View Full Version : Magic Knives - are there any?

February 6, 1999, 08:22 PM
Every professional gunman I know carries one or more knives. Many carry Spyderco or Benchmade. These knives cost thirty to perhaps eighty at gun shows.

I keep reading about folding knives with prices in the three to five hundred area. Are these knives magic? What do they do better than a Benchmade AFCK ( $50.00 wholesale ) or a Spyderco Police Model at about $65 wholesale?

FYI, I have little knife training ( avoidance only ) and normally carry a Benchmade. GLV

Rich Lucibella
February 6, 1999, 10:29 PM
I don't think it fair for me to state "you get what you pay for". However, there are a number of folders that are better than Benchmade's. They also tend to cost more money. They may be better in that the locks are more dependable, the ergonomics are better and/or the steel is better. Some which come to mind are Chris Reeve's Sebenza, Ernie Emerson's Commander and some of the Microtech offerings. A folder that you wouldn't trust for thrusting is one example of a reason to pay more (there are very few folders that I'd feel comfortable attempting this with.)

I've always found it surprising that firearms afficianados, willing to part with well over $1,000 for a sidearm, sights, mags, holsters, belt, etc, raise an eyebrow at knives with a price over $100. Both are important survival tools.

I have no problem with those who choose the AFCK, as long as they are aware of the limitations compared, for instance, to the Sebenza.

Our sister site, http://www.bladeforums.com provides a wealth of knowledge to novice and expert. Many of your questions might be answered there, though this is certainly a welcome subject here as well.

Hope this helps.

[This message has been edited by Rich Lucibella (edited 02-06-99).]

February 7, 1999, 10:57 AM
I have owned a bunch of folding knives, the best by far has been made by Coldsteel. They have a page www.coldsteel.com its a very informative page.And like the other person said "You get what you pay for".

Harry Humphries
February 7, 1999, 11:52 AM
Like Rich advises, you should try the Blade forum <http://www.bladeforums.com>.

More specific to your question, the only magic blade I am aware of was the Xcalabar which was procured from some lady in a lake some years before I joined the Navy. You may want to contact an Arthurian web site for detail.

Today we are lucky enough to have a wide variety of blade types at our disposal, some practical, some art form and practical, and some strictly art at the highest level. If you are looking for a combat folder, or a practical pocket knife that could be effectively used for self defense you will get all the advice you want from the troops over at the Blade forum, but price should not be an issue if you are looking for quality, there are many commercial sources such as have mentioned. Prices range from 80$ to $250. My only suggestion is to select a liner blade lock system as the back lock systems have been known to close on fingers in edged classes - makes for a real bad day.

February 9, 1999, 04:46 PM
I just had a guy over to buy a couple of cheap knives. He could not afford the more expensive ones, but even as an inexperienced person, and just a "normal knife user", when I laid them all out he could instantly tell the difference in quality. Not even knowing what the materials are, he kept commenting on how much better the more expensive ones felt and how smooth and strong they were.
Hold a $200 Emerson Commander or Microtech next to your choice of lower line folder, and if you don't see the immediate difference, then please put it down and don't buy it ;)
There is a point where you are getting less for the price point...much like buying a rifle for $1000 that will shoot 1 moa, but then spending $3000 for a rifle that will shoot 1/2 moa. By the numbers there is a very little difference in performance, but to an avid marksman, they would not think of being cheap and buying the $1000 rifle.
Custom folders are in a league of their own and once again, when you feel a $400 Kit Carson or Greg Lightfoot folder next to a $200 Microtech or production Emerson, you will notice a difference, but it is up to you whether that difference is worth twice the cost.
Personally, I think there is a point where you are losing ground, and I tend to stick with the $200 range of folders, most of the time. But that is because I am a college student, and that is all I can afford to USE (rather than look at). If/when I make more money, a $400 folder would not be out of the question to use. As it is, when I am betting my life on a knife, I still use a $350 Mad Dog fixed blade, but for folders which usually don't get as hard of use, I get by with the $200 range.

Same anaolgy regarding fixed blades goes for Mad Dog versus Cold Steel. The Cold Steel Bush Ranger will get the job done most of the time, but those of us that strive to be professionals and want to be able to put our life on our knife, pay four times the cost for a Mad Dog because we KNOW that we could cut our way out of a burning car with it if we had to, among many other high quality features of the Mad Dog line.
A knife is your first resort tool and your last resort weapon. Make sure that when you reach for it, it will put up with whatever you can dish out, because you life may depend on it.


February 10, 1999, 10:07 PM
Are there magic knives? No, but it depends on exactly what your needs are and what you're looking for.

