I have always been a huge fan of user knives. Blades like the Benchmade 710, Spyderco Gayle Bradley, and Cold Steel American Lawman have always resonated with me as great knives because they are great tools. As a collector I am still enthused by the latest and greatest in materials and technology, but I will always have a soft spot for unpretentious tool knives that work really well. These users are what spend the most time in my pocket, while the fancier blades spend the most time on the shelf.
Enter the Kershaw Knockout. Here we have a bold drop-point blade married to a simple handle. The knife has visual presence, but it still appears utilitarian, has an interesting sub-frame lock mechanism that combines the strength of a frame lock with the weight of a liner lock, is made in the USA, and retails for around $55-65 depending on where you buy it. I am especially drawn to this price because the $50-100 price point is notoriously tough for the retail knife industry. It seems that there are a lot of new releases where the knife retails for less than $40 or more than $100, but relatively few knives are coming out in the $40-100 range these days. Looking at pictures, specifications, and the bottom line, Kershaw potentially has a really nice user knife here, and for that reason I am excited to finally acquire one for my personal collection and share some thoughts on it with you.
General Dimensions, Blade Details
The Knockout has an overall length of 7.875″, has a 3.5″ blade, and weighs 3.8 ounces. This is a good size knife, but it’s surprisingly thin and lightweight. It’s not totally unreasonable to consider this as a daily carry, and it certainly makes for a great utility knife for weekend projects, or for folks who can get away with carrying a bigger knife on a daily basis.
The blade shape is a classic drop point that has been punched up with some well placed lines. I really like how broad this blade is relative to the handle. It has great presence and is innately appealing. It is also very practical. The belly is deep and the high flat grind peters out to a thin yet serviceable edge. The knife cuts really well. The thin grind coupled with the broad profile makes for an excellent slicer. This knife is ideal for breaking down boxes and other slicing tasks. I cut through rope, and performed some food prep with no issues. This isn’t my ideal choice for a carving knife, and the thin blade doesn’t lend itself to hard use, but this is a great practical blade that cuts very well. There is a swedge but the tip is reinforced and comes to a fine point; excellent for piercing. The end result is the Knockout cuts well in a variety of scenarios. It’s not going to be the toughest blade, but if you respect it, the Knockout will get a lot of work done.
Blade steel is Sandvik 14C28N, a Scandinavian stainless steel that has made a number of appearances in USA made Kershaw knives. I’m a fan of 14C28N, especially when given a lightly tumbled finish like on the Knockout. This is a proven steel for me. It holds a decent edge and is easy to maintain, and the blade geometry of the Knockout makes great use of this fine-grained steel. I have found that 14C28N will stain if you aren’t careful with it (and was difficult to clean up for the photographs), but that will hold true for a lot stainless steels. I think 14C28N is a great choice for a value oriented EDC knife.
Handle, Ergonomics, and Pocket Clip
The Knockout has a black hardcoated aluminum handle with partial plastic backspacer. The black anodization on the handle slabs is reasonably durable, but will show signs of wear with use. Handle construction is simple and sturdy with two body screws threading all the way through the backspacer and handle. Everything lines up very nicely and has been well finished. The show side of the handle features a few arcs carved into the face of the aluminum for a little visual interest and traction. This is a sturdy handle and I find little to complaint about it.
The ergonomics of the Knockout are adequate. Being a thinner handle, this doesn’t jump out at me as outstandingly comfortable, but it certainly works and it doesn’t have any glaring hot spots. The anodized aluminum provides a little traction and isn’t slippery. There is no jimping anywhere on the knife. I don’t mind this but I recognize that this is a personal preference. People looking for a more hard use knife might want to go with something a little thicker and with more traction. The Knockout was fine for my pedestrian purposes, but the thinness of the handle, while great from a weight and carry perspective, could turn off those who are looking to run this knife hard on a regular basis.
The pocket clip on the Knockout is the same one found on the Cryo. It’s a blackened deep carry fold-over clip that has been mounted high on the handle and drilled and tapped for 4 corner carry. I like this pocket clip design and have zero complaints regarding the clip, carry options, or way this knife holds in the pocket. My favorite aspect of the Knockout’s handle is how thin it is. I have really come to appreciate this, especially in a larger knife. It carries very well.
Deployment and Lockup
The Knockout is an assisted opening knife with the option of a flipper or ambidextrous thumb studs. I am not always crazy about assisted opening flippers, but on the Knockout it works and I actually like it. The blade responds quickly to a push of the flipper or brush of the thumb studs. These are true thumb studs, not blade stops on some other flipper folders (like the 0560 for example) so they are easy to get at and work flawlessly. The knife kicks open easily and locks in place with an authoritative “thwack”.
The Knockout makes use of a sub-frame lock to lock the blade open, and is the namesake for this knife. You probably already know this from doing other research on the knife, but the aluminum handle has been “knocked out” to accept a stainless steel lock bar, hence the name “Kershaw Knockout”. This is actually the first sub-framelock knife to grace the pages of BladeReviews, and is a really nice design. The hardened steel lock bar engages at around 50%, there is no blade play or lock stick, and the knife is still very lightweight for it’s size because the rest of the handle is aluminum and plastic. It’s a great practical design that has been well implemented. No complaints here.
I will mention that my blade is fairly off center. It doesn’t rub, but is worth noting.
Kershaw Knockout – Final Thoughts
The Knockout is a very solid offering from Kershaw. I have had my eye on this one since its release, and I am glad that I finally managed to get my hands on one. $55 gets you a well made American flipper folder with quality materials, a practical footprint, and an attractive design. For those wanting a larger knife capable of getting some real work done without breaking the bank, the Knockout strikes me as a good choice. There are definitely higher end and more exotic offerings, but the Knockout is a great no-nonsense tool and doesn’t have a whole lot of worthy competition at its price point.
I will also say that I have tended to favor the USA made Kershaw’s over their Chinese made counter parts. The USA Kershaws are always really well done. The materials are a little nicer, the finishes seem better, and I have just had better luck with them for whatever reason. This isn’t intended to start some sort of flame war, but I’m just calling it as I see it. I’d rather spend $55 on a USA made Kershaw than $20 or $30 on a Chinese one. To me the Knockout is an example of Kershaw at its best.
I recommend buying the Knockout at BladeHQ or Amazon. 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.