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Archive | Bushcraft

Bargain or Just Cheap? – ESEE Avispa and Zancudo

Welcome to Bargain or Just Cheap? This series reviews budget friendly knives for a variety of uses in a short format. All of the knives will cost less than $50 (in most cases, much less) and will be purchased out of my own pocket. I’ll buy them, carry them, and use them in an attempt to determine if the knife is a bargain or just cheap.


If you are a manufacturer planning to create a budget knife, pay careful attention to what ESEE has done with the Avispa and Zancudo. They’ve kept cost down by getting the important things right and careful material selection. I’ll let the cat out of the bag right up front. These knives are great.

ESEE Avispa D2

Avispa Specs:

Lock: Steel frame lock

Pocket Clip: Left or right, tip up or down

Steel: AUS 8 or D2

Handle: Textured FRN front, steel back

Blade length: 3.5 in.

Blade thickness: .11 in.

Open length: 8.5 in.

Weight: 4.51 oz.

Zancudo Specs:

Lock: Steel frame lock

Pocket Clip: Right pocket only, tip up or down

Steel: AUS 8 or D2

Handle: Textured FRN front, steel back

Blade length: 2.94 in.

Blade thickness: .09 in.

Open length: 7 in.

Weight: 3.06 oz

Observations from Use

Both of these knives do a great job of getting the important things right which leads to knives with great performance and high perceived quality. It is obvious that care goes into ensuring that things like the frame lock, detent, grinds, and ergonomics are dialed in on these knives.

Both knives flick open with ease. They have positive detents and smooth bronze phosphor washers paired with thumb studs that are well placed and easy to find with your thumb. My examples were smooth right out of the box and became even smoother with some use and the tiniest drop of oil on each washer.

I’ve been able to handle several of these knives over the years and they all have incredibly consistent lock up. The frame lock contacts the blade tang at about 75-80% lock up. There is no blade play and plenty of room left to wear in with use. These are well executed frame locks.

These knives cut extremely well! The blades on both knives feature a similar profile. They are drop points with full height flat grinds. The point drops to the center of the blade so much that this is nearly a spear point shape. They cut aggressively thanks to their thinner blade stock and excellent geometry.

Both knives are offered with two steel options: D2 and AUS 8. Flip a coin. They are both good. The AUS 8 is stainless and very easy to sharpen at the cost of some edge holding performance. D2 is a carbon steel (very rust resistant compared to most carbon steels). It offers great edge holding but can be tricky for some people to sharpen. The knives are a good value with AUS 8 steel and an incredible value with D2. It is hard to find other knives with similarly high performance steels at this price.

The FRN scales offers good texture without being tough on your pockets and they are available in about a million color options. Both knives have full steel liners under the FRN scale. The liner is drilled with a series of holes to reduce weight on the Avispa. I wish the same steps were taken with the Zancudo. It could have been a truly lightweight knife.

The ergonomics on both knives are great. The Avispa feels large and hand filling even though it is actually quite slim. The Zancudo is actually smaller than a Spyderco Delica in nearly every dimension yet it still manages to offer a grip that all four fingers will fit and a longer cutting edge. That is truly incredible as someone who has been carrying a Delica for more than 15 years. They fit your hand, are slim in the pocket, and are large enough to do real work.

They’re good but not perfect. The FRN scales can tend to flex away from the steel liner a bit which is a little annoying. The pocket clips will ride directly on the frame lock bar if you switch them around for right pocket tip up carry which can make one handed closing difficult (though still doable). Those are pretty minor gripes considering that even the D2 version of this knife comes in at well under $40.

ESEE Zancudo D2

Bargain or Just Cheap?

The ESEE Avispa and Zancudo may lack gimmicks, flash, and pretense. However, they more than make up for it with cutting performance, ergonomics, and value. There is no doubt. These knives are BARGAINS.

Amazingly, the D2 version of these knives tends to cost only $4-5 more than the AUS 8 version and they are still less than $40. If you are feeling flushed with cash, there are D2 and Carbon Fiber options that still come in under $50!

I am using Amazon as the price base line for this series. All knives were purchased by me from Amazon:

ESEE Avispa on Amazon

ESEE Zancudo on Amazon


Our goal is to represent knives for a variety of uses from EDC, to outdoor, to tactical knives. Do you have a favorite affordable knife? Let us know about it in the comments!

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Bargain or Just Cheap? – RUIKE Hornet F815

Welcome to Bargain or Just Cheap? This series will review budget friendly knives for a variety of uses in a short format. All of the knives will cost less than $50 (in most cases, much less) and will be purchased out of my own pocket. I’ll buy them, carry them, and use them in an attempt to determine if the knife is a bargain or just cheap.


You would think that it would be easier to find bargain fixed blades than it is to find bargain folding knives due to the simplicity of a fixed blade knife. However, that isn’t always the case for one reason – sheaths. Most bargain knives come with terrible sheaths and by the time you replace the lousy included the sheath, the knife isn’t a bargain anymore. It takes a little digging but there are bargains out there beyond the standby Mora.