As for price, it's all relative. Generally, the more expensive, the better the quality. However, sometimes we're paying extra for the name. The CQC6 comes to mind. IMHO, tools strictly for fighting need not be pretty or even a custom; it just has to work and work good. For that matter, in extreme circumstances, your tools can fail, they can be lost, or they can be confiscated after a fight. With that in mind, I've come to adopt the concept of expendability, looking for the least expensive knife possible without compromising the stringent requirements for a fighting knife.


Walt Welch
February 10, 1999, 10:30 PM
Well, I have only been interested in knives for about 2 years; my interest in guns goes back to when I was 7 or 8 yo, and used to sneak out in the back yard and shoot my dad's .22LR, when no one but me was home. Only made one mistake, put the rifle back in the closet muzzle down. Live and learn (yes, I HAD been shown how to use it, and did handle it with respect, but I admit I shouldn't have done it). So, I think I can give you an objective report, being first and formost, an appreciator of firearms.

I own 3 Gold Cups; one was made in 1957, one in 1967 (which I bought new that year), and another made in 1972. There is a slight, but definite, decrease in quality between the first two, and a clear difference between the last two. However, they all shoot about the same.

There are some objective advantages to the high end knives being discussed. Advances in steel making technology allow incredibly high alloy steels to be made, some with over 2% carbon, and 14% Chromium. Thus, an incredibly high carbon (over 0.5% is considered 'high carbon,' previously about 1% was about as high as you could go), yet stainless steel is available.

These steels do cut better, last longer, and resist corrosion very well.

There are some new alloys, such as the Cobalt alloys, which are absolutely non corrosive, and will out wear tungsten carbide. Also, a certain major manufacturer is working on a Ti alloy which can be made quite hard.

You don't get anything free, however, the improved (Crucible Particle Metallurgy) steels run $30-$50/lb, the Cobalt alloys $150/lb, and the new Ti alloy, $500/lb !!!

But, the question is, are they worth it. From a strictly objective, does-it-cut-5-times-better-than-the-cheap-one, viewpoint. No, not really. Like my GC's they all cut about the same.

Few of us really use their gear hard enough to tell the difference between good, really good, and great. I have never noticed any difference in using my moderately priced knifes compared with the expensive ones.

What truly makes these very expensive knives worth every penny to me, and I own several, is the absolutely incredible craftsmanship, combined with the finest materials available.
It is a subjective value, but it is very real. There is a feel to a handcrafted knife which makes it closer to a work of art than a tool. Everything is fit extremely well, the blades open smooth as silk, and they lock shut like a bank vault.

Mad Dog's fixed blades, mentioned above, are a different breed. They are pure and simple working tools. The best in the world. Made from low alloy 01 steel, but the blades are ground by hand, not using CAD/CAM or jigs, just Prussian Blue. Entirely free hand. Kevin McClung (Mad Dog's real name) heat treats the steel himself, and then has the blades hard chromed (01 steel rusts easily).

On a recent combined Russian American expedition in the Arctic, things turned grim when the Russian military tents were torn to tatters, and the team had to dig snow caves. The only usable knife at the end of this near disaster was a Mad Dog ATAK. These knives ARE worth on a will-it-perform-better-than-anything-else basis.

So, are there 'magic' knives? There are for me; some of them have a peculiar alive feeling when I pick them up. You will have to decide for yourselves. I can tell you this, however, if you buy a high quality knife and are disappointed with it, you will have no problem reselling it. Walt

Rob Pincus
February 10, 1999, 10:38 PM
How much are professional gunmen going for these days? I'm having a birthday party for my youngest and......

Seriously, I carry a Benchmade myself very often, though I am migrating to fixed blades the more I learn about them. I have recently recieved a Cetan. It has not exhibited any magical properties yet, but for $125 I think it is a great knife.

On the higher end, I purchased a Mirage-X Micro for around $300. it has exhibited some magical properties, in that it shaves steel off my other knives, cuts glass and passes through magnetometers without a peep.

I also ordered another knife from Kevin McClung last week. It will be in the same price range as the Micro.

All three of those knives are sub-4" blades so that they are legal to carry in Tennessee. 2 of them are 3.5" or less, so they pass FAA regulations. With the three of them, I think I will be well outfitted for some time to come.

Even if I carried all three of them and a KISS on my pocket, I still wouldn't equal the cost of many of the guns I have carried around without any consideration for their cost. The kicker: As a civilian, I have actually used most of the knives I have carried for more than piece of mind.


Jim March
February 15, 1999, 03:34 AM
If we're talking about folders as the original question referred to, to me the biggest issue is lock strength. The linerlocks are starting to show serious problems across the board where "combat applicability" is concerned...if you spend $250+ on a REKAT with the Rolling Lock and it will NOT collapse no matter how hard the spine is hit or how much you twist, wrench and grab at it, is that worth it?

Hell yes.

