Saturday, October 1, 2011

Benchmade Mini Griptillian 555hg Review

The Mini Grip with thumb hole is a simple design.  It has a bunch of nice features that fill out a checklist well, but I have had three bad experiences with Benchmade that made me shy away from this knife.  First, I had a first gen Axis lock and it stunk (see below). I then had a bad experience with their 154CM steel.  Finally, after pining for one forever (Ti handles, framelock, S30V blade steel, it seemed elusively perfect), I finally saw a Benchmade Mini Skirmish in person and I was woefully disappointed in the chamfered thumb hole design.  Those three strikes had convinced me not to go back into the Benchmade line up for any reason.  But slowly I thought that maybe the Mini Grip had fixed or avoided all of those problems.  I found one for a good price and gave it a shot.  I am glad I did.

Here is the product page.  Here is a good video review.  Here is a good street price (though I snagged cheaper, see here).  Here are the Amazon reviews.  It has 4.67 Stars out of 5, with 15 reviews.  Here is a good explanation of the advantages of the Axis lock.  There are dozens of versions of this knife.  A large version, the Griptillian.  There is a thumb stud version and a version with a tanto blade.  All of these versions have half serrated blades.  There is also an array of different colored handles.  Also, there is a custom service where you can choose any of these options in the combination you like, as well as the steel you prefer.  Finally, here is my Benchmade Mini Grip 555hg:

Design: 2

The Griptillian was designed by Mel Pardue, one of the main in-house designers for Benchmade.  The smaller version was likewise designed by Mr. Pardue.  The knives are pretty conservative in their look, especially when compared to some of the more avante garde Spyderco knives.  The more traditional approach though is welcome.  It makes the knife more socially acceptable and, in this case, unlike in the case of the Sodbusters and Canoes of the knife world, doesn't impact its performance at all.  In fact, I like the design a great deal.  Nothing is too small or too big.  The handle crams in a ton of blade with a nice blade:handle of .75.  One upgrade to the 555hg--the hole went from crappy oval to smooth rotating full circle. 

Fit and Finish: 2

Benchmade's fit and finish is the best of the major production knife companies and this knife is no exception.  The blade is a satin finish and well centered.  The Axis lock is smooth and greatly improved in terms of function.  The handle is nicely shaped and textured.  There is really nothing to complain about at all.  If SOG does grinds, Benchmade does fit and finish.

Grip: 2

Its called the GRIPtillian.  Its subtle but appropriate.  Seriously, this knife is not only covered in jimping and texturing, but it is also shaped quite nicely.  The convex handles, for example, really do make a difference. 

Carry: 2

Just about the perfect size, the Mini Grip is really a quiet pocket companion.  It is not as invisible as the small Sebenza, but it is really great to carry.

Steel: 2

I had formerly bashed Benchmade's 154CM steel.  See the Sequel 707 review.  It just didn't hold up well at all.  So with this knife I did things I would not normally do to test its rust resistance.  I peeled an apple with the knife and let it sit, closed, in my pocket for about four or five hours.  I wiped it down with a wet rag and then checked for rust.  Nothing.  I then coated it with DW40.  After that I kept it in the bathroom during showers (I know, I know a little weird, but it was an effective way to expose it to lots of humidity).  Again, nothing.

Cutting tests were also really quite good.  I cut up a bunch of wood Popsicle sticks for my son to play with and the blade was fine, so fine in fact that I did a good job of paring apples.  I also did a lot of cardboard cutting for packages--also fine.  Then there is four weeks of EDC tasks.  All of that with no real loss of the cutting edge.  In fact, all that I have needed to do was a brief five stroke touch up on the Sharpmaker and even before that it was pushing paper still, just not as smoothly.

Overall, this is a major upgrade from the performance of this steel four years ago.  Maybe I got a bum blade last time.  Maybe the steel has gotten better.  Either way, I am convinced, 154CM can be a very good steel, closer to S30V in terms of edge retention than VG-10.  This steel cuts well and cuts for a long time.   

Blade Shape: 2

Aside from the thumb hole opener I also like the modified sheep foot blade better than the traditional clip point of the normal Mini Griptillian. Here it is, up close.


It reminds me of the shape of two Spyderco knives that are widely hailed because of their blades.  First is the Stretch:

the other is the Spyderco Centofante III:

The overall result is a very easy to use, very controllable blade with plenty of thickness at the tip.  I also like the curve on the top of the blade as it makes for an inviting place for your finger to rest during precision cuts.  Excellent blade shape.
Grind: 2

An unsurprisingly meticulous grind on the blade with plenty of width in the secondary bevel, allowing for easy sharpening.  It is a hollow ground blade and some may complain about that, but I don't mind in the least.  

Deployment Method: 2

And here is where the difference is.  With the normal Griptillian and Mini Grip you get Benchmade's thumbstud.  It is okay.  As far as thumb studs are concerned, it is a decent one.  But really, why go with the thumb stud when you can have a thumb hole?  As Branespload noted in his interview, the stud is something that you have to focus on, something you have to make an effort to keep in contact with, but with the hole, it surrounds your thumb pad, and when well done follows your thumb through the opening of the knife smoothly and consistently.  I would not even carry this knife with a thumb stud.  I really do dislike them (though the Sebenza's is really quite fine).  But with a thumb hole, I thought it might be okay to get back in the Benchmade pool after a long time in the shade.  And I was right.  The thumb hole is a bit small, probably 10 mm to the Spyderco normal of 14 mm, but it still works very well.  It is also a little blocked by the handle scale, but nothing crazy:


Finally, it avoided the disaster of the Skirmish's thumb hole and has a nice edge that catches the fat of your thumb pad nicely without being too sharp.  It is great.  

