Saturday, July 14, 2012

Spyderco Paramilitary 2 Review

I could do this review in four words:


But I will be a bit more detailed not because the above statement isn't 100% true, but because this knife and the team at Spyderco deserve a thorough analysis and quite a bit of praise for their work.  The Paramilitary 2 (hence forth PM2) is one of the finest knives I have ever used.  It is not as perfectly perfect as the Sebenza, nor is it as pocketable as the Dragonfly 2, but it is an amazingly tough, incredibly precise, beast of a blade.  I am not a fan of big knives, but the PM2 is a great proselytizer.  Prop your feet up and grab a nice bourbon (I did when I edited this) for this review because this flows from a place of pure joy.

Cameron over at Blade HQ sent me the Paramilitary 2 as part of the sponsorship (buying the PM2 through the link in this sentence will benefit the blog and cost you no additional money).  I requested the PM2 as the second knife I reviewed because of its incredible popularity on the internet.  I am almost certain that CajunBlaze has married his and having spent a few weeks with the blade now I can see why.

Here is the product page with specifications.  There are too many sprint runs to track down, many with exotic steels, like S90V and CTS variations.  Here is a really excellent written review.  Here is one of a million video reviews, but this one is from CajunBlaze, a favorite reviewer of mine on YouTube.  Here is the PM2 BladeHQ sent me:


Design: 2

The overall design of the PM2 is very Spyderco--curvy organic handle, saber shaped blade with large opening hole, and half and half finger choil.  But the refinements between the PM1 and PM2 are really quite thoughtful.  The opening hole is significantly larger than any I have seen on a Spyderco, clocking in at glove friendly 14mm.  The end of the handle is very comfortable, shaped in a more ergonomic way than its predecessor.  The lanyard hole is positively huge, big enough to easily accept full 550 paracord.  There is a quad positionable pocket clip, G10 handles with nested and drilled out liners, and of course, the awesome compression lock (more on that later).  Blade:handle is .71 which is not good, but it was done on purpose to facilitate two different grips. 

All of this combines to make a big knife that feels like a small knife in terms of its precision, but clearly had the durability that its size usually indicates.  The PM2 is ultralight and ultra responsive, cutting with an almost missile-guided feel, as if it knows where you want to go.  These trait evince a design that goes beyond just good or excellent.  The PM2 is among the most refined designs I have ever used and it took three weeks of carrying to figure out what made it so great.  This knife is a stunning accomplishment of design and refinement.  

Fit and Finish: 1

The jimping on the finger choil was crooked.  The polish on the blade was uneven and patchy.  The secondary bevel was a little sloppy (see below):


But in the end, the knife really worked.  It is not a beauty, but a beast--a task-destroying, cutting monster.  All of the fit and finish deficiencies were merely cosmetic and really only noticeable upon a level of inspection probably inappropriate for a tool this visceral in nature.  Complaining about the fit and finish on a blade like this is sort of like complaining that the throaty roar of a 500 horsepower engine on a Lamborghini is too loud.  Both the PM2 and the Lambo will, if such complaints are made, turn to you and say "Shut up, sissy."  This is a tool to be used, not primped over or polished.  My fit and finish concerns, while worth noting, are not big deals. 

Grip: 2

With gloves, without; in the heat, or in the cold; under incredible amounts of stress or slicing paper, the PM2's checked G10 never slipped or shifted.  The handle is oversized on purpose, throwing the blade:handle ratio off.  In testing this knife I cut all sorts of stuff from yard waste (like weeds) to vinyl flooring.  The vinyl flooring is probably the toughest material I have ever used a knife on and the PM2 never slipped, even a little.

The handle is also large enough for a more tactical grip with the hand back off the choil and the blade further forward and a precision grip, using the choil.  This makes the handle pretty friggin' big, but I was surprised that it wasn't unwieldy.  In fact the exact opposite is true.  In tough cuts I was not worried about slipping forward and in regular cuts the choil gave me a lot of control.  Truly an amazing knife in the hand.  

Carry: 2

This is a big blade.  This is a size comparison (on my dirty workbench top...ugh never EVER paint a workbench) between the PM2 and my beloved DF2.


You can see, this ain't no dainty knife.  But it is amazingly light.  The nested liners also keep it thin.  A knife this size being as light as it is (3.75 ounces) and as large as it is really astounding and all of this combines to make the knife not significantly different from a Delica or an Endura in the pocket.  Amazing achievement. 

Steel: 2

S30V is really quite nice.  Even after the vinyl floor experience, it was still razor sharp, easily popping off hairs.  It also sliced through brush and twigs easily.  The hard steel is aided by a very steep secondary bevel, so even for a knife this large and thick, it is one hell of a slicer.  Very good steel used to its absolute best.  

