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.
Ambidextrous.
Demands to be handled and carried.

Knife Review: Spyderco Enuff 2

In this Spyderco Enuff 2 review, we will take in all the details of this fixed-blade knife. Enuff 2 is an expansion of the Enuff platform, designed by Spyderco’s Sal Glesser and originally created to emphasize the first few inches of the edge nearest the handle where most of the work is done. However, how much blade is “Enuff”, is a matter of opinion. For users who like the Enuff platform, but wanted just a bit more blade length, there’s the new Enuff 2.

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?:
As you would expect from Spyderco.


A good look round the Enuff 2 sheath- Things to look out for here are:
Formed of two molded plastic sections held together with metal eye rivets, the sheath is very slim. The belt clip makes the whole sheath quite a bit thicker, but can be removed easily if you are packing the knife away.
Out of the box, there is a secondary retention option of a leather strap. With the post that holds the end of the leather strap adding further bulk, this strap and its post are also easily removed if not needed.
The belt loop has a nice one-way system to prevent it accidentally coming off your belt. The sprung loop curls back under to catch onto the bottom of the belt and stop it pulling off.
The molded sheath lips grip the handle firmly making the extra strap redundant unless you want a secondary retention on the knife.


A good look round the Enuff 2 – Things to look out for here are:
Starting this gallery off with the tip protector on the knife; it even has the Spyderco logo on it! (which you will discard, but just saying)
This Enuff 2 has the full Spyderedge serrated edge. Keeping the Enuff 2 slim but with a very secure grip, it has the distinctive Spyderco FRN scales with unique grip pattern.
A generous section of the blade spine has jimping for the thumb to grip.
Flipping the knife over reveals a few differences form one side to the other. The handle screws being one of these, where on the reverse side they are torx screws, compared to the blank heads on the ‘front’. Also clear is the fact the Spyderedge is a chisel grind, so one side of the blade has no edge bevel at all, which is why the Spyderedge is so effective.


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 VG-10 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.

This gallery shows both sides and sizes of serrations with the chisel grind clearly evident.


What is it like to use?

This is the first Enuff knife I’ve used, so I can’t comment on the original Enuff. Even the longer Enuff 2 is still a compact fixed blade. Having such a flexible sheath means you can change things around, add alternative mounts, or strip it down to basics to keep it as slim and light as possible.

For me the full Spyderedge makes this more of a backup knife. Depending on your typical cutting tasks you might want the serrated edge for a lot of fibrous cuts, but for me this is a less common type of cut. Again, in this instance its advantage of being able to go without maintenance for a long time and still cut well is pushing me towards being an excellent backup knife. The plain edge version would be a great daily use tool.

A slight disappointment is the finish around the exposed tang which is not up to normal Spyderco standards. It might be this example, or a characteristic of the line. There is zero impact on performance, just on aesthetics.

Another observation is that the Spyderco Spyderedge on this knife is effectively a right-handed edge (the plain edge version would not have handedness), although everything else about the Enuff 2 is ambidextrous.

It is slim and light, and the Enuff design principles still hold true of the handle. I take XL size gloves, but the Enuff’s handle is still big enough for a firm and stable grip; it is not just the blade that is ‘Enuff’.


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
_______________________________________________

Some areas of finish are not quite up to Spyderco standards.
Secondary retention strap seems unnecessary.

_______________________________________________
Things I like
_______________________________________________

Spyderedge serrations are super sharp.
Absolutely fantastic backup knife.
Reconfigurable sheath.
Secure and usable sheath retention.
Slim and easy to pack or carry.
Easy to handle and hold.
Large enough for most general tasks.
Excellent grip pattern.

It really is a ‘grate’ knife!!

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

Knife Review: ANV M311 Spelter

Join me in this detailed review of the ANV – ACTA NON VERBA Knives M311 Spelter.

The M311 Spelter is a distinctive survival/tactical knife with a large number of options, so you can virtually create your own customised version of it. You can select from two blade shapes, two blade steels, four blade finishes, along with three handle and sheath colours.

In this feature review we are looking at the blade shape with choil, in Elmax steel, Topographic blade coating pattern, with Olive handle and sheath.

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?:

Amazingly, this box has survived being unravelled to make it flat and a journey via checked luggage, then reassembled.

The knife comes wrapped in a foam sheet with a QC card.