Retention Method: 1

This knife has a plain jane clip, which is a good thing, but the texturing on the handle combined with a very stiff clip means this knife is a pocket shredder.  It is exceeding hard to remove from blue jeans and does cause wear right away.  Eventually the clip gets springy, but it is still an issue.  The knife will almost certainly never fall out of your pocket, but a small logo underneath the clip where it touches the handle would have solved this problem entirely.  As it is, it is a little too much.

Lock: 2

The original Axis lock knife I had had a problem where the locking bar could be wiggled around in the slot quite a bit.  It required pressure on both sides to disengage the lock bar.  With the new omega springs and tighter tolerances that problem is solved and now the Axis lock, in my opinion, is the finest, easiest to use lock available.  I love it.  I like it better than a frame lock.  If the detent was a light crisper, it would be the perfect lock.  As it is, it is my new favorite.  The improved springs made all the difference.  

Overall Score: 19 out of 20

As an EDC knife this smaller version of the Griptillian with a thumb hole is an excellent choice.  The fit and finish are first rate.  The stylings are conservative yet the form is pleasing and easy to use.  There is only one flaw and it is a minor one.  This is a great knife.   

It is, however, not worth MSRP, which is strictly enforced.  At $80.75 this is a good knife, but not a great knife.  At the price I got it, $63.99, it is a great knife.  It competes well with a bunch of blades including the Spyderco Delica.  Which is better for EDC?  Well, that is the next article, my first knife shoot out. 


  1. Nice review man. Impressive to see the mini grip earn such high marks. I think it's well deserved as I can't find much to fault with my full size version. Looking forward to the shoot out - that is a battle of the ages there!

  2. I love the mini grip, but probably like the 707 or 525 (or 525-81 ;) ) better.

    I have not seen one with the thumb hole. Typically I don't care for those, but based on this review, I'm going to have to give it a look.

  3. I took a file to the clip side of the valox handle, and now , while the clip is still fairly tense, it doesn't make for a hassle (nor rough up my pants).

  4. I have a mini-grip with the oval thumb hole, AND another with the round thumb hole.
    I much prefer the OVAL hole. Makes the blade lower profile, looks good, and I really don't see how the "smooth rotating circle" is any better to use.
    All in all, probably my favorite knife of all time.

  5. The Benchmade Mini Grip is good, but I like the Benchmade Mini Presidio Ultra better.The Mini Presidio has the same 2.97in. blade length,but the handle is longer at 4.15in. You get a full sized grip. The Mini Presidio has a 440C blade steel which is not as good as 154CM but the 440C sharpens easier.

  6. Hey would you recommend me to get this knife as an edc or a spyderco df2 zdp189 frn, because I am in the US atm and need an edc here after I ordered my Bark River Elmax Gunny(which is a gorgeous knife but a bit too big for an edc, is used in the kitchen, for hiking and will be for hunting) , but the problem is that back in Germany we are not allowed to have one handed knives with locks so I would have to take the thumbstud version to remove it or somehow cover the hole, I could also just watch out for police because I live in a very small town but you would always have that feeling, you know and also when u want to take it with you.
    But I'd just like you to say how much more(at least depending on what I've read) you like the spyderco than the benchmade as an edc, another important thing will also be edge holding because I only have a leather strop here for about 10 months and I don't know if I want to give those knives a convex grind(especially remodeling the zdp189 would be a pain in the ass) so what would keep up about how long(just basic simple things, opening packages, getting an apple or something ready and maybe smaller work in the kitchen from time to time when the Gunny is too big or thick)
    I would appreciate if you could help me in my decision about these 2 knifes in about the same price range
    Best regards

    1. Both are excellent choices. I'd be happy with either one. That said if I had a price blind choice I would take the DF2 in ZDP-189. Its superior steel is just too big an advantage. Also, I have a preference for smaller knives.

      That said, given your limitations, what about going with a Spyderco Pingo? Its great and you can use it here AND at home.

    2. Hmm looks interesting but I don't know how to feel about not having a lock(2handed with lock ore onehanded without it are allowed) I also found out that you could probably just put a piece of wood or something in there with epoxy, I also consider a delica 4, as zdp189 it would probably just be a bigger dragonfly right? And as vg 10 I'd consider just giving it a convex edge

    3. The delica is bigger. If you can do one hand opening with no lock look at the Spyderco slip its

    4. I like the terzuola slip it the most.

    5. Ok thank you ill look for them a bit and try getting them in my hands somehow and decide which one to get from the feeling and then maybe close the onehand hole
      I don't know are the ones without a lock still stable enough also for cardboard cutting and stuff without snapping closed

  7. I love the griptilian knives (both mini and full size), they are excellent knives for every day carry and all kinds of practical applications. They're high quality enough that they have never failed me yet!

  8. I like how Benchmade gets the most out of 154CM. A great knife steel if treated properly.