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Last Updated: July 13, 2019
The Kizer Feist is a knife that I’ve wanted to check out since seeing it in the 2017 catalog. At first, I almost missed it: it’s seemingly such a plain design that my eyes slid right over its page, and it was only during a follow-up perusal that I noticed it was a front flipper. Internally, that changed the design from “plain” to “minimalist.” Maybe a silly distinction on my part, but that was the train of thought.
Buy the Kizer Feist at BladeHQ
Unfortunately, the first run of Feists had issues. Some customers complained of gritty actions and stiff lockbars, so Kizer put a hold on production until they could fix those issues in the now-released second run (with the help of the designer, Justin Lundquist). Between the risks of buying a first generation model and the speed with which the second run sold out, I never had a chance to pick one up.
Luckily, someone offered to trade me their Feist a few months back, and I’ve been carrying it frequently ever since. Incidentally, that person is Tony Sculimbrene of Everyday Commentary. His review of the Feist was published back in September 2017, and I recommend checking it out. This is a rare occasion where two people review not only the same design, but the exact same knife. [This happens to be a high quality unit from the first production run, for the record]. On the whole we’ve come to similar conclusions, though I think I’m a bit more taken with the Feist than he is.
General Dimensions and Blade Details
The Kizer Feist is a relatively small knife. It features a 2.875” blade housed in a 3.625” handle, and measures in at 6.55” overall. At 2.68 ounces it’s also pretty light. Numbers never tell the whole story, but I’m impressed by the size of the blade they manage to fit into the handle. The attention to detail is similarly impressive: the blade is perfectly centered, has a rounded spine, a curved plunge line, and a very attractive stonewashed finish. It also bears mentioning that the sub-3” blade of the Feist is legal to carry in a wide array of jurisdictions.
In addition to falling into my favorite size range, the Feist also features one of my favorite blade shapes. The modified drop point (especially this iteration of it) is far and away the most useful profile I’ve encountered for everyday tasks. It is comparable to the blade of the Viper Dan 2, or (if that’s too esoteric a reference) an ordinary paring knife. There’s enough belly to handle a picnic lunch, but not so much that the blade will slide out of prolonged cuts in, say, cardboard.
I have to admit that after reviewing the Alter Ego I was more than a little concerned about how the Feist would be ground. I needn’t have worried. Not only does the Feist have thinner stock (.12” thick as opposed to .14”), but the dished grind nearly reaches the spine of the blade, making for a much keener knife overall. As the picture below suggests, it didn’t cut the apples as cleanly as a paring knife, but it didn’t split them, either. It’s not perfectly ground – there’s a hair of wobble along the plunge grind – but that’s a fairly minor detail, and it doesn’t impact the cutting performance.
Crucible’s S35VN is a common choice for Kizer, so I wasn’t surprised to see them implement it on the Feist. That’s not to say it’s a bad choice, mind: S35VN is well regarded for its edge retention, rust resistance, and general toughness, especially compared to its predecessor S30V. I’ve sharpened the Feist once in two months, and truth be told it didn’t need it, I just wanted to polish it up a little. As always, regular stropping is recommended.
Handle, Ergonomics, and Pocket Clip
Simplicity is a wonderful thing. There is nothing extraneous to the Feist’s handle: no scallops, no inexplicable bumps or angles, just plain, contoured titanium. The only concession to vanity is a decorative pivot screw, but even that can be turned with an ordinary torx driver. Flaws would stand out on a design as simple as this, yet the handles are symmetrical, clean, and blemish free. The matte finish Kizer put on the Feist adds a bit of grip and contributes to the spare design language.
The themes that make the Feist’s handle visually appealing also make it incredibly practical. There is not a single line that forces the user to hold it in a particular fashion. Combine that, the excellent contouring, and a balance point just shy of the overtravel stop and you get a remarkably deft and responsive knife. There is no flipper tab, finger choil, or jimping that will stop your fingers from sliding onto the blade though, so be careful.
