Benchmade continues to produce industry leading knives with the serious attention to detail that sets them apart from much of the competition. The newest knife in their lineup is the APB or Ambidextrous Push Button knife. This knife redefines the trigger on an automatic knife making it equally easy to reach from the right or left side–because cutting tasks don’t always come from the same side of life.
For the past seven years, the Auto AXIS mechanism has been a key component of many ambidextrous automatic knives from Benchmade. This year, they unveiled their newest push button system, the APB. There are two knives available with the APB system. One is the 6800 series called the Auto APB and the other is the APB Assist and is the 665 series.
The APB mechanism on the auto knife consists of a bar which spans between the two handle scales. Riding on top of the bar and extending to the other side of each handle scale is a push button. One push button for each side. When pressed, the push buttons are guided along the bar and a ramped edge slides under the blade release. This pushes the release up and releases the blade. At this point, the spring takes over and snaps the blade out. Either button or both buttons can be pressed to fire the blade. This results in a true ambidextrous knife.
The blade on the Auto APB is a drop point style made from 154CM stainless steel. At 3.52″ long and .124″ thick, this blade delivers heavy cutting strength, high durability and great corrosion resistance. The choice of steel, while of critical importance to a knife blade, is not the only component that delivers maximum cutting performance. Of nearly equal importance are the angle of the actual edge, in other words, your sharpening profile, as well as the shape of the blade. Some factors to take into consideration are toughness, rust resistance, ability to take and hold an edge, toothiness and the actual process of manufacture.
Let’s take each of these factors into account as we review the Auto APB. The blade is 154CM which is hardened to a 58-61 on the Rockwell Hardness chart. 154CM is an American made premium grade stainless steel which was originally developed for heavy industrial jobs. It was developed by Cucible Industries (previously known as Crucible Materials Corporation) and is a modified martensitic stainless steel type 440C which has molybdenum added. A martensistic stainless steel is one of the three main types of stainless steels which includes Austenitic, Ferritic and Martensitic. The martensitic stainless steels are carbon steels usually tempered and hardened which delivers good hardness and high toughness. The primary characteristic is a “body centered tetragonal martensite microstructure” originally observed by the German microscopist Adolf Martens.
154CM is composed of the following elements:
- Carbon 1.05%
- Chromium 14.00%
- Silicon 0.30%
- Molybdenum 4.00%
- Manganese 0.50%
How does 154CM and specifically the Auto APB blade rank on the factors that make a great blade steel. When producing a knife, the maker always makes a trade off between toughness and strength. The tougher a blade is the more likely it will take impact without chipping or cracking. As a knife maker increases the hardness of a steel, the toughness will decrease. The actual process of heat treating helps determine the ultimate toughness of a blade. With a HRC of between 58-61, the Auto APB boasts a blade that delivers a tough blade that isn’t so hard that it will be subject to lots of micro chipping. And this takes us to the next factor–the edge.
The Auto APB blade will take and hold a superior edge. Becuase it is relatively tough, the 154CM blade takes a nice, sharp edge. It holds an edge well. It is a bit tough to sharpen. This doesn’t mean difficult, it just means you will spend a few more minutes putting an edge on the blade than you would a softer, less tough steel like a 440C or AUS 8 blade. With the right sharpening equipment, this isn’t hard at all. For instance, the Wicked Edge systems will make quick work of putting a great edge on a 154CM blade. With practice, any of the Lansky systems would do a good job as well.
Toothiness is the characteristic you get on a cutting edge based on the sharpening. Some blades seem to be more “toothy” than others. Blade steels with a higher content of carbides generally will have more micro serrations or toothiness than blades with lower carbide content. What you will find is that “toothy” blades hold their edge longer. On the other hande, blades with lower carbide content can often be sharpened to a more razor-sharp edge. A bit of a trade-off and 154CM falls between blades steels like AUS 8, with a lower carbide content, and S30V, with a higher carbide content.
