A Little Bit of Review Magic

Over on on forums we have a member named Chris who periodically does knife reviews. I thought we’d christen our Club Blade Blog review section with one of Chris’ outstanding review. You can see also read the review on the forums (more & larger pics) here.  

 The Review

I would be lying to you if I said I was a big fan of Smith and Wesson (as well as Schrade) knives. To be more precise, Taylor brand knives usually do not appeal to me. Perhaps it’s because I look down on American companies outsourcing their product line overseas to save a buck. In fact, almost every American knife company is doing this now including Buck and Benchmade. Or maybe, up until recently, I just didn’t like the styling of these knives. I often see re-branded Schrade designs at my local hardware store for $9. I will admit that I am a knife snob in that way. However, over the past few years, I have notice a huge increase in the quality and materials used in Taiwanese knives. One of my favorites (and I’m sure you’ll agree) is the Kalashnikov 74. “Made in Taiwan” is becoming less and less a dirty word, at least for me. CRKT’s also represent excellent quality and value. About a week ago, I was perusing Blade Play and Blade HQ on my lunch break (as I usually do) and saw this incredible knife that I had to have. The styling was excellent! Then I saw the brand… Smith and Wesson. Being the knife snob that I am, I was immediately turned off, and clicked off the page. The next day, I found myself looking at the same knife again. Then I found myself surfing the Taylor cutlery site to check out their new product line. I was admittedly impressed with some of the models in their lineup. So, I grabbed the plastic and placed the order. I’m glad I did.

The Blade: The Smith and Wesson SWMP3 features a 3” bead blasted tanto blade. 3”-3.25” is the magical number for an EDC, at least in my book. The steel used for the blade is 4034. What is this? Well… it is the standard steel of choice for Taylor cutlery as well as some Boker knives. I attempted to find some information on this but really didn’t turn up anything useful. At this point, I couldn’t tell you how well it performs. But based on the price of the knife, as well as other knives utilizing this steel, it probably performs similarly to Sandvik 13C26 and AUS6/8. What I do know is that this knife came with a very respectable factory edge. I was able to push-slice it down the entire sheet of paper without any snags. Not bad. Not bad at all. I try to avoid being a steel snob as I have seen many exceptions to the rule. I’ve had 440A Kershaws outperform 440C blades. AUS8 keeping up with VG10. A lot of it has to do with the tempering; and with the introduction of diamond hones and sharpening systems, it has pretty much leveled the playing field for ease of sharpening. The bead blasted finish is thorough with no rough, or unfinished spots; on par with the Kal74.

The Handle: The handle of this knife has to be my favorite aspect of it. First of, it looks completely different than any other tactical folder I’ve played with. It also has a nice curve that feels very natural and secure in your hand in any cutting position. It has 6061 gray anodized aluminum scales. Once only reserved for high end and custom knives, 6061 aluminum is quickly becoming a standard for the “middle of the line” knives out there. The finish on the aluminum is very impressive and dare I say, rivals my Benchmade Mini-Reflex. It has the same “roughness” on the surface as with my Benchmade. So, like my Mini-Reflex, I expect that handling of the knife will smooth it out a little over time. You should also be sure to keep it away from change in your pocket if you are worried about it’s appearance. The handle also has rubber inlays to aid in griping. The rubber is very hard and should hold up well for my years. Now, I was looking forward to taking this knife down, however, it appears that the rubber inlays have been glued to the handle and are covering some of the screws I would need access to. So, for now at least, I have opted not to tear this baby apart for fear of doing permanent damage to it. That handle also has black coated steel liners. I cannot tell what coating process they used whether is be paint or power coating, however, it does completely cover the liners. For anyone who has a knife with steel liners, you know that they tend to get a little surface rust when exposed to moisture, or oils from your hand. I’ve seen this happen to a lot of my knifes over time including my Kershaw Cyclone, and SOG Twitch XL. Luckily, this will not be a problem with the S&W so you can leave your scotch pad in the sink. Wink Kudos to S&W for this added detail! The butt of the handle has a small glass breaker that looks to be chromed rather than polished steel. I’m not sure how well this works, however, if I get my hands on a windshield to break, I will be sure post a video of it for you viewing pleasure. Laughing On the left half on the handle is a sliding safety made out of either ABS or Zytel. The safety locks the blade in a close position and can act as a secondary lock when open. The switch is easy to manipulated and gives you positive feedback when “clicking” it either on or off. The interesting part of the safety is that is utilizes a ball bearing that sticks out of the liner and into a depression within the blade itself. This is the first time I have seen a design like this, and it seem to work very well. On the downside of this, you can hear a very faint rattle of the ball bearing inside the handle if you shake the knife. Let me emphasize that it is VERY faint and should not deter you from buying this knife. The clip on the handle is attached with two Torx screws and is very stiff. Between the clip and the rubber inlays, you won’t have to worry about this baby slipping out of your pocket. The only part of this knife that I was unimpressed with was the spacer on the back half of the handle. It looks as though some of the paint/coating has been rubbed off a little. At first I thought that this was simply from shipping the knife and having the spacer rub against the box, however, when I looked to the inside of the knife, I noticed the same imperfections on the under side of the spacer. This to me isn’t a big deal but I thought is was worth noting. You will see what I am talking about in some of the pictures.

