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CRKT Provoke Review: A Different Cut Of Knife

A mechanical wonder with practical functionality, the CRKT Provoke incites wonder.

Karambits are unique knives, originating in southeast Asia as an agricultural tool and later adapted as a weapon. Its signature claw-shaped blade allows effective slashing, and given its cutting edge is always oriented to the target at an angle, it also delivers wicked slices from point to hilt.

Just think about how a cat grabs, holds, punctures and cuts its prey and you have a pretty solid idea about how a karambit operates. The age-old design still inspires and intimidates, and some manufacturers have even figured out how to put a new spin on the longstanding design.

CRKT Provoke
The Provoke offers a wicked chisle grind for maximum slicing, cutting and punturing ability.

Take the CRKT Provoke, for instance.

Knifemaker Joe Caswell took the concept of a folding karambit and made it a bit different. Instead of the blade simply folding into the handle, the Provoke’s steel lunges out and back in with a simple flick of the thumb. In the ancient art of knifemaking it’s difficult to come up with something unique, but Caswell did.

The Provoke not only incites wonder in collectors but also elicits excitement in serious users.

Provoke Blade

The blade of the Provoke (MSRP $200) is 2.4-inches long and is made from D2 steel for superior edge retention. To work properly with the deployment mechanism, the blade is chisel ground. The flat side is faces in toward the handle, laying flush against the frame when closed. This is mainly a safety precaution, protecting the user from cuts or torn clothing when the blade isn’t in use.

Provoke Action

Opening the CRKT Provoke
The mechanical action of the Provoke is one of a kind.

The Provoke’s signature action is what Caswell dubbed “kinematic”. It works thusly, the blade is attached to a pair of movable arms anchored into the handle. To deploy the blade, it is held in reverse grip and the thumb presses on the exposed end of the blade. The arms pivot and the blade leaps forward. Closing is equally as effortless. Just press down on the exposed locking tab just below the finger ring, then the blade is retracted backward until it rests fully against the handle frame. 

Nicely, given it doesn’t take much force to open or close, the blade locks in the open position. Honestly, it’s a really neat, mechanical motion. Fairly self-evident, the movement of the Provoke is unlike anything else available on the market today and has the ability to capture even a jaded knife aficionado’s attention.

Getting Clipped

Provoke clip
As unique as the action is the Provoke’s pocket clip, which lays flat until needed.

Another intriguing aspect of the CRKT offering is its pocket clip. Often used, rarely discussed and poured over, the clip is one of those unsung if not massively simple aspects of the knife. Even here the Provoke takes a different twist in design.

The clip is spring-loaded and rests against the finger ring completely. To open, you simply push down on a notched portion of the clip and it rises up. Some might complain it’s overly complex, but it does fit nicely in a knife defined by its mechanical ingenuity.  Not to mention, in hand, you do not feel the clip at all—a break from nearly every other option with in a standard configuration.

Provoke Variations

Provoke Compact

Provoke Compact and Provoke Grivory
Provoke Compact (top) and Provoke Grivory (bottom) offer two lightweight EDC options.

In addition to the full-size Provoke, there is a scaled-down version in the form of the Provoke Compact (MSRP $150). Essentially, it’s the same knife but with a blade length of 2.2 inches. Where this petite Provoke earns its stripes is ease of carry, as it is much less cumbersome in the pocket than its big brother. And, from my perspective, this smaller version’s action is a bit crisper than the full-sized, perhaps due to the smaller blade.

Provoke Grivory

Again, aiming at EDC, CRKT also offers the lightweight Provoke Grivory (MSRP $100). You guessed it, the handle is made from injection-molded Grivory—a very stiff but lightweight glass-reinforced thermoplastic. Here you have a host of choices in handle colors, including fluorescent green, red, blue, and orange—adding some pop to an already exciting knife. Regardless of the color, the blade’s arms are always black Grivory, providing a nice contrast to the frame and matching the blade’s black stonewash finish. 

It’s also worth noting that the Grivory arms are reinforced with steel to provide strength and rigidity to the material for superb blade action. The lightweight version weighs 4.7 ounces; for comparison, the full-size Provoke weighs 6.1 ounces.  So there is considerable weight savings. 

As for the action on the Grivory, it feels a bit different than the aluminum handle versions—in a good way. For me, it felt a bit lighter and faster in deployment.

Provoke First Responder

For the save and serve professionals, CRKT offers the Provoke First Responder (MSRP $225)—the full-size knife with a 2.4-inch blade. However, it does have some value adds life-saving professionals should appreciate, such as a ceramic glass breaker point inserted into the end of the handle frame.

The Provoke’s curved blade is especially suited for rescue work, particularly cleaving through seatbelts with a single, swift pulling motion. In addition to the standard integrated pocket clip that all Provoke models feature, the First Responder also includes a molded sheath with multiple carry options to offer carry flexibility if desired. 

Provoke EDC

CRKT Provoke EDC
The EDC (bottom) next to the Compact (top). The EDC may prove more practical for some users.

The Provoke EDC (MSRP $175) features a 2.5-inch long drop point blade of D2. This iteration replaces the knife’s standard talon-shaped blade with a blade shape that is more friendly to daily cutting tasks. Honestly, it’s perhaps my favorite out of the entire Provoke family. 

The action is very quick on this one, though once open you have to reorient your grip from a reverse to a forward grip. The blade’s lock release on the EDC version has been reoriented from the position of the other Provoke models, to make one-handed closing of the blade possible.  You can deploy the Provoke EDC one-handed as well as close it one-handed. It does require some practice to close one-handed but once you get it down, you will be able to do that easily.

Provoke Trainer

Provoke Trainer
No need to upgrade your health insurance when practicing with the Provoke Trainer.

For those who might be serious about employing the Provoke for self-defense, or simply like to fiddle with the knife’s action as a fidget toy, CRKT offers a trainer model (MSRP $100). Built exactly like the live-bladed lightweight Provoke, it sports a dulled and blunted blade. In short, there’s no danger of accidental cuts or stabs while working with the knife.

