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.

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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
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: 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
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: 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.

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: 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.

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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.

_______________________________________________
Things I like
_______________________________________________

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.

_______________________________________________
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.

 

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)

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: Extrema Ratio Fulcrum II D Desert Warfare

Extrema Ratio have built a reputation for making super strong knives; in this review of the Fulcrum II D ‘Heavy Folder’, we are taking that detailed ‘Tactical Reviews look’ at this re-launched folding knife. ‘Overbuilt’ is often used to describe knives with heavy construction, but is not how I would describe Extrema Ratio’s Fulcrum II. ‘Overbuilt’ suggests excessive design, but behind every Extrema Ratio design is a purpose and intent to give the owner confidence in a tool that won’t let them down. Initially I was sceptical – would the build of the Fulcrum II hamper its usefulness? But it has surprised me; read on to find out more.

A few more details:

What’s in the box?:


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

As you look round the Fulcrum II you will see how the design has been kept simple yet functional and how solid every part is.


The Locking-Lock:

There are other knives that have a secondary lock to secure the main lock of an open folder, and there are assisted-openers that have a safety lock to prevent the blade springing open in your pocket, but I have yet to come across another folding knife with a secondary lock quite like the one on the Fulcrum II.
A back-lock mechanism uses the lock-bar’s spring to hold the blade in the folded position and then to keep the lock engaged when the blade is open. The lock-bar needs to move to allow the blade to open and close.
In the Fulcrum II, there is a secondary manual lock that locks the lock-bar itself, preventing from moving at all. This means if the blade is closed, it cannot be opened, and if opened the lock cannot be released to allow it to fold. This single secondary lock can secure the blade in either the opened or closed position.
As this is not something that would be obvious to everyone, one use-case for this is to prevent someone taking the folded knife off you and then using it against you (unless they know). The more likely use being to effectively make the folding knife a fixed blade knife ensuring that it cannot be accidentally closed.


Explained by the Maker:


The following text is from Extrema Ratio’s own product description.

This model is the evolution of the FULCRUM Folder (out of production since 2005), the first folding knife produced by Extrema Ratio according to the specifics of an Italian counter-terrorism unit. The FULCRUM II is basically identical to its predecessor, the only variations being the addition of a reversible clip and a partially lowered surface on the handle which improves the ergonomics and makes operating the opening pin easier. A manual security lock holds the BACK-LOCK mechanism lever, preventing accidental unlocking of the blade block during heavy-duty use. It can also be used to lock the knife closed in the event it’s taken away from the user: then the FULCRUM cannot be opened, even if the mechanism is often irrevocably damaged. The back of the flat-ground blade offers a comfortable resting point for the thumb. The tempered steel tang can be used as glass breaker and is provided with a hole to affix a security cord. Available versions: FULCRUM II D BLACK, FULCRUM II D DESERT WARFARE, FULCRUM II D BLACK RUVIDO, FULCRUM II T BLACK, FULCRUM II T DESERT WARFARE, FULCRUM II T BLACK RUVIDO.

The Blade and Handle – Detailed Measurements:

Now even more detailed!

Taking things far beyond most knife specifications, in this section I will be carrying out a detailed examination of geometry, balance, edge bevels, factory sharpness and structural edge testing using the industry leading measuring tools.

These measuring tools include a Vernier protractor, callipers, fixed radius gauges, the unique Arc Master adjustable radius gauge, Edge On Up’s BESS Certified PT50A and SET tester along with CATRA’s Hobbigoni LASER Edge Protractor.
The BESS ‘C’ scale of sharpness (Brubacher Edge Sharpness Scale) will be used to verify the sharpness of the factory edge and allow the knife to be brought to a minimum standard sharpness before testing a blade’s cutting performance.


The measurements have been tabulated and are presented along with a few reference blades. 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.

