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I went to the SHOT Show (Shooting Hunting Outdoors Trade) 2020 and the Las Vegas Custom Knife Show 2020 and saw literally thousands of knives. Because of the internet in general (and Instagram in particular) most of them looked familiar, but I had never seen 99% of them in person. I buy pretty much everything except fresh vegetables online, so I never really know how big knives are or how they feel until they arrive in my mailbox, so it was really neat to be able to see everything in person and ask questions. My mission with these two SHOT articles is to not only give my fellow knife nerds a heads up on what’s in store for us in 2020, but since I actually got my hands on them, I’ll do my best to describe how they feel.
There were way too many new knives for me to cover them all, so I’m just reporting on the ones that I found most interesting. A well known gun writer, Col. Townsend Whelen, said “only accurate rifles are interesting.” I don’t want to come off as a snob, but I generally agree with the concept. I don’t find knives made with cheap blade steel like AUS8 or 8Cr13MoV particularly interesting, even if they’re superb designs like TJ Schwarz’s Overland or Thero knives, both produced by CRKT. I love that there are so many unique, well made, low-cost folding knife options out there that we knife lovers can take a chance on without breaking the bank, but I personally gravitate towards higher-end stuff. Here we go, and I apologize in advance for my bad photography, I’ll do better next year!
This is a prototype of Arcane Design’s first folder, the Necronaut. It’s Kickstarter campaign launches February 10, 2020. It’s a framelock flipper with a 3.5” M390 blade, a titanium handle with red aluminum pivot collars, and it’s going to cost $350-$375, depending on blade and handle finishes. It’s going to be manufactured by Reate, and based on my past experiences with Reate-made knives, the quality of the production knives is likely to be top notch.
The Necronaut felt substantial and aggressive, and the flipping action was brisk with a solid lockup. It’s got a 4 mm thick blade and raised red pivot collars that give it more style and heft. The handle shape is surprisingly comfortable for being so angular, and I didn’t notice the pocket clip when I gave it a few test flips, so it seems to be doing a good job of not creating any hotspots in my very limited time with this mean-looking knife.
Archaeo non-locking flipper
The locking version of the Archaeo flipper has been Artisan’s top seller lately, with large (3.86” blade) and small (3” blade) versions ranging in price from $57 to $250, depending on materials. Artisan has decided to ride the 2019/2020 industry-wide wave of non-locking knives by producing an Archaeo non-locking flipper. Price, size, and materials are all being decided at the moment. The expected release is sometime in March or April 2020.
The Archaeo felt very thin and light. The flipper action was snappy and the handle materials (G10 in this case) felt grippy and reasonably well-finished. Whether locking or non-locking, the Archaeo variants on display didn’t feel substantial enough for heavy-duty cutting, but that’s obviously not what they’re made for.
Unnamed Prototype Top Lock Folder
This is a prototype of a new locking system that Artisan has been working on for a few years. To open or close the knife, you place your thumb on top of, or on the side of, the spring-tensioned lock mechanism (circled) on the top front of the handle and slide it towards the rear. Artisan doesn’t have a name, release date, or even a final design yet- I think they’re just showing it to people to get feedback.
This felt unlike any other lock I’ve ever used. It’s an interesting design that doesn’t require you to put your thumb in the path of the blade to close it, but you can also close the blade on your fingers if you’re holding it too far back for the flipper tab to bump into your index finger as it swings closed. It’s a prototype, so the edges were somewhat sharp and the spring tension in the lock mechanism was a bit light from a safety standpoint, but it felt pretty neat, and I look forward to handling a finished product someday.
Apparently the only new-for-2020 feature of the Benchmade Autocrat is a black DLC coated blade, but I mention it in this article partly because I was pleasantly surprised by it, and partly because BladeReviews.com’s Editor In-Chief Dan recently did a review of the Benchmade Infidel, and I had a very serious question for the Benchmade rep who was showing me around Benchmade’s display.
Dan mentioned in his review that the end of the fuller running down the center of the Infidel’s blade looked like a set of dog testicles (you really should look at the first image in Dan’s review linked above) and I politely inquired about the purpose of that particular shape at the aft end of the Infidel’s fuller. “It’s a blood groove.” said the rep. I then remarked about how fullers are usually for structural rigidity and aesthetics and not for actual blood channeling, and that it looks like a pair of balls. He didn’t like that at all and told me the Infidel is a serious knife for military personnel and first responders, so “It’s literally a blood groove.” Mystery solved, I guess. The Autocrat OTF, pictured above is smaller, lighter, and less hardcore than the Infidel, and therefore does not require the special blood groove shape.
