A review of three popular every day carry (EDC) knives with blades shorter than or equal to 3 inches.
Benchmade Mini Griptilian 556 in Yellow
Weight: 2.56 oz (73 g)
Open Length: 6.78 in. (172 mm)
Closed length: 3.87 in. (98 mm)
Blade length: 2.91 in. (74 mm)
Blade thickness: 0.1 in. (2.54mm)
Blade Material: 154 CM Stainless Steel
Handle Material: Glass-filled nylon with stainless steel liners
154CM stainless steel is a modified 440C stainless steel with 3% less Chromium and 4% molybdenum added for “higher hardness and wear resistance, and enhanced corrosion resistance.” 154CM is composed of: Carbon 1.05%, Manganese 0.5%, Silicon 0.3%, Chromium 14.00%, and Molybdenum 4.00% and has a Rockwell Hardness of 58-60.1 154CM steel was originally developed for turbine blades used in the engines of 747’s because of it’s ability to retain hardness while at high temperatures.2 Coincidentally, this molecular structure was also excellent for edge hardness in knife blades and set the standard at the time it was introduced into the knife market in 1972 by the famous knife maker Bob Loveless. By todays standards it’s still a great steel, however there are newer steels with superior characteristics desirable for knives designed for specific purposes such as the sintered CPM S30V which has been “designed to offer the best combination of toughness, wear resistance and corrosion resistance.”3 This steel was used for the Doug Ritter x Benchmade’s original collaboration, but has since been replaced by Bohler-Uddeholm M390, a steel with even higher specs used in Doug Ritter’s RSK Mk1 Mini Griptilian M390 ($130). Of course this refinement and pursuit of the perfect blade steel will go on forever, but for most practical purposes, when cared for and wielded with proper technique, 154CM is all that’s necessary, especially when the price of these high performance steels is considered (53% premium for M390 over 154CM, although the Doug Ritter blade shape is a bit different).
The 556 Mini Griptilian features a drop-point blade, designed for improved tip strength with a long belly for slicing. It’s a very practical multipurpose shape, but the Mini Gritilian is also available in tanto (designed for piercing body armor), sheepsfoot (designed for applications in which a point is unnecessary or undesirable such as rescue purposes), and the aforementioned wide chord Doug Ritter RSK Mk1 drop point style blade.
Handle & Use
The knife featured here is the 556-YEL with yellow scales but, as with all three of these knives, it’s also available in a variety of other colors to accommodate customer preference, although not all blade style × handle color combinations are available. The color options are: black, orange, olive drab, sand, pink, and blue. The scales are made of glass reinforced nylon, which is a fairly standard material in the industry due to it’s durability, toughness, and ease of manufacturing, however it’d be nice if wood was an option (others agree). The non-slip surface texture of the scales combined with the handle shape allows for an excellent grip with a rounder cross section than they Spyderco or Kershaw. There is a small amount of jimping for your thumb which provides good grip when carving, creating kindling, or performing similar cutting tasks.
Opening the blade with the ambidextrous stud is simple and once open, the axis lock-out offers best-in-class performance, almost turning the knife into a fixed blade with it’s double-shear design. Throughout the range of motion, as the blade begins to open, there is a small, spring resistance created by the AXIS lock pulling the knife blade closed. The resistance only lasts for a few degrees and then the blade smoothly pivots around and snaps into the open, locked position. This slight tension reduces the likelihood of the blade accidentally opening in your pocket and provides a gentle snap when closing the knife. Releasing the AXIS lock is also ambidextrous and very easy, and unlike the Spyderco, doesn’t require much hand repositioning. The blade pivot resistance can be adjusted using a Torx #10 driver.
For ambidextrous use, the clip can be mounted to either side of the knife with the tip pointed up when folded. It’s adjustable with a Torx #6 driver. There is also a good sized through-hole enabling the knife to be easily attached to a lanyard.
This is a fantastic knife and is my personal go-to. The easy opening and closing with the AXIS lock, excellent handle shape, and secure nature of the blade add up to a very practical knife for a wide variety of tasks.
Benchmade Mini Griptilian 556. USA. $85. Purchase.
Spyderco Delica 4 in Orange
Weight: 2.5 oz (71 g)
Open Length: 7.125 in. (181 mm)
Closed length: 4.25 in. (108 mm)
Blade length: 2.875 in. (73 mm)
Blade Material: VG-10 Stainless Steel
Handle Material: FRN (Glass-filled nylon) with skeletonized stainless steel liners
The Delica 4 is made of Japanese VG-10 stainless steel, known for it’s excellent edge holding, durability, and rust resistance. These attributes were originally developed for use in the Japanese chef knife market, but have since been adopted by the folding knife community seeking high quality steel. VG-10 is composed of: Carbon: .95-1.0%, Chromium: 14.50-15.50%, Cobalt: 1.30-1.50%, Manganese: 0.5%, Molybdenum: 0.90-1.20%, Phosphorus: 0.03%, Silicon: 0.6%, and Vanadium: 0.10-0.30% and has a Rockwell Hardness of 59-60.4
The full flat ground leaf shaped blade is great for EDC purposes with a thin point, which is better suited for cutting open packaging than stabbing.
