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Last Updated: July 16, 2018
My recent reviews of the CRKT Minimalist and the Drifter have proven that CRKT is legitimate contender in the affordable EDC game. But for many this is old news as knives like the popular CRKT M16 have been around for years delivering excellent every day performance at a price that can’t be ignored.
In fact, I’m no stranger to the M16. I owned one years ago (a small black tanto version) and for around $20 it provided me with years of trusty service. At one point I thought that I lost the knife, but several years later I found it in the pocket of one of my fishing bags. In between losing and finding my original M16, I picked up the one shown here – a medium size version with a spearpoint blade and flashy orange handle scales.
This is a very popular knife from CRKT. Designed by Kit Carson, this blade comes in a variety of sizes suitable for EDC all the way up to Tactical applications. My old M16 was pretty small but I feel like the medium sized one straddles the EDC / tactical gap nicely with it’s 3.5 blade and 3.5 ounce carry weight.
General Dimensions and Blade Details
As I said before, the exact dimensions will vary slightly depending on the exact model you select. There are so many variations I’m not going to even bother trying to cover them all, instead focusing on materials, fit and finish, and other more general aspects of the knives. The exact model in my review is a M16-13ZER and it has a 3.5″ blade, an overall length of 8.25″ and a weight of 3.5 ounces. This is the middle of the road for the M16 series as CRKT makes versions that are both smaller and larger than the 13ZER.
My model came with a spear point blade, although you also have the option of a tanto. I like the spear point because it has a great tip and a decent amount of belly. It’s not really my first choice for EDC, as I do like having even more belly, but it will get the job done fine. The knife comes with a hollow grind and the option of serrations.
I found the edge on my knife to be very asymmetrical – it’s almost like the knife has a chisel grind. CRKT states that they grind the knives this way to avoid thinning the serrations. While it may look a little different, my knife came very sharp; shaving hair and zipping through paper without an issue.
CRKT has offered the M16 in a variety of different blade steels over the years. The knife pictured here comes in AUS4, which is a lower end version of AUS8 (there is less carbon in AUS 4 than AUS 8, and the amount of carbon impacts edge retention and ease of sharpening). Performance on this AUS 4 blade is nothing to write home about. As of 2015 it looks like CRKT is now offering this in AUS 8, which is fine for the price. AUS 8 is a hearty inexpensive steel that takes a good edge, has decent edge retention, is easy to sharpen, and is relatively stain resistant. I would suggest acquiring this knife in AUS 8 steel or better if possible.
Handle, Ergonomics and Pocket Clip
Depending on the knife your M16 may come in aluminum or even titanium scales. For most people (including the knife shown here) the scales are made of Zytel (plastic) over full stainless liners. I don’t mind the Zytel scales as they are comfortable and help keep the knife light. I really like the choice in colors, I thought the orange version was cool (and practical, being a highly visible color) and kind of gives the knife a “rescue blade” vibe. A series of holes in the handle forms a basic yet attractive pattern. These holes will attract dirt and pocket lint and in my mind serve a purely decorative purpose on the FRN scaled versions.
Ergonomics on my medium sized M16 are nice. The reason I like the medium sized version (the M16-13Z) is because it has a larger handle allowing for a full grip. The zytel scales give the knife some thickness and the corners are nicely rounded so it comfortably fills the hand. The spine of the blade has some fairly aggressive jimping and the flipper forms an integral guard that keeps your hand from slipping onto the blade. These are nice ergonomic features on an otherwise basic (but highly functional) handle.
I am a little ambivalent about the pocket clip. The design is nice – it’s a simple clip that rides low and has good retention, but it’s located for right side tip down carry only. At the very least I’d like to see an option for tip up carry – let alone fully ambidextrous mounting options. Still, this medium size M16 carries reasonably for its size.
