Best Benchmade Knife: What Are The Company’s Classics

An iconic knifemaker, Benchmade had earned the respect of discerning knife aficionados. Here are some of the best of what it has to offer.

The Benchmade company as we know it today began in 1980 as Bali-Song, Inc., later Pacific Cutlery Corp. Before its knives got popular on the national scene, the company went through a couple of initial changes in how they produced knives and where, ultimately settling on the ‘Benchmade’ name in 1987.

The hallmark of Benchmade knives has always been extreme quality. When the company began, they were making knives one at a time. While that is not always the case today, the same spirit of persistence and dedication to the end-user remains. Benchmade has made a name for itself across the board with hunters, military, and law enforcement.

Why Benchmade Gets Props

There is an obvious and easy way to explain why Benchmade dominates the production knife market. Their stuff just works. If you buy a Benchmade, it will not necessarily be the cheapest knife on the shelf, but for damn sure, it will do exactly what it was designed to do. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case with a wide swath of the knife industry, where quantity over quality reigns supreme.

The overall quality of Benchmade knives is something that the consumer should be aware of when purchasing blades. In the author’s experience, Benchmade knives have typically outperformed, or at least equally matched any competing model, regardless of price. That is not something that can be said for most other knife companies.

What Benchmade knives offer is something akin to an investment, a lifetime of use should you take care of it.

Great Benchmade Knives

There is no disparity in quality in the Benchmade lineup. But, for this article, the author selected 10 models that best represent what is good about Benchmade, ranging from specialized hunting knives to out-the-front pocketknives. Not all of Benchmade’s lineup is being produced today, and some of the most well-respected versions have been retired, though their descendants are equally as good if not better.

535 Bugout

If there had to be a standard issue pocketknife for across-the-board use today, you would be hard-pressed to argue against the Bugout. It is not the most expensive knife in the lineup, but it is well over the cost of today’s average pocketknife. The Bugout is a well-respected, reliable design, that is both lightweight and has a very reliable, folding and locking mechanism. Designed to stand out, it is available in bright colors, in this case blue. The knife features a blade designed for optimal use in regular situations. It is not exactly an outdoor knife, although it would be at home for small games and fishing.

MSRP: $180

539GY Anonimus

An interesting knife with an interesting name. This one is a hybrid field knife and every day carry fixed blade. The author received an early example of this knife from Benchmade and it has held up extremely well throughout use. The knife is low profile and has a relatively thin spine, making it unsuitable for some of the heavier camp chores and tasks. What it is great for is skinning deer size animals and smaller. To top it off, it has a wide degree of self-defense function. The knife has a notable choil to protect the finger—it makes for ample protection while thrusting hard or holding the knife tip down. Overall, this is a knife that meets a lot of needs and checks a lot of boxes while not being particularly flamboyant.

MSRP: $310

162 Bushcrafter

Out of all the knives on this list, the Bushcrafter is the model that the author has the most extensive experience. The author received this knife for an article in the print edition of Blade Magazine, where he put it through quite a bit of use. The knife has been a constant companion for outdoor chores and is an incredible product. A great deal of the author’s experience comes from fire making and working with bushcrafting materials, and while this knife certainly meets that task with flying colors, some criticisms can be had given the amount of time the author has spent with it.

The first of these is that this is a relatively small chore knife. The blade is not long enough for heavy work and wood splitting. It is a knife that is usable at the end stage after most of the splitting has been done, meaning you will need to carry additional tools. If you were trying to get a fire started with this knife it is great for striking a rod, which is sadly not included in the price. Many competing designs that have performed equally well if not better have come with striker rods in the same MSRP range. Why Benchmade included the loop but no striker is a mystery.

The handle ergonomics are a little bit more angular than is needed, competing knives that have smoother and more contoured handles are better for extended periods of work and generate fewer hot spots. For the casual camper, this is an exceptional knife. The author tends to fall into the category of outdoorsman that believes you need a 6-inch or 7-inch blade to get stuff done. Smaller blades are the favorite of many people, the author finds them to be fatiguing to use and many times difficult to dislodge from pieces of wood or harder to use when skinning large game on the ground. That said, this is a fantastic knife, the author wishes that Benchmade will come out with a slightly larger version with a thicker spine.