The first table in this gallery shows the standard review measurements, however, this is one of the first reviews on Tactical Reviews to feature a new measurement. Using the Edge On Up Structural Edge Tester (SET) to measure the resistance of a knife’s edge to rolling.

This is to be expanded upon in future articles, but for now, in the SET results the key factors are:
Series 1 Degradation – how much damage the edge suffers from one edge rolling cycle. The damage is represented by an increase in the BESS ‘C’ score. (Averages also shown for A and B)
Series 2 Degradation – how much damage the edge suffers from one further edge rolling cycle. (Averages also shown for A and B)
Degradation after strop – has the edge been permanently damaged/chipped or can it be recovered with stropping? A negative number means it actually improved from the starting figure, suggesting there may have already been some rolling of the edge before testing. (Averages also shown for A and B)


The blade is made from BöHLER N690 STEEL (58HRC).

What it is like to use?

Before I could really appreciate the Fulcrum II, the edge needed reworking. Embarking upon this revealed a few things you should be aware of.

The factory edge was very steep, a total inclusive angle of 64 degrees. Taking the BESS sharpness measurements with an average score of 409,and a small thick blade, you have a less than eager cutter. Should you wish to use it as an extraction tool and cut through metal sheeting and pry with it, this edge will quite likely serve you well, but I wanted to know if this knife would also serve for daily tasks.

With such a thick blade and a primary blade grind at 21 degrees my intention was to take the edge angle to 40 degrees inclusive. I’d generally take a pocket knife to 30 degrees inc, but this is not a normal pocket knife and the edge bevel would be getting a bit too wide.

So, check this first photo in the gallery and you will see that the thumb stud creates an angle of about 53 degrees in relation to the edge bevel, making sharpening to anything less than this difficult. The only option is to remove it. Thankfully Extrema Ratio have made the thumb-stud removable and provided the Allen key for it, so no problem there. However, remember that the blade-stop in the closed position IS the thumb-stud, so once you take it off, don’t go closing the blade or you will undo all your hard work.

The major edge bevel angle change was carried out with a small belt grinder. It was taken to a burr and stropped to remove the burr, but I could never quite get it as sharp as I wanted. This might be that the belt needs changing, but before confirming that, I just moved onto a DMT Aligner kit and got the edge shaving sharp. The new edge bevel is significantly wider than the factory edge bevel, especially at the tip (about 4mm wide), so it does change the look somewhat.


In all honesty, on first starting to use the Fulcrum II with the factory edge, I was underwhelmed and thinking I now had an overly heavy folder that was not much use to me; despite having a very satisfying presence. However, the 20dps (degrees per side) edge has totally transformed the Fulcrum II. I cannot recommend enough just putting this edge angle on it straight out of the box.

Changing the edge angle to an inclusive 40 degrees makes this a properly usable knife. You can now appreciate its substantial feel and operation along with its, now useful, cutting performance.

Despite this new edge bevel angle transforming it, the Fulcrum II does still have a very thick blade. It is never going to slice like a thin blade – but who cares?! That clunk of the lock as you open it, the handle size and ergonomics – you know you are holding heavy duty metal.

Ergonomics are good and functional even with the angular look. Thumb-stud opening is firm but not stiff. If anything is over stiff, it is the back-lock spring. Unlocking the blade is quite tough, and I need to change grip specifically to one where I can apply maximum force to the lock – I can’t see this ever releasing accidentally due to a firm grip.

I do find the secondary lock very satisfying. Perhaps oddly, I like locking it closed, keeping the blade safely folded and stopping curious people opening it. Then the secondary lock on the open knife making it close to a fixed blade. This extra level of certainty adding an extra dimension to the Fulcrum II. If I were to express a minor doubt, it is the amount of engagement of this secondary lock. The secondary locking button overlaps the handle slab (to create the block) and does so with less than 1mm of overlap. Enough to function, but not quite in fitting with the solidity of everything else.