Deployment and Lockup
Deployment of the M16 is absolutely stellar. The first time I deployed the blade I literally had to check if it was an assisted opening knife – it’s that smooth and fast. Upon closer inspection it looks like the M16 uses a teflon and phosphor bronze washer. Whatever it is, it works and I’m not complaining. Deployment is accomplished by way of a flipper. At first glance it looks like the knife has 2 large thumb studs, but these are actually stop pins mounted in the blade. They sit flush with the handle and cannot be easily activated with the thumb. This is fine as I happen to like flippers.
The M16 uses a liner lock and it bites in nice and early. There is plenty of room for wear and I detected zero blade play. However, this is not your normal liner lock. This lock has been equipped with CRKT’s Auto LAWKS safety system. The Auto LAWKS system requires you to pull back a lever before you can disengage the lock – handy for aggressive use, but also a source of mild inconvenience for simple tasks. In fact, I know that for a lot of people, the Auto LAWKS is pretty annoying. Personally, I can deal with it, but would much prefer if it wasn’t spring loaded – so you could turn it on and off at will.That said, if it really bothers you you could take the knife apart and remove the LAWKS all together.
CRKT M16 Review – Final Thoughts
So how does the M16 stack up? Well, I’m sure for many the tip down carry and Auto LAWKS will be mild to moderate turn offs. It is not that hard to use, and some people have managed to disable the secondary locking system. Auto LAWKS aside, this is a good budget EDC option. I would avoid any AUS 4 versions and recommend acquiring the knife in AUS 8 steel or better.
At the end of the day there is a lot to like about the M16. It is one of CRKT’s oldest and most popular designs. The snappy deployment is a lot of fun and the fit and finish is nice. There are many different colors, blade shapes, and configurations so there is some element of collect-ability here as well. All in all the knife is solid and the price is right. Recommended if you secure one in AUS 8 steel or better.
- Safe And Secure: Automated liner safety provides extra layer of lock security
- Cutting Power: Triple Point serrations cut fibrous materials with ease
- Strong And Lightweight: Glass reinforced nylon handle is durable and lightweight
- Designed by Kit Carson in Vine Grove, Kentucky
- Limited Lifetime Warranty covers any defects in materials or workmanship, see company site for details
I recommend buying the M16 at Amazon or BladeHQ. Please consider that purchasing anything through any of the links on this website helps support BladeReviews.com, and keeps the site going. As always, any and all support is greatly appreciated. Thank you very much.
Yeah, a good knife is the result of a proper combination of attributes. It really doesn’t take a lot ruin even the best design in the world. I have an older pre-autoLAWKS m16-13z. I carried it for a few months and it served decently until the pocket clip screws worked their way out. I got replacement screws and tightened but it was even less time for it to happen again, and it got replaced with a Kershaw. I really love the grips on these guys, blade shape, and the design save the LAWKS. I think the auto system is unnecessary. Steel wasn’t so much an issue for me, but it was a limited carry for me too, and half serrated at that. I never knew the blade steel on this. AUS4… Man, I thought it was one of the chinese steels that CRKT helped bring into the main stream. Also, my wife had a smaller tanto version of this knife. It literally fell apart.
RK, not sure how old your M16 was but the older ones came in AUS 8 (and some other steels). I carried my small one without issue for a year’s worth of carry at least and it held up pretty well. To be honest I wasn’t super excited about writing this review, since it’s one of my more negative ones but I felt like it needed to be written and I had the knife in front of me. As always, thanks for stopping by!
Being able to call a dog a dog simply means that you’re not a sellout, Dan. Too many reviewers will only say nice things so they get paid and get neat gear for free. Honesty makes our words valuable.
RK, I think the orange handled Grip would be an excellent choice. I recently updated my Griptilian review w/ a video and I just love that knife. And I’m with ya man, I totally believe in providing a fair and honest review. I’m trying to make this into a resource so by being dishonest I would compromise the integrity of the entire site.