Both sides of the Autocrat’s handle are made of textured G10, and they felt grippy but not abrasive. The knife is also surprisingly light for it’s size. The blade is 3.7” of S30V steel, which is a bit longer than the 3.46” blade of the Autocrat’s main competition, the Microtech Ultratech, but the Autocrat felt much lighter to me than an aluminum bodied Ultratech, and the spine-mounted switch was easier to activate. The pocket clip has a tasteful little Benchmade butterfly logo on it, as opposed to the blood groove havin’ Benchmade Infidel’s clip which says “THE INFIDEL” in large white letters. All in all, I quite like the Autocrat.
The Tengu is a classy little (2.77” blade) liner lock named after a Japanese demon. I find it interesting mainly because it’s design blends the look of an old-timey lockback with 21st century features such as flipper opening, a liner lock, an attractive striped G10 backspacer and handles, modern CPM-20CV steel, and overall cool lines. Designer Jared Oeser’s shield logo and smooth-faced handle screws on the show side make this a real standout for Benchmade. It’s slated for release in February, at a MSRP of $220.
This knife felt solid, heavy, and well made. Since there’s no pocket clip, it comes with a nice little soft leather pouch. I’ve handled a couple of William Henry knives, which are the pinnacle of modern + old-timey blended knives, and they’re handmade gems that radiate quality craftsmanship. The Tengu ain’t that, but it’s quite nice.
The Kamoza, by prolific Bestech knife designer Kombou, is a medium-large (3.62” blade) flipper with a futuristic JRR Tolkein elf kind of vibe. The handle is titanium and the blade is M390 steel. As of February 2020, the Kamoza comes in three handle color/blade finish options, and is starting to appear in stores with a street price of around $255.
It felt light and tight with a snappy flipping action. The back end of the handle on the Kamoza has a curved cutout that fits the shape of the tanto blade, and felt quite good in my hand. This knife has a ton of fascinating design details, including a band of fine lines across the handle, which looks like it’s becoming a design motif for Kombou, as his next knife, the Kasta (below) has them too.
This is another new model designed by Kombou, featuring stripes of finely milled lines on the handle and pivot screw. I was told that the Kasta blade shape was inspired by a historical Chinese infantry weapon, the Pudao, which was essentially a short sword on a pole. I was also told it would become available shortly after Chinese New Year and is slated to be the most expensive Bestech to date, with an MSRP of $400. It’s got a blade made of M390 steel, a titanium and carbon fiber handle, and other color/material combos will be forthcoming.
The Kasta felt big and meaty- the tall, heavy blade thwacked open with authority, and the handle allowed me a solid four finger grip. The belly of the blade is slightly lower than the flipper tab, so it could have some kitchen utility if that’s your thing. I would characterize this knife as “not office friendly.”
Tulip front flipper
Permission to use this pic was given to me by the photographer, Grzegorz Grabarski (Kombou)
The Tulip is a little angular front flipping piece of art by designer Ostap Hel. It has a 1.34” blade of M390 steel, and fit easily into the little coin pocket of my jeans. It was a December 2019 release.
The Tulip is cute but felt waaaay too small to do any serious cutting. It was so small I had a hard time opening it using the front flipper, but I’m sure I’d get the hang of it with practice. I get the appeal of such tiny knives, but I also got to handle the Bestech Imp (not pictured), which is about 50% bigger, and in my opinion the Imp is far more usable due to it’s index finger-sized blade choil.
The Boker representative I spoke with described the Aphex as a limited edition “Boker 2020 collector knife.” Designed by Lucas Burnley, it’s got all the right ingredients for a 2020-style tactical knife: M390 steel, titanium frame with carbon fiber inlays, and a super-manly vibe. It’s slated to become available in February or March of 2020 with an MSRP of $549.
The Aphex has a 4” blade, and felt like a serious tool. It’s big, heavy, and aggressive. Holding the Aphex made me want to use it to use it to whittle a boar-hunting spear out of a tree trunk.
Permission to use this pic was given to me by Cultrotech via Instagram
The Comrade is limited to 100 remarkably detailed pieces from Cultrotech Knives in Russia. It’s blade is 3.77” of Elmax steel in a titanium framelock handle. I met the designer at the Las Vegas Custom Knife show, but since I don’t speak Russian I wasn’t able to get many details, other than it will cost 48,000 Rubles ($740 USD.)
It felt crazy lightweight, and had a crazy smooth action. I’ve handled a couple of Shirogorov knives, which are known to be among the most well-crafted production folders in the world, and the Comrade was their equal in smoothness and build quality.