RUIKE Knives is kind of like the knife division of Fenix Lights though their affiliation with the flashlight maker isn’t always spelled out clearly on their website. They make a number of interesting and value minded knives but there is one in particular, the RUIKE Hornet F815, that drew me in several months ago.

Specs:

Steel: Sandvik 14C28N

Handle: Textured G-10

Blade length: 3.35 in.

Spine Thickness: .14 in.

Overall length: 7.48 in.

Weight: 3.7 oz.

Sheath: Injection molded

Observation from Use

I was initially drawn to the Hornet because I was looking for a full sized fixed blade knife that was both stout and lightweight. I like flat grinds and drop point blade shapes for general use. The Hornet seemed to hit all those points. It has been on several adventures since then, spending a lot of time tucked into a Hill People Gear Runner’s Kit Bag, and has served me well.

The Hornet is relatively lightweight while still offering the durability and comfort of a full tang knife with slab handles. The knife’s most distinctive feature is its skeletonized handle with textured G-10 slabs. This feature is VERY well executed. They slabs are fit to the tang very well and RUIKE even took steps to chamfer the edge of the G-10 inside the lightening cutout. The result is a knife that is lightweight for this type of construction, more comfortable to use than a knife without handle slabs, and that offers great grip even with gloves.

RUIKE uses Sandvik 14C28N at .14″ thick on the Hornet. Sandvik 14C28N is a great steel that takes a fine edge without much fuss. This knife cuts and slices well at .14″ thick and with the relatively tall, flat saber ground blade. It cuts well but is also stout enough to stand up to hard use like batoning.

The sheath is made from injection molded plastic. Like many plastic sheaths, it is bit bulkier than a real kydex sheath would be. However, it is functional. It has adjustable retention (not often seen on injection molded sheaths) and secures the knife well. The included clip works well for belt carry and is adjustable for a number of angles. I removed the clip on mine since I generally carry it in a pack or Kit Bag.

Bargain or Just Cheap?

The RUIKE Hornet F815 bumps right up against our $50 limit for this series but it packs a lot of features not commonly found on bargain fixed blades. It is well designed. It offers a great balance of durability and lightweight. It comes with a functional sheath. It’s a good looking knife with very good fit and finish. The steel is not a bargain basement steel. I call it a BARGAIN and like this knife a lot.

I will be using Amazon as the price base line for this series. All knives were purchased by me from Amazon:

RUIKE Hornet with Black G-10

RUIKE Hornet with Orange G-10

Note: This design is also be available from Sanrenmu, who may actually be the OEM maker of the Hornet, with lower grade 8Cr14Mov steel for considerably less money. I purchased the Hornet because of the better steel and the backing of RUIKE for any potential warranty issues.


Our goal is to represent knives for a variety of uses from EDC, to outdoor, to tactical knives. Do you have a favorite affordable knife? Let us know about it in the comments!

TOPS Knives to Sell Pre-Production Fieldcraft Folder

The Fieldcraft Folder is perhaps the most anticipated knife that TOPS Knives has ever dreamed up and the pro-production version is about to go on sale. On July 18th, TOPS will offer a special edition of the Fieldcraft Folder that is limited to 50 pieces – the first 50 knives made to production specs. These pre-production models were produced after TOPS spent years dialing the processes that it would take to produce their first in-house production folding knife.

Each of these 50 special editions will come with a serialized box to match the knife, a knife cleaning mat, a bottle of Breakthrough Clean knife oil, and of course a TOPS whistle.

The Pre-Production Fieldcraft Folders go on sale July 18th. Stay tuned for additional details.

TOPS Knives

Outdoor Adventure Supply Recon Survival Tool

I am a sucker for sharpened shovels, especially when they don’t cost an arm and a leg. The Recon Survival Tool came to my attention via EJ Snyder who, according to his Facebook page, has been using one for about a year and it has been performing well.

This tool looks like a real outdoor multitasker with design elements meant to stand in as a shovel, brush hook, hatchet, saw, hammer, and knife. The handle seems to be relatively well designed with a guard and the ability to change where your grip depending on your task.

Outdoor Adventure Supply who markets the Recon Survival Tool states that it is designed and patented in the USA (likely made over seas somewhere). It is made from some non-specific stainless steel with G10 handle slabs and weighs less than 2 pounds. The Recon Survival Tool comes with a sheath and ferro rod.

Check out the Recon Survival Tool at Outdoor Adventure Supply

Big Changes at Survive! Knives

Survive! Knives has been hinting toward big changes for a while now and their upcoming SK series of knives hasn’t exactly been a secret though details were sparse. That all changed yesterday when Survive! rolled out new details on the future of the SK and GSO series.

The Survive! GSO series of knives have been in high demand and that is an understatement. The demand has easily outstripped the pace at which the semi-custom line can be produced and the knives are back ordered out more than a year in most cases. Enter the SK series. The SK series of knives will be more of a high end production line produced by Millet Knives, a well established OEM producer with a great track record of quality, and delivered to Survive! for finishing. The hope is that the SK series would be able to be kept in stock to meet the demand of most users and the GSO series can continue to be Survive! Knives’ more premium, hand finished line.