Stain resistance or corrosion resistance is the next factor to take into consideration. While 154CM is very high on toughness and edge retention, it scores a bit lower on the stain resistant chart. This means that if you take poor care of your blade, it will pick up colorations and even some corrosion. But that shouldn’t be a big issue for most of us, because we take proper care of our tools. All this means is that if you get your blade wet, wipe it dry. And maybe treat it to a light coat of blade oil once a month or so–depending on where you live. If you live in a hot a humid area, this is really important. If you live in a desert like I do, it isn’t quite as critical.
Next up is the blade shape. The Auto APB features a drop point blade which means the blade slopes on the spine from the handle down to the tip of the blade. This curve allows spine to continue as close as possible to the tip–which means you have more blade thickness and strength close to the tip. This gives the drop point a serious strength advantage over many other blade designs.
NOTE: Ever find yourself confused as to what is a clip point and what is a drop point? A quick visual test will tell you which is which. The curve on a drop point blade is always convex–meaning it curves outward like a hump as opposed to a clip point which is concave.
The tip of a drop point blade is lower than the back of the handle. This delivers more control and precision to you as you make fine cuts. As I mentioned earlier, the broad tip is also thicker, which means you have a tougher blade than most clip point knives. The trade off is that it isn’t as ideal for piercing cuts. The biggest advantage of a drop point blade is the large belly area that is ideal for slicing cuts. Generally considered the all around, all purpose blade shape, the drop point allows you to perform a wide variety of cuts without sacrificing performance. Unless you have some very specific reason to carry a different blade shape, in my mind the drop point is the best all around knife blade you can carry. Which makes it ideal for the Benchmade 6800 Auto APB knife.
On to the handle. The handle is built from two, black anodized, 6061 T6 billet aluminum scales atop full stainless steel liners for maximum strength. 6061 T6 aluminum is incredibly strong yet lightweight. It is used in many hard use applications such as commercial aircrafts, AR15 uppers and many bicycle components including frames. This tough and durable material delivers corrosion resistance as well.
The stainless steel liners allow the Auto APB to maintain maximum strength. The handle shape is a classic knife profile with a generous finger groove followed by a slightly tapering bellied inside edge that allows your fingers to get a rock solid grip on the handle when held in the traditional, forward grip. It even does well in a reverse grip. The open frame has an insert near the butt end on the spine with large jimping grooves that give your palm a nice grip point. The front edge of the spine has matching grooves on the liners where the meet up with the blade and the grooves actually continue out onto the blade for about 1/2″ which gives your thumb a perfect control point for close up, precision cuts.
There along the top of the spine you will find the slide safety. The safety has matching jimping grooves and to activate you depress it slightly and slide it forward. It slides up to the APB bar and rests between the two handle scales. In this position, you cannot depress either of the ambidextrous trigger buttons which means the lock can either lock the blade closed or open. This handy and secure lock keeps you in control of the blade at all times. At the butt of the handle is a carbide glass breaker and a tip up, right/left reversible pocket clip.
The entire knife weighs in at just 6.28 ounces which means it can be carried comfortably as an EDC knife. It also will perform admirably in urban tactical or combat situations.
The knife comes in four variations–satin or black finished blade with or without serrations. This tough, heavy duty tactical knife is certain to satisfy your tactical needs for decades. With proper care, the 6800 will last a lifetime. And with the new APB trigger system, it is certain to deliver high performance, ambidextrous functionality every day.
- Blade Length: 3.52“
- Blade Thickness: 0.124“
- Handle Thickness: 0.630“
- Blade Material: 154CM Stainless Steel
- Blade Hardness: 58-61 HRC
- Blade Style: Drop Point
- Weight: 6.28 oz.
- Pocket Clip: Black, Reversible, Tip-Up
- Lock Mechanism: Auto APB
- Overall Length: 8.64“
- Closed Length: 5.12″
- Sheath Material: Sold Separately
- Class: Black
- Made in the USA
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