as well, coming in right at 4″. I typically like a 4″ long paring knife versus the also common 3″ as I feel that it is a touch more versatile. Some will claim that you have more precision with the a shorter knife, but I find that with a little practice you can have similar precision with the added benefit of an inch more cutting surface.

This knife has excellent shape, with a sweeping but mostly flat belly and an extremely sharp tip that makes precision cutting effortless. The knife is lightweight with excellent ergonomics that allow for a variety of different grip styles. The knife is easy to manipulate and works great for peeling vegetables or for other high precision work.

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Bread Knife

The bread knife is probably the one you will use least out of the bunch, but it is still invaluable as there is nothing else in the kitchen that can serve as a replacement. This particular knife comes in at 8″, which is par for the course as bread knives go. Some people prefer a longer knife in the 9-10″ range for bread, but I find that it is simply not necessary and the minimal time savings a longer knife would provide would go unnoticed for me.

The knife is serrated, and is unbelievably sharp. It easily pierces the crust of anything from a toasted baguette to a raw loaf and you are met with subsequent effortlessness throughout the duration of your cut. I also find it useful for a few types of meat such as sausages, some cheeses, and fruits and vegetables with skins such as tomatoes. Like the other knives, balance is spot on and ergonomics are great. This knife gets nothing but my highest recommendation.

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5″ Santoku Knife

The santoku was my splurge purchase, because the rest of my collection already rounds out my functional needs in the kitchen quite nicely. However, a santoku knife definitely has its place. My favorite things to do with santoku knives is dicing. This is the first knife I reach for when it’s time to dice onions or potatoes. I also will occasionally use it for chopping meat, although my chef’s knife usually performs this function.

This particular santoku knife has a relatively flat cutting surface with just a little bit of curve for some light rocking. As such, I like to use it as more of a chopper. It has an extremely sharp angle to the edge, moreso than any other knife in the set. I chose the scalloped blade as I like that it reduces the friction to some degree. I don’t find this that much harder to clean so the benefits were worth it. The ergonomics, weight, and balance all make this knife an admirable performer and a nice addition to the set. I would wait and get the other three first before this one, but if you opt to get this one as a fourth, you won’t be disappointed.

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Conclusion

Hopefully you have found this break down of the Zwilling J.A. Henckels Cronidur kitchen knives helpful. I find them to be top notch in every respect. There are a few other things that are worth quickly mentioning. First is that you have to care for these knives for them to last. That means hand washing them with minimal soap. I would not recommend putting them, or any kitchen knives for that matter, in the dishwasher. Next is that they have a lifetime warranty against manufacturing and workmanship defects. Finally, I have dealt with Zwilling for unrelated issues in the past and find their responsiveness to any issues to be prompt with a focus on resolving the issue to your satisfaction. All in all, if you can swing the coin to get into this set, it’s well worth it! Your life in the kitchen will be completely changed and I trust that you will come to love these knives as I have.

Finally, if these don’t suit your fancy, visit our kitchen knife reviews page to check out some other kitchen knives that may better fit your liking.

Five of The Best Folding Knives

When it comes to choosing the best folding knife, many factors come into play. At first, it can be a little bit difficult to sort through the madness because there are so many different specs and knife designs. Fortunately, I’ll simplify the process for you by breaking down the finer points and giving you some tips that will help you choose the right one.

First, let’s define exactly what we mean when we say folding knife. For purposes of this article, I am going to refer to traditional folding pocket knives only. While technically a Leatherman multitool or a balisong (also called a butterfly knife) are indeed folding knives, I will likely discuss these in different articles because each is really a niche of its own. That said, the defining characteristic of a folding knife is that the blade folds into the handle. The blade is attached to the handle via a pivot that allows the blade to rotate. Typically, this type of knife will have a blade stop that will hold the blade in place once it has been deployed. Often times, the blade will also lock open and require a specific and deliberate motion to disengage this lock prior to closing the blade which expands the capabilities of a folding knife by making it safe for thrusting and piercing operations without fear of the blade closing on your fingers.

Folding Knife Advantages

There are several advantages to carrying a folding knife over their fixed blade counterparts. These are listed below:

Size
By far the single biggest advantage to carrying a folder over a fixed blade is size. With pocket space at a premium these days in light of modern fashion trends, iPhones, and the growing number of extra things we carry with us, space savings is critical. Because the blade folds into the handle, you can effectively half the length of the knife at will, making it easier to pocket and store on your person. This has many implications. First, concealment is easier. This applies if you carry a tactical folding knife for self defense or otherwise just don’t want to alarm people. Additionally, in many locations it is illegal to conceal a fixed blade, which means a folder is the only type of knife you can carry in your pocket (check your local laws). Finally, it simply means you can fit more stuff in your pocket. That means you can add that bottle opener to your keychain that you’ve always wanted without compromising your ability to carry your knife.

No Sheath
A folder doesn’t require a sheath, because it acts as its own sheath. This means you don’t have to carry and extra part to make your knife safe when not in use. This is a matter of convenience, but also a matter of cost as you don’t have to buy a sheath.

Safety In Certain Circumstances
While this is sort of subjective, you can quickly close your knife at any time you like, which makes it safer in many respects. For instance, if you carry a fixed blade knife on your hip and someone wants to borrow it, you likely aren’t going to remove your sheath from your belt, insert your blade, and then pass both to your friend. You will likely just hand them the knife. Contrarily, with a folder, you will inevitable close the knife prior to passing it with your friend. This is a great advantage for folding utility knives as these are often passed around between people who share them at work.

Disadvantages

As with anything in life, there are compromises and folders are no exceptions. The greatest tradoff you make when electing to buy a folding knife versus a fixed blade knife is that there are more moving parts. Any time you introduce moving parts into a system, there are always more parts that can fail. On high end folders this isn’t an issue, but on cheap folding knives this can become a problem as occasionally parts will wear out faster than they should or otherwise fail. Additionally, more moving parts means more frequent maintenance. You will likely have to break the knife down every once in a while and give it a good cleaning, oil the pivot, etc. This shouldn’t deter you though, as the maintenance is still really minimal and I feel that the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks.