Other than the CRKT Provoke folding karambit, which to me is unquestionably super-cool, the only CRKT knife I want to single out from their huge catalog is the Minimalist Cleaver, along with it’s bowie, drop point, wharncliffe, and tanto variants. They all have blades around 2 inches long, made from not-so-good 5Cr15MoV or 8Cr13MoV blade steel, and come with cute little rigid nylon sheaths. They range in price from $17 to $25.
I thought the entire CRKT Minimalist series with these distinctive handles were kind of dumb gimmicks until I felt one, and then I was totally sold on the concept of these tiny fixed blade knives. They feel great in the hand because of the finger grooves, which provide a surprisingly solid grip despite the fact that the handle is quite thin. The cleaver style (pictured above) would probably work very well as a boxcutter or utility knife. I would actually buy this knife if I didn’t live in California, a state that says no! to fixed blade knives if they’re carried concealed. The only way to stay legal would be to openly carry it in a sheath, but people already think I’m weird enough without wearing a fixed blade on my belt like a mountain man.
I don’t know what to call the opening mechanism, but here’s how it works: press the thumbstud (which is also a button) in to unlock the 2.95” blade, then walk it around it’s little round track with your thumb until it’s open, at which point the spring detent in the button pops it back up to lock the blade open. Reverse the process to close it. There are several blade steel, blade coating, and handle material variations coming out sometime in early 2020, with street prices starting at around $412.
The feel of the Radius was unique, and I liked it. I tend to have some small metal object in my hand (usually a knife or flashlight) when watching TV, but idly playing with flipper or assisted opening knives (and I barely saw any assisted opening knives at SHOT Show 2020 except for CRKT and SOG knives) makes noise and annoys my wife. But the Radius’ one handed opening is silent and addictive. I couldn’t stop opening and closing it the entire time I was speaking with the Fox Knives rep. It’s not a very long knife, with a blade under 3”, perhaps to make it legal in more places in America, and the thumb pivot mechanism takes up quite a bit of space in the handle. Because of that, there was no space on the handle for my pinky finger, which is really the only thing I didn’t like about this knife. The carbon fiber handle scales are unusually thick, which felt great in the hand but bulky in the pocket. I can’t remember if the titanium versions were as thick as the carbon fiber ones, and I also didn’t remember to ask if they’re making a left handed or ambidextrous version for the 10% of the world that’s not right handed.
599 Folding Karambit
The Fox 599 Folding Karambit isn’t particularly new, but I found this knife interesting because of it’s deployment method. It has the Emerson Wave feature, which is the hook on the back of the blade. On any normal Emerson Wave or DPX Gear Emerson-ish opening hook, you pull the knife towards the back of your pocket while drawing it upward, and the hook catches the fabric at the back of your pocket, making the blade snap open. But because karambit knives are designed to be used in a reverse grip with the index finger in the ring and the blade facing out, instead of facing in like a traditional knife, the Wave hook is reversed as well. The 599’s Wave hook works by grabbing the fabric on the front (forward facing) side of your pocket, not the back.
I tried to make this backwards opening feature work several times, and I finally got it but it felt very awkward. I would ordinarily recommend a lot of practice to anyone carrying this knife, but if you’re the kind of person who carries a karambit, you’re already going to practice that move until you destroy 10 pairs of pants.
Doubledown Folding Machete
Do you love machetes but are always losing those pesky scabbards? Do you love butterfly knives but wish it was so big you could cut down a tree with it? I’m envisioning the “Has this ever happened to you?” part of the infomercial where it turns black & white and freeze frames on the actor looking into the camera in frustrated horror… Even the Gerber rep at the SHOT Show had a hard time being serious about this butterfly knife machete. It’s got a 6.75” blade, and is 15” open. The Gerber Doubledown is due to be released in August with a MSRP of $130.
I just had to play with this and was disappointed that it didn’t flip all the way open like a butterfly knife, but has a half-stop with safety release buttons (the thin silver bars near the pivot on each handle) that are only there to keep that big heavy blade from chopping your hand off when you try to open this awkward contraption. It’s due to be released in August 2020, which seemed strange to me since spring is gardening season, but perhaps they wanted their big, dangerous, folding machete release date to steer way clear of April, which is National Limb Loss Awareness Month.
There were lots of thin, light, smallish, elegant new knives at SHOT 2020, and Kizer’s booth had a metric F-ton of them. The Clutch has a 3.39” S35VN blade and it’s titanium frame lock handle comes with either carbon fiber or micarta (pictured) inlays. The thing that made this particular knife interesting to me was it’s micarta inlays.
