Showing posts with label auto knife. Show all posts
Showing posts with label auto knife. Show all posts

Friday, April 28, 2017

Boker Mini Kalashnikov Auto

Boker knives are some of the hidden gems in the knife market.  Mostly because they don’t have the advertisement clout others do.  But smart thinkers and cagey knife users should be thinking about the Boker brand.

Boker traces its roots to tool manufacturing the 1800s in Germany.  Swords were the name of the game, but they diversified into other edged products.  The family owned company sent representatives to America and opened up manufacturing in America.  They both shared the “Tree Brand“ logo.

During the Second World War the Solingen plant was destroyed and Boker USA took control of the trademark.  In the 1950s the German factory was rebuilt.  Over the years the American company closed.  The German company changed hands but in 1986 Boker reacquired the rights to the American brand and established facilities in Denver, Colorado.

Boker has manufacturing  in Germany (of course!), Argentina, Taiwan and China and now in the USA.  They produce three basic levels depending on the price point: Boker, Magnum and Boker Plus.

I once did a special order of a special knife to commemorate the customer’s son-in-law’s military promotion.  It was a beautiful Damascus bladed folder.  The blade was carved from 300-fold forged Damascus steel from the barrel of a German Leopard 1 tank.


The knife came in a nice wood presentation box with the instruction and history in German.  The buyer was very happy, as his son-in-law spoke German for the Army.  I have a friend who spoke German for the Army; he was a spy.  I didn’t ask any more questions.

So if your introduction and thoughts about Boker are from the Magnum $7 knife pile, think again.

Boker Mini Kalashnikov automatic
Boker's switchblade
I just got my hands on the Boker Mini Kalashnikov auto.  I’m very impressed.  Here’s the stats:
Blade:       drop point
Steel:        AUS8
Blade Length:    2.5 inches
Handle length:  3.5 inches
Weight:    2.1 ounces
Handle:   reinforced nylon
Country of origin: Taiwan

The Boker website claims the handle is aluminum but they also claim the blade is wood.  Hummm, someone’s website has been hacked.

Automatic knife from Boker Knife
Clip side
The blade shows the same powerful spring action I’ve seen in Benchmade autos.  Block the blade from completely opening and when the obstacle is removed, the spring still has enough force to finish the opening and lock the blade in place.  The pocket clip is reversible and the handle sports a lanyard hole. 

finger grooves
The finger grooves really provide a grip so you can concentrate on using the knife and not holding the knife

The finger scallops fit my hand pretty good for a small knife.  And between the scallops and the jimping on the blades spine and handle you get a very good grip.  The blade release is a basic plunge lock system.  This system has been used for many years and is very dependable if you keep it clean.  But isn’t that true of all machinery?


Boker Automatic knife
The open back allows for easy cleanup and makes oiling the spring much simpler.

I suspect it uses a coil spring and the knife has Torx screws so you can replace the spring if necessary.

I have come to like auto more and more.  I don’t suspect they open any significantly faster than the assisted or many of the tactical knives.  But I do think pushing a button is a gross motor skill and doesn’t require the fine motor skills which are lost under the influence of fight/freeze/flee conditions.

I wish I could take it for a drive, but it isn’t mine.  I have no doubt it would serve me well.

It retails for about $55 but you can get it for less if you shop around.  I’ve got two for sale, but that’s another story. 


Saturday, January 9, 2016

Benchmade CLA

I just got my hands on Benchmade’s auto knife, the CLA.  I kept thinking the C stood for something military, or governmental-like, central or clandestine.  Instead it stands for the plebeian word, composite.  But don’t be fooled by that.  It may say Composite Lite Auto, but it’s a sweetie by any name.

Benchmade auto knife CLA
The CLA is a relatively new addition to their black class of autos.

The heart of any knife is the steel.  The CLA has a 3.4 inch blade made of 154CM.  That’s Crucible Industries’ martensitic stainless steel.  Martensitic?  So much about steel can be laid at the feet of carbon.  If steel has a low enough level of carbon, the iron is arranged in patterns called ferrite, but it can’t hold very much carbon.  Hot iron can dissolve more carbon than cold, so as the metal cools out of the furnace, a form called austenite develops.  It can hold more carbon than ferrite, especial when hot.  Cool the hot austenite and it has to get rid of the excess carbon like a bad check.  Unfortunately by then everything is frozen solid, so austenite does the only thing possible: it changes shape to martensite.  This change in crystal system is what gives classic samurai swords their curved shapes, but that’s for another time.