Blade Shape: 2

The saber shape is not the most attractive or traditional looking blade, but it works and works and works.  This particular saber grind has more belly than the Delica/Endura lines or the Dragonfly/Caly Jr/Caly 3 lines and I like that a lot.  I also love the choil here and its more pronounced finger guard (compare it to the DF2 finger guard in picture above).  

Grind: 2

A deliciously flat, no nonsense blade with a great secondary bevel.  Spyderco really took advantage of the S30V steel's hardness by putting a wickedly steep angle on the secondary grind.  This makes the knife slice better and it also makes it is considerably easier to sharpen.  The broad secondary bevel allows the blade to register up against the sharpening stones more completely ensuring a better and more consistent resharpening grind.  It kills me to see these super hard steels come in blades with itty bitty secondary grinds, grinds that make the cutting edge very shallow and blunt.  Why bother?  Here Spyderco did it right and the knife is a supreme cutter because of it.  Even after chomping through some flooring it still was razor sharp and while chomping through that flooring the super acute angle made cutting much easier and more controlled.  I love everything about this grind.   

Deployment Method: 2

This is the largest Spyderco opening hole I have ever used and it is incredibly effective.

It is virtually impossible to slip out of the hole or not fully engage the knife.  Deployment is also smooth and as fast as any knife I have ever used, other than an auto.  The bushing system in the pivot is similar to that found on the Sebenza and is very nice. The compression lock places little to no pressure on the tang resulting in a buttery smooth, lightning fast deployment. 

Retention Method: 2

The classic Spyderco spoon clip is quad positionable and very effective.  Nothing terribly flashy, not deep carry or over the top, but still this clip works.  


Lock: 2

The only question I have is whether this is the best lock I have ever used, because whether or not it is effective is really not even a question.  This knife is so rigid when deployed that I seriously contemplated batonning with it.  If I owned the knife instead of just got it on loan, I probably would have.

Nonetheless, the vinyl flooring, backing and all, was an incredibly tough test.  Our city recently switched to city provided trash and recycling and the trash is smaller than the recycling.  In the past, I would have just set the giant plastic pieces out with the garbage, but now, I can't so I had to cut them into pieces small enough to fit into the trash bins.  The flooring itself is very hard, very tough plastic.  The backing is a bit of fiber paper and some stickiness to it, if not outright glue.  Once I got a good grip on the blade and the flooring, it shredding like paper and the whole time I never once felt the lock slip.  I was really wrenching on this blade, as hard as I have ever done with a knife of any kind and it did not budge.  When I was done I was covered in sweat as this was tough work (the plastic piece was quite large and just holding it in place was a task, especially with one hand).  The blade did not show a bit of wear.  It did not deflect or twist, even with considerable torque.  There is no blade play and lock still seats in the exact same place as before.  So durability and performance is not a question.

The real question is whether this the best lock available.  Here is a shot of the lock engaged.  


It works like a combination of a liner lock and an Axis lock.  It uses a leaf of steel that is bent, like a liner lock, and it engages the blade on the spine side between the blade and a stop pin, like the Axis lock.  It is easy to engage and easy to disengage.  It allows for wear as well, with plenty of space to slide over and still work.  It comes down to this, the Axis lock, and the Tri-Ad lock.  All three work very well.  The Tri-Ad lock seems to be a bit slower in deployment because of its lockback like functioning, but probably the strongest.  The Axis lock has a lot of parts but is easy and fast to engage and virtually as strong.  But if I had to pick one, it would probably be the compression lock.  It can be added to a blade easily, with every little weight and space.  It is fast and incredibly strong.  I am not sure if there are any meaningful strength differences between the three, but because of its minimal size and weight requirements, at this very moment, I'd probably opt for a compression lock, again if I had to choose only one. 

Overall Score: 19 out of 20

A while ago, there was a tag going around YouTube on the one knife you would keep if you could only keep one.  I chose the ZT350, an excellent knife to be sure.  But having used the PM2, I am convinced, that this is the knife I'd keep.  Nothing I have used has the same incredible responsiveness and precision coupled with the brutal and beefy strength.  The PM2 could be flexed into any conceivable role--from a utilty EDC knife to a survival blade to a self-defense tool.  I could even see it being used as a very big, though capable "nice pants" folder (it is too big to be called a gentlemen's blade, really).

A small ding on fit and finish can't really dent the overwhelming sense that this is a great blade.  Who cares if the grind is a little crooked or the jimping isn't perfectly straight when you have a knife that cuts like a scalpel and wears like an axe?

If you are new to the knife world, start here.  If you have a hundred blades but not the PM2, go get one.  There is literally no one that I could think of that would even have a passing interest in this site and not be happy owning this blade.  Eric and Sal did a superb job with this knife.  They made a classic better.  In all honesty, this could be your only knife and you'd be pretty darn happy.  It does so much so well. 