Furthermore, a series of holes drilled into the blade blank subtracts weight so it is the same as the live-bladed version. The trainer is only available in an all-blue handle, signifying its purpose. 

Using The Provoke

When using the regular Provoke, you’re limited to a pulling motion for cutting, though it has a defined blade tip for precise cutting and scoring. If you intend to carry one on an EDC basis then the Provoke EDC is a better candidate because of its double ground drop point blade, which is more conducive to general utility use. 

Due to the more common blade shape along with the short length, this model allows you to get into places where a larger knife blade cannot. This means using the Provoke EDC to open mail, packages, strip wire, cut cardboard, and other general working tasks that a knife of this size would be called upon to do. The D2 steel does an excellent job at holding an edge yet when it comes time to resharpen, it’s still a great steel.

Final Cut

If you like knives that are a step away from ordinary—not to mention are conversation starters—the Provoke series is for you. If you like mechanical things…the Provoke has your name on it. However, I would pick the Provoke EDC as the best of this bunch if you are just going to carry one for daily cutting purposes.

Each model is made with excellent fit, finish, and sharp ess right out of the box, however. I think this design is perhaps one of the most inimitable knives out there right now. It may not be for everybody, though. But if your knife tastes venture into the unique and different, then the CRKT Provoke series has your name on it.  

More On CRKT:

Best Crossbar Lock Knives: Blades & Actions That Holdfast (2024)

The crossbar lock continues to dominate.

One of today’s most popular blade-locking mechanisms for folding knives is the crossbar lock. It’s the most advanced blade lock there is—for now.

The crossbar lock consists of a spring-loaded, hardened-steel bar in the handle that makes constant contact with the tang and springs forward into place once the blade is opened. It wedges itself between the tang and the liner, preventing the blade from rotating shut until it is released manually. The lockbar is ambidextrous. The lock is all smooth action, tight lockup and ease of release. It is safe because it does not require your fingers to be in the path of the closing blade the way a linerlock or framelock does, thereby almost eliminating accidental cuts.

Crossbar Lock Origins

The crossbar lock first appeared in 1999 with Benchmade’s 710 Axis Lock folder, which has since been discontinued. The knife and lock mechanism were designed by knifemakers Bill McHenry and Jason Williams. “Bill McHenry was the primary driver of the mechanism,” says Vance Colver, Benchmade director of product line management. 

Crossbar Lock Inventors
Custom knifemakers Bill McHenry (left) and Jason Williams, designers of the Axis Lock. (Lisa McHenry image)

McHenry was a man of many interests. At one time he was a goldsmith, a watch enthusiast who rebuilt and repaired watches, and he loved restoring vintage Indian motorcycles. “The love for the mechanical gave him a unique perspective to knife lock solutions and led to the Axis Lock,” Colver added.

On June 10, 2003, the patent for the Axis Lock was issued to McHenry and Williams, patent no. US 6,574,689. In addition to the aforementioned features, Colver said the Axis Lock has smooth blade rotation; is reliable with minimal moving parts—just the lockbar moves, and it does so only slightly; and strength, with the Axis Lock outperforming the linerlock in closed failure force.

After the Axis Lock debuted, new Benchmade models with the lock appeared, including the Griptilian designed by BLADE Magazine Cutlery Hall-Of-Fame® member Mel Pardue, the Warren Osborne 940 Axis Lock and the Presidio Axis Lock automatic. The Axis Lock patent expired in 2016, allowing other knife companies to introduce their version and thus broadly open the “new” crossbar lock category.  Today you will see variants across several prominent brands, including the Axis Lock itself.

Top Picks Crossbar Lock Knives

Benchmade Axis Lock

Benchmade crossbar lock
The lock that started it all, the Axis Lock, the original Benchmade McHenry/Williams 710 Axis Lock and Benchmade’s Model 535 Bugout and Mini Adamas. The latter two knives are in production while the 710 has been discontinued.

Benchmade’s Bugout is classic EDC because of its slender form factor, extremely lightweight, and use of premium blade steel. The full-size Model 535 Bugout has a drop point blade of flat ground CPM S30V stainless steel. The 3.2-inch blade is long enough for most cutting tasks but short enough to be compact and carry well. Handle material for the base model is molded Grivory for light weight and strength. Carbon fiber/CPM S90V stainless and machined aluminum/M390 stainless are respective handle/blade material combos available in the high-end models. The manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) for the Bugout starts at $180 and increases depending on handle and blade material options.

The Benchmade Mini Adamas 273-03 Axis Lock is a scaled-down version of the full-size Adamas tactical folder. Designed by knifemaker Shane Sibert, the Mini Adamas has a 3.25-inch drop point blade and closed length of about 4.35 inches. The blade features a milled-in fuller and CPM MagnaCut stainless steel. The regular production versions have CPM CRUWEAR tool steel blades.

The handle is angular and boxy in very good ways. A slight swelling in the middle helps fill your palm. The special edition has marble carbon fiber scales. The standard Mini Adamas offers a choice of black or OD (olive drab) green G-10 handles. The knife’s Axis Lock works beautifully, with a rock-solid lockup and ultra-smooth blade rotation. MSRP: $375. Country of origin for the featured Benchmades: USA.

Microtech Ram Lok

Microtech crossbar lock
Microtech’s RAM LOK takes the crossbar lock to the next level with a rectangular-shaped lockbar that places more mass on the blade tang as opposed to the standard round profile lockbar of other crossbar locks. The RAM LOK is available on several select Microtech models, including the MSI (top) and Amphibian (bottom) folders.

Microtech christened its crossbar lock Ram Lok, and it’s a variation on the theme. Most if not all other crossbar locks employ a round-profile locking bar. The Ram Lok has a rectangular shape, providing more surface space and bulk to the lock, thereby providing more inherent strength. The center post that passes through the rectangular lock has a coil spring that provides the lock’s resistance and is the key to the lockup’s integrity. The Ram Lok follows the contours of the tang and, once the blade rotates fully open, springs forward into place, wedging into the tang, thus preventing the blade from rotating closed. The release buttons are multi-faceted, stepped “X” designs on either side of the handle.

