I’m a knife snob, but I’ve lost more expensive knives than I’ve broken cheap ones. I also know blade vanity is about as useful as a Lynyrd Skynyrd tattoo. There’s a lot to be said for an affordable, practical everyday-carry knife. It needs to be sharp and easy to keep that way. It also must be safe to use, resistant to the elements, and capable of slicing through the common chores a woodsman routinely faces. I tested four inexpensive blades to see which ones would make the cut.
$59.99 • Outlet Price: $32.22* • Best of the Test
BARGAIN RATING: Excellent • Fit and Finish: Good • Handling: Excellent • Carry Comfort: Very good • Sharpness: Excellent
SPECS: Weight: 4.8 oz. • Blade/Open Length: 3.25″/7.6″ • Grind: Hollow • Blade Material/Hardness: 420HC/57-58 HRC • Lock: Liner • Scales: Glass-filled nylon, K-Texture grip
COMMENTS: Thanks to the assisted-opening feature, the blade jumps out. The reversible (edge-rear or edge-front, right- or left-hand) clip is nice, and the deep guard makes the knife safe even during rigorous cutting. It has a very ergonomic handle with a handy lanyard loop. The blade is thick out to the tip, which is a bit pointy for dressing and skinning. For guys who like a good-size, sturdy EDC knife, this is a great choice, and it’s made in the U.S.A.
$29.99 • Outlet Price: $17.41*
BARGAIN RATING: Excellent • Fit and Finish: Very good • Handling: Very good • Carry Comfort: Fair • Sharpness: Excellent
SPECS: Weight: 3.5 oz. • Blade/Open Length: 2.1″/5.7″ • Grind: Hollow • Blade Material/Hardness: 8Cr13MoV/58-59 HRC • Lock: Frame • Scales: 2Cr13 steel
COMMENTS: The Squid is solidly constructed and rests comfortably and securely in hand due to gimping on the spine and a choil-like finger recess in the scales. A nonreversible pocket clip is a drawback, but it’s positioned in the best possible way. The centerline-tipped, drop-point blade has a lot of forward arch, which makes skinning easy. The Kershaw is the best knife for under $40, but if even that’s too rich for you, get this Chinese-made alternative.
$69.95 • Outlet Price: $35.75*
BARGAIN RATING: Good • Fit and Finish: Very good • Handling: Good • Carry Comfort: Very good • Sharpness: Excellent
SPECS: Weight: 4.1 oz. • Blade/Open Length: 3.39″/7.76″ • Grind: Flat • Blade Material/Hardness: 8Cr13MoV/58-59 HRC • Lock: Liner • Scales: G10
COMMENTS: It has easy one-hand opening with the added convenience of any-way carry. The flat-ground blade is extremely sharp, and the gimped thumb rise is very comfortable. This pointed tip will come in handy for some chores (such as caping), but expect to punch through some things you don’t want punched while field dressing and skinning. A tad large and the most expensive, it is made in China. Black-blade and combination-edge versions are also available.
$38 • Outlet Price: $14.42*
BARGAIN RATING: Fair • Fit and Finish: Fair • Handling: Good • Carry Comfort: Good • Sharpness: Excellent
SPECS: Weight: 2.7 oz. • Blade/Open Length: 3″/7.25″ • Grind: Hollow • Blade Material/Hardness: 7Cr17MoV/54-56 HRC • Lock: Mid Lock • Scales: Textured rubber
COMMENTS: The Myth provides a firm grip even with wet or bloody hands. It has slightly softer steel that is a tad easier to sharpen—but it dulls quicker, too. After a bad experience accidentally deactivating a mid-lock knife in my past, I’m not a fan of the style. But the lock on this knife was small, positive, and probably not a worry. Overall, it felt a bit flimsy, like a $20 folder. It’s the lightest knife that I tested, and it’s manufactured in China, too.
I tested sharpness on arm hair—and now have none left. I evaluated handling and feel while whittling a stick and cutting cardboard. Steel hardness was nearly identical; all four knives took about the same time to dull and sharpen. I didn’t throw them at stumps or fight any ninjas, but I did use them to peel the insulation off some copper wire, skin some squirrels, and cut and sharpen marshmallow-roasting sticks. Carry comfort was determined the obvious way; I put them in my pocket and did manly, outdoor stuff. —R.M.
*According to Amazon.com