CLASSIC Knife Review: Spyderco Schempp Bowie

Part of the Spyderco ‘Ethnic’ series of knives, the Schempp Bowie is collaboration piece designed by Ed Schempp for Spyderco. Ed’s priority in the design was to convey an ethnic American Bowie and wanted to demonstrate a coffin handled, clip-point Bowie knife that originated with the Sheffield Bowie imported into the USA.
(Classic review – First published in August 2015)

The Blade and Handle Geometry:

Most knives specifications have a basic description of the blade geometry, but in this section I will be taking a more detailed look at geometry and balance.

Using a set of gauges and precision measuring equipment including a Vernier protractor, callipers, fixed radius gauges and the unique Arc Master adjustable radius gauge (the one that looks like a crossbow).

These measurements have been tabulated and are presented along with a few reference blades (8″ Chef’s Knife, 5.5″ Santoku and the popular Fallkniven F1).

Key aspects such as the primary bevel angle, grind type, blade depth, blade thickness, length, weight are detailed, along with balance information.

The ‘Balance relative to the front of the handle’ tells you if the knife will feel front heavy, or if the weight is in your hand (a positive value means the weight is forward of the front of the handle). The ‘Balance relative to the centre of the handle’ indicates how close to a ‘neutral balance’ the knife has in the hand.

In the case of full convex grinds the approximate centre of the grind is used for the primary bevel angle estimate..

The blade is made from CPM S30V.

Explained by the Maker:

The reasons for certain design choices may not be clear when simply looking at an object, so this section is intended to give an insight into the thinking behind a design by speaking to the designer themselves.

Ed Schempp spent time with me going over the fundamentals of the design at SHOT Show 2015, but as a follow-up I sent over a marked up image, to go over the details.

Many thanks go to Ed for taking the time to explain the details of the design to me.

Though not quoting Ed directly, the following is an explanation of how the final design was arrived at and a few insights into the design process.

As mentioned in the introduction, Ed’s priority in the design was to convey an ethnic American Bowie, but this design was also influenced by the German short hunting sword. Ed wanted to produce a piece that was a coffin handled, clip point, “S” guarded Bowie.

Ed, like many US custom makers, introduces many ergonomic aspects into his designs and is very personally connected with this ethnic piece.

In line with his design principles, Ed generally drops the angle of the blade and develops the grip accordingly. This is done for the ergonomics of cutting, control and torsion. Ed refuses to design what he terms a “sharpened tent stake”.

Starting with the size of the blade (A), this has been maximized for the length of blade that can fit into the handle, along with as much cutting edge as could be accommodated by the handle.

When he designed the piece he actually made 4 different sizes to try and gauge a preference in size for the design. These prototypes ranged from a 3 inch blade to a 5 inch blade. In the end Spyderco chose the size they considered to be the best match for the most number of users.

The clip point, (B) is iconic to the ethnic version Ed was striving to attain. The clip was made slightly more than half the overall length to make it a significant feature. A flat grind was chosen as it has more material left in the blade and is therefore stronger. Flat grinds are one of Eds preferred blade grinds and are used in the majority of his designs.

As part of the ethnic design, to define the “S” shaped cross-guard there is a curved transition in the bolster (C) from the ricasso that rises up to the pressure ramp (E). The pressure ramp keeps the hand from slipping forward in use, giving additional control and power during cutting. The traditional Bowie knife is usually double guarded, so this ramp is part of the ethnicity of the piece.

Due to the Spyderco specifications, the hole had to be about 1.1 inches from the pivot. The hole has to nest into the handle, and yet offer easy access (L).

This meant there was minimal room for a specific finger choil, instead the area under the bolster is curved (D) allowing your grip to move forward and choke up on the blade.

The blade tip height (F) is closely related to the rake (I) used in the design. This is distinctive Ed Schempp styling as he finds a knife with this much negative rake more comfortable and more ergonomic in use. It begins to align the edge with the major forearm bones, reducing fatigue when using the knife for long periods, and lets the blade get good purchase on the medium to be cut without making the wrist force the edge down. The rake angle chosen (I) is an angle that Ed prefers as in a normal grip it brings the edge square to the cut, and keeps the blade from sliding away from the medium you are cutting.

In this design, the opening hole is nearly half the blade height (G). The lack of metal is a slight concern as this blade is 2.5 mm thick, but in proper use is not a problem. Every design has an intended use, and when used as intended this blade is strong enough.

Taken from an earlier interview with Sal Glesser this is a relevant point for a digression from the Schempp Bowie:

As safety is a very important consideration, Spyderco break a lot of their blades on purpose with a special machine that records various measurements. Spyderco have a set of standards for blade strength in relation to the intended purpose of the blade, and how strong the lock needs to be for its intended purpose.

Another slight digression:

A few years ago a Rescue model was made, and then a smaller Rescue model. Because of needing to be used with gloves, Sal thought the hole needed to be a bit larger so he redesigned the blade increasing the size of the hole but also raising the top of the blade to leave more steel. When the first manufacturing run was carried out the maker increased the size of the hole, but did not retool to raise the position of the hole. The first run of 1200 knives were received with the hole well down into the grind line. For a normal knife this might be OK, but not for a ‘Rescue’ knife. Sal’s immediate concern was over the strength of the blade and immediately put the blades through the breaking machine. That night Sal dreamt that a fireman was rushing into a building and he pulled out his knife to cut something; the blade broke and cut him (the last thing a fireman needs on a rescue mission). The next day all 1200 knives were put in a barrel which was filled with concrete and taken to the dump. Sal sets his own standards and won’t sell underperforming products, failures are either repaired or disposed of, but never sold as seconds.

Back to the Schempp Bowie…

The balance point (H) falls in line with the narrowing of the grip where the opening hole is nested (L). The opening hole is as deeply nested as it is to minimize the folded knife’s profile and optimize access to the opening hole.

Narrowing of the grip at this point also accommodates a natural grip, and achieves the best balance for all the grip positions.

The index finger is the ‘pivot’ of your grip on the knife, so its position on the handle acts as the ‘fulcrum’ of the knife grip. The narrower the handle at the point the index finger lies, the larger the range of movement available to the user. Using thumb pressure forward and aft you can swing an arc with the tip, and the closer the thumb is to the index finger the wider the range of arc. Having as large a range of arc as the Schempp Bowie has the more the user can manipulate the blade when cutting.

When looking at the knife from both sides, you will notice that from one side you cannot see the lock release….

…but on the other side, the bolster has been subtly pushed back (J) to expose the lock for ease of operation.

Ed doesn’t like exposed tangs on folders as he finds in many cases it is difficult to remove from the pocket and wears the pocket out prematurely. Careful attention has been paid to this detail where the bolster has been shaped to ensure it covers the blade tang (K).

With this knife being an American ethnic piece, brass was chosen for the bolster material (M) as this was of course a material used on many traditional pieces and is part of the iconic attributes of the knife. However, it is a modern Spyderco, so the Carbon fibre (P) is consistent with the modern design and blends traditional design with modern materials. Carbon fibre in particular was chosen as the modern material for its light weight and high strength.