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

For the sheath I’ve split it into two parts, with this one focusing on the main body of the sheath. It is a Kydex sheath held together with hollow eye rivets. This is the Olive colour sheath, but several other colours are available.
Knife retention is courtesy of the shaped lips at the mouth of the sheath that grip the front of the handle. There is sloped thumb ramp to provide leverage to push the sheath off the knife.
The hollow rivets mean you can fit a variety of straps, clips, cords, or other carrying systems, and also allows you to swap them over for left handed use.


A good look round the MOLLE / Belt fitting – Things to look out for here are:

Although the sheath design allows you to fit any other system you want to, the M311 Spelter sheath comes with 75mm 2M MOLLE systems straps bolted onto the sheath. The end of the strap fits through a loop and over a small tab to hold it in place.


A good look round the M311 knife and handle – Things to look out for here are:

And onto the superb M311 Spelter Knife. Remember there are two steels, and several blade finishes to choose from, so if you prefer a plain blade finish, you can have that. I rather like the Topo and its ‘0311’ elevation included in the contours. A really elegant swedge gives the effect of a harpoon style blade without actually being one, and there is a generous thumb rest forward of the jimping so you can get thumb pressure right over the cutting edge.
The handle is a mastery of 3D sculpting, and the milling lines in the micarta give excellent grip, adding to the already very stable hold you get from the palm swell, butt hook and finger groove. The handle is held on with 2 Allen head bolts.
This blade it the ‘with choil’ version.
The butt of the grip has a striking point and there is also jimping for a reverse grip hold.


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 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.


What is it like to use?

From the moment I picked it up, the M311 Spelter has become a firm favourite. I’m in love with the harpoonesque swedge on an eminently practically sized blade.
The two thumb positions, the first on the jimping at the front of the handle, and then onto the groove positioned behind the cutting edge let you find the ideal grip and pressure for whatever cutting job comes up.
I’m always a little cautious about using a choked-up grip with a finger into the choil, but it takes fine work to another level if you can do this safely.
Stability of grip is fantastic. The gallery below takes you through only some of the grip positions you could use, a standard grip with and without the thumb forward onto the jimping, thumb into the groove on the spine, choked up and a reverse grip.


It’s like your hand can dance all over the handle and find a comfortable and stable grip almost any which way. The swells and grip hook let you take a firm hold in so many ways.

A slight surprise for me, considering I take XL size gloves, was that the handle is almost on the large side. It certainly has plenty of room for use with thick gloves, and I’d take this over a handle being too small.

Even with quite a bit of use, the Kydex retention is still on the stiff side. For anyone intending to mount it handle down on a chest plate or other upside-down position, this is critical. I certainly would have no doubt the knife will not come out under its own weight even with a very active user, and will still need a firm thumb lever to unsheathe it.

The 2M MOLLE straps are not my favourite fitting, but even I do have to admit they are a very versatile system for a standard fitment from ANV. They are a bit of a jack of all trades as they can be belt mounted or MOLLE mounted, and will fit any belt you can find, while the hollow rivets then also allow use of cord to stabilise the sheath even more. And this is before you move onto possibly swapping them for some other mounting system which the sheath easily allows for. It is sold in the tactical range and this mount configuration definitely works well for the most common type of carry.

With no ‘hanger’, if belt mounted the M311 sits high on your body, but I do quite like this. It’s also easy enough to fashion your own belt hanger and wear it lower if you want to.

ANV’s M311 Spelter keeps asking to be used. That beautifully shaped grip makes it easy to find a hand position that suits the cutting job, whatever it is. Comfort is also excellent for extended hard 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.

_______________________________________________
What doesn’t work so well for me
_______________________________________________

Blade retention on the verge of being too strong.
Sheath is very wide, limiting some attachment positions.

_______________________________________________
Things I like
_______________________________________________

Superb balance of blade shape and size.
Sculpted handle gives excellent grip.
Key areas with jimping for secure forward and reverse grips.
Elmax steel (also available in Sleipner).
Flexible 2M MOLLE mounting system.
Large drainage hole for easy sheath maintenance.
Super comfortable handle for hard work.
Four blade finishes.
Three handle Colours.
Three sheath colours.
Sheath allows for many different mounting systems to be fitted.

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

Knife Review: Extrema Ratio K-TALON

Extrema Ratio’s K-TALON is an elegant, super-slim karambit knife with a fixed, hooked hawksbill blade and grip-ring. K-TALON comes in two versions of blade finish, Dark Stone and Stone Washed, both shown in this review and the video.

This review of the Extrema Ratio K-TALON includes an in depth video with overview and detailed measurements, plus image galleries and more..

