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Aside from just its functional use, your EDC can sometimes serve as a great conversation starter that instantly connects you with other knife enthusiasts. This is especially true of traditional brands like Case, where just about everyone seems to have a story from their family or childhood about them. So in this review, we’ll look at some classic Case designs, as well as a few innovations that have been made through the years.
At a Glance: Our Choices for The 8 Best Case Knives
Click on one of the links to go directly to our overview, opinion, and features of each knife.
About Case Knives
The official name of the company is W.R. Case & Sons Cutlery Company. Based in the U.S., its manufacturing is located in Bradford, PA. As the name suggests, Case makes many different types of knives, although in this article we will only be focusing on their iconic pocket knives.
The company dates its origins back to 1889. The four Case brothers, William Russell (W.R.), John, Jean and Andrew began selling knives of their own creation along a wagon trail in upstate New York. It was W.R.’s son John who officially began W.R. Case & Sons, naming it after his father.
Since that time, Case has gone on to become one of the most famous knife brands in the world. Not only is their logo immediately recognizable, but also many of their knives are highly sought after collectibles. Part of this collectability is due to Case’s tang stamp, which has been a feature of the knives for much of the company’s history. It has made accurate identification of prized models a somewhat straightforward affair. And as of today, the Case Collectors Club has 19,000 active members, which makes it the largest such association in the world.
According to Case, it still takes 125 pairs of hands to make one of its knives. This fact is put forth as a testament to their commitment to quality. It is also something that you can see when you begin comparing one Case knife with another. In a world of C&C machining, where things can be uniform down to the micrometer, Case knives still have individual variation in every knife. This, of course, can be good and bad. Good in that it gives the knife a certain character when it has its own unique contour and feel. Bad due to the fact that the quality can range widely, especially considering the production levels of a company like Case.
The company also offers fans of their knives, and knife enthusiasts in general, ways to become involved in the Case experience beyond just the Collectors Club. They have an interactive tour that makes its way to authorized retailers around the country. It allows knife lovers to learn both about the history and the latest product offerings. In addition, the website features Case College, which lets you go a little more in-depth into how the knives are made, and also to begin understanding the collector’s market.
Case knives have both a classic look and are good for practical use. One of the reasons that the company has endured for so long is that their brand and design appeal to men and women that are not necessarily “knife people.” They just want something for everyday chores that looks classier than a “tactical” knife. That does not necessarily mean, however, that Case has nothing to offer to those whose primary focus is on survival preparedness. Sometimes a simple and unassuming pocket knife can be just the ticket for the situation you are facing.
The Top 8 Case Knives
Case Sod Buster
The Sod Buster is big for a pocket knife. Its closed length is 4.63” (11.75cm). The blade is a Drop Point profile that has a full flat grind—which you do not see often with inexpensive knives. The knife weighs 3.4oz (96.39g).
Blade length on the Sod Buster is 3.7” (9.4cm) and it is made from Case’s Tru-Sharp high carbon stainless. This steel is a good balance between blade strength and corrosion resistance. It is in the ballpark of 420HC and takes an edge very well when sharpened.
The handle has brass liners and is made of a thermoplastic known as Delrin. In terms of comfort, it has a nice feel to it. Even though it is big, it sits naturally in your hand and Case has done a good job with the ergonomics as well.
This is a solid EDC that will perform capably on most of your light duty tasks. It is well crafted and can stand up to daily abuse. However, although this is a durable and dependable knife, you will notice some shortcuts when it comes to the details. Do not be surprised if the blade is badly off center. You might also see some finish flaws in the handle, etc.
The Trapper has a bit of a sentimental value for me because my dear old granddad used to always have a yellow one in his pocket. It is a 2-blade knife that has both a Clip and a Spey blade. This knife weighs 4oz (113.4g) and has a closed length of 4.125” (10.5cm).
The Clip Point has a full flat grind. It is good for all sorts of puncturing tasks and delicate cuts. The Spey, meanwhile, has a more robust tip that can stand up to rugged jobs and is also a good for skinning and slicing. Both blades are made of chrome-vanadium carbon steel, which is known for being easy to sharpen and also retaining an edge well. The only drawback is that it is less resistant to rusting and corrosion compared to stainless steel.
The handle on the Trapper has brass liners with pinched nickel silver bolsters on each end. The material is yellow Delrin and has a very good feel for general cutting tasks.
The knife works really well for EDC purposes, but you will need to do some upkeep on the blade if you want it maintained in premium condition. You might consider keeping a thin film of oil on it to help extend its life.
(+) Comes in a variety of blade profiles and handle materials
(+) Reliable locking mechanism
(-) Can be awkward to grip
(-) Open mechanism is a little stiff
The Russlock gets its name from Case’s founder, John Russell “Russ” Case. The knife comes in either a Drop Point or Clip Point blade made of Case’s Tru-Sharp stainless.
The knife features a liner lock mechanism. There is also a lever, with jimping added, for easy one-handed opening. Its closed length is 4.25” (10.8cm) and it weighs 2.7oz (76.5g).
The handle again is made of Delrin, although there is a G-10 model available too. The handle also features Case’s silver nickel bolsters.
The goal of the Russlock was to incorporate a liner lock into a more traditional design. Case began responding to the features and innovations that were coming to prominence in the 1990’s when they issued this knife. Two of the big trends were one-handed opening and liner locks. The opening mechanism is an extension of the tang that is jimped. It does take a bit of practice to open it quickly and fluidly, but nothing that could not be accomplished over the course of a single evening in front of the TV.