The dovetailed scale bolster (N) is a detail Ed generally uses on all his bolstered knives. When the handle is radiused, this gives the appearance of a radiused joint between bolster and scale when looking straight onto the face of the handle.

A deep carry pocket clip (O) was chosen by Spyderco and means the knife sits well down in the pocket making it more secure. Being made of round stock it doesn’t scratch car doors and furniture (as much). Though this was not specifically chosen by Ed, he believes that it augments the design.

Ed Schempp with his Bowie at the Spyderco booth at SHOT 2015.

A few more details:

To get an idea of the size of the Spyderco Schempp Bowie, it is shown here with the Fallkniven F1 with the blade open.

And straight on.

The deep clip of the blade allows it to sit well within the handle.

Blade centring on this sample was perfect.

The liner lock has been recessed into the bolster and handle making it very low profile.

Lock engagement is excellent.

What it is like to use

When I first saw the Schempp bowie, my immediate reaction was that it was “definitely not for me”. It seemed a curiosity that I would never choose for myself. However I was fortunate enough to meet Ed Schempp and talk to him about the design. My eyes were opened to the ‘intent’ in its careful design and combining this with handling the knife it all fell into place. More and more I found I could not put it down.

It is not a heavyweight knife, but much more an elegant, controlled, slicer. The blade opens so smoothly and easily on its phosphor bronze washers, making this one of the nicest one handed openers I’ve handled.

Open or closed this is a very sleek organic knife.

All the control afforded by the handle design and raked blade becomes obvious as you use it. I did find however that this did not work well carving wood, but excelled at opening sacks and boxes, cutting sheet materials and shaping foam amongst other tasks.

Looking at the different grips you can take shows the many ways you can use it. (For scale, I wear a glove size of XL in case you are wondering).

This knife is very hard to put down!

Review Summary

_______________________________________________ _______________________________________________
Things I like What doesn’t work so well for me
_______________________________________________ _______________________________________________
Distinctive Ethnic design Possible blade weakness at opening hole
Multiple grip options Styling may not be for everyone
Excellent control and ergonomics Rake can make certain types of cut less effective
Slim, recessed, liner lock Lock more suited to right-handers
Super slick OHO

Knife Review: lionSTEEL Thrill

I could not wait to get hold of a lionSTEEL Thrill when I saw it. It’s a slip-joint, and that is part of the attraction, as in the UK, for EDC-legal carry, it has to be non-locking – but there is so much more. The handle and spring are machined from a single solid piece of titanium, it has IKBS pivot bearings, a M390 blade and the stealth ‘hideaway’ pocket clip, making it a fully loaded package. Join me in this review of the lionSTEEL Thrill, a slip-joint pocket knife.

What’s in the box?:
Very well presented packaging.


A good look round the lionSTEEL Thrill – Things to look out for here are:
This gallery has a lot to look at (and we take a closer look at the pocket clip separately): the quality of machining and detailing of the solid handle, the steel ‘spring liner’ protecting the titanium spring from the blade tang, fit and finish of the fixings, and machining of the blade.


H.WAYL pocket clip:
The Thrill uses lionSTEEL’s ‘Hide What Annoys You’ H.WAYL clip system that allows the pocket clip to sit flush with the rest of the handle, instead of sticking out and sticking into your hand when using the knife. When hidden, you press the button to open the clip and allow it to slip over your pocket.


The Blade and Handle – Detailed Measurements:
For full details of the tests and measurements carried out and an explanation of the results, see the page – Knife Technical Testing – How It’s Done.

Torque testing:


What is it like to use?
There was one thing I just had to include here, which is the sound of the Thrill opening and closing. The combination of the titanium body and steel spring liner gives it a kind of ‘sheeesh sheeesh’ sound I’ve not heard on any other knife. Well here it is, I love it…

That action feels great with the pivot bearings making the motion super slick, yet the spring strength makes the blade feels secure. A half-stop lets you change grip as you open it all the way, keeping control of the blade.

With the H.WAYL clip system, you can completely forget this knife has a pocket clip. Personally I would not want to trust this clip for two reasons; firstly, the clip’s ‘spring’ pressure is provided by the button spring, and this is not very strong (or you would struggle to open it), and secondly, the underside of the clip is straight and smooth, so has no ‘bump’ or texture to resist sliding off a pocket edge (in fact it gets easier to pull off the further up it moves, without that final clinch).

Because of this, and the lack of lanyard attachment, I have taken to carrying this in a belt pouch (as in the gallery below) which has proven to work very well.

My nails are not very strong, so I don’t like to open stiff blades using a nail-nick; there is, however, enough blade accessible when the Thrill is closed to allow me to pinch grip the blade to open it, so it has been completely comfortable to use.

Blade shape and geometry has proven itself time and again. A full flat grind combined with a blade that is not too thick and not too thin, means it cuts really well. The point of the blade punctures eagerly, helped by the narrow point-angle and swedge. (Of course you must always be careful and utilise correct technique when using the point of a slip-joint, as if you get it wrong you can make the blade close on your fingers.)

Being a slip-joint provides you with a freedom to carry the knife that far outweighs any limitations of not having a locking blade.

The Thrill has been my EDC for a good time now and takes all those daily duties in its stride while leaving you with the feeling it IS something special.


Review Summary

The views expressed in this summary table are from the point of view of the reviewer’s personal use. I am not a member of the armed forces and cannot comment on its use beyond a cutting tool or field/hunting knife.

Something that might be a ‘pro’ for one user can be a ‘con’ for another, so the comments are categorised based on my requirements. You should consider all points and if they could be beneficial to you.

I’m starting with what doesn’t work so well, so I can finish on a more positive note

_______________________________________________
What doesn’t work so well for me
_______________________________________________

Weak pocket clip.
No Lanyard hole.

_______________________________________________
Things I like
_______________________________________________

Lovely action.
Slip-Joint (UK EDC legal).
Firm back-spring pressure.
Versatile blade shape.
Possible to pinch grip the blade to open.
M390 blade steel.
Superb fit and finish.
Single-piece solid handle.
Hideaway pocket clip.

 
Discussing the Review:
Please visit the Tactical Reviews Facebook Page to discuss this review and start/join the conversation.

First Look: Extrema Ratio Sethlans Knife

This is a first look at the just launched Extrema Ratio Sethlans knife. This knife is designed to be used for bushcraft, survival, and as a backup blade, so is also ideally suited for prepping. But you are going to want to use this, not just leave it sitting by ‘just in case’.

The ‘First Look’ Video:


What’s in the box?:


Explained by the Maker:
The reasons for certain design choices may not be clear when simply looking at an object, so this section is intended to give an insight into the thinking behind a design by speaking to the designer themselves.
Quoted directly from Extrema Ratio –
““EXTREMA RATIO SETHLANS” a fixed blade work knife born to face a wide range of situations, suitable for survival, bushcraft, prepping, but also as a backup blade.

SETHLANS was designed in collaboration with Daniele Dal Canto, Master Advanced F.I.S.S.S. instructor (Italian Federation of Sports and Experimental Survival).

