In the last installment I covered Benchmade and KAI USA. This installment will focus on CRKT, Spyderco, Surefire, and some odds and ends.
Here is a great booth review with Marshall from Going Gear:
CRKT is 20 this year (one more year before the company can drink!), so they have a special edition two bladed knife from Brian Tighe. Its not my thing. But other knives they have are really impressive. First, they tweaked the Eros releasing both the small and large version in a plain, flat handle. The impression is a very clean knife, much less busy than the original model. It also has AUS8 blade steel and a stainless steel scales, two differences from the original, which ran Acuto+ blade steel and titanium handle scales. This is a great improvement to an already solid knife--a good flipper, a nice size, and a useful blade shape. More Sebenza, less HG Giger. There is a larger version of the Drifter (and it lost its useless recurve, YAY!) and the Pazoda. The continuation of the collabs between CRKT and Flavio Ikoma resulted in the Fossil, a huge, crude looking flipper that echos a lot of Ikoma's custom works. There is a large and a small and the small's blade is 3.6 inches long. This is the knife T-Rex would use; he'd need it given his TINY arms:
There is an innovative flipper/thumb hole design from Steve Jeringan that looks different. The flipper is not a traditional flipper, working more like the deployment on the Boker Exskelibur. The Incendor is a very low key blade, with lot of checks on its list of good features--blade just under 3", G10 handles, and an over the top pocket clip. Its not the looker the Fossil is, but it does a lot of things right and CRKT has proven the simple formula can work with the Drifter. Remember the Occam's Razor of Gear: Simplest is Most Often Best.
There are a bunch of new fixed blades including a machete and parong from Ken Onion, a slew of tomahawks, and a Lucas Burnely knife. The new wood handled tomahawks look pretty rustic and cool.
A very solid set of offerings from CRKT and the Fossil looks amazing.
Spyderco announced a bunch of new knives late last year, most of which I covered with Andrew and Dan on Episode 22 of Gear Geeks Live. There were a few exciting releases, the Peter Carey knife and the Kiwi4, but overall, it was a pretty staid set of blades. Given the numbers, I wasn't expecting anything at SHOT Show. But Spyderco is full of both surprises and iterations. There has been confirmation of what might be my ideal production knife--a smaller version of the Spyderco Domino flipper called the Spyderco Dice. If the blade is under 3 inches and flips like its big brother, I am IN. There is also a smaller version of the LionSpy. This makes a ton of sense, as LionSteel made a smaller version of the SR1, the knife the LionSpy is based on, so its probably not a huge investment to change over a few things and make some Spyderco'd SR2s.
One sure thing home run, a bunch of VG-10 blades, and a smaller big
knife is better than I thought we'd see, but still not as good as KAI's
Here is the product video for 2014:
As usual, Surefire goes big. The video is a pretty amatuerish (boy, would they benefit from an Edge Observer video) with weird awkward shots of their products and "field" shots of people looking angry at night (even the woman walking to her car looks angry). Can't we get a shot of someone caving, doing search and rescue in the wilderness, or a person working under the hood of their car? The music is especially awful as it is on a repeat loop that lasts about 30 seconds. Additionally, the music is partly from the menu music for the 7th season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer's DVD box set (I am perhaps the only person nerdy enough to notice that--it requires a convergence of uber nerd traits--love of flashlights, love of music scores, and love of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, yeah I am not afraid to admit that). Sorry, crazy aside, but when a video is that comically bad it deserves special mention, sort of like the Benchmade Munt logo.
The question is never whether they have compelling products, but whether those products will ever see the light of day. I am still waiting on my touch controlled Isis and Aegis from two years ago.