Five Choices for Top Folders

So now on to the knives! Below I have listed 5 of the best folding knives that I have handled in recent memory. I think they are top notch and give them my highest recommendation. That’s not to say there aren’t others, but if you end up picking one on this list, you can’t go wrong!

Kershaw Blur

The Kershaw Blur is an amazing knife, particularly when you consider the price. It can be had for around 50 bucks (depending on color), and for that money you get a knife with a 3 3/8″ coated blade made with Sandvik 14C28N steel, 6061-T6 anodized aluminum scales, Trac-tec grip inserts which provide excellent traction and grip for your hand, and the option of a plain edge or partially serrated blade. If you pay a few bucks more, the Blur can be had in S30V steel, which is a high end steel that was one of the first designed for cutlery. I have done an article in the past if you would like to read more about S30V steel.

The Blur is an assisted opening knife, meaning that it uses a spring such that when you decide to deploy the blade, the knife does most of the work for you, resulting in quick and precise opening of the blade. This has obvious benefit in a self defense situation, in addition to being just downright fun to play with. Kershaw’s assisted opening was originally designed to circumvent the old switch blade laws in many parts of the USA, and did so quite successfully. The knife has a liner lock, which is one of my all time favorites due to the minimal grip change required to disengage the lock. The knife only weighs 3.9 ounces and the clip can be reversed for tip up as well as tip down carry. The clip sits high so you can bury the knife in your pocket pretty easily without it being too noticeable. Also, the knife is made in the USA, which is always a plus.

In terms of overall quality, you can read the reviews that the Blur gets here. The reviews are outstanding. The Blur is a knife that gets some of the highest user ratings out of any knife on this site. Kershaw really knocked it out of the park with this one. If you can’t decide which knife to get, the Blur is a great place to start because it is so affordable and performs so well. This is really a top value folder and it gets my highest recommendation for an every day carry knife as well as a camping knife.

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Benchmade Sequel

The Benchmade Sequel is a tremendous knife from Benchmade that was designed by McHenry and Williams. It features a 154CM stainless steel clip point blade that is just shy of 3″ long. 154CM takes extremely high hardness, meaning that this knife has great wear resistance and edge retention. This means the blade will perform a variety of tasks well including carving, food preparation, cutting rope, and even field dressing animals without becoming dull.

The knife has a locking mechanism that is unique to Benchmade called the axis lock. It is a take on a piston lock that is spring loaded. It is a great locking mechanism due to the fact that it is ambidextrous. Since lefties get pushed out of the liner lock market often times since they are mostly set up for righties, a lot of lefties gravitate towards Benchmade’s for this reason. The blade has a thumb stud for easy deployment, although I find it much easier to pull back on the locking mechanism and just flick my wrist. It’s a faster and more precise way to open the knife. The handles are machined aluminum with G10 inserts for texture. One of the greatest benefits to this knife is that it weighs in at a mere 2.6 ounces, so it just melts away in your pocket and you don’t even feel it.

As for user reviews, the Benchmade Sequel gets excellent reviews from pretty much everyone who has tried it. The knife can be had for a little over 100 bucks, but is worth every penny. Sometimes you have to pay to play with the best. This knife is, without a doubt, one of the best folding knives out there.

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SOG Mini Vulcan

The SOG Mini Vulcan is a knife that was named after a six barreled 20mm gatling cannon that was equipped on fighter jets including the F15 Eagle, the F16 Falcon, and the F18 Hornet. Based on this it’s easy to gather that this is a rather serious knife. It comes with a 3″ long blade made with VG-10 steel. VG-10 is a great all around steel that takes and holds a very nice edge. You can opt for a clip point blade or a tanto blade depending on your preference. I prefer the clip point.

The locking mechanism is a type specific to SOG called the arc-lock. This is reminiscent of Benchmade’s axis lock in that it is a modified piston lock. If I’m honest, I prefer Benchmade’s axis lock slightly because the angle of attack to actuate the mechanism is more comfortable for me, but SOG’s version does the trick just fine as well. The handle is FRN, also known as fiberglass reinforced nylon. It is a very robust material that is similar to G10 in many ways in terms of performance. This particular knife has nice texturing so grip is ample. The weight on the Mini Vulcan is 3.4 ounces, so pretty light. It should also be mentioned that the knife is made in Japan.

The Mini Vulcan gets great reviews from users and one can be purchased for roughly 90 bucks. At this price it represents good value. I would recommend it as an every day carry knife, a backpacking knife, or a camping knife.

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Spyderco Manix 2

The Spyderco Manix 2 is an awesome knife. The S30V hollow-ground blade comes in at 3.375″ and sports a plain edge. The blade also has the signature thumb hole that Spyderco pioneered as a deployment mechanism. The thumb hole is by far my favorite blade deployment mechanism from any manufacturer due to its ease of use, minimal grip change required, and accurate precision when trying to get the blade open quickly.

The locking mechanism is referred to as a ball bearing lock by Spyderco, although it is really yet another modified piston lock design. The pocket clip is reversible and the lock is ambidextrous, so the knife can be set up to be carried left handed or right handed. The clip sits high on the knife so the knife is barely visible when you have it clipped in your pocket. The handle material is G10, which is impervious to water, chemicals, heat, etc. It has great texturing which allows for confident grip even in wet conditions whether you are wearing gloves or carrying barehanded so no need to fear next time you are kayaking or on a creek walk. The Manix 2 also has a large lanyard hole which allows you to get creative with what you use as a lanyard if that’s your fancy.