SETHLANS is available in two different versions with two different kinds of steel.

The stone washed version is produced with böhler N690 heat treated at 58 HRC, chosen for the reliability it has demonstrated over the last 20 years due to its resistance to oxidation and durability of the edge.

The black version is produced in D2 steel, heat and cryogenically treated at 60 HRC, which presents an high resharpening capacity even with makeshift tools. In order to give greater qualities of hardness and resistance, the blade is coated with the new Teflon-based product “EXP DARK”, proposed by Extrema Ratio.

The knife comes with G10 grips that feature the ergonomic design characteristic of Extrema Ratio handles. They can be removed by releasing the skeletonized structure of the knife, that allows maximum lightness with minimum thickness. For lovers of extreme customization, the full-tang structure allows the handle to be covered with a paracord cord.

The sheath is composed of a part in very light and minimalist Kydex. It can be disassembled and can be adapted for both left and right handed users. The addition of an optional belt clip allows the knife to be positioned both vertically and horizontally and makes the sheath much more versatile than the textile version. It is also equipped with a mini pouch with M.O.L.L.E. system. containing a two-sided stone for sharpening and a Firesteel for lighting fires”.

Type: Fixed blade
Use: Survival
Blade Length: 107 mm (4.21”)
Overall Length: 224 mm (8.82”)
Blade Thickness: 6.3 mm (0,25”)
Main Grid: Flat
Weight: 207 g (7,30 oz)
Blade Material Sethlans Stone Washed: Böhler N690 (58HRC) steel
Blade Finishing Sethlans Stone Washed: Stone Washed
Blade Material Sethlans Black D2: D2 (60HRC) steel
Blade Finishing Sethlans Black D2: EXP DARK
Handle Material: G10

 
Discussing the Review:
The ideal place to discuss this review is on the Tactical Reviews Facebook Page
Please visit there and start/join the conversation.

Knife Review: Fallkniven A1x

Not that I have ever doubted the strength of Fallkniven’s knives, but as soon as I saw there would be full exposed tang versions of their popular models I had to get hold of one! So the ‘x’ series delivers the A1, S1 and F1 with full tang and removable scales as the A1x, S1x, and F1x. The ‘x’ series also boast new updated sheaths with locking system. In this review of the Fallkniven A1x, join me in taking a good look at how this new version of an already tried and tested knife stacks up. It’s a beast!

A few more details:

What’s in the box?:

A sad sign of the times is that a ‘genuine product’ sticker can be found on the box (sad that the unscrupulous are selling fake Fallkniven knives).
The Alx is simply presented wrapped in bubble wrap in its sheath.


A good look round the A1x’s sheath – Things to look out for here are:

Fallkniven have put a lot of thought into the x series sheath, building on previous versions and the ‘Pro’ series sheath to make this more secure and versatile than ever.
On the side opposite the finger guard, there is a locking lever which makes it impossible for the knife to fall out of the sheath, no matter how much it gets shaken around.


A good look round the A1x – Things to look out for here are:

Onto this chunky piece of laminated steel with removable Thermorun handle scales. The lamination of the steel is easily visible in many of these photos.


The Blade and Handle – Detailed Measurements:

For full details of the tests and measurements carried out and an explanation of the results, see the page – Knife Technical Testing – How It’s Done.

The blade is made from Laminated CoS steel. This has the layers 420J2 – CoS – 420J2.


What is it like to use?

The A1x is one of the first blades to appear to contradict the SET testing in the previous section. The results for this CoS steel were not as good as I thought they would be, and this normally translates into real world edge retention. However with the A1x, the edge has been holding up fantastically in normal use, better than blades with superior SET results.
Considering my testing of the A1x involved plenty of heavy chopping as well as fine carving, and the edge just kept on going and going, there may be other unexplained factors at play.
I also found that when sharpening the A1x it proved very easy to get a really good edge. Some steels are more difficult to get a good edge on, but despite the high spec of the steel, it was very accommodating.
Of the three x series knives, the A1x is the biggest, and although the A1x blade is still only 160mm long, it has enough weight with the 7mm blade stock to be a very effective chopper.
7mm, YES, 7mm full exposed tang knife – that is 9/32″ for anyone preferring imperial.


7mm blade stock and a blade depth of only 31.5mm And a Convex Sabre grind, does mean the A1x is not a great slicer when deep cuts are needed. It is much more of a woodsman/bushcraft knife and well suited to wood processing, but less so for finer tasks. You can prepare food, and with the right technique use it for general cutting tasks, ensuring you use shallow cuts and allow the cut to open up to give the blade room to move through.

Fallkniven plastic sheaths can rattle a little, and the supplied sheath is right handed only due to the design of the knife retention. There are some left handed options available, so you might need to check this in advance.

A new development in the x series is the sheath lock, which works very well and negates the need for a fabric retaining strap. Once engaged the lock blocks the knife from moving so it can’t be released from the sheath. Security and peace of mind, a great new addition.

The A1x in its preferred habitat…

Everything about the Fallkniven A1x is simply reassuring – the blade thickness, the full exposed tang, the sheath lock, the steel, the convex grind, and not forgetting the pedigree. This is a knife I feel I really could trust my life to, and if I had to pick one blade to get me out of anything, this is right at the top of the list.

Review Summary

The views expressed in this summary table are from the point of view of the reviewer’s personal use. I am not a member of the armed forces and cannot comment on its use beyond a cutting tool or field/hunting knife.

Something that might be a ‘pro’ for one user can be a ‘con’ for another, so the comments are categorised based on my requirements. You should consider all points and if they could be beneficial to you.

I’m trying something slightly different and starting with what doesn’t work so well, so I can finish on a more positive note

_______________________________________________
What doesn’t work so well for me
_______________________________________________

Very thick blade makes it a poor slicer in thicker materials.
Sheath rattles a bit.
Right handed only sheath.
_______________________________________________
Things I like
_______________________________________________

Thick super-robust blade.
Very effective chopper.
Secure blade retention sheath lock.
Excellent edge retention.
Takes a great edge easily.
Full, exposed tang. Totally reliable.
Handle provides good comfortable grip.
Reassuringly solid.

Knife Review: lionSTEEL bestMAN

I was first able to handle the lionSTEEL bestMAN folding knife at IWA 2019 – those were prototypes. The finished production knives shown in this review are further refined compared to the prototypes (which you might have seen on the @TacticalReviews Instagram). lionSTEEL have taken the traditional folding pocket knife and modernised it using the best materials and giving you the choice of two blade shapes, single or double bladed versions and five handle materials.

A few more details:

What’s in the box?:


A good look round the single blade bestMAN – Things to look out for here are:

Though looking very traditional, the bestMAN uses modern materials.


A good look round the double blade bestMAN – Things to look out for here are:

Packing in a second blade gives both available blade shapes in one knife. In this case a little more traditional with a wooden handle.


The Blade and Handle – Detailed Measurements:

For full details of the tests and measurements carried out and an explanation of the results, see the page – Knife Technical Testing – How It’s Done.

