For those who can’t get enough high value EDC knives, or simply need a tool for every day use that is both well made and inexpensive, I think it’s going to be tough to ignore the CRKT Drifter. For some, this may be their first “real knife” that sends them down the slippery slope that is blade collecting. Others might want to spice up their EDC rotation without breaking the bank. I think that for many reasons this inexpensive offering from CRKT is a great ambassador for the knife world, and its review here is long overdue.
General Dimensions and Blade Details
The Drifter comes in two major variants, a liner lock version with G-10 scales and a stainless steel (SS) framelock version. Both share the same overall length of 6.5″ and the same 2.88″ blade. The stainless steel handled version weighs 3.2 ounces while the G10 clad Drifter weighs a mere 2.4 ounces. If I had to pick between the two for EDC, I’d say the G10 version gets my vote. I love the ultra light carry weight, it really disappears in pocket. Regardless of the version that strikes your fancy the sub 3″ blade and reasonable weight make these ideal EDC knives.
The blade is a classic drop point shape that reminds me a lot of my Benchmade Griptilian. It features the same swedge and hollow grind that starts about 3/4 of the way up the blade. The Drifter is given a gentle recurve that adds a little spice without making it too difficult to sharpen. The tip is fine enough for detail work, but not too delicate. This is an all around solid blade shape.
The G10 version of this knife comes with a handsome gray Titanium Nitride (TiNi) coating while the stainless steel version comes satin finished. I really like the look of that TiNi coating – it’s a handsome gun metal gray and mine has held up pretty well considering.
The Drifter’s blade comes in 8Cr14MoV. Anecdotally 8Cr14MoV is considered to be slightly better than 8Cr13MoV, but I really haven’t noticed a difference… apparently that extra chromium molecule does something. Fans of 8Cr13MoV will like this steel and those who don’t like 8Cr13MoV may find a soft spot for its high Chromium counterpart. I like it because it’s easy to sharpen, holds an edge reasonably well and has decent corrosion resistance.
Handle, Ergonomics and Pocket Clip
Depending on what model you get, the handle will be full stainless steel or G10 over stainless steel liners. Either way the handle is a simple minimalist design with two pillars and a lanyard hole. On the G10 version the liners aren’t milled, which begs the question, how light would this thing be if they did that? Honestly my guess is any weight savings probably wouldn’t be worth the premium in price. Both handles are nicely finished, they did a great job here.
At 3.6″ long, the handle of the Drifter is a decent size and will comfortably accept a 4 finger grip, even with larger hands. The G10 version is definitely the grippier of the two, and the black G10 has been given a nice light texturing. The SS version lacks any meaningful texture, but I have no problem with it for EDC. There is jimping on the thumb ramp and choil. It’s not super aggressive, but it gets the job done. All in all I think the ergonomics here are quite reasonable.
The clip is my only real source of constructive criticism. It’s a right hand tip-down carry only clip – not my first choice for positioning. I’d love to see the option to carry tip down, and preferably 4 corners style clip, but really for a $20 knife I think what we have here works.
Perhaps the best part of the clip is that it’s removable, and the small size of the knife allows you to carry it loose in your pocket. There is a lanyard hole which could be a nice option if you decide to go the “clipless” route – it should take hollowed out 550 cord without protest. I will say it is a sturdy clip, it rides sorta low and it’s been darkened in both versions (gunmetal grey like the handle for the SS version, black for the G10).
Deployment and Lockup
Deployment for both Drifters is very smooth – almost surprisingly smooth for such inexpensive knives. Thanks to the oversize thumb studs and metal washers it takes very little effort to get this knife ready for work. One minor thing to note is that due to the size of these thumbstuds the knife can get caught up on your pocket. That’s the tradeoff with having nice big thumbstuds.
Lockup on both the G10 and Stainless steel versions is solid. My stainless steel version has broken in a bit, but there is no blade play at all. My liner lock version bites in nice and early. Some may feel that the frame lock is stronger, but honestly I don’t think it particularly matters with these little knives. Both should handle all your EDC tasks without issue.
CRKT Drifter: Final Thoughts
All in all I really like both the Drifters. For well under $25 a piece, these are two high value blades that have absolutely been done right. You get a nice no-frills design that totally works. Good deployment and lockup, nice materials, solid fit and finish. Everything you would expect from a much more expensive knife. If I had to find something to complain about, it would be the lack of placement options for the pocket clip, but even then I think the clip is passable. Again, for ultra light weight EDC I’d go with the G10 version, but you really can’t go wrong with either knife (or both!).