The MSI (Microtech Standard Issue) and Amphibian Ram Lok are but two Microtech manual folders with the Ram Lok. Winner of Best American Made Knife at BLADE Show West 2023 (January BLADE®, page 16), the MSI features a 3.8-inch sheepsfoot blade of Bohler M390MK high-performance stainless. M390MK is manufactured exclusively for Microtech and is similar to M390 though enhanced a bit for added edge holding.

The straight-line cutting edge permits easy sharpening as well as high utility, excelling at pull cuts especially. MSRP: $365.  A black-polymer-molded-handle version lowers the price considerably to $177. It’s the most affordable U.S.-made Microtech folder available.

The Amphibian is the resurrection of an older Microtech tactical design. It sports a recurve clip-point blade in 4 inches of M390MK and a highly ergonomic handle. The signature stepped teardrop-shaped thumb stud is ambidextrous and allows for easy one-hand opening. The handle is available in G-10 or aluminum, with G-10 colors of black, FDE (flat dark earth) or OD green. The aluminum handle is available in black only, though that may change by the time you read this. MSRP: $300. Country of origin for the featured Microtechs; USA.

Hogue ABLE Lock

Hogue crossbar lock
The Hogue Knives Deka has the company’s ABLE Lock. ABLE is an acronym for Advanced Bar Lock Enhanced. The Deka is an EDC friendly folder that comes in clip-point (top) and wharncliffe (bottom) blade shapes and is designed by custom knifemaker Allen Elishewitz.

Hogue Knives calls its crossbar lock the ABLE (Ambidextrous Bar Lock Enhanced) Lock. The Deka is one of the company’s folders that sports the ABLE. Designed by knifemaker Allen Elishewitz, the Deka is stylish, well-configured and slender, great for EDC and makes an awesome work knife. The 3.9-inch blade comes in standard clip point or modified wharncliffe patterns. At press time, Hogue was switching the blade steel to CPM MagnaCut from CPM 20CV.

The handle is offered in standard black and multicolored Gmascus in red, camo, green and blue. The Gmascus replicates a damascus look but in a lightweight phenolic-based resin. As each color alternates with black, the resulting visual is eye catching. The ambidextrous pocket clip carries the knife tip up. MSRP: $194.95. A version with a lightweight, lower-cost polymer handle in a choice of black, blue and FDE and a MagnaCut blade has an MSRP of $159.95. Country of origin: USA.

Gerber Pivot Lock

Gerber Pivot Lock
Gerber’s Sedulo (top) and Assert (bottom) offer the company’s version of the crossbar lock called the Pivot Lock. The Pivot Lock secures solidly and the blade action is ultra-smooth. Dual steel liners reinforce the lock’s strength.

In recent years Gerber has shifted production to the USA, a good lead-in to its new folders with crossbar locks. Among them are the Sedulo and Assert, each of which uses Gerber’s Pivot Lock. The Sedulo’s 3.4-inch drop point blade is fully flat ground CPM S30V stainless. Dual thumb studs provide ambidextrous opening. A stonewashed finish helps seal micro pores in the steel as well as hides most scratches easily.

The handle is gray FRN (fiberglass-reinforced nylon)—black is also available—with chamfering throughout for a secure, comfortable grip. The Pivot Lock locks up very tight and the blade action is ultra-smooth. Dual steel liners reinforce lock strength. Closed length: 4.7 inches. MSRP: $124.99.

Though not as brawny as the Sedulo, the Assert carries easier and more comfortably. The modified clip point blade is 2.9 inches of CPM S30V. Closed length: 4 inches. The oblong blade slot provides attachment points for the adjustable thumb stud, which you can move/position anywhere along the slot. The stud can be removed altogether and the slot used to open the blade instead.

I love how the two standoffs at the handle butt, the lock release buttons and the thumb studs are orange, contrasting nicely with the gray and adding an exciting pop of color. An ambidextrous fold-over clip carries the knife deep in the pocket. The Pivot Lock ensures smooth blade action and rock-solid lockup.

The flat-ground blade slices evenly and cleanly. Out of the box the edge was very sharp and ready to work. It carries well, cuts well and is great looking. MSRP: $174.99. It’s available in three colors: all black with black blade and hardware, gray handle with orange hardware, and green handle with blue hardware. Country of origin for the featured Gerbers: USA.

Kershaw Duralock

Kershaw crossbar lock
The Iridium (top) and Heist (bottom) are two of Kershaw’s newest folders featuring the company’s version of the crossbar lock—the Duralock. It provides a strong, solid lock-up.

Kershaw’s crossbar lock is the Duralock and is offered on a few new models in the company lineup. One is the Iridium, a slender folder designed to carry easily. Packing a 3.4-inch spear point blade of D2 tool steel, the Iridium is made for hard use. The handle is gray-anodized aluminum for light weight and high tensile strength. Mounted on the handle’s reverse side, the clip carries the Iridium deep and tip up. A copper-colored handle spacer adds just the right amount of contrast. The Duralock engages crispy with zero blade play. The Iridium is also available in an all-black-coated handle and blade. MSRP for the standard Iridium is $99.99 and the Iridium Black is $104.99.  

The Heist is another new Kershaw design with the Duralock. Featuring a 3.2-inch clip point blade of D2 tool steel, the Heist has an ergonomic handle with a slim profile for effortless carry. The 3-D grip texturing helps keep your hand in place during extended use. Molded FRN scales conserve on weight. The clip is a fold-over deep-carry style affixed to the handle butt. The Heist is a straightforward working knife for military and law enforcement. The pivot works on a bronze washer. The Duralock locks up strong and solid. The MSRP of $84.99 is very reasonable for a working folder with above average blade steel. Country of origin for both knives: China.

Tactile Knife Co. Tight Lock

Tactile Tight Lock
The Maverick by Tactile Knife Co. pairs the company’s crossbar lock with a knife design by custom maker Richard Rogers. Richard designed the Maverick’s crossbar lock, too. The folder won Best EDC at BLADE Show Texas 2023.