The blades are made from M390 steel.

Originally developed following the release of the Chris Reeve Knives Impinda, the bestMAN has been tested for opening and closing torque. The raw data is included but it is the average torque figures in bold that I would direct you to look at. Remember to check the technical testing link above for more on this.


What is it like to use?

After spending a lot of time carrying the single and double bladed versions, this feels the right place to start. Initially I would have been adamant that the double blade version was without doubt the one you had to have – two blades are better than one – one main blade and one left razor sharp as a backup – the whole ‘one is none’ thing. To a degree maybe, but I’ve gone the other way and found the single blade version to be my favourite. The reason being two-fold, firstly it is noticeably smaller and far less obtrusive in the pocket, and secondly it is much easier to open the blade. Nail-nicks are not ideal if your nails are softened by water or otherwise not very strong. With the single blade version you can pinch-grip the blade as well as using the nail-nick so opening is definitely easier.
The double blade version still has that advantage of giving both blade shapes and a second sharp edge, just with the burden of being a bit bigger.


If you do need to chose between the drop-point and wharncliffe, this might be easy if you have a firm favourite, and either way you won’t go wrong.
The straight cutting edge and lower point of the wharncliffe suits many EDC cutting tasks better for me than the drop-point.

Modifications:

No surprises for anyone reading my reviews, when I bring up the sharpening choil/rear point. Some of the bestMAN blades have a more pronounced cutting edge heel than others, but in general, not sufficient for my liking. I have made a minor modification to the blade heel to add a Victorinox style sharpening choil. Shown here is the double blade version with both blades modified.


Review Summary

The views expressed in this summary table are from the point of view of the reviewer’s personal use. I am not a member of the armed forces and cannot comment on its use beyond a cutting tool or field/hunting knife.

Something that might be a ‘pro’ for one user can be a ‘con’ for another, so the comments are categorised based on my requirements. You should consider all points and if they could be beneficial to you.

I’m trying something slightly different and starting with what doesn’t work so well, so I can finish on a more positive note

_______________________________________________
What doesn’t work so well for me
_______________________________________________

Double bladed version more difficult to open.

_______________________________________________
Things I like
_______________________________________________

Excellent M390 steel.
Nice traditional ‘friendly’ looking slip-joint.
Choice of two blade shapes.
Choice of single or double blade.
Choice of five handle materials.
Reliable design.
Smooth precise action.
Large nail-nick.

 

Discussing the Review:

The ideal place to discuss this review is on the Tactical Reviews Facebook Page
Please visit there and start/join the conversation.

As well as the Tactical Reviews Facebook Page, please consider visiting one of the following to start/join in any discussion.

BladeForums – Knife Reviews (US based Forum for Knife Discussion)

CandlePowerForums – Knife Reviews Section (Largest and Friendliest Flashlight Community Forum)

The BESS Exchange – A forum discussing technical aspects of sharpness and truly understanding your sharpening process.

Knife Review: Kizlyar Supreme – Sturm and Survivalist X

This review features two knives from Kizlyar Supreme, the Sturm and Survivalist X. I have a soft spot for hollow handle knives, and am always on the lookout for a properly made one that can be used without worrying it will come apart; this is what drew me to the Survivalist X hollow handle knife. To partner this we have the Sturm, a smaller general purpose blade, and for this review in a high hardness steel, PGK from German steel makers Lohmann.

As soon as I came across knife makers Kizlyar Supreme I was impressed with the range of great designs and was very keen to try out some of their knives. Kizlyar Supreme launched as a company in 2011 thanks to the enthusiasm and dedication of its founders, with the intention to provide great designs using high grade materials yet remain affordable.

A few more details:

What’s in the box?:

The boxed Sturm and Survivalist X.


A good look round the Sturm’s sheath – Things to look out for here are:

I’d go so far as to call the Sturm’s sheath a ‘technical mounting platform’ due to its mass of design features and practicality. As you will see in the photos, the sheath is indexed so the blade will only fit into it one way. Though not initially appearing ambidextrous, if the four bolts holding the sheath to the mount are removed, you can flip the sheath over to make it left-handed. While doing this you can also swap from vertical to horizontal carry by turning the mount 90 degrees.


A good look round the Sturm – Things to look out for here are:

The Sturm uses a handle Kizlyar Supreme use for several other models. The blade is a convenient size for most tasks and keeps thing simple with a full flat grind.


A good look round the Survivalist X’s sheath – Things to look out for here are:

Well, in terms of preparedness, even the Survivalist X’s sheath is ready for anything. Packed with features and utility it is certainly comprehensively equipped.


A good look round the Survivalist X – Things to look out for here are:

The survivalist X is a substantial knife, there is no missing its presence, and the hollow handle gives it a particular look and feel.


The Survivalist X’s hollow handle and capsule:

I’m sure we have all had those cheap and cheerful versions and found them not to live up to expectation, but be prepared for something entirely different.
Kizlyar Supreme have ensured there is the maximum amount of metal in the handle tube and blade tang to keep the strength very high. The view into the end of the handle shows the blade tang which comes right up to the base of the capsule, absolutely as far as possible.
Also shown are the capsule contents; fishing kit, wire, sewing kit with safety pin, matches and striker and plasters.


The Blade and Handle – Detailed Measurements:

For full details of the tests and measurements carried out and an explanation of the results, see the page – Knife Technical Testing – How It’s Done.

The Sturm’s blade is made from Lohmann PGK steel, and the Survivalist X’s from D2.


On the day it was measured, the Sturm in PGK steel had the best SET test result I had yet measured. The lower the Series 2 degradation (S2) figure is, the more resistant the edge is to being rolled. The recovery strop process shows if the edge was permanently damaged or chipped, or can be fully recovered.
Here you can see the PGK outperforming the D2 steel by a good margin. This is not saying the D2 is bad, in fact the D2 is good, just that the PGK performs better in this test.

Being a new steel to me, I checked the composition which is listed as:
Name – Lohmann PGK
Base – Fe
C – 1.2
Cr – 8.5
Mo – 1.5
V – 2
W – 1.5
Si – 1


What is it like to use?

Picking up the Sturm was like finding an old pair of shoes that fit perfectly. No adjusting or finding my way with this knife, instead just getting on with whatever task. The size of the Sturm is ideal for most of the general cutting tasks you might want a fixed blade for.

The lips of the sheath had arrived with some rough edges from the moulding and these were becoming annoying. Once trimmed off, the feel was transformed as when unsheathing the knife you push onto the lips with your thumb. The retention is a bit strong to just pull the Sturm out without the thumb lever, but is possible when you really have to.

Hollow handles – are they a love or hate thing? If the knife is not well made and the blade comes off, then clearly hate, but if the handle and blade are well fixed and don’t come loose, what then? The Survivalist X has had a hard time from me, heavy chopping and into hard woods; I wanted to see if I could get the blade to shift in the handle – so far not a hint of movement.