Detailed Video Examination

This video takes a detailed look at the K-TALON and also includes some tips on fitting an Ulti-Clip to the K-TALON’s Kydex sheath.


A few more details:

What’s in the box?:


A good look round the K-TALON sheath – Things to look out for here are:
Included in this review are the two optional clips; the Ulti-clip slim and the belt clip. The K-TALON’s sheath is slim, made from Kydex and has a drainage hole. The blade retention can be adjusted via the two fastenings at the mouth of the sheath. Out of the box, the sheath has a paracord neck lanyard. The Kydex is held together with hollow rivets and along with slots provides a variety of mounting/fixing options.


A good look round the K-TALON – Things to look out for here are:
K-TALON has a very slim profile and the grip-ring is generous enough to allow for gloved hands. This gallery shows the dark stone blade finish close up. The elegant curved blade has a fuller and the finish is beautifully precise.
Despite the very slim handle, the distinctive Extrema Ratio grip pattern is clearly evident – no mistaking this is an Extrema Ratio.


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 N690 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.


What is it like to use?
A hook-bladed karambit is typically associated with tactical uses and less so for general EDC. Actually in its more typical tactical usage scenario you would actually not use it for every day cutting; the condition of the edge needs to stay at its absolute sharpest for an instance when it is needed in an emergency.
I am not looking at it from this tactical point of view, but instead as an EDC blade. The hooked, hawksbill blade was initially developed as a utility knife and farming tool in Malaysia and the Philippines during the 11th century, so is very functional for certain types of cut.

As a utility / EDC knife, a hawksbill blade is very well suited to cutting cords, stripping wires, pruning plants, and cutting carpet or other sheet materials.

Though the profile is so slim, the K-TALON handles very well.


Although in this gallery I have only shown grips that use the grip ring, you can ignore the ring and just hold the handle without putting a finger though (see below). This gives even more positions to hold the K-TALON.

The karambit hawksbill curved blade works really well for some but not all tasks. Where it excels is in those cutting jobs where the curve of the blade can capture and control the cut. Cuts where a straight blade might slip off, or struggle to get purchase, the hawksbill blade grabs hold. In these instances the cut becomes much more controlled. In terms of EDC, as long as it is partnered with a straighter blade, the K-TALON makes for an exceptional addition in cutting power.

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
_______________________________________________

It is too big to be a ‘neck knife’.
No belt clip supplied as standard.

_______________________________________________
Things I like
_______________________________________________

Excellent handling.
Grip ring is large enough for use with gloves.
Choice of two blade finishes.
Easy to carry due to the very low profile.
Adjustable tension sheath retention.
Easy to fit and adjust belt/clip attachments.

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

Knife Review: Fällkniven PXL Folding Knife

In this review of the Fällkniven PXL (‘bm’ version – black micarta) folding knife, we take a very close look all over this beautiful liner lock.
Direct from the Fällkniven designer himself, Peter Hjortberger, is the statement that the PXL is the largest folder he will ever design; if you need a larger knife, then a fixed blade becomes the better choice. Fällkniven knives are practical tools, designed to work hard and efficiently, with the design intent firmly on performance and practicality.
The PXL now has an Elmax steel blade and comes with either black micarta or Elforyn (an imitation Ivory) handle scales.

Video Overview

This video is a detailed look at the Fällkniven PXLbm, from handling to technical measurements.


What’s in the box?:
The presentation box comes in a white card sleeve (making it almost disappear in the Tactical Reviews all white studio). Slipping the sleeve off to reveal the black box inside with the knife nestled in a foam liner.


A good look round the PXLbm – Things to look out for here are:
This gallery is intended to show lots of the design details up close, including how the knife is put together and how it functions.
The black micarta handles (with inset badge) are polished and have a precise fit to the liners and bolster. You can see the single position pocket clip, plus how it is attached. On the blade, the engraving, thumb stud, grind and choil. Designed with a liner lock, you can see the lock engagement and detent ball. There is a lot to take in.


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 Elmax 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.

NOTE: pay attention to the scale shown in the images and the near zero-grind; there is only a very small micro-bevel visible for the PXL’s factory edge.


What is it like to use?

My impression is that all of the Fällkniven folders I have handled have a similar ‘crisp’ feel to the finish. What I mean by this is that the edges of the liners, and lock-bar are on the verge of being sharp. Where another material or component is directly next to the liner, this provides a seamless transition and overall this personal observation doesn’t impact on usability at all. Gripping the knife to make cuts, you have the smooth rounded parts of the handle and bolster touching your hand. It’s more when you explore the knife (as if a worry stone) and your fingers find the inner edges of the liner are noticeable. It is most evident when unlocking the blade as where you press on the lock bar also has a crisp edge to it.