Like all of the aforementioned knives, the Manix 2 gets stellar user reviews. It’s a knife that you simply can’t go wrong with. I consider this a hard use folder due to the robustness of the design. That means that not only will it work for every day carry and camping, but it is also be ideal for combat situations and hunting. It is reasonably priced, and I think it offers one of the best values out there. Also, if you desire the same characteristics in a larger knife, then the Manix 2 XL would be worth a look as well.

>>Click Here to See Pictures, Pricing, and Reviews on Amazon.com <<

Kershaw Chive

So upon first glance, you may be a little surprised to see the Kershaw Chive on my list. However, the Chive has a lot of things going for it. To start off with, it is a small knife, and it rocks a 2″ blade made with 420HC steel. This means that it is extremely light, tipping the scales at a scant 1.7 ounces. It’s light enough that you don’t even know that you’re carrying it.

Next, the knife has a frame lock which is extremely strong. The lock is overkill for a blade with such limited length, but overdesigned never hurt anyone! The knife is also assisted opening, much like the Blur mentioned earlier in the article. The pocket clip is single position, but frankly the knife is small enough that you don’t even need to clip it. Just drop it in your pocket and go. Also cool is that you can get the knife in a variety of colors including satin, polished, black, and rainbow.

The Kershaw Chive gets solid user reviews. Best of all is the price, as the knife comes in at about 35 bucks. This makes it one of the best folding knife values around. Finally, the knife is made in the USA and is available off the shelf in a lot of hardware stores, so it is readily available on short notice if you need it. That means if you procrastinate before your next hiking trip, you can swing through Home Depot and potentially have a shot at picking one up without having to wait (or pay for) shipping. Overall I recommend this as a nice and small every day carry knife that won’t alarm people if you take it out.

>>Click Here to See Pictures, Pricing, and Reviews on Amazon.com <<

Conclusion

So that is my take on the top five best folding knives out there at present. Remember that there are tons of knives out there, so just because I didn’t choose one for my list doesn’t mean that there aren’t others that are just as great. As always, before any purchase I urge you to do your due diligence and check out the reviews on the main site. Lastly, if you think I missed one and want to mention it, or agree/disagree with something I wrote, feel free to post it in the comments!

Should I Buy Custom Made Knives?

If you are a knife collector and find yourself getting bored of production knives, be warned! Entering the arena of custom made knives tends to be a pretty expensive venture that requires quite a bit of patience. However the benefits can be well worth it depending on your priorities when purchasing your knives. Below, I will break down the pros and cons of custom knife buying and you can be the judge as to whether it is for you!

Pros to Buying Custom Knives

Exclusivity
As you would expect, if you buy from a custom knifemaker, you are getting a blade that very few other people have. This is because most custom knifemakers sell handmade knives. Considering the hours required to make a knife by hand, a knife manufacturer of this nature simply can’t mass produce their knives. Most small time manufacturers like this will only make a few hundred blades or less per year which means there is a very limited quantity available to potential buyers. This in turn benefits you because you will be the only guy on the block with your knife; nobody else will have one like it.

Attention to Detail
Custom knives have the luxury of receiving personal attention from the maker, unlike production knives. As such, each feature can be perfected to the liking of the builder. This of course includes all of the functional elements of a blade, but also includes the artistic features and embellishments that production knives are not often afforded. This can include anything from custom knife engraving a logo to special finishes such as cerakote or duracoat to uncommon sheathing options like leather or kydex. Most production knifemakers won’t even entertain making personalized versions of their knives because there is simply not enough money in it for them.

Built to Fit Your Taste
One of the biggest advantages to going the custom route is that you get to pick your specs. You can pick the best steel, your knife shape, your blade profile (eg. drop point, tanto, or clip point), your blade grind type (eg. full flat grind, saber grind), your handle material (eg. G10, micarta, or wood), lock mechanism, colors, finishes, etc. This is a case where the sky (or more specifically your pocketbook) is the limit. It doesn’t matter whether you are building a custom hunting knife or a custom folding knife, you have the final say about everything. At the end of the day, you can get a knife that is built to perfection by your standard.

Support Small Business
Buying a custom knife gives you an opportunity to support small business. It is important to realize that these guys aren’t raking in millions of dollars per year. They build knives because they love it. As such, it’s always nice to support the passion of another person, especially when you have some of their work to show for it. Often times this has the added benefit of supporting someone local in your community which is nice because it allows you to personally connect face to face with the person building your blade. Don’t forget that sometimes the journey and the story are just as good as the product itself!

Cons to Buying Custom Knives

Cost
One of the biggest obstacles to buying a custom knife is price. When a large knife manufacturer like a Kershaw or Benchmade makes production knives on a machine, the actual machining processes take a matter of minutes if you were to average based on economy of scale. However for a custom knife where one person has to babysit the project from start to finish, the hours add up quickly. Unfortunately, you have to pay a custom knifemaker for their hours. When you figure that making a knife can take anywhere from 5 to 50 hours depending on the level of intricacy and detail, it’s easy to see how it could add up. Don’t forget material cost and operating cost for any tools. Some of the most expensive knives can get well up into the 1000 dollar range.

Time
Compared to a production knife that is in stock and can be had almost immediately by going to a site like Amazon.com, you typically have to wait a long time to get a custom knife made. In general, a high end knife maker won’t start making your knife until you order it. As such, you can usually expect to wait a number of weeks or even months depending on availability and how quickly the work can be done. As you can probably surmise, making top quality knives isn’t a process that can be rushed. All the more reason to keep your expectations reasonable with respect to turnaround time.

Not All Knifemakers are Created Equal
Unfortunately, not all custom knifemakers are equal. Nothing has a greater effect on the quality of your knife than the know-how and care of the person making it. There are a number of processes that one must master to successfully build a knife including profiling, blade grinding, heat treat, handle shaping, and sheath making. Inexperience in any one of these aspects can ruin the end result. As such, it is extremely important to carefully vet your knifemakers before deciding to buy. There are several knife forums that cater well to finding a custom knifemaker that is well regarded within the community, such as Bladeforums.com, Knifeforums.com, and Knifenetwork.com. You can use these sites to seek feedback about a potential maker before moving forward with a purchase.