The blade is tempered to 58-61 RHC.  Martensite can be made harder, but it also becomes brittle.  Brittle is the arch enemy of any blade.  Being a stainless the blade contains 14% chromium, which forms a transparent oxide film protecting it from all but the harshest conditions.  It’s called stain-less and not stain-proof for that reason.  The main difference between 154CM and 440C is the higher level of molybdenum.  Moly, as she’s known, also forms carbides like chromium.  These carbides help stabilize the crystals in the steel from deforming under pressure, which provides edge retention as well as strength.  The blades come as plain or partially serrated.  I normally prefer the plain edge based on looks, but the partial serration looks damn good too!

Enough about steel.  I never worry if knife companies like Benchmade, SOG or even Case are using the right steel.  They wouldn’t still be in business if they couldn’t get the best possible properties out of the metal.

CLA open on benchmades black class box
Note the safety next to the large button.  The button is off set to add a layer of security.

The CLA’s handle is 4.45 inches long, under a half inch thick and curved to better fit your hand.  The scales are composed of G-10.  This material is a composite of woven glass cloth and epoxy resin cured under pressure.  It is very mechanically stable and resistant to most acids, solvents and bases as well as being an electrical insulator.  It’s entirely possible when cockroaches have replaced humans as the dominant species on earth, G-10 will still be hanging around.

Like all Benchmade autos the spring is stout enough to open the blade with authority.    Even a superficial examination of the knife shows the safety lock next to the release button.  I’ve always liked that.  You can off-safe it with your thumb and then simply roll on to the button to open the knife.  That’s nice!

The open box construction makes it easy to clean and oil.  Note the jimping at the back of the blade.

The pocket clip is left/right reversible and the knife is designed to be carried tip up.  The clip is placed to give you relatively deep pocket carry.  A hole next to the clip provides an attachment point for lanyards and retention devices.  It’s a nice knife and if I carried it over water or deep snow I’d use a retention line too!

The back of the blade has several lines of jimping which are carried onto the knife handle.  Jimping provides an additional friction surface as well as another tactile indicator of knife and blade orientation. 

I wish I could tell you how it cuts, but frankly it’s not necessary.  Benchmade knows how to sharpen an edge and how to correctly temper 145CM steel.  This knife is going to cut.  Besides, is slicing up a strip of cured horse hide really going to tell you how sharp it is?

I like the way the CLA feels in my hand.  I wouldn’t hesitate to carry this knife for everyday chores as well as off the beaten path contingencies.  If trouble comes looking, you might be very happy to have your own CLA!

Thursday, January 29, 2015

S&W vs Benchmade

Sounds like a mismatch, doesn’t it?  S&W knives are made by Taylor Brands, makers of flashlights, Uncle Henry and other products.  Benchmade makes, well, they make really good knives. 

Let me introduce our two challengers, S&W MP1600 an auto knife and Benchmades AFO II Auto.

Out of the box, each knife looks different, and the differences are more than skin deep.  The S&W has a relatively smooth, graceful black handle with a sliding lock next to the opening button.  The button itself is fully exposed on the handle.  There is no jimping to increase the friction between handle and hand.  The front bolster offers scant protection to prevent your hand from sliding forward onto the blade.   This may not be a big concern to you.   If your perceived use is cutting fir sticks, butchering a rabbit, opening cardboard boxes this handle will have no surprises in store for you.


S&W automatic knife
An S&W automatic knife.  The safety is right next to the opening button.

 But if you envision needing to cut a coconut open, making a violent, full power stab into something with hard spots, as well as open your mail, this knife may bite you back.

The AFO II has a dull black surface that feels gritty.  For me, it’s like running my nail over a chalkboard.  Jimping on top and bottom of the handle tip and tail provide additional friction surfaces.  The lines of the handle aren’t as smooth or flowing and a swelling at the bolster helps keep your hand away from the knife edge.  This knife also sports a metal glass breaker tip.  The lock is on the spine 90 degrees away from the opening button.

AFO II knife
Benchmade's AFO II   Jimping provides extra friction surfaces.  Glass breaker is small and not painful if you accidently palm it.
The AFO II clip is interchangeable to four positions, including the button side.  In the tip down position the knife rides high in your pocket.  Move the clip to my favorite position, tip up, and the knife rides a little lower in the pocket.

The S&W clip can be removed, but it’s drilled and tapped only for right side tip up.  It lets the knife ride low in your pocket, virtually unnoticed to the casual observer.

Lets looks at the numbers!
Feature
S&W 1600
AFO II
Open length
8.2 in
8.5
Blade length
3.7 in
3.6
Blade Steel
S30V
154CM
Blade Thickness
0.134 inch
0.123
hardness
?????
58-61 HRC
Handle
Aluminum
Aluminum
Weight
5.8 ounces
4.8 ounces
Price
$160
$245
Made in
USA
USA

All and all pretty even except for price.  The big surprise was the S30V steel in the S&W.  Almost as big of a surprise was the differences in spring tension.