Putting it to woodworking duty, the Fulcrum II was a pleasure to use. I didn’t want to stop carving. The new edge bevel, being quite wide, gives it a semi-scandi effect and it was just eating up stick after stick. I did remove the pocket clip as, for me, this significantly improved the ability to work with it for extended periods.

This knife demands attention. Attention simply due to its build and presence, and the attention you need to give it to get it set up right, as you will need to put that proper working edge on it to be able to appreciate it. I like big and heavy folders as long as they can be put to real work – exactly what I’ve been doing with the Fulcrum II.


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
_______________________________________________

Proper ‘Heavy Folder’ with respected pedigree.
Secondary lock, completely locking the blade open or closed.
Excellent fit and finish.
Very satisfying action.
Large finger guard.
Ambidextrous pocket clip.
Not that heavy despite solid build.

_______________________________________________
What doesn’t work so well for me
_______________________________________________

Factory edge far too steep at 64 degrees.
Thumb-stud needs to be removed for sharpening.
Relatively shallow blade for its thickness.
For hard use it is much easier on the hands without the pocket clip.
The primary lock is a bit too stiff.
No pouch supplied.

 

Discussing the Review:

The ideal place to discuss this reviews is on a forum. If you started reading the shorter forum version of the review, but followed the link this full exclusive review, please return to that forum to discuss the review there.
If you read the review entirely on Tactical Reviews, please consider one of the following to 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: Oberland Arms Jager Sepp

Finding Oberland Arms’ knives was an outstanding highlight of IWA 2018, and it became a mission of mine to review them. A happy coincidence that one other IWA 2018 highlight happened to be another knife designed by Tommaso Rumici who is the designer of the Jager Sepp on review here.
Everything came together nicely at IWA 2019, meetings with Tommaso, Viper Tecnocut and Matthias Hainich of Oberland Arms, and here is the first of two reviews for Oberland Arms knives (the Wuiderer Sepp is currently in testing).

A few more details:

No unnecessary frills with packaging that will just be discarded, the Jager Sepp and Wuiderer Sepp arrive in a plastic bag.

Starting with the sheath:

This is the one part not designed by Tommaso Rumici, but instead by the team at Oberland Arms. It has a lot of interesting features shown in the gallery.


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

Overall there is a real sense of purpose and lack of unnecessary frills on the Jager Sepp.


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. I am also reviewing the larger Oberland Arms ‘Wuiderer Sepp’. The interview with Tommaso is in two parts, with this review containing Part 1:

This image of the first sketch of the final design of the Jager Sepp has been kindly provided to me by Tommaso Rumici.

How did you get involved with Oberland Arms to design these knives?

“Me and Matthias Hainich, CEO of Oberland Arms, met during an IWA Show. I was helping at Viper’s booth, and he was looking for someone to produce knives for his brand. At the beginning, we started with a lightly modified version of the Viper David, then we continued with exclusive designs, made for Oberland following his specifications and requests.”

Can you talk me through the design brief, and how far developed it was when given to you?
“During September 2016, Mr. Hainich sent me a list of specifications for the new knife, with some indications about the tasks it would have been able to accomplish, and a few examples of existing knives with the same characteristics.
The new knife was going to be a fixed blade, with green or coyote G10 handle, 11,9cm blade with 5mm thickness, flat grind, with stonewashed finish, and a Kydex/Nylon sheath.
I started working, exchanging emails with Matthias, and before October we arrived to the final design of the smaller one.
Since Mr. Hainich is a fan of my Carnera, we also tried a bigger blade with a similar Bowie design (but smaller than Carnera’s one, which is too big for a military knife). This blade became the bigger one.
(The Wuiderer Sepp.)

At the end, we had a meeting with Mr. Miniutti (Viper), and checked everything before production. During that meeting, we decided for the Black Stonewashed PVD, and to work on three different handles: OD green, coyote and wolf grey G10.”

