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The Benchmade Bugout is a knife I was interested in reviewing when it first came out. But my original role as the sole author of this website has transitioned to more of a “contributing author and editor” role, and the Bugout was on someone else’s list to review. These days I need to work with the other authors and not step on their toes if they want to review a particular knife. That’s OK. There are plenty of other knives to review.
So I forgot about the Bugout and moved on to other knives.
Fast forward a year or two later. I’m at a friend’s house party. He knows I have this “weird website dedicated to knives” and wanted to introduce me to his friend. As an aside, a handful of my friends know I operate this website, and the majority of them think it’s hilarious that someone could dedicate an entire website to pocket knives. Anyhow, at this party my buddy was excited to introduce me to a friend of his that carried a pocket knife. I showed him the Native 5 in FRN I happened to have in my pocket, and he produced his Benchmade Bugout.
Handling the knife for about 30 seconds was all it took. It has a beautiful thin profile, wonderful tactile handles, is light as a feather, and the bright blue anodized hardware gave the knife an almost jewelry like quality. I could immediately tell it was a knife I wanted to add to my collection. I followed up with one of my writers, who confirmed the Bugout had fallen off his radar, and that I was clear for takeoff to acquire my own Bugout for purposes of today’s review.
General Dimensions and Blade Details
The Bugout has an overall length of 7.46″, a 3.24″ blade, and weighs 1.85 ounces. In some ways it can be considered a largish EDC knife with its over 3″ blade, but on the other hand, it’s so damn slim and light how could you not recommend this for daily carry? It’s only half an ounce heavier than the revered Dragonfly 2, but it packs an extra inch in blade and almost 2 inches of overall length. Incredible really.
As usual, your local laws and preferences in terms of size and blade length will come into play here, but personally the Bugout has been a great choice for daily carry. And I don’t think anyone will kick it out of their pocket for being too heavy.
The Bugout features a long drop point blade. In many ways it reminds me of my Volli, but I suppose the profile is a little closer to the discontinued 707 Sequel. Regardless, it’s a classic looking drop point with a high flat grind and a swedge running half the length of the blade. The knife has been given a combination satin / stonewashed finish that you find on pretty much all of Benchmade’s uncoated knives. The blade shape is classically appealing and the execution is excellent.
Here is a size comparison with the Spyderco Native 5. Another excellent FRN clad USA made EDC knife:
My favorite thing about this blade is how well it cuts. I realize that sounds a little odd as most will agree the purpose of a knife is to cut stuff, but not every pocket knife cuts that well. Sometimes it’s a conscious design decision (ie, a thick “hard use” blade), and sometimes it’s a form over function thing. I’m pleased to report the Bugout cuts well.
Benchmade went with S30V for the blade steel. S30V may turn some folks off as it has a reputation for being an older steel that can be difficult to sharpen, but here it’s a great choice. Benchmade does a tremendous job with their S30V. It’s easy to sharpen and holds a great edge. I have some Spydercos in S30V and the steel is stubborn to sharpen. The Bugout is a lot like the Volli, knife that is a proven slicer and an underrated Benchmade. Like the Volli, the Bugout features thin blade stock that has been thinly ground. The end result is an exceptional slicing knife.
I have used my Bugout extensively and have been polishing the edge up on my newly acquired Spyderco Golden Stone. As I mentioned in my recent Wayfarer 247 review, I have been having a ton of fun with this new sharpening stone. I’m able to take my edges to the next level, and have gotten some truly exceptional results out of the stone on this Bugout.
I will eventually review the Golden Stone, but for now I want to comment that I’ve been getting some scary sharp edges on my knives, and the Bugout has taken to the Golden Stone like a duck to water. I have a mean working edge on this knife. It pops hair, push cuts paper, and zips through cardboard like no one’s business.
The S30V blade takes a wonderful edge and holds it for a long time. I prefer Benchmade’s S30V over their classic 154CM because I find it to be just as easy to sharpen, but has the advantages of more corrosion resistance and better edge retention.
Handle, Ergonomics, and Pocket Clip
The Bugout has a textured high density plastic handle with partial stainless steel liners. The steel liners mainly serve to house the omega springs for the Axis Lock, and the handle construction is similar to a Benchmade Griptilian. Here Benchmade has developed a handle that is super thin, but features a minimal amount of flex.
