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A high-quality folding knife can truly be a lifesaver at times. They might get you out of a tight jam, or, better yet, prevent a tight jam from ever happening in the first place. For that reason, it can be critical to carry a folder made of the highest quality materials and durable enough to withstand even the stickiest situations. In this article, we take a loot into Benchmade knives to find out what we believe are the best ones you can find in the market.
At a Glance: Our Choices for The 10 Best Benchmade Knives
Click on one of the links to go directly to our overview, opinion, and features of each knife.
About Benchmade Knives
Benchmade Knives is a manufacturer based out of Oregon, USA. Over the past twenty-five years, they have established a solid reputation for making some of the best-designed and most durable knives available.
During that time, Benchmade has built up a dedicated and loyal customer base. They are known for using premium steels and handle materials that will hold up to demanding tasks. They also employ laser cutters and CNC machines to get a very high degree of precision in the manufacturing process.
In addition, Benchmade’s LifeSharp Warranty allows for any knife to be returned to a technician for service and to ensure that it is in optimal working condition. The knife is completely disassembled and all parts or either tuned or replaced—at no cost to the customer.
The Top 10 Benchmade Knives
Benchmade Griptilian 551
(+) Great edge retention, easy to re-sharpen
(+) Very grippy and good for wet conditions
(+) Highly durable EDC
(-) Lighter weight affects the feel of the knife
(-) Jimping and textured handle can become uncomfortable
The Griptilian is Benchmade’s workhorse EDC and outdoor folding knife. This model line comes in a number of sizes and shapes, depending on your needs.
The Griptilian has a 3.45” (8.76cm) Drop Point blade that is made of 154CM stainless steel. It is a knife that holds up remarkably well even when using it for jobs you normally would not associate with a folding knife. The edge is durable and easy to tune up to razor sharpness.
The overall length of the Griptilian is 8.07” (20.5cm) and it weighs 3.88oz (110g). It is an ambidextrous design, with a reversible clip and tip-up carry. The glass filled nylon handle is .64” (16.26cm) thick. It also features a lanyard hole, stainless steel liners. The four points of jimping along the handle’s edge contribute to its Griptilian name.
Benchmade does very well with its AXIS® lock mechanism. It is extremely strong when open and allows for smooth flick opening by simply pulling back on the lever with the thumb and forefinger.
Benchmade also produces as scaled down Mini Griptilian that has a CPM-20CV blade option. This steel is very durable and also corrosion resistant. It will resist chipping, and like 154CM is easy to get back to razor sharpness. The blade length on the mini is 2.91”. The Drop Point version of the mini weighs 2.81oz (79.66g). There is also a Tanto style that is a bit heavier at 2.97oz (79.1g).
Benchmade Adamas 275
(+) Highly functional features, not overdone
(+) Great tactical design
(+) Very easy one-handed opening
(-) It is a heavier knife for a folding knife
(-) Pocket clip is a little bit on the light side
The Adamas 275 is Benchmade’s heavy-duty tactical folder (there is also an Adamas fixed blade). The blade length is 3.82″ (9.7cm). Weighing in at 7.68oz (217.72g), this knife is somewhat on the heavy side for a folding knife.
The blade is coated with Benchmade’s proprietary BK coating and the material is D2 steel, which is an HC tool steel that is semi-stainless. The style is Drop Point and it has a width of .73” (18.54mm), which it maintains for about half the length of the spine.
The Benchmade Adamas’ handle is 4.88” (12.4cm) long and made of G10 (a high-pressure fiberglass laminate). It has a width of .73” (18.54mm), as well as stainless steel liners. Both the width and the liners can contribute to the knife feeling bulky.
To offset this, the handle is skeletonized. But even more important, this knife itself is extremely well balanced. It is very easy to handle despite its heft. It also features a thumb ramp and very functional jimping for better control.
The Adamas comes with a sheath made of Cordura (a ballistic nylon) that is MOLLE compatible. It is also equipped with a deep carry clip and Benchmade’s MALICE CLIP for MOLLE compatibility if you do not want to bother with the sheath.
The Adamas is designed for harsh environments and heavy tasks, specifically those faced by soldiers. The blade is thick and made to withstand a beating. The D2 steel couples well with the blade’s bulk, making for a very precise edge.
Benchmade Osborne 940
(+) A very durable, classic Benchmade EDC
(+) Good edge retention and easy sharpening
(+) Slim, light, easy to carry
(-) A decent cutting knife, but not stellar precision
(-) An expensive EDC
The Osborne 940 is Benchmade’s classic EDC. This knife is lightweight and versatile (weighing 2.9oz, or 82.21g). It works very well for any type of small task that you require. The Reverse Tanto shape also gives it a rugged tip that can stand up to a variety of uses.