The Feist features a milled titanium pocket clip that’s mounted for tip-up, right-side carry. Unfortunately, that’s the only position to attach a pocket clip unless you want to modify the Feist or find someone who can. It’s fine as far as milled clips are concerned. The edges on it are buffed enough that it doesn’t generate a hot spot, and it has some (though not much) spring tension. Stowing and retrieving the Feist wasn’t an issue in jeans, work pants, or gym shorts, but for some reason I needed to use both hands to clip it to the pocket of my slacks. I honestly couldn’t tell you why.
Once stowed, the Feist is an excellent pocket companion. It’s lightweight, slim, fairly short, and has contoured scales to boot. There’s enough tension in the clip that it doesn’t shift in the pocket, regardless of what pants I wear. The clip leaves just under half of an inch of the handle exposed. An over the top style clip wouldn’t be unwelcome, but I’ve found the Feist discreet enough for my needs.
Deployment and Lock-Up
One of the reasons I really wanted to check out the Feist was because of its deployment method: the front flipper. Unlike traditional flipper knives (part of my brain is screaming as I type that), front flippers don’t have a tab that’s pulled to deploy the blade. Instead, the rear tang of the blade is elongated and machined to add a bit of grip, which in turn gives the user’s thumb enough purchase to pop the blade open. It’s a very elegant choice, and eliminates problems like accumulating gunk and snagging threads that other deployment methods are subject to.
Unfortunately, this new flipping has a learning curve to it, and Kizer’s execution of the front flipper was less than perfect. Many customers complained of gritty actions, which made opening and closing the knife more difficult. Apparently (and this is secondhand knowledge, so take care) the internal stop pin wasn’t press fit but left free floating, and that was responsible for the grit. If you own a first generation Feist, don’t worry: Kizer is running a redemption program where you can exchange it for an updated model. My review sample hasn’t exhibited this problem: the pivot is reasonably smooth, the detent is crisp, and deployment is easy, though there is a trick to it. Instead of trying (and failing) to describe how to use a front flipper, here’s a video that may help:
Once deployed, the Feist’s blade is held in place by a titanium frame lock. This particular lock features a stainless steel lock face, an inclusion that should be the industry standard by now. Not only do they reduce the need for maintenance, they also make it easier to service the knife, and thus prolong the life of the tool. Furthermore, it’s easy to incorporate a hidden overtravel stop into these inserts, which is exactly what Kizer did.
The lock’s performance has been excellent in the two months and change that it’s been in my possession. There is no blade play, no lock rock, and it consistently engages around 40% of the blade tang. Thanks to some careful machine work from Kizer, there’s enough room for my thumb to access the lock, and the internal edges are chamfered for comfort. Some users have reported overly stiff locks, but this seems to be limited to models from the first run. As before, mine has no problems.
Kizer Feist Review – Final Thoughts
Overall, I’m very impressed by the Feist. It’s a practical, elegant design that matches my needs perfectly, whether I’m in the field, the office, or enjoying a day off. That its debut was marred by reports of shoddy manufacturing is a shame, but by all accounts the second run has none of the problems of the first. The only cross-generational complaint is that the milled clip is a bit stiff, but that’s far from a dealbreaker, at least for me.
Unless you find a sale, the Feist costs around $170. That price bracket has some pretty stiff competition, including the Benchmade G-10 Griptilians, the Spyderco S110V Paramilitary 2, and the Zero Tolerance 0450. I wouldn’t turn my nose up at any of those, but for my money I’d rather have the Feist. Its unique, refreshing, and hopefully a sign of more to come from designer Justin Lundquist.
There are a few people that may want to steer clear of the Feist. Firefighters, EMS workers, law enforcement, and military personnel might find that the design is ill-suited to their needs. The design cues that make the Feist a fantastic everyday carry knife also make it a less than ideal rescue or ‘tactical’ knife. However, if – like me – your needs are fairly simple, and you’re just looking for a pocketable, elegant cutting tool, I think you’ll be more than happy with the Kizer Feist.
Next up: the Prometheus Lights Beta QR V2 in brass.
Kizer Feist – From $168.00
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Great review, Grayson! I’ve been eyeing this one for quite some time. How has the finish held up over time? (I presume you still have it?) Has your perspective changed at all?