Tactile Knife Co. is a relatively new U.S. knife manufacturer and the Maverick, a collaboration with custom knifemaker Richard Rogers and winner of Best EDC at BLADE Show Texas 2023, features the company’s version of the crossbar lock. The Maverick is a slender folder on the larger side, with a 3.5-inch blade and 4.7-inch closed length. It may be on the longer side but it has a slim profile that carries very well in jeans or a suit. The MagnaCut blade has a flat front with a bit of a swedge. Dual thumb studs promote easy opening with either hand.

The titanium handle’s 3D texture has many ridges to enhance traction. The crossbar lock provides a smooth opening and is very secure. The handle shape is simple but works very well, with an integral single guard to keep your hand in place. 

The clip is an interesting design. Two standoffs attach to the butt end to carry the knife tip up, with the clip affixed atop the standoffs. It’s more involved than a standard or even a milled titanium clip. It looks upscale and different in a very good way. It shows the attention to detail throughout the Maverick, which includes an anodized, triangular-shaped titanium pivot bolt. The folder is also available in black Richlite Micarta®, providing a slightly lower price point ($249 MSRP) and lighter weight. MSRP for the titanium version: $349.

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Kershaw Leek Review: Not Your Garden-Variety EDC Knife

A Ken Onion design, the Kershaw Leek has cut a commanding profile.

It’s no wonder why the Kershaw Leek is such a phenomenal EDC folding knife. It has all the right elements that knife users crave—style, sturdy construction, premium materials, an impressive selection and is priced right.

The Leek is essentially the bigger brother of Kershaw’s Chive, answering the call from knife fanatics for a larger option of this Ken Onion design. And the petite option doesn’t disappoint.

We’ll examine why it’s been a popular seller for Kershaw, explore some popular variants and find out why this isn’t your garden-variety EDC knife.

Kershaw Leek Blade

The Leek’s blade measures 3 inches and is made from Sandvik 14C28N stainless steel, making it great at holding an edge. However, it’s the blade’s profile that demands attention. It’s a modified clip point and the profile tapers down to almost a needle tip. This is both a good and bad thing, which I will go into in depth later.

Kershaw Leek cutting
A born cutter, the Leek’s modified clip point blade made quick work of nearly any task set in front of it. Photos by Marty Stanfield, Marty Stanfield Photography

The hollow grind of the blade thins it down nicely to where the blade takes a smart, sharp edge easily. Dual thumb studs are present, but do not function as traditional thumb studs. Instead, they are used only for a positive stop in the open position.

Kershaw Leek Handle

The handle is a slender, elongated shape that favors daily carry due to its thin profile. The handle itself measures 4 inches, bringing the overall length of the Leek to 7 inches when open.

The handle sports a nice, comfortable chamfer all the way around making gripping it easier and presenting fewer hot spots. A large, steel pocket clip can be affixed to the handle to carry the Leek in the tip-up or tip-down position, whatever you wish to do. The clip holds the Leek securely in your pocket, and it can be removed as well should you desire to carry it in the bottom of your pocket.

Leek clip
A movable clip allows the Leek to be carried tip-up or tip-down. Photos by Marty Stanfield, Marty Stanfield Photography

The base Leek (model 1660) has a handle of bead-blasted stainless steel with a matching bead-blasted blade. The Leek is available with a variety of handle finishes, from several colors of anodized aluminum to black PVD-coated, Blackwash and carbon fiber, to name a few.

As for the lock, it’s a frame lock that engages the blade tang positively, securing it in the open position. Very solid and easy to operate when you’re ready to stash the blade.

Testing The Leek

For this review, Kershaw sent me several of their popular selling Leek models for closer examination. I have the 1660 base model Leek with a bead blast finish on the blade and handle. The 1660OR is a liner lock and has orange-anodized aluminum handles. The Leek is available in an array of anodized aluminum colors. Speaking of colors, there’s also the very unique 1660VIB which is a high polish 1660 with the addition of a rainbow titanium coating. And finally, we have the high-tech 1660CF liner lock which features futuristic carbon fiber handles and upgraded blade steel to CPM154 for higher performance cutting and longer edge retention

My pick of this bunch is the 1660CF, given there’s a lot going on with this particular model. You get the benefit of the unique look and the lightweight of the carbon fiber, combined with the high-end blade steel. The 1660CF carries very well due to the reduced mass compared with the regular 1660 Leek framelock.

Kershaw Leek frame lock
The Leek’s frame lock is sturdy and easy to manipulate. Photos by Marty Stanfield, Marty Stanfield Photography

Structurally speaking, the base model 1660 Leek frame lock has a very rock-solid lockup. It’s very hard to defeat and only closes when you deliberately command it to. It actually makes a good work knife as long as you use it as a cutting tool and nothing else that it wasn’t designed for (more on this in a bit).

Performance-wise, the Leek—across the board regardless of the blade steel or handle configuration—is definitely a slicer. The blade stock is very thin and when it is ground, it is attenuated even more.

Right out of the box, the leek has a lot of bite. It goes through thicker stuff like cardboard very easily. The tip being acute, makes for an excellent scoring tool as well. The Leek excels at being an all-around EDC cutter.

The blade opens fast, with the press of the exposed flipper tab on the blade spine, Kershaw’s Speed Safe assisted opening technology takes over and powers the blade to the fully open and locked position. It’s easy to see why the Leek remains a popular Kershaw model after all these years, it simply works well and is a good-looking design.

Leek Sticky Points

Two of the most common failures I have seen in the Leek are where folks misuse the knife as well as the sliding safety breaking.

Leek blade
While the blade is an accomplished cutter, it’s thin enough the tip is easily damaged when used to pry. Photos by Marty Stanfield, Marty Stanfield Photography

Because the tip of the blade is pointy, it’s a weak spot with the knife. Where you get into trouble is when you use the tip to pry, even lightly. This either results in a bend or break off entirely. This is a cutting tool, not a pry tool or screwdriver.