I am not a steel snob by any means, but even I draw the line at aus4 🙂 I think they could use a little better steel, even aus6 and still keep the price steady. Despite the steel issue, I am tempted to get one of those at least for display just because I am really liking the looks of the orange, something different than the typical black or gray. Nice photography on your reviews.
You know, I still like this one as I was really attracted to those orange handles too. My honest advice? There are a lot of other orange handle knives out there. Spyderco makes a couple nice rescue style knives and I think the UKPK comes in orange as well. Thanks, the photography is definitely something I’d like to continually improve – I’m working with an old “point and shoot” camera (with a tripod and lighting) – I’d love to upgrade to some fancy smchancy camera at some point. 🙂
I can recommend the orange handled Benchmade Griptilian, at $69 if you shop around. It’s one of the best production blades available. But seriously on the orange handle issue, I think more high-vis grips need to be around, or options to buy them after market for more popular styles of knives. I think that those colors actually put the sheeple more at ease with the knives because it doesn’t scream ‘weapon’ like a slick looking black grip might.
Anon R.D. says
Good objective review.
AUS-4 was an embarrassing choice of blade steel. It’s like you took AUS-8 (a decent utility steel), slashed the carbon content (= less hardness, less strength) and then, for an encore, removed all the vanadium that gave the AUS series its good reputation for taking a fine edge! I would rate AUS-4 a step below even 440A or 420HC. Such a steel, in my opinion, has no place in a knife costing more than $15.
Thankfully, check the CRKT website — Looks like they are starting to wake up and switch to 8Cr14MoV for the M16 series, as Dan suggested. This is the steel used by the nice little CRKT Drifter (also reviewed on this site). It is adequate for utility use, in my experience, and I would feel much better buying an M16 with this steel instead of AUS-4.
Thanks for stopping by and offering up some honest commentary, Anon. I know CRKT has read this review and they have read the various comments as well so it would be great if they improved the knife and put some 8Cr13MoV or something in there. If that happens I’ll certainly be willing to take another look at the knife and revise my opinion accordingly. It’s my goal to provide a fair and honest review.
Anon R.D. says
I mean it is “an embarrassing choice” for CRKT, of course; the “you” in my comment above really meant “they.”
I enjoy the site.
Absolutely – I totally understood what you meant. Glad to hear you are enjoying the site. I’ve got many more reviews left in me so stay tuned for many more candid knife reviews. 🙂
Yeah, my buddy had this exact same knife and it literally fell apart…..
BTW, Can you review a CRKT M21-02G?
I really like the knife and i’m looking at getting one to replace my SOG Flash 2…. Mom’s gonna be mad, another knife. (You can never too many knives!)
The knife looks pretty good, with the titanium-nitrate coated blade, and it is the 8Cr14MoV steel finally. 🙂
Sure, I have been meaning to check out a M21 at some point, I’ll add it to the list. Haven’t been able to turn out many reviews lately so I have a little back log, but I’ll try to get to that knife sooner than later.
Did a few years out in Iraq doing EOD and managed to pick a titanium one up from the PX, I had this knife for a number of years and loved it, it was always easy opening, stayed sharp ( not sure of the steel though) and always accompanied me on ALL my jobs as I considered it a necessity. I recently had a run it at an airport in the UK ( where I’m from) and had it taken from me by the police saying that it was a one handed opening but they left me with my leatherman ( clueless wankers) also the same . so now trying to get another ( with difficulty) and resume my companionship. AWESOME KNIFE .
Excellent, Rootsman! Thanks for stopping by and sharing your experience with the M16. It’s definitely a classic.
Marcin Petruszka says
Thanks for the review. So would you recommend M16 03Z in AUS8 or the shenanigan z? I’m having a hard time deciding between those two for my first EDC.
Tough call. Both are pretty nice. The M16 is a little tougher. I would say pick the knife that best speaks to you.
I just picked up a -03z plain edge, advertised as Aus 8 on eBay. Some competitors show same as aus4. My questionbis…how do u know what steel you are getting? Serial #? SKU? I CALLED CRKT but can’t get through…??