There was a repeated question I got when talking to others about these knives – why D2?
AISI D2 is a good steel for hard working tools. It holds a good edge, it’s tougher than a lot of “inox”, and more stainless than high carbon steels, like 1095. It isn’t the latest alloy invented but, in my opinion, it’s a great choice for a military knife, that can be abused or lost in the field, because it gives you great performances, it’s difficult to break, while keeping a great price/performances balance.
Speaking of the real life, I tested several D2 knives made by Viper, and I’m really satisfied about how they work. Especially the Viper Tank, designed to be an heavy outdoor tool.

Part 2 of this interview will be in the Oberland Arms Wuiderer Sepp Review.

In the Lab – Technical Testing!:

Now even more detailed!

Taking things far beyond most knife specifications, in this section I will be carrying out a detailed examination of geometry, balance, edge bevels, factory sharpness and structural edge testing using the industry leading measuring tools.

These measuring tools include a Vernier protractor, callipers, fixed radius gauges, the unique Arc Master adjustable radius gauge, Edge On Up’s BESS Certified PT50A and SET tester along with CATRA’s Hobbigoni LASER Edge Protractor.
The BESS ‘C’ scale of sharpness (Brubacher Edge Sharpness Scale) will be used to verify the sharpness of the factory edge and allow the knife to be brought to a minimum standard sharpness before testing a blade’s cutting performance.


The measurements have been tabulated and are presented along with a few reference blades. 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.

The first image in this gallery shows the standard review measurements, however, this is the first review on Tactical Reviews to feature a new measurement. Using the Edge On Up Structural Edge Tester (SET) to measure the resistance of a knife’s edge to rolling.

This is to be expanded upon in future articles, but for now, in the SET results the key factors are:
Series 1 Degradation – how much damage the edge suffers from one edge rolling cycle. The damage is represented by an increase in the BESS ‘C’ score. (Averages also shown for A and B)
Series 2 Degradation – how much damage the edge suffers from one further edge rolling cycle. (Averages also shown for A and B)
Degradation after strop – has the edge been permanently damaged/chipped or can it be recovered with stropping? A negative number means it actually improved from the starting figure, suggesting there may have already been some rolling of the edge before testing. (Averages also shown for A and B)


What it is like to use?

Of Oberland Arms’ three fixed blade knives (at the time of review), the Jager Sepp would be the all-rounder in terms of size (the main reason I’m testing it first). With a 12cm blade (just under 5″) it is in that ideal general-purpose-blade length. The high, almost full, flat grind gives the blade strength combined with powerful cutting ability.

Good handle design provides immediate indexing of the blade, comfort and grip options. On picking up the Jager Sepp, this is what strikes you straight away. It just sits in your hand, balanced nicely on your first finger, nimble and ready to work; a natural extension of your hand. The grip is a generous size without being overly large, and its size and shape have not presented me with any hotspots when working it hard. Grip indexing works almost as well in a reverse grip, considering the forward grip has that first finger groove, this is impressive.

For a working knife, three elements are as important as each other. The blade, the handle and the sheath. In some cases the sheath can become the most important element, as a knife is no good to you if it is lost, or you can’t get to it when you need to. The Oberland Arms sheath is a great mix of clever design ideas and hits a lot of sweet spots.

The nylon outer shell holds a kydex liner, meaning no additional knife retention is needed, the kydex lips hold the Jager Sepp firmly in place even when mounted handle-down. A thumb ramp is incorporated into the kydex so you can easily unsheathe the knife quietly and in full control.

Ambidextrous use is catered for in the simplest way; the kydex liner is held in the outer sheath with a single bolt. This allows you to remove the kydex liner and flip it round for left-handed use – an excellent solution. I’ll cover more on the sheath in a dedicated gallery following this one.

On its first venture into the outdoors, I went with the factory edge, but found this a little too steep an angle (52 degrees), so took this to a total inclusive of 35 degrees. I find this a good compromise when I don’t want to go all the way to 30 degrees, but want a finer edge than a typical 40 degree.