Conclusion

So now you know the beauty of owning custom knives as well as the trade offs you must make in order to buy them. Now you know what it will take next time you are looking for that custom survival knife or perhaps even a custom self defense knife. I hope you enjoyed reading and please feel free to add any additional insight into the comments section below as you see fit!

Browning OPMOD Fixed Blade Knife Review

Browning OPMOD Fixed BladeIn the interest of full disclosure, the good folks at Optics Planet sent me a Browning OPMOD Fixed Blade with the expectation that I give the knife an honest and unbiased review. Their confidence speaks to the quality of the knife, and I am pleased to report that their confidence is warranted.

To give you some quick background information on the knife, OPMOD is an Optics Planet exclusive brand which allows them to tailor individual products to their own specs. In the case of the Browning OPMOD, Optics Planet collaborated with Browning to produce this knife. Using this method, Optics Planet can provide design direction that makes products extremely relevant to their customer’s needs while maintaining a high degree of quality.

Listed below are the general specs for the knife:

    Knife Design: Full Tang Fixed Blade
    Blade Style: Tanto
    Overall Length: 8.5″
    Blade Length: 3.5″
    Steel: 5Cr
    Scale Material: G10
    Sheath: Molded, Blade-Tech with Tek-Lok belt clip

Initial Impressions

Upon first handling the knife, I have to say that I was pretty impressed. The first thing you notice is that the knife has a tanto blade which is inspired by the tanto design of old Japanese swords. A tanto knife lends itself well to piercing due to the tip strength, making it an ideal fighting knife. Additionally, a tanto shaped blade maintains a long straight edge which allows the user to generate a lot of cutting pressure if they so desire. This knife certainly affords the user this ability.

The fit and finish on this particular example are top notch. The blade grind is nice and even, the jimping is well spaced and placed, and the edge was wicked sharp. Even the angular transition on the edge itself was darn near perfect and this is where a lot of companies miss the mark with their tantos. The knife was well balanced and comfortable to hold.

Performance

From a performance standpoint, the knife is great. I beat on the blade pretty hard and it responded well. Out of the box it was sharp enough to slice through paper like butter. Even after whittling away on a 2×4 for a while and making numerous drag cuts through cardboard, I was still able to slice the paper with no binding, tearing or grabbing. The wear resistance on the steel was impressive. I also performed some chopping operations and did not notice any major edge roll or chipping. Piercing functions were effortless as well, largely in part due to the tanto blade. It is also pretty easy to sharpen.

The sheath seems to grab pretty well and feels durable. It has plenty of rivets which give you a variety of attachment options. The Tek-Lok belt clip works as advertised. The sheath does have a rubber strap added to provide extra support for the knife but I don’t think it’s necessary. The sheath retains the knife just fine without.

As for ergonomics, the knife is generally good. The finger grooves were well positioned and made it very comfortable to hold. The jimping on the top is comfortably placed and isn’t too sharp so as to cause discomfort to your thumb while still giving nice grip and control. My only minor nitpick in this area was that the texturing on the G10 scales was mostly limited to the top of the scale, so the knife handle was a little bit slick on the tips of my fingers when they were wet. The finger grooves mitigated this to the point where I wouldn’t worry about losing the knife under hard use but the slickness was at least on my radar.

Build quality as mentioned previously is excellent. A lot of attention to detail went into the design and the fit and finish is high quality. Before trying it I was a touch skeptical of the 5Cr steel, but was pleasantly surprised to find that it is actually really usable. I have no qualms about the steel whatsoever. The scales are nicely machined with a number of chamfer cuts designed for added comfort on your fingers. The finish is smooth and seems to be wear resistant.

As for value, I would consider it high. The knife retails for about 50 bucks at present and for the way it performs and way it feels, I can say it is worth the price. The knife comes with everything you want but nothing extraneous. I think both Browning and Optics Planet did a nice job of keeping the price reasonable for this one.

Things To Note

There are a few things to note about the knife that may be polarizing. Of course these are matters of personal taste, so in the end it’s up to you to decide whether or not they matter, but I thought they were worth mentioning.

The first item is that the knife has a series of 5 small holes positioned at the tail of the handle where you would attach a lanyard. The most common lanyard material in the industry is paracord, and these holes are too small to comfortably pass paracord through. That said, you could make a lanyard out of another material, but using a paracord lanyard on this knife is unlikely.

The second item is that the knife is made in China, as indicated by the marking on the blade. Now, the country of origin is not a reflection of the build quality of this knife. The knife is built to a high standard with a high level of quality control. The country of origin shouldn’t scare you, but if you are a die hard made in America guy, this knife isn’t. Do keep in mind that I have reviewed other high quality Chinese made knives and they too perform admirably.

Conclusion

As you can see from the review, it’s a solid all around knife that provides solid value. If you are looking for an affordable tanto bladed knife then this one will serve you well. If the knife is not your style but you are interested in the performance, you can also check out some other Browning Knives at Optics Planet. All in all I think that you will be satisfied with the knife and I am comfortable recommending it.

If you have used the Browning OPMOD Fixed Blade and want to share your opinion, please feel free to post your experiences in the comments section below!

Best Steel For Knives

When it comes to the best steel for knives, it’s important to realize that every steel has trade offs. When you take these into account, you can choose your steel to tailor the properties of a knife to your liking. There are literally hundreds of excellent knife steel types out there, but there are a handful of common knife steels that are used throughout the industry. As such, I won’t cover every steel out there, but I will try to hit some that are seen most often in the knife industry.