On first checking the knife in this review, there was some lock-stick. The crisp edge where you press on the lock bar to release it made this stand out more. Rubbing over the lock surface with a pencil sorted the initial lock-stick straight away and this has not come back.

Also on first looking over the PXL I had wondered if the narrow looking thumb stud might be hard on the thumb to operate – this was unfounded and it is well suited to the knife’s action.

Now, let’s talk pocket clips; so the PXL has a compact pocket clip and this is in the typically less popular tip-down orientation. On discussing this with Peter Hjortberger, the reasoning behind this is to provide a pocket clip which has minimal impact on the grip and handling of the knife. Like this it is also less disruptive to the overall design to not add additional clip positions. It is certainly true that no pocket clip makes the grip of a knife more comfortable.

For Fällkniven, a pocket clip is seen as advertising that you are carrying a knife, which is often not ideal in a public place. Because of this most folding models in the Fällkniven line up do not have a clip at all, although they are being added to three folding knife models, the PXL, the PXLx and the PCx.

Although described as a ‘large folder’ (and the XL in the model name), to me this is more of a medium size folder. It is a good fit to the hand, being neither too small to get a good grip, nor too large for the pocket. In my hands (taking XL size gloves) it is a very comfortable fit.


The simple combination of brushed stainless and polished micarta makes the PXL an elegant EDC companion. The compact pocket clip does provide a way to secure the knife to your pocket or to webbing or any other fixing point that suits. I would tend to carry with the clip holding it to an internal divider or pocket in a bag, rather than a trouser pocket. When using it in a trouser pocket the compact clip fits very well, neatly fitting over the edge seam of the pocket and holding securely.

Steel technology moves on, and I am slightly conflicted over the change to a single steel blade construction from Fällkniven. I did always like the visible San-mai line that a layered Fällkniven blade displayed, but now the (overall beneficial) switch to solid Elmax takes the San-mai line away. Of course the distinctive convex grind still makes the blade unmistakably Fällkniven in both looks and cutting ability.

That convex edge – seriously sharp and fine factory edge, and the grind makes it a very effective cutter.


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
_______________________________________________

Some slightly sharp edges on the liners and lock release.
Initial lock-stick – this has gone with use and pencil lead.

_______________________________________________
Things I like
_______________________________________________

Elmax blade steel at HRC 62.
Convex near-zero-grind edge. (Very fine micro-bevel)
Compact pocket clip has minimal effect on handling.
Elegant design and finish.
Precision action.
Comfortable grip for hard work.
A knife built to last and hand down the generations.

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

Knife Review: Spyderco Zoomer

In this Spyderco Zoomer review, we will take in all the details of this innovative fixed-blade knife. The Zoomer was created specifically for bushcraft and wilderness survival, and was designed by Tom Zoomer. It features a CPM20V steel blade with classic hamaguri (convex) grind that ensures a breathtakingly sharp yet resilient cutting edge. Every design detail of the blade, handle and sheath has been considered to maximum comfort and efficiency of use.

Video Overview

This video is a detailed look at the Spyderco Zoomer. In the video we cover the main design details, look very close-up at the knife, and then take Tactical Reviews standard detailed technical measurements.


What’s in the box?:
In fact there is no box – the Zoomer is presented in a zip-up pouch large enough to house the sheath and knife separately.


A good look round the Zoomer’s Sheath – Things to look out for here are:
A significant component of the full package; the large leather sheath has been designed to not compromise on functionality at all. A gravity-retained knife-holder, more than a typical sheath, with the belt loop made so it allows the sheath to swing to a vertical position at all times. Constructed of a total of six layers of leather building up the structure and including a front mounted pouch left empty for you to fill yourself.



A good look round the Zoomer – Things to look out for here are:
Even before you reveal the blade, the handle of the Zoomer immediately lets you know this is a special knife. Slipping off the blade cover and you can see the elegance of the full convex grind. Incorporated into the solid G-10 handles is an extended thumb support which is combined with a swept back plunge line. These features position the thumb directly behind the cutting edge near the handle for maximum pressure and control in this critical area 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 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.

These images allow for a comparison of each side of the factory edge bevel. In this case we now have an explanation as to why the BESS measurements were not as good as the actually cutting ability. The factory edge is full of micro-serrations that make it cut very eagerly, but tend to not measure very well on the BESS scale.


