Benchmade 581 Barrage Review

Benchmade has always struck me as a company that both innovates and inspires. They can take a functional object, refine it’s performance, and give it a slight twist to elevate a knife something beyond mere G10 and steel. That is a rare accomplishment in the world of production knives, and this handsome 581 Barrage a perfect example. Simple, robust, and crafted with just a touch of class, I absolutely love the details on this knife. And the details are always so glorious. That’s why I keep reviewing Benchmade blades – because they practically cry for a closer examination.

General Dimensions and Blade Details

The 581 Barrage has an overall length of 8.35″, a 3.6″ blade, and the knife weighs 5.2 ounces. This is another Warren Osborne design, and the man is a master for a reason – he’s designed yet another lightweight and functional knife. I’m going to classify this one mainly as a tactical knife, but it would make a nice larger EDC as well. Some might call this a “gentleman’s tactical knife,” and I don’t think there is anything wrong with simply collecting this one either!

Benchmade 581 Barrage

The 581 sports a drop point blade, which is a departure from Warren’s usual designs for Benchmade. This is a long sloping blade with a slight amount of belly and a thin swedge running along the top. The blade stock on this knife is 3mm thick, and the resulting tip is quite sturdy. This isn’t a knife with a ton of belly, but it should be fine for most normal tasks. The grind is either a partial flat grind or a shallow hollow grind, it’s difficult for me to really tell, and I don’t think it particularly matters. Either way I’ve found the knife to be a very capable slicer (and it came wickedly sharp).

Benchmade 581 Barrage Blade

Blade steel on the 581 is Bohler M390. This is a powdered steel, and is currently the most advanced blade steel that Bohler makes. Benchmade heat treated this M390 to between 60-62 HRC, and the stuff can really retain an edge. It’s also a high Chromium steel so you have excellent corrosion resistance too. My edge has held up so well that I’ve yet to need to sharpen this knife, despite weeks of carry. I understand that when the time does come to touch up my edge, it will take a fair amount of work. That’s to be expected from a hard and tough super steel like this.

Handle, Ergonomics and Pocket Clip

The handle construction is one of my favorite features of the knife. I know some won’t be fans of the aluminum bolsters, but it’s a unique look and I really like it. From a practical standpoint, this isn’t a cold weather knife (since there is bare metal on the handle) but down here in Florida I’d say it compliments my shorts and sunglasses nicely. Construction is screw together, and in addition to the combination of G10 and aluminum scales, you have full stainless steel liners (milled out to reduce weight), a full backspacer, and a small lanyard hole. It’s a beautifully constructed handle.

Benchmade 581 Barrage Handle

All in all, I’d say the ergonomics on the 581 are quite good. I mentioned the handle is boxy, but that doesn’t mean it’s uncomfortable. There is a good amount of thickness to the handle and it fills the hand nicely. The finger choil region benefits from some grooves that have been milled into the scales. I thought these were merely decorative at first, but they also provide some traction for your index finger. The thumb ramp is completely naked, and I feel like this is another Benchmade design that could benefit from a little jimping (at the slight expense of aesthetics). If you really wanted some traction, you could always cut little slice of skateboard tape and apply it to the thumb ramp. Since this is a tactical knife you may be interested in how the 581 feels in reverse grip – I’m happy to say it feels great. All in all this is a very comfortable knife. I’m not as fanatical about jimping as some, but do I feel like a little jimping on the thumb ramp would round this one out in hand.

Benchmade 581 Barrage Pocket Clip

The pocket clip is a classic Benchmade “split arrow” clip. It’s a great clip, proven time and time again in many of my other Benchmade knife reviews. Retention is excellent, it’s a nice discrete clip, and the knife rides low in your pocket. You have the option of ambidextrous tip up carry – which works great for me.

Deployment and Lockup

The 581 is an assisted opening knife that makes use of dual thumb studs. This is my first review of an axis assisted opener, and I must say I’m quite pleased with it. For normal use I think an assisted opener on a well made knife is unnecessary, but for a tactical knife it could mean the difference between life and death. The thumb studs are very easy to reach and with a little pressure the blade springs to life. This is a very smooth and very fast deploying knife.

Benchmade 581 Barrage Axis Lock

One thing I found extremely interesting about the 581 is that Benchmade covered the pivot with the bolster. So this isn’t a knife that has been designed to be tuned. It basically says “we turned this knife perfectly from the factory, you will never need to service the pivot.” It’s a bold claim, especially for an assisted opener that exerts so much force on deployment. But I’ll tell you, I have no problems with blade centering at all. The knife locks up like an absolute vault, and the blade travels smooth as silk along phosphor bronze washers. And the tolerances on this knife are very very tight. We are almost talking Sebenza tight here. This is a real testament to Benchmade’s quality control and manufacturing capabilities. It’s incredible.

Benchmade 581 Barrage - Final Thoughts

And of course the lock here is the famous Axis lock. The assisted opening makes 1-hand closing something of a challenge but it’s not impossible. Lockup is absolutely rock solid. The Axis lock has yet to fail me – on any knife. This is a fantastic lock and it rounds out a great knife.