Handle & Use
The Delica 4’s bright orange scales are my preferred color for camping, but for customer preference and discrete every day carry purposes it’s also available in black, blue, brown, grey, green, purple, and stainless. The scales radiating design doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, since I like to have positive grip in all directions when holding a knife, but they at least provide increased slip resistance in the direction of the blade. The pattern’s tiny detailing is also hard to clean, which isn’t super important, but a little annoying. The scales are also
smooth along the bottom, which is aesthetically nice, since it creates a clean edge, but I’d prefer a little more texture for my hands to grip. Additionally, the scales, and thus the knife, are fairly thin, which makes the knife a bit lower profile from the Benchmade Mini Griptilian’s rounder cross section. The handle is a uniquely curved shape, but becomes a little too thin for my liking at the narrowest point before flaring back out. The thumb ramp is significant and adorned with beautifully detailed jimping for secure thumb placement when getting aggressive.
Opening the knife is easy and ambidextrous. Some people strongly prefer thumb holes to studs or vice versa, but I find them to be equally functional and Spyderco has their thumb hole design dialed. Since the Delica 4 is a lock-back design there is increased resistance throughout the opening and closing motion, but it’s nothing significant. The lock-back design is very secure and manufactured to high tolerances, but can have issues locking if contaminants (lint or dirt) form in the blade back nook while in your pocket. This shouldn’t be an issue, since the clip is adjustable with a Torx #6 to be attached at either end, on either side, so there’s no reason not to clip the knife in your desired position. The lock-back design is also considerably more difficult to close with one hand when compared to the Benchmade AXIS lock or Kershaw frame lock. Disassembly of the knife is possible with a Torx #9 for the pivot screw.
The Spyderco Delica 4 is an excellent ambidextrous knife made with premium Japanese steel that accommodates all possible clipping preferences and is very solid when locked open.
Spyderco Delica 4. Japan. $65. Purchase.
Kershaw Leek 1660 in Stainless
Weight: 3oz (85g)
Open Length: 7 in. (179 mm)
Closed length: 4 in. (103 mm)
Blade length: 3 in. (76 mm)
Blade Material: 14C28N blade
Handle Material: 410 stainless steel in a bead-blasted finish
14C28N stainless steel is a Scandinavian steel made by Sandvik with a composition of: Carbon: 0.62%, Chromium: 14.0%, Manganese: 0.6%, Phosphorus: 0.025%, Silicon: 0.2%, Sulfur: 0.010% and Nitrogen: 0.11% and has a Rockwell Hardness of 58-60. This steel is primarily chosen for it’s ease of manufacturing (fine-blanking), while still having relatively high performance. The Leek is also available in a variety of blade surface finishes, a serrated blade, or a composite blade featuring a D2 cutting edge copper brazed to a 14C28N steel sandwich.
Handle & Use
Unlike the Benchmade and Spyderco, the Kershaw Leek is full metal construction, which increases weight, but adds refinement and enables it to be carried in classier situations. It’s also a very sleek and elegant knife in general with it’s svelte profile and modified drop-point blade. Like the other knives the Kershaw Leek is available in a variety of handle colors including: black, orange, purple, teal, olive drab, rainbow, and blackwash.
The SpeedSafe ambidextrous, assisted opening is a little aggressive for my liking, but it is certainly fun to play with. It allows the knife to be opened by either using the stud as normal or pushing on a rear bump that rotates the knife past the force inflection point causing the knife to spring open. There is a Tip-Lock that can be slid over the point of the knife to prevent accidentally opening the knife in your pocket, but it’s then a bit of a clumsy maneuver to open the knife when you want to use it.
The frame lock is perfectly to spec, but it’s not my preferred style of lock and doesn’t have the strength or ruggedness of either the Benchmade AXIS or Spyderco lock-back designs. Frame locks are super common, stronger than liner locks, and easier to operate than a lock-back, but require your thumb to be in the path of the blade, aren’t ambidextrous, and can be accidentally activated while using the knife. This is also not much of a concern if the knife is used for light work.
The Kershaw Ken Onion 1660 Leek with stainless scales and svelte profile is a very attractive and clean knife for a minimalist EDC.
Kershaw Ken Onion Leek. USA. $35. Purchase.