What is it like to use?

An unexpected combination of supreme comfort and solidity seem to emanate from the Zoomer. Compared to most knives, the Zoomer’s sheath feels large and in danger of being unwieldy, but the size and drop-hanger style prove themselves to be a practical working tool.

Overall size of the Zoomer puts if right in that ideal all-rounder sizing. Large enough to handle bigger jobs and batoning (though be careful of the extended thumb support), and small enough to stay comfortable for very long periods of use.

Thanks to the convex grind, despite the factory edge sharpness measurements appearing unimpressive, the Zoomer cuts eagerly, and thanks to excellent ergonomics, effortlessly.

Oddly I frequently find myself thinking that the handle of the Zoomer is too comfortable and too smooth. Maybe it’s just the same way pyjamas are ‘too comfortable’.

The Zoomer really does handle like no other knife and actually has zero hot-spots on the grip, zero.


For quick access and easy storage, the sheath works very well, but despite this, I did find it slightly lacking in terms of security.
The weight of the sheath combined with the hanger design, do their best to keep the knife secure, but it is not completely reliable. Initially the sheath has some grip on the knife but with more use this loosened and you end up relying on gravity alone to keeping the knife in the sheath.
I was not happy to rely on this at all times and wanted to carry the knife more securely.
Fortunately the sheath has the front pouch with press-stud fastening. The simplest option would be to have a plain loop of paracord tied such that it went through the lanyard hole and was able to fit around the pouch flap holding the knife in the sheath when the pouch was closed. I found this solution made the loop of cord too long and the opening too large to be of use as a wrist strap.
Instead I decided to tie a lanyard that included a few snake knots and the larger diamond knot which could then be tucked inside the pouch and secured by closing the pouch flap. The tying and use of this knife retention idea is shown in the next gallery.

Instructions for tying these knots are on the Tactical Reviews Tying Lanyards Page.


In case you think ‘why did he use white paracord, that will get dirty very quickly?’ – this is why…it is glow in the dark.

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
_______________________________________________

Knife retention relies entirely on gravity.
Handle is very smooth.
Convex edges can be more challenging to maintain.
Large sheath.

_______________________________________________
Things I like
_______________________________________________

Incredible levels of comfort.
Unique extended thumb support placing the thumb directly behind the cutting edge.
Full convex grind.
High ‘availability and accessibility’ afforded by the sheath’s drop-in and pick-up ‘knife pocket’.
Good sized pouch incorporated into the sheath.
Zero ‘hot spots’ allowing very long periods of working.
High performance CPM20V steel.

Knife Review: MKM Hero

Join me in this review of the MKM Hero as we take in all the details of this superb new folding knife designed by Tommaso Rumici. Working with MKM (Maniago Knife Makers) Tommaso has focused on usability and versatility in a design that specifically delivers the ambidextrous features a real working knife needs.

Video Overview

This video includes a close look round the Hero, and then onto the measurements and specifications.


What’s in the box?:
The Hero arrives in what initially looks like a simple storage pouch, however, on the back are a couple of belt loops, meaning the pouch is actually a horizontal belt pouch as well. Within the pouch is a pocket that has a double-ended T6/T8 torx wrench and leaflet.


A good look round the Hero – Things to look out for here are:
The version of the Hero in this review has the marbled carbon fibre handle. The liners and integrated bolsters are milled from one-piece of titanium with the handle slabs set into them. Cut into the reversible titanium clip is MKM’s distinctive mountainscape logo. The clip is held in place by two torx screws, making it easy to reverse the clip.
Double-sided stepped thumb studs allow ambidextrous blade opening. Choice of the back-lock is another intentional ambidextrous design feature. Jimping for extra thumb grip spans the blade and lock bar.


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 M390 steel.


