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I recommend purchasing the Ontario Utilitac II at Amazon or BladeHQ. Please consider that purchasing anything through any of the links on this website helps support, and keeps the site going. As always, any and all support is greatly appreciated. Thank you very much.

Freeman Outdoor Gear 451 Flipper Review

Few of us have the money to shell out hundreds of dollars for every knife we think we might like. We have to cull the herd. Maybe we splash out for a promising ‘Maybe’ every once in a while, but 80% of the time we go for the sure thing. Most of the knives I skip I forget about, with nary a second thought given them. But every so often a Maybe knife won’t be forgotten. It lingers in the memory and asks me over and over again, “What if you’re missing out on something special?”

Such was the case with the Freeman Outdoor Gear 451 Flipper. I heard good things, and admired the flipping action, unique aesthetic, and button lock mechanism from afar. My cursor would hover over the “Add to Cart” button on the Freeman website, but I never could quite commit. Thankfully, a friend and fellow gear geek offered to send his 451 my way to try out.

After wondering for years what this knife is like, I’ve had a chance to try it out, and the news is mostly very good. The Freeman 451 flipper manages to bring a unique set of features to a section of the market that is saturated with a lot of sameness. It goes deeper than a straightforward recommendation, but there’s a lot of interesting things to cover.

General Dimensions and Blade Details

The 451 has a blade length of 3 5/8”, a handle length of 5 1/8”, an overall length of 8 13/16”, and is made in the USA. There are bigger blades than the 451, but this pushes up right against the limit of what I would consider reasonable proportions for something that folds and is meant to be carried the pocket. That is strictly a function of the 451’s overall shape, however: at 5.5 oz. it’s actually quite light for its size.

Freeman 451

The market is so rife with drop points that you think I’d be sick of looking at them. However, the proportions and grind make the 451’s blade shape memorable and useful. This feels like a blade that can take a beating , with thick blade stock and a lot of material brought right up behind the edge, but the grind is masterful: a mirror-polished secondary bevel that is nice and wide without being thin or brittle. The result is a combination of toughness and slicing ability that is rare in big blades. This is probably as good a balance as you’re likely to see on a knife this size.

The striations on the blade are bound to polarizing. I actually think they’re look pretty good, and they make cutting through choky material like cardboard easier. The knife almost ‘revs up:’ the longer the pull through material, the easier it gets. They might cause issues with long-term sharpening, but other than that I can’t complain.

Freeman 451 Blade

Steel here is D2. This is a venerable tool steel that I have had very little experience with before now. The edge was very clean and very sharp. I think the thick stock and wide-but-not-narrow edge bevel really accentuate D2’s edge holding ability while minimizing its reported tendency to chip. In another smart move Jeff Freeman chose to Cerakote the blade. As a semi-stainless tool steel, rust is a concern with D2. In an uncoated blade the grooves would give me pause; I can see moisture creeping into them and wreaking havoc. Thankfully, between the coating and the mirror polish on the bare edge, I’d say you’re pretty much protected set barring grossly neglectful behavior.

Handle, Ergonomics, and Carry

The handle on the 451 looks like your average one finger groove affair, but that isn’t quite how it feels when you’re holding it. That finger groove is huge. It can accommodate two fingers, actually, but it works best with one finger in it. Holding the knife naturally, the pointer finger rests at the very bottom of the groove. This gives your knuckle some clearance so it isn’t butting up against the flipper tab – something that so many flipper knives neglect to do.

Freeman 451 Handle

In terms of control, it’s good. Your hand is situated pretty far back. You undoubtedly lose fine control, but fine cutting tasks aren’t the 451’s calling. I used to think that all big knives that couldn’t also do fine cutting were needlessly sacrificing something, but that’s not true. Just because the PM2 can function as an EDC doesn’t mean that all larger knives have to, and really the PM2 is just barely a big a knife anyway. The 451 is much more clearly meant for specific kinds of tasks, and in those tasks the ergonomics are great. There’s a sort of finger choil on the blade itself as well, but I found it a little too close to the edge for my comfort.

Freeman 451 Ergonomics

The 451 carries quite well for a big knife. You could EDC it if you wanted and not be totally displeased with the in-pocket feel. But where I think the 451 excels is in its lightness and narrow frame relative to other hard-use big blades. You aren’t going to feel like you have a paperback strapped to your thigh carrying the 451 on a hike. The aluminum frame is gentle on your pockets and the titanium clip is adequately-tensioned and beefy as hell.

Freeman 451 Pocket Clip

Deployment and Lockup

I don’t think flippers are, in any way, an improvement over thumb studs or opening holes. I tend to think that they are in fact actively worse. They often muck up the ergonomics of a knife, and they always make it a worse carry. The 451 makes its flipper as agreeable as possible.

