Review: LA Police Gear TBFK
Tony Sculimbrene 12.05.17
What is best value in the knife world? For a long time the answer was pretty dang easy. The CRKT Drifter was for many years my go-to choice. Apparently, I am not the only person who likes the Drifter. Others thought the KaBar Dozier folder was the obvious choice. But in the last year the options at the bottom of the price spectrum have exploded.
In many ways, this is the ideal way to debut a brand or a brand extension. LA Police Gear has long had a presence in the gear world, producing good stuff at great prices. Their branded items were always at least interesting. The TBFK represents their most concerted push into the knife market, and it is a truly inspired blade–a knife that breaks the formula for value.
What’s more, they are doing this in a market already reshaped by outrageously good values. Kizer is bringing people high-end blades from hot custom makers on a weekly basis at great prices. CRKT is doing very good work with OEMs. Cold Steel has re-invented themselves in the past five years. So having a knife be a “value breakthrough” is not an easy task. Read on and you will see why this one is a no-brainer.
The TBKF is a medium-sized knife. It has a roughly 3.5-inch blade and weighs around 5 ounces (I am guessing at the weight from my testing because LA Police Gear doesn’t include weight in its specs of the knife–a classic rookie mistake). The handle is made of contoured black G10. The blade is a drop point made of Crucible’s S35VN.
The knife opens via either a thumb stud or a flipper. The blade runs on a set of bearing pivots. It includes a deep carry, over-the-top pocket clip. The knife locks up with a liner lock. There are two versions; a black stonewashed blade or a satin blade. Oh, and the knife retails for around $35.
This knife rode with me as EDC on and off for about a month. Its size and weight made it was a little too bulky for dress pants and slacks, but it was still in the “acceptable” range for blue jeans and the like. My knife tasks are pretty commonplace: food prep tasks (making lunches, slicing snacks, and helping with cooking around an open flame), busting up boxes for recycling, and opening packages). (Oh man, diaper services are the bomb, but they make for a ton of recycling.)
Finally, we have a fire pit so I regularly use my EDC knife to help in fire prep, processing small kindling and making firesticks for tinder. Because of its size and sturdy construction, I pushed the TBFK a bit more than I would a smaller knife. It did things that my Dragonfly 2 never gets a chance to tackle.
The overall design of the TBFK is very solid. It’s trendy, given its flipper deployment, but not overly so (it’s a liner lock!). There are a series of features proving that LA Police Gear knows what it is doing.
First, the size–this knife is a bit bigger than I prefer in a folder, but still well within the sweet spot for the marketplace. If you want to sell knives and have something be functional, this is the right size.
They also did the flipper correctly. This isn’t the best flipper, or even the best budget flipper (that honor goes to the Ruike P801), but it is quite good — and again, exactly what the market wants.
The sculpted handles are great and the pocket clip is nice. In all, LA Police Gear just got most things right with this design, both in terms of functionality and ability to sell.
One design problem, and really the only serious one, is the liner lock disengagement tab. It’s positively huge and stands out like skinny guy in a sumo tournament.
You always expect fit and finish to take a hit when budget knives are concerned. A good blueprint is one thing–a one-time cost–but building good knives, unit after unit, takes time and money. Ensuring the 1,000,001st knife is as good as the first one is a thing that bedevils even seasoned production companies with vastly larger per-unit budgets.
With that caveat, I was pleased with the nature of the fit and finish here. It was quite good. The handles were especially well done, once you concede that the liner lock tab is ridiculously oversized. The blade grind was noticeably errant and the flipper required a very precise movement to deploy.
I also found the detent a bit squishy. But for the price, all of these things are acceptable. The S35VN steel performed just as I would have expected (given its chemistry), and it performed in line with that steel from other makers.
You get a lot of premium features in an astoundingly cheap package. In a world where 2017 hadn’t happened and the gear world hadn’t gone crazy, this would be a $100 knife every day of the week and people would debate if the fit and finish were up to snuff at the price. There would be a vocal chorus of people pointing out that the Native has better ergos and there are dozens of Kizers with better flipping action. And, of course, whiners like me would point out the stupid lock bar issue.
That’s if this knife cost $100. At one-third that price, I can’t see any reason to complain. It’s a big, bulky knife, but it is an outstanding value. I’d be really hard pressed to find a better value in this arena, though the aforementioned Ruike P801 and CRKT Drifter are in the running.
What are you waiting for? Just go buy this knife.