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SHOT Show 2005 Report - Knives

2005 SHOT Show logo This was the year of the "II." Lots of old classics were updated with better materials or details. We also saw more blades of premium CPM S30V steel, though for the most part it is still seen primarily in more high-end knives. There was no shortage of new and innovative designs, but the large hole left by Schrade's bankruptcy late last year saw many manufacturers pursuing the traditional slipjoint pocketknife market that was their mainstay, and which in the view of many, was a big part of their downfall.  It is certainly clear that any knife company that rests on their laurels and fails to innovate and aggressively pursue the fickle consumer with a clear vision and 20/20 insight into their markets is likely doomed.

We saw a good deal more knives being produced in China for major manufacturers as they search for lower cost production. The Chinese are quick studies and they are realizing there's money to be made producing quality cutlery, not just the crap for which they have been known up to now. It won't take them long to equal the best Taiwan and Japan can produce, which can be very good indeed.

The knives covered here are those that are appropriate for wilderness survival use or which otherwise were of interest to me.  This is not an all-inclusive coverage of every knife introduced at the show.  Moreover, some manufacturers decline to make appointments and in some cases were not covered since we were unable to sit down and review the new product with them. Others failed to get us promised images of their new products in time. We'll try to get those up if and when they show. (By and large, we no longer photograph knives at the show if we're told images are available; just not enough hours in the day anymore and we're not to the point where we can afford a photographer to follow us around.)

We have provided the specifications we received from the manufacturers for the most part; some are much better than others in what they provide, so blame them if you are missing some spec you'd have liked to have seen.

Please note that due to unexpected duties involving the development of new standards for emergency beacons that are a result of our findings last year of problems in this area, necessitating a trip to Washington, D.C. right after SHOT Show and now to London for a week, time to compile the Knives portion of this report has been limited. I do hope to add more companies and their wares when I get back. Thanks for your understanding.

Prices quoted are manufacturer's suggested retail price as of February, 2005 (we don't waste bytes, or your intelligence, on 95 cents, we just round up). Most knives and tools covered here can be purchased at significantly discounted prices from those quoted. In some cases, items will not be available until much later this year.

Please support Equipped To Survive with a tax-deductible donation(Disclaimer: Editor Doug Ritter, author of this SHOT Show cutlery review, is currently collaborating with Benchmade Knife Company on a series of knives and may in the future collaborate with other manufacturers included in this report.)

Assembling this SHOT Show Report is a major undertaking for this one-man show. Please consider making a tax-deductible donation to the Equipped To Survive Foundation if you find this report to be of value to you. The Equipped To Survive Foundation is a tax-exempt non-profit corporation that supports the continued operation and expansion of Equipped To Survive and which allows me to attend shows such as this and report to you on the latest and greatest gear. In many cases Equipped To Survive has been first by months to publicize new and exciting survival and preparedness gear. Again, donations are fully tax-deductible. Click here to make a tax-deductible donation or to find out more. Thanks very much for your support and consideration.

Click on photos and links for larger image and often additonal detail shots.
All prices MSRP (manufacturer's suggested retail pricing) as of February, 2005


Benchmade's introduced a new matte black finish that they have given the name BK1. It is a "proprietary poly-ceramic coating" which is claimed to exceed ASTM-117 specification for saltwater corrosion resistance and is purported to be more scratch resistant than previous Benchmade coatings.

Red Class

Benchmade OffsiderBenchmade's popular priced Red Class line introduced last year, mostly made in Taiwan, was flushed out with three new offerings. Steve Fecas designed the largest knife in the current Benchmade line, a 13-inch (330 mm) long fixed blade with a 7.13 inch (181 mm) spear point blade of 0.219-inch (5.6 mm) thick 440C. It weighs in at 12.58 ounces (356 g). The Offsider ($100) has a very wide false edge extending about two-thirds the way back which provides significant relief to what would otherwise be a pretty massive looking blade. Instead, it makes for an almost slim appearance. Molded textured plastic scales cover most of the full tang, including an integral full guard, with the exception of about a quarter-inch of the tail end, which also incorporates a lanyard hole. The tang curves downward to the rear and also incorporates ridges fore and aft, top and bottom for improved grip. The sheath is a conventional black ballistic nylon with liner and a front pocket.  Available with plain edge or with a combo edge in black.

Benchmade SnipeThe Snipe ($60) is another Fecas design that incorporates the first application of the McHenry and Williams designed Levitator lock to a full-sized knife. Previously used on the pint-sized Benchmite series, in this instance it acts strictly as a blade lock while open, not closed. The release is a button protruding through the middle of the left hand scale. The scales are molded plastic with a pebbled surface over stainless liners. The liner acts as the spring for the pin lock of the Levitator system.  The long 3.97-inch (101 mm) AUS8 blade is a modified drop point, very modified (you'd be hard pressed not to call it a clip point), with thumb stud opening and a thumb rest on top. It quite thin at 0.089 inches (2.3 mm) and with a high grind ought to be a good slicer. Round, machined spacers leave an open back on the forward portion of the handle, while the rear has a stainless ridged spacer that extends out the top and back, incorporating a lanyard hole and adding to the grippability. The handle has only a hint of a half guard, along with ridged liners, up front and sweeps down at the rear with a small finger hook.  Available in plain or combo edge and in combo edge in black.

Benchmade JuJuThe Mike Snody designed Japanese influenced Juju ($80) is very nearly a fantasy style fixed blade, and to a utility oriented guy like me, it pretty much is. The stylized, modified tanto chisel ground 440C blade is 4.75 inches (121 mm) long and a hefty 0.219-inch (5.6 mm) thick. The full tang is wrapped with black cord over red ray skin, which is certainly not subtle or nondescript. A natural colored pewter skull and bone menuki (an ornament, typically a pair, under the hilt-wrapping of a samurai style sword, mostly for decorative purposes, but it also improves grip) is restrained under the cord on the right side.  The pommel comes to a (skull crusher) point and incorporates a lanyard hole, which is part and parcel of a series of holes that form part of the decoration for the blade. The tang incorporates both a half guard and a finger hook, so all the right practical elements are there. It comes with a very functional molded plastic sheath.  

Blue Class

Benchmade SequelWhen Benchmade retired the well-loved Model 705 late last year, the smart money was that some sort of replacement based on the Gold Class limited edition 706 must be waiting in the wings. They were right. The Model 707 Sequel ($150) is a 705 on a Slimfast diet. Aluminum scales make for a much less bulky and lighter (2.6 oz. – 74 g) knife overall, and G10 inlays provide a bit of tactile grip. A new and more robust 2.94-inch (75 mm) drop-point style blade in 154CM stainless upgrades the blade as well. The AXIS lock stays with stainless liners, as does the overall excellent ergonomics. The black coated stainless pocket clip is removable and ambidextrous, tip up carry only. It's available with plain or combo edge and also with a black blade.

Benchmade OpportunistWarren Osborne's take on a gentleman's folder, the Model 440 Opportunist ($150), has sculpted aluminum scales, in a jigged bone type pattern, with wood overlays. The 2.99 inch (76 mm) S30V modified wharncliff blade presents a slim profile that is only 0.114 inches (2.9  mm) thick. It's 3.34 inches (85 mm) closed, 0.485 inches (12.4 mm) thick and weighs in at a svelte 1.7 ounces (48 g) The liner lock is stainless with a right-hand opening stud. There's no pocket clip.

Benchmade Mini SkirmishThe expected downsized version of last year's rather large Neil Blackwood Skirmish, the Model 635 Mini-Skirmish ($200) is also a titanium framelock with a 3.43-inch (87 mm) reverse curved blade of CPM S30V in a 4.3-inch (109 mm) handle.  Is sports the same ambidextrous thumb hole(s), but the lock and removable stainless pocket clip is set up strictly for right-handers. The bead-blasted handle decoration is a bit more subdued, with a simple spiral pattern and no brightly colored machined detents.

Benchmade Tanto GriptilianOriginally a special edition for distributor Moteng International, a tanto blade style was added to the regular Griptilian line (Models 553 and 557 - $95 and $85) and the purple Mini-Grip handles are no more. A sand colored handle for the full sized Grip is now available ($105 with black combo blade), a compliment to the OD colored for those seeing service in the Middle East.

The Model 921 two-bladed Switchback by Osborne morphs into the all-black Model 923 ($200) with a BK1 coated black reverse tanto style combo edged CPM S30V main blade (3.4 inches – 86 mm) and black anodized aluminum handles. The smaller slip-joint blade is also black coated, along with the AXIS lock and thumb studs.

Benchmade Fixed ResistorThe Snody Fixed Resistor Model 220 ($150) is a fixed blade version of the striking Resistor.  The gotham-swedged clip point blade, plain edge only, of 154CM is 3.4 inches (86 mm) in length, actually a tad shorter than that of the folder. The full tang is scaled in black G10 with three large holes lightening things up, for an overall weight of 4.56 ounces (129 g), while adding to the handles' grippability. It is 7.45 inches (189 mm) in length overall. The sheath is molded Kydex with a leather belt loop attached. 

Benchmade GravitatorQuite a bit further afield design-wise is the striking new 425 Gravitator ($170), also designed by Mike Snody. The 3.5-inch (89 mm), 154CM blade is described as a "modified wharncliff." While visually a bit on the wild side, it appears to be a reasonably useful working blade shape with a wharncliff's straight edge from base to tip. The handle (4.77 inches (121 mm) closed) is comprised of titanium liners with barrel back spacers and integral liner lock covered with split G10 scales. The forward piece, referred to as a "bolster" by Benchmade, is machined silver G10, while the aft portion is black G10, also sculpted with longitudinal furrows and two grooves matching the profile of the bolster.  The end result is both striking and pretty ergonomic, providing a solid grip. The top of the blade is equipped with a very long thumb rest.  While there are ambidextrous dual black thumb studs (same concentric domed ring design as the Snody Resistor), the lock and stainless pocket clip are strictly right-handed. It is set up for tip down carry. Available with plain or combo edge and either is also available with the black BK1 coating.