Freeman 451 closed

It deploys surely and swiftly every time. The weight of the blade and the strength of the detent make the 451 a snappy and sure flipper. You have to try to mess up the flipping in order to get the 451 to not lock up. It’s hard to do.

The button lock is still something of a novelty in the knife world, isn’t it? Hogue has been using it with success, but other than that the only non-automatic production maker using button locks regularly is Gerber. Maybe this is a vestige of Freeman’s influence on the company (he was head designer there for many years), who knows.

Either way, the Freeman clearly believes in the button lock, and it’s easy to see why. On the 451 it is strong, secure, and easy to engage/disengage. Your fingers don’t have to be in the blade channel to disengage it – a major positive given the free-swinging blade. There is variability in the amount of play I get when I lock the 451 up, but it’s never enough play that I care. The button lock also sticks to greater or lesser degrees depending on how hard you flick it. I think these are characteristics of the lock design, and not indicative of poor fit and finish or tolerancing.

Freeman 451 vs. Spyderco Delica

In many ways this button lock reminds me of the Axis Lock. It’s probably slightly worse than the Axis, if only because it isn’t ambidextrous, but I never doubted its strength or security, and I am happy to see something in this price range without a frame lock.

Freeman 451 Flipper – Final Thoughts

I’m glad I got to try out the 451 flipper. It answers a question I’ve been asking for a long time: Is it a good knife? The answer is a definite yes. Would I buy one for myself? That’s a tougher call. When the 451 first came out, it was a little cheaper ($200 instead of $225), and the market was way less competitive. If you’re looking for a big high-end knife there are a lot of choices out there at or under the same cost, some with better features like S35VN steel – which you can get on the 451, but for a significant premium that puts the knife well outside of reasonable.

If I had bought and reviewed the 451 when I first learned about it, it would have my unreserved recommendation. What a difference a couple years and $25 can make! The 451 is still a competitive knife in a lot of respects. The materials are simple but very well-executed. It’s nice and light for its size without sacrificing any sort of durability. And personally, I think it’s a really cool-looking knife. I can’t say that the 451 is a must-buy, but definitely don’t ignore this knife when you’re looking for something big and bold.

I recommend purchasing the Freeman Outdoor Gear 451 Flipper at Amazon, KnifeArt, BladeHQ, or you can buy it direct from Freeman Outdoor Gear. Please consider that purchasing anything through any of the links on this website helps support, and keeps the site going. As always, any and all support is greatly appreciated. Thank you very much.

Spyderco Mantra 1 Review

Admittedly, the Mantra 1 had a hill of biases to climb from the start with me. It is a titanium frame lock flipper, a style of knife that I’ve never warmed up to. I find the flipper to be an inferior deployment method for knives, and while I’ve had positive experiences recently with the frame lock, unless it is done exceptionally well it’s temperamental nature make it a sub-optimal lock for daily use.

There was also the Mantra’s heritage to consider: it is more or less a retooled Delica 4. I like the Delica as it exists in knife community mythology: an affordable, ideal EDC blade, a true classic that anyone can afford. I enjoy the reality of the Delica much less: strange ergonomics, underwhelming VG-10 steel, and a just-slightly-too-high price point have made it hard for me to connect with this venerable blade.

Spyderco Mantra 1

So I picked up the Mantra 1 to see if it could prove itself worthy, both as a titanium framelock flipper, and as a reimagining of the Delica chassis.

And there are many ways in which the Mantra is a fine tool. But it has completely bounced off me. The Mantra is a safe design. Too safe. Not every knife needs to be a history-making masterpiece, but nothing about the Mantra’s design excites me. It is purely perfunctory, a competent knife, but a complacent design. Worse, there are things about it that drove me crazy from day one. The longer I carried the Mantra, the more I noticed major problems with its form, its function, and its purpose. Carrying it was never a chore, but it never distinguished itself in use, and now that it’s out of my pocket I can’t imagine why I’d ever carry it again.

General Dimensions and Blade Details

The Mantra has a handle length of 4”, a blade length of 3 1/8”, and an overall length of 7 ¼” and is made in Taiwan. It weighs 3 oz. As a modified Delica 4, it is a little bigger, and a little heavier.

The leaf shape blade is a workhorse. The additional cutting edge length and blade width over a Delica makes a difference when it comes to slicing. The Mantra’s blade is precise and efficient without being overlarge or cumbersome. The ergonomics mess with the cutting control somewhat, but the blade shape itself is pure gold.

The steel is my first big issue with the Mantra. I will never disparage CPM-M4’s sheer cutting ability. This is a knife that takes a sharp edge, holds it forever, and is tough, tough, tough. I liked its performance on my Air and I like it here on the Mantra – but when I’m not cutting with M4, I hate it.

