Knife Review: Benchmade Bugout 535-3

An even lighter, premium version of the already ultralight Benchmade Bugout, yes, that’s right. Join me in this is detailed review of the Benchmade 535-3, the special super-ultralight Bugout. Now, you say Carbon Fiber, I say Carbon Fibre, but let’s not worry about that (I might use either or both), and this is why the 535-3 is even lighter, as it has Carbon Fibre handles with the minimal steel inserts milled into them. The 535-3 is the Benchmade Bugout – Plus!

Review Videos

Starting with a short format sixty second review:

Onto a full video review covering many more details:

A few more details:

What’s in the box?:
Very well presented in a foam lined box, the Bugout comes in a cloth bag that you can use to help keep the pocket fluff at bay. A clip/handle protector card also gives you information about the Benchmade Axis lock that the Bugout uses.

A good look round the Bugout 535-3 – Things to look out for here are:
The Bugout uses a mini deep-carry steel pocket clip, that is removable and can be fitted on either side. Blue highlights on the spacer/lanyard hole and thumb stud, play beautifully off the black Carbon Fibre adding to the premium feel of this version of the Bugout.
Ultralight construction means there is only the one spacer and otherwise clear space through the handles.
One side of the pivot bolt is capped, and the torx screw head on the other side only. Torx screws are used throughout for the construction.
Looking in closely at the axis lock bar and how it moves as the blade is opened. The Bugout, despite being a lightweight knife, is also known for being tough, and the use of phosphor bronze washers adds to the robust and reliable build.
There is something about this particular blue and how it sings on the ambidextrous thumb studs.
And then we have the Bugout’s slim, flat ground blade. No weak points, and very ‘slicey’ (should be a word if it isn’t) with a very useful shape. The smooth plunge line ensures maximum strength and exposed heel-edge provides easy maintenance and a useful rear-point (there isn’t a sharpening choil, but the end of the edge closest to the handle is unobstructed and easy to sharpen). This detail is something I look for in all knives, but especially an EDC knife.

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 S90V steel.

The Factory edge up close:

Followers of Tactical Reviews will know my views on factory edges, but to recap:

Anyone using a knife will need to sharpen it. That first factory edge is just like the first tank of fuel that a new car comes with (or first charge of the battery).
A good factory edge is a ‘nice to have’ but not a ‘make or break’ for a good knife, as you will be putting your own edge onto it soon enough.
The factory edge does however indicate the care a knife maker has put into the final finish.
It is for this reason Tactical Reviews measures factory edge sharpness and specifications, and includes this information in the detailed technical testing.

As a further look at the factory edge, this section has been added to include some high magnification photos of the factory edges.

Please be aware that these images were taken with the knife straight out of the box without any stropping and they do have some manufacturing residue visible on the edge.

What is it like to use?

The Bugout is a modern classic and has gained much favour and recognition. This is actually the first Bugout I’ve owned (not the first I’ve handled), so prior to this period of review testing I did not have much experience of using a Bugout. I’ve not been disappointed at all, quite the opposite.
With the 535-3 being the lightest Bugout to date, an already ultralight knife, it sits like a feather in your hand. The Carbon Fibre feels so light, comfortable and warm to the touch, you don’t want to put it down. How can it be so strong and so light?
Benchmade have also got the blade geometry spot on. Using a thinner blade, but not too thin, makes it slice exceptionally well. The exposed heel of the edge (similar to when a sharpening choil is used) makes sharpening of the entire edge easier. I find this secondary ‘point’ a very useful feature for fine work.
Shown here in my XL-glove-size hands, there is enough handle for a firm grip, while the overall knife is compact enough (and very slim) to forget you are even carrying it.

It’s proven its worth with all sorts of random jobs. Here a chandelier replacement candle tube being trimmed to length, and then its been out with me dealing with anything and everything else life has presented.
This edition with the Carbon Fibre handles has been making it so difficult to put down. It want’s you to carry it, it wants you to use it.
I hope this will remain a permanent part of the Benchmade Bugout line-up as it really is 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.

What doesn’t work so well for me

Nothing to see here.
(There is no such thing as the ‘perfect’ knife, but I have nothing to complain about.)

Things I like

Super-Ultralight and slim.
Smooth, warm, comfortable Carbon Fibre handle.
Slim, strong blade.
S90V steel.
High-end fit and finish.
Deep carry clip.
Demands to be handled and carried.

Knife Review: Lionsteel TM1 CF

Lionsteel are a brand that stand out year-on-year thanks to maintaining a superb level of manufacturing quality over a wide range of knife designs, both fixed and folding. This review takes a look at the Carbon Fibre version of the TM1 folding knife. Like the outstanding SR-1 (which is still going strong eight years after its launch), with its impressive construction using a one-piece handle, the TM1 also uses this single-piece handle design, but instead of an integral lock it uses a more traditional back-lock. I like an integral lock as much as anyone, but I am having just a little too much of them, and find it refreshing that the TM1 uses a back-lock. One main advantage of this is that the handle shape, grip and feel is not compromised by the lock-bar. Still a heavy folder, like the SR-1, but with a very interesting reverse-tanto blade shape, and a handle with two non-metallic material choices – Carbon-Fibre or Micarta. Finding this knife was one of my show highlights from IWA 2018.

What’s in the box?:

The TM1 comes in a familiar Lionsteel cardboard box. Inside the box, the TM1 is in a pouch / carry case which can slide onto a belt as a horizontal pouch. It will only fit over a slim 1″ belt and this might be a happy accident rather than an intended design feature.

A good look round the Lionsteel TM1 CF – Things to look out for here are:

The key images have captions; there is a lot to see on the TM1, so keep an eye out for the handle contouring, clip and glass breaker, ramped thumb opener, crisp finish and other design details.