Case Mini Copperlock
(+) Smooth handle slips in and out of the pocket easily
(+) Nice sand and polish job on these knives
(+) Tight blade, no play
(-) It doesn’t have a blade point
(-) Blade not centered well
The Mini Copperlock is a lockback knife. It has a closed length is 3.63” (9.2cm) and weighs 2.0oz (56.7g).
The blade on the Mini is 2” (5.1cm) and is once again made with Case’s Tru-Sharp surgical steel. It has a Clip Point blade with a groove along it for right-handed opening. However, the blade itself is big enough that opening for lefties is not an issue.
The handle is bone with a jigged pattern. The bolster at the blade end has a kind of finger guard design that allows for good gripping in spite of the handle’s small size. Although it looks like a slip joint folder, the Copperlock actually has a lockback mechanism.
This knife comes extremely sharp from Case and is easy enough to re-sharpen too. The Tru-Sharp steel also provides for good rust and corrosion resistance.
This knife’s small size makes it easy to store as you travel along. It can also be a good starter knife for a son or daughter that needs to begin learning about carrying knives and the basics of pocket knife safety.
(+) Tremendous versatility
(+) Maintains a slender design for easy carry
(+) Razor sharp from the factory
(-) Blades are a little too tight for quick opening
(-) Fit and finish can be spotty with these knives
The Stockman is a 3-blade Slip Joint knife. There is a Clip Point, a Spey blade, and also a Sheepsfoot. The closed length is 3.63” (9.2cm) and it weighs 2.5oz (70.9g). The blades are all Case’s Tru-Sharp steel. The Stockman has a jigged bone handle with brass liners.
The great versatility of the Stockman is that not only does it have three blades, but each blade can also perform well at several different types of cutting. The Clip point is your puncturing and stabbing blade for cutting open boxes, punching leather, or maybe cutting fabric that you must first pierce and then pull the blade through. The Sheepsfoot is great for slicing and is also easy to control, making it a good blade for skinning smaller game. The Sheepsfoot does not have a point, which, on the positive side, prevents accidental stabbing when doing close work. The Spey blade maintains a thicker tip that will not pierce as well as the Clip Point, but will be much stronger for things like digging, prying, and boring into harder materials.
Case Small Lockback
The Small Lockback weighs in at a mere 1.2oz (34g). The closed length is 3.75” (9.53cm). The Clip Point blade features a nail nick for easy opening and is made of Tru-Sharp.
This model is available with either a synthetic or a jigged bone handle, both types feature the lockback mechanism sitting on the very end of it.
Despite its size, you will find this knife easy to use. It feels comfortable in your hand and is substantial enough that you have a good feel for what you are doing. However, it is quite limited in the tasks it can adequately perform. If your EDC needs involve opening a lot of boxes and envelopes, or puncturing softer materials, then this knife is going to provide you with everything you need. The lockback mechanism is secure and the blade will retain an edge well. It should be noted, though, that this knife was not extremely sharp coming out of the box and the blade needed some whipping into shape. Also, like a lot of models that Case makes by the freighter-load, fit and finish can be dodgy on these knives.
Case JR Scout
(+) Great starter camping knife
(+) Bone handle gives it a classic look
(-) Can and bottle openers are not highly functional
(-) Too small for a serious camp knife
The JR Scout is a slightly scaled-down camp knife that features a spear blade, a can opener, a bottle opener that is also a screwdriver, and a leather punch. It has a closed length of 3.38” (8.59cm) and weighs 2.2oz (62.4g). The handle is jigged Amber Bone.
This knife features stainless steel springs and brass handle liners that are well made and very even across the back. The knife also has brass pins and Case’s distinctive nickel silver bolsters on both ends. The handle has a bail on it for attachment to a lanyard or key ring.
This four-blade knife is designed primarily for the campsite. However, it is a little on the small side for what you might want in a serious outdoor setting. This knife really works best as a versatile everyday knife. Or, as the name implies, it might be a good option for the kids when they go out camping.
Case Hunter Pocket Knife
(+) Substantial knife, but not too big for EDC
(+) Better attention to detail that other Case knives
(+) Handle is good
(-) Not great for gripping in a wet environment
(-) Clip Point is not an optimal skinning blade
The Case Hunter is a slip joint design. It is a fairly big knife, with a closed length of 4” (10.16cm) and a weight of 3.7oz (104.9g). The blade has a Clip Point profile and comes very sharp from the factory.
The handle on the Hunter has a bit more attention paid to the ergonomic feel to it, and it sweeps up in the back, which helps it to grip better. The handle is also very smooth and slides into and out of the pocket easily.
This knife is a little bit different from the other Case models we have looked at. It features a classic look, but also has a few of the design innovations that have come to be standard in many folders. For example, the knife has ambidextrous thumb studs for one-handed opening. It also has a carrying clip, which many Case knives forego. Lastly, the knife comes with a nice tanned leather sheath configured for belt carry.
There are a lot of good reasons to carry a Case knife. They make for dependable and durable EDC’s, and there is a certain sense of owning a piece of history when you have one in your pocket. The materials used by Case, while not the very highest quality, are good for their purpose and will last you a more than reasonable amount of time provided you do not abuse the knife.
You will notice, however, that some of the details that were given such careful attention in the past have maybe slipped under the radar a bit at Case. This is probably inevitable when making any product for the mass market. Still, an overwhelming majority of the time you will end up with a very solid knife for your needs from Case.
Image by: James Case