OK, perhaps the elephant in the room – D2 steel. Once the wonder steel of legend, then becoming more mainstream, before being mostly discarded in favour of steels designed specifically for the knife industry. Is it too hard to sharpen, does it chip, does it rust, does that edge last well?

The SET testing results, included for the first time ever in a knife review, have been shown in isolation, as at the time of writing this test is still not fully proven. What I can say is that the results were in line with what I expected of D2. Those figures are a strong performance and the ability to recover means that there was no chipping. I’d say the heat treat on this by Viper Tecnocut has got it just right.

D2 by its very nature is going to be a bit harder to sharpen. Although I use a belt grinder, it is easy to feel how hard the steel is to sharpen, and the Jager’s blade was firm but not excessive. The only chipping I have experienced was when I dropped the knife onto a stone!

I’ve given the blade no special treatment, but also no abuse, and I was keen to get a patina to add to the stonewashed PVD (being stonewashed a lot of the PVD has been polished off), but so far neither the bare edge bevel not any other part of the knife have shown any corrosion.


The Oberland Arms nylon sheath has MOLLE compatible straps that are unlike any others I’ve seen so warrant a more detailed look. In this gallery I’m fitting it to a drop leg platform.

Before getting onto this is does lead me to mention why I chose to fit it to a drop-leg. With MOLLE straps, I typically arrange them so as to form a belt loop for the majority of my testing. The strap fixing design on the Oberland Arms sheath is not strong enough to do this with confidence. Unlike a press-stud fixing the fabric tabs were becoming deformed when making a simple belt loop and I had to use some auxiliary MOLLE strap I have (for pouches without any straps).

Going onto PALS webbing, the strap design is perfectly strong enough, and the effect is for the cross webbing to take the load. For a full weave, you will need to remove the kydex liner. In this gallery I did not do that, so the last weave is left undone.


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
_______________________________________________

Superb ergonomics / indexing / comfort.
High flat grind.
D2 with very good heat treat.
Great all-rounder size.
Versatile, ambidextrous sheath.

_______________________________________________
What doesn’t work so well for me
_______________________________________________

Sheath MOLLE straps – question over durability.
Sheath MOLLE straps – not strong enough for a simple belt loop configuration.
D2 – some would question using this steel in a premium knife.

 

Discussing the Review:

The ideal place to discuss this reviews is on a forum. If you started reading the shorter forum version of the review, but followed the link this full exclusive review, please return to that forum to discuss the review there.
If you read the review entirely on Tactical Reviews, please consider one of the following to 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: Lionsteel M4

If the Lionsteel M4 is not on your list of candidates for a utility / bushcraft / general purpose fixed blade knife, it should be. It is not a new model at the time of this review, now entering its third year of production, and the Mik Molletta designed M4 from Lionsteel seemingly finds that perfect – just right – size, weight and balance. Once you pick a M4 up, it feels like it was made for you, and simply belongs in your hand.

A few more details:

The M4 featured in this review is the Olive wood handled version. Given a choice, I thought what better handle material for a knife that is Italian designed and made (and grown).

What’s in the box?:


A good look round the M4 – Things to look out for here are:

Starting with the sheath, it is clear as you look through the photos how well made this sheath is.


Then the M4 itself. Lionsteel’s premium quality of manufacture shines through in every detail. The faithful reproduction of Mik Molletta’s design, including the sculpted handle, makes this a pleasure to handle and use.


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.

Mik Molletta has generously given his time to explain design choices, and give some background to the M4. The descriptions in this section come from our discussion.


The M4 was actually designed some time ago and because the project was so satisfying, Mik decided to propose it to Lionsteel.

Intended as a little multipurpose knife, the size and shape of the blade (A) allows excellent versatility in all aspects of outdoor life. The finger guard (B) has been sized in order to stop it being cumbersome but still protect the hand, and it also provides an easy reference for the index finger.