Benchmade 581 Barrage – Final Thoughts

Well, there you have it, Benchmade has produced another outstanding knife. By this point in the review half the readers probably assume I’m on their payroll or something, but truthfully I can’t find much to fault with this blade. I love the beautiful lines, the rich details, the excellent materials, and the incredible level of fit and finish. And it never hurts to discover that this knife is made in America. I can’t find a single issue with my knife, although I feel a touch of jimping on the thumb ramp would make the Barrage slightly better in hand.

I know this is a fairly expensive blade with a retail price of around $200, but I feel like this is an instance where you truly get what you pay for. For those out there considering a Benchmade 581 I can totally recommend it. Benchmade has once again taken a humble folding knife, applied their magic, and have created something that appeals to users and collectors alike. Having a 581 in my collection has truly been a pleasure.

I recommend purchasing this knife at BladeHQ. They list the 581 for $187 per Benchmade’s policy on pricing, but if you contact KnifeCenter they will be able to give you the 581 at a substantial discount and they will ship you the knife for free.

Benchmade 581 Barrage on BladeHQ
Benchmade 581 Barrage – $187.00
Retail Price: $220.00
You Save: $33.00
from: BladeHQ

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  1. Lew says

    My 580 is the folder I use to complement my fixed blade while in uniform. The axis-assist really in an excellent mechanism, with the small caveat that is nigh on inpossible to close one-handed without using you leg or something like that. Not so much a problem while doing the things you do in uniform but this is in no way a gentlemans folder or indeed something I would even consider for EDC. The best thing about the axis assist sompared to for example the Kershaw SpeedSafe-knives is that the axis assist will apply spring pressure on the blade until it is in the fullt extended position, something most other assisted mechanisms will not.

    Nu, the (minor) problem I have with the 580 was the wonky handle. I never understood why they couldn’t just offer a 551-assisted, the handle of the later is much better than that of the orinary 580 (which is still good, mind). When I see this beuty I can sort of understand why. Very pretty and an excellent choice for the collector but I don’t think I’d spend my coin on one.

    As always Dan, a great review. Thanks for considering those of us in colder climates as well :).

    • says

      Hey Lew! Yeah the assist isn’t the most practical for EDC. However I found it carried well, so I really didn’t mind it, and yeah I usually ended up closing it by using my leg.

      Good point about the spring pressure being applied all the way through, it’s a really robust spring and I love the way it shoots the knife out.

      Yeah man, the handle isn’t the most practical of choices… but it got the collector in my for sure. I think it’s pretty handsome, even if it isn’t the best option for you guys up in the frozen north. 😉

      My pleasure as always Lew, thanks so much for dropping by!

      • Lew says

        I would also say that the blade shape of the 580 is slightly different, the blade on the 581 is more like that of the 585. Your is much prettier than that on the 580 and will no doubt be a much better slicer, that on the 580 with it’s bayonet-shape is hopefully slightly better at stabbing fools in the ear until they are dead. Tip should be stronger on the 580 s’well.

        • says

          I noticed the blade shape was a little different from the 581 and I think both will work pretty well but I totally agree that the 580 appears to geared more for combat!

          • Lew says

            [In all honesty (and as I shall explain in the article I’ll eventually send you) I think both will be quite adequate for the stabbing of fools’ ear canals ^^]

  2. Spanky says

    this was my first “expensive” knife in my collection. I really like the aesthetics of this knife. It is a beauty (to me anyhow). I don’t use it much (don’t want to damage it through use), but every once in a while I take it out of the pouch it came with and mess around with it for a few minutes (as I do with my other knives).

    • says

      I hear ya man, some of these knives are just too pretty to want to screw up! Kind of a weird catch 22. This is a beautiful knife however, and it will cut just as nicely as it will look on your shelf. Thanks for stopping by man, have a good one. :)

  3. Mike says

    Another excellent knife review. I picked up a 585 Mini Barrage about a month ago and just love it. I am just getting started in the hobby of knife collecting and very much enjoy purchasing and carrying USA made products. Benchmade is my favorite brand at the moment and have my eye on the Presidio and Sequal models. Keep up the good work and best regards.

    • says

      Hey Mike! Thanks so much man! I am right there with ya on the USA made products, which is part of the reason why I like Benchmade so much. The Sequal and Presidio are both awesome folders, I’d love to get my hands on them as well! And I am glad to hear you are enjoying your 585, these Barrages are so well done. Thanks again for stopping by and leaving the very nice comment. I appreciate the support my friend. Take care.


  4. Alex says

    Hi Dan,

    I really like your review. I have been a Benchmade fun for a while and you have hit the key points. Comparing to Barrage 583 SBK (Black American Tanto of 580) I wish they offer Tanto style in 581/586 series, perhaps 584?

    I still feel comfortable to close one handed. Ambidextrous to close given that I change the clip that supports my ring and pinky finger.

    Thanks again!

    I feel their thumb jimping is a bit harsh, may be because of Aluminum bolster. ALso thumb stud feels a bit sharp on my model.

    • says

      Hey Alex,

      Thanks for dropping by and commenting, man. I greatly appreciate it. Glad you like your Barrage. A tanto version would be interesting.



  5. Mark Moody says

    I have carried many knives during my 30+ years of law enforcement, but Benchmade is by far the only knife you need to carry. I recently added a Barrage 581 to my collection and agree that it is both a “gentlemen’s tactical knife” and just a “good all around knife” for any situation. You can not go wrong with this one!

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