Black Class

Benchmade Fixed PresidioThe Black Class saw the addition of an Osborne designed full-tang fixed blade of generous proportions, for a Benchmade. The Model 155 Fixed Presidio ($190) has a BK1 coated blade that is 6.2 inches (157 mm) long and 0.18 inches (4.6 mm) thick. The primary edge combines a short section of very aggressive serrations at the base with an upswept clip point profile. The false edge incorporates another section of serrations, much more conventional in appearance, if not location. I suppose that calling it a false edge no longer quite works, even though most of it still it just that. Handles are black-coated aluminum with a no-slip pattern of directional ridges similar to that found on the Mel Pardue designed Presidio folder. Overall length is 11.2 inches (284 mm) and it tips the scales at 9.92 ounces (281 g).

The sheath is a multi-carry style black ballistic nylon unit with an insert and quick-release snapped retention strap.  There is also a removable pocket that makes for a very nice folder or multi-tool sheath all by itself.  Chances are you'll be able to purchase this smaller ancillary sheath separately.

NRA Outdoors

NRA 1270-12750Pursuing new markets, Benchmade has developed a new line of knives aimed expressly at the hook and bullet market, NRA Outdoors Knives, a licensed product line of the National Rifle Association. Some of the knives are made in Benchmade's factory in Oregon, others in Taiwan. You'll recognize many of the same Benchmade designers and in some cases, a definite similarity to existing knives as well as some unique new designs.

Starting off with the folders, the Model 12700 ($65) and 12750 ($55) are Ken Steigerwalt's modern interpretations of traditional three-bladed pocketknives, 4.7 and 3.76 inches closed, respectively (119 mm and 71 mm). Both feature a clip point saber ground lockback main blade, 3.5 and  2.8 inches (89 mm and 71 mm), respectively, and a slightly smaller modified spey/skinning blade. 3.12 and 2.5 inches (79 mm and 64 mm).  The 12700 has a 3.12-inch (79 mm) gut hook blade and the smaller one has a can-opener and screwdriver combo in the thirds position. All the blades are 440C stainless and open with nail nicks.  Liners are stainless and the scales are black micarta.  The handle shape is similar to traditional canoe style, the enlarged bolster area at each end providing a bit of security and safety for the fingers.

NRA 12400-12410The Model 12400 ($75) and 12410 ($65) are another pair of Steigerwalt lockback designs with a single one hand opening 440C stainless drop point saber ground blade, 3.4 (86 mm) and 2.7 inches (69 mm) long, respectively. They are 4.35 (110 mm) and 3.48 inches (88 mm) long closed, respectively. Liners are stainless covered with sculpted micarta scales. The satin finish stainless pocket clip is reversible; there's no lanyard hole. Available with plain or partially serrated edge.

NRA 12200Mel Pardue's contribution to the new line, the Model 12200 ($70), is a 3.25 inch (83 mm) modified wharncliff bladed one hand opening folder with a textured molded plastic handle.  The handle, 4.15 inches closed (105 mm), has a curved underside, but there's not a lot of protection besides the checkering to prevent the hand from slipping onto the blade edge. The lock is  Benchmade's Rolling Lock. The black coated pocket clip is reversible; there's a nice sized lanyard hole. Available with plain or partially serrated edge.

NRA 12300With a gun-stock shaped handle, the Steve Fecas designed Model 12300 ($29) is the value leader of this line. It has a 3.2-inch (81 mm) one hand opening drop point blade with a liner lock. The 4-inch (102 mm) long molded plastic handle has plenty of grip with its unique shape and there's a good thumb ramp as well.  A removable pocket clip is included.  Available with plain or partially serrated edge. There's no lanyard hole.

NRA 12800Warren Osborne's influence is obvious in the lines of the Model 12800 ($170 - $180), the most striking folder in this new line. The machined anodized aluminum handles have a bidirectional waterfall pattern machined into the surface that is both attractive and that provides a very good grip, especially combined with the ergonomic shape having a pronounced finger guard and thumb ramp on the blade's spine. The ambidextrous AXIS Lock, dual thumb stud one-hand opening blade and reversible satin finish stainless split arrow pocket clip will be welcome by lefties. Steel for the uniquely styled 3.4 inches (86 mm) blade is premium 154CM stainless. The blade shape might be described as a cross between a tanto and reverse curved drop point.  Closed, the knife is 4.5 inches (114 mm) long. Available with plain or partially serrated edge and in a black coated partially serrated version. There's no lanyard hole.

Of all the knives in the NRA Outdoors line, this is the one that most clearly evidences the Benchmade parentage. It's one of the best looking Osborne folders that Benchmade's done, to my eye (not that any of them are any slouch in the looks department).  Regardless of the NRA Outdoors logo on the blade, I suspect most Benchmade Osborne blade collectors will be quick to snap this one up.

NRA 12500The line includes three practical fixed blade designs, including another by Osborne. The model 12500 ($100) is an all-around field and camp knife with a 6.25-inch (159 mm) modified drop point blade of 440C. It's got a relatively high grind, which ought to translate into a good slicer. The polished stainless guard is toped by molded Kraton rubber handle that's held in place with Benchmade's B.I.L.T. system, essentially a stainless pommel held on with a beefy socket head screw secured into a nut captured by the full hidden tang that holds the handle in place and allows for disassembly if desired for cleaning. The handle has deep rounded ribs on the lower portion.  Unfortunately, there's no lanyard hole. The sheath is tooled leather that covers about two-thirds of the handle with a thumb-break retention strap that snaps in place.

NRA 12520Mike Snoody designed the 12520 ($90) with a 4-inch (102 mm) recurved drop point blade of 440C.  There's a false edge that runs about two-thirds the way back on the spine. The full tang has Santoprene rubber overmolded scales with a very deep integral finger choil/guard. The handle incorporates added finger recesses and is very comfortable. There's a good sized lanyard hole.  The sheath is a conventional folded ballistic nylon design with a plastic liner and a snap security strap around the handle.

NRA 12550The 4-inch (102 mm) skinner, Model 12550 ($100), is a Rick Hinderer design with lots of belly and an upswept tip. Blade steel is 440C. The full exposed tang has black stabilized wood scales that are very ergonomic. The lanyard hole in the tang is exposed by a cutout in the scales. The integral guard is deep and there are also thumb grooves on the blade's spine for added grip.  It comes with a traditional style leather sheath with security strap.


The Boker ClipFor those who find the pocket clip on a folder ruins the ergonomics or is plain old uncomfortable, Robert Voos has engineered The Boker Clip ($140), a new folder from Boker with a clip that retracts flush into the handle when the blade is opened. This lockback had sculpted aluminum handles, either plain with plain edge or black with partically serrated edge. We were never able to acertain the balde size or material.

Boker Tic TocBoker compares the unique opening and locking mechanism of the Tic Toc to a pendulum clock, hence the name. On the right side the cast aluminum handles have a sot of lazy u-shaped slot with a button protruding through the slot.  When closed the button sits at the forward top of the slot.  Moving the button to the forward bottom of the slot opens the blade and locks it into position as it goes over-center. With very little practice this can be done very quickly and is more that a little bit habit forming—pretty soon it does seem like a pendulum as you sit there opening and closing the knife, again and again. The opening stud is connected to the blade by an arm inside the handle, which could be a concern, only time will tell how strong this is or how well it ages in use. The 3-inch (76 mm) blade is 420 stainless, available in plain or combo edge.

Boker Helios KnivesThe Helios line offers a choice of handle and blade materials, evolved from the Gemini line.  The base model in either forest green or black hard anodizing ($165) have aluminum handles with "cat's tongue" inserts. Also available is a version with partially checkered rosewood handles ($165).  The clip point blade is of X-15 T.N. stainless that is virtually unfazed by salt water or other corrosives.  Blade length is 3.5 inches (89 mm) and overall length is 8.25 inches; they weigh in at 4.2 ounces ( g).  The stainless pocket clip is ambidextrous and reversible for tip or tip down carry.  The Helios Cera-Titan ($250) replaces the steel blade with a drop point made of Boker's unique Cera-Titan sintered titanium. The handle inserts in this version are wood and the anodizing a gun metal blue.

Ratcheting up the exclusivity index, there's also a limited serialized edition with a "Leo" Damascus blade ($510) forged from the barrel of a Leopard main battle tank and tool steel alloy. The pattern is described at "small pyramid."  Inserts are desert ironwood.  This is one of a number of unique Damascus steel knives Boker introduced, all of which are already spoke for at $515 to $620.

Boker TitaniusThe Titanius ($125) combines Boker's small thin titanium handled gentleman's folder with a one hand opening Cera-Titan blade and liner lock. The drop point blade is 2.375 inches (60 mm). There's a design incised into the handle and a lanyard hole, so you end up with a very practical small lightweight and tough folder.

New to all the Cera-Titan line are pewter colored metal thumb disks to replace the cheap looking black plastic ones used previously.


Buck Alpha DoradoShrink down Buck Knives' Alpha Hunter folder by 30% and you get the Alpha Dorado.  Two versions with different blade steel and scales, both have a 2.5 inch (64 mm) drop point one-hand opening blade with partially exposed stainless handles and liner lock, 4 inches (102 mm) closed.  Model 270 has a 420HC blade, charcoal birchwood scales and a ballistic nylon sheath ($64) while the Model 271 has an ATS-34 blade, rosewood scales and a leather sheath ($78). The exposed tang contains a lanyard hole; no pocket clip.

Speaking of the Alpha Hunter, due to customer demand, Buck now offers replacement "SureGrip" rubber scales to replace the wood ones on the ATS-34 bladed versions. $10 buys a complete conversion kit with the rubber handle slabs, replacement screws and an Allen wrench.