What is it like to use?
I had the good fortune to be introduced to the Hero by its designer Tommaso Rumici, and get a run down of the features directly from the horse’s mouth. To my amusement, with this demonstration coming near the end of IWA 2022, and hands being well sanitised, and dried to a crisp, I managed to crack my thumb open on the Hero’s thumb stud and bleed all over the blade without actually cutting myself on the edge.
As I have got to know the Hero, there is one aspect I’m not so keen about, and that is that the thumb stud is a little on the pointy side. You do need to be careful to press onto the side of the stud and avoid pushing straight onto it to swing out the blade.
A good back-lock makes for a supremely practical layout in an ambidextrous focused knife. Unlike liner or integral locks, which are handed, the back-lock is predictable, reliable and absolutely identical in operation regardless of the hand holding the knife.
Where a lot of the design intent shows through is in its handling, and we must talk about the Hero’s handle. In terms of width, the Hero is actually pretty slim, so is nicely low profile in a pocket, but the depth and generous swell/hook at the butt of the handle is where the huge flexibility of grip positions and fantastic grip stability comes from.
For really controlled work, you can choke right up on the handle and place a finger on the guard/bolster bringing you to the cutting edge. At the complete opposite extreme grip position, taking a hold when you might want to use a chopping motion, thanks to the grip swell, you can take a secure grip of the very end of the handle with your first two fingers without worry of losing your hold on the Hero even when striking down with it.
Then you can take the middle ground with a standard grip and rest your thumb on the jimping that spans the end of the lock bar and blade for control and cutting force. When using this grip position, you can alter the angle the blade is presented by changing the pressure of your little finger on the butt hook. Doing this makes the knife swivel about your first finger, opening out, or closing in the position of the blade relative to your hand and making the blade extremely agile in use.
Exactly as intended, the Hero is big enough for most EDC tasks, and most general purpose jobs, yet not too big to put you off carrying it.


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
_______________________________________________

Overly sharp thumb stud.

_______________________________________________
Things I like
_______________________________________________

Ideal blade size for most EDC tasks.
Multi-grip positions.
Super secure grip.
Back-lock.
Fully ambidextrous.
One-piece liner and bolster.
M390 steel.
Reversible clip.
Pouch includes belt loops.

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

Knife Review: Spyderco Stovepipe

Spyderco’s Stovepipe is full of drama and built to perform as strongly as it looks. The Stovepipe is based on one of David Rydbom’s famous custom knives, ‘Bill the Butcher’ from Kingdom Armory. A powerful cleaver-style blade made from CPM 20CV, with titanium handles and clip, as well as being packed full of milled details, this all really makes the Stovepipe stand out as something special. Join me in this review of the Spyderco Stovepipe to take in all of its details.

Video Overview

This video takes in all the details of the Spyderco Stovepipe, a folding knife inspired by custom knife maker David Rydbom’s “Bill the Butcher” design; the Stovepipe blends dramatic style with serious performance. In the video I cover the main design details, look very close-up at the knife, and then take Tactical Reviews standard detailed technical measurements.


What’s in the box?:
Or, in this case ‘What’s in the pouch?’ as the Stovepipe does not come in a box but instead in a nice quality padded storage/carry pouch. The knife is in a bubble wrap bag and comes with the knife information leaflet and a round sticker.


A good look round the Spyderco Stovepipe – Things to look out for here are:
Starting with the knife straight out of its wrapping and with protective oil making it look blotchy. Under the pocket clip a round plastic protector ensures when you get it the clip to handle contact point is completely unmarked.
A ring around the milled pivot bolt provides an over-travel stop for the integral frame lock bar. The more you look at the Stovepipe, the more details you find. As you step through this gallery you will see all the small milled in features and incredible attention to detail.


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.

This is the Spyderco description of the Stovepipe:

Inspired by custom knife maker David Rydbom’s “Bill the Butcher” design, the Stovepipe blends dramatic style with serious performance. Its stout cleaver-shaped blade is crafted from 4mm (.157-inch) thick CPM® 20CV stainless steel and has a deep hollow grind for superior edge geometry. The handle is constructed from two slabs of solid titanium joined by a titanium backspacer. Both scales are painstakingly machined to create beautifully crowned outer surfaces and the reverse-side scale forms the foundation of the knife’s Reeve Integral Lock (R.I.L.) mechanism. The oversized pivot pin is machined with artistic accents and serves double duty as an overtravel stop for the lock bar. To allow convenient carry, the Stovepipe includes a machined titanium clip configured for right-side, tip-up carry. The clip, scales, backspacer, and blade all feature a no-nonsense, industrial-style stonewashed finish.

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.


What is it like to use?
I find the Stovepipe a slight contradiction in that it is certainly built to work hard; materials, construction and strength are beyond question, but all the beautifully made details give the knife a lot of corners that are not hard-use friendly on your hands. The relatively compact size, despite the cleaver blade, and milled details creating lots of hot-spots mean that though capable of it, the Stovepipe isn’t a knife I would choose for heavy or extended jobs.

It looks fantastic and is both striking looking and by no means ‘usual’. Absolutely overflowing with interesting features, and a knife you will love looking at every time you bring it out to use.

