Friday, April 26, 2013

Benchmade VS Benchmade

Benchmade Throw-Down

Most of us will agree that today’s factory folding knives are some of the best ever made.  You can spend more, but for the money Benchmade gives you one hell heck of a knife.

Let’s compare two of the newest.  To my knowledge, nobody  has published an article in the national mags about them. 

Honesty compels me to tell you I own one and the other is for sale so I can’t cut sheetrock or gut watermelons or do any real physical testing.  But then, how many of us buy a knife based on the amount of hemp rope it can dice.  If you need chopped hemp, buy a hammer mill and not a knife.

Here’s the main event.

Ladies and gents, in this corner we have Benchmade’s Ball Axis Flipper.  In the other corner we have Benchmade’s Volli.  Okay you two, I want a clean fight, no punching below the axis lock and break clean when I call it.

Benchmade  Ball and Volli
"...wearing the black grips is the Volli and in brown we have the Flipper."

The Ball Axis Flipper is new to Benchmade.  Flipper knives are very popular now.  Most open so smooth and cleanly you might think you have an auto opener.  With no spring to worry about or concerns that a police officer might believe it’s an auto, you’re ready for action.

I’m on board with that idea.  But really, couldn’t we get a better name other than Ball Axis Flipper?  I’m going to call it the Flipper.  To my knowledge the Ball 300 or Ball Axis is the first Benchmade flipper knife in production.  Please correct me if I'm wrong.

The Flipper’s blade is 3 inches of 154CM steel hardened to RC 58-61.  The blade can be described as a drop point with a shallow swedge and flat saber grind.  A series of narrow scallops softens the handle’s contours and provides friction ridges.  The alternating layers of brown and tan G-10 make a bit of color in what might be a considered a drab handle.

Butch Balls Axis flipper
Butch Ball's design for Benchmade, the 300 Axis Flipper

Steel liners under Tan G10
The Ball 300 has sturdy steel liners, a feature I like.

Does the blade open smooth?  Yes.  Can I flip it open with one finger only?  I needed the tiniest amount of wrist action to pop it open.  You could argue the one finger opening is a side effect of the blade design.  The real purpose of the flipper is to act as a guard making the knife safer to use.  That’s something to think about if you find yourself having to explain why you’re carrying this sweetheart.  And frankly, what's not to like about Benchmade's axis lock?

Clips side of both benchmade knives
Volli and Ball 300, clip side.  Benchmades are typically set up for  tip up carry.

The knife weighs 4.8 ounces and the weight balances right behind the Axis lock.  For me this makes the knife a little blade heavy.  I like a little more weight in my hand.  I think it makes the blade more responsive.

The Volli, with its catalog number 1000001, is an almost a digital knife.  Okay, it’s a lame joke but there is nothing lame about the Volli.

The Volli has a large thumb groove carved into the G10.
It’s an assisted opening.  The 3.25 inch blade is made from S30V steel and is a high grind drop point.  S30V is one of the new wonder steels and is hardened to Rockwell C of 58-60.  Both sides of the handle have a groove carved in the black G10 that funnels your thumb to the opening stud.  It’s a great feature.  Even blindfolded or in the dark the groove locates the blade side and facilitates finding the stud.  It reminds me of Benchmade’s Emissary or CRKT’s Crawford Kasper folder.  

Another look at the thumb groove on the Volli.

The handle has a slight palm swell that is scalloped with a series of flat surfaces across the entire surface.  It looks interesting.  It feels better.  The spine has small knobby rectangles of G-10 protruding upward.  They remind me of vertebrae. 

The Ball has an open spine, better for cleaning, but I like the knobby 'vertebrae' on the Volli and the handle's slight palm swell.
At the end of the vertebrae sits a lock which can be used to prevent the knife from opening.  

Balance?  The weight seems to be concentrated in the handle.  For me, the balance point seemed to be at the Axis lock and not behind it like the Flipper.  The slight difference in balance point between these two makes a significant difference to me.

I never have been concerned about knives opening in my pocket.  I typically wear them with the blade pressed into the seam side of the pocket where there is no room to open.  But if you’re active enough, or wear your Volli differently your might find that lock useful.

So here’s the throw down: 

Blade Steel
Blade Length
Opening Action
Tip up right or left
Assisted w/ Stud
Ball Flipper
Tip up right or left
Flipper w/ Stud

I didn’t mention price.  They are very similar.  MSRP for the Volli is $160 while the Ball 300 is $175.  Both are great knives with good value for the price.

My preference? I’m not afraid to catalog my knives by use.  Sort of a dress vs. tennis shoe approach to which knife I carry for any function.

I’d carry either for a casual day in the woods.  I’d carry either in and about town to work or shopping.  The Volli is almost nice enough for formal wear, you know, weddings and funerals.  But if I knew I was going stand in a dark alley with my pulse pounding in my ears, or was heading out to hike the Buckeye Trail I’d want the Ball Axis Flipper.  I think it’s a slightly better knife.

But check them out.  Your opinion may be different.


Anonymous said...

But why? Your review seems to suggest that the Volli is a better knife in almost every respect . . . why default to the flipper at the end?

Frank the Knife said...

The Ball Flipper is a thicker, heavier knife. It appears to be more robust than the Volli. It also takes up more space in your pocket, and doesn’t play nice with dress slacks and sport coats. If I only carried to work, church and supper I would want the Volli. It has a slightly more dresser look to it. The Volli is up all the city functions I need, opening boxes, sharpening pencils, the rare self-defense cuttings. But send a month cutting fur sticks and tinder or building a shelter from branches, much less self-defense, I want a Ball Flipper.

Benchmade Pocket Knives said...

Most of us will agree that today's factory folding knives are some of the ...

Anonymous said...

Nekro thread:

I agree to disagree. The Volli it fully capable of taking a beating. See So only when batoning (who does that anyway) you should pull it out straight and not pry it out. If you ever use a knife harder than this - oh my. Else the Volli is better than the pry bar. What I find interesting is, that you talk about cutting sticks and tinder, but set aside the better slicer/cutter.

No offense, but it feels like you tend to do the same what I did for years (carrying knives for 35 years now). Sturdier, tougher, better lockup, all that is better. But we tend to forget, the main job of a knife is cutting. And any lockup is just a secondary measure. Anything to thick, makes it more a pry bar and less a slicer. meanwhile I choose my blades by those terms. Using a Volli (in M390) as my EDC, I can tell you, it's a great blade. And I got plenty knives, including a Hinderer XM-18 (another pry bar).