Honestly I have no clue. I might suggest posting on the forums to see if anyone has any info if CRKT wont get back to you. Good luck!
Glen Juntunen says
I was in the market for a new knife recently, and the CRKT M16 was one that I was interested in. The knife felt good and solid but I had a hard time reaching the thumb studs to open the blade. It almost seemed as if they were positioned too close to the top of the handle and I had a difficult time reaching it with the tip of my thumb.
I believe the thumb studs are primarily to act as lock stops, so that is how the blade is held open. I suppose you could also use them as thumb studs, but the knife is primarily designed to be a flipper.
I’ve always wanted one of these but for some reason never got one. I’ve collected around 50 or so folders since first looking at the M16 around 5 years ago. Now I’m considering this again because I feel the thin “spear like” design is well suited for self defense. I came across this review when I was trying to find out if the clip could be positioned for tip up carry, (and unfortunately it cannot).
Most of the folders I currently use for defensive carry have assisted (spring) opening, and some have the blade flipper as well. I’ve gotten used to the “switchblade” like action of having both spring assist and a flipper, and have come to rely on and appreciate those features as my wrist doesn’t seem to work as well flicking a knife open as it did years ago. One statement in this review that caught my attention was: “The first time I deployed the blade I literally had to check if it was an assisted opening knife” So I’m hoping the M16 model that I end up getting turns out to be as smooth as the one you reviewed. I’ve also been wanting to try out a flipper knife with a pivot bearing system.
Another thing I’m trying to find out is if the Zytel scales (Glass Filled Nylon?) provide adequate grip, I don’t believe the grip/texture was mentioned in the review. They appear to be somewhat smooth compared to the textured G10 that I’m used to.
In the review FRN was mentioned and the current “Z” model lists the handle material as Glass Filled Nylon, I’m not sure if Zytel is the same as GFN/FRN.
I have the M16-10KZC but I haven’t removed it from it’s clam shell package because I plan on putting it up for sale due to it being way too small. Maybe I’ll see one at the gun show this weekend and be able to get a feel of the Zytel.
There are many versions and I’d personally like one with Zytel and black color blade in the medium size spear point, however it appears they don’t make such a version. Either way it’s a cool knife that has stood the test of time (like this review has!) while many other designs have came and went, I absolutely should have an M16 for my collection/carry rotation.
Also the review is for the medium length version (8.25″) but the amazon link at the end is for the short version (7.1″)
Thanks for the detailed comment. The M16 is a smooth knife and the flipper works well. I wrote that review several years ago (and it could probably do with a re-fresh), but it’s still a nice knife for the money.
The handle scales themselves are not particularly grippy if you compare them to peel ply G10. The knife is ergonomic and captures the fingers well, but don’t expect a ton of traction from the handles. FRN / Glass Filled Nylon is the same thing. FRN stands for Fiberglass Reinforced Nylon.
They used to sell these at Wal-Mart, so my advice is to try to get your hands on one in person before you buy. I try to do the best I can, but 5 minutes in a store handling the knife is worth several volumes of written reviews. Hope this helps.
The problem with the CRKT-16 is trying to remember all the variations. Seems like you go from good to much better as you go up the line. As far as you desire for more durable steel I can understand. After all it’s CRKT and we expect even their budget knives to last a long time.
I have seen a trend lately to use 7Cr13MoV and I understand for people who want cheaper knives that are quicker and easier to keep sharp. I like 8Cr13Mov and feel it’s a good steel despite it being listed as an economy grade steel. Of course, I’d choose 9Cr18Mov or AUS 8 over AUS 6 or 7 for a hard use blade. We might guess that companies are trying to be competitive and offer lower prices by using 7Cr13Mov in more blades or 3Cr which is okay…. until the tips breaks or the edge rolls. Now I look for older models on clearance to benefit from a lower price and those tougher metals.