The in-the-hand photos here show the Stovepipe in my XL-glove size hand. For me the Stovepipe has just enough handle for a solid grip and the blade length works for power cuts. The straight edge and blade tip present the cutting edge nicely for the type of EDC cutting I typically do.

One of the joys of the knife world is that there are so many designs, and so many purposes for a knife. The Stovepipe is an expensive knife, but one that justifies its price through quality of manufacture, intricate, intriguing and complex milling. Striking looks, with its origins in a proven custom design, the Spyderco Stovepipe is an outstanding cleaver-style knife.


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
_______________________________________________

Too many ‘corners’ for comfortable extended use.
High price point.

_______________________________________________
Things I like
_______________________________________________

Superb quality and finish.
Packed with machined details.
CPM 20CV blade steel.
Super strong construction.
Very high quality storage case included.
Custom design in a production knife.
Striking stand-out looks.

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

Knife Review: ANV Knives M200 Hard Task

Join me in this review of the ANV Knives (ACTA NON VERBA – Actions not words) M200 Hard Task, a knife that really stood out for me at IWA 2022. I’ve been fortunate to have the opportunity to really test it properly and be able to take in all the details of this distinctive knife, with subtle re-curve blade and curved grip that makes it handle so well.

Video Overview

Before moving onto the image galleries and insights into how it is to use, first, in this video we cover the main design details of the M200 Hard Task, look very close up and the knife, and then take Tactical Reviews standard detailed technical measurements.


What’s in the box?:
Cleanly presented, the M200 arrives simply sheathed and wrapped in a foam rubber sheet within the cardboard box.


A good look round the M200’s sheath – Things to look out for here are:
For the Hard Task’s sheath, ANV have gone for hard use Kydex. The two halves of the sheath are hollow riveted together, so you can choose any bolt-on mounting system. As delivered, the sheath has two 2M Molle straps fitted which can be woven into PALS webbing. However, a point to mention is that the 2M straps don’t have a cross-web themselves, so they are wrapped around two rows of the PALS webbing, and not actually woven in.
The molding is very precise, and where the handle grip sits within the mouth of the sheath, you can see the handle milled grip texture impressed in the Kydex which makes the retention very secure.


A good look round the M200 Hard Task – Things to look out for here are:

There is a subtle recurve on the M200’s flat ground blade. A nice feature ANV have included is a slightly enlarged sharpening choil, that is in fact a firesteel scraper. Grip on the M200 is excellent, with a shaped first finger groove, the milled texture G10 handle grips, and curved handle. A generous section of jimping on the spine for the thumb adds further grip. Also shown is the beautifully shaped palm swell adding yet more grip stability.


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 Sleipner steel.


What is it like to use?

Handling of the M200 is excellent, with the fully 3D shaped handle grips with palm swells and texture, plus the curved handle that sits in the hand so well. The ergonomics are a stand out aspect of the M200.
Sheathing and unsheathing is spot on, with the Kydex gripping the M200 securely, but the sheath shoulders giving a comfortable thumb rest to apply pressure to release the knife.
With the 2M MOLLE straps that are provided, these have a loop which is really too wide to belt mount, so unfortunately if you want to do anything other than MOLLE mount the M200, you will need to source and fit different mounts.
Pictured in this gallery is my normal fire steel. Not messing around with smaller versions, I have 13mm firesteels, which do not fit into the firesteel notch of the M200, so I had to dig out a smaller version to test it. I also found the curve on curve contact area seemed less eager to spark than a straight scraper. It worked, but if anything I’m tempted to cut in a straight scraper on the spine of the Hard Task myself.
In terms of size, the M200 hits that sweet spot of being big enough to do most jobs and not too big to be carried easily, or be unwieldy in use. The comfort and security of handling makes the M200 a joy 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.

_______________________________________________
What doesn’t work so well for me
_______________________________________________

No belt mount provided.
Firesteel notch a bit small and not as effective as a straight scraper.

_______________________________________________
Things I like
_______________________________________________

Superb ergonomics and comfort.
Very secure grip.
Hard use Kydex sheath.
MOLLE mounting included.
Excellent fit and finish.
Ideal size for general utility use.

 
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)

Knife Review: lionSTEEL H1

Join me in this review of the lionSTEEL H1, to take in all the details of this superb EDC fixed blade knife designed by Tommaso Rumici. This specific knife is a display model from IWA 2022 so might show a few imperfections. The H1 has a M390 blade, black G10 handle with grip ring, standard leather sheath plus also shown in this review with the optional Kydex sheath.

