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The Kizer Ki3480 Rogue is a series of firsts for me. It’s the first Dirk Pinkerton design I have ever reviewed, it’s my first review of a mid-tier Kizer knife, and it’s the first wharncliffe I have reviewed in a while.
The designer, Dirk Pinkerton, is an interesting guy. He is a custom knifemaker from Huntersville, North Carolina, and his focus is on purpose built knives for self defense applications. He even did a collaboration with our very own Chad McBroom, the Active Response Kerambit.
Buy the Kizer Rogue at BladeHQ
Using knives defensively is well outside my wheelhouse, but I have been curious about Dirk Pinkerton’s designs ever since reading RoadKill’s review of the Meyerco Wharning back in 2012.
The Rogue shares some obvious design similarities to the Wharning. Namely, the aggressive wharncliffe blade. It’s different from what I typically review, and different from Kizer’s other designs, which is exactly why I wanted to check it out.
General Dimensions and Blade Details
The Rogue has an overall length of 7.125″, a 3.00″ blade, and it weighs 3.92 ounces. Like all Kizer knives, the Rogue is made in China. I like that although the Rogue was likely designed with self-defense in mind, this is still a practical size for Every Day Carry (EDC). In fact, it almost resembles a folding box cutter. An obvious comparison would be with the Spyderco Yojimbo 2, a knife designed by Michael Janich. In addition to being a designer for Spyderco, Michael Janich is a martial artist and fellow enthusiast of the wharncliffe.
The dramatic wharncliffe blade is what makes this model stand out. You are going to either love it or hate it, and it is different from anything else in my collection. The 4mm thick blade has been given a partial flat grind. There is no swedge but the blade still comes to a needle-fine tip. The blade has been given a fine tumbled finish.
The benefit to a wharncliffe blade is that it excellent for slicing cuts. Power is applied uniformly to the edge whether you are at the tip, or by the ricasso. Combine that with an excellent tip for thrusting, and you have a very capable blade shape. For these reasons it is easy to see why guys like Michael Janich and Dirk Pinkerton prefer the wharncliffe.
The flip side is that there is no belly, which makes tasks like skinning near impossible. This is not my favorite knife to use in the kitchen.
Kizer chose S35VN for the blade steel. S35VN is excellent stuff. The more I use S30V, the more I like my S35VN blades. They are easier to sharpen and less brittle, but still hold a good edge like S30V. S35VN is an American steel, and Kizer had to import it in to China to make their knives. We often think of products being exported from China, so it’s an interesting point to consider, and speaks to Kizer’s dedication to making high end production knives.
Handle, Ergonomics, and Pocket Clip
The Rogue has full titanium handles. Unlike the Intrepid, the handles of the Rogue are not 3-D contoured. Instead, they have been milled with a series of reliefs to provide texture and visual interest. The handle was then given a black coating and then the face of the handles were surface ground to provide a brushed titanium texture. The two-tone finish is unique, and so far it has held up well. Everything has been screwed together, and there are 2 barrel spacers and a decorative pivot.
Fit and finish is excellent. Everything has been completed to an eerie level of precision, much like a Taichung, Taiwan Spyderco.
The ergonomics of the Rogue benefit greatly from a simple handle design, and good use of jimping. The handle shape is about as simple as they come, which means that it will feel great for most people. There is flat top jimping on the spine of the blade. This offers good traction without being overly destructive. There is some additional light jimping / millwork on the spine of the handle, and also where your pinky and ring finger rest. These features, combined with the millwork on the handle slabs, offer a good deal of traction for the end user. The end result is a knife that feels secure in the hand without being obnoxious.
The blue titanium pocket clip offers a splash of color while being a good pocket clip. It’s a fold over deep carry clip, that has been placed so that about a quarter of an inch of the knife is left exposed. This was probably done to provide easy access in the event you needed the knife in an emergency situation. Personally, I’d prefer an even deeper carry, but the knife is still discrete.
The Rogue carries well. It’s not an overly thick or heavy knife, and the titanium clip offers plenty of retention. The knife stays in your pocket until you need it, and then it’s ready to go. No complaints with how this knife carries.
Deployment and Lockup
The Rogue is a dual thumbstud knife. I have always liked thumb studs, and the ones on the Rogue are nicely done. They are prominent and easy to access. The blade rides on phosphor bronze washers; my washer material of choice. Here the action is smooth and easy. There is a fairly strong detent, and the blade flicks open with a push of the thumb.
For lockup we have a titanium framelock with a stainless steel lockbar insert. The knife locks up early, and is secure. There is no blade play in any direction. There is also no lock stick. This is an excellent fame lock and rivals the Zero Tolerance framelocks I have owned over the years. Top shelf stuff.
Blade centering is good, but not perfect. That is about the only fit and finish nitpick I could find.
Kizer Rogue Review – Final Thoughts
The Rogue is solidly designed and perfectly executed. I have a hard time finding fault with this knife. Maybe I would move the pocket clip up a quarter of an inch, and the blade over a millimeter. Beyond that I don’t have much to say. Some may not care for the aggressive wharncliffe blade shape, or the 2 tone handle, but that is more personal preference than anything. If you are a fan of the design, then I would recommend it without reservation.