The extremely grippy inlays looked and felt like rigid corduroy (if you’re under 40 years old, ask your parents what corduroy is) and it’s obvious from the two different textures on the lock side that Kizer machined that line texture into the micarta, which is something I’ve never seen before. The Clutch should be available in May 2020.
Apus Front Flipper
The Apus is another thin, light, smallish, new Kizer knife, and is very 2020-style with it’s small size, front flipper, and different color variations. It’s 3” blade is S35VN steel with titanium, titanium/carbon fiber, or titanium/copper handles. It’s expected to be in stores around May.
I know it’s a subjective thing, but when I had this gorgeous little knife in my hand, I wished it would either be a little bigger or a little smaller, since I was able to get a 3 1/2 finger grip on it with my medium/large hands. I feel like it’s an in-between size at 6.9” overall, but that’s my only complaint. I find this knife’s open profile to be very aesthetically pleasing, especially with the copper handle scale.
This lightweight new flipper is designed by Sebastian Irawan from Indonesia, and is one of three of his Kizer-produced knives coming out in 2020. It’s got a 3.5” S35VN blade with a titanium framelock handle. Available in June 2020.
When I picked up the Noble and flipped open the blade (good, quick action by the way) I was immediately aware of how much the handle’s holes and off-center football-shaped scallops reduce the weight of the knife. The Noble’s handle is not particularly thin, but it’s got a lot of material removed from the inside of the handle as well, so it’s pretty much hollow without feeling fragile. The handle’s machining also provides a lot of grip, and the lock side of the knife has even more neat machining on the handle and pocket clip. This is one of those knives that feels better than it looks like it would, if that makes sense.
Launch 11 OTS auto
Kershaw’s Launch series of Out The Side auto knives just got a little classier with the Launch 11. I think it’s much better looking than any of the previous ten Launch models. It has a 2.75” sheepsfoot blade made of CPM 154 steel in an aluminum handle.
It felt small and light- a gentleman’s switchblade. I felt the opening button was recessed enough to avoid accidental firing, which is important in a switchblade with no manual safety. The spring strength and blade weight felt well balanced, meaning that the spring pushing the blade open didn’t try to throw the knife out of my hand like most OTS automatic knives do.
I think they had some new knives, but their SHOT booth was manned by two guys speaking to each other in Italian who never once acknowledged my presence, so I have nothing to report.
Rigger flipper prototype
If you’ve read this SHOT Show 2020 article all the way down to this point, you’ll know that I’m not an actual journalist, but I faked it very convincingly at the Magpul booth. The third person I asked about this knife got a fourth person to go into the back and find the prototype pictured above, and they told me a lot of inside info on the story of the Magpul Rigger.
I’d seen pictures of the Rigger from last year’s show, and really liked it’s purposeful, clean aesthetic. In the hand, it’s big, tall and heavy, and the 3.4” S35VN blade flips open with a satisfying snap. The secondary locking mechanism (the switch that’s securing the framelock, pointing at the pocket clip in the second picture) was designed to feel like a 1911 pistol’s thumb safety. I have a 1911 and while this doesn’t look like a 1911’s safety, it does indeed have that crisp metal-on-metal snap when it locks into place.
Magpul released a serialized 200 piece mid-tech version of the Rigger with a black blade and handle in 2019, and it sold out immediately. I asked why the much-anticipated production run of the knife hadn’t happened yet, and was told that they were still trying to figure out how to make them at their Cheyenne, Wyoming factory in a cost-effective manner. Each pocket clip, for example, currently takes 4 hours of machining time due to it’s 2 degree angle. Magpul makes all their products in house, in America, and they’re going to figure out the puzzle of how to make the Rigger by themselves.
According to one of the Magpul reps I spoke with, they’re planning on releasing another limited run of 200 pieces, this time with the brown canvas micarta handle (pictured above) sometime in 2020, priced at around $425. I told him that I’m definitely going to buy one from their website when they drop, and then he told me about the other problem with getting the Rigger out there: the moment the first batch became available at magpul.com, demand was so high that the website immediately crashed. Hopefully they get that fixed soon so I can snag one for BladeReviews.
Coming up in part two of the Most Interesting Knives of SHOT Show 2020: Medford, Microtech, Protech, Reate, Rike Knife, SOG, Spyderco, Strider, Viper, and WE Knife, featuring my most anticipated knife of 2020, the Snecx-designed WE Mini Buster.