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.

I had the good fortune to be able to consult Mik Molletta about this knife. The following images were discussion points that will be referred to.

Mik is a prolific designer and the TM1 was one of his own projects that wasn’t commissioned by Lionsteel, but was then given to them.
The following paragraphs are a combination of Mik’s own words and me incorporating the questions into the description (while attempting to leave the meaning unchanged).

Sleipner steel (A) was chosen because it is a tool steel with good performance in cutting ability and toughness. With a specific heat treating it has a very fine grain structure. The blade thickness (J) makes the TM1 very durable for a long working life.

Intended to be a real working knife, the overall shape and deep finger guard (B) reflect this purpose in the design. The knife also has a reinforced tip (C) suitable for processing hard materials.

In lockback knives it is often observed when using them that there is play in the lock and/or pivot, sometimes pressing on the blade while working, the lever of the lock moves upwards. In the TM-1 there is no play in any axis. The particular architecture (D), made to high precision tolerances, eliminates the problems of the back-lock mechanism, and the presence of bearings facilitates the one hand opening normally difficult on these knives. The lock-back system (I) when well executed is a safe and efficient and durable system.

A glass breaker (E) is incorporated because it was designed to be suitable for military, police and rescue proposes.

The pocket clip (G) is relatively short and is made to be not cumbersome and not to become annoying in use.

The handle surface texture (H) is slightly rough to provide grip with and without gloves, but without being troublesome for bare hands.

Angled shape thump opener (K) was used on the titanium version of Lionsteel’s T.R.E. Designed by me (Mik). It’s comfortable so used also on TM-1.

In case you were wondering how they fit those IKBs bearings…
(This image is from Lionsteel’s TM1 product page.)

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, developed by Mike Brubacher (Brubacher Edge Sharpness Scale) will now become part of Tactical Reviews’ knife testing process. Initially this 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 Sleipner 60-61 HRC steel.

The TM1’s factory edge has an average BESS ‘C’ sharpness of 342. This was acceptable as it would slice 80gsm paper, but not to the level I like so I brought the edge to 15 degree per-side and 200 BESS for testing the knife.

What it is like to use?

Lionsteel’s TM1 is a pleasant contradiction as it is a ‘heavy folder’ yet at the same time it is a ‘lightweight folder’ (for its size) thanks to the carbon-fibre handle. Although the blade is a substantial 4.5mm, making it massively strong, and the handle is matched to the blade perfectly, the TM1 is light and easy to carry.

Thanks to its one piece sculpted handle and back-lock, the grip is excellent for a folder. A fully integral finger guard makes the grip super stable and more than a match for that powerful blade.

Opening is silky as the blade swings out smoothly and effortlessly on those ball bearings. If you hold the handle and push the lock bar in fully, the blade actually becomes completely free to swing (without the lock bar pressing on it) and does so with no resistance at all. Not being a flipper I had wondered if it was worth using the ball bearings, but it is – the opening is just so slick. The thumb opener has been shaped into a ramp and gives a larger contact area for your thumb than studs do, and this makes it quite a bit more comfortable to use.

Then there is that snap of the lock; so crisp, precise and solid, and so satisfying. It makes you want to keep on opening it up. (Warning – you might annoy your family or work colleagues with this knife.)

This is the first ‘reverse-tanto’ blade I’ve used, however the principle is not far from a clip-point, just a smaller clip, keeping the tip very strong. Slightly odd looking, it has proven to be highly usable. No issues with the tip’s puncturing ability even though the point angle is 71 degrees. The tip looks extremely strong, but as yet I’ve not had a reason to really put this to the test (no car doors have jumped out at me and needed cutting into).

So ‘Sleipner’ in a folder? I was a little unsure about this choice with the reports of corrosion, and the fact it is not a stainless steel having only 7.8% Cr. I decided that during the course of the testing I would not use any oils or other blade protection, and have been using this knife for around six months for a variety of tasks, including with foods, and with one in particular that is normally very harsh – banana! Opening and fishing about in boil-in-the-bag foods so getting a good dose of heat and steam, pocket time, handling and at best a little wipe down.

It is possible that the blade has been lacquered but I can’t see any evidence this has been done, and I reground the cutting edge bevel, so I know that is bare steel. To date there has not been any sign of corrosion. I had expected to have to intervene and remove some spotting as I haven’t been caring for the blade steel. This is not the same as specifically abusing it or really trying to get it to corrode, but the testing has been normal use with little to no attempts to protect it beyond a wipe from time to time.

I’ll have to say I’m still a little wary that this might need more care than I’d like, but so far I’ve been pleasantly surprised that it has not been noticeably susceptible to corrosion. It is possible the specific heat-treat Mik mentioned may have improved the corrosion resistance of this steel.

You might have spotted the relatively small looking clip, and like me assumed it was not going to work well. I found I was eating my words though. When I pocket-carried the TM1, that clip had enough clearance to get onto the pocket edge and enough flex to slide into place, yet enough grip to stay put. I had dismissed this clip as an afterthought, but was wrong, it works. The clip can also be removed and refitted on the other side.

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.

Review Summary

Things I like

Superb fit and finish.
Single-piece handle.
Back-lock (Thank you!)
IKBS pivot bearings for super smooth action.
Rock solid lock up.
Lightweight yet ‘heavy-build’ folder.
Effective clip.
Works for right and left-handed users.
Strong blade.
Comfortable thumb opening ramp.

What doesn’t work so well for me

Sleipner steel – I don’t like the threat of corrosion hanging over a fantastic knife.
Nothing else.


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.