So, the Survivalist X’s blade/handle construction is solid and doesn’t look like a weak point at all, then we have the fact it is a round handle. True, a round handle is not the best as it lacks indexing for the grip. You do have to keep an eye on the blade orientation, and in heavy chopping it can spin and twist a little. Nothing unexpected there. The knurling gives good grip without being too abrasive. It is actually not a bad thing that you have to pay attention to the knife and your grip, and I’ve not found this to be a problem.

The Survivalist X is a heavy hitter, and is heavy to carry, so take it when you want a big camp knife, or don’t want to carry a hatchet as well as a knife.


One questionable feature for me is the bone cracker wedge on the Survivalist X’s spine; it is like nothing I’ve seen before. A big knife like this is also good for batoning larger logs, but this wedge damages the baton more than a straight spine. How often do you need to crack bones instead of cutting at the joints? Not sure about that.

I must also mention that the factory edges on both knifes were superb, with good angles, and in hard steels – though not essential, it is very nice to have super sharp blades out of the box.

The Sturm has several different steel choices and the PGK steel has been a really interesting one. I thought I had an issue when cutting packing straps as the edge seemed to dull straight away when cutting some of these, yet as you have seen before, it’s structural edge testing results very very good. I decided to change the edge angle, and it was very slow to sharpen on a belt, showing how hard and wear resistant the PGK steel is. After this reprofile I haven’t had anything similar happen, so it appears to have been an anomaly.

I also can’t quite work it out as a steel, as when I examine the edge for defects, I see reflections that would normally indicate edge damage, yet the Sturm remains sharp and cuts well, defying the normal observations. The bottom line here is that despite what I think I see, the Sturm keeps cutting.

Review Summary

The views expressed in this summary table are from the point of view of the reviewer’s personal use. I am not a member of the armed forces and cannot comment on its use beyond a cutting tool or field/hunting knife.

Something that might be a ‘pro’ for one user can be a ‘con’ for another, so the comments are categorised based on my requirements. You should consider all points and if they could be beneficial to you.

I’m trying something slightly different and starting with what doesn’t work so well, so I can finish on a more positive note

_______________________________________________
What doesn’t work so well for me
_______________________________________________

Sturm – The sheath lips needed mould flashings to be trimmed.
Survivalist X – For a ‘Survival’ Knife I’d prefer a more stainless steel than D2.
Survivalist X – The exposed press-studs scratch the handle.

_______________________________________________
Things I like
_______________________________________________

Sturm – Excellent handle comfort and indexing.
Sturm – Blade geometry works well.
Sturm – Range of steels to choose from.
Sturm – Hugely versatile sheath and mounting options.
Sturm – Secure, strap-free knife retention.
Sturm – Great general purpose size.
Sturm – The PGK steel just seems to keep on cutting.
Survivalist X – Very strong construction.
Survivalist X – Big hollow-handled knife – what is not to like?
Survivalist X – Fantastic chopping performance.
Survivalist X – Feature-packed sheath with lots of options.
Both – Very good factory edges.

 

Discussing the Review:

The ideal place to discuss this review is on the Tactical Reviews Facebook Page
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The BESS Exchange – A forum discussing technical aspects of sharpness and truly understanding your sharpening process.

Knife Review: Oberland Arms Wuiderer Sepp

This review of the Oberland Arms Wuiderer Sepp knife is a natural follow-on from the previously published review of the Oberland Arms Jager Sepp knife, with both being designed by Tommaso Rumici to specifically meet requirements Matthias Hainich (Executive Director of OA) had for the knives. Though initially the Wuiderer Sepp was not the one I would have picked up first, its capabilities and versatility has made it my favourite little-big-knife.

A few more details:

What’s in the box?:

Actually this section is incorrectly named for the Oberland Arms knives, as they don’t have a box, but come in a zip-lock plastic bag; more like bulk supply standard issue kit than a retail product.


A good look round the Wuiderer Sepp’s Sheath – Things to look out for here are:

An interesting Kydex liner/fabric outer combination allowing for secure knife retention without additional straps, and the user can choose right or left handed configuration. The MOLLE strap fixture is unlike any other I have seen, only using a fabric tab to secure the strap.


A good look round the Wuiderer Sepp – Things to look out for here are:

This knife has inspired me to class it as a little-big-knife – the power and presence of a Big knife, but actually it is not that big. Come back to this gallery after reading the design insights in the ‘Explained by the Maker’ section.


Explained by the Maker:

The reasons for certain design choices may not be clear when simply looking at an object, so this section is intended to give an insight into the thinking behind a design by speaking to the designer themselves.

Tommaso Rumici has been kind enough to talk to me about this knife and the design process. This is part two of an interview first published in the review of the Oberland Arms Jager Sepp knife:

Still on the steel, are there any other factors or special processing/heat treatments to support the choice of D2 over other steels?

“In the past years, Viper has acquired a big know how about D2 heat treating. They usually do vacuum treatment, double tempering, and a final cryogenic phase. I can’t go more in details, but the final result is really interesting, on the field.
After 14 years in the knife industry, I’m convinced that a correct heat treatment is far more important than the alloy itself (obviously if we choose among good ones).
During my continuous studies and tests, several times I compared the same steel, treated by different manufacturers, with opposite results: one worked well, another seemed not even the same steel.”

Were the 3D milled handle scales something you had included in a design before? How was it working with this type of production? Did you do the 3D modelling?

“I wanted these knives to have a family feeling with the Oberland rifles, so I inspired to the texture applied to their AR15 handguards and magazines. In the past, David and Golia had milled scales, but this texture was developed for this project only.
The 3D was made directly by Viper. I usually prefer to do so, because every manufacturer uses different software and knows his machines, so the final result is far better.”

Can you talk me through the factors affecting the length and thickness of the blade, the choice of grind, the positioning of jimping, the sharpening choil and any other details you are particularly pleased with or think are absolutely essential?

“When I started working with Matthias, he was really clear about one point: his knives, like his rifles, are made for real operators, non for the tacticool audience, so he asked for performances above all. So we choose grind and thickness to achieve toughness and cutting ability.
The length of the blade, on the short one, follows German regulations. If I remember correctly blades under 12 cm are easier to carry, and they are enough for the fighter-utility role. The other one in an heavy camp knife, so the blade had to be bigger and longer.
The blade design was quite easy compared to the handle. Mr. Hainich asked for something extremely comfortable, with enough grip to work in every environment, and big enough to be used with every kind of military glove. that’s why this handle is so big, compared to civilian knives.”

How did the prototyping go (how many versions)?

“I always try to reach final design before the prototyping phase, and so we did during this project. After Viper made the first prototypes, Oberland checked and tested them, and needed only minimal modifications before the production.”

Thanks go to Tommaso for taking the time to share this.

The Blade and Handle – Detailed Measurements:

For full details of the tests and measurements carried out and an explanation of the results, see the page – Knife Technical Testing – How It’s Done.

The blade is made from D2 steel.


What is it like to use?

