29 April 2009

EDC Knives: Tactical Makers I

Over the next several posts I will introduce the top commercial knife makers. This is of course not a complete list of all makers, but these are the primary brands to consider when shopping for a quality EDC knife (with one exception, as you'll see). I will not discuss OEM knives produced for Remington, Colt, etc., often found in big-box stores. Most are made in anonymous Asian factories of average or poor materials (in other words, CCCs). Not much else to say about them. I will also not discuss makers of boutique combat tacticals and automatics, like Microtech, MOD/Blackhawk, and Piranha.

Benchmade: Benchmade is the model of a high-end commercial knife maker. Most of their knives are made in the USA, of premium materials, at their Oregon headquarters. Many knife makers are located in Oregon because of their relaxed laws on the sale of balisong and automatic knifes, of which Benchmade is a notable producer. In fact, the Benchmade butterfly logo comes from their early niche as a balisong (i.e., butterfly) knife maker.

Benchmade also frequently collaborates with custom knife makers for their designs, as do other top-tier commercial makers. They were maybe the first to do so, in a famous collaboration with Ernest Emerson to produce a commercial version of his CQC. Many of their current designs still reflect that basic style, but most of their upscale Blue and Black Class knives now use their trademark AXIS lock. Recently they have expanded more aggressively into foreign-made value knifes. But Benchmades of all grades are neither inexpensive nor cheaply-made.

Benchmade 670 Apparition, their first assisted opening design and my favorite knife.

Benchmade product tiers are classed by color: Gold Class knives are custom-grade production knives; Blue Class are premium USA-made knives; Red Class are foreign-made value knives; Black Class are designed, or at least marketed, for military/LE/EMS use (e.g., autos, combat and rescue knives, etc.). They also produce knives under the Heckler & Koch (H&K) and Harley-Davidson brands. All their knives are backed by a great warranty and their LifeSharp service, under which they will service and sharpen your knife at any time for a nominal $5.00 shipping charge.

Böker: Most tactical makers are US companies, but Böker is a venerable German firm located in the knife-making mecca of Solingen, in the Ruhr Valley. They still manufacture some of their famous Tree Brand slipjoint folders, as well as scissors, kitchen knives, etc., but also produce a large range of fixed-blade and folding tactical knives under the Böker, Böker Plus, and value (meaning, Chinese) Magnum lines. Their Applegate-Fairburn combat dagger and tiny Subcom card-style folders are well known, but they are also notable for their huge range of inexpensive Magnum tacticals. In particular, their Kalashnikov and “Mini-Magnum” button-lock folders are often converted to autos and are the cheapest autos available of decent quality ($25-$35). However, I purchased the Mini-Magnum recently, was not satisfied (it sliced me when closed!), and returned it. But I would buy another Magnum and own several Böker Plus slipjoint folders, which I love. They are certainly a step up from typical CCCs.

As I’ve discussed, Buck is famous for their folding and fixed-blade hunters. But they have worked to stay apace with the huge demand for tactical knives, and now produce product ranges in (to use their own designations) everyday, outdoor and tactical knives. Many of their knives are made at their Post Falls, ID, headquarters, and the rest (about 30%) are made in their own Chinese factory. You can easily tell which from which just by cost, but all Buck Knives are of respectable to outstanding quality. For example, their inexpensive Bantam folders (three sizes) start at about $15 street and a light 1.5 oz, and are well-regarded as good values. While they have collaborated with custom makers like Mick Strider on some designs (now, alas, discontinued), and their quality is very good, I can’t say their tactical knife designs especially move me. Really, folding and fixed-blade hunting knives are their core products and greatest strength.

Next up: Tactical Knife Makers II

1 comment:

Self Defense Knives said...

i Really like the functionality and the design of Benchmade knives. Very reliable.