M4 is not a stainless steel. It discolors, tarnishes, and stains with little provocation, and quite quickly. The minute I got my Mantra I wiped it down with oil, and even so every time I touched the blade my fingers left a mark. I left the Mantra out overnight on my desk in an air-conditioned apartment, and there was discoloration all over the next morning. If the Mantra was designed to be a true everyday user, M4 was a bad choice. I don’t want to have to baby and fret over my EDC knife; it should work well and virtually maintain itself.

Spyderco Mantra 1 Blade

I feel like Spyderco knows that M4 has a corrosion problem, because the Mantra’s flipper tab, ostensibly the place that will be receiving the most contact from your finger, is differently finished, almost polished, as if to counteract that additional contact – and it still discolors. If Spyderco wanted to go with M4 here, they should have coated or clad it. The sprint run HAP40 Delicas have a laminated blade to fight corrosion, and HAP40 actually has more chromium than M4, so I don’t know why they didn’t work to combat M4’s weaknesses on this more expensive knife.

M4 is a great steel for specialized applications, but its quirks preclude it from being an all-purpose folding knife steel. If it was the only steel in the world with great edge retention and toughness, that would be one thing, but we are literally spoiled for choice when it comes to super steels available on $150-200 knives. S35VN is not a ridiculous thing to ask for at $160, and it would have been perfect here. My suspicion is that we are seeing M4 on the Mantra for the same reason that we are still seeing a lot of Spyderco knives with S30V: they have a lot of the stuff lying around and need to get rid of it. But whether it was a matter of convenience or Spyderco really believes in this stuff, it just doesn’t work here.

Handle, Ergonomics, and Carry

I may not love the Delica 4, but I readily acknowledge that the design has been gone over so much that nothing feels like an accident. Even the handle, which I find too prescriptive, is more refined and considered than most knives’. If there was one thing the Mantra seemed to carry over unmodified from the Delica 4, it was its handle design.

Spyderco Mantra 1 Handle

But here’s where the flipper starts to make life difficult. The Delica 4 handle may not be my favorite, but it does work. However, it needs every last centimeter of its handle length to do so. The Mantra retains the Delica 4 handle’s overall length, but doesn’t change the size to accommodate the flipper tab, which of course works as a forward guard, perpendicular to the handle, when the knife is open. What this means is that you actually lose usable handle length over the Delica.

Thus, in hand, I found the Mantra a Delica-but-less, and thus uncomfortable. The scalloping makes your pointer finger run right up against the flipper tab. You also have to stretch your thumb a bit to actually make use of the jimped thumb ramp. Holding the knife like you’re supposed to, your hand is canted at a weird angle, and strangely distant from the start of the cutting edge. You lose a lot of control.

Spyderco Mantra Ergonomics

The titanium handle scales themselves are quite nice, well-machined and chamfered, with an attractive large grain stone wash. They’re mildly textured, but positive enough grip-wise, aided by the jimping on the thumb ramp and the lockbar insert. All details that Spyderco and its Taichung facility generally get right, but the flawed fundamentals make the execution more or less moot.

Spyderco Mantra 1 Pocket Clip

The Mantra works well in the pocket. The deep carry wire clip keeps it buried and out of the way until you need it, and the scales won’t shred your pants. I have been a longtime disparager of the Spyderco wire clip, finding it a little fragile. If there’s a positive takeaway from my time with the Mantra, it’s that I was wrong about this clip. It survived weeks of carry with no problem, and actually looks handsome in its way, so I’m a semi-convert on the wire clip.

Deployment and Lockup

Judging by any standard, the Mantra’s flipper is mediocre. Despite utilizing a ball bearing pivot, it’s laggardly. It isn’t thoughtless: you have to be deliberate with your deployment motion. It misfires every once and a while. It even fails at the more frivolous things: it isn’t particularly smooth, particularly effortless, or particularly satisfying to fidget with. Ironically, the Spyder Hole works really well here, and this is a satisfying knife to flick open in the ‘traditional’ way: fast and sure.

Spyderco Mantra 1 vs. Spyderco Delica

The frame lock is good. No play, and disengagement is easy. A very scrawny-looking lock bar, but it manages to inspire confidence with its fuss-free performance.

Spyderco Mantra 1 – Final Thoughts

I don’t like the Mantra. The steel choice isn’t right, the ergonomics are actually bad, and the main selling point, the flipper, is undercooked. It’s hard to make an unusable knife at the $160 price point, and Mantra does work, but its profound lack of spark, along with its flawed fundamental execution, scuttles what could be good here. Spyderco is famous for thinking their knives through, but the Mantra feels like it’s one or two design revisions away from where it should be. There are better blades at pretty much every price point.

List Price: $160.01
Current Price: $158.66
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Price Disclaimer

If you are thinking of buying a Spyderco Mantra, please consider purchasing it at Amazon or BladeHQ. By purchasing things through any of the links on this website you support, keep the website free of annoying banner ads, and help produce future reviews. Thank you very much.