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Last Updated: August 5, 2019
The button lock flipper is an intriguing concept. The fun of a flipper paired with a sturdy button lock sounds great in theory. We have reviewed a couple, namely the Spartan Pallas and Freeman 451. Ben reviewed the Freeman, and he reported that the flipping action was good, but the flipper on my Pallas left a lot to be desired. That’s because no one has been able to recreate the ball detent action that you find on a liner lock or frame lock knife that puts the “flip” into a flipper. That is, until Hogue released their X5 flipper.
Designed by Allen Elishewitz, and modeled after his Black Dolphin custom offering, the X-5 is a button lock flipper that has flipping action that will rival any framelock flipper. In fact, the action is so good you may mistake the X5 for an assisted opening knife.
When I first saw the X5, it was the wharncliffe version. I don’t mind wharncliffe knives, but this one was a little too odd for me to want to buy. The spearpoint version reviewed here has beautiful symmetry. I picked one up as soon as I could find a nice deal on one.
General Dimensions and Blade Details
The X-5 comes in 2 sizes: a larger knife with a 4″ blade, and a smaller version with a 3.5″ blade. I opted for the 3.5″ version, which has an overall length of 8.25″, and a weight of 4.62 ounces. The X-5 is made in the USA. I’d like to mention that this knife is beautifully made just like all the other Hogue knives I have reviewed. The fit and finish is immaculate, complete with a mirror polished edge. From a manufacturing standpoint this is a top shelf knife.
I like the look of this spear point blade. The harpoon knives the knife some attitude, and it compliments the shape of the handle. Allen Elishewitz is among the best knife designers I have met, and this X-5 puts his talents on full display. At any rate, the blade features a simple high flat grind, a neat swedge and a fine tip. There is a slight amount of belly. Nothing crazy, but the edge is one continuous curve. This blade has been given a matte black Cerakote finish. They offer this knife without the coating if you prefer uncoated blades.
Once again, Hogue selected CPM154 as blade steel for this knife. That’s the same steel they have in all their folders, so at this point I have plenty of experience with CPM154, and Hogue’s version / heat treat in particular. This is a great steel that provides easy sharpening and good edge retention. I’ve had some issues with 154CM staining in the past, but obviously this coated blade is not going to rust at all.
In practice the X-5 cuts nicely. I had no problems breaking down boxes, opening mail, and using the X-5 for other EDC related tasks. The tip is servicable, the belly is nice, and the grind is thin enough to cut things. The knife came with a beautiful edge which I have maintained through regular stropping. The Cerakote has also held up OK. It will burnish and wear with use (you can see some of that wear on my EX-04 below). As far as coatings go it’s pretty robust but not as good as DLC. Overall I have no complaints regarding the performance of this blade.
Handle, Ergonomics, and Pocket Clip
The X-5 handle is made of 2 pieces of hard anodized aluminum with textured G-10 inlays. Again, the handles here are beautifully machined. I would not be surprised if Hogue won Blade Show’s manufacturing quality award one year. Details include a vented spine, custom pivot and hardware, an integrated lanyard hole, and body screws on only one side of the knife. Everything oozes quality and attention to detail.
The handle on the 3.5″ version of the knife feels a little cramped. I can get a full 4 finger grip on the knife, but it feels like my pinky is going to slide off the back. Adding to things is the inclusion of an aggressive finger choil that limits your hand placement options. This is probably my biggest gripe with the knife. That said, the handle certainly works and I’m sure the 4″ version will be more accommodating to larger hands. Part of what I enjoy about this knife is the unique aesthetic, and I’m willing to sacrifice a little for the sake of this unique design. However, this is coming from a guy with a 100 pocket knives. If this was my only EDC knife I’d want something with milder ergonomics.
The pocket clip is a deep carry affair, blacked out and swappable for ambidextrous tip up carry. Retention is extremely tight. Pants shredding tight. There is no way this thing will fall out of your pocket, but that’s provided you can actually get this ting into your pocket in the first place. I find the spring action of the clip to be too tight. I’m also not a huge fan of the large tip of the pocket clip that is exposed when this knife is clipped into your pocket. It will scrape car doors if you aren’t careful. I know folks have been critical of the large spoon clip in the EX series, but I think I prefer it over the clip on this X-5.
The X-5 is light for its size and carries easily enough. The nice thing about a matte black deep carry clip is that it makes for a discrete knife. This 3.5″ version is an easy EDC for me, but I would like to see this pocket clip tweaked a little bit.
Deployment and Lockup
The X-5 is a flipper. That should be pretty obvious. There are no thumb studs, thumb holes, or secondary means of opening the blade. That’s alright because the flipping action is outstanding. Like I mentioned in the introduction, the button lock flippers I’ve handled in the past haven’t flipped well. That’s because they never were able to recreate the detent action of a linerlock or frame lock flipper. The X-5 does that by embedding a ball detent into the handle. This YouTube video does an excellent job showing you what is going on. A ball detent is set into a stainless steel spring inset in the handle, and there is a hole and track on the blade for the detent to run in.
The end result is fantastic flipping action – to the point where you may mistake this for an assisted opening knife. But it’s not an assisted opener, and one way you can tell is by depressing the button lock: the blade swings freely. It’s also worth noting that there are no stand alone washers on this knife. Instead, the washers are milled into the aluminum handles. The end result is buttery smooth.
The button lock has been beautifully executed. There is no stick at all in my lock, and lockup is tight as a drum. There is an external safety. Typically I’m not a fan of these, but Hogue has dialed this in so the action of the safety is crisp and purposeful. Unlike most knives with secondary safeties, it doesn’t flop around, and you aren’t going to accidentally activate it on the X-5. While I don’t use it, I like how they did it.
Centering is dead nuts perfect.
Hogue X5 Review – Final Thoughts
All said I’m a fan of the X-5. Hogue makes a beautiful knife, and the X-5 may be the nicest model I’ve handled yet. And they have cracked the code for a button lock flipper. The flipping action is flipping outstanding. That alone earns some points in my book, and I hope Hogue applies this technology to other knives, or licenses it to other companies. I also happen to be a fan of this design. I find it visually appealing and the execution is top notch. For these reasons I appreciate and enjoy the X-5 as a knife collector.
That said, there are a couple issues with the knife that prevent me from giving it a perfect score (not that I really score anything on here anyways). First, the handle is cramped. This knife is not going to replace my Griptilian or other work knives any time soon. I could have gotten the 4″ version, but I usually don’t like to carry folding knives that large. Second, the pocket clip is too tight, and the tip of the clip pokes out too much. It shreds your pockets, is a chore to use, and the tip sticks out to the point where it can inadvertently scrape up cars if you aren’t careful. As a fan of the design, the ergonomic issues are forgivable, but I still think the pocket clip needs work.
So this isn’t a perfect knife, but for me the pros outweigh the cons. I have plenty of plain Jane pocket knives, but nothing else like the X-5 in my collection.
But if the X5 speaks to you as a collector and enthusiast, then I’m here to tell you to answer the call. It’s mostly an awesome knife. Not my desert island EDC, but there is a lot to enjoy with this one. And like the EX-04, I don’t see myself offloading my X-5 any time soon.