Benchmade collaborates with a roster of leading names in the design profession to produce knives that present fresh perspectives in materials and mechanisms. These knives feature the best of Benchmade’s manufacturing processes, quality control, and marketplace presence, giving custom designers access to a wider customer base and enabling Benchmade to offer new design ideas in a production package.
In 2011, Benchmade partnered with three designers whose initial work for the company debuted at the SHOT Show in January of that same year, including Butch Ball, Paul W. Poehlmann, and Bill Harsey, Jr. Of these three designers, Butch Ball remains associated with Benchmade.
Currently based in Floyd, Virginia, Butch Ball became fascinated with the design and production of knives when he was still in his youth. In 1990, while he was living in Florida and working in a machine shop, Mr. Ball began creating knives himself based on his own designs. After relocating to Virginia, Mr. Ball built his own workshop and resumed the craft of knife building in 2001. His custom work features exotic decorative materials including pearl and abalone. His work include folders, flippers, fixed blades, and tactical blades, with one-of-a-kind blades as well as limited editions. For Benchmade, Mr. Ball’s first collaborative design resulted in a push-button clipped-point knife that could serve either as a fixed blade or as a dagger. Along with knives, he also loves American bulldogs.
Benchmade reserves the designation Black Class for a series of knives dedicated to meeting the demanding needs of armed forces personnel, law enforcement, public safety, and civilians interested in a no-compromise blade for tactical or everyday carry use. The company’s Blue Class provides EDC knives for work, hobbyist use, and recreation. Within both classes, some blades represent the design work of Benchmade’s own in-house personnel, whereas other products result from the company’s partnership with noted custom designers.
In Benchmade’s 2015 product lineup, Mr. Ball’s work consisted of the Blue Class 300 Axis Flipper, an AXIS-Lock drop-point knife with a textured G10 handle and 154 CM stainless steel blade. For 2016, Benchmade’s Black Class includes the Butch Ball designed 320 Precinct, also built as a flipper suitable for tactical use or as an everyday carry.
With compact dimensions and a light overall weight, the Benchmade 320 Precinct incorporates a blade with a drop-point profile. The spine of the blade curves downward toward the tip in a convex shape that adds strength. Because this blade shape includes a belly, or curve, along the cutting edge, it effectively offers more cutting surface and greater cutting capabilities than it would with a flatter-edged shape.
When you deploy the blade of the Benchmade 320 Precinct, jimping grooves on the subtle thumb rise located on the spine of the blade next to the end of the handle offer traction without digging into your fingers. The blade includes an ample curved back extension that triggers the opening mechanism. This extension arcs in a shape that matches the curve of the forefinger groove on the handle. Jimping grooves run from the pointed forward tip of the back extension almost all the way around the curve that nestles into the forefinger groove.
The Benchmade 320 Precinct comes either with a plain flat ground edge or with a set of rip teeth, or serrations, occupying roughly half the length of the open blade. These serrations offer additional cutting power to handle fibrous materials, including rope, string, paracord, and wood. Look for the letter “S” in the model number to indicate the serrated option. Models 320S and 320SBK include serrations.
Choose your Benchmade 320 Precinct with either of two blade finishes. The standard satin finish shows off the sheen of uncoated stainless steel. With a black coating, the blade reflects less light and, as a result, may offer a slight stealth advantage in a tactical situation. The designation “BK” at the end of the model number indicates a black coated finish. Models 320BK and 320SBK include black coated blades.
Benchmade crafts the blade for the 320 Precinct from 154 CM stainless steel, an American-made premium-grade alloy produced by Crucible Industries of New York. With roots in 19th-century England as well as in the United States, Crucible produces a roster of super steels along with more than noteworthy but less exotic stainless steels such as 154 CM, which is widely used in knife production. Along with 1.05% carbon, this high-carbon alloy’s formula includes 14.0% chromium for tensile strength and hardness as well as for corrosion resistance; 0.50% manganese for hardness, tensile strength, and wear resistance; 4.0% molybdenum for high-temperature strength and edge retention; and 0.3% silicon for hardness and protection against pitting. 154 CM’s hardness measures 58 to 61 HRC on the Rockwell Hardness Scale.
154 CM constitutes an upgraded version of 440C, another popular stainless steel, with better edge retention than 440C can offer thanks to the addition of molybdenum, and equivalent corrosion resistance despite containing 3.5% less chromium than 440C.
Many aspects of 154 CM’s performance depend on heat treatment. Benchmade has developed proprietary heat treatment recipes for each of the steel alloys it uses, enabling each metal to develop the molecular structure that produces the desired toughness and other attributes. With 154 CM, the outcome of Benchmade’s process displays good hardness and edge retention.
If keeping a fully sharp edge on your Benchmade 320 Precinct challenges the extent of your sharpening skills and tools, remember that Benchmade offers a lifetime sharpening service as a part of its LifeSharp warranty. Simply ship your knife prepaid and insured to Benchmade’s Oregon headquarters, along with proof of purchase and your original bill of sale, and Benchmade’s technical specialists will disassemble, clean, refurbish, and sharpen your knife. Note that the sharpening service does not cover the serrated portions of knife blades.
Introduced in the 1950s, G10 consists of an extremely durable industrial-grade fiberglass laminate composite that assumes its final form through molding and heat exposure. To create it, the manufacturer soaks continuously woven glass fabric in an epoxy resin and forms the combination into its final shape in a mold exposed to heavy pressure. After baking, the resulting part exhibits a high degree of hardness and strength in a material that’s also very light in weight. During the molding process, G10 can be formed with checkered texturing that gives gripping surfaces the ability to develop additional friction in the hand, making a G10 knife handle easy to grab and hold. G10 also maintains a resistance to water, humidity, and liquids, and keeps its form in changing environmental conditions. Because of its virtual imperviousness to water, G10 provides the substrate on which many printed circuit boards are built. G10 can be machined to tight tolerances for use in electrochemical manufacturing. The black coloration used in the handle for the Benchmade 320 Precinct represents G10’s most common appearance.
