Spyderco ParaMilitary 2 Knife Review and Comparison

Spyderco ParaMilitary 2
Spyderco ParaMilitary 2

Knife owners associate the Spyderco name with innovative products that offer new blade steels, aesthetically advanced handle designs, a primary focus on ergonomics and comfort in use, and lightweight configurations that pack enduring performance. The Para Military 2 family puts the reliable capabilities of Spyderco’s Military Model into a smaller size that offers tactical qualities but can double as an everyday carry. For 2016, Spyderco introduces a refined Para Military 2 lineup of five models, offering finessed feature sets and new blade steel choices. Although Spyderco often produces limited-edition Sprint Runs of Para Military 2 models with special handle-scale colors and blade steels, these five models—the C81GP2 Para Military 2, C81GPBK2 Para Military 2 Black Blade, C81GPDBL2 Para Military 2 CPM S110V, C81GPCMO2 Para Military 2 Camo, and the C81GPCMOBK2 Para Military 2 Camo Black Blade—represent the broadly available year-round production of this knife family.

 

Blade Profile

The blade shape on the Para Military 2 features a modified drop point with a nearly flat spine. Spyderco has made the blade longer on this version of the Para Military 2, lengthening the tip and increasing the amount of cutting edge.

 

The Trademark Round Hole represents Spyderco’s patented innovation in blade deployment: A round opening machined into the blade shape to accommodate the tip of a thumb or finger as it transitions the knife from closed to open position in a one-handed movement. When the knife is closed, the Trademark Round Hole appears in the portion of the blade that projects beyond the handle. On the Para Military 2, which lacks a flipper tab or other assistive mechanisms, the Trademark Round Hole provides the sole means of deploying the blade. Spyderco has enlarged the Trademark Round Hole on the Para Military 2 to 14 millimeters, enhancing its functionality.

 

A jimped thumb ramp on the blade spine helps hold the hand in position during tasks that require heavy pressure. A jimped choil that starts on the blade ricasso (the unsharpened portion of the blade at its thickest point) and continues onto the handle also serves as a forefinger grasping location as needed.

 

Blade Finishes

Spyderco makes the Para Military 2 in five models, but these represent three fundamental versions, based on handle appearance and blade steel. Models C81GP2 and C81GPCMO2 incorporate satin finished blades, the former with black and the latter with green digital camouflage patterned handle scales, both fashioned from G10 continuous-fiber glass laminate. The variations on these two models, designated models C81GPBK2 and C81GPCMOBK2, also feature black and camouflage handle scales respectively, but with Spyderco’s signature Diamond-Like Carbon, or DLC, coating on their blades for a low-contrast black finish. Model C81GPDBL2 incorporates Crucible Industries’ CPM S110V powdered metallurgy steel in a satin finish, and does not come in a corresponding version with a black coated blade.

 

Spyderco’s DLC coating consists of a mixture of graphitic carbon and a diamond-like material. Applied to blades and other knife parts, this nanocomposite virtually eliminates reflectivity at the same time that it boosts resistance to wear and corrosion, and helps reduce friction. All seven types of commercially available DLC consist of an amorphous material with its crystals arranged in cobblestone patterns made up of randomly alternating lattices, including cubic as well as hexagonal structures like those in a beehive. DLC coatings see wide use in medicine, thanks to their biocompatibility with living tissue, as well as on razor blades and in racing engines. DLC coatings also serve to lengthen the life of food processing equipment and to provide electrical insulation.

 

Blade Steels

Over the first 40 years of its company history, Spyderco has developed a well-deserved reputation for innovation, always in the service of producing superior quality and finding better solutions to the challenges of knife design. Look no further than the lengthy list of the blade steels it uses to find evidence of its commitment to refining its materials. The Spyderco Para Military 2 family uses two outstandingly progressive steels in its blade fabrications.

 

Crucible Industries of Solvay, New York, pioneered and patented the process of powdered metallurgy under the trademark Crucible Particle Metallurgy, or CPM. The impetus to invent this process stemmed from the limitations of conventional steel making and the performance drawbacks it introduced into the alloys thus produced.