Again and again, due to its capabilities, the Wuiderer Sepp gives me the sense it is a much larger knife than it actually is. It is not a small knife, but neither is it a big camp blade, yet it has plenty of chopping/cutting power.
Viewed next to the Jager Sepp, which is a typical size for general purpose utility fixed blade, the Wuiderer Sepp is not that much larger, but has a wider blade and a more weight-forward configuration. By having the full-flat-grind blade, you gain significant slicing ability, helping it to slice as well as a much smaller blade would.

While writing this review my wife passed me a box of frutta di marzapane that needed opening. With the laptop on my lap, the knife I had to hand was the Wuiderer Sepp, so I popped it out of the sheath and my wife exclaimed, “What is that?! Where did that axe come from?!” as she hadn’t noticed the sheathed blade sitting next to me.

The reason for sharing this is that the Wuiderer Sepp is relatively unobtrusive, especially in the sheath. The wide blade definitely gives it more presence, as proven by my wife’s reaction to its appearance, but overall it is nothing like the size of many ‘camp’ style blades.

On the subject of the sheath, this is the only area I’m not so sure about, and only really due to the MOLLE straps. With only the fabric tabs posted through a slot in the strap to retain/hold the end, this does not provide much strength. Fully woven into the full set of PALS webbing, the loading is spread over several strips of webbing, so it should not pull on the strap fixing too much. But used as I showed in the sheath section, where the straps are used as a belt loop, this strap fixing is not very stable – ideally it should be properly fitted to webbing, or a separate belt MOLLE adapter.

Tommaso Rumici, the designer, has been impressed with the performance of Viper’s D2, achieved through their own heat treat recipe. I can only agree. The Structural Edge Testing results in the technical testing section are very impressive and equal performances from other manufacturers using M390 and PSF27, and the result is quite a bit better than Viper’s own N690 (confirming the choice of this D2/heat treat). The recovery result is also important as it shows that the edge stability has not been achieved at the cost of creating brittleness – the edge is rolling rather than chipping and can be stropped back. I have used the Wuiderer Sepp for very heavy chopping, carving and other tasks and the edge just keeps holding. When resharpening, I took the original 46 degree factory edge down to 40 degrees, and further heavy use has not caused any damage.

Using a full flat grind turns what could have been a less useful brute of a blade, into an excellent all-rounder. I’ve used this to chop through good sized branches, all the way to the other extreme of cutting soft sponge foam rubber to size, and it worked well for all jobs.

With its purposeful geometry the Wuiderer Sepp cuts above its weight with a big-knife feel for those heavier jobs. I’ve used the term earlier in the review, which comes from the fact it can cut like a BIG knife, without being big, so somehow ‘little-big-knife’ just seems appropriate; it makes me question the need for anything larger (or smaller).


Review Summary

The views expressed in this summary table are from the point of view of the reviewer’s personal use. I am not a member of the armed forces and cannot comment on its use beyond a cutting tool or field/hunting knife.

Something that might be a ‘pro’ for one user can be a ‘con’ for another, so the comments are categorised based on my requirements. You should consider all points and if they could be beneficial to you.

I’m trying something slightly different and starting with what doesn’t work so well, so I can finish on a more positive note

_______________________________________________
What doesn’t work so well for me
_______________________________________________

Concerned that the sheath MOLLE strap fixing (fabric tab) is not stable enough.
No specific belt carry option provided.
D2 is only a semi-stainless steel.

_______________________________________________
Things I like
_______________________________________________

Cuts well above its weight – a real ‘little-big-knife’.
Very comfortable hand-filling handle.
Very good blade indexing due to handle design.
Excellent edge retention and edge stability.
Sheath can easily be switched between right and left-handed.
Good at finer cutting tasks as well as chopping.
Stable sheath retention that will hold in tip-up carry.
Fantastic all-rounder.

 

Discussing the Review:

The ideal place to discuss this review is on the Tactical Reviews Facebook Page
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The BESS Exchange – A forum discussing technical aspects of sharpness and truly understanding your sharpening process.

Knife Review: Viper Tecnocut Dan 1 and Dan 2

Could the Dan (1 and 2) by Viper Tecnocut be the perfect EDC knife? It was during a meeting with Tommaso Rumici (the designer of the Dan) about a completely different fixed blade design of his, that Tommaso produced a Dan 2 from his pocket and handed it to me. We were still talking knives, but now onto something very different. Intended as an easy to carry, and as widely ‘EDC Legal’ as possible pocket knife (due to size and lack of a lock), the Dan gets so much right, it was an instant hit with me. Since then I’ve not been able to put it down. In this review of the Viper Dan 1 and 2, I take a very close look at this knife and why it works so well.

A few more details:

What’s in the box?:

The two knives in this review were provided without packaging or any accessories as they came directly from the Viper Tecnocut display stand at IWA 2019. This also means they have been handled and ‘played with’ by hundreds of people during the show, so might not be in perfect condition.

A good look round the Dan 1 in Zircote Wood – Things to look out for here are:

As you take in the details the quality of finish is clear, along with how sleek and efficient each of the design elements are.


A good look round the Dan 2 in Burgundy Canvas – Things to look out for here are:

Getting a sense for the different handle material, but the main difference is the wharncliffe blade of the Dan 2.


Explained by the Maker:

As I mentioned in the introduction, while at IWA 2019 I had the good fortune to both be introduced to this knife by, and able to talk about it with, its designer Tommaso Rumici.

Tommaso presenting the knife to me:

Rather than repeating the explanation, I’d recommend you visit Tommaso Rumici’s write up of the Dan here, where Tommaso gives you the background story of this excellent knife, including where the name came from.

With kind permission from Tommaso, here are a couple of his concept design sketches for the Dan.


The Blade and Handle – Detailed Measurements:

For full details of the tests and measurements carried out and an explanation of the results, see the page – Knife Technical Testing – How It’s Done.

Take note of some results, like the rolled cutting edge length, and thickness behind the edge, which are particularly relevant when comparing the Dan 1 and 2.

The blade is made from N690 steel.


What is it like to use?

It’s a really unusual design, being a cross between a friction-folder and a slip-joint. The Dan can be opened two-handed, or one-handed and although the opening/closing torque of the slip-joint mechanism is nothing to write home about, the protruding tang sits nicely under the thumb allowing you to hold the blade open.

This knife (either blade style) has actually converted me to pocket clip carry. Before ‘Dan’, I had not found a knife/clip design I felt comfortable with. It HAS to be deep carry, sticking up above the pocket edge is no good (for me). Then there is the clip and handle texture combination. My biggest complaint is how vicious most knife clips, particularly the underlying handle surface, are to the pocket material and edge; way beyond the need to hold it in place, and in some cases almost impossible to fit it onto the pocket or get it off again. If you like ripped pockets, great, but not me.

Instead the Dan (both handle materials on test), has the deep pocket carry clip with a clip spring strength that holds, and has not let it go astray, yet is easy to fit and remove. The handle material finish is smooth without being slippery, so provides some grip but is not overly abrasive to the pocket material.

I’ve been carrying this knife daily for 9 months now – pocket clip carry – totally unheard of for me.

Using the short tang (shorter than most friction folders) to open the knife one handed does require some care and concentration as it is very easy to turn the knife into your thumb pad (as ably demonstrated in the photos) and have it bite you. It does require a determined and positive approach to keep from cutting yourself.


