The Benchmade adventure began when Les de Asis wanted a knife that reflected the latest in materials and manufacturing technology to replace the cheap butterfly knives, known as Bali-Songs, he played with as a kid. Using his high-school shop skills, he blueprinted his dream knife before eventually meeting Victor Anselmo, who helped to grind the first ever pre-Benchmade Bali-Song® prototype. Paired with handles that Les sourced from a small machine shop in California, he assembled and finished his first Bali-Song® in his own garage. Proud of his creation, he took this first Bali-Song® into a local gun store and the owner asked, “Could you build 100 more?”
In 1980, Les incorporated as Bali-Song, Inc. and rented a small shop in California. The equipment that he used at this time was purchased from the owner of a manufacturing operation who wanted to retire. Utilizing the rudimentary technology available to him at the time, Les began building handmade custom Bali-Songs, along with Jody Sampson, who ground all the blades. The success of these custom Balis spurred the creation of the first production Bali-Song®: The model 68. Over the next seven years, the company expanded its product offerings into fixed blades and conventional folding knives, and evolving its name from Bali-song®, Inc. to Pacific Cutlery Corp.
In 1987, the company filed for bankruptcy and was dissolved. Les was not ready to give up just yet though. The next year, Les reintroduced a new company and new version of the Model 68; This time with a drive to produce product in the US and an even stronger commitment to product availability, quality and customer relationships. The company now needed a new name. While there was “handmade” and “factory-made,” it was “Benchmade” that described the quality of Les’ product. He was building an operation that made precision parts, but with hand assembly on the finished products. This was a “bench” operation and Les wanted the name to reflect the marriage of manufactured and custom. In short, it describes Benchmade’s position in the market- even to this day.
Today we will be discussing the Benchmade 320SBK Precinct Flipper Knife.
The man behind this knife is Butch Ball. Butch Ball developed a passion for knives at a very early age. After building a few fixed blades in the early ’90s he decided in 2000 to begin a true custom shop. Butch starts each knife as a prototype, which he then tests, recreates and tests again. At each stage in this development process, he is thinking of ways to improve the design, whether mechanical or ergonomic. The results of this process are designs that are as robust as they are innovative.
The blade on this knife is made out of 154CM steel that has been hardened to a 58-61 HRC. 154CM is a high end steel made by Crucible Industries. Crucible is a US based steel manufacturer that often makes steels for the highest end knives. 154CM is a hard steel that is known to be an upgraded version of 440C. This is because Crucible has added Molybdenum to the steel formula, which helps to hold the edge better than 440C is able to. Although 154CM does have less Chromium than similar steels, it does have high levels of corrosion resistance. This steel should not be too difficult to sharpen when you have the right equipment. This steel does have a good amount of toughness that will be perfect for an EDC.
The blade has been coated black. There are a variety of benefits to a coated blade. The first is that it is going to prolong the life of the blade. This is achieved because it creates a barrier to protect the blade from the elements. The coating is also going to increase the wear resistance, which is achieved in the same way. The coating can sometimes help the blade cut a little bit smoother, which is nice, although not a huge advantage for an EDC knife. However, the issue with coatings is that it is going to scratch off after a series of hard use or even just with time. Once it does get scratched off, it is almost worse than a bare blade because not only is it not protecting the knife, but it is also going to cause more drag.
The blade on this knife has been carved into a drop point blade shape. This is one of the most popular blade shapes that is on the market and for good reason. Not only is this a tough blade shape, it is also incredibly versatile. The shape of the blade is formed by having the spine of the knife stretch from the handle to the point in a slow curve. The slow curve is going to give the lowered point that is beloved for its control. The point on a drop point is also very broad, which is going to give the knife its strength that it is known for. The broad tip has enough metal at the tip that it can take on those tougher tasks without snapping. The last reason that this knife is so versatile is because of the large belly that it boasts, which makes slicing a piece of cake. The one thing that you have to be aware of is that because the point is much more broad, you do not have all of the stabbing or piercing abilities that you would with a knife such as the clip point.
The handle on this knife is made out of black G10. G10 is a modern material that is very strong, but does suffer from being brittle. This is because all of the fibers that make it up are arranged in one direction. This creates a tough material in one direction, but it will begin to break apart when stressed in the other directions. This handle may crack if it is subject to hard or sharp impacts.