If this was a 2 sentence review on Amazon, this may be the part where the reviewer bitches about the plastic handle scales. Frankly, I haven’t read any of those reviews, but it’s almost a requirement that if you are going to review the Griptilian you will at some point gripe about the FRN handles. I assume that’s a complaint some may register with the Bugout as well. Personally, this is a lightweight light to medium duty EDC knife, and I have no problem treating it as such. The handles feel high quality to me. The knife lacks the heft of a full liner and G10 scaled knife, but that’s a good thing in my book. Plenty of heavier duty knives out there if that is what you need.
Fit and finish is great on this knife. I have yet to find an issue in the fit & finish department, and the handle is a great place to search for flaws. All the parts line up, everything is nicely finished, the screws are flush, and the blue anodized hardware give the knife just a touch of zazz.
While this is a sub 2 ounce folder, the Bugout has the ergonomics of a full size knife. That’s because it is a full size knife. The handle is simple and there is plenty of it to grab onto. I take an “XL” size glove and have plenty of room for a full 4 finger grip. I think most people will have no problem using the Bugout in a forward or reverse grip.
The simple handle design benefits from a couple small traction features. First you have a short row of mild jimping on the spine of the handle. That works well without tearing up your thumb. In addition to the jimping you have a nice textured FRN handle. Benchmade included a good deal of diamond patterned texturing, but even the naked parts of the handle have a good gritty feel to it. Good traction on this knife.
The pocket clip is another interesting aspect of the Bugout. Benchmade went with a stubby low rider clip. It’s a discreet deep carry pocket clip. This sounds good in theory, but I’m kind of on the fence about it. While on one hand I think it looks super cool, the knife has popped out of my pocket a couple times. The Bugout has always fallen into my pocket, rather than onto the floor, but still this is concerning. Granted, I wear shorts a lot of the time, and I have big fat legs, so I don’t know if you will have the same issues. Regardless, the combination of a long knife and short clip haven’t 100% jived with my style of carry.
This knife will accept a standard Benchmade clip, which Benchmade will probably send for free if you ask nicely or use their Lifesharp service. So if you have issues like me you can always swap out the clip. I will be curious to hear if anyone else has experienced this issue. If so please leave a comment about it below.
Deployment and Lockup
The Bugout makes use of two blue anodized thumb studs to get the blade open. One of my few criticisms of this knife is is that the thumb studs are placed close to the handle in the closed position. It makes it a little hard to get the blade out. Contrast this with a knife like the Griptilian where there is more room, and the blade flies open. However, the thumb studs do work, and if you played around with the design too much you would spoil the lines of the Bugout.
Benchmade went with phosphor bronze washers. This is standard fare for their axis lock knives and should come as no surprise. The action is smooth and fluid. It isn’t as glassy as the G-10 Griptilian, but it’s definitely workable for my purposes.
With a sub 2 ounce plastic handled axis lock knife, you would think there would be some blade play. After all, I’ve experienced that in a lot of earlier Benchmades. It’s just part of the gambit when you buy a FRN clad axis lock knife. Or so I thought. Oddly enough my little Bugout has no blade play at all. It’s as tight as a drum. Really nice to see.
Here is a shot with the significantly more expensive, yet still excellent, 940-1:
The Axis lock itself remains as easy and fun to use as ever. This is a fully ambidextrous knife. There is not much new I can add to this section. The lack of blade play is surprising, as traditionally that is the only compromise I can note in a FRN handled Axis lock knife.
Blade centering is perfect on my knife.
Benchmade 535 Bugout Review – Final Thoughts
I know I’m a little late to my party with the review of the Bugout. The knife has been out for over a year. Old news for those who track the knife industry. But this is a great knife adding to a string of impressive releases for the Benchmade. I can recall just a few years ago when folks thought Benchmade had nothing left to offer. Then they release the G10 Griptilian, 940-1, Anthem, Crooked River, and Proper. All top shelf pieces.
The Bugout is a worthy addition to that long list of excellence. But the Bugout is unique from these other knives (save the Proper) in that it’s priced a little over $100. While that’s still a good amount of money for the average person to plunk down for a pocket knife, I think it’s a fair price for the Bugout and is relatively inexpensive for a Benchmade. You get an attractively built USA made knife that is completely dialed in, and packs all of the function of a full size folder into a sub 2 ounce package. Pretty amazing when you stop to think about it.
My only nits are that the small pocket clip, while attractive, doesn’t work as well for me as a full size clip, and the thumb studs are close to the handle. As a result you need to pay a little more attention when trying to flick open the knife. That’s all I got.
So it should be no surprise that my review echos the near universal acclaim for the Bugout. It is a great piece. While it took me a while to resist the knife when I initially saw it on the internet, the first time I saw one in person it had me in it’s thrall in under 30 seconds.
- Sport Type: Recreation
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