Is it perfect? Clearly, as I’m about to show, for me it is not quite there, as I have made a couple of small modifications.

However the initial inspiration for this modification was entirely due to UK EDC carry law – a cutting edge less than 3″. Proven by many cases, this is typically a measurement of the cutting edge being rolled along a ruler, not the straight line measurement. With its sloping back handles, the Dan also has a longer cutting edge than blade length. Combining these factors, the Dan 1 falls foul, by 3mm, of the UK EDC legal carry requirement. I decided to rectify this with a Dremel and remove 3mm of cutting edge while at the same time creating a sharpening choil (which I prefer anyway).

With the success of the Dan 1 modification I decided I needed to do the same to the Dan 2 though this did not have the same EDC legal issue.

For me these are both now the closest I’ve yet found for a perfect EDC legal folding knife. OK, nothing is perfect, but these knives are superb!


Review Summary

The views expressed in this summary table are from the point of view of the reviewer’s personal use. I am not a member of the armed forces and cannot comment on its use beyond a cutting tool or field/hunting knife.

Something that might be a ‘pro’ for one user can be a ‘con’ for another, so the comments are categorised based on my requirements. You should consider all points and if they could be beneficial to you.

I’m trying something new this time and starting with what doesn’t work so well, so I can finish on a more positive note

_______________________________________________
What doesn’t work so well for me
_______________________________________________

The Dan 1 having a slightly over-long cutting edge for UK EDC Legal.
One-handed opening can be a little hazardous.

_______________________________________________
Things I like
_______________________________________________

Easy to carry streamlined design.
Deep-carry pocket friendly clip.
Ambidextrous pocket clip.
Non-locking friction-folder/slip-joint.
Widely Every-Day-Carry legal friendly (check local laws).
Choice of blade shape and handle material.
Blade tang can be gripped to prevent accidental closure.

 

Discussing the Review:

The ideal place to discuss this review is on the Tactical Reviews Facebook Page
Please visit there and start/join the conversation.

If you read the review entirely on Tactical Reviews, please consider visiting one of the following to start/join in any discussion.

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The BESS Exchange – A forum discussing technical aspects of sharpness and truly understanding your sharpening process.

Knife Review: Lionsteel B40 and M1

It was at IWA 2019 I first got to handle the new Lionsteel B40, but the show knives were pre-production samples as there were still a few manufacturing tweaks left to finalise; it took a little longer to get hold of this final production model. Another strong design by Mik Molletta, the B40 is intended as a bushcraft knife. For this review of the Lionsteel B40, I have also partnered it with the smaller M1 which makes for an ideal secondary/backup blade, and is small enough to be a (non-folding) pocket knife.

Onto the details:

What’s in the box?:

A quick look at the presentation. In this case, the B40 was a new production model, but the M1 was a ‘show knife’ straight from IWA, so might not have the full packaging.


Starting with the sheaths:

Both knives have leather sheaths, a material I prefer over any other for the sheath.


A good look round the B40 – Things to look out for here are:

The B40’s proportions and geometry make it look like many other bushcraft knives. This is as the design has to primarily fulfil the requirements of wood processing and portability.


A good look round the M1 – Things to look out for here are:

At the size it is, I can’t help but think of the M1 as a pocket knife that doesn’t fold. A pocket knife without the compromises a folding knife’s handle has, and without the concerns of a lock, slip-joint, or friction mechanism. A properly formed handle and no compromise in the strength of the blade.


The Blade and Handle – Detailed Measurements:

For full details of the tests and measurements carried out and an explanation of the results, see the page – Knife Technical Testing – How It’s Done.

The B40’s blade is made from Sleipner steel and the M1 from M390.


What it is like to use?

You might have noticed the orange; neither of these knives need to be orange, but for me the priority is not losing a tool in the outdoors. This makes the high visibility handles a great choice.

Before moving onto using these knives, I also had the opportunity to convert the B40 from orange G10 to more traditional wooden handles. Removing and swapping the handles is easy, but the tubular bolt is a tight fit in either handle material so you need to ‘unscrew’ it while applying some pressure to get them out. There is a major difference in the appearance, and feel, with the wooden handles. It is transformed into a traditional looking knife, and the wood feels lighter and possibly as if it has a little more grip. It also becomes a lot more camouflaged in the woods, so the choice is yours. I’ve popped the orange G10 back on.


I’m not a fan of pull-lanyards (the smaller piece of cord giving some extra grip with smaller knives), as I find them mostly getting in the way or flapping about annoyingly, so the M1 with its Titanium beaded pull-lanyard immediately had me considering removing it. STOP! I was wrong. For the M1, this pull-lanyard with bead works perfectly.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, the M1 is a non-folding pocket knife. The sheath might have a belt loop on it, but the overall size when sheathed is still easy enough to pop into a pocket. Now instead of having to choose a folder you can have a fixed blade.
To start with, the pull-lanyard gives you something to easily grab to take the M1 out of your pocket. Then when unsheathing it, although you can get enough grip by just holding the handle, by using the lanyard and its bead, you bring it into your hand so much more easily.
My hands take XL gloves and I find the M1’s handle to be a three-finger grip. The lanyard and bead, gives the fourth finger something to hold and add a little more stability.
I’m perfectly happy to admit when I’m wrong, and the M1 with its Titanium beaded lanyard has shown me I was wrong to consider removing it.

While on the subject of lanyards, without going into the safety arguments for and against, there is a design issue I’ve come upon with the B40 and its lanyard hole. This issue is thanks to the interestingly placed firesteel scraper. As shown in the next gallery, this scraper works very well without a lanyard cord, but should you wish to use a lanyard on the B40, you’ll be covering it in sparks every time you use the scraper. You might then find your lanyard unintentionally becomes tinder and gets burned away. I will be grinding a flat on the blade spine to use instead of the scraper provided.


The B40 hits that sweet spot in size where the handle is full size, allowing a strong grip, and the blade is small enough for power and control, and large enough to use for batoning without being cumbersome. This is why many bushcraft knives look quite similar, and are similar in size.

Use of Sleipner steel falls outside my preferences for a bushcraft knife. Being only a semi-stainless steel, it theoretically needs more care than a steel with higher stain resistance. On its own, this is only part of choosing the right steel, as frequently the reduction in stain resistance is combined with a steel that is easier to sharpen in the field. Sleipner is both hard (so harder to resharpen) and less stain resistance, so would normally have me looking elsewhere. But this is not my first Sleipner blade, and so far I’ve found the stain resistance to be much higher than indicated by its composition. None of the Sleipner blades have given me any issue with corrosion, and none have yet stained despite intentionally not caring for them. When sharpening, it is obvious the Sleipner steel has a high wear resistance, so does require some effort. Diamond stones definitely make this easier. After stropping off a burr formed during sharpening, the Sleipner steel has been giving a very good sharpness, so considering its wear resistance, it actually seems relatively easy to sharpen.