Each Leek also comes with a sliding safety that, when the blade is closed, you slide over the tip of the blade to physically block it from coming out of the handle. There is a hex screw on the backside you use your thumb to move and this moves the safety. Sometimes the safety can slide on its own while the blade is open; when you go to close the blade it comes down on the safety tab. If done hard enough this will cause the safety to break, as it is plastic. The nice part, the tab is replaceable.

Final Cut

Other than these points, the Leek is a proven EDC knife. It’s rather compact, slender, and doesn’t garner unwanted attention. It’s worth a look if you’re in the market for a blade that balances looks and performance.

As for price, the MSRP for the base 1660 Leek is $115. The 1660OR orange handle Leek is $105. And the Carbon Fiber 1660 CF runs $190. In the scheme of things, not bad pricing for USA-made EDC folding knife—particularly with an Onion pedigree!

Read More About Kershaw:

Benchmade Infidel Review: Breaking The Mold For OTF Autos

Breaking from the boxy OTF autos, the Benchmade Infidel cuts a unique profile that’s made it a hit among high-end knife lovers.

Out-the-front (OTF) automatic knives have long been popular with knife enthusiasts because they are different enough to be unique but not so odd as to be useable. OTF’s main mechanism of action is propelling the blade fore and aft in relation to the handle, as opposed to out the side in a radial fashion as most known automatic folding knives operate. Presently a few knife companies offer OTF automatics but there is one drawback to most designs (if you see it as such)—most have boxy handles.

This is primarily out of necessity. The handle shape in generally needs parallel sides to facilitate the fore and aft motion of the blade as it extends and retracts into the handle. And with the sliding switch actuation located on the spine, there isn’t much that companies can do with handle shape changes.

Enter the Benchmade Infidel, a high-end USA-made OTF with a curvy handle.

Benchmade Infidel Handle
Photo: Marty Stanfield – Marty Stanfield Photography

How did the company accomplish this? By relocating the actuation slide switch from the handle spine to the handle scale. Moving the switch opened up possibilities of experimenting with different handle shapes, even ones that enhance user grip and safety as well. The Infidel’s handle is curvy, yet symmetrical and sports a three-dimensional texturing pattern to boost hand traction.

Infidel Blade

The Infidel’s dagger-shaped blade measures 3.9 inches in length and sports a traditional grind for this style of knife and a symmetrical appearance. This truly is a dagger blade with edges sharpened fully on both sides. Benchmade opted for D2 steel for the blade, selected for its known edge retention and toughness.

Infidel Blade
Photo: Marty Stanfield – Marty Stanfield Photography

A fuller is machined down the centerline of the blade, enhancing the appearance and giving it a bit of an edgy attitude. The blade is finished with a black coating, serving as an additional layer of corrosion resistance, as well as a low profile, non-glare finish. For those who might not be aware, D2 is not stainless steel and requires a little extra care. This coating accomplishes this job.

Infidel Handle

The handle measures 4.8-inches long and it is machined from aircraft-grade aluminum for both strength and weight reduction. The overall handle shape is inviting with its multiple curves that define a forward guard of sorts to park your hand in place. Moving towards the middle, there is a slight contour that helps to fill your grip more, and the expanded section at the rear of the handle aids in preventing rearward sliding.

Like the blade, the handle shape is symmetrical and very pleasing in appearance when you factor the blade’s uniformity. The handle sports bi-directional machining patterns helping to hold your hand in place. If the machining pattern look familiar, it should. It is the same style used on Benchmade’s Presidio automatic folder.

Benchmade Infidel Clip
Photo: Marty Stanfield – Marty Stanfield Photography

To fire the blade, there is a stepped slide switch on the presentation side of the handle. The machining pattern on the switch allows for positive thumb engagement to deploy and retract the blade. The reverse side of the handle is smooth and you find a deep carry, fold-over style pocket clip affixed to the handle to carry the Infidel tip down in the pocket. The clip easily attaches to your pants pocket and holds the knife securely.

Using The Infidel

While it is possible to EDC a dagger blade OTF (though, be sure to check your local laws first on knife carry), I will have to caution against the fact that its use as a working knife is rather limited given the blade design. The dagger grind makes the tip devastatingly sharp and pointy (a good thing), it also leaves the tip more susceptible to damage or even breakage if the knife is used heavily. This is especially true when prying or twisting while cutting actions may be involved.

With certain tasks where puncturing and cutting—such as opening bags of mulch or topsoil—the Infidel definitely excels. Push the blade through the bag and pull it to the side to slice the top open. It all happens effortlessly. Opening mail, opening packages, cutting cardboard, breaking down cardboard boxes, and cutting shrink wrap are some tasks that the Infidel can also handle with aplomb.

Benchmade Infidel In Use
Photo: Marty Stanfield – Marty Stanfield Photography

The ease of extending and retracting the blade simply by moving the slide switch forward or backward makes using the knife easy. One thing to note regarding the handle ergonomics in general, the Infidel is glove-friendly. With some knife handles, the handle feels lost in your gloved hand. You cannot manipulate it easily, it feels too thin. With the Infidel, the handle design translates well to gloves.

The D2 steel is respectable in performance, offering enhanced edge retention and toughness against wear and impact. It’s a well-known steel, especially in the outdoor knife market, where large camp knives and choppers may be made from D2 for these very reasons. While you are certainly not going to do any chopping or batoning with an OTF, it’s nice to know the blade is that tough and can take a fair amount of abuse before it needs to be sharpened.

I have always had good luck with D2 and found it to be a very good-performing steel for its price. Since you’re not going to be engaged in heavy work with the Infidel, D2 is perfect and when it does come time for a resharpening, D2 sharpens up quicker than all your high-performance steels. Another plus!