MSRP: $300

317-1 Weekender

If you are casually out and about with your friends on your party barge, this knife is an exceptional comrade. It is something of a modern pen knife in that it features two blades as well as a bottle opener. It is an excellent knife for daily use and covers just about all regular cutting chores you may encounter in your day-to-day existence, barring of course any heavy-duty uses. The knife is beautifully finished and has excellent accent work, it is surely something you will want to show to your friends.

MSRP: $275

15000OR-2 Meatcrafter

This is another knife that the author reviewed for the print edition of Blade Magazine. The author received one of the first initial prototypes for testing. The Meatcrafter knife is an excellent tool, something of a hybrid between a fillet knife, a kitchen knife, and a hunting knife. It is relatively thin in the spine and cannot be used for tasks such as splitting wood, or really anything above cutting soft material.

Benchmade has a series of these knives now, available in a variety of colors and blade finishes. The knife is very well adapted to its specific role. The author butchered a deer with the prototype, and it proved to be an exceptionally sharp cutting tool, so much so that it simply glided through the meat with almost no effort. Because of its thin blade and very fine tip, it can be used for boning out meat at just about any angle. The blade is flexible enough that it can be used to get into some nooks and crannies that thicker and stiffer blades would have a hard time with. The knife does have limitations, though, and one should take care to not drop it on its tip or put it through use that results in extreme bending or pressure on the tip, an example of this would be cutting into the ball joint on the pelvis of a large game animal. There is arguably no finer game knife on the market today than this one. It is quite expensive, but it is something that will last you a lifetime with care.

MSRP: $450

Station Knife

The Station Kinfe is available as a custom order option from Benchmade. The website has a configuration selector where you can pick out every detail of this knife. It is an all-purpose kitchen tool, able to do just about anything that you could imagine a knife could do, from slicing to dicing to breaking down meat and vegetables, as well as carving and serving. If you are a professional in the food service industry, this knife is something of the Holy Grail. Because of its unique shape, it can be used for a variety of cooking styles, not just traditional American cooking, but also different Asian, South American, and European styles. The use of the knife in these culinary arts tends to vary, and you’ll be prepared for all of them with the station knife.

MSRP: Starting at $280

945-221 Mini Osbourne

If you are looking for a pocketknife that truly sets you apart as a gentleman, the mini Osborne is one that you will certainly want to take a look at. The author has carried a version of this knife for a couple of years, it is not a heavy-duty, knife whatsoever, the blade is relatively thin, and the frame is lightly constructed. However, it is excellent at his job, which is a dedicated pocket knife. There are several variations of this knife available from Benchmade, it is a very popular design thanks to its lightweight and ease of use. The version shown here is at the top end of their design range, made of incredible materials, which will surely catch the eye.

MSRP: $700

34000BK-1 Autocrat

This is arguably the king of out-the-front knives. Bench made has truly made a name for itself in this category of knives, while it is quite expensive, it has probably the most reliable mechanism of any OTF knife currently on the market and is constructed with durability in mind. The handle is, not gimmicky, rather, it is simple in overall appearance. Critics of the knife would like to see more embellishment, but the author is just the opposite, OTF knives are not an inherently strong or reliable design. In general, simplicity is king, and reliability stands above that.

MSRP: $500

15060-2 Grizzly Creek

The Grizzly Creek is an excellent, professional-level field knife that can fit just about anywhere. It is not a camp knife in the sense that it can be used for a large amount of splitting or heavy chores, however, it is excellent for breaking down game, regardless of size. Because it is a folder, the blade is not especially long, making it not as good for big game. For all general hunting, it will work, though, you may have some struggles with large deer and above. The knife features a folding gut hook that can also be used to cut fishing line and a variety of other outdoor tasks. The price is right for a working knife; it is not the most embellished or interesting-looking product from Benchmade, but it will certainly do well given its features and intended use.

MSRP: $250

176BK SOCP

The last knife on our list is the discrete SOCP. This is a little dagger with a ring pommel designed to be used as a last-ditch item integrated into your gear. The knife can be used on just about any finger depending on what you’re trying to manipulate. At $130. It may seem a little bit overpriced for a small dagger, but it is a well-made tool that can get you out of some very sticky situations. It is worth noting, that not every municipality allows the carrying of a fixed-blade dagger, you’ll have to check your local laws if you plan to carry this knife.

MSRP: $230

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