That said, the relatively "cheap" Cold Steel zytel lockbacks have VERY strong locks. They're not exactly smooth, and I'm getting a certain rep for the "dremel modification recipe" I came up with to smooth out the snapopen sequence. EMail for details :). I *like* my Cold Steel Vaquero Grande and when I can't wear a fixed blade it's an excellent defense knife. It can be improved on, and I'd spend more on a higher quality "megafolder".

(Note: Calif. has no blade length limits on concealed megafolders. I keep threatening to jigger together a folding Katana using a hacked Ontario Black Wind 1095 20" blade... :D)

Jim March

Edmund Rowe
February 20, 1999, 09:19 PM
unnnffff....bladeforums....another discussion forum I didn't know about? Am I always the last to hear about these things??


Rich Lucibella
February 20, 1999, 09:56 PM
Mike Turber and Spark's BladeForums can be reached at http://www.bladeforums.com . Did you think they just fell off the edge of the world after they disappeared?

[This message has been edited by Rich Lucibella (edited February 20, 1999).]

old biker
February 21, 1999, 01:21 AM
Guess I'll join the Cold Steel bandwagon, we filleted 80 salmon with one and it would still shave! My bro-in-law got that one to take to hunting camp to try to wear out the edge on moose. He guides for a living and had never seen a blade hold up so well. The only thing I did was to add a pocket clip ala SpiderCo. The sheath from the factory is too big. I did'nt Dremal, I used a punch to loosen the main spring. Vaquero Grande, besides it matches the STS Vaquero I've been carrying cross draw the last couple months. 3 5/8 in barrel with round butt fore and aft on gripframe. Weighs only 33oz! 300gnXTPs roaring out at 1250fps! YUP, it's a .45LC. Ya gotta see what LBTs do to Kevlar. See ya city folks..



February 21, 1999, 01:33 AM
Mr. March,

are the problems to which you allude
strictly that of the knife hand
unintentionally releasing the lock,
or are there strength issues as well?

having spent quite a few dinars on
a couple of Benchmade AFCKs and
various Spydercos, you've got me

February 26, 1999, 10:20 AM
GLV I found a web site selling a folding knife made of recovered meteor fragments. price of $650, how do you like that?

Rich Lucibella
February 26, 1999, 11:12 AM
Perform the following test with the AFCK. Tape the edge.
Apply steady pressure to the back of the blade while supporting the handle in a hard surface.

I did this with two Benchmades straight out of the Gunsite display case and defeated both locks without exerting undo pressure.

I might own one someday. but I sure wouldn't stab anything with it, even in an emergency.

Jim March
February 26, 1999, 11:55 AM
Ivanhoe, there seems to be three "seperate" issues going on:

1) "Squeeze unlocks", whereby your own finger flesh disengages the lock during heavy squeezing. Seems to be related to "twisting motions" in some knives; good grip shape design helps a lot here.

2) "Pressure failures" are as Rich says, steady pressure causing slippage. I have a pair of 5.5" AlMars, possibly the biggest linerlocks ever made - too big, they have a tendency to just "buckle" under pressure. I mean the grips expand, the lock spring plate visibly flexes, etc...I consider it a "slash only" weapon, not a stabber. This kind of "gross warpage" is rare, but in small non-noticable amounts may be a factor in other failures.

3) "Knock failures", whereby slamming the spine even somewhat softly can set up a "shock wave" down the lock spring and pop it loose. Joe Talmadge has more info on this, tonight I'll go dig up threads on Bladeforums and post URLs here.

The strongest lockwork of any folder I own is the Godzilla-strong lockback on the Cold Steel Vaquero Grande. Mind you, it isn't very smooth from the factory - I have a dremel-tool recipe for tuning it that involves rounding out a "pause notch" built into the tang, EMail me for details.

The Axis lock is strong as hell, the old Blackie Collins "Bolt Actions" on such as the Gerber Parabellum was cool, the Sebenza/Pinnacle type "Integral lock" gets STRONGER the tighter you grip it, the REKAT Rolling lock is superb and about to be licensed by Spyderco. MT has a "Microbar" that's interesting if unproven...

Did I miss any? Upshot is, Linerlocks are no longer the kings.

Jim March

February 26, 1999, 06:39 PM
When I posed this queston, I was looking for definative answers. It looks like I got some.

It is obivious that some of our members have some knife training and knowledge.

I have been happy with my Benchmade, and Spyderco knives. I also do not mind spending more money for a better mousetrap. As I ( when in the US ) always carry at least two guns, the knife is a tool, and perhaps a last resort weapon.

What do our knowledgable members suggest? I prefer a blade of about 3 to 3 1/2", a folder, and I like a pocket clip. Price under $400.00. What features do I look for? Thanks, GLV

Rich Lucibella
February 26, 1999, 08:23 PM
I think the features are a matter that you have to work out. If you're looking for a "working knife", you'll be most interested in ergonomics and edgeholding. For a strictly defensive folder, you're interested in the best lock and smoothest action available.