Buck The 55Reduce the classic Buck 110 lockback pocketknife by half and you get the aptly named "The 55" ($48). The clip point blade of 420HC is 2.375 inches (60 mm) long in a 3.375 inch (86 mm) handle.  Like the original, the liner/handles are polished brass with "natural woodgrain" inlays. Anyone who has a fond spot for the 110 will eat this one up.

Buck Metro LEDBuck has added a white LED light to the diminutive Metro, creating the Metro LED ($27) and come up with a new model with an LED light, the Lumina ($55).  The Metro LED has a simple on/off function and auto-off after three minutes. The Lumina has four programmed functions: High, medium and low beam and flashing, plus auto-shut off after five minutes.

The Metro uses the space dedicated to a bottle cap opener to house the electronics and  two 3-volt CR-1616 batteries for the LED, which is contained in a translucent plastic handle. Same liner locked, one hand opening 1.125 inch (32 mm) blade of 420J2 steel as the original.  It is 2.375 inches (60 mm) closed with a weight is 1.5 ounces (42 g).

Buck LuminaThe Lumina is also a liner lock with stainless frame and translucent plastic frame housing the electronic guts and two 3-volt CR-2032 batteries. The partially serrated blade is 3 inches (76 mm) of 420HC stainless with a one hand opening slot. 4.375 inches (110 mm) closed, the tail of one liner is exposed and forms a large lanyard hole.  All up it weighs in at 3.6 ounces (102 g). The LED is offset to the left on the Lumina and aimed down at the blade, lighting what you may be cutting.  If you're going to add a light to a knife, that seems to us like how it ought to work.

On both models the On/off switch is a rubber-covered button on the side. The lights are water resistant.  Battery change requires a small screwdriver on the Lumina, but none is required for the Metro LED.  We have no run time numbers for the lights.

Buck Dode 3 CrosslockThe Code 3 CrossLock ($42), developed for emergency personnel use, replaces the saw blade of the Alpha CrossLock PBS with a 3-inch (76 mm) serrated sheepsfoot blade of 420 HC. This is paired with the existing 3-inch (76 mm) drop point blade in the unique double liner lock aluminum frame. The frame is available in anodized gray or red.  Red is definitely the way to go, take my word on this. A ballistic nylon sheath is included.

Buch CutbackTom Mayo has designed another series of folders for Buck, the Cutback ($44) and Hilo ($50).  Both are satin finish frame locks with a contoured stainless steel frame, drilled with a single line of Mayo's signature lightening holes down the center.  A wee bit of flare at the forward end may keep your fingers off the sharp edge of the blade. The one hand opening drop point blade is of 440C stainless, 3.25 inches (83 mm) and 3.625 (91 mm) long, respectively, with a little bit of recurve to it. Overall length and weight is 4.125 inches (104 mm) and 3.3 ounces (92 g)  and 4.5 inches (114 mm) and 4 ounces (114 g). The removable clip is also stainless; there's no lanyard hole.

Buch Slipjoints Made in ChinaIn an attempt to keep them affordable, Buck is reproducing some of its classic slipjoint pocketknives in China.  For example, the new model 371 Stockman (3.875 inches (98 mm) closed) with three blades of 440C is $28 versus the original made-in-the-USA 301 Stockman, which is $43 with 420HC blades. While the original has black plastic scales, these have Paca wood.  Bolsters are still nickel silver with brass liners and the classic Hammer and Bolt Buck logo inlay. Also being produced is a mid-sized 373 Trio (3.25 inches – 83 mm) three blader ($24), a two bladed 375 Deuce (2.625 inches - 67 mm)($20) and a 3-inch (76 mm) single blade folder, the 379 Solo ($15).  Buck is standing behind these knives with their "4-Ever Warranty" and insists they are being built to strict quality standards.

Columbia River Knife & Tool

CRK&T Merlin Quick Draw SheathColumbia River Knife & Tool was aggressively promoting their new Merlin quick deployment sheath that was designed by Michael Martinez. This unique patented concept allows for the folder to be carried in a variety of positions and when pulled from the sheath it automatically deploys.  Somewhat akin the Emerson's Wave concept as it deploys from a pocket, but working with virtually any medium to large folder, the Merlin sheath provide very quick deployment without the need to manually open the blade. While it didn't take long to learn the basics of how to use it with the designer demonstrating the system, for the rest of us it comes with an instruction book, 52 pages worth for the "Professional" model ($35) with a multitude of carry and deployment options or a smaller 18 page manual for the "Sport & Work" model ($30) which covers only a few more traditional belt carry modes.

Automatic opening or assisted opening knives need not apply, but most others will work, including traditional folders without one-hand opening. The listed parameters are as follows: Blade Length between 2.5 inches (64 mm) and 5 inches (127 mm); Maximum Blade Thickness of 0.25 inches (6.3 mm), Maximum Blade Width of 1.5 inches (38 mm); Maximum Knife Weight of 8 ounces (227 g) and a Blade Channel Width (the space between the liners) between 0.125 inches (3 mm) and 0.1875 inches 5 mm).

CRK&T Merlin Draw SequenceThe clip is designed to clip into a pocket or waistband, etc., or onto a belt or shoulder strap up to two inches (51 mm) wide.  The point of the blade is inserted into a recess in the sheath with a sliding wedge to ensure it is a tight fit. The handle is then folded over and closed on an ear on the side of the sheath wedging it as tightly as possible.  Once in place it is fairly well secured and takes a strong jerk to pull it loose, it isn't going to fall out or be easily dislodged. With the knife in place, this can leave a small portion of the blade exposed, which might imperil a small finger, so best not to use this around curious or clingy young children if your knife is one of those that does so. Some knives we tried covered virtually all the blade edge.

The sheath rotates into eight positions in relation to the clip and locks in place with a neoprene o-ring and screw. The clip is very secure. As you pull the knife handle the sheath rotates as necessary (up to 45 degrees) to allow the blade to come loose, automagically deploying it into the fully open, and if equipped with a blade lock, locked position. It does work as advertised; we took a sample home and tried it on a variety of knives and from numerous carry locations.  If there's a notable drawback to the concept, it is that the same features that make this quick draw sheath so easy to deploy from also leave your knife exposed such that it could be grabbed by someone else. For some potential uses, especially for law enforcement personnel, that may be a concern.  In addition, it most definitely is not sheeple friendly.

The Merlin II ($50) is a somewhat similar concept for fixed blades. It resembles a conventional rigid molded plastic sheath in most respects, but incorporates the rotating positioning system like that used on the Merlin but limited to 45 degrees and also includes the same strong clip.  The bottom of the sheath is modular and exchangeable to accommodate different length blades.  The standard cap holds blades up to 4.8 inches (122 mm). Four alternative caps ($7 to $10) accommodate blade lengths of 5.4 inches (137 mm) to 8.4 inches (213 mm) in one inch (25.4 mm) increments.  Maximum blade thickness is 0.22 inches (5.5 mm) and blade width is from 0.72 inches (18 mm) to 1.65 inches (42 mm). 

The blade is held in place by a curved spring that presses against the blade which in turn is lodged against two "rails on the inside of the exterior wall of the sheath."  At least that's how CRK&T explains it, they didn't have a sample for us to examine.  There's also an ancillary thumb break strap to go around the handle for added security, if desired.

CRK&T UltimaAlso introduced was a Michael Martinez designed fixed blade, dubbed the Ultima ($120).  While the blade is a conventional clip point of "1.4116" stainless steel (a German steel with performance similar to 440A according to CRK&T), 6.75 inches long, the handle is anything but conventional. Designed based on input from a panel of medical specialists including ergonomic experts, kinesthesiologists and a surgical tool designer, it incorporates 22 of the 23 "points of contact" in the hand that were determined as being the ideal handle by these experts.

Whether this is real science or voodoo, the result is definitely different. It was difficult to tell how good a grip was to be had, both because of limited time to play with it and also because the prototype samples' scales had wire cut edges that were very sharp and gripping tightly was just plain uncomfortable due to this.  There are lots of edges as the molded Zytel handle is comprised of a series of "over 70" triangular shapes with channels between them.  These channels, referred to as sipes (a term usually used in reference to tire design) or "ooze grooves," are designed to channel away mud, water and blood to ensure a good grip even in these difficult environments. Anyone who has seen video of a tire channeling away water to prevent hydroplaning will understand this concept.

The full tang extends out the back into a pry bar shape that also serves as a hook to help maintain a grip. Up front the scales expand to form a ramped full guard.  The scales partially cover the top and bottom of the tang, so there's no contact with the metal, a feature we like.  The blade is available with or without a small serrated section at the base of the blade and both have a bead blast finish. Overall length is 11.625 inches (295 mm) and it weighs in at 9.4 ounces (266 g).

We found it in intriguing that the standard sheath for this knife isn't the Merlin II , but rather is a traditional ballistic nylon tactical sheath with storage pocket.

CRK&T Snap LockThe Van Hoy Snap Lock is now joined by a smaller sibling, the Snap Lock 2 ($50) with a 1.75 inch (44 mm) blade, 3 inches (76 mm) closed and 4.375 inches (111 mm) open. Same ambidextrous opening and closing with the unique Snap Lock and the blade steel is again AUS 4.

CRK&T Snap FireA new Van Hoy design, the Snap Fire ($90) with yet another new lock design that is very eye-catching.  The lock incorporates a large a stainless steel wheel with "specteral titanium nitride coating" and small serrations around the circumference. One hand opening is accomplished by rotating this wheel.  A  compression lock secures the 2.375 inch (60 mm) AUS 8 drop point blade in place.  A safety, which operates like the LAWKS we've seen on most CRK&T liner locks, can be used to ensure the lock doesn't disengage inadvertently.