Another thing to be aware of is that steel alone is not a good indicator of how a knife will perform. Equally as important as the steel is the heat treat. A steel will perform differently at various material hardnesses. The most common method of measuring hardness is on the Rockwell scale. Typically, most knives are hardened in the 55Rc range to 62Rc range. The lower in the range a knife lands, the higher the toughness but lower the edge holding capability will be relative to the same steel at different hardness. Knives low in the hardness range will make ideal choppers and hard use knives. Knives higher up in the hardness range will be more brittle and withstand wear better, however they will lack the toughness of knives lower in the range and they will be more prone to chipped or rolled edges. These knives will make ideal slicers.

Basic properties of knife steels:

Wear Resistance
When cutting with a knife, friction acts against the edge of the blade. With use over time, particles will separate from the edge as the material you are cutting abrades the steel. The point on your edge is most susceptible to this type of wear. As particles get removed from this location, your cutting surface will widen and your knife will start to feel more dull and require higher cutting pressure to make cuts. Wear resistance describes a steel’s ability to resist this type of abrasive wear.

Toughness
Toughness describes how resistant a knife blade steel is to impact events. The most common type of impact damage that occurs are chipped edges. This can occur when you drop your knife, baton through wood, etc. Knife toughness typically is highest in the lower end of the hardness range because the material is less brittle.

Grain Size
Grain size is related to how fine of an edge your blade can take. Usually, the finer the steel grain, the finer the edge a knife can take. Larger grains tend to have larger minimum edge thicknesses. There are numerous heat treat methods that can be used to achieve various grain sizes for different types of steel.

Manufacturability
As an end user this has little effect other than knife price, however to a knife maker manufacturability is everything. Some steels are notoriously difficult to machine, whereas others are notoriously difficult to heat treat. On the other hand, some are easy to work with all around but these typically cost more. The manufacturability describes how difficult a steel is to work with when making a knife.

Common Knife Steel Types:

1095
1095 is a knife steel that is extremely high value which makes it a common knife making steel. It is a relatively cheap carbon steel that has some very desirable properties. If heat treated right, it can be extremely tough and take a fantastic edge. Companies like Kabar and ESEE Knives are well known for using 1095. Like many carbon steels, 1095 is notoriously difficult to heat treat as it tends to be prone to warping. Often times extra steps must be taken, particularly on larger knives, to prevent this from happening. It should be noted that non-stainless steels like 1095 are generally tougher than their stainless counterparts at the cost of corrosion resistance.

Click here to see some examples of knives made with 1095 steel.

S30V
S30V is one of the most common high end steels used in knife manufacturing today. It is a stainless steel that is touted as the first steel designed specifically for cutlery. It is a particle steel made by Crucible. It takes a fine edge, is easy to sharpen, is reasonably tough, and has good wear resistance. It is truly a steel that does everything well, but nothing exceptionally. This is a great choice if you are unsure where to start and want an awesome all-arounder.

Click here to see some examples of knives made with S30V steel.

S35VN
Crucible’s S35VN was intended to be an improvement to S30V in that it is easier to machine with better wear resistance and toughness. Proper heat treat is imperative with S35VN as I find that if treated at a hardness that is too low, the edge is prone to roll a little more easily than S30V. It is a great steel if done right and it is in vogue at the moment.

Click here to see some examples of knives made with S35VN steel.

154CM
154CM is another great all around stainless steel and is comparable in many ways to S30V. 154CM is used by companies such as Benchmade and Zero Tolerance. Like S30V, it has good toughness and holds a decent edge. If you are debating between 154CM and S30V, pick the knife you like better as steel performance is almost equal.

Click here to see some examples of knives made with 154CM steel.

440C
440C is a stainless steel that once was extremely common as one of the go-to knife steels. However noawadays, it seems to be slowly getting replaced by some of the more popular and more modern particle steels as the preferred knifemaking steels. The steel is a great all-arounder with good toughness and it will hold an edge admirably. It’s an older steel that’s still around in the knife industry for a good reason!

Click here to see some examples of knives made with 440C steel.

D2
D2 is a tool steel that is found on many knives. D2 wear resistance is high, its toughness is midrange, and it has higher chrome content than a typical carbon steel which imparts good corrosion resistance properties. Some consider the steel a semi-stainless steel, or a stain resistant steel as opposed to a plain carbon steel. It is an extremely well liked steel. Kabar uses this on some of their higher end survival knives as well as some combat knives.

Click here to see some examples of knives made with D2 steel.

Where To Get Knife Steel?

If you are a knifemaker, you will inevitably wonder where to buy the best steel for your knives. There are a number of shops that supply knife steel, so it’s really a matter of finding one that supplies the alloy you want in the appropriate size. It is also always nice to find one who pays attention to customer service. Three great ones are listed below:

As an added bonus, a lot of knifemaking information can be gleaned from these sites. Many of them contain the material makeup information, heat treating recommendations, and other engineering tidbits that will help you along the way. Spend a little time on each one as there is much to learn.

Conclusion

I hope this knife steel guide has been helpful. Remember, steels are always a trade off, so you have to decide on what properties you want before choosing the best steel for knives that you make as well as knives you buy. If I didn’t list your favorite steel, feel free to describe it in the comments.

Selecting The Best Tactical Knife

In recent years, “tactical” has become a bit of a buzzword within the knifemaking community. When you hear the word tactical, you undoubtedly picture vivid images of swat teams bursting through doors with guns drawn or Navy Seals stealthily creeping around in the shadows. The people in your images are probably well outfitted with gear, mostly black or camo, with straps and gadgets galore. These images are probably based on the Hollywood portrayal of these kinds of scenarios, as well as the vast media coverage of the war in Afghanistan and the war in Iraq over the last decade. As images like these pervade pop culture, they are sure to shape certain trends. Because the look is currently in vogue, gun guys and knife guys have picked up on it and capitalized on it.