A spear point (C) was chosen as it is versatile and robust, and allows you to do hard work. For its size the M4 has quite a thick blade, this thickness (D) was chosen because the knife is still a tool that can be called upon to perform even heavy work like batoning.

M390 (D) is one of few stainless steels that with specific heat treating can have secondary hardening. It is Mik’s opinion that tempering this steel in the ordinary way, as most of the cutlery does, does not fully exploit the potential of this steel.

The flat grind (E) is ‘high’ but not ‘full’. Having a full thickness part of the blade reinforces it and makes it suitable for heavier work.

Mik’s designs tend to include a sharpening choil (F). This is because during the subsequent sharpening, if there were not the choil, that part of the edge would be rounded up because it would not be able to contact the stones properly. This would result in having a long piece of edge that cannot be sharpened which ends up growing over time.

The handle is bolted (G) on instead of riveted. In Mik’s opinion, bolts are a better fastener for more durable tools. Rivets can yield or loosen and cannot be tightened.

Handle shaping (H) is a careful process of sculpting the form while looking at the fit into Mik’s own hand.

When it came to the sheath design (I), this was collaboration between Mik and Gianni. The double stitching (J) guarantees greater durability at the cost of a small increase in size.

For left-handed users (K), Mik and Lionsteel are thinking of making some specific sheath or modular sheath like the one on M7, that can also be used by left-handed users.

The butt of the knife has an exposed tang (M), and can be used to strike or press.

When asked about the palm swell (N) Mik commented – during use of the knife, the hand tends to move on the handle to look for the most comfortable grip. It happens naturally. A pronounced palm swell limits this possibility. On the big knives, like the M7, the bigger palm swell helps to hold the knife firmly.

The Blade and Handle – Detailed Measurements:

Now even more detailed!

Taking things far beyond most knife specifications, in this section I will be carrying out a detailed examination of geometry, balance, edge bevels, factory sharpness and structural edge testing using the industry leading measuring tools.

These measuring tools include a Vernier protractor, callipers, fixed radius gauges, the unique Arc Master adjustable radius gauge, Edge On Up’s BESS Certified PT50A and SET tester along with CATRA’s Hobbigoni LASER Edge Protractor.
The BESS ‘C’ scale of sharpness (Brubacher Edge Sharpness Scale) will be used to verify the sharpness of the factory edge and allow the knife to be brought to a minimum standard sharpness before testing a blade’s cutting performance.


The measurements have been tabulated and are presented along with a few reference blades. 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.


The blade is made from M390 steel.

What it is like to use?

Big knives; who doesn’t love them?! But the reality is that most of your normal ‘utility’ tasks are far better served with a smaller, lighter and more agile knife.

I have a confession – I very nearly passed over this knife. It doesn’t shout for attention amongst many other fine blades, and your every-day working knife is easily overshadowed by the glamorous show knives. Please don’t make the same mistake – it has been one of those small revelations as to how good this knife is.

Reflecting a little more on why I nearly overlooked this, I think it may stem from the general attitude the UK has towards knives and knife carry. If you have ‘good reason’ to carry something more than a SAK, the appeal is to take that big camp knife out rather than the more useful and sensible sized utility knife.

Before you even get onto using the M4, it really shows its quality of manufacture which marks it out as something special.

For reference I wear XL sized gloves, so even with reasonably large hands this knife doesn’t feel too small. It is very comfortable and nimble in the hand. The blade length lends itself to those controlled power cuts without any excess blade waving around. You only make a power cut with the first inch or two of blade next to the handle anyway. With only a sharpening choil (instead of a finger choil) you have that optimum power with all fingers on the wooden handle.


If the blade had a slightly thinner blade, it would make slicing cuts through thicker materials easier and the knife a bit lighter. However Mik Molletta’s designs tend to err on the side of strength, and so the blade stock used is just that bit thicker than many knives this size. This adds a reassuring solidity to the design without really impacting on its cutting ability. I can only really see an issue if cutting a lot of thick cardboard or similar stiff sheet material – not really a concern here as the M4 is described as a ‘bushcraft’ knife.