Closing the blade is where things get a little weird.  You press down on that stainless wheel to disengage the lock, which actually moves the blade pivot away from the lock allowing the blade to be closed by rotating the wheel.  It's a whole lot easier to do than to describe.

The single-sided frame of the knife is gray anodized aluminum withy large cut-out, creating a skeletonized look.  A curvaceous stainless steel bade guard protects the blade on one side, mirroring the removable pocket clip on the other side.  Available in plain or combo edge.

CRK&T Side HawgThe Side Hawg ($30), designed by Mike Franklin, takes the side blades used on the Serengeti folder to the logical endpoint, getting rid of the folder.  The single edge grind blade of 420J2 stainless rides flat against the Zytel "sheath plate," held in place by a stud and spring clip.  The knife itself is 4.375 (111 mm) overall with a 0.12 inch (3 mm) thick skeletonized handle and a skinner style blade with a 1.625 inch (41 mm) cutting edge.  There's a deep guard/choil and ridges on the top for thumb purchase. The whole package is 5.375 inches (137 mm) long, weighs 2.6 ounces (81 g), and it comes with a nylon strap and carabiner attached to the lanyard hole. 

CRK&T Signature HuntersThe Signature Hunter Series ($60) are three fixed blades with full tangs and bamboo scales, designed by Russ Kommer. The blades are 1.4116 stainless and there is a drop point, clip point and skinner with a gut hook. Blade length is 3.25 inches (83 mm),  3.5 inches (89 mm) and 3.25 inches (83 mm) respectively, overall length is 7.879 inches (200 mm), 7.25 inches (184 mm) and 7.625 inches (194 mm), respectively. The blades have a very high hollow grind.  A deep finger choil/ half guard with friction groves and thumb rest with same provide a good grip. The tang extends beyond the scales and there's an ample lanyard slot.  The fitted leather sheath is very nice with perimeter tooling and burnished edges.

CRK&T Voodoo and Wild WeaselTwo new Pat & Wes Crawford assisted opening designs, the Voodoo and Wild Weasel (both $130), are both their first assisted opening blades and the first knives produced in the U.S by CRK&T. Scales are hard anodized gray aluminum with stainless liners, dual thumb studs, and ambidextrous pocket clip. The blades are 154CM stainless, bead blasted and available with either plain or combo edge.  The scales have black Santoprene inserts. The Wild Weasel has a drop point blade with a thumb ramp and long false edge. The Voodoo blade is a spear point with three graduated holes in the spine.  Neither knife is equipped with a lanyard hole.

CRK&T Slide SharpKnife sharpening remains a mystery to many knife owners. At best they end up with a blade that is less dull, sometimes the blade is ruined and many won't even try, relying on professionals or sending the knife back to the factory. It's a practiced skill that simply has fallen into disuse. The simple systems require a fair amount to considerable skill to use and/or too use without ruining the blade and the guided system approach doesn't lend itself to being set up and used easily and quickly. As for powered systems; let's not even go there. CRK&T's new Slide Sharp ($35) is sort of the Dummies Guide of knife sharpeners, developed by Steve McCowen and Charles Kain. 

This is one of those forehead slapping, why-didn't-I-think-of-this concepts.  A 9.45 inch (240 mm) long ceramic rod  is inserted into a wood base a few inches square. The kit comes with 2 ceramic rods, fine and course.  You then drop a spring over the rod and then a plastic guide that has two slots in it, each at a different angle to the rod.  Finally, there's a small domed handhold to go on top of the rod.  Hold the rod steady with one hand at the top and simply slip the knife into the slot and run the guide down the rod while pulling the knife through.  Release and the guide pops up again for another pass.  Switch the blade direction in the guide to do the other side of the blade.

CRK&T Slide SharpThe current guide has a "fine" and "utility" setting, 17 and 21 degrees (nobody seems to know how they came to select those odd angles), but others will eventually be available and it wouldn't be all that difficult to make your own.  It is all packed in a plastic box.  We're hopeful; they'll come up with a field sharpener using the same concept, but which will pack into a much smaller box.

A smaller version of the titanium handled M16, model M16-01T ($110), has been added with a 3.125 inch (79 mm) spear point AUS 8 blade.

Chris Reeve

Chris Reeve Neil Roberts Warrior KnifeAnother Bill Harsey fixed blade design, Neil Roberts Warrior Knife ($329) is being produced by Chris Reeve, this a commemorative blade commissioned by Navy Chief Steven Bronson in honor of Petty Office First Class Neil Roberts, killed in action during Operation anaconda in Afghanistan in 2002, the first SEAL to loose his life in action since 1989. Roberts graduated from SEAL Class #184 and that number of serialized and specially engraved knives have been set aside for the SEAL community.

If you're not a SEAL, you can still get one, minus the serial number and engraving, but otherwise identical. The 6-inch (152 mm) S30V drop point plain edged blade is KG Gun-Kote coated, like the rest of Chris' fixed blades. Overall length is 11 inches (279 mm) and weight is 12.3 ounces (349 g). Handle slabs are sandblasted black canvas micarta. The handle incorporates an angled full guard and deep finger scallop and the requisite lanyard hole. There's a finger choil ahead of the guard. Sheath is a tan Combat Master by Spec-Ops. I like this one better than the Harsey designed Green Beret knives, it has my favorite blade shape, no serrations and it's just the right size.

Chris Reeve Neil Roberts Warrior KnifeA trust fund has been established to support the education of Neil Robert's son, Nathan. Twenty dollars from each knife purchase is contributed to this fund (click for more information on the Neil Roberts Memorial Project)

Chris also came out with a spear point version of the Nkonka, which is otherwise identical to the original, having the tool kit in the hollow handle.


Gerber LMF IIGerber's LMF II is available in two versions, the ASEK (Aircrew Survival Egress Knife) ($120) and the Infantry(??). The only difference is that the ASEK comes with a Safety Knife for cutting seat belts and parachute shrouds. This is also available separately ($??). The LMF II is 10.59 inches (269 mm) overall length with a black coated stout clip point 4.84-inch (123 mm) blade of 12C 27 Sandvik steel. The knife weighs 11.4 ounces (323 g). The blade is approximately 50% serrated. The overmolded Hytrel rubber handle incorporates a double guard and the same design technology as the Silver Trident with the pommel/butt cap separated from the tang, isolating it completely. That butt cap incorporates both a robust pointed plexigalss/canopy breaker and a hammerhead designed to be used with the knife held in its sheath, as well as a large lanyard hole. The guard is pierced with holes and the handle has a depression to leave room for a a shaft to allow the knife to be used as a spear, though why anyone would want to is beyond us. That's just a good way to lose your second most important survival tool. You probably already lost your first if you try this trick.

Gerber LMF IIThe sheath has a soft rubber overmolding on the main molded plastic sheath body to cut down on noise. The plastic sheath is attached to a ballistic nylon upper portion with straps and it is equipped for a variety of carry modes. It is fully compatible with the MOLE system with straps required included, or can just be hung on your belt. It comes with Fastek style buckle-equipped straps for leg or calf attachment. There are double snapped retention straps around the handle and slots and holes in the sheath for about any sort of attachment means you could imagine. It is claimed to be suitable for parachuting, which we don't doubt. The sheath incorporates a removeable pull-though carbide sharpener attached on the face of the sheath body, about as easy to use as possible, no skill required. Both the handle and sheath are dark tan in color, the ballistic nylon is brown.

Gerber Safety KnifeThe Safety Knife is pretty much your standard seat belt cutter with a slotted double razor blade cutter molded into a plastic handle. It requires its own separate ballistic nylon sheath with a Velcro retained flap.

Gerber DieselGerber's latest entry in the multi-tool warts is the Diesel Multi-Plier ($90), which is more or less a buffed-up version of their Multiplier. It retains the same basic operation with one-hand opening sliding pliers and the like. This is a needlenose design with the pliers' jaws being substantially bulked up compared to the original for added strength. There's a much longer wire cutter section incorporated into the pliers.

All the blades and tools lock with somewhat larger overmolded lock releases. The tools seem a bit beefer as well, though don't have exact measurements. The knife blade is a sort of tanto-esque design, 50% serrated. A double-row wood saw mimics this same shape. This is a dedicated saw blade, not the universal saw coupler that accepted jigsaw blades as used in some previous Multi-Pliers. The scissors have longer blades and appear to be better designed so they won't as easily jam in the cut like all th eothers Gerber has.

There's also a metal/wood file, can opener, three flat screwdrivers, Phillips driver and a lanyard loop. They eliminated the solderless terminal crimper between the handles of the standard Multi-Pliers, which we hate to see go away. A ballistic nylon sheath is included.

Gerber Gator IIMessing with a classic can be risky, but the new Gator II folders are a definite big step up (then originals will still be available). Still a lockback with their trademark tacky rubber grip, they now have a one hand opening blade, via a slot in the blade. The 4.49 inch (114 mm) handle has an added finger scallop, three total now, with ridges in the handle top and bottom. The 3.70-inch drop point blade of ??? stainless has a lot of belly and a ridged thumb rest. It is available in both plain and partially serrated edge. There's also a version with a gut hook in the spine, also with plain or partially serrated options. There's also a lanyard hole, which the original lacked, and it all weighs in at 3.4 ounces (96 g). Includes a thermoformed ballistic nylon sheath.

Gerber Gator Exchange-A-SawThe Gator Exchange-A-Blade Saw takes the original excellent Exchange-A-Blade Saw and beefs it up with a Gator Grip molded handle, easier to operate top lock and a bit bigger blade. The saw is 8.78 inches (223 mm) closed and the blades are 6.65 inches (169 mm) long. This compares to 8.19 inches (208 mm) and 6.18 inches (157 mm) for the original (which is still available).

I'll have to try this saw out to see how well the grippier Gator handle works in heavy use. Without gloves my concern would be that it could create hot spots and blisters. Sawing is not the same as using a knife. I do like that they have also added a lanyard hole. As before, they offer it with only one blade or with both a fine/bone saw and coarse/wood saw. With the two-bladed combination you get a ballistic nylon sheath.