But sadly, “tactical” has become more of a marketing term than an accurate description of what most of the gear labeled as such is designed to accomplish. These days, it typically implies a certain over-the-top look as well as superfluous features. Unfortunately, if you subscribe to the modern day marketing misconception, you probably aren’t going to end up buying the best tactical knife for your needs. Instead, you will end up with something that is moreso “tacticool” that doesn’t provide any benefit other than awesome looking aesthetics.

Now let’s talk about what “tactical” is. In the real world, and for purposes of this article, tactical really signifies an item that is strategically functional. Truly tactical gear is often times mission specific and tailored to provide specific capability. A tactical knife for an underwater diving mission is going to be very different than a tactical knife for an urban mission or a desert mission. For instance, a tactical dive knife is going to have to be extremely corrosion resistant due to the high salt environment that it is used in, although color might not be an important factor due to the low light conditions. In an urban setting, a good tactical knife might have a built in glass breaker and have a gray or black blade. Similarly, a tactical desert knife will likely be desert tan or flat dark earth, allowing it to be less visible amongst its surroundings. These different examples illustrate the vast differences you must account for when picking good tactical gear, and more specifically a knife.

Before we get too detailed, click here to browse a few tactical knives.

Tactical Knife Features

When it comes to choosing a tactical knife, there are many different aspects that you need to think about. To generalize, some universal facets of a knife that is truly tactical are as follows:

Reliable
Failure is not an option in any situation where true tactical gear is required. As such, a tactical knife must be dead reliable. Most often this is going to steer you towards the fixed blade category. Fixed blade knives have less moving parts, which means less to break. As such, fixed blades typically make great tactical and survival knives. This isn’t to say that you should turn your back on a folding knife entirely though, as they too can be completely reliable but it is less common and usually more expensive to go this route.

Functional
A good tactical knife is also going to be highly functional. It must hold an edge extremely well. It must provide ample grip, both bare handed and when wearing heavy gloves. Additionally, if it is a tactical folding knife, it must be easily deployed with bare hands and gloves. It must have sufficient cutting edge to perform the necessary tasks, but be sufficiently sized to be easily concealable if necessary. An often overlooked aspect of tactical knife functionality is the sheath. The sheath must hold the knife in place firmly while still allowing easy draw. Additionally, a good sheath will provide numerous mounting options such as MOLLE loops, a belt clip, and velcro so you have options for how you carry it.

Non-Reflective
You’ll almost never see a shiny tactical tool, whether it is a knife, gun, flashlight or otherwise. Polished knives can reflect light and give away your position. A polished surface also makes your knife more visible and harder to conceal. Typically tactical knives are coated with hard and wear resistant coatings such as a powdercoat or Cerakote. Usually knifemakers choose earth tones so as not to stand out.

Tactical Knife Reviews

Now on to some recommendations. I will now choose a few knives that I think make good tactical knives for a large variety of situations based on the criteria that I listed above. It’s important to remember that the knives recommended below aren’t going to be the best for every situation, but at least one of them should most likely cover yours. That said, they are great all around knives and if they have the ideal characteristics that you need you can’t go wrong.

ESEE ESEE-6

The ESEE ESEE-6 is an absolutely outstanding fixed blade knife. The knife has a full flat grind, making the knife a great slicer. In addition, the blade has sufficient thickness at .188″ to withstand some torture. It weighs a reasonable 12 ounces and comes in at an overall length of just shy of 12 inches with the blade making up 6.5 inches worth of the total length. The knife has a full tang as well. The ESEE-6 comes with a black blade and natural colored linen micarta scales. The scales have excellent texture and are pretty thick, so the knife nicely fills the hand and won’t slide around when you use it barehanded. The knife comes in 1095 steel, which is extremely tough and takes a nice edge when heat treated properly.

ESEE offers the ESEE-6 in either plain edge or partially-serrated edge. I am usually a fan of plain edges due to the limited utility of serrations, but the ESEE-6 has a long enough blade to leave enough plain edge to be useful for most cutting tasks should you choose the serrated knife. You can also get the blade with a sharpened top edge (which you could dull into a false edge with a good sharpener). The knife also has an accessible lanyard hole and a rounded pommel. Lastly the sheath for the knife is of excellent quality as well. It is a molded sheath that comes in coyote brown, olive drab, or black. You can get an add on MOLLE back, MOLLE locks, a belt clip plate, and an accessory pouch in a variety of colors as well.

Overall the ESEE-6 is a superior knife with outstanding build quality and attention to detail. This knife will treat you well and you can’t go wrong if you pick one up.

Click here to read more reviews and check prices on Amazon.com

Zero Tolerance 0560 / 0561

The ZT 0561 (the 0560 is extremely similar so I will talk about the 0561 but the review applies to both) is a collaboration effort between ZT and the famous Rick Hinderer. The ZT 0561 is essentially as close as you can get to a production version of Rick’s famed XM-18 which is one of the most highly regarded knives out there.

So let’s talk about what the ZT 0561 has to offer. It is a folding knife of course, with a titanium frame lock. The blade is 3.75″ in stonewashed Elmax steel which is non-reflective. It offers two deployment options including a thumb stud and a flipper. I find the flipper to be far more usable than the thumb stud, especially when wearing gloves. The locking mechanism is a titanium frame lock, which locks up tight, can withstand tons of abuse, and is easy to actuate. The scale opposite the liner lock is machined G10 when phenomenal texturing and can be had in black or coyote brown. The knife is heavy at 5.8 ounces, but this is acceptable for a heavy duty tactical knife. Best of all, the knife is made in the USA.

Overall, the Zero Tolerance 0561 is extremely robust, has high build quality and can take a serious beating (To give you an idea of its application, the Hinderer XM-18 that it was modeled after is only available by direct order through Rick Hinderer if you are active military, an LEO, firefighter, etc otherwise you have to wait for an infrequent production run to ship to a dealer). Fortunately, anybody can buy the ZT 0561 without having to wait around. Due to the target market Rick tailored this knife to, you can be absolutely sure that it will serve your needs.