Infidel Variations

For those of you who wish for a smaller Infidel, there is the Mini Infidel which has a 3.1-inch long dagger blade. All the material specs are the same as the full-size Infidel. The overall length is 7.1 inches, and the Mini Infidel is a very pocket-friendly design. It’s sized right for daily carry and for those with smaller hands. Size wise it’s not as imposing as the full-size Infidel but its smaller size allows it to get in and out of more daily carry tasks like opening packages, mail, and some general cutting tasks as you work around the home, yard, and garage.

Infidel Mini
Photo: Marty Stanfield – Marty Stanfield Photography

Additionally, there is an upgraded model with a few bells and whistles. Benchmade dressed up the Infidel by offering three shades of nature-inspired colors: Crater Blue, Woodland Green, and Flat Dark Earth. These limited edition knives come out in 1,000 batches, and are also equipped with upgraded blade steel to satin-finished, premium CPM S30V. This is a long-time standard steel in the knife industry, known for its toughness and extreme wear resistance.

Final Cut

The Infidel is one of the more interesting OTF automatic knives on the market. It combines style, function and quality materials to equate to a long-lasting tool that will stand the test of time.

The Benchmade 3300BK Infidel has an MSRP of $550.00. The 3350BK Mini Infidel has an MSRP of $500. The Flat Dark Earth, Woodland Green, and Crater Blue full-size Infidel have an MSRP of $650.00 each. The same colors for the Mini Infidel are $600.00 each.

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Spyderco Paramilitary 2 Review: Still A Cut Above The Rest

The Spyderco Paramilitary 2, simply known as the Para 2, is a part of the Military family of popular tactical folders in the Spyderco lineup. The Para 2 came about as a downsized version of the full-size Military model, answering the call from customers for a practical EDC option. 

Smaller it might be, but the Para 2 retains the essence of what makes the Military a popular working folder. And because of this, the knife has developed a cult following. However, it’s not simply a shrunken-down facsimile of its larger predecessor, having gone through several design improvements that have dialed in the knife to users’ needs.

In this article, we’ll examine exactly what has made the Spyderco Para 2 such a winner in the company’s lineup. And why, if you need a truly rugged everyday option—or just want a classic in your collection—the legendary knife more than fits the bill.

Para 2 Blade

To start things off, the blade of the Para 2 sports a useful clip point shape, enhanced with a full flat grind. Furthermore, the knife has a gradual distal taper from the tang to the tip, evident when viewed from the top. The length of the blade measures 3.4 inches long, enough length to take care of heavy work but short enough for comfortable carry in a pocket. 

Para 2 blade
A CPM S45VN stainless-steel blade brings toughness, excellent edge retenion and easy of sharpening to the game.

Constructed of CPM S45VN high-performance stainless steel, Spyderco picked the perfect material for a high-end knife. Compared to the gold standard of this class—S30V—S45VN proves a bit tougher, yet is remains easy to resharpen. That is if you have to. The blade’s toughness means it holds an edge extremely well, suiting it for long-haul work without interruption. A final point, S45VN is fairly renowned for its corrosion resistance, making the Para 2 excel in nearly any environment.

As those familiar with Spyderco can guess, the blade boasts the company’s trademark hole near the spine, at the rear. This has been the go-to deployment method for time immemorial on the firm’s knives. Rounding things out on the blade, there’s integrated chill formed by part of the blade and handle when the blade is opened. A choil permits the user to further choke up on the blade for extra control when needed.  

Para 2 Handle

Spyderco opts for a black textured G-10 for the handle, which endows it with a few assets. First, it keeps the knife nimble, cutting down on the Para 2 overall weight. But this isn’t at the expense of strength—G10 is tough as cut nails—and a solid purchase on the knife.

Paramilitary 2 handle
Dark, dashing and useful, the Para 2’s G-10 handled gives users a firm grip on the knife.

The handles are milled out, allowing the slightly undersized stainless steel liners to sit flush with the G-10. Nicely, this reduces the overall width of the handle but doesn’t sacrifice the lateral strength of the liners. Spyderco also turns its eye to weight reduction with the liners, porting them to further lighten the load—while not compromising strength. 

The handle shape itself is very ergonomic, like the full-size Military. There is an expanded, curved section that forms an integral finger guard to prevent your hand from sliding forward. The handle feels very secure in hand, and this inspires user confidence. 

Compression Lock

Compression lock
With an extremely strong lockup, the Para 2’s Compression Lock adds confidence to the system.

The Para 2 utilizes Syperco’s Compression Lock to secure the blade, a solid system that has several benefits. For those unfamiliar with the mechanism, it’s an in-house design that provides an extremely strong lockup. It operates by the lock bar wedging itself onto a ramp on the blade’s tang and a hardened steel stop pin. As an added benefit, the release is situated on the handle spine, just behind the blade within reach of the thumb and forefinger. Not only is the design ambidextrous, but it also facilitates fast and intuitive one-hand opening (with a bit of practice) and closing. 

Pocket Clip

A steel pocket clip is attached to the handle in the right-hand, tip-down configuration. However, Spyderco has what they call 4-way clip mounting with the Para 2. This means the handle is drilled and tapped to modify the clip’s position, thus the carry style. Again, this makes the knife lefty- and righty-friendly, as well as allowing for tip-up or tip-down carry. Understandably, this is another facet of the Para 2 has that a lot of fans. 

Para 2 clip
No matter how you carry or hand you use, you can move the clip to suit your needs.

The handle also has an open build, allowing you to effectively clean lint and other debris out of the inside of the handle by using either compressed air or tap water. The handle length is 4.8 inches, making the overall length of the Para 2 around 8.2 inches. I would consider any folder with an overall length of 9 inches to be large, so to say the Para 2 is a midsize folder is a stretch. It’s safer to say it’s on the upper end of being midsize. Still kind of compact, but large enough to handle some man-sized cutting jobs. 

Para 2 In Action

The flat ground blade with distal taper helps the blade sail through anything with ease. This is exactly the reason why the full-size Military is a favorite among knife users the world over. You’ll notice the blade bites in and does so aggressively and it just takes off. Shoot, I have even used my Para 2 and Military in the kitchen to aid in food prep at times. The Para 2 makes for an effective paring knife. 