Gerber Fast DrawGerber's joined the assisted opening club with the Fast Draw ($60) using "Forward Action Spring Technology." You've just got to wonder how many brain cells bite the dust as these knife company marketing types try to come up with trademarkable and catchy acronyms for their designs. In any case, custom maker Butch Vallotton, well known for his automatic knives, designed this patented opening mechanism. The 3.25 inch (83 mm) drop point 440 stainless blade has an opening stud or a small flipper poking through the top of the handle to start things opening. It takes only a little movement. The slide safety located in the side of the left scale also serves to release the lock to allow the blade to close. Closed, the Fast Draw is 4.19 inches (106 mm) with a patterned Zytel handle. Available in plain or partially serrated edge, there's no lanyard hole.

Heckler & Koch

HK 34HK introduced a well-rounded line of fixed blades and folding knives, all designed by Mike Snoody and produced by Benchmade. The HK34 AXIS Tactical Folder and Auto models ($220 and $258) are available with either a tactical drop point blade or a radical tanto style. The 3.4-inch (86 mm) blades are 154CM and have a high thumb ramp rising over the dual thumb studs. The partial liners are stainless to secure the AXIS Lock inlaid into cast aluminum handles having an overmolded Zytel overlay on the aft portion of the handle.  The result is an appearance of an aluminum bolster, but it is all integrated. Overall length open is 8.19 inches (208 mm) and the weight is 5.6 ounces (159 g).

HK 34In the AXIS Tactical, both blades are available in plain or combo partially serrated edge with the drop point plain edge and tanto combo edge also available with black Zytel coating.  The Auto is available only in combo edge with the black coating. There's no lanyard hole, but the black pocket clip is reversible.

HK 30The KN30 Liner Lock ($110) one hand opener has stainless liners with overmolded black Zytel handles patterned similarly to the HK34 series, but with a deep finger choil/guard. The 2.97-inch (75 mm) satin finish blade is N690 stainless in a clip point recurved shape with a wide false edge that extends all the way back to the low-rise thumb ramp.  Overall length is 6.84 inches (174 mm).  There's a removable black pocket clip, but no lanyard hole. Available in plain or combo edge.

HK 36The HK36 Tactical Fixed Blade ($150) has a 3.62-inch (92 mm) broad recurved hollow ground plain edged blade of 440C stainless. The spine has a short section of false edge, then two scallops followed by a long grooved thumb rest, resulting in a distinctive profile.  Three holes drilled in the blade spine add another decorative element. The black molded Zytel scales have three scalloped cutouts that reveal the full tang, each with three small decorative drilled dimples. The finger choil/half guard is deep for security.  There's a lanyard hole in the butt with an included braided lanyard and it slips into a molded and riveted Zytel sheath. The blade is 0.150 inches (3.8 mm) thick and the knife is 7.62 inches (194 mm) overall and weighs 4.3 ounces (122 g).

HK 50The 5-inch (127 mm) fixed blade continues the length-derived naming as the HK50 Tactical Fixed Blade ($198). The straightforward drop point blade is of 440C with a black Xylan coating and 60/40 partially serrated combo edge. The false edge extends well back on the spine and the prominent thumb ramp extends well forward. The scales attached to the full tang are multilayered G10 for a unique look, with the outer layer machined with lots of tactile grooves for a good grip. There are two deep finger scallops and a rounded butt with a lanyard hole. Sheath is a typical ambidextrous Cordura nylon tactical style with a storage pocket having a Velcro'd flap.


Kershaw Centofante-OnionKershaw's primary designer, Ken Onion, collaborated with Frank Centofante to create the Centofante-Onion, which is available with two handle materials.  The Model 1610 ($70) has anodized red aluminum handles with a curvy design machined into them and the Model 1615 ($100) has polished stainless steel handles coated with black Tungsten DLC coating. The handles have three graduated round recesses at the rear of the handle inlaid with genuine pearl. It adds a touch of class, especially to the 1615 where the pearl and DLC coating really compliment each other nicely. Both Kershaw's SpeedSafe assisted opening mechanism, stainless liners and liner lock and are equipped with a Centofante inspired wharncliff blade of 440A stainless, 2.25 inches (57 mm) long.  Closed the knives are 3 1/8 inches (79 mm).  The 1610 weighs 1.6 ounces (45 g) including a removable pocket clip; the 1615 weighs 2.4 ounces (68 g) and has a leather sheath with clip.

Kershaw Mini MojoThe Mini MOJO ($100) is another Ken Onion SpeedSafe assisted opener with a newly patented Stud Lock. This ambidextrous lock incorporate the dual opening studs (which aren't the primary opening mechanism on these and most other Kershaws, they are equipped with Ken Onion's original flipper design incorporated into the blade) as the lock. The studs are spring loaded with a compression spring and slide fore and aft in a slot in the blade. When the blade is fully open, they lock back into a recess in the forward top part of the handle. The lock is self-adjusting due to a slight ramp in this recess. Simply moving the studs forward releases the blade. We have some concerns upon our limited  examination that this could be pretty easily done inadvertently, compromising the blade lock's utility and safety.  We'll have a better idea if this is an issue after we receive a sample to field test.

Kershaw Stud LockThe handles are stainless with a satin finish and a large G-10 insert.  The handle incorporates a prominent guard and finger hook and is equipped with a lanyard hole. That guard and oversized flipper may help to counteract the potential of inadvertent release of the lock; they will close on the finger which would prevent the blade from closing, though we're not sure that's the best solution.

The 440A stainless recurved blade is 2 3/8 inches (61 mm) long and closed the Mojo measures 3.5 inches (89 mm). There's a prominent false edge and thumb ramp. It's a hefty knife for its size at 3.1 ounces (?g).

Kershaw Baby BoaKershaw shrunk the Ken Onion designed Boa into the Baby Boa ($75), though you have to look closely to see the family resemblance because this baby is pretty dolled up compared to the original's tactical look.  It has full stainless liners and liner lock with partial aluminum scales, anodized with a red with black smoked finish, that allow the drilled liners to peek out from behind for a unique look. A cutout in the left scale provides a view of the torsion bar spring that drives the assisted opening. There's a lanyard hole at the rear. The SpeedSafe assisted opening recurved blade is 440A, 2 inches (51 mm) long.  Closed, it is 2.75 inches (70 mm) long. It weighs in at 1.7 ounces (48 g).  For those who liked the size of the Chive, but not the very narrow tip, the baby Boa will be a welcome alternative.  Now they just need to add some more elegant finishes.

Kershaw OutcastA new Ken Onion fixed blade design, the Outcast ($100), is a large bolo style blade, sort of Kershaw's answer to the BK&T Brute. The blade is 10 inches (254 mm) of titanium nitride coated D2 steel. The signature style Ken Onion handle is Santoprene rubber overmolded on top of glass-filled nylon. Incorporated into the handle si a very deep half guard and the handle swells at the top as well. Overall, the Outcast is 16 inches (406 mm) long and weighs 22 ounces (624 g). The molded Kydex sheath includes a security strap for added insurance.

Kershaw Two CanWhile it hit the market shortly before SHOT Show, this was out first opportunity to sample the Two Can ($30).  This small executive folder combines a knife blade and scissors in a unique manner. There is a one hand opening chisel ground wharncliff blade, non-locking, of 420 stainless, 1.5 inches (35 mm) long. Open the second blade that lies alongside the first using a nail nick and you have a very functional pair of scissors for light cutting.  In this configuration, you squeeze the scissors blades directly.  The handles are stainless, 2.75 inches (70 mm) closed, and incorporate a small carabinier clip on the tail end which would do fine to hold keys and the like.  It seems like this would be a perfect tool for an office setting.


Leatherman Surge and CoreThe emphasis at Leatherman this year was big--really big.  Huge might be a better description. The new Core ($78) and Surge ($102) multi-tools are the largest ever offered by the company, and arguably the biggest folding tools with full–sized pliers available anywhere (the previous heavyweight was the Victorinox SwissTool).

The Core weighs in at 10.2 ounces (289 g), or 13.2% more than the Super Tool 200 it replaces and 0.2 oz (6 g) more than the SwissTool. That translates into larger implements with greater strength and reach.

The Surge is more or less a Wave on steroids---lots of steroids! At 12.2 ounces (346 g), all included, it is 35.5% heavier than the Super Tool 200, 21.6% more than the new Core and a whopping 43.5% more than the Wave. Looking at it another way, the Surge tips the scales at just over three-quarters of a pound. And, that's even before adding the weight of the sheath, 1.2 oz (34 g) for nylon or 2 oz. (57 g) for leather. Only real men and amazons need apply.

Both tools are 4.5 inches (114 mm) in length, closed, same as the Super Tool. The Core is 0.75" inch (21.3 mm) thick; the Surge is 0.781 inch (22.1 mm) thick.

Here's a table comparing the blades and implements included in the two new tools:



All Interior Opening Tools

Quick Access Knives, Blades and Scissors

All Locking Tools and Blades

All Locking Tools and Blades

Needlenose Pliers

Needlenose Pliers

Regular Pliers

Regular Pliers

Wire Cutters

Wire Cutters

Hard Wire Cutters

Hard Wire Cutters

Stranded Wire Cutters

Stranded Wire Cutters

Solderless Terminal Crimper

Solderless Terminal Crimper

Wood/Metal File

Blade Exchanger – Accepts T-shank Blades

Wood Saw

Exchangeable Diamond & Wood/Metal File Blade

Clip-Point Knife

Exchangeable Wood Saw Blade

Serrated Blunt-tip Knife

Clip-Point Knife, One-Hand Opening

5/16" Screwdriver

Serrated Blunt-tip Knife, One-Hand Opening

7/32" Screwdriver


1/8" Screwdriver

Small Bit Driver

Phillips #1/#2 Screwdriver

(accepts optional Removable Bit Driver)

Phillips & Flat Tip Eyeglasses Screwdriver Bit

Awl with sewing eye

Large Bit Driver

Ruler (9 inches/22 cm)

Phillips #1/#2 and 3/16" Flat Screwdriver Bit

Bottle/Can Opener

5/16" Screwdriver

Wire Stripper – Vee style

Awl with sewing eye

Lanyard Ring – rotates out

Ruler (9 inches/22 cm)

Bottle/Can Opener

Wire Stripper – Vee style

Lanyard Ring – pulls out

First, let's look at the common features of note.