The blade steel for the 940 is CPM-S30V with a Rockwell Hardness of 58-60. It is 3.4” (8.64cm) in length and .115” (2.92mm) thick. The spine has a sharp edge and can be used for striking a fire steel.
Overall, the Osborne 940 is very easy to carry and rides well in your pocket. The thumb studs and AXIS mechanism make for quick, easy opening. The open length is 7.87” (19.99cm), and 4.47” (11.35cm) closed. It has a reversible, tip-up clip.
The handle on the Benchmade 940 is green anodized aluminum, and there is also an Osborne 940-1 that comes with a carbon fiber handle (and also has an S90V blade). The Osborne 940-2 comes with a Black G10 handle.
Speaking of the 940-2, this latest version of the 940 is even a bit lighter than the 940, at 2.6oz (73.71g). It is a very well balanced knife that also comes in at a lower price point.
(+) Plenty of varieties to meet most needs
(+) Quick opening spring assist
(+) Safety lock
(-) Must remove the handle to adjust the pivot screw
(-) No jimping for the thumb ramp makes difficult to cut hard materials
The Barrage is a tactical folding knife that features Benchmade’s AXIS-assist mechanism, which is spring-loaded for a very easy opening. The blade is a 3.6” (9.14cm) Drop Point made of 154CM. The open length of the knife is 8.35” (21.21cm) and the closed length is 4.75”.
The Barrage comes in several different configurations of both blade styles and handle materials. The Barrage 580 is a Valox handle that is available in either a Drop Point or a Tanto style.
The Barrage 581 is something of an upgraded version. It features a handle made with a combination of G10 and aluminum, and also uses the higher-end M390 super steel for the blade.
M390 will hold an edge extremely well, although it does take a little more work when the time does come around to sharpen it. The Barrage 581 also weighs 5.2oz (147.42g), making it a bit heftier than the 580.
Both the Benchmade 580 and 581 come in Mini-Barrage versions. Like the regular sized Barrage, these too have the AXIS-assist mechanism. The Minis also have a safety on the back that can lock the AXIS in place when the blade is open or closed. It has a 2.91″ blade (7.39cm) and weighs either 3.87oz (109.71g) with the G10/aluminum handle or 3.4 oz (96.39g) with Valox.
Benchmade Nakamura 484
(+) Good ergonomics
(+) Great steel on both the 484 and 484-1
(+) Very smooth opening action
(-) Longer thumb studs stick out with this particular design
(-) A little uncomfortable if you have larger hands
Like the Barrage 581, the Nakamura 484 features M390 steel treated to 60-62 HRC. The blade is a Drop Point, with a length 3.08” (7.82cm). At 3.52oz (99.79g), it may be a little on the lighter side to be considered a tactical knife, though it could probably work for that purpose. The open length is 7.03” (17.86cm) and the blade thickness is .114” (2.9mm).
The handle on the Benchmade Nakamura is a contoured G10. The liners are not drilled at all, which does add a bit of bulk to the knife. But the handle itself has a comfortable thickness of .57” (14.48mm). Its closed length is 3.95” (10.03cm).
You will notice when you open this knife that the blade is very solid, a little play, but nothing that is worrying at all. As usual, Benchmade does an excellent job with the AXIS lock and the Nakamura has an easy ambidextrous opening. Overall, this is a high-level EDC that also comes in a serrated version, the Nakamura 484s.
For a step up, Benchmade also offers the Nakamura 484-1, which features a very high-grade CPM-S90V blade. It also has a contoured carbon fiber handle. At 3.28oz (92.99g), it is lighter than the 484, although blade length and thickness are the same.
Benchmade Contego 810
(+) Excellent edge retention
(+) Strong Reverse Tanto tip
(+) Blade coating is very durable
(-) Very hard steel, can take more time and effort to sharpen
(-) The ergonomics are not the greatest
The Contego 810 is designed through and through by Benchmade to be a great tactical knife.
The blade is gray-coated CPM-M4 that is extremely sharp and durable. It is treated to a very hard 62-64 HRC, however, so sharpening is going to be more time-consuming. It has a Reverse Tanto shape for a good piercing tip and is 3.98″ (10.11cm) in length. The thickness of the blade is .156″ (3.96mm).
The handle on the Benchmade Contego 810 is G10 and the pommel has a carbide glass breaker. The thickness is .55” (13.97mm) and the closed length of the knife is 5.3” (13.46cm). It has a reversible, tip-up clip that allows for deep carry.
The ergonomics on the Contego are somewhat a point of contention. Some of this will depend on the shape and size of your hand. Just as importantly, however, will be what types of jobs you are doing. You will, however, find that the jimping along the back of the handle makes this knife extremely grippy.
For general EDC use, you likely will not notice any major issues with the 810. But if you are going to be doing heavy-duty carving, or something similar, that will likely be when you feel some hot spots or hand fatigue. It is important to bear in mind that this is designed mainly for tactical use. The Contego is also fairly hefty for an EDC, weighing 5.92oz (167.83g).