Any automatic knife that doesn’t have enough spring to push the blade to the locked position is a pretty sad knife.  The auto’s only reason to exist is to propel the blade to the lock position, otherwise you have an ordinary one handed opener.  But what if something momentarily stops or blocks the blade from reaching the full open position?

One of two things can happen depending on the spring.  The spring has enough strength to kick the blade into the lock position or the blade just dangles until you add a flip with your wrist.  I don’t have scale or a testing device that can measure spring strength, but let’s look at it from another way.  How much do I have to cock the blade so if I release it from that position, the blade will return to the locked open position?

For the S&W, about 110 degrees from full open.

For the AFO II I couldn’t find any blade position that did not return the blade to the full open locked position.
In other words, the AFO II will always open, even if the blade meets obstructions as soon as the blade clears the obstruction.

The S&W, not so much.  If the blade is stopped in the first 80 degrees of opening, it should finish opening.  Be prepared to wrist flip it open in another position.

The other big difference is the safety.  The safety on the S&W locks the blade closed.  It can’t be bumped off and the blade can open.  The safety doesn’t do anything in the open position.  The AFO II safety will lock the blade open or closed.  When the safety is on, that blade isn’t moving from its open or closed position.

Both knives are available in tanto and drop point as either serrated or plain edge.  And both have a lanyard hole if you chose to use that.

Since neither knife belongs to me I can’t test the edge.  But I have always found that other Benchmade knives cut better and retain an edge longer than their significantly less expensive S&W brothers.  But with the use of a high end steel, S30V, that might no longer be true.

Who wins?

One important lesson to remember is, function should define form.  In a combat role were self-defense is the card that trumps all others, I would go with the AFO II.  It has a heaver spring that, in my limited tests, always opens.  The lock is smaller and on the spine but I would feel more comfortable carrying the knife in a pocket or tucked in my waistband.  The shape of the handle and it’s surface finish will help you keep your grip.

The large and easy to find safety and the highly exposed button on the S&W would make me uncomfortable throwing myself down behind cover or fighting in small confined area.

However, there is an $80 dollar difference.  If your world consists of relaxed fit pants, gathering at the barbecue to swap lies, and the most stressful situation you think you’ll be in is pulling the guideline of a tent with one hand and cutting the rope with the other, the S&W 1600 could be the right knife.


I very much liked the Benchmade AFO II over the S&W.  But don’t be fooled by this statements.  If you somehow slipped me an S&W 1600 when the fecal material hit the impeller, I would be very grateful!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Benchmade Blues


I really like Benchmade Knives, but as they say “to err is human…”

I think their HK Scorch (catalog 14975) is a super idea.  It’s one of the dual mode knives people are talking about.  I wrote about it here.


The HK Scorch made by Benchmade.  This one is self opening!



I recently got a Scorch that  opens itself.  It’s self-activating.

While this is a great thing with people, it’s a terrible thing with guns and knives.  I kept noticing the Scorch always seem partially opened when I had it on display.  I thought someone had examined it and left it in that condition.  What a surprise it was when I closed it and watched it pop open.  It’s going back.

I contacted Benchmade and they claim there is no general recall on the Scorch.  It was forcefully pointed out to me by the young lady I was talking to, that since it’s made in American, it can be repared in the great state of Oregon.  

I suggest you deal with an “authorized Benchmade dealer”. Just fill out the paperwork on the Benchmade website and get it done.

Nobody wants a self-activating knife in their pocket!

On the upside, one of my friends did some internet work and put together a chart to help date Benchmade knives as of Dec 2014.  It all focuses on the Benchmade butterfly.

 To 1999         Bali-song Butterfly with antenna
1999 to 2002 Benchmade Butterfly with antenna
2002 to 2004 Benchmade Butterfly with antenna and model number under butterfly
2004 to present   Benchmade Butterfly without antenna and model number under butterfly

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Benchmade VS Kershaw


“Three little knives are we….” (With a tip of the hat to the Mikado by Gilbert and Sullivan) my song should go.
I just got three new knives in and let me bring them out on stage.

Kershaw Brawler,
Benchmade Barrage in Tanto,
and
HK Entourage.


Benchmade Barrage, HK Entourage, Kershaw Brawler
My three little knives.....Barrage on top, Entourage in the middle and the Brawler on bottom.  Still, who makes up these names??


They almost run the gamut of knives found in pockets across the nation.  The Brawler is made in China by Kershaw who is owned by Kai the makers of Zero Tolerance and Shun kitchen knives.  Benchmade makes HK knives as well as their own.  Both of these were made in the USA.