Leatherman Surge/Core Pliers vs Charge PliersBoth tools share new needlenose pliers jaws that are about 10% bigger than those on the rest of the line, already increased in size and strength last year with the wholesale replacement of the entire full-sized tool line (with the exception of the SuperTool).  The added beef is provided in all dimensions, so you gain both reach as well as strength.

The base of the pliers jaws casting, between the handles when open, now includes another wire cutter, claimed to be designed expressly for stranded wire and cable, and a crimper for solderless wire terminals.  We'll have to hold off judgment on what real advantage the former offers, but the latter is a big plus.

Both tools feature a new awl design, the first decent awl Leatherman's ever offered. This awl is 1.75 inches (44 mm) long with a 1.375 inch (35 mm) ground sharp edge and pointed tip along with a sewing eye. We'd prefer it was narrower towards the tip, more pointed, but all in all it's a huge improvement over previous ones.

For the first time, included flat screwdrivers are properly hollow ground, another big improvement that we wish they'd extend to the whole line.

Both tools offer a serrated blade with a tip design like that of the new Wave and Charge, blunted, but not a true sheepsfoot. On the Surge it is one hand opening. The Core blade is 3.218 inches in length with a 2.906 inch cutting edge, the Surge has a 3.125 inch blade with a 3.031 inch cutting edge (82, 74, 79, and 77 mm, respectively).

All the interior implements as well as the blades on the Core lock in place using Leatherman's lever style locks, easy to operate. The exterior tools and blades on the Surge use liner locks, as on the Wave and Charge. Both tools feature a non-clumping design with thin stainless steel spacers between implements so they rotate out independently.

While Leatherman downsized the scissors on their tools last year, on the new Surge the scissiors are upsized quite a bit. Rather than put them on the interior, they now fold out from the exterior for quicker access. Considering these tend to be one of the most often used tools, that's a great move. The scissors jaws are much more robust and longer, with approximately a 1-inch cutting edge, and are reportedly strong enough to cut carpet and metal flashing. The lever handle end has a wide plastic finger rest to help make it more comfortable to operate when cutting heavier materials. The spring is a lever arm style

Leatherman Surge Blade ExchangerRather than eliminating either the saw or file to make room for the external opening scissors, Leatherman has provided a blade exchanger and both a file blade and a saw blade to fit it. Moreover, it will also accept standard T-shank jigsaw blades, offering an even wider selection of saw blades including a variety of metal cutting blades. (The t-shank is a Bosch design originally, and they are often referred to as "Bosch shank" blades. They are typically found in higher-end commercial tools, as opposed to the so-called "universal" or "U-shank" blades typically found on most do-it-yourself grade tools. The minor downside is that your typical hardware store or superstore will carry only a very few T-shank blades. Any good commercial tool supply source or the Internet will provide lots more T-shank blade options.)

The blade exchanger is easy to operate. The catch swings down to allow the blade to be exchanged, then back up to secure it (see photos). Our only concern is with how loose the blades were in the pre-production prototypes with which we played. There is noticeable play, especially side to side.  Only some actual testing will show just how well this works in practice.

I believe most people tend to use the file and scissors much more than the wood saw, so this arrangement should work out just fine. The removable file also allows the diamond file to be used to sharpen the plain edged blade if necessary.  The added versatility provides by the T-shank blade exchanger will be most welcome.  A vinyl sleeve is provided for the saw or file while stored, to protect the sheath, and it has a second slot to accommodate a third blade you might also carry, a well thought out consideration.

The saws and files on both tools use the same excellent patterns as their smaller siblings and all are longer than anything else you'll find in a folding multi-tool.  We've found Leatherman's double offset-tooth saw to be very effective and it does resist clogging, as claimed. The file on the Core has all metal cutting teeth, while that of the Surge has diamond dust on one side, just like the Wave and Charge. As with all the Leatherman tools, the file surface extends to the tip, a feature we like.

Letaherman Surge Blade (top) vs Charge Blade (bottom)The blades on these tools are the largest of any current folding multi-tool.  The plain edge blade of the Cope (3.187 inches overall, 3-inch edge (81 mm, 76 mm)) is a very short clip-point design, so it carries a fair bit of strength all the way to the tip, easily the best of any Leatherman too and quite comparable to the Victorinox SwissTool, the best in this regard. 

The one hand opening plain edge blade of the Surge is a more traditional clip-point design (3.125 inches overall, 3.062 inch cutting edge (79 mm, 78 mm)) with a narrow tip, but the considerable added width of the blade compared to the Wave/Charge blades means it should also be a bit stronger.

All the blades are middling 420HC stainless steel, no premium 154CM steel offering as on the Charge. All the Surge blades and exterior opening tools are equipped with bronze bushings for smooth opening.

The long reach of the screwdrivers on the Cope are a nice advantage.  The common drivers range from 1.313 to 1.688 inches (33 to 43 mm) and the Phillips has a 2-inch (51 mm) shank.  This Phillips accepts the accessory Removable Bit Driver and bits as introduced last year for the Fuse, Blast and Kick tools.  This set ($20) includes the driver and 5 double-ended bits.  It also accepts standard 1/4" hex bits.

The Surge has just one fixed larger screwdriver and the same bit driver as the new Wave and Charge models. You can purchase the accessory 21 double-ended bit set ($20) for added flexibility; the bit driver accepts only Leatherman's proprietary flattened-hex design bits. It is also equipped with the small bit driver and its Phillips and flat miniature double-ended eyeglasses screwdriver bit. The retention means for this bit has been changed from the friction ramp used on the Wave and Charge, to a spring, for more reliable retention. This change will also be implemented for the Wave and Charge going forward.

The Core is equipped with a large lanyard ring that rotates out and locks in place. The lanyard ring of the Surge slides out the same as on the Wave and Charge, requiring some tool, such as a key, to pry it out.  It doesn't lock in place.

The optional quick-release pocket clip and lanyard ring from the new Wave and Charge will also fit the Surge, though it's hard to imagine carrying this monster tool using a pocket clip.

Sheaths are similar to the Wave and Charge sheaths, either nylon or leather with elastic sidepieces and a pair of elastic side pockets along with an elastic rear pocket to store the extra blade(s) and/or bits. They provide for both horizontal and vertical carry.  A hole in the bottom allows you to insert the tool with the pliers unfolded.


Puma Kraton KnivesPuma introduced a new line of Kraton handled fixed blades designed by H.P. Knoop ($90-$100).  The 440A blades are all around 4.5 inches (114 mm) long, 4 mm (inches) thick and have an overall length about 9.75 inches (248 mm) give or take a bit and there are five shapes mirroring the popular Puma blade styles. The most practical are the Kraton Jagdnicker with a nice drop point blade and the Kraton New Hunter, similar in style to the White Hunter (my first fixed blade knife).  The Kraton handles are molded around the internal tang and incorporate checkering and a good half guard and rear finger hook. All have a lanyard hole. There is also a Diver Knife ($170) in the line with thicker, 4 mm (0.158 inch), blade of N 680 steel, black coated and with a somewhat more aggressively styled handle with added gripping features. This blade incorporates a blunt tip, a hammer face and sharpened wedge section on the spine and a line cutter and serrations on the aft portion of the primary edge.  All come with a molded plastic sheath.

Puma Naris, Shark, AlligatorA series of three aluminum handled, one hand opening liner lock folders designed by K. Eleftherkiadis have been added.  These $120 folders have 3.14 inch (80mm) blades of 440A stainless and 4.57 inch (116 mm) handles. Blade shapes are spear point "Naris", drop point "Shark" and tanto "Alligator", all with a prominent thumb ramp. The aluminum handles have stainless liners and are inlaid with wood and they weigh in at 120 g (4.2 ounces). There is only a modest finger choil. There's a removable pocket clip and a small lanyard hole.

Puma Pretec KnivesThe Pretec line includes three lockback folders with zinc diecast handles, the "Drop" drop point, "Spear" lip point (both $90) and "Saw" with two locking blades, a drop point and a bone/wood saw ($110).  The 440C blades are 3.14 inches (80 mm) long and open with a nail nick.  The 4.67 inch (119 mm) handles have four finger grooves and a decent sized guard. Weight is 160 g (5.6 ounces) for the single blade folders, 220 g (7.8 ounces) for the two-bladed.  There's no lanyard hole.

Puma Ibis I and IIWhile I certainly wouldn't call the new Irbis I and Iribis II ($950) the most practical of knives, they do look very cool. Designed by Jens Netlich, these 16.5-inch (419 mm) fixed blades have a unique pommel that echoes Puma's puma head profile logo. The scales are jacaranda wood. The 10.625 inch (270 mm) blades are 440A and they come with a leather sheath.

Puma IP Alpine GuidePuma IP knives are made by their Argentine subsidiary. The IP Alpine Guide ($110) is a saber ground drop point hunter available with either natural stag or olive wood scales.  The full tang 440C stainless blade is 3.75 inches (95 mm) long, 3.5 mm (0.138 inches) thick, with an integral half guard and a lanyard slot in the exposed end of the tang. Thumb grooves are gut into the spine. Overall length is 8.67 inches (220 mm) and they come with a leather sheath.