 

Simple steel consists of a mixture of carbon and iron. As metallurgy in general and blade science in specific have advanced over centuries, steel makers have developed increasingly sophisticated and complex recipes in which other elements join carbon and iron to enhance specific attributes of the resulting metal. Although it might seem that the easiest way to produce an ideal blade steel would be to add as much as possible of every alloying element that produces desirable characteristics, that simplistic approach won’t create the expected result.

 

The principal characteristics for which to evaluate a blade steel alloy include hardness, toughness, wear resistance, corrosion resistance, and edge retention. Some of these characteristics exist on a continuum with each other, with an increase in one causing a corresponding decrease in the other.

 

Toughness and hardness compete with each other for supremacy in typical blade steels. Hardness correlates with resistance to dents and impact. Toughness measures the ability to bend instead of breaking, heading off the chips and cracks that can occur in heavy use. Wear resistance indicates a steel’s ability to avoid the damage caused when it encounters rough surfaces and materials that can adhere to it. Corrosion resistance designates the ability to withstand exposure to the forces that cause oxidation, including humidity, moisture, salt, and other chemicals. Edge retention indicates the ability to stay sharp despite blade use. As corrosion resistance rises, edge retention drops.

 

Obviously, all these qualities offer desirable contributions toward knife performance. Because some of them represent trade-offs with one another, however, steel makers and knife makers must compromise to find a workable balance in their products.

 

Identifying the desired mixture of elements and the proportions thereof forms the first step in producing a blade steel. The acts of conventional steel production involve melting these ingredients together prior to pouring the mixture into the ingot molds that create the first rough form in which steel can be sold and machined.

 

If the act of combining the elements of a steel in a furnace created a homogenous mixture that remained thoroughly blended as it cooled in a mold, the advanced science of Crucible Particle Metallurgy might not have been necessary. Unfortunately, the blend of elements starts to separate as it loses heat, and the individual components become segregated from one another. As a result, the consistency and performance of the resulting metal varies within a single production batch as well as from one batch to another.

 

Ingenuity overcomes obstacles. Crucible Industries invented Crucible Particle Metallurgy to overcome the segregation of elemental steel and retain the homogeneous makeup of the metal past the point of production. In the CPM process, the elemental recipe of a steel melts and mixes in a furnace, but instead of pouring from a ladle into ingot molds, it mists through a small nozzle into a highly pressurized blast of inert gas. The alloy immediately turns into tiny droplets that cool virtually instantaneously, forming powdered particles. Because of the immediacy with which this powder cools and forms, the molten steel doesn’t have time to lose its homogeneity. As a result, every tiny spherical particle becomes an individual ingot that contains the fully mixed, balanced original recipe of the alloy.

 

Powder can’t make blades, however. The output of the particle-making step loads into a pressurized canister for further processing, called sintering. At a temperature just below the melting point of the alloy, the combination of heat and pressure alters the molecular structure of the steel even as it turns it into a larger solid form. These molecular alterations transform the steel into a structure called austenite, in which carbon enters iron molecules. The next step quenches the steel in liquid, air, or oil, causing a rapid temperature drop that produces a second molecular alteration into martensitic steel, in which the carbon becomes a permanent part of the iron. Martensitic steel requires low-temperature heat treatment to overcome its brittleness. This step raises toughness as it reduces hardness and strength by a slight amount. The resulting powdered metallurgy steel demonstrates edge retention and wear resistance beyond anything that conventional steel making can produce.

 

Spyderco has selected two of Crucible Industries’ powdered metallurgy products for the blades of its Para Military 2 models. Models C81GP2, C81GPBK2, C81GPCMO2, and C81GPCMOBK2 use CPM S30V, while Model C81GPDBL2 uses CPM S110V.

