Since 1988, Benchmade has managed to establish themselves as one of the most reliable producers of high-quality knives in the world. Considering the competition, this is quite an impressive feat. However, their dedication to expert craftsmanship and exceptional components has put them well ahead of companies that have been around for five times as long.
This reliability comes at a cost, however. Benchmade knives are about as far from the “bargain box” as you can get without getting into “collector’s item” territory. In almost every case, however, users report that the price is well worth the quality, claiming that their Benchmades have replaced multiple knives in their survival, tactical, and utility arsenal.
One of the company’s more popular models is the Barrage folding knife. A drop-point utility blade with some fantastic features, the Barrage has been referred to as one of the best EDC knives on the planet.
See below for our full Benchmade Barrage Review to see how this signature blade stacks up against your needs.
This is a great knife that will stand up to any job and also stand the test of time. With the backing of the manufacturer warranty and LifeSharp program in place, this should be a guilt-free buy.
|Lifetime Warranty and LifeSharp Service for repair or sharpening.||Valox grips are too hard to provide a reliable grip.|
|154 CM holds a great edge, is rust resistant, and very tough.||The handle can feel “cheap” to some users.|
|AXIS-Assist – one-handed opening with either hand.||Too close to fully automatic – can’t manipulate the opening and closing.|
|Reversible pocket clip for total ambidextrous use.||A little long for EDC (sticks out of the pocket).|
|The smooth design of the handle keeps it from catching in the pocket.||If the spring assist fails, it will be next to useless.|
Tips when Buying a Folding Knife
Purchasing a knife like the Barrage is no “display case” decision. It takes some research to figure out whether or not the knife can deliver what you need. So, what do you need?
Here are a few things to consider:
Knife Size: Folders run the gamut between tiny tactical blades to heavy-duty choppers. Before you decide to make a purchase like this, consider whether you have the pocket space to accommodate the latter, or if the former will even “make the cut” when it comes to blade size.
Your Location: All folders require a mechanism of some sort to deploy and lock. Depending on the material it’s made of, extreme temperatures or wetness may cause it to fail prematurely. This means you need to keep the local climate in mind when making your purchase as well.
Deployment Mechanism: Speaking of deployment, you’ll also want to consider things like speed, reliability, and whether or not the mechanism can be used with one hand. This will determine how useful your knife will be in different situations.
Portability: In order for a knife to truly be an EDC (every day carry) tool, it needs to be sized and weighted for portability. Not everyone has the same limitations, however, so you’ll have to put some effort into figuring out what yours are.
Your Budget: As I mentioned before, the Barrage is not a “bargain bin” knife. Sure, it’s high-quality enough to last you a long time, but if you can’t make the investment, you might want to look at less pricey options (see below under “Alternatives”).
The Barrage 580 didn’t earn its reputation by not being versatile. With options for straight edged and serrated blades, a super-reliable AXIS deployment and locking mechanism, and a high-utility drop-point design, this knife is primed to handle a wide variety of jobs – and handle them well.
Even though it features stainless steel components and an extremely durable Valox handle, the Barrage also comes with Benchmade’s lifetime warranty and LifeSharp service, which only serves to sweeten the deal. If you’re looking to make an investment in a reliable knife, you’re not going to get much more financial protection than this.
Specifications of the Benchmade Barrage
- Handle: 4.75”
- Blade: 3.60”
- Closed: 4.75”
- Overall: 8.35”
- Steel: 154 CM Stainless Steel
- Weight: 4.31”
- Thickness: .121”
For an all-purpose folder, the Barrage could be considered more or less “in the pocket” in terms of length, blade width, weight, and other physical specs. The drop-point 3.60” blade has a gentle slope that almost mimics a spear point, assuring lots of versatility when cutting and slicing.
The construction is solid, with stainless steel and heavy-duty thermoplastic (Valox) making up the majority of the build to resist corrosion and temperature changes. Like many Benchmade products, the Barrage features the AXIS Assist mechanism, which assures it can be opened with either hand – quickly, easily, and comfortably.
After a brief discussion of the specifications of the Benchmade Barrage, we’ll take a closer look at the knife’s various components to see if they really are all they’re cracked up to be.
Blade Design and Steel
Taken as a whole, it’s quite hard to argue with any of the design decisions made regarding the Benchmade Barrage’s blade. The shape of the drop-point will provide plenty of versatility in the bush or on the job, and though the blade itself is thin (.12”), there is enough reinforcement near the spine to make it reasonably useful for piercing light to medium-weight materials.
The steel – as we’ll see – is both logical and well-suited to performing most general tasks, and will hold up nicely in all weather conditions. There is clearly better out there, but improving the blade any more risks pushing it out of even the most dedicated knife owner’s price range.
Upon close inspection of the Barrage’s blade design, you can see a very slightly-modified drop-point with an extremely high edge, providing some additional support for stabbing and offering plenty of room to feather, prune, and slice with high accuracy. At 3.60”, the blade is long enough to be versatile in most situations, but not so long as to elongate an already large flipper.
Looking at applications, it’s clear that utility was the primary motive in the design of this blade, as it will perform quick, smooth cuts and slashes time and time again without dulling. This, combined with the rapid AXIS-Assist opening mechanism, makes this a knife that would be reasonably useful in a tactical situation should one arise.
The point is: you can cut all the boxes, tarps, rope, and sticks that you want, but if you find yourself in a rough situation, you’d be just as happy to have this in your pocket as you would a tactical flipper or karambit.
154CM is less expensive than BG-42 or S30V blends, but it is still considered high-quality steel and is not one that I often see a lot of complaints about. Extremely high in carbon content, 145CM also contains Molybdenum, which helps with better edge retention and suits the Barrage’s cutting versatility quite well.