SOG Daggert I and IISOG came out with four new fixed blade designs, three with similar accouterments and materials. All feature black TiAIN coating on the AUS 8 blades as well as on the stainless full guard and pommel. All have a molded checkered Kraton handle incorporating SOG's signature washers, which they claim to be a first. All have lanyard holes in the pommel and come with tactical Kydex sheaths.

The Daggert is available in two sizes, the Daggert 1 ($127) and Daggert 2($135), with 5.65 inch (144 mm) and 6.75 inch (171 mm) spear point double edged dagger style blades, respectively. Overall length is 10.75 and 12.85 inches (273 mm and 326 mm), respectively. This will replace the Desert Dagger in the SOG lineup and it has a bit thicker blade at 0.200 inches (5 mm).  The primary edge is plain with a section of serrations along the top edge at the rear. 

SOG Gov TacThe Gov-Tac replaces the Government Agent, with the same thicker blade material. This is a clip point 6.2 inch (157 mm) blade with a thumb rest on top.  Twin narrow grooves are milled into the blade where you'd be expecting to find the so-called "blood groove."

SOG Tech BowieThe SOG Tech Bowie ($199) is described as a "working version" of the traditional SOG Bowie, a knife with an MSRP of $299.  The 6.4 inch (163 mm) blade has a nearly identical SOG signature profile, but is of slightly thinner steel, 0.240 vs 0.280 inches (6.09 mm vs 7.11 mm).  The Trident II ($177) is the identical knife, but with a polished blade.

SOG also plans limited editions of both the Gov-Tac and SOG Tech Bowie with different blade finishes and handle materials.

SOG Seal Pup EliteSOG's Seal Pup Elite ($118) is a pumped up rendition of the original with thicker, 0.185 inches (4.69 mm), AUS 8 stainless blade, 4.85 inches (123 mm) long, and a black fiberglass reinforced molded handle with deeper finger grooves and a bit more length. The blade is black TiAIN coated and has partial serrations. The deep clip point bowie style blade shape is similar to the original, but it now has a rasp edge machined into the spine. SOG claims the rasp si for "notching, filing and thumb placement." It certainly looks different, truth be told we'll have to try it out before we judge how useful it may actually be. The Kydex sheath is equipped with SOG's "Groove" line cutter notch.

SOG Topo ContourSOG's new Topo series of knives is named for the topographic lines on topo maps which are imitated in the multilayered stepped scales on these knives, and the pivots on the folders.  All these knives also feature a SOG logo cutout in the handle and the folders, which also have the topographic look.

The Topo Contour R ($99) and Contour ($65) have a 2.5 inch (64 mm) upswept AUS8  blade, 6.375 inches (162 mm) overall and a Kydex sheath set up for multiple carry options.  The R version is black TiAIN coated with multicolored (white, blue black) aluminum and Zytel scales.  The  regular Contour has molded black Zytel scales. The handle incorporates a "wave-like grip" with four finger recesses.

SOG Topo MeridianThe Topo Meridian ($98) is an assisted opening folder with a similar 3.25 inch (83 mm) upswept AUS8 blade, the layered multicolored scales and similar handle design, 7.25 inches (184 mm) overall when open. An S version has the TiAin coating ($119). The flipper for the assisted opening provides a good guard. There's a removable matt finish stainless steel pocket clip, but no lanyard hole.  The safety for the S.A.T. assisted opening has been moved to the top of the frame between the liners and this is a change that will eventually be incorporated into all the SOG assisted opening folders. It's much easier to operate in this location.

SOG Mini TopoRounding out this line is a small lockback, but with a sliding lock, the Mini Topo ($55) with a 2-inch (50 mm) drop point blade, 4.75 inches (121 mm) overall when open. Same multicolored handle and pocket clip specs, just a bit shorter. Also available black TiAIN coated.


Spyderco held its cards quite a bit closer to its chest this SHOT Show, doing away with the "toys" display that has traditionally presented prototypes that were under consideration for production. While we were never allowed to photograph them and were asked not to publish details of these knives, that was always a treat.  However, apparently the feedback they obtained was not deemed nearly as important as keeping the competition in the dark. One can hardly blame them.

Spyerco SpyKerSpyderco broke new ground in two areas this year.  The first is a collaboration Kershaw, their first with another knife manufacturer, itself incredibly rare in a fiercely competitive industry. In the new SpyKer ($250) Kershaw's influence can be found in the Ken Onion style organic shape and recurved blade.  The obvious Spyderco contributions are the round Spidiehole and compression lock.  Sculpted G-10 handles inlaid with curving silver carbon fiber make for an eye-catching knife. 

The hollow ground CPM S30V blade is 3.5 inches (89 mm) in length with a unique profile.  The forward half of the sharpened edge is straight, creating a wharncliff style tip, but it then recurves up and away back to the choil. A deep wide choil, half within the blade and half within the handle, provides for a choked-up control grip. The spine of the blade has a deeply grooved thumb ramp over the Spydie hole. It and two smaller graduated holes create another signature Onion styling element in the blade. This is mirrored by four smaller graduated holes curving up to the lanyard hole in the butt end of the G-10 handles while four other holes sweep up above the finger choil.

The handle has a deep finger recess that serves as a half guard while providing access to the liner lock release. The blade is held in place with an adjustable pivot pin and phosphor bronze bushings. Stainless liners are inset into the G-10 handles. The right-handed removable black stainless clip is set for tip down carry.  A lined zipper case is included.  To my eye, it may be the best looking Spyderco folder ever.

Spyderco ManixThe Manix ($185) is a 3.75 inch (95 mm) spear point S30V folder, saber ground with a large Spydie hole topped by a grooved thumb rest. The black G-10 scales cover stainless liners.  Lock-up is via ambidextrous lockback located midpoint in the  handle.  The handle incorporates a deep finger choil/half guard and the blade and handle split a fore-finger choil for a more controlled grip. The tail of the handle dips severely down in a secure pinky hook for added security and there's a lined lanyard hole back there as well. Length closed is 5.063 inches (129 mm).  The black coated stainless pocket clip is ambidextrous and reversible for tip up or tip down carry (image is of prototype, production knife has lots of holes for the clip). Available with plain or partially serrated edge. All in all, a practical large utility folder.

Spyderco Navigator IIThe Navigator II ($100) is another Spyderco effort to create a large small folder.  By that we mean a folder that offers much of the feel and utility of a larger folder in a smaller, more PC package.  The drop point saber ground VG-10 stainless blade is just 2.25 inches (72 mm) long, overall length when open is 5.438 (138 mm) inches.  The stainless handles incorporate four finger scallops if you include the split choil up front and the half scallop at the rear.  A lanyard hole  can be found above that last half scallop and the lockback lock release is placed midpoint in the handle with a Boye dent to help prevent premature release. The removable stainless pocket clip is set up only for right hand carry, or at 3.19 inches closed, it's compact enough to use as a money clip. Weight is 2.7 ounces (76 g).

Spyderco Atlantic SaltSpyderco took their popular Rescue 93 and turned it into the Atlantic Salt ($85) by changing the fully serrated 3.625 inch (93 mm) sheepsfoot blade's steel to H1, a precipitation hardened steel that contains no carbon, so it won't rust. It is available with either black or yellow FRN (Fiberglass Reinforced Nylon) handles (I'll take the bright yellow, thank you). The lockback release is located forward of the mid-point in the handle and incorporates the Boye dent.  Pocket clip is ambidextrous and attaches via a hollow screw and nut that also serve as the lanyard hole. Closed length is 4.625 inches (116 mm) and it weighs 2.6 ounces (75 g).

Spyderco KopaThe Kopa is a sort of limited edition gentleman's folder that will be produced in lots of 600 units each, with each lot having a different material inlaid into the brushed stainless steel handles. The first two releases have black linen micarta or cocobolo wood inlay and are priced at $175.  Plans are to release a new version "every several months."  Pricing will vary by materials used for the inlay. This is a marketing strategy that a number of manufacturers are using and it seems to be working.

The lockback knife itself is a compact 3.438 inches (87 mm) closed with a 2.438-inch (62 mm) drop point VG-10 saber ground blade.  The cutting edge is notably less at 1.938 inches (49 mm).  The blade has a very prominent thumb ramp and the handle and choil are scalloped for better grip.  Unlike many gentleman's folders, this is equipped with a pocket clip, skeletonized in this case, removable and right hand tip down carry only.  It also has a lanyard hole.

Spyderco Szebo FlyFollowing up on last years SpyderFly balisong, the Laci Szabo designed SzaboFly ($150) is similar in basic concept, with the same Spydie holes in the end of each handle. It is 5.5 inches (140 mm) closed and as before, the handles do no lock open. The exotic looking Scabo trademark sickle/scythe shaped hollow ground blade is VG-10, 4.25 inches (108 mm) long. A reversible wire pocket clip is again included. Weight is 5.5 ounces (156 g).

Spyderco VagbondA self-sheathing inexpensive fixed blade, the Vagabond ($30) has a 3.125 inch (73 mm) drop-point blade of AUS 6 stainless steel with a molded plastic handle and weighing only 2.8 ounces (79 g).  The sheath concept reminded me of the  Marbles Safety Axe, with a molded plastic sheath that pivots back into the underside of the handle.  Small wings at the base protrude out into cutouts in the handle to allow easy one hand operation of the sheath.  It proved very easy to operate, almost too easy.  While a spring serves to keep the sheath covering the blade edge, it isn't particularly stiff and it was fairly easy to inadvertently expose the tip, though I didn't notice the tiny cut until I later washed my hands. A lanyard hole is provided; overall length is 7.875 inches (200 mm).


byrd Cara CaraSpyderco also announced an entirely new line of entry-level knives, the first five are all $30 or less, treating them as a completely separate product line called "byrd knife" to differentiate it from traditional Spyderco products. Yes, that's the correct spelling; it is trademarked as all lower case. Carrying this to its logical conclusion, all the knives, at least to date, are named after or related to birds.