In its role as a bushcraft knife, the thickness of the blade means that you won’t have any worries batoning with it, and also being a full tang knife, it is just not going to let you down by breaking. Also importantly here, the comfort of the handle means you can carry out a lot of wood preparation without it causing fatiguing or creating hot-spots. Just going back to the blade thickness again, combined with the rounded spine, it is very comfortable to place your thumb on the spine for extra pressure or control.

As you will see in the summary section, I’ve been struggling to find things I don’t like about the M4. There are a couple of minor negatives. The first does not affect me, but is just to say that the sheath is right-handed only. The second has not yet fully become a problem, and might not, but I have found that when inserting the M4 into the sheath the blade tip has caught on the internal stitching of the belt loop. My worry is that if the threads get cut through they might unravel, and the belt loop then fail. I’ve started to be very careful and deliberate when sheathing the M4 to avoid this – not something I really want to think about.

The M4 is a superbly practical knife and in so many ways it is ‘just right’. Small and light enough for all-day carry without being weighed down. Large enough to be put to serious work. High performance steel without being impossible to sharpen. Strong enough to take everything in its stride. Manufacturing quality to make you smile without being ‘too good to use’.

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
_______________________________________________

Super practical size.
Extremely well made.
Strong blade / full tang.
High performance steel.
Quality leather sheath.
Comfortable grip even for extended periods.
Beautiful Olive wood handle.

_______________________________________________
What doesn’t work so well for me
_______________________________________________

Sheath is only right handed.
Blade tip catches internal belt loop stitching when sheathed.

 

Discussing the Review:

The ideal place to discuss this reviews is on a forum. If you started reading the shorter forum version of the review, but followed the link this full exclusive review, please return to that forum to discuss the review there.
If you read the review entirely on Tactical Reviews, please consider one of the following to join in any discussion or start a new one.

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: Spyderco Hundred Pacer

What are your first impressions of the Spyderco Hundred Pacer? Well, it certainly is an unusual looking knife with an unusual name and design inspiration, and I’ll admit to being sceptical about the look of this knife.
But, whatever your first impressions are, I can say that this knife has proven itself again and again throughout the testing process to be as potent as its namesake. The Hundred Pacer is the result of a collaboration with a Taiwanese knife designer and enthusiast Jonny Liao, who manages to bring together potentially ungainly serpentine shapes into a stunningly effective cutting tool.

A few more details:

What’s in the box?:


A good look round the Spyderco Hundred Pacer – Things to look out for here are:

You can’t really miss the design references to the snake the knife is named after. Even under the closest scrutiny the quality of manufacture stands out.


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.

While at IWA 2018 I had the good fortune to be able to talk to Joyce Laituri from Spyderco about this knife.

Firstly here is the standard description from Spyderco:
The Hundred Pacer is a truly unique folding knife design inspired by a deadly Taiwanese viper with a distinctive “horned” nose. Its venom is reputedly so toxic that a person bitten by it could only walk a hundred paces before expiring. Designed by knife enthusiast Jonny Liao, the Spyderco Hundred Pacer translates the sweeping lines of the snake’s head into a broad, dramatically curved, full-flat-ground blade. The satin-finished PlainEdge™ blade is crafted from premium CTS® XHP powder metallurgy stainless steel and features a fully accessible Trademark Round Hole™ for swift, positive, one-handed opening with either hand.

To replicate the look and feel of the snake’s skin, the knife’s stunning handle scales are meticulously machined from layered G-10 to create a non-slip texture and contrasting color pattern. Skeletonized stainless steel liners nested within the scales complement the handle’s open-backed construction to minimize the knife’s weight, while providing a solid foundation for its sturdy LinerLock mechanism. A reversible deep-pocket wire clip supports discreet, ambidextrous, tip-up carry and keeps the Hundred Pacer poised and instantly accessible.