The handle itself offers plenty of grip and texture to be able to really perform with this knife. There is a pretty deep finger groove, which will give you a more comfortable hold. After the first finger groove, there is an elongated second one which stretches almost to the butt of the handle. This will also improve the comfort levels of the handle while making it more secure. The spine of the knife is a slow curve from the blade to the butt. The butt of this knife does have a lanyard hole carved into it.
The Pocket Clip:
The pocket clip that is attached to this knife is a deep carry clip. This means that the knife will fit more snugly in your pocket, be less likely to fall out while you are going about your daily tasks, and can be more easily concealed. The only drawback (and it isn’t much of a drawback) is that a deep carry clip is going to take a few milliseconds longer to remove the knife from your pocket. Like I said, not too much of a drawback.
The pocket clip is also reversible for either left or right handed carry. This, as well as the flipper, help to make the knife fully ambidextrous. Unfortunately, the handle has only been drilled for tip-up carry, which is the more dangerous way to carry the knife.
This is a manual opening knife that employs a flipper to assist you as well as a liner locking mechanism.
Because it is a manual knife, it is going to be legal in more states, cities, and areas than either a fully automatic knife or even a spring assisted knife. This is because there is no mechanism to assist you in opening the knife; you do it all by hand. That being said, because you do it all by hand, it is not going to open as smoothly or as efficiently as if it were an automatic or a spring assisted knife. You will have to work a little bit harder to bring it into play. One of the benefits of this is that it is most likely not going to flip open inside of your pocket like the other two styles could. This is a good EDC, because throughout your day, you probably won’t have to rush to get your knife open.
The blade has been equipped with a flipper to help open the knife. This is a skinny triangular piece of metal that extends off of the blade. It extends out of the spine of the handle when the knife is closed. To open it, you grip the folded knife and use your finger to pull back on this piece of metal, which will then flip the knife open and lock it into place. One of the many benefits of a flipper is that once it is opened, it is going to act as a large finger guard. And, since it doesn’t extend off the blade, it is not going to get in the way when you are trying to open the knife. Also, it does not put your fingers in the path of the blade when you are flipping open the knife, which is different than a thumb stud and much safer. Overall, the flipper is a safer opening mechanism as well as being ambidextrous. It will take a couple of tries to really get the hang of this open mechanism.
Liner locks are one of the more common mechanisms seen on folding knives. This mechanism’s characteristic component is a side spring bar located on the same side as sharp edge of the blade, “lining” the inside of the handle. When the knife is closed, the spring bar is held under tension. When fully opened, that tension slips the bar inward to make contact with the butt of the blade, keeping it firmly in place and preventing it from closing. To disengage a liner lock, you have to use your thumb to push the spring bar “down” so that it clears contact from the butt of the blade. This lets you use your index finger to push the blade just enough so that it keeps the bar pushed down so you can remove your thumb from the blade path, then continue to safely close the knife. Some of the major benefits of this style of knife is that there are two true handle sides. This means that you can close the knife with one hand without switching or altering your grip which is perfect when you need both hands for the job. This knife locking mechanism is perfect for entry level knives as well as high end knives. However, you should know that it isn’t the strongest locking mechanism on the market. If you will have heavy-duty tasks to perform, this might not be the knife for you.
The blade on this knife measures in at 3.30 inches long with a blade thickness that measures in at 0.124 inches. The handle on this knife has a length of 4.48 inches long and a thickness of 0.48 inches. When this knife is opened, it measures in at an overall length of 7.78 inches long. This knife weighs 3.42 ounces, which is an ideal weight for an EDC. This knife was made in the United States of America.
The Benchmade 320 Precinct is the second designer collaboration with Butch Ball who helped pioneer Benchmade’s first flipper–the Benchmade 300. The Precinct features a liner lock design and textured G-10 handle scales combined with Butch Ball’s finger relief handle design to provide exceptional grip. The action is very smooth thanks to the thrust bearing washers and the deep carry pocket clip is designed for tip up carry only but is eligible for left or right hand carry options. This specific model, the 320SBK, features a partly serrated black finished blade comprised of 154CM stainless steel in a drop point style. You can pick up this knife today at BladeOps.