While they do have a one-hand opening hole, it isn't the trademark round Spyderco hole, rather it is "comet" shaped, as described by Spyderco, itself to become a trademark of the byrd line.

These new knives are produced in China and according to the press release, "…engineering, ergonomics, quality control, safety testing and close tolerance manufacturing are controlled and overseen by Spyderco….the "comet" shaped opening hole…represents a symbol of quality." While Spyderco has what is essentially a limited lifetime warranty on its knives, the byrd knives come with only a 30-day warranty. A Spyderco spokesman explained to us that, "We found defects in manufacturing generally make their presence known within the first month of carry and use...Spyderco's philosophy is that we will at any time or date respond to a knife problem by physically evaluating the knife to determine the cause of the problem...If it's our defect rather than normal wear or abuse we will respond in a fair, honest and proper manner, repairing or replacing the item…if someone experiences a problem after 30 days we want to hear about it, (we) will evaluate the knife in question and proceed from there...After long discussions we decided on 30 days...It is unfair to our customers to build into the purchase price of the knife the cost of a long-term warranty."

byrd MeadowlarkWhile we have to agree that there are issues surrounding "lifetime" warranties, either you stand behind the product or you don't. If you're going to fix any legitimate problem anyway, just say that. We expect Spyderco will do so, as they always have, but that 30-day warranty just cannot inspire a whole lot of confidence.

They are off to a flying start (sorry, sometimes you just can't resist) with five knives; most we are told will be available with both a plain and partially serrated edge. The hollow ground blades all incorporate a grooved thumb rest.  All are lockbacks with stainless steel handles incorporating moderately deep finger scallops.  All the lock releases have the David Boye dent to help prevent inadvertent release. The right-handed stainless pocket clip is reversible for tip up or tip down carry.  All have a lanyard hole.

Two steels will reportedly be used, either 440C or 8Cr13MoV stainless.  Doesn't the latter just trip off the tongue?  The 8Cr-whatever steel is reputed to be similar to AUS-8 in performance and the mouthful designation relates to the alloy: 8=.8% carbon, Cr13= 13% Chromium, Mo= Molybdenum and V=Vanadium, a fairly typical assemblage of stainless alloys.  Thankfully, such names aren't common usage elsewhere. Our samples of the first two knives into production, the Cara Cara ($30) and Meadowlark ($28), have 400C blades, but we are told production knives coming in now have the 8Cr-whatever steel. We saw, but did not play with, the production prototypes of the other three knives, detailed below.

The Cara Cara and Meadowlark are larger and smaller versions on the same knife with a 3.875-inch (98 mm) and 3-inch (76 mm) modified drop point blade, respectively.  The blade shape looks a lot like the Spyderco Centofante designs, hardly a bad thing.  Overall length and weight is 8.625 (219 mm) and 5.625 ounces (166 g) and 6.875 inches (175 mm) and 4 ounces (116 g), respectively.  They are available with plain or partially serrated edge.

The lock-up on our samples was solid and there was no blade play. With the polished stainless handles, as expected, grip was not great and they are heavy knives for their size. Spyderco says that both aluminum and FRN (Fiberglass Reinforce Nylon) handles are on the way "soon."

The remaining three knives expected  to be available in February (all $30) are: the Flight with a 3.625 inch (92 mm) clip pont blade; the Pelican with a 3.5 inch (89 mm) sheepsfoot rescue style blade; and the Crossbill with a 3.438 inch (87 mm) curved hawkbill style blade.


Timberline Kick StartBased on Charles Ochs "black Knife" automatic, Timberline's Kick Start ($60) is an assisted opening folder designed by Butch Vallotton and Ochs. The unique feature of this design is that the safety, located in the side of the left scale, actually disengages to assist mechanism entirely. This creates what is essentially a double action assisted opening knife. If you're among a bunch of sheeple where using the assisted opening might occasion concern; just open it with the ambidextrous thumb stud. Flick the safety off and it opens with just a wee bit of movement.

The 3.25 inch (83 mm) blade is of AUS 8 stainless, a modified drop point with a notable false edge that very nearly approaches a spear point in shape. Liners are stainless and lockup is by liner lock. Handles are molded Zytel, 4.625 inches (117 mm) closed, with a pronounced flat recess for your fingers and a lanyard hole in the butt. The removable pocket clip is right handed, tip down carry only and doubles over itself so the knife rides low in the pocket, a feature we prefer. Available with plain or partially serrated edge; the first production run will have black-coated blades.

Timberline Alskan ZipperRus Kommer designed the Alaskan Zipper, an unusual skinning blade of AUS 8 with the sharp edge on the spine and a gut hook below. It's only 6.25 inches (159 mm) long overall and feels just right in the hand. When you think about it, it does make sense. We're looking forward to trying it out to see if it works as conceived. Scales are molded simulated antler. A leather sheath is included.

Timberline C4Greg Lightfoot designed a new fixed blade, the C4, a relatively mild mannered design compared to what we're used to, but clearly a Lightfoot design even so. The prototypes literally showed up the day of the show and nobody really knew a lot about them. Two versions were shown, one with a black coated blade, the other with desert tan colored coating. The handle will be desert tan color, material not yet determined, and has a Lightfoot's signature deeply grooved finger choil. The drop point blade is D2, 3.125 inches (79 mm) long with a deeply grooved thumb rest. Overall length is 7.375 inches (187 mm). A ballistic nylon tactical sheath will be included.


Victorinox SwwissTool Spirit Plus RatchetVictorinox added a while LED flashlight to the Cybertool line creating the Cybertool Lite ($105) which is more or less a Cybertool 34 with the flashlight and magnifier. One thing we like about the Victorinox lights, compared to some other knives with built-in lights, is that they have a constant on switch. Now if they would just make the light removable it would be even more practical.

Speaking of practical, they have added a ratchet option to the Plus version of the SwissTool Spirit. The small stainless steel ratchet fits in the same plastic holder as the previously and still available L-shaped bit holder. It is a one-way ratchet; reversing is accomplished by sticking the hex bit in from the other side. The tail end is also a bit holder for added reach. When the ratchet is clamped into the plastic holder, another hex drive bit can be left in the ratchet for a total of 11. (Note that their image showing the ratchet off in the sheath by twisting it 90 degrees to the front is not how it actually fits in the holder.)

Ratchet from Victorinox SwwissTool Spirit Plus RatchetThe SwissTool Spirit Plus Ratchet ($108) also includes the corkscrew attachment and eyeglass screwdriver and usual six bits, #0 and #3 Phillips, #10 and #15 Torx and two hex bits. It is available with either a brown leather or black nylon sheath.  All-up weight of the sample we got in a leather sheath was 12 ounces (340 g).

The SwissTool Spirit was introduced just after SHOT Show last year. We're still not convinced the square-tipped, approximately 70 percent, serrated blade is the best choice, but if you're already carrying a proper folder or fixed blade, it may well do. Beyond that, it more or less delivers on the concept of a slimmed down SwissTool. If you like the feel and quality of the SwissTool, but are looking for something smaller and lighter, you will probably be very happy with it. We are currently working up an in-dpeth review of the SwissTool Spirit to be published on ETS later this Spring.

Earlier this year Victorinox added new colored ribbed Alox handles for the 58 mm size Companion SD and now they have added brightly colored smooth versions in red, green, blue and black.

Victorinox Swiss Memory IGBWe also saw the prototype of the new SwissMemory 1 GB (gigabyte), which should be arriving a bit later this year, price as yet undetermined. As with previous models it will be available with both blades and as a "Flight" model without the sharp stuff so it is airline legal. We were also given a peek at an ribbed Alox version of the SwissMemory, which we were told was a definite possibility down the road.


Wenger Evo 81 (left) and Evo 16 (right)The big news at Wenger was the Evo, or Evolution, line; a dramatically different handle style from the generally very conservative Swiss knifemaker. This is not your daddy's Swiss Army Knife! Virtually all the comments we heard were positive and after carrying and using the samples we received for a while, we are also very enthused.  From the photos it is difficult to tell just how subtle the sculptured ergonomic handles are dimensionally; fears that they would prove uncomfortable in the pocket are unfounded. Some purests may howl, but for most of the rest of us the new handles are a boon.

Despite the subtlety, the ergonomics are significantly improved, providing a far better grip that the traditional smooth, flat plastic Swiss Army Knife handles. The handles have a slight depression at either end that is just enough to give a firmer grip, helping to keep the knife secure in your hand. One of the drawbacks of the classic smooth flat scales is that it is easy for your hand to slip, especially when wet, and since there is also no guard incorporated into the blade, a nasty cut is not an unusual result. While this isn't the equal of a canoe style handle or a half guard, this does address that problem to a degree without throwing the baby out with the bathwater. There's no question these are still Swiss Army Knives, just a whole lot prettier, to our eye, and a bit more functional. The Wenger swiss cross emblem is also now inlaid into and molded as part of the handle, an improvement long overdue.

Initially there are six knives with the Evolution handles, two executive size and four full-size (click for images of all six Evo knives). The Evo 81 ($22) is equivalent to the Esquire; and the Evo 88 ($38) has the same blade selection as the Pocket Tool Chest.  The Evo 10 ($28) mirrors the Commander; the Evo 16 ($47) has the same blades and tools as the Highlander; the Evo 18 ($49) is a Handyman in the new livery, but there's nothing in the regular U.S. line that is close to the Evo 63 ($20). It has a main blade, combination can and bottle opener/screwdriver and a corkscrew. Expect more Evo Swiss Army Knives if this proves the success everyone expects it to be.  And, no, you can't just replace the handles on your own SAK with these handles, even if you could get them. Well, on second thought I suppose you could using some good epoxy, but…

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Publisher and Editor: Doug Ritter
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First Published: February 11, 2005
Revision: 01 February 21, 2005
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