There is an interesting look to the B40’s handle with the flat grip faces having ‘corners’. At first glance these seem like they might become problematic hotspots in hard use. However the rest of the handle, where most of the grip pressure is applied, is rounded and comfortable. These ‘corners’ can be felt, but also provide positive resistance to the knife twisting in your hand.

A knife with a ‘scandi’ blade has become a very popular type of knife for bushcraft, and for good reason; the scandi blade is very good for working wood. But personally I find that to be its limiting factor as the blade’s specialist ability impacts on everything else you might ask of it.

With the B40’s blade, the design has been kept with a leaning a little more towards a utility blade, but with plenty of ability for hard work with wood. As you have seen in the previous gallery, the B40 handles wood very well.

For this review I included the M1 as a companion blade to the B40. Something to use for finer tasks, and as a backup blade. It is too small to choose to use for heavy tasks, but the blade stock used means that if you were caught out with only the M1 it would still be a very capable blade.

Using a full flat grind on the M1 makes its blade a much better slicer than its 3.2mm stock might otherwise dictate.

Lionsteel’s M1 is a knife you should not overlook. It is an excellent general purpose knife that is small enough to carry to pocket-carry. If only the UK knife carry laws permitted this as an EDC, but they do not, so it will unfortunately be limited to duties at home and will certainly be a backup blade for those times I can carry a fixed blade.

The partnership of the B40 and M1 has indeed worked very well.

Review Summary

The views expressed in this summary table are from the point of view of the reviewer’s personal use. I am not a member of the armed forces and cannot comment on its use beyond a cutting tool or field/hunting knife.

Something that might be a ‘pro’ for one user can be a ‘con’ for another, so the comments are categorised based on my requirements. You should consider all points and if they could be beneficial to you.

_______________________________________________
Things I like
_______________________________________________

B40 – Ideal size for its intended use – bushcraft.
B40 – Sleipner steel has taken and held a great edge.
B40 – Sleipner steel – so far no signs of corrosion.
B40 – Blade geometry allows greater flexibility than many bushcraft knives.
B40 – Quality leather sheath.
M1 – M390 steel takes and holds a great edge.
M1 – Full flat grind, makes it a great slicer.
M1 – Quality ‘pocket-sized’ leather sheath.
M1 – Highly functional pull-lanyard with Titanium bead.
M1 – Super useful fixed blade pocket-knife.

_______________________________________________
What doesn’t work so well for me
_______________________________________________

B40 – Firesteel scraper sparks onto lanyard (if fitted).
B40 – Sleipner steel – not so easy for in-the-field maintenance.
M1 – Belt loop is so tight as to be almost unusable.
M1 – Blade stock almost too thick at 3.2mm.

 

Discussing the Review:

The ideal place to discuss this review is on the Tactical Reviews Facebook Page
Please visit there and start/join the conversation.

If you read the review entirely on Tactical Reviews, please consider visiting one of the following to start/join in any discussion.

BladeForums – Knife Reviews (US based Forum for Knife Discussion)

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The BESS Exchange – A forum discussing technical aspects of sharpness and truly understanding your sharpening process.

Knife Review: Spyderco Subvert

Spyderco’s Subvert is a knife I was drawn to straight away, but I did not expect it to make such an impression on me. Ok, it’s bright orange, so is going to get my attention; orange being one of my favoured colours for keeping track of things. But there is so much more – the flowing lines somehow disguise the presence of such a large blade, leading many to wonder how they managed to fit it into that handle. In this review of the Spyderco Subvert, I’ll give you a close-up of all the details and tell you why I’m not letting this one go any time soon.

A few more details:

What’s in the box?:


A good look round the Subvert – Things to look out for here are:

The choice of materials and how they come together has resulted in a lot of transitions, all of which are dealt with sympathetically and with great attention to detail. A very impressive build, that continues to impress.


The Blade and Handle – Detailed Measurements:

For full details of the tests and measurements carried out and an explanation of the results, see the page – Knife Technical Testing – How It’s Done.

The blade is made from CPM S30V steel.


What it is like to use?

That photo says something loud and clear, ‘drama’, and that is where I’ll start with the Subvert. Swinging open that lovely large blade is full of drama and feels like deploying something serious. Thanks to the super smooth bearings, once free of the detent, that blade swings completely free. Rolling it round to the solid clunk of the lock kicking in just feels so good. A generous size of opening hole ensures no trouble getting it moving and taking it to fully open without thinking.

I’ve heard a few comments questioning if that blade is actually practical to use. It is certainly a bit different than you might be used to, and can require you to adapt your approach to a cut, but it is always rewarding to use.

The blade stock is thick, and the tip has a wide angle, both of which make it less suited to piercing. However, this tip still works well enough, and adds a level of control, as it is often easy to go too deep with piercing cuts. At the widest part, the blade has been brought down to a nice slim angle making this the best place for deeper cuts; at this point on the blade it is an especially fierce cutter.

Though it is a big folder with a thick blade, that blade has a full flat grind, making the cutting efficiency very good. The overall size does make it a positive choice to carry, but why wouldn’t you?

There is a definite feeling that every part of the knife has been positively designed. What am I saying? When you design anything, some parts of it can end up ‘just being’, passively designing themselves or simply filling in a gap between two other parts. This is no bad thing, just an observation, and in the case of the Subvert, as you look closely at every part, there is a level of positive design and intended choices that fills it with purpose.

I have found myself questioning some of those choices, like a single position pocket clip. More and more frequently, folding knives are offered with multi-position pocket clips, and if you are left-handed or prefer tip up carry then you can change it around. That choice however does make a design messy with milled areas and holes cluttering the handle. Sticking to a single position keeps the rest of the design simpler and more elegant.

Have a flip through this gallery…


I take an XL glove, so you can see it is a good size. It doesn’t feel too large and the size of the blade always brings on a grin.

It is getting to a size that pocket carry might be pushing it, so I wanted to use a pouch. A happy coincidence meant I gave it a try in the Nitecore NCP30, and this almost felt made for it and meant I could go with horizontal or vertical belt carry. I also frequently had this on the strap of a shoulder bag (see gallery).

Is the Subvert the most practical knife you could carry? Not in my opinion. Is the Subvert great fun to use and carry, and does it make you grin when you swing open that blade? Yes, in spades.

Review Summary

The views expressed in this summary table are from the point of view of the reviewer’s personal use. I am not a member of the armed forces and cannot comment on its use beyond a cutting tool or field/hunting knife.

Something that might be a ‘pro’ for one user can be a ‘con’ for another, so the comments are categorised based on my requirements. You should consider all points and if they could be beneficial to you.

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Things I like
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Large dramatic blade.
Every detail carefully thought out.
Superb fit and finish.
Single position pocket clip. (yes it is in both lists)
Orange handles and contrast spacer.
Silky smooth bearing.
Strong thick blade.
Full Flat Grind (making that thick blade a good slicer).
Excellent factory edge.

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What doesn’t work so well for me
_______________________________________________

Not the most practical blade shape.
Single position pocket clip. (yes it is in both lists)
Curvy edge will be a bit more challenging to maintain.

 

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