Video Overview

This video includes a close look round the H1, and then onto the measurements and specifications.


What’s in the box?:
As well as the standard H1 package, this review shows the optional Kydex sheath which is pictured next to the closed box. As standard, the H1 comes with the leather sheath and a lionSTEEL made keyring torx wrench.


A good look round the standard Leather Sheath – Things to look out for here are:
The H1’s standard leather sheath is packed full of features. Within the curved and flowing shaping of this sheath, it has a retaining strap secured with a press-stud, a ‘standard’ belt loop, along with two special loops that can be rotated and opened out to allow various belt or MOLLE carry configurations.


A good look round the optional Kydex Sheath – Things to look out for here are:
Giving you a more compact carry, the optional Kydex sheath has two special loops, like the leather sheath, that allow for various belt or MOLLE carry configurations, but without the fixed belt loop and retaining strap. The retaining strap is not needed due to the Kydex ‘clip in’ retention, so allowing for a much more streamlined sheath.


The details of the H1:
Starting off with the H1 sheathed in the leather sheath. A curvy knife in a curved and flowing sheath. Demonstrated in the last of the photos of the sheathed knife, if you are using the fixed belt loop, and if you wanted to tie-in the end of the handle tightly so it can’t catch on anything, you can swing the top loop over the end of the grip ring; not something you would do all the time, but an option.
The remaining photos take in details like the engravings, plunge line, jimping, grip ring finish, handle shaping/milling/texture, plus the overall lines of this 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.


What is it like to use?
Designed to combine the secure handling of the karambit’s grip ring with a knife blade much better suited to daily EDC tasks, this make the H1 an unusual shape that you might not immediately be drawn to.
Although I started with the two galleries in this section the other way round, I decided to look at the personal carry aspect first. Shown earlier in the review, the H1 can be MOLLE carried, so this is about carry directly on your person using the belt and additional loops on both the leather and Kydex sheathes.
For me the least successful carry is the standard drop belt loop. With the angles set into the sheath, the presentation is very awkward for me, and with the leather wrapping round the handle, re-sheathing the knife tends to result in cutting into the sheath each and every time. It is quick to deploy, but not to re-sheath.
Moving swiftly to horizontal carry and suddenly everything works much better. For the leather sheath you can mount it on your hip facing backwards. The leather sheath doesn’t really work for back carry, due to the retaining strap (this is where the kydex sheath really shines).
(Just to mention these photos are all for right-handed drawing.)
Last up is the kydex sheath on hip and back carry positions. Actually for the back carry I would have set the loops so that one was each side of the trouser belt loop to provide stability for drawing and re-sheathing. The lower profile kydex sheath is excellent, and shines in the back carry position.


So we’ve looked at carry, and now onto handling of the H1. Yes the H1 has a grip ring, but you don’t have to put a finger through it, you can also hold it like a standard grip and use the width of the ring to control the angle the blade presents. Worth remembering and not always putting a finger through the ring.
As you can see, though I take XL size gloves, the H1 is quite a compact knife. With the curve of the blade and the jimping on the spine, the H1 sits so well in the hand making it feel a simple extension of you.
Reverse grips are as natural as forward grip, and the ring is a size and finish that makes it super comfortable however you take hold of it.


I’ve always loved lionSTEEL’s leather sheaths, and the H1’s is a very good sheath. For me though, the optional Kydex sheath takes the H1 into a different league. I would recommend getting it. (If lionSTEEL could offer a sheath choice when buying so you could get the H1 without the leather sheath and just the Kydex one, all the better.) The slim H1 definitely benefits from the much slimmer Kydex sheath. This sheath also allows for ‘in pocket’ carry which the bulkier leather sheath does not.
Handling is where the H1 really excels with the versatile grip ring and curving handle and blade shape that fits into the hand beautifully. Between the H1 and H2 (the H2 which has a drop point blade), the sheep’s foot style blade shape presets the tip of the knife very well for point work, and the curved cutting edge slices easily.

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
_______________________________________________

Relatively bulky leather sheath.
Awkward angle of standard belt loop.

_______________________________________________
Things I like
_______________________________________________

Highly ergonomic.
Grip ring provides security.
Optional Kydex sheath (recommended).
M390 blade steel.
Slim and easy to carry.
Horizontal belt mounting.
MOLLE compatible.
Adaptable sheath mounting loops.

 
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)