 

CPM S30V incorporates 1.45% carbon, 14.00% chromium, 2.00% molybdenum, and 4.00% vanadium. This high-carbon steel displays high toughness, hardness, wear resistance, and corrosion resistance. Carbon increases hardness and wear resistance at the expense of reduced toughness and greater brittleness. The level of chromium content designates CPM S30V as a stainless steel, and contributes to tensile strength and hardness. Molybdenum boosts edge retention as well as high-temperature strength and corrosion resistance. Vanadium produces fine-grained steel with high levels of wear resistance and edge retention. This alloy balances many of the most desirable performance attributes in a single blade steel.

 

CPM S110V includes 2.90% carbon, 15.25% chromium, 2.50% cobalt, 3.00% niobium, 0.40% manganese, 2.25% molybdenum, 0.60% silicon, 0.20% tungsten, and 9.10% vanadium. The addition of niobium boosts CPM S110V’s wear resistance and edge retention. Silicon helps strengthen the steel and remove oxygen from it during production to limit pitting damage. Tungsten heightens wear resistance. The extreme amount of vanadium points to equivalently extreme levels of wear resistance and edge retention. As a result, this premium alloy requires intense skill to machine and sharpen.

 

Handle Materials

Spyderco chose textured G10 laminate for the handle scales on all its Para Military 2 models. What differs among these models isn’t the material, but rather the color in which it’s rendered.

 

Most commonly, G10 appears in solid black, which Spyderco uses on Para Military 2 models C81GP2 and C81GPBK2. Spyderco uses dark blue G10 on those of its knives that feature Crucible Industries’ CPM S110V powdered metallurgy steel blades, so the handle scales on Para Military 2 model C81GPDBL2 appear in that color as a corresponding signal of its blade alloy. On Para Military 2 Camo models C81GPCMO2 and C81GPCMOBK2, Spyderco uses the U.S. Army’s green digital camouflage pattern.

 

G10 originated as a highly water-resistant, electrically non-conductive material used in the production of circuit boards. In combination, the ingredients that make up G10 create a rigid, lightweight, hard, strong product with low moisture absorption and a high resistance to chemicals. This sturdy material consists of a laminate made from layers of fiberglass fabric soaked in an epoxy resin binder, and formed in a mold under heat and pressure. G10’s performance properties remain stable even in harsh environments. The textured surface on these handle scales stems from the molding process that produces G10 parts.

 

To support the Compression Lock mechanism that holds open the blades on Spyderco’s Para Military 2 models, the company uses nested split stainless steel liners formed into a leaf-shaped spring. The rounded end of the lock bar engages into a notched area in the hidden portion of the blade tang, as well as with the stop pin at the spine of the blade.

 

Handle Designs

Regardless of which model of Para Military 2 you choose, the handle incorporates a forefinger groove that forms half of the 50/50 choil on the knife. The butt of the handle culminates in a subtle quillon shape that helps keep the hand from sliding off the knife, and supports the fingers when they grasp in a reversed grip. The Para Military 2 displays Spyderco’s emphasis on ergonomics in every aspect of knife design, especially in terms of handle shapes and their influence on grip positions. For 2016, Spyderco thinned down the heel of the handle to enhance the feel of the Para Military 2 in the hand.

 

Including the pivot, the entire knife assembly fastens together with three Torx screws, two of the same smaller size along with the larger pivot. Para Military 2 models C81GPBK2 and C81GPCMOBK2, which feature black blades, use Torx screws with a matching black finish. Spyderco has enlarged the lanyard hole on the Para Military 2 to incorporate a wider range of materials. Like the Torx screws, the lanyard tube also appears in black on Para Military 2 models with black blades.

 

Because the pocket clip on the Para Military 2 offers ambidextrous attachment and both tip-up and tip-down carry positions, the handle scales on all five models incorporate mounting screw holes at both ends and on both left- and right-hand scales.