The SK series consists initially of 3 different models: SK 3.5, SK 6, and SK 12. Pre-orders are already open on the SK 6 and SK 12. You can read details on all the SK models on their product page: SK product page at SurviveKnives.com

You can read what Survive! Knives has to say about the transition on their blog and view the video below for more details.

ESEE PR4 – A Modern Kephart

There are a few names and associated blade designs that everyone interested in wilderness survival knows – George W. Sears and his Nessmuk pen name/knife design, Ray Mears and his influential Woodlore Bushcraft Knife, and Horace Kephart with his iconic “Kephart” knife design. In spite of how well these men and their knife designs are known, modern versions of their designs have been mostly only available from custom knife makers. This is especially true of the Kephart design until now.

Photo credit: ESEE Knives – PR4 shown with original Kephart, 1 of 2 in existance, belonging to Ethan Becker of Becker Knife & Tool

ESEE will be releasing a new knife called the PR4, a Kephart inspired design by Patrick Rollins in their Camp-Lore line. The PR4 has a decidedly modern appearance with its textured micarta scales and black wash finish.

However, the soul of a Kephart design still shows through that modern look. The handle is mostly straight with a rounded pommel and small, rounded guard. The edge comes close to the handle and runs straight to provide plenty of useable cutting edge for leverage cuts and fine work. The blade ends up in a well rounded spear point that is unmistakably Kephart.

 

Specs:

  • Overall Length: 8.90”
  • Blade Overall Length: 4.19”
  • Cutting Edge Length: 4.0”
  • Thickness: .125”
  • Weight (without sheath): 6.3 oz.
  • Steel: 1095 Carbon, 55-57 Rc.
  • Blade Finish: Tumbled Black Oxide
  • Handles: Sculptured Micarta
  • Sheath: Leather Pouch

Check out the ESEE PR4 product page at ESEEKnives.com.

TOPS Knives Releases the SXB Knife

Knife people seem to have a love/hate relationship with the Wilderness Survival Knife (WSK) design. Some love it for its ability to perform a wide variety of tasks and potentially replace multiple tools. Some hate it for its large size and brute force approach. All I know is that I have seen some very capable people doing a multitude of survival related tasks with them and doing them very effectively. I also know that the new SXB from TOPS Knives is one of the most radical WSKs I have seen yet.

SXB

Take TOPS Knives’ well known Tom Brown Tracker, stretch it out by nearly 5″, add TOPS Knives’ Rocky Mountain Tread handle treatment, add an extended pommel and guard, and you have something close to the SXB EJ “Skullcrusher” Snyder. Interestingly, because the SXB is not quite as tall as the Tracker, it manages to weigh 2 ounces less in spite of all the extra blade length.

SXB Flyer

Overall Length 16.75″
Blade Length 10.38″
Cutting Edge 9.75″
Blade Thickness 0.250″
Blade Steel 1095 RC 56-58
Blade Finish Black Traction Coating
Handle Material Black Linen Micarta
Handle Style Rocky Mountain Tread
Knife Weight 26 oz
Sheath Included Yes
Sheath Material Black Ballistic Nylon
Sheath Clip Molle Backing
Designer EJ “Skullcrusher” Snyder

Tahoma Field Knife Kydex from InnerBark Outdoors

The Tahoma Field Knife, a large fixed blade designed by Andy Tran of InnerBark Outdoors and produced by TOPS Knives, is one of the finest large survival knives on the market. It comes from TOPS with functional sheath but there is always room for improvement.

innerbark sheath

InnerBark Outdoors worked with Red Feather Gear to develop is a kydex dangler sheath for the Tahoma Field Knife. The sheath has a welt to add rigidity which is nice for such a heavy knife. It also features a closed dangler loop that can not be accidentally opened and a well formed thumb ramp to aid in removing the knife from the sheath.

Check out the Tahoma Field Knife Kydex Sheath at InnerBark Outdoors. The price is quite reasonable considering the size of the sheath.

TOPS Knives Baja 4.5 – Now Available

The Baja 4.5 that we previewed a couple of days ago is now available for purchases at TOPS Knives. This is one of the most hotly anticipated TOPS Knives releases since the BOB Field Knife.

Baja 4.5 Flyer

First Look: TOPS Knives Baja 4.5

If you find me walking in the woods or working outside, there is a good chance you will find a TOPS Knives Baja 3.0 (check out the review) on my belt. I think it is one of the best small fixed blades on the market and one of the best knives in the TOPS line. I like the Baja 3.0 so much that the announcement of the larger Baja 4.5 at the 2015 SHOT Show had me pretty excited.

TOPS Knives has been teasing the release of the Baja 4.5 for a few days now so it should be available any day now. They also just released a video that gives us out best look yet at the soon to be released knife.

Keep an eye on TOPSKnives.com for more details.

Update: TOPS Knives sent us additional information. The release date will be 6/23 (tomorrow). Check out the additional, more detailed images and specs below…

Baja 4.5 Flyer Baja4.5 Baja4.5_8

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