SHOT Show 2015: Lightning Round

   02.02.15

SHOT Show 2015: Lightning Round

There are quite a few companies showing products at SHOT, and this article will be an overview of a bunch of makers. Some are too small to have huge line ups, and others have very few noteworthy products.

SOG

SOG’s line up is very SOGish with lots of products that look like existing SOG products.  A few fixed blades were shown, including the Instinct and Mini Instinct. Both are skeletonized designs, and the real issue I have with them is the steel–5Cr13MoV. They are budget blades, but you can get Kershaws with real steel, like 14C28N in that price range.

SOG also showed off BladeLight Folders in both small and large sizes (almost all of their offerings are paired this way). Though I am not 100% convinced this combination is always a bad idea, this implementation seems clunky. At 3.4 ounces, it is heavier than a Dragonfly II and a D25AAA. The price is similar and the performance difference, especially on the flashlight side of things, is monstrous. It’s a good shot, but one that seems off the mark to me.

They also showed off three pairs of knives that all looked pretty uninspiring: the Zoom, the Trident, and Toothlock. None showed off anything noteworthy–bland steels, blah blade shapes, and handles that look positively awful. AUS8 is the nicest steel on these knives. A few of their hunters were released in S30V, which is nice, especially in this year’s line up of distinctively budget steel offerings. The only knife that caught my attention was the Salute, but it too is pretty staid and conventional.

Image courtesy of SOG Knives

G10 handle, clip point blade, 8Cr13MoV. They also had a new multitool, but my experience with SOG multitools has been very bad. This may be different, but with so many consistently better choices out there, why bother?

This year’s line up is pretty poor, especially compared to last year where we saw collaborations with Kiku and Brous (SOG is notoriously bad about collaborating with outside designers). There was a heavy emphasis on fixed blades and budget offerings. Nothing shown was revolutionary or engaging. This was a very Gerber-esque SOG on display. Hopefully they haven’t abandoned the middle and top of the market, as higher end SOG blades were really quite nice.

Grade: D-

Buck

Image courtesy of Gander Mtn.

Buck’s offerings ranged from ultralight hiking knife (the Apex) to an equestrian blade. Yep, you read that right–an equestrian blade.

They showed off a few interesting items, like a trio of fixed blades with good looking sheathes, including one that allows for tension adjustment. In fact the sheathes really stole the show. In addition to the tension adjustment, they also had one that could be either a leather sheath with an insert or just a plastic sheath.  Buck also showed off an ambidextrous sheath.

One new Buck knife, the name of which was unclear, has both a safety and a flipper. Presumably this is because it is an assisted flipper, but I can’t fathom why you’d need both. There is also a full auto version.

Buck has really started working on innovative ideas, and this is a good sign from a company built on producing an excellent folder for more than 50 years. There is nothing as intriguing as the Marksman was last year, but they are definitely making good efforts. It is also promising to see them continue to use good steels like 154CM and S30V.

Grade: C (but A for Effort)

Al Mar

Al Mar’s line up is timeless. Their blades are among the most finely made in the world, custom or production, and most years we are treated to a new handle color or the like. This year they introduced a new knife, the SERT (pictured at the top of this article). It looks amazing, but unfortunately for a lot of folks, it is an auto. This greatly limits the audience, but it is clear from Al Mar presentations that this is the first in a line of new blades. New blades from Al Mar always equals awesome.

Grade: Incomplete

DPx Gear

Talk about punching above your weight. Last year DPx showed off the HEAT and HIT fixed blade that incorporated a edge cover (solving the bane of fixed blade maker’s existence–the sheath). This year they showed off a few new things: fixed blade HEATs with premium steel and premium handle materials, the HEFT 12 chopper, and Hiker Carabiner knife. All looked great, but it was the chopper, the HEFT 12 that turned my head the most.

Image courtesy of Truth About Knives

This is a rethinking of the chopper knife, and even if everything doesn’t work perfectly, its level of innovation is impressive. First, it has a reverse tanto-ish blade shape that DPx touts as an axe-like edge. That upsweep also creates a valley in the spine of the blade for a striking tool when the knife is used to baton wood. The HEFT is capped off by using a great steel, Sleipner, which is a German version of D2. The price is HEFT-y (oh, the pun was irresistible) at around $250-$275, but this looks like badass blade. DPx is the Manny Pacquiao of the knife world–on a per employee basis, there is no one matching them in terms of quality products and pure innovation.

Grade: A


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Kizer

Kizer didn’t have a lot of model names, so this will be difficult. First, all knives run the very good S35VN steel. They showed off a Matt Cucchiara design based on Cucchiara’s Dorado. They have all of the curvy simplicity of the custom and appear to flip well. They also had an in-house design, the Sunfire, and it is their first bearing pivot knife. Kizer’s flippers were awesome without pivots, so I can only imagine what they will be like now. Quite a few of their blades were titanium gems, but sprinkled in were two G10 “tactical” designs. Overall, it was a good showing for a new company.

Grade: B

Lionsteel

Lionsteel is to the knife world what Bang and Olufsen is the audio world–showy designs full of technological marvels that enthusiasts like (B&O is the liked wizards while Bose are the disliked ones). This year they debuted one knife, but it is likely they will have more to show at IWA (where Spyderco also shows new models). The model they did have is called the Three Rapid Exchange.

Using a tool and bolts, the knife can be made into a thumb stud or flipper (or both). It comes in a variety of handle materials: titanium, carbon fiber, and G10. It’s an interesting idea, but I think this one is a little too “gee whiz” for me. I’d love to see a flipper TiSpine instead.

Grade: B-

Leatherman

Well no one can accuse Leatherman of resting on their laurels. Not only did they release an outdoor-centric multitool, they also released the Tread.

Leatherman Tread Bracelet Wearable Multitool
Leatherman Tread Bracelet Wearable Multitool (Photo: Leatherman)
The Tread can be used as a bracelet-based multitool or in conjunction with a watch unit as a watch.  The watch itself has legit specs–a domed sapphire crystal and Swiss guts. I wish it wasn’t a quartz, but you can’t expect their first watch to be as niche as an automatic.

The Tread bracelet is quite interesting as each link is a different tool or pair of tools. There are a wide array of drivers and wrenches, as well as some cutting tools and, of course, a bottle opener. The bracelet looks cool, but I wonder if it is comfortable. Only a review sample can tell me that, so I won’t opine. Either way, the Tread is clearly the most interesting and innovative product for tool guys shown at SHOT Show 2015.

Leatherman’s long streak of amazing products continues, and they further cemented their reputation as one of the finest gear companies in the world. They may have only shown a handful of products, but each was either a no-brainer hit or jaw-droppingly innovative.

Grade: A


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