Paramilitary 2 open
An all-time classic, the Para 2 offers users an option fit to tackle most jobs.

Outside of the kitchen, the Para 2 slices through cardboard, plastic edging, styrofoam blocks, and even strips wire with ease. Spyderco’s cutting edges out of the box are nothing short of perfect. The Para 2 can be put to work immediately without modifications to the edge. S45VN’s durability is out of this world. You’ll benefit from the enhanced edge-holding capability of this steel by not having to sharpen as often. However, all this depends on your frequency of use and that can vary from person to person. 

The handle ergonomics are very comfortable. The Para 2 didn’t leave any hot spots of any kind and is pleasurable to wield during extended periods of use. 

Final Cut

I think you will find the Para 2 to be an excellent daily carry choice for you, if you are looking for a working folder that is also a super comfortable EDC knife. As for how much the Spyderco Paramilitary 2 will set you back, the MSRP starts at $265.00 for the black G-10 handle/satin-finished blade as tested here. There’s also a camo handle for the same price, and black DLC coated versions for a bit more at $285.

More Spyderco Knives:

Kershaw Blur Review: Focusing On The EDC Classic

A mainstay in the company’s catalog, the Ken Onion-designed, USA-Made Kershaw Blur remains a clear EDC choice.

Kershaw’s Blur has been in the company’s line for several years and it continues to be a good seller for the company. You get it all with the Blur—a handsome look, useful blade shape, and made-in-the-USA toughness.

Devised by custom knifemaker Ken Onion, the Blur exhibits the hallmarks of Onion’s design with its recurve drop point blade and optimized handle shape promoting user comfort, as well as safety. Plus, you get a choice of several variations with the Blur. Each differs by blade steel and handle color, adding some style and flair to your daily carry arsenal.

Kershaw Blur Blade

The Blur’s blade measures 3.4-inches long and is made of Sandvik 14C28N stainless steel. For those seeking a higher-performance steel, Kershaw offers an upgraded S30V version. Though the base-model steel is no slouch, as 14C28N holds an edge well, yet resharpens fairly easily. The Blur’s blade has plenty of bite right out of the box, thanks to its hollow grind.

Kershaw Blur Blade
The Blur’s blade has plenty of bite right out of the box, thanks to its hollow grind. Photos Marty Stanfield

For deployment, the Blur uses ambidextrous thumb studs. These are custom-designed studs, with a unique slanted portion. This rake allows you to bump with your thumb and then back off immediately, so they won’t be in the way of opening.

Speed Safe System

Deployment speed doesn’t disappoint, thanks to Kershaw’s Speed Safe assisted opening technology. The Speed Safe system was developed by Ken Onion and serves as a way to quickly and effectively open a folding knife blade quickly with minimal user effort. Essentially, a torsion bar propels the blade open after the user initiates blade movement by pushing out on the thumb stud.

Kershaw Blur Handle

For those who appreciate a solid and comfortable grip (who doesn’t?) the Blur incorporates some interesting design elements.

Starting with the construction, Kershaw has opted for aluminum alloy, making the handle both lightweight and strong. The shape is also well thought out, offering an intriguing and aesthetically pleasing shape, that doesn’t compromise on comfort. It’s a good example of Onion’s profound understanding of knife ergonomics.

Blur Handle
A fluid shape, the Blur looks nice and fits the palm well. Photos Marty Stanfield

Furthering the usability, the Kershaw chamfers all the edges, ensuring there are no hotspots on the knife and textured rubber inlay inserts are a practical bonus, increasing grip traction tenfold with either wet or dry hands. Kershaw calls this material Trac Tech and it’s very similar to the self-adhesive grip tape you might find indoors in wet locations such as a swimming pool deck.

Interestingly, Trac Tech also helps with holding the knife to the pocket, making it a bit difficult to slide in and out. Depending on who you are and your particular activities, this can be a good thing or an annoyance. It is insurance from the knife falling out of your pocket, but it does slow retrieval time.

I like the use of Trac Tech on the blur simply because it gives the handle a more tactile feel to it.

Trac Tech in a Blur
Looking for more grip, Trac Tech inserts gives the Blur more bite. Photos Marty Stanfield

The general open build of the handle makes cleaning easy, especially when using compressed air or rinsing out under tap water. There is a pocket clip that helps to carry the Blur in the pocket and Kershaw gives you the option of either tip-up or tip-down carry but for right-hand carry only. Sorry lefties!

Final Cut

The Blur is a stylish EDC folding knife that doesn’t back down when there is tough work ahead. The recurve blade cuts very well, and its ample belly makes it an efficient slicer.

The hollow grind really thins the blade out nicely without making it too slender, and therefore it will cut through tougher materials with greater ease. It really excels at cardboard. I like this material for testing as it is a good standard because of its thickness and slight abrasiveness. Both aspects test the edge’s geometry.

Several Kershaw Blurs
Kershaw offers several colors and blade options, helping the Blur fit most folks style. Photos Marty Stanfield

The liner lock of the Blur is dialed in nicely, it hits the tang on the lower third of the width of the blade and allows for some wear as the lock breaks in. Yet, the lockup is very secure. The exposed portion of the lock bar that you contact to release the lock has traction notches on it so you can get a good grip on it. I thought was a nice extra touch on Kershaw’s part.

Overall, the only nit to pick is I wish the clip was designed to carry the Blur deeper in the pocket. Other than this, no real issues to speak of with the knife

When it comes time to purchase a Blue, this might be the hardest decision because of the variety of models. There are a ton of colorways for the handle—black, navy blue, and olive green. Additionally, Kershaw offers several blade options, including plain edge and partly serrated as well as stonewashed, blackwash and Cerakote black finishes. If that weren’t enough, you also have a choice of a tanto blade as well, if that’s more your speed. Heck, there’s even an option with a carbide glass breaker at the end of the handle.

