One to Watch: Kershaw Median
Tony Sculimbrene 03.24.15
When I was a teenager, the video game console war was won or lost on the back of “console exclusives,” games like Mario or Sonic, that were made only for one console. Things have moved on from that point in the video game market, though exclusives, such as Halo, still matter quite a bit. And in recent years, the gear market has dipped its toe more and more into the “exclusives” waters.
Generally the formula works something like this–a Big Box retailer will agree to buy a huge lot of knives (this is happening solely with knives thus far, no exclusive lights or multitools yet) and as a sweetener, they will also ask for a knife exclusive to their store.
Lowes had a FRN handled Twitch from SOG for a while (its fit and finish was poor and I haven’t seen them since, other than in the returns/bargain bin). Dick’s Sporting Goods has a very good version of the Kershaw Zing, with G10 handles, 8Cr13MoV blade steel, and a nice blackwash. It is a mix of the original, mid-tier Zing, and the more budget friend Zing SS. Oddly enough though, this particular Zing is the cheapest of the three. It, along with the CRKT Drifter, are just about as good a knife you can find for $20.
Unlike in the video game world, these exclusives tend to be cheaper than the main line or are a catalog version of the knife they are mimicking. This is probably a testament to the nature of the knife market compared to the video game market. But this trend is, like all things, changing. Kershaw recently released a non-catalog, retailer exclusive knife through Cabelas.
Cabelas has a history of getting exclusives from Leatherman. Tim Leatherman, yes that is his real name, was desperate to get his tool business up and running and Cabelas helped him out by placing the first large order for the PST multitool. 25 years later they continue to work together, and exclusives come Cabelas’ way–loyalty pays long dividends.
This time the exclusive, or non-catalog offering, comes from Kershaw in the form of the Kershaw Median. It is part of a growing stable of Cabelas exclusives from Kershaw and is by far the most interesting. There is no mistaking the Median’s design heritage, both in part because of its look and feature set, and in part because of its name. The Median sits squarely between the Cryo and Cryo II in terms of size, with a blade length of exactly 3 inches. It is misleadingly listed as a “titanium” flipper in the Cabela’s product literature, when the only titanium on the knife comes in the form of a coating. Both the handles and blade are made of steel. Unfortunately, the blade steel here is pretty awful: 3Cr13MoV, a Chinese steel with lower carbon content than even 8Cr13MoV, which has long been the standard blade steel on Chinese produced knives (the Median is also Chinese made).
The knife looks a lot like the Cryo, with the same clip, lock stop, and very similar handles. Only the blade shape is different, and here you get a much more conventional clip point blade with ample belly. At around $40 the Median is in a tough segment of the market, a segment where you can get significantly better steel for the same price, but the Hinderer lookalike aesthetic will undoubtedly sell some knives. The knife itself looks okay, but the trend, retailer exclusives, looks to be a boon to knife knuts–more variety YAY!