Overall, it will provide excellent corrosion resistance (which can be increased with an optional finish), hold an edge for quite a long time, be easy to sharpen and be of optimum toughness without being brittle. The most important thing when it comes to 154CM is to carefully examine the blade for QC issues or defects, as these will worsen quickly with the hard use this blade is designed for.
In the world of folding knives, finding a true “home run” is not easy. It seems that no matter how great the knife’s reputation, there is almost always one or two factors that keep it from being perfect.
In the case of the Benchmade Barrage, that factor is the criminally-under-designed handle.
According to many users, the Valox (a plastic polymer) feels almost like a child’s toy, with no real jimping or texture to speak of save some slits near the blade and some oddly-placed finger grooves. Not only does it make the entire knife feel flimsy and – to put it the words of one owner – “cheap,” but the lack of any gripping surface dramatically increases the chance of accidents
On the plus side, the smooth design of the handle will keep it from snagging on the inside of pockets, making for easier retrieval if you find yourself in a pinch. The handle is large as well (4.75”), which will fit even the biggest hands, giving the user more control.
All in all, however, these are sad consolation prizes when dealing with a knife of this quality and price point.
Deployment & Locking Mechanism
The AXIS-Assist is a spring-loaded opening mechanism that relies on a thumb stud to deploy the blade and engage the stainless steel liners. Not only is it lightning-quick, but it is also extremely strong when fully extended, allowing the Barrage to put up with a lot more stress than your average flipper.
According to most users, the action on the mechanism is butter smooth and stays that way for a long, long time. If you’re going to go with an assisted open, that kind of consistency is what keeps you from going all the way to fully-automatic or backing off to a manual. Best of all, most users report zero wiggles or play in the blade once it’s extended – the mark of true craftsmanship.
As for lockup, there is a manual locking mechanism on the external side of the knife. It operates ambidextrously and has been proven safe and reliable through countless factory and field tests.
As for downsides, it’s important to understand that the Barrage doesn’t just “become a manual” if the spring assist breaks. It will be difficult or near-impossible to release the knife safely if this happens. Luckily, Benchmade’s warranty covers such failures, providing you wasn’t trying to chop through a cement block when the mechanism broke.
Overall Quality and Features
Even with the handle putting a damper on the party, the Benchmade Barrage is still a heck of a nice knife. So nice, in fact, that I wouldn’t recommend something as trivial as a slick plastic handle to keep you from making a purchase (though maybe our friend’s at Benchmade could take the hint in their next model?)
The mechanism, blade design, steel, overall specs of the knife are all in the B+ / A- range, which makes it a solid investment for anyone looking for something to accompany them on the job, into the outdoors, or into the dangerous places of the world.
Some Benchmade Barrage Alternatives to Consider
There are alternatives to the Benchmade Barrage if you want to check out other options. Here is a look at some of the best ones.
#1 Benchmade – Mini Barrage 585 Knife
If the knife potentially sticking out of your pocket was the only hangup you had regarding the Barrage, you’re in luck! Benchmade actually makes a “mini” version that features the same steel, drop-point design, AXIS-Assist deployment, and 154CM steel, but has a blade length of 2.91”, an overall length of 6.91”, and weighs only 3.4 oz.
While the price doesn’t budge as much as you might like from the larger version, the mini” provides the same excellent versatility and reliability without you having to worry about it taking up too much space in your pocket.
Benefits / Features:
- Lifetime Warranty and LifeSharp Service.
- AXIS-Assist – one-handed opening with either hand.
- The smooth design of the handle keeps it from catching in the pocket.
- External locking mechanism.
- Made in the USA.
#2 SOG “Flash II”
Ask anyone “in the know” about flipper brands that live up to the hype, and SOG is almost guaranteed to be one of them. In the case of the Flash II, you have a reliable 8” pocket knife that is one-part utility, one-part tactical, and one-part camping and hunting knife.
Though roughly half the price of the Barrage, it features Aus-8 stainless steel, a titanium nitride coating, piston deployment, a partially-serrated 3.5” tanto blade, and – most noticeably – an ultra-grippy and durable GRN (glass-reinforced nylon) handle.
Benefits / Features:
- Spring assisted Piston lock deployment mechanism.
- 3.5″ partially-serrated tanto blade.
- High-quality Aus-8 stainless steel.
- TINI (black titanium nitride) coating.
- 3.1 oz. Weight.
- GRN (glass-reinforced nylon) handle offers an excellent grip.
- Built to last, but features a limited warranty.
#3 Off-Grid Knives – OG-220S
Though it doesn’t carry the “brand weight” of SOG or Benchmade, Off-Grid Knives’ OG-220S is a pretty savage looking blade and a serious contender to both designs. Though over a full ounce heavier the Barrage, the OG-220S packs a lot into its 8.5”.
Most noticeable is the giant blade, which features partial serrations, two cutting surfaces, and lots of reinforcement to support piercing and chopping. The steel is unique as well: a cryogenically-treated Aus-8 Japanese blend that is engineered for optimal toughness, wear resistance, and a reduction in chipping and fracturing.
Benefits / Features:
- Cryogenically Treated Aus-8 Japanese made steel.
- Huge reinforced blade with partial serration and two cutting edges
- FRN (fiberglass reinforced nylon) handle is very grippy in all conditions.
- Super-quick deployment
- 3.75” blade, 8.5” overall, 4.75” handle.
Even with the handle issues, the Barrage is not a design that’s going to disappoint the vast majority of buyers. It’s quick, reliable, solidly-built, and has the guarantee of one of the best knife manufacturers in the world to back it up.
If you’re looking for a knife that you can use on job after job, day after day, without having to spend hours on the sharpening bench, this could very well be the one for you.
For more details on the Benchmade Barrage, click the link below.