For a tactical folding knife such as the Benchmade 320 Precinct, G10 makes an ideal choice as a handle material because of its strength, durability, dimensional stability, environmental and chemical resistance, light weight, and its ability to assume any desired form during the molding process. Despite its decades of availability, G10’s performance characteristics make it a forward-thinking choice for the new 320 Precinct.
The Benchmade 320 Precinct incorporates an ergonomic finger relief handle with a forefinger groove into which your index finger naturally positions itself as you grasp the knife. The belly, or curved bottom edge, of the handle, suits the curves of the fingers whether you hold the knife conventionally or reverse your grip. Instead of grooves for the individual fingers past the index finger, the belly of the Benchmade 320 Precinct handle provides a shared curve for the remaining digits. This enables the knife to suit a variety of hand sizes without positioning the fingers awkwardly and uncomfortably or forcing the pinky finger off the handle. A front quillon protects the hand from sliding forward off the handle onto the blade when you use the knife in a stabbing motion or bear down hard to apply considerable force. The quillon’s effect is magnified by the back extension of the blade that extends below the quillon and shares the same curvature.
The handle of the Benchmade 320 Precinct features a textured surface on both outer edges of the scales, but not on the spine or finger edge. This subtle checkering improves your grip without introducing hot spots that consistently rub at and irritate your hand. A mere three Torx screws secure the knife together, further reducing the feel of hardware under your fingers.
In a handle fabricated from G10, the introduction of surface texture requires no complex machining or milling, as the checkering becomes an integral, permanent part of the surface of the material when it is molded. The edges of the Benchmade 320 Precinct’s handle include smooth machined curves that introduce subtle chamfering. The handle design features an open look that shows off the contrast between textured and machined surfaces.
If you prefer to carry your knife on a lanyard or paracord, or to attach a dummy cord to make it more difficult to misplace, take advantage of the lanyard hole positioned near the end of the handle on the Benchmade 320 Precinct.
The Benchmade 320 Precinct offers you the option of carrying it either in a right- or a left-hand pocket, thanks to its reversible tip-up deep-carry steel clip. The black painted pocket clip fastens with Torx screws, as does the rest of the knife’s construction.
Liners and Locking Mechanism
Benchmade uses 410SS stainless steel for the liners of the 320 Precinct’s handle. This low-carbon alloy features a high percentage of chromium. Its chemical composition promotes hardness, tensile strength, and corrosion and wear resistance. Depending on how it’s fabricated, 410SS can incorporate 0.080% to 0.150% carbon, 11.50% to 13.50% chromium, up to 1.0% manganese, up to 1.0% phosphorus, up to 1.0% silicon, and up to 0.030% sulfur. This basic stainless steel excels in the fabrication of parts that must withstand high stress. Its typical applications include fasteners, turbine blades, kitchen utensils, and valve parts, as well as knife handles. The liner lock in the Benchmade 320 Precinct must be able to endure repeated movement back and forth during the processes of opening and closing the knife, which validates the choice of a stainless steel capable of tolerating high stress as the material for the liners.
Liner lock knives operate similarly to the mechanisms employed on monolock designs, except that the handle liner, not the handle itself, serves as the lock that holds the blade open. On a monolock knife, the lock is an integral component of the handle itself. A slot or cut in one handle scale enables part of the scale to engage behind the tang of the blade and prevent it from closing.
To disengage the liner lock on the Benchmade 320 Precinct so you can close the blade, press the lock toward the left side of the handle with the edge of your thumb until the lock becomes truly parallel with the interior of the handle. The deployment mechanism uses thrust bearing washers. Despite the smooth action and speedy movement of its blade, the Benchmade 320 Precinct qualifies as a fully manual action knife.
Knife Dimensions and Weight
The Benchmade 320 Precinct weighs in at a mere 3.42 ounces. Open, the knife measures 7.78 inches long; closed, it measures 4.48 inches. The blade runs 3.30 inches long and 0.124 inches thick. The handle measures 4.48 inches long and 0.48 inches thick. Although either right-handed or left-handed users can operate liner lock designs, and the Benchmade 320 Precinct includes a reversible deep-carry pocket clip, the location of the liner lock favors a right-handed person.
With a high-performance stainless steel blade and a high-tech handle made of fiberglass laminate composite, the Benchmade 320 Precinct provides the sleek good looks, light weight, and smoothly operating blade deployment that make this knife an easy choice as an everyday carry with tactical applications. Especially if you prefer a manually operated blade, this new offering from Benchmade’s Blue Class may suit your needs and lifestyle as an everyday carry with the good looks of a custom design at a production-knife price. If you’ve wanted a custom knife but couldn’t justify the expense, the Benchmade 320 Precinct offers you the best of both worlds.
|Handle material||Black textured G10 with 410SS stainless steel liner|
|Blade material||U.S.-made 154 CM stainless steel, Crucible Industries|
|Blade hardness||58-61 HRC|
|Blade finish||Satin (320 and 320S) or black (320BK and 320SBK)|
|Blade edge type||Plain (320 and 320BK) or serrated (320S and 320SBK)|
|Pocket clip||Steel, reversible, tip-up deep-carry|
|Lock mechanism||Liner lock|
|Sheath material||Sheath sold separately|
|Benchmade product class||Blue Class|
|Best use||EDC, tactical|
|Manufacturer’s suggested retail prices||320 and 320S: $140 320BK and 320SBK: $155|