Blur and cardboard
Still a classic after all these years, the Kershaw remains a solid EDC option. Photos Marty Stanfield

The Blur’s MSRP starts at $135 and goes up from there to as much as $185 depending on blade finishes. Overall, the knife presents an overall package—Onion design, high function, nice styling and plenty of options choices. What this adds up to, is an EDC option that should be welcome in anyone’s collection.

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Spyderco Tenacious Review: The Relentless Workingman’s Knife

Built like a top-shelf Spyderco, but at a fraction of the price the Tenacious more than lives up to its name.

Spyderco’s knives are about as high-performance as you can get in a production knife. They look at things from all angles, from blade grinds to handle ergonomics and how each plays an important role in the other. It’s a symbiosis of sorts. Therefore, most of their knives are on the pricey side but very well worth it.

The use of high-end materials with superior ergonomics and cutting-edge blade steels get everyone drooling, but there is one factor that spoils it for some. The high price.

“No thank you”, some might retort. Then resort to looking at other brands, whose offerings might be a bit cheaper and more within their budget range. Still, they crave Spyderco.

Fear not my penny-pinching friends.

Spyderco Tenacious neutral open copy
Affordable and capable, the Tenacious proves a capable workingman’s knife. Photo: Marty Stanfield

Spyderco had exactly you in mind when it unleashed the C122GP Tenacious. An excellent value folder from incorporating all the hallmarks of a Spyderco design and execution but without the scary high price tag. Essentially, it’s an everyman’s knife, with the elite performance the company has built its name on. 

How’s that for value?  

Spyderco Tenacious Blade

Starting with the modified clip point blade of the Tenacious, 8Cr13MoV stainless steel was chosen because of its great balance between edge retention, ease of sharpening and low cost. For those not familiar, 8Cr13MoV is the Chinese equivalent of the Japanese-made AUS-8. A lot of entry-level to mid-range knives have this steel. It makes a great choice for a working folder as 8Cr13MoV is relatively easy to resharpen and takes a good edge in minimal time.

The blade length is 3 ⅜ inches, long enough to for serious work but short enough to carry easily in the pocket. Jimping on the thumb rest allows you to place your thumb there to apply downward pressure on the blade. The rest sample we were sent has a satin-finished blade, though, Spyderco offer the Tenacious with a black coated blade for low visibility, as well. 

Spyderco Tenacious Blade
A 8Cr13MoV drop-point blade offers respectable steel in a useful profile.Photo: Marty Stanfield

Additionally, partially serrated edge formats are available for enhanced cutting power. This blade design is a workhorse, with its flat grind and distal taper, which allows the blade to become a voraciously efficient slicing tool. Honestly, Tenacious in hand, you’ll be able to slice through your biggest and toughest cutting tasks with ease.  

Spyderco Tenacious Handle

Look at some other budget folding knives on the market and you can tell where corners were cut. One evident area is handle design. No so with the Tenacious.

Spyderco has some of the best handle designs on the market, the company has an intimate understanding of how to design a comfortable interface comfortable for extended hard usage. In this case, the knife uses a black textured G-10 phenolic resin handle for both reduced weight and an excellent grip. As a side note, the handle length is 4 7/16-inces long and overall, well thought out. In the hand, it proves comfortable, important with any knife. There are no hot spots to speak of and it seem designed for long periods of use without fatigue.

Spyderco Tenacious lock vertical copy
In addition to G10 scale, the Tenacious has a study double stainless-steel liner to provide the handle plenty of backbone. Photo: Marty Stanfield

Double stainless-steel liners provide a solid backbone for the handle, and a sturdy liner lock secures the blade in the open position for ultimate user safety. A radiused gripping area accommodates the fingers well and the perimeter of the G-10 is chamfered to reduce sharp corners for a comfortable grip. 

Four sets of clip screw holes are drilled into the handle, offering a have-it-your-way approach to pocket clip mounting. You can mount the clip for left-hand use or right-hand use and within these two, you can have either a tip-up or a tip-down configuration. The clip comes from the factory set up for right-handed, tip-down configuration.

Practicality Of The Spyderco Tenacious

If you are in any of the trades and use tools in your job—a knife being one of them—it’s very important to select your work knife carefully not just from a budget/financial standpoint but feature-wise as well. Just because it is a budget knife doesn’t mean it’s stripped down and basic. 

Budget knives can include some creature comforts that make work easier. The Tenacious packs in one hand ambidextrous opening, a secure blade lock, open handle construction with dual steel liners and textured G-10 handles. Furthermore it boasts a pocket clip with user-selectable modes of carry, and a properly designed blade that will cut efficiently. All this, in one knife.

Spyderco Tenacious clip_ copy
Righty, lefty, doesn’t matter. Spyderco enginereed a clip that caters to either hand and nearly any style of carry. Photo: Marty Stanfield

With this being said, the Tenacious lives up to its name as it is eager to tackle any cutting task that awaits. The MSRP for the Chinese made Tenacious is $86, which means it probably can be purchased online for around $60. This makes it a great bargain for a sturdy, well-designed work knife. And if you lose it, you are not out a lot of money.

If you have more expensive knives in your collection and are hesitant to beat on as a work knife, then the Tenacious fills that role well. What you have here is a midsize folding knife that feels good in the hand and cuts exceptionally well.

Final Cut

As an owner of quite a few high-end Spyderco models such as the Military, Paramilitary 2, Manix 2, Shaman, and a few others, I can honestly say the Tenacious performance-wise is almost identical. Bold statement, I know. But all Spyderco knives just have that feel to them—no matter the price. If you are a fellow Spyderco owner, you know exactly what I am talking about.

Spyderco Tenacious action 2 copy
Spyderco created an affordable gem in the Tenacious. Photo: Marty Stanfield

The 8Cr13MoV steel holds an edge well but don’t expect it to be like S30V and hold an edge for a long time. Maintenance in the field is possible with the right sharpener and the steel responds well to routine touch-ups.

Just do yourself a favor and purchase a Tenacious and put it to work. You won’t be disappointed. Spyderco did their homework with this budget-conscious folder that’s packed with features that also are found on their more expensive knives.  

More Spyderco Knives:

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