One to Watch: Benchmade 200 Puukko
Tony Sculimbrene 07.25.18
With the arrival of real, high end competition from China and Spyderco and KAI both stepping up their offerings, four or five years ago it looked as though Benchmade was just about done in terms of new knives. Like that old band from your teenage years in that they could still crank out the classics, but nothing new was even close to interesting, they were the Foo Fighters of knives.
Then, about three years ago, things started to change. Benchmade released the Proper, their first slipjoint. It was a strange move from a company that had built its reputation on the Axis lock, a design that they claimed was one of the strongest in the world and perfect for tactical applications. Nothing was more untactical than the Proper, unless you were in a war with apple peels. Around the same time they released the Anthem, a full integral folder, with a nice steel and addictive action. They also rebooted the Griptilian line incorporating features that people had wanted for years, like G10 handles. Over and over there were exciting new released—the Bug Out, the Valet, the Crooked River. Benchmade has been reborn and is now one of the most interesting companies in the industry.
But in this rebirth there has been scant attention paid to their fixed blades. There have been a few Hunt designs, with gut hooks and the like, and one bird and trout knife the Altitude (with its extremely high MSRP of $230 likely due to the S90V blade), but nothing to really match what they have been making the in folder market segment. Perhaps this is because of the all-around goodness that is Bushcrafter and the Pardue Hunter. Both are super simple, super clean fixed blades. The only drawback with these knives is the steel—S30V is just to hard to be a great fixed blade steel. In my experience with S30V fixed blades, they do not exhibit the requisite toughness needed to handle hard use tasks.
Benchmade looks to bring their recent folder innovation to their fixed blade line up in October. They will release the Benchmade 200, a Puukko style design. A puukko is the traditional work knife of the Sami people of extreme northern Scandinavian countries. It is an excellent general utility outdoor knife and a design that has survived for centuries because of its fundamentally sound features. The 200 will have almost all of the traditional features associated with this most hallowed of fixed blade designs—simple blade shape, palm swell handle, relatively small size, and tough as opposed to hard steel. But since this is the 21st century, Benchmade, instead of deploying laminate steel like that found on Swedish axes or Helle puukkos, is using CPM 3V. The 200 Puukko marks the first time that Benchmade has used this steel and it is the absolute perfect application for it. Hard and tough but with only modest stain resistance, 3V would give the 200 a working edge unlike anything found in the Benchmade line up, provided the knife is ground thin as puukkos traditional are. Benchmade wisely avoided the traditional Scandi grind with is hard to maintain in its original form absent flat sharpening stones. Instead the 200 sports a secondary cutting bevel.
While no specs of been released as of the writing of this preview, the MSRP has been and the 200 comes in at a staggeringly reasonable $145. Given the price of 3V and the traditional Benchmade “tax,” this is a downright bargain. The 200’s package is rounded out with a leather sheath and a santoprene rubberized handle.
What: Benchmade 200 Puukko fixed blade
When: October 2018
Made in the USA: Yes
Highlights: Price, 3V steel, not a Scandi grind