SHOT Show 2016: CRKT
Tony Sculimbrene 01.19.16
CRKT continues to hit the same part of the market–the middle–consistently. After bringing Ken Onion on they have moved up from the price basement, to something like where Spyderco used to be. There aren’t any $300 knives in the CRKT line up for 2016 but there are a bevy of solid entries from well-known designers.
The big issue with CRKT offering continues to be the use of less premium steels. There is nothing better than 154CM in their line up and even that is rare (one knife, an auto version of the M16 runs this steel). It’s mostly AUS-8 and 8Cr, not bad for the price, but I’d like to see more BD-1 (it was debuted in the CRKT line up last year on the No Time Off), N690, and 14C28N, mid priced steels that perform very well. The use of stainless steel on a lot of their frame locks makes them all very heavy for what they are. Maybe there is no profit in doing that, as CRKT has done a good job of getting its stuff into Big Box (Dick’s and Lowes around me carry quite a few CRKT knives). Their most direct competitor, SOG (found in the same places), has similar materials. Maybe the mainstream doesn’t need better stuff and my complaints are simply whining from the Internet Knife Nerd community.
My favorite overall offering from CRKT in 2016 is the small frame lock flipper from Robert Carter (the maker of the beloved F16 custom knife) called the Jettison.
Running a wharncliffe blade and having a gracile form, the Jettison looks very nice. It also seems highly pocketable, coming in at 1.3 ounces. It is also one of the few frame locks CKRT makes that runs titanium handles (the other is the Eros and the limited edition Hi Jinx). The steel is 8Cr, something I wish was better, but I have found that it is a decent performer if regularly stropped.
Tom Krein designed two of the new Mossback fixed blades, both of which have that “Krein” look to them and both of which are undoubtedly useful. The full sized knife is the Hunter, with a 3 inch blade and weighs 4.4 ounces.
The small, paring style blade is the Bird and Trout, and it comes in at a paltry 2 ounces and has a 2.8 inch blade. With sculpted G10 handles, they look nice. The only thing I can see from the press pictures that could be a problem is, as with most fixed blades, the sheath is pretty underwhelming. They both run SK5, a high carbon steel that I have used and liked on Cold Steel fixed blades.
Lucas Burnley, another well regarded knife maker, continues his relationship with CRKT with a new 2016 offering. This year he made the Buku, a large stainless steel frame lock. The key to this knife is that it has a gentle kuhkri shape. Nowhere near as extreme as, say, the Cold Steel Rajah, the Buku looks very distinctive. My big concern with this knife is the weight. With a 3.75 inch blade and a stainless steel handle, the Buku weighs quite a lot at 7.7 ounces.
The Fulcrum from Russ Kromer is receiving an overhaul. This knife just doesn’t move the needle for me all that much. Coming in two sizes, I always felt like the original was something of a gimmick and the Fulcrum 2 doesn’t seem to shake that look and feel.
Jesper Voxnaes collaborated with CRKT in 2016 and they are releasing a pair of blades, one with a plain edge and one with a partially serrated edge, called the Amicus. Both resemble Voxnaes handmade knife the F5, and both are large-ish blades with 3.40 inch cutting edges. They are thumb hole openers with stainless steel frame locks, and they come in at 6.7 ounces. They also both have a Voxnaes backspacer/lanyard hole.
CRKT is releasing another multi tool, the Hans Florine designed Bivy. Similar to their Zilla tools in that they are a knife based multi tool, the Bivy has spring loaded pliers and a tango blade. None of the CRKT mutlitools have ever excited me; they all seem too thick and clunky.
Brian Tighe continues to collaborate with CRKT and his new knife, the Tighe Tac Two, is a stunner.
Shorn of the busy patterns found on some Tighe knives, the Tighe Tac Two looks great. The knife comes in a drop point or a tanto. The tanto actually has something of a compound grind, a feature not found on mid priced knives. The handle is FRN and the blade is around 3 and a third inches long, making it quite the EDC friendly knife at 3.4 ounces. The knife is a flipper and runs on Tighe’s bearing system and uses his preferred lock, the button lock. Having handled a Tighe flipper from CRKT before, I can tell you that it is one smooth ride.
Flávio Ikoma, one of the inventors of the IKBS pivot bearing system, has a pair of fixed blades in the 2016 CKRT line up. Aside from their classic, bold Ikoma looks the knives run 8Cr13MoV and come in at a handy 2.4 inches. That sounds tiny, but some of my favorite fixed blades are mostly handle with a bit of a cutting edge. Designed to be carried as neck knives, they run 1.6 ounces and have FRN sheathes.
The CRKT catalog has started to expand beyond just knives, as they now offer a true axe from Ryan Johnson (Birler), a pair of emergency shears from Michael Martinez (the El Santo), some man jewelry in the form of two pendants also from Ryan Johnson (the Valhalla and Bushido), a one piece mutlitools from Liong Mah (the Viva), and a shovel (the Trencher).
Another series of new releases is are the Ruger branded blades. These dozen or so knives were released in the fall of 2015, so they don’t really count as new releases, but they may not have had the visibility that some of the other CRKT releases have.
CRKT continues to hit the market with innovative designs and good collaborations. They are now squarely a midpriced brand, and their presence in Big Box helps buoy that reputation. They are clearly collaborating with the right custom makers; Burnely, Voxnaes, and Krein are all among the most sought after makers and all make eminently practical blades. They still need to do more work on the steel front as 8Cr isn’t going to lure any knife knut away from a powder steel.
Instabuys: 2 (The Jettison and the Mossback Hunter)