All of this is a long winded way of saying:


In fact, buy it here: Blade HQ


  1. Both of the BladeHQ links I clicked on(top and bottom) were dead.

    Great review of a knife I have been considering for a while. I think you have convinced me. Now for the long wait for it to get to me here in Nepal. :(

    1. Cameron over at Blade HQ sent me the Paramilitary 2 as part of the sponsorship (buying the PM2 through the link in this sentence will benefit the blog and cost you no additional money).
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  2. :) good review, though as a student it's kinda hard to just go out and buy an expensive knife like that.

    well, i just wanted you to know that the links to bladehq - to buy the knife - aren't working for me.

  3. Try the banner on the right. I'll fix the links.

  4. Great review Tony. The PM2 is an all star blade, and for good reason. I don't always keep the knives I review but the PM2 went right back into my pocket after the ink had dried - for me that's as good an endorsement as anything. With that in mind I'd say you definitely did this one justice!

  5. Awesome review! When I saw you got the knife in I could not wait for your review. I'm going to have to get the paramilitary 2 now. :)

  6. Great review and completely accurate. Should be emphasized that the pivot is not your standard Spyderco pivot. So smooth and free swinging.

    I would like to suggest you try out the Chaparral as an option for urban EDC. I tried out the Dragonfly 2 ZDP based on your recommendation but sent it back as I felt it was a little undersized and slightly overpriced. Chaparral is more expensive than the DF 2 ZDP, but has a better build, better materials (except for the steel maybe), and is just slightly larger.

  7. Awesome read; thanks! Great description of a great blade. You make a smart observation about the high secondary grind and its contribution to the PM2's awesome cutting power. I agree, it is a tragedy when companies like Benchmade give us premium S30V blades with wimpy thin edge bevel grinds. None of my Benchmades is a distinguished cutter/slicer, and that may be why.

    I shed a tear when I read that your PM2 had fit & finish problems (no 20/20!), but that's reality. Mine's flawless. It is a black DLC coated blade so I can't speak to the polishing, but everything else is clean as a whistle.

    In the end, the finish flaw lends a little grist to this review, allowing the sheer excellence and utility of the design to shine through.

    Only one knife? Dunno, but if it's "only two knives" I could easily go the rest of my life with a Dragonfly 2 and a PM 2. (Maybe a SAK slipjoint for trips to NYC.)

    I read this review when it went up and it inspired me to EDC my PM 2 yesterday. Thanks again!

  8. Also, LOL @ thecajunblaze marrying his PM 2.

  9. So Tony,
    Your review was a little ambiguous. Do think this knife is really worth while? I still can't tell.

    (Sarcasm Off)
    Great Job

    The Idaho Gunslinger

  10. Great. Just when I've finagled my way to affording a ZDP Dragonfly on a law student budget, you have to go and use those lawyerly persuasion skills in making me now need one of these. Fine. So be it...

    Great write up. Keep 'em coming.

  11. Couldn't agree with this review more! I've carried a PM2 for well over a year and have absolutely no reason to switch. It's a beautifully engineered knife.

  12. This knife isn't in stock anywhere. When will it be in production again?

    In the mean time, what are the alternatives for a high-quality, high-value (affordable) medium-sized folder? The Spyderco Sage 2 or 3? The lightweight versions of the Manix 2? A Benchmade Griptilian?

    1. The LW Manix is a great sub but I think the PM2 is still in production. Review of the LW Manix 2 is coming.

  13. I purchased my first Spyderco knife a couple years ago. It is the Tenacious. I really loved this knife for it's shape and overall feel. I carried it for a long time until I saw a ad about the Spyderco Paramilitary 2. I had to have one but they ain't cheap! So I finally saved up enough money to get me one. I'll say it is the most useful knife I have ever owned. With the S30V steel I don't have to worry about sharpening the blade every time I use it like I did with my other Spyderco with the 8Cr13MoV blade. This knife is my personal favorite and I'll carry it until im dead.

  14. hello i was wondering if you actually weighed your paramilitary 2. MIne topped the scale at 3.84 oz just wondering if thats normal or if i potentially have a fake on my hands (everything else on the knife is top notch) s30v DLC coat G-10 grip

  15. The "crooked" jimping is by design. It allows the knife to really push back at you when you use it, providing a very firm grip.

  16. I was looking for a S110V and based on this review got the Paramilitary 2 with the nice looking blue G10 scales. But I have to say this knife is the least nice of any Spyderco I have. Both the Caly 3.5 (ZDP-189) and the Stretch 4 (HAP40) give essentially the same size blade for a much shorter, and better feeling grip and they both ride in the pocket much nicer. The Paramilitary 2 just seems an inefficient and a bit awkward way to carry this length blade. It looks nice, and the action is very smooth, but I would recommend other Spydercos...Chocolate vs vanilla but something to consider if you are looking for a nice larger Spyderco, which you won't see in the review.

  17. I'd like to see a re-review of this knife four years later. Is it still as stellar? I own one and love it, but haven't had quite the number of blades pass thru my hands as you have.