When you review gear, you worry about covering all different kinds of stuff. You want to get a good, representative sample of a company's product line. So a product's placement within a product line is important. You never want to cover too much of the same or similar thing. With that goal in mind Spyderco's non-sprint, non-rotating product line is just baffling. Why do we need, for example, both the Cat and the Ambitious? Do we really NEED two budget friendly, G10 handled, flat ground knives with 2.5 inch (or thereabout) blades? Do we really need the Superleaf, the Manix 2, and the Paramilitary? Why the Gayle Bradely Air and the Centofante Memory or the Air and the Chapparal? There seems to be so much overlap. But Spyderco certainly knows better than I do when it comes to what the market can bear. Its just that sometimes I am at a loss as to what to cover.
This point, however, misses the fact that for most people, product lines don't mean much. They just want a good knife. It is just hard for me to focus on that. When I got and reviewed the Paramilitary 2 I was so taken with the knife that I didn't feel the need to review other hard use folders from Spyderco like the Manix, Superleaf, and Military. Likewise when I reviewed the Caly3 CF I didn't feel the need to review other higher end 3 inch knives like the Sage and the Native 5. But that is a dumb reason. You might want the Native 5, so I decided to stop worrying about product lines and dumb stuff like that and just try the Native 5 out.
Here is the Native 5's product page. The Native 4 is still being made, oddly enough, and there is a special edition of the Native 5 with Moonglow scales for EDCF. Here is the Spyder Source page on the Native 5. Sal Glesser designed the Native 5. Here is an excellent Nemo Knives written review of the Native 5. Here is a video overview of the Native 5. The Native 5 is, right now, available only in the S35VN version. There will be a sprint run later this year with CF scales and an S110V blade. Additionally, the Native 5's lines are significantly different from those of the Native 4, but are virtually identical to those of the sprint run Native 4 with CF scales. Here is a link to Blade HQ, where you can find the Native 5, and all proceeds benefit the site when you purchase things through this link:
Finally, here is the review sample of the Native 5.
The specs and the scale I used show this is a 3.75 ounce knife, but it feels much heavier thanks to the stainless steel liners, the closed construction spine, and the lockback. This is a brick, but thankfully the liners are drilled out providing substantial weight savings. The humpless design an amazing variant on the classic Spyderco shape. The cut outs in the handle not only afford good (though not great) access to the thumb hole, but also work well as choils for your finger. The thing that I kept thinking using this knife was: boy this looks and feels a lot like a Strider. The spear point, the flat ground blade, the pronounced finger choil, it all seems similar. Then you realize that it is not the same thanks the clunky lockback. It is a very good design, but probably not the best or most clever.
Here is a shot of the Native 5 compared with the Zippo.
The blade:weight is .80. The blade:handle is exactly .75. The blade:handle is in the middle range of the knives I have reviewed. The .80 is also in the middle range.
Fit and Finish: 2
Once you get beyond the entry level and mid level knives (like the Tenacious and Delica respectively) Spydercos actually have very, very high end fit and finish. The Native 5 was no exception. This is a very polished and refined blade. The rear spine with its sandwich of G10, steel, and G10 is very, very smooth, so smooth in fact it is difficult to tell where the liner ends and the spine for the lockback begins.
The G10 is radiused to provide a good feel in the hand and the thumb hole is perfectly sized and cut. The front lock pivot is positively massive, providing a good deal of shock resistance, something like the stop pin in a Tri-Ad Lock. All of the screws are perfectly flushed to the body and the blade is remarkably well-centered. This is a remarkably finished knife for the price, especially when compared to the PM2, a similarly priced knife but with a more rugged design.
The jimping is very good. The G10 is moderate coarse. These make for a good knife in the hand, but nothing makes this blade sing like the curves and cuts and choils for your fingers. This is one hell of a knife in hand and it is because of the amazing profile.
Sal really hit a home run with this one.
Its not so much that the blade is heavy, but it is very dense. It does feel like a brick and drops to the bottom of a pocket like a sack of rocks. There is some banging around, in part because of the dispersion of the weight but also because the clip is nothing special.
I mentioned this in the EDMW review, but I'll say it again here--S35VN is quite an impressive technical feat, despite the moaning on the internet. Read about the steel, do some research, but really make up your mind only after using this blade. As the fourth knife with S35VN that I have reviewed I can say this with confidence--this is a top tier, all-round amazing steel.
Blade Shape: 2
You never need a complex shape to make a knife a good cutter. It is, in my opinion, universally true that simpler is better. The Native 5 is an example of this. The choil is good and the ricasso, a usual problem for Spyderco knives, is decent here.
Whoa baby. This knife's thin full flat grind makes the blade one of the best production knife slicers I have ever used and the stock is not exactly thin. I ran it through a battery of cutting chores, paper, cardboard, paper again, and arm hair, and it did very well. In the group I was testing the Native 5 hung in there with a custom blade (an excellent one at that) and though it didn't surpass the custom edge, it didn't embarrass itself at all. The cutting bevel is good as well, wide but not so wide as to promote rolling or chipping.
Deployment Method: 1
The pivot is smooth but slow, as most nice higher end lockbacks are. You can't really flip it open, but it does roll out pretty darn well. The thumbhole is great, but the humpless design means that it is partially blocked when the knife is closed.
It is not a major issue, but it is not exactly user friendly for knife newbies. Not one of my favorite Spyderco thumb holes
Retention Method: 2
The Spyderco spoon-style clip is a good design. It is not an absolute top tier design, but it really does work well. Sometimes its probably best to just leave well enough alone and go with what works. That is the story of the spoon-style clip.
As far as lockbacks go this is a exceptionally smooth one. The front pivot for the lockbar is huge, helping disperse shock throughout the lock. I really don't like the weight the lockback adds here, but in the grand scheme of things it is not all that significant. The knife still weighs less than 4 ounces. The lock itself is superbly crafted and introduces no blade play in any direction, a rarity for lockback designs which can have significant issues with this kind of problem.
Overall Score: 18 out 20
Don't worry that the PM2 is more rugged or the Caly 3 is more refined, the Native 5 is an amazing knife. It is a thunk in the pocket, but not as heavy as it seems. It is amazing the hand and slices exceptionally well. I don't love the partially occluded thumb hole, but it still works. The lockback is smooth and upgraded over a standard version. The steel is great. This is a very good, but not great knife, but if the Caly 3 is too snooty and the PM2 too rough, it is the Goldilocks choice for Spyderco fans.
CORRECTION: Okay, this gets confusing, but here goes. I got the nomenclature on the Native line wrong. The Native 3 is the knife still being produced along side the Native 5. It has S30V steel and FRN handles. The Native 4 was a sprint run and came in CF scales only. I had mistakenly thought that it was a variant on the Native 3, something like the FFG version of the Delica 4 (which could have been called the Delica 5, but isn't). The Native 4 is not being produced anymore. If you want to buy a Native, you can get the cheaper Native 3 or the Native 5, the knife reviewed here. The Native 4 with CF handles has the look and shape of the 5 without the G10 handles and the S35VN steel. The Native 3 has a different, and worse, grind on the blade and the front choil is not as refined as it is on the Native 4 and 5.
Thanks to Reed for bringing this issue to my attention.