Benchmade North Fork 15031
The North Fork is designed to be a hunting knife primarily, and also fits the bill for hikers and campers. It is fairly similar in size and shape to the Kershaw Cryo II for a comparison.
The Benchmade North Fork has an S30V blade (58-60 HRC). It is 2.97″ (7.54cm) in length and has a thickness of .114″ (2.9mm). The blade style is Drop Point and has thumb studs on either side for easy opening. The open length of the North Fork is 6.97” (17.7cm).
The handle on the North Fork is available in G10 and Benchmade’s website also indicates that Dymondwood is available. The handle has stainless steel liners and its thickness is .53” (13.46mm). Closed length is 2.97” (7.54cm). The handle also features a lanyard hole large enough for 550 paracord.
For those of you concerned about weight, or looking to go ultra-light, the G10 handle version of the North Fork weighs 3.41oz (96.67g), while the Dymondwood checks in at 3.16oz (89.58g).
The North Fork also makes for an excellent skinning knife. Its jimping up toward the point is excellent for that purpose, and will also give you a lot of control for carving jobs.
Benchmade Crooked River 15080
Benchmade’s Crooked River is another excellent hunting knife, and also one that may be a little more versatile than the North Fork. At 4.00” (10.16cm) its blade is significantly longer, and also a bit thicker at .124” (3.15mm). Like the North Fork, though, the Crooked River is made of S30V steel.
Overall, the weight of the Crooked River is 5.41oz (153.37g), and its open length is 9.30” (23.62cm). The blade style is a Clip Point, which gives a very sharp and agile tip that makes for a good puncturing and skinning knife.
The handle on the Benchmade Crooked River is available in either G10 or Stabilized Wood. It has a reversible clip and tip-up carry. The handle has a lanyard hole and stainless steel liners that have been milled out to reduce weight. The handle thickness is .60” (15.24mm) and the closed length is 5.33” (13.54cm).
Like all the Benchmades we have looked at, the Crooked River features an excellent AXIS mechanism for smooth opening and closing, as well as secure locking. It does very well with precision cutting because it is so extremely sharp. It also a big belly that works very well for preparing game and skinning.
Benchmade AXIS Flipper 300
(+) Excellent EDC, extremely functional
(+) Flipper mechanism is done right
(+) Solid ergonomics with the finger choils
(-) Does not do any one thing extremely well
(-) Feels a little chunky
The Flipper is an EDC that is available in both a plain and serrated edge. There is also the AXIS Flipper 300-1, which comes with a contoured blue and black G10 handle. The standard model, meanwhile, has brown and tan textured G10. If you prefer a more aggressive look, then the 300-1 will likely have the aesthetics that will appeal to you.
The Benchmade Flipper uses 154CM steel and the Drop Point blade length is 3.18” (8.08cm). Blade thickness is .13” (3.3mm). It has thumb studs on both sides for easy, ambidextrous opening. The 300 weighs 4.86oz (132.68g), while the 300-1 is a little bit heavier at 4.85oz (137.5g).
The Flipper’s handle also features skeletonized liners. In addition, it has a full metal frame, which will give you a little extra strength in the pivot. If you are putting the knife through some heavy-duty work, it is going to hold up just fine.
Flippers can be a little divisive in the knife community. But with Benchmade, the flipper mechanism is extremely smooth and works very well with the AXIS lock. Opening, of course, only requires one finger and closing can be done with just the thumb on the AXIS mechanism. In between, the blade stays locked up very tight.
Benchmade Rift 950
The Rift 950 is a tactical knife, as well as an EDC. It has a Reverse Tanto blade for toughness and also a large belly. However, the blade is also fairly thin at .114” (2.9mm), which does make it an effective slicer. The steel is 154CM, with a blade length of 3.67” (9.32cm), and an open length of 8.27” (21.01cm).
The Rift has a G10 handle with full liners. It is a solid knife, but it also has very good ergonomics and handles easily. It is another aggressive looking design, like the AXIS-Flipper, so you will likely either love it or hate it. There is also the Rift 950-1, which has a contoured G10 handle and a bit more subdued styling. The handle is .56” (14.22mm) thick and also features a lanyard hole.
The Benchmade Rift 950 is a knife that is going to stand up to heavy and rigorous EDC-type use. It is versatile enough for many tactical functions as well. The Reverse Tanto design allows the Rift’s point to stand up to many jobs that you would not risk using a lesser EDC for.
Benchmade is a company that makes very high-quality knives in many ways. They have innovative and extremely functional designs, and consistently use some of the best materials available. However, there is going to be a premium involved when it comes to buying their products.
In addition, as Benchmade has grown in popularity, many in the knife community feel that their quality control has suffered in recent years. This seems to be particularly true of knives bought over the Internet.
Image by Daniel