Click here to read more reviews and check prices on Amazon.com

Full Size KA-BAR

It would be negligent if I were to omit the full size KA-BAR from the list of best tactical knives. KA-BAR’s full size fighting knife was adopted as the US Marine Corps combat knife in 1942, and subsequently adopted as the US Navy utility knife. The KA-BAR has been thoroughly field tested by the US armed forces and has withstood the test of time. It is an outstanding knife that has made an appearance in every major war since World War II and one that you can’t go wrong with.

Make no mistake, the full size KA-BAR is a big knife. It is just as comfortable opening cans of food as it is in hand to hand combat. It is a fixed blade knife with a 7″ long blade. It has a .165″ blade thickness and is made in the USA. The blade steel is 1095 and the total knife weight is .65 pounds, which is surprisingly light for a knife this size. The knife can be had with a variety of handle options. The most basic is the black Kraton handle, but there is a variety of leather washers of varying colors that you can get as well. You can also get it in a dress knife configuration, which is more decorative than the combat knife although technically will provide the same function. The knife is also made in the USA.

Handling the blade reveals that you feel every bit of its size. The handle is thick which provides great ergonomics and allows you to grip comfortably. The grooves between the washers(Kraton or leather) on the handle provide great texture that allows you to maintain your grip on a wet knife or dry knife. The knife can take a serious thrashing and the blade cleans up easy with a few passes on a sharpener. Overall it is an outstanding knife that our soldiers trust, and so should you. It should also be noted that the full size KA-BAR gets absolutely top reviews by most everybody.

Click here to read more reviews and check prices on Amazon.com

Conclusion

You will notice that each of the above knives are simple with nothing flashy about them. These are reliable knives with no gimmicks or add-ons that you don’t need. If there is one piece of advice that I hope you walk away with, it is to avoid the tactical marketing hype and pick a blade that is actually going to help you should you need it. Avoid the fancy stuff in favor of elegantly simple and you will win. I hope that this article has provided you guidance in choosing the best tactical knife! Feel free to make recommendations of your own as far as tactical knives in the comments section.

Best Knife Sharpener

It is amazing how often I’ll ask to see a knife, only to realize that it is so dull that a butter knife would outperform it. Upon mentioning this fact, the first question I receive is usually “Can you prove it?” After letting the other party inspect the edge on my EDC knife, they usually agree and then exclaim that their knife is dull because they don’t have a knife sharpener. If you are this person, this article is written for you. I intend to walk you through the knife sharpening basics, and then recommend what I think is the best knife sharpener at a few different price points.

Why Does A Knife Get Dull?

Before we dive into sharpeners specifically, it is important to understand exactly why a knife gets dull. There are several factors at play here. First it is important to understand the edge. The edge is where both sides of the blade meet. Depending on steel type (and associated grain structure for the material scientists), the cutting surface of the edge can be as small as only a few molecules thick. As you use your knife over time, you slowly start to roll this edge over. Because this is happening at the microscopic level, it’s difficult to notice with the naked eye. When you roll your edge, you are effectively making the cutting surface thicker, or in other words, you have to push a wider piece of metal through the material you are cutting which offers more resistance and resultingly requires more pressure to cut.

Second, steel is a wear material. If you drag steel across another material, particularly one that is hard and tough, you will slowly remove molecules from the thinnest point on your edge. This is called galling. This process is accelerated by corrosion. Again, this happens at the microscopic level so it is hard to see with the naked eye. This can easily be felt with a finger though as the knife won’t feel like it is “biting” as you run your finger softly against the blade. Note: I do not recommend running your finger across your blade for safety reasons unless you are experienced in this practice. Much like rolling your edge, material wear will slowly make the cutting surface of your blade thicker which will make your knife cut worse.

Knife Sharpening Basics

Now that you know why an edge gets dull, let’s talk about some of the basic principles when it comes to sharpening. When sharpening a knife, you are simply using a coarse material such as a sharpening hone to remove steel from each side of your edge to narrow the cutting surface again. This process is very much like sanding a piece of wood. You are really just rejoining the two surfaces on each side of the edge.

Sharpening Angles
Sharpening angles are extremely important as they greatly affect how long your blade will hold its edge as well as what cutting properties it will possess. Most knives are sharpened to an angle of 15 to 25 degrees per side (or in other words a 30 to 50 degree angle total). Typically, the smaller the angle, the sharper the knife will be but at the cost of edge retention. On the contrary, a larger angle will hold the edge longer but won’t cut quite as effortlessly. Typically, an edge angle is tailored to the knife style and knife steel. To give you an idea of what kinds of blades like certain edges, here is a quick list:

15 degrees (30 degrees total angle)
This is an extremely fine edge that is most suited for disposable blades. Razors, box cutters, surgical tools such as scalpels, and other similar tools. This edge will not last long at all, but will be laser sharp. This is too fine for most pocket knives and only few high end and exotic steels can hold a usable edge for long at this angle.

20 degrees (40 degrees total angle)
This is probably the most common and most useful all around angle, and probably what you will want to sharpen your knives to. This is ideal for pocket knives, camping knives, kitchen knives, and many other types. This offers a nice balance between edge retention and overall sharpness. This angle can still shave hair off your arm with ease so for most general purpose cutting, there is no need to go smaller.

25 degrees (50 degrees total angle)
This is best suited for edge retention, and is ideal for knives that you don’t want to have to sharpen often and are willing to live with only a moderately sharp blade. This is also ideal for knives that will see some serious abuse, such as hunting knives and camping knives. If you are the kind of person who likes to baton through wood or chop with your knives, this is an ideal sharpening angle for you.