What you get for the money is also worth mentioning. As of the date of publication of this review, the Rogue can be had for just under $120. At that price you are getting a full titanium handle, a S35VN blade, a thoughtful design, and a near perfectly executed knife. The fit and finish is excellent, and the frame lock is among the best I have handled. I can’t think of much that touches it at this price point.
The Yojimbo 2 can be had at that price, but you won’t get S35VN or a titanium frame lock. That is an interesting comparison. I am sure some will prefer the thumb hole and compression lock, and find those to be worthy trade offs, but if Spyderco were to make the Yojimbo 2 as a titanium framelock, it would easily be a $200 knife.
The Rogue is another solid offering from Kizer. Between the high end Intrepid, and the value oriented Vanguard Gemini, the Rogue shows that Kizer can also play in the middle market. This is a company to continue watching. Their strategy of offering both high quality and high value is tough to ignore.
I recommend purchasing the Kizer Rogue at Amazon and BladeHQ. Thanks for reading.
Great review! I’m really interested in this knife. I really love Pinkerton’s designs but have been wincing at the cost of his customs. However, this is very reasonably priced design with excellent quality. I will have to save up for this one. Working on a review for the new Boker Kalash XL currently. It was my Xmas present.
Thanks for stopping by. I figured this one might pique your interest! This knife is well made. Kizer did an excellent job with it.
The Boker Kalashnikov is very popular. I will be curious to get your take on it as it’s a knife I haven’t gotten around to yet. Enjoy it!
This is such an appealing design! I dig knives that truly meld EDC and defensive design — as opposed to being an EDC knife with a few cosmetic “tactical” cues tacked on (which is what we more often see). I find the Rogue very handsome.
The thing about this bold wharncliffe shape is that it is favored by some important schools of defensive knife training, yet for some people’s tasks it also makes a good utility blade. If your EDC tasks lean heavily toward package and cardboard cutting, the wharnie is great. I sometimes carry the affordable little CS Tuff Lite as an EDC box cutter.
The choice of S35VN is not just a marketing point, either — I’ve often noticed that for the abrasive utility work wharnies are good at, a wear resistant modern steel has real benefits.
As long as there’s enough handle traction for a defensive knife (and it sounds like there is, combined with the excellent handle shape), this really could be an EDC/defensive crossover blade, especially for folks who like high-end features and have a 3″ blade limit.
(The excellent review would have been improved slightly with a close up pic of the lock engagement. Personally I don’t love framelocks for defensive use, but as long as there is adequate lock engagement they are OK. The trendy “early” lockup is a feature as long as the locking leaf engages 100% of its width on the blade tang. Any earlier than that, it is a negative that can even be a deal breaker in extreme cases.)
I am not gonna buy a Rogue because I try not to buy high-end knives made in PRC. But I’m relegating that to the last paragraph because it’s not the point here: this is a really cool looking blade that seems to have a well thought out design, and I give kudos to Pinkerton and Kizer for it.
Oh yeah– an interesting comparison to this knife is the Blackhawk Be-Wharned, a Michael Janich design which has the same swedgeless wharncliffe blade shape, but elongated to a 3.4″ length with a truly scary-acute point. Nasty thing. The pointiest knife I’ve ever owned with the possible exception of the Spyderco Pattada. It also has a very grippy G10 handle and a robust high-tension liner lock. It is much more of an exclusive fighting knife, while the Rogue has an appealing crossover vibe.
I found the Be-Wharned a formidable, intelligent design. But I always worried that I would snap the tip doing utility work with it, which is one reason why it got sold. Lesson learned; I’m at best only halfway tactical. 🙂
Earl Sweatpants says
LOVE the wharncliffe blade for work purposes, plus it’s so, so easy to sharpen. It’s a trivial point but it just looks like a “work tool” as opposed to a “weapon”. Plus it’s ideal for fine cutting tasks as well. Looks like a definite add to my “want, must have” list!
Great review. Funnily enough I was thinking about picking one of these up awhile ago and never got around to it. Glad someone did!
A buddy of mine is an electrician, and he loves his Yojimbo for cable work. All these “defensive” knives just look like utility cutters to me.
Thank you. I am surprised that this one caught your eye, I would not have guessed this is one you would be interested in. That said, I think you are absolutely right, it does have a utilitarian vibe to it. I like that aspect of this knife as well.
I really have my eye on Kizer. This knife is near the top of my list. I have 2 unused knives on way back from Spyderco and BM W&R.. Getting aggravated with their QC.
I love the Kizer blade shape. I have two Spyderco Yojimbo 2s and love that knife. Your right, Kizer offers a lot for the money. I agree that S35VN is better then S30VN. They don’t always cut uniformly though IMO..If you are cutting on a flat surface, you have to tip up the end of handle. I’ll tend to use the first 1/3 of the blade more. Great review and appears to be a great knife.
Dirk Pinkerton says
Thank you for a well thought out review of the Rogue. It is nice to see someone think about the knife they are discussing and the different aspects of the knife before commenting. While in this instance it was very favorable on my design and Kizer’s execution of that design, I would have no complaint if it were more critical.
The wharncliffe style of blade is one of my favorite blade designs. It is simple, effective and very versatile. That was the idea behind the Rogue. And I believe Kizer did an excellent job of delivering that idea.
You are very welcome. What a treat to have the designer of the knife comment on the review. Thanks for checking it out.
I am not shy about being critical, but I think in this instance this is a nice design and was well executed at a reasonable price point. There is little for me to get critical about.