My vote, in both cases is the Sebenza. The lock is simply second to none. You can legally carry on a plane. It holds an edge extremely well.
Drawbacks: Ergonomics (as with most pocket clip folders) is so-so.
Blade legnth is just under 4". (This is perfect, IMHO, but slightly outside the range you asked about).

Highest recommendation for it comes from Kevin Mad Dog McClung. Kevin makes the finest fixed blade tools and weapons available. When his son went to college, where fixed blades ar a no-no, Kevin gave him a Sebenza.

Hope this helps.

Jim March
February 26, 1999, 11:17 PM
If you can't afford a Sebenza the Benchmade Pinnacle uses the same lock. Mission Knife and Tool (www.missionknives.com I think) also has a folder with this sort of "integral lock", it's a sort of "mutant linerlock on steroids".

Properly done, a lockback can be strong but it won't be smooth - a clean reliable draw is critical for "combat grade folders".

Take a look at this thread and you'll see what we mean by lock failures:


and a followup:


One more thing: I personally favor BIG folders, up in the 5" or even 6" class. Spyderco and REKAT are in the early design stages of making such "megafolders" based on the REKAT "Rolling Lock" - which is as good as the Sebenza Integral, BM Axis and others mentioned. A 5" advanced-lock knife from either company would be a DREAM.

Jim March

Rob Pincus
February 27, 1999, 01:36 AM

After checking out Rich's Sebenza, I see why he likes them. You might also consider one of the Emerson offerings or a Benchmade as a more inexpensive option, but it sounds like you're wanting to move up from the BM.


I don't know where you are, but many places (and the FAA) have legal limits under 4". I think California let's you carry anything as long as it folds, but here in Tennessee, you better keep your butcher knives in a bag on your way home from the store. Carrying any knife over 4" with the intenet to go armed is a weapons felony.

Jim March
February 27, 1999, 02:54 AM
I'm in California, home of the BIG folder. I dream of using two slabs of aluminum to do grips on a mutilated folder using an Ontario Black Wind Katana blade with most of the grip lopped off.

There's another way of getting a monster sub-4" blade combat folder: the Muskrat concept. A Muskrat is a two-locking-blade knife rigged "back to back", so you're doing both a forward-grip and reverse-grip hold. Potent with practice, and seriously intimidating. And legally there ain't squat they can do about it.

Rob, my understanding is that in a "good gun law state" like TN, it's highly unusual for the cops to still care about knife blade length limits once you've got a gun carry permit with background check, etc. True? Probably a "depends on the cop" thing?

Jim March

Rob Pincus
February 27, 1999, 03:15 AM
If you are carrying the gun, you are probably correct. but if you are visiting TN, I would suggest leaving your folding katanas at home. ;)

Most officers are not going to check a knife's length if they are concerned with establishing your handgun carry status. but the airport security guys and other places where the guns are already a no-no are definitely going to care.
Furthermore, I don't advocate relying on "what usually happens."... while I have done it and gotten away with it, I have also seen it go the other way. It would be a damn shame to have a CCW, be carrying a gun legally and yet still get charged with a felony weapons charge because you felt like you needed an extra inch or 2 of blade. Does not seem even close to being worth the risk to me.

February 27, 1999, 08:21 PM
Good information, thanks all. I just went to Reeve's site and like the look of his knives. The technical information sounds great, tho as a non engineer, my opinions might not be valid.

Special thanks to Rich and Jim for all of the information. GLV

March 1, 1999, 08:57 PM
Rich, I have looked at my Benchmade, and believe I can see the mechanism of lock failure, but it would help me, and others, if you would expain it to us. Thanks, GLV

Rich Lucibella
March 1, 1999, 10:15 PM
The mechanism of the failure eludes me, as it was discovered quite by accident. Actually, I was generous to Benchmade in describing my defeat of two of their knives.

A few months ago, due to the popularity of the AFCK on this and other Boards, I ordered another, thinking that I had simply come across a bad lot.

My cell phone guy was here at the time and did me a huge favor with a car phone. He admired the knife even after I showed him the functional flaw. He left with it...a present from me.

Forewarned is fourfingered? ;)

March 7, 1999, 10:01 PM

Just saw this thread - don't come to CQC much but looks like I should. I don't particularly care for the AFCK much and, although I briefly looked at one at a gun show, I don't recall how the lock works (I assume linerlock?)

I've tried th BM CQC7 - yecch - too much handle for the blade (975 model) - still want to try the smaller version if I can find one (discontinued).

For my money the BM 910S Stryker is tops - handle design is fantastic - adjustable hinge pin allows opening with a flick of the wrist (I hardly ever touch the thumb disc). Have you tried your failure test on one? I can't imagine the linerlock failing but who knows.