The Action: The action on the assisted opener is superb! It fires quickly, but does not have a lot of kick compared to a lot of the autos out there. This is a good thing in my opinion because it will be less likely to cause excessive and unnecessary wear and tear on the other parts of the knife. The action and speed of this knife is very comparable to a Buck Sirus or Tempest. It is very smooth and requires little effort to push the activation button; much less than most Kershaws (and all SOGs). Unlike the standard “flipper” design we see on most Spring Assisted knives, the S&W actually has an activation button. What separates this from an automatic knife? Not very much. Actually, just a technicality. The activation button on an automatic knife is used to hold the blade in place as there is a constant spring tension until the blade is release. On this S&W, the button is used to literally nudge the blade about 1/4”-1/3” before the spring takes over. Now, with every other spring assisted knife I have used, the blade needs to be opened approximately 1/3 of the distance (from the handle) before the spring takes over. On a knife with a 3” blade, that is roughly 1.5” from the tip to the handle. So, it would seem that Smith and Wesson is pushing the envelope with this one, but for you and I, it equates to the closest legal alternative to an automatic knife. In fact, it’s easier to activate the blade than with a plunger button on your average side opening automatic. Because of this, I strongly suggest you use the safety mechanism. The knife uses a liner lock (and the safety can be used as a secondary lock as mentioned before) which is personally my favorite because it allows you to easily open and close the knife with one hand (compared to a back lock). It has a tight lockup with absolutely no blade play.

The Good: Excellent design. Incredible action. Great value. Out of all the SA’s if used, this is currently my favorite.

The Bad: Quality control with back spacer. Small rattling sound from the ball bearing safety.

Final Thoughts: Quality wise, this knife is well worth the price. I am extremely pleased with it, especially considering I went into this looking for reasons to hate it. In my opinion, it is would very easily sell for twice the price if it had a SOG or Kershaw label on it. The action is the best I have used on a spring assisted knife (in that size range). I would have liked to have seen a different material used for the handle spacer that would be less prone to nicks and scratches; perhaps FRN or Zytel. The real test will be time. I will be sure to let you all know how well the blade holds and edge over time, as well as how easy it is to touch up. As always, here are a bunch of pics for your viewing pleasure…chrisreviewmagicpic2.jpgchrisreviewmagicpic1.jpgI just wanted to add an observation with this knife. I was fooling around with it to see if there was a graceful way of taking this apart without damaging the rubber inlays when I noticed something. On the left side of the knife (opposite the pocket clip side), there is a small T7 Torx screw right behind the pivot screw. You can see it in the picture below. I noticed there was some oil residue around it (which you can also see in the picture). As I inspected the knife further, I could not find a purpose for this screw. I unscrewed it, and imediately noticed there was very little resistence. Initially I thought is was simply an additional screw to attach the aluminum scale to the liner; however, this did not make any sense considering how close it is to the pivot screw. Once I unscrewed it, I noticed that is was way too short to even make it all the way through the scale to the liner. What I did find was an easy access hole to lubricate the internal spring and pivot area. I am assuming that this is what it’s intended purpose as there is no other need for this screw.chrisreviewmagicpic3.jpg

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