Two are assisted, two are made in the USA and one is not.  One is an auto.  You would be surprised how many people have a knife in their pocket with one of these descriptors.

Let’s bring one out.

Of all the knives the Entourage is the simplest in appearance.  

Hk Auto Entourage well made switchblade
HK's Auto Entourage 


The knife is tapped for tip up, left or right carry.  The handle is detail free, snag free and has that annoying nail-on-chalkboard feel that enhances grip.  These are positive attributes for an auto opener.

The steel?

The 3.75-inch tanto blade is made from 440C hardened to 58-60 RHC.  The C stands for Rockwell C scale.  Rockwell has several scales including one for copper sheets and aluminum tubes, so it’s important we acknowledge which scale we use.   

This blade has Benchmade’s BK finish.
BK?  Oh, that’s Benchmade’s black ceramic coating, probably Cerakote made by NIC Industries.  I don’t know what that means either.

The spring is powerful enough to open and lock the blade even if the initial opening is slightly hampered.  We've all seen autos that snag, or catch on something and only get three quarters of the way open and the blade just dangles.  Don’t let yours dangle.

A simple wrist flick opens and locks the blade.  No biggy, except for those times when there is no spare time.

The Brawler
The Brawler sports a 3.25-inch blade made from 8cr13mov steel.  The steel is a Chinese stainless and we’ve all seen complications from so called Chinese quality products.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.  Quality depends on the company and not the country of origin.  Kershaw is a well-known name and I would trust their products.

Kershaw assisted opening Brawler
Front of Brawler




Assisted opener
Back.  Note the high carry clip and tapping in all four positions.


I can’t find any information on blade hardness.  Other companies harden their 8cr13mov steel in the 56-60 RHC range.  I suspect Kershaw is in that range as well.

This knife is assisted opening, incorporating both flipper and stud.  It’s tapped in all four locations for tip up or down, left or right carry.  Very handy for any of us who like different carry modes.  The handle is a glass-filled nylon which makes for a very strong and durable handle.  The blade has a DLC finish.

DLC?  Diamond-Like Coating.  Did you know that $4000 Rolex wrist watches come with a DLC coating.  You should also be aware there is a family of DLC finishes.

Is it a balloon?  No - it's a Barrage.
The Barrage is one of the nicest designed knives I’ve seen in years.  The AXIS lock is so nice and so easy to use.  The knife’s grip sports little finger bevels to amp up your grip.  Why?  This assisted opening knife opens with authority and has a satisfying “thunk” when the blade locks open.  The blade is made from 3.6 inches of 154CM steel and the handle is composed of Valox.

assisted opening barrage
Barrage in Tanto, Assisted opening




Valox is a thermoplastic polyester resin made by Sabic.  Benchmade doesn’t tell us if it’s a PET or PBT polyester or if it’s filled or not.  But really, how would that information make a difference to you the knife consumer?  At some point we all must trust the company.  That’s why it’s important to buy from quality companies.

So where are we with our three little knives?

Knife
Steel
Blade Length (inches)
Open length
(inches)
Lock
Action
Price
Entourage
440C
3.75
8.44
Opened & closed
Auto
$165
Brawler
8cr13mov
3.25
7.38
Liner lock only
Assisted w/ flipper
$39.95
Barrage
154CM
3.6
8.35
AXIS with safety
Assisted w/ stud
$145

Takes the romance out of it, doesn’t it!

Both Benchmade knives have a safety that locks the knife in closed and opened conditions.  The Kershaw Brawler depends on needing sufficient force on the flipper to start the blade opening.  Its liner lock is stout enough to keep it open until you make the effort to close it.

assisted opener Barrage showing lock
Lock on Barrage.  Both the Auto Entourage and the Barrage can be locked closed or locked open.


Both companies offer lifetime sharpening.  Kershaw will even pay the postage to return it to you.  The auto creates a problem.  If you send it back for sharpening, you need to prove (a department letterhead or such) you can legally own the knife.  I don’t see it as a problem.  There are plenty of sharpening systems available as well as professional knife sharpeners.  (Hint:  Learn to sharpen your knife in the field.)

So which knife would I carry?  Depends.  In New York I couldn’t carry any of them. 

If I went in harm’s way, I’d carry the Entourage and back it up with the Barrage.  Why?  Excluding the 'one is none' rule, I’d use the assisted opener for normal activities: opening care packages from home, whittling, cutting cord and other non-lethal stuff.  I’d save the auto for those responses when only coarse motor skills were available to me, like fighting for my life.

With my lifestyle, the Brawler is more than enough.  I’d back it up with a full serration Spyderco Endura, but that just me.