An image from mitbbs.com of the Hundred Pacer snake.

The following are a few insights into the design courtesy of Joyce:
Jonny designed the knife to have a very wide flat ground blade, shaped to be reminiscent of the head of the Hundred Pacer snake. If you are not familiar with this snake, a quick Google of it reveals he did a very good job pulling off the form of the snake. The handle is textured G-10 with a bidirectional pattern to offer tactile resistance. The original prototype had a two tone handle that was vividly reminiscent of the snake’s colouring, but Spyderco opted for the coyote brown handle with the milled texturing.
With the Hundred Pacer, the surprising thing is once you get it in your hand; as large as it is, and as wide as the blade is, it is incredibly lightweight and incredibly comfortable to hold; add to this the upswept blade being such a powerful cutter and you have an extremely effective knife.
The CTS XHD steel used for the blade is a US made steel, and is shipped over to Taichung where Hundred Pacer is manufactured.

The Blade and Handle – Detailed Measurements:

Now even more detailed!

Taking things far beyond most knife specifications, in this section I will be carrying out a detailed examination of geometry, balance, edge bevels, factory sharpness and structural edge testing using the industry leading measuring tools.

These measuring tools include a Vernier protractor, callipers, fixed radius gauges, the unique Arc Master adjustable radius gauge, Edge On Up’s BESS Certified PT50A and SET tester along with CATRA’s Hobbigoni LASER Edge Protractor.
The BESS ‘C’ scale of sharpness (Brubacher Edge Sharpness Scale) will be used to verify the sharpness of the factory edge and allow the knife to be brought to a minimum standard sharpness before testing a blade’s cutting performance.


The measurements have been tabulated and are presented along with a few reference blades. 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.


The blade is made from CTS-XHP steel.

Take note of that average BESS Score of just 156. This is truly exceptional, and is the sharpest factory edge I have come across.

What it is like to use?

Once you handle this knife, it all makes sense. There are knives I do not find visually appealing, yet once in your hands they just work. The Hundred Pacer from Spyderco is one of these. In fact its abilities are making its looks more appealing, as you start to understand why it looks like it does.

When folded, the large hump of metal around the opening hole is there because this knife has such a wonderfully wide blade. This same large lump of metal makes the opening hole even more accessible, and the opening action super fast. It then provides an effective thumb ramp once the blade is open. Completely function, although making the folded knife appear a little ungainly.

The snake-head shaped butt of the handle forms a grip-hook that provides extreme stability during use, so the odd appearance really does make sense.


For me there is only one minor change that improves the Hundred Pacer, and that is the addition of a sharpening choil. There are some cuts when this can create a ‘hang-up’, but the benefits outweigh the possible pitfalls for me. In adding a sharpening choil, it also allows the entire cutting edge bear down onto a cutting surface. Amongst other things, this knife’s slicing ability works fantastically well in the kitchen, and I use this roughly 50% of the time for food related tasks; this modification makes it significantly better for use on a cutting board.

Shown here with a small batch of knives that I added a sharpening choil to.


Don’t be too quick to judge this knife by its appearance. Certainly some will like the different looks, but I suspect most initially will not. The Hundred Pacer proves itself utterly worthy of your consideration thanks to its fantastic performance and handling.

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
_______________________________________________

Superb handling.
A real ‘Super-Slicer’.
High quality fit and finish.
Ambidextrous.
Great grip.
High performance CTS XHP Steel.

_______________________________________________
What doesn’t work so well for me
_______________________________________________

Unusual appearance.

 

Discussing the Review:

The ideal place to discuss this reviews is on a forum. If you started reading the shorter forum version of the review, but followed the link this full exclusive review, please return to that forum to discuss the review there.
If you read the review entirely on Tactical Reviews, please consider one of the following to 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.