Technique
The actual technique used varies to some degree depending on the setup, but in each case you are simply removing material from your blade to narrow the cutting surface. This usually consists of running your blade repeatedly across a whetstone or diamond stone. Typically you will start with a coarse grit (as far as stones go, although they are all very fine) and work your way down through two or three grits before your knife will be sharp. In some cases, if you have an electric knife sharpener, you may be using a belt or wheel instead of a stone. The concept is still the same in this case.

For a more in depth guide on these techniques, you can go here to read more about knife sharpening basics.

Knife Sharpener Reviews

Spyderco Triangle Sharpmaker

The Spyderco Triangle Sharpmaker is a superb sharpener that is extremely easy to use. Included in the kit is a plastic base, two medium stones, two fine stones, and a pair of finger guards. The kit also includes a detailed instructional sharpening video to teach you the ins and outs of knife sharpening. You have the option of choosing a 30 degree or 40 degree total angle, so it should cover most of your tools and certainly all of your knives whether they are kitchen knives or pocket knives (both plain edge and serrated). You may also lay the stones horizontally and use them like a regular whetstone.

To use it, simply start with the coarse grit stone and set them up in the spot designated for your chosen sharpening angle. Start with the pointy side of the triangle, as it will remove material the most quickly. You slide the knife down the stone for about 20 passes per side. Then switch to the flat side of the coarse grit stones and do 20 more passes. Repeat the process with the fine ceramic stones and you are done! It doesn’t require a lot of hand pressure on your blade, so be gentle. It usually takes about 5 minutes to put an extremely nice edge on my knives when I use this sharpener. I highly recommend watching the video before you start, as it will save you time and leave you with a nicer edge when you are done.

It should also be noted that the versatile nature of this sharpener makes it easy to sharpen other items as well. It easily doubles as an axe sharpener, as a fish hook sharpener, and can easily sharpen darts, punches, scribes, or a number of other tools. You can also get replacement stones for it, which makes life easy if you sharpen a lot of knives.

Click here to read more reviews on Amazon.com

Worksharp Knife and Tool Sharpener

The Worksharp Knife and Tool Sharpener is pretty heavy duty and particularly ideal if you have a lot of knives and tools that need frequent sharpening. This sharpener is powered and drives belts in a variety of grits. There is an attached blade guide that allows you to maintain your sharpening angles.

The Worksharp is flexible and allows you to sharpen at 40 degrees, 50 degrees and 65 degrees (for scissors) total angle. The abrasive belts come in 80 grit, 220 grit, and 6000 grit. Like the Sharpmaker, the Worksharp comes with an instructional DVD and comprehensive user guide. To use it, you simply fire it up and pull your knife through the guide, running along the length of the edge of your blade. It takes only a couple of passes on each side of your knife on each grit. You can sharpen your knife in roughly two minutes with this setup, with most of the time going towards changing the belts. However, it should be noted that if you have a lot of blades to sharpen, this machine can save you considerable time as you can run all the knives at one grit and subsequently drop down to the next.

The Worksharp is a great kitchen knife sharpener (I recommend 40 degrees) and a great pocket knife sharpener (again, I recommend 40 degrees), but it also makes sharpening other tools a breeze as well. You can easily sharpen your mower blades, shovels, scissors, hatchets, etc. At the end of the day, this sharpener puts an excellent edge on anything you can throw at it so if you need frequent sharpening, it’s a great way to go.

Click here to read more reviews on Amazon.com

Pretty Much Any Whetstone

Yes, that’s right. A whetstone, often called a bench stone, a water stone, or a sharpening stone is an abrasive block (most aren’t actually natural stone) that can either be hand held or placed on a table. You simply run the blade of your knife along the stone, alternating sides. A whetstone can be a little bit more difficult to use than the above two sharpeners, mainly because there is no index or reference by which to set your angle. This is done by feel and you more or less have to eyeball it.

That said, whetstones have been used to sharpen knives and tools for many years, long before any of the above tools were ever invented. With some practice and care, you can become a very skillful sharpener on a whetstone. Because of the infinite amount of angles you can set, you can put an edge on anything from a razor blade to a kitchen knife to a chisel. Two advantages to whetstones are that they are extremely portable (assuming you get a small one) and they are extremely cheap compared to some of the more highly engineered sharpeners out there. Interestingly, many people can actually put a better edge on a knife using a whetstone versus anything else. If you don’t have one, it’s definitely a nice tool to have, especially on long trips where your knife may get dull before you have access to a sharpener.

Click here to see some examples of whetstones.

Stropping

No knife sharpening guide would be complete without mention of stropping. Stropping is a finishing technique used to polish the edge of a blade after it has been sharpened. Contrary to intuition and unlike the sharpeners above, a strop doesn’t actually remove any material. A strop simply realigns any microscopic indentations in your blade. Stropping is most common for things like straight razors, but for someone who wants a perfect edge on their knife, a strop is the way to go.

A strop is typically leather, and can either be hanging or fixed to a hand held paddle. To use, you simply slide your blade gently up and down, alternating sides. This is an extremely gentle process, and many people who use strops do so before each cutting operation (for instance a barber usually strops a straight razor before performing a shave on somebody). Most people use a little bit of strop dressing or buffing compound in addition to aid in the process. Stop dressing serves two purposes; the first is to preserve the leather on the strop itself and keep it supple while the second is to slightly increase the drag on the blade to improve the stropping process.

A strop is a great way to get a laser sharp edge, but be prepared to repeat the process often as the edge gets bit fragile with a strop. It should be noted that stropping isn’t really ideal for your survival knife. It’s moreso ideal for knifes that do more delicate work.

Click here to see some examples of strops.

Conclusion

So there you have it. Hopefully this guide points you in the right direction when it comes to your search for the best knife sharpener to suit your needs. In the end, it is up to you to decide exactly what works best for you. If you have any knife sharpener recommendations of your own, or would like to leave a review for one, feel free to do so in the comments! Also don’t hesitate to ask any questions. Stay sharp and thanks for reading!

Click here to see more knife sharpeners!

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