 

Blade Deployment and Locking Mechanism

The Spyderco Compression Lock system uses an ingenious implementation of a locking-liner design to provide secure retention of an open blade. The leaf-like shape formed by a split stainless steel liner engages into a notch in the hidden blade tang, locking into the blade itself as well as onto the stop pin located just below the spine inside the handle. This design represents a patented Spyderco invention that users praise for its strong hold as well as the ease with which they can disengage it as and when necessary. All five models in the Para Military 2 family use this innovative lock design. The Para Military 2 family also uses a new system for its bushing pivot, smoothing out the opening action and yielding tighter tolerances in manufacture.

 

Pocket Clips

Spyderco pioneered the implementation of pocket clips from other types of products into the realm of knife designs. The Para Military 2 family offers Spyderco’s most flexible pocket clip: A four-position clip that provides ambidextrous tip-up or tip-down carry depending on its attachment point. On those Para Military 2 models with black blades, the pockets clips and their attachment screws also feature a black finish. For 2016, Spyderco has reduced the handle thickness at the end of these knives, increasing the depth at which the Para Military 2 knives position themselves in a pocket.

 

Knife Dimensions and Weights

All five of the models within the Spyderco Para Military 2 family offer closely comparable dimensional and weight specifications. In fact, the sole difference among them comes in the weight of model C81GPDBL2, the Para Military 2 CPM S110V, which weighs 3.8 ounces, or one-tenth of an ounce less than the other four models.

 

Other than that slight differentiation, all five models measure 8.281 inches overall, with a closed length of 4.812 inches. Their blades measure 3.438 inches long, with a thickness of 0.141 inches and an edge length of 3.078 inches. Handle length equals overall length at 8.281 inches, while handle thickness comes in at 0.46 inches.

 

Other Observations

The Spyderco Para Military 2 family offers enduring popularity based on its performance, reliability, flexibility, and attractive design. Although the 2016 roundup of Para Military 2 models offers refinements that some may see as subtleties rather than big leaps forward, the net effect of the entire suite of improvements continues to make a great paramilitary knife design even better.

 

  Para Military 2 Para Military 2 Black Blade Para Military 2 CPM S110V Para Military 2 Camo Para Military 2 Camo Black Blade
Model number C81GP2 C81GPBK2 C81GPDBL2 C81GPCMO2 C81GPCMOBK2
Weight 3.9 oz. 3.9 oz. 3.8 oz. 3.9 oz. 3.9 oz.
Overall length 8.281″ 8.281″ 8.281″ 8.281″ 8.281″
Closed length 4.812″ 4.812″ 4.812″ 4.812″ 4.812″
Blade style Modified drop-point Modified drop-point Modified drop-point Modified drop-point Modified drop-point
Blade length 3.438″ 3.438″ 3.438″ 3.438″ 3.438″
Blade thickness 0.141″ 0.141″ 0.141″ 0.141″ 0.141″
Edge PlainEdge™ blade PlainEdge™ blade PlainEdge™ blade PlainEdge™ blade PlainEdge™ blade
Edge length 3.078″ 3.078″ 3.078″ 3.078″ 3.078″
Steel Crucible Industries CPM S30V Crucible Industries CPM S30V Crucible Industries CPM S110V Crucible Industries CPM S30V Crucible Industries CPM S30V
Grind Full-Flat Full-Flat Full-Flat Full-Flat Full-Flat
Lock type Compression Compression Compression Compression Compression
Handle length 4.812″ 4.812″ 4.812″ 4.812″ 4.812″
Handle thickness 0.46″ 0.46″ 0.46″ 0.46″ 0.46″
Handle material G10 G10 G10 G10 G10
Handle color Black Black Dark blue Green, digital camouflage pattern Green, digital camouflage pattern
Clip Ambidextrous (Left/right, tip-up) Ambidextrous (Left/right, tip-up) Ambidextrous (Left/right, tip-up) Ambidextrous (Left/right, tip-up) Ambidextrous (Left/right, tip-up)
Best use Tactical Tactical Tactical Tactical Tactical
Origin USA USA USA USA USA
Manufacturer’s suggested retail prices $204.95 $224.95 $249.95 $204.95 $224.95

 

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