They have a lot of gun lights and gun accessories that I am not knowledgeable enough to write about, but they also have a ton of new lights, so here goes. They have a new tailcap, called the VOC. It works something like a selector ring. Its been discussed for a while, so it is nice to see it at the show and in the video. They have a new light in the backup series, the EB2, which is the same as the EB1, except it runs on 2xCR123a batteries. It comes in black or green, has an output of 500 lumens and has both a tactical and clicky tailswitch. They showed an update to the Fury line, the P3X which hits 1000 lumens on non-rechargeable batteries. They also show the V1 Vampire an IR/White light that is roughly the same size as the EB1. A friend of mine went to Iraq and needed a dual output light. This would have been great to give him. They had three new rechargeable lights--an updated Lawman, the R2, with the VOC tailcap, the new 2400 lumen UDR Dominator, and the P1R 800 lumen Peacekeeper. They also had some ARC lights (Surefire's HID series) but at this point I am not sure how useful they are for normal folks. You can get LED based lights just as bright without all of the hassle of HIDs. They had two interesting hands free lights, the 2211 Luminox, a combination of a Luminox watch with a Surefire wrist light. I haven't tried the wrist light, but at least the branding seems pretty synched up. I am not sure how practical the design is as the watch and the light are both pretty bulky on their own. But hey, anytime Surefire goes out of its comfort zone, that is a good thing. They also have an update to the Maximus headlamp. It outputs 500 lumens and uses a VOC switch.
Lots and lots of promise and good innovation.
Grade: A+ if they deliver everything; B- if they deliver the same amount they usually do.
The video on its own gets an F, as if it were made by the coolest, raddest, 14 year old mall ninja on the planet after he finished up with the 2014 Spyderco catalog, because the shot of the Szabo folder parachuting in to the Arctic is just not aggro enough.
Odds and Ends
Leatherman had one new product and a tweak to an old favorite. The new tool is called the Leap. It is a brightly colored small tool designed for kids. As a Dad, this instantly caught my attention. My son loves borrowing my Leatherman Squirt PS4 (that he got me for my first father's day) and use it to open pistachios, something we love to eat together. I cannot wait for the Leap to come out and even though he is a little young I think I am going to get him one. It includes a pair of pliers, some drivers, a saw, and a removeable sheepsfoot blade. The blade locks and unlocks with a mechanism on the outside of the tool, meaning little fingers never cross the blade path. Its not going to set the world on fire, but I really like the design and the focus on an untapped market. The other new product was an update in color and texture to the beloved (though not by me) Juice.
It was a quiet year, but they had a big year last year, so we'll call it a B overall.
There are some different colored DPx HESTs on the way along with the HEAT, a small blade in the style of the HEST. That's pretty darn exciting. But the really awesome new DPx blade was the HEFT, a 3.5 inch blade flipper.
Flippers are everywhere and a DPx knife with a flipper sounds really appealing. I loved the shape of the HEST, but not the deployment (other than the wave thingy, I am being vague on purpose).
DPx gets an A, two new great looking designs from such a small company is a big deal.
Cold Steel's offerings were simply atrocious this year. They showed off one folder, one, and it is not even that impressive. The Magnum Warcraft Tanto is nice, but I would have much rather seen a Warcraft Drop Point instead. The rest of their line up is a smattering of random stuff, including neon green gun training tools, along with a heaping helping of swords. Maybe swords sell. Maybe Lynn Thompson needs an excuse to go slaughter some blue jeans stuffed with beef. Whatever it is, I just don't get it. There simply can't be a huge market for pole arms, right? This is, in all likelihood, worse because the last two years have been so good. They were my favorite gear company in 2012 and did quite well in 2013, but this year is just full of head scratching product releases. How many swords can you really sell to SCA folks? Literally nothing appeals to me here.
Too much big, weird shit--overall an F.
ESEE had four new products, the first of which is the ESEE CM6. This looks very normal until you realize that it has a true sharpened swedge. It is designed to work as both as a bushcraft knife and combat knife. I am not sure those two uses mix well, but the blade looks very solid. ESEE's other offering, the first knife in the Camp Lore, looks like a pure bushcraft blade with a very traditional blade shape, an excellent handle, and a leather sheath. The second offering is perhaps the quintessential bushcraft shape, a bit bigger with a Scandi grind. They rounded out the new stuff with a fire starting tool. It was an excellent showing from ESEE and a sign that they are venturing out of their comfort zone a bit.
Grade: A-, very solid but no true guaranteed home run.