What I Look For When Buying a Knife

Here at BladeOps, one of the things we get to see a whole lot of is knives.  Right when I begin to think I have seen it all, I see something new.  Sometimes the new thing is something I immediately say “Wow, why didn’t someone think of that before.” That is how I felt the first time I saw the AXIS system from Benchmade.  Other times, I think, “Wow, I’m glad no one thought of that before–and I hope whoever thought this up gives up on the whole knife thing, because this is stupid.”  I actually think some knife companies get so caught up into the idea of introducing new “features” that they forget to focus on the basic things everyone wants out of their knife.  These basic things being, not in any specific order: cutting ability, quality of construction and materials, price, comfort, overall performance and durability.

Dull as 11th Grade Lit Teacher
Dull as 11th Grade Lit Teacher

Here is the thing, every single one of us knife lovers want a knife that first, and foremost can cut.  If you pull a knife out of the box and it is as dull as that 11th grade literature teacher you had, then you aren’t going to be pleased.  If you pull it out and it cuts like a knife (thank you Bryan Adams) should–then you are going to be pretty excited.  That’s the whole point, right?  A knife needs to cut.

Now, depending on how you use your knife, you may need it to make different styles of cuts.  Perhaps you are an office warrior who needs a knife to open envelopes and the occasional box.  Or maybe you are a field warrior who needs to cut up some wood, make some kindling, cut paracord or any other number of outdoor things.  Each type of material to be cut is best cut by a different style of blade, different blade material and different size blade.  All of this we know.  But if you pull the knife out of the packaging and it can’t even cut butter–then what you have is a sorry excuse for a knife. Regardless of how cool the opening mechanism is or how nifty the extra blade is, if your knife doesn’t cut, it really won’t get the job done.

Benchmade Knife Company
Benchmade Knife Company–They do a GREAT job with fit and finish

The next thing I look at is the “fit and finish” of the knife.  This overused term applies to how well the parts fit together.  There are a few companies that really do it right.  Other companies make a good faith effort and mostly succeed in getting it right.  And then there are a few companies out there that don’t seem to really care about this at all.  To me, this makes a difference.  If it is a folding knife, how smooth does the blade open?  Does it herk and jerk on the way out?  Is the blade centered in the handle when it is closed?  If it is a fixed blade, does the handle blend smoothly into the butt as well as the blade?  If it is an auto, does the trigger snap the blade out with serious authority?  When the blade is open does it wobble from side to side?  How well do the lock and safety work?  These are all things I look at when evaluating a knife.

ProTech Big Daddy Custom
ProTech Big Daddy Custom Auto Knife–#7 of 10

And there is a second consideration here.  When you are buying a knife, you are purchasing a cutting tool.  What you are paying for is the quality of the materials, the quality of the construction, and the design.  Depending on the scarcity of that particular knife, you may also be paying a premium for the collectibility of the knife.  If there are only 7 of a particular knife ever made–and it was made by a well known and respected knife maker–it is quite possible you are paying a bit extra for the “rareness” of the piece.  But, back to the point in hand, you generally get what you are paying for when you are buying a knife.  If you are looking to spend $20 and want an automatic knife–well, let’s just say you can definitely find that knife but it may not be such a great knife overall.  It may not last for a long time, or it may have some serious performance issues–if you know what I mean.  If you are willing to spend $200, and want an auto knife that has high quality blade steel, a comfortable, durable handle and performs like a boss–well, you can definitely find this knife also.  And the quality of that knife is going to be much better than the aforementioned $20 knife.

Dollar, Dollar Bill
Dollar, Dollar Bill

And this brings us to the next point–price.  The price of a knife is generally in line with the quality.  Of course, there are questionable products that are occasionally overpriced.

There are even situations where a particular knife seems to be underpriced.  But, for the most part, price does seem to follow quality.  The higher the price, the better the knife.  Up to a point.  After that, the higher prices generally just kick in because of the collectibility of a particular piece.

What The?
What The?

The next thing I look at when purchasing a knife is the comfort.  Does the knife feel good in my hand?  A certain knife may feel really good in my hand–and that exact same knife may feel terrible in your hand.  Perhaps your hands are smaller than mine?  Maybe you don’t like the feel of G-10.  Or maybe the finger groove sits at an awkward angle for you?  Before you decide a knife is the perfect knife for you–make sure it feels comfortable.  This may seem like a weird thing for an online vendor to tell you–but that is why we have the 10 day return period on all purchases.  If you get the knife you ordered from us and you pull it out of the box and it feels terrible in your hands–then by all means, get in touch with us and let’s get it switched out to a knife that you are more comfortable with.

The final thing I look at when buying a knife is overall performance and durability.  Often, durability is more a function of the materials used.  Performance takes into account the materials in action.  How does this particular knife cut?  How does it cut when I am trying to make the kind of cuts it was designed for?

For instance, right now I am carrying a Benchmade SOCP Dagger for a future “30 Days With” article that I will be writing in a few weeks.  I really like the knife.  It is an incredible self defense tool.  As far as cutting boxes–it does pretty good, even though that isn’t what it was designed for.  And as an outdoor survival tool, the SOCP rates dismally–because that isn’t what it was designed for.  So, when you rate a knife you need to take into account the main purpose(s) you will be using your knife for.

When I get ready to test a knife, those are the things I look at.  Cutting ability, quality of construction and materials, price, comfort, overall performance and durability.  If it passes these tests–then it is the knife for me.  Tell me down below how you decide which knife to buy.


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