Thursday, October 30, 2014

Benchmade 940-1 Review

Chatter in the knife community suggests that the Benchmade 940 is one of the better "large" EDC knives out there.  For me, 3 inches is the break even point on blade length.  Anything more, I have found, is better suited to hard use tasks only.  But the Benchmade fans have been persistent.  There is a steady drone out there--try the 940, try the 940.  So when I got the chance, I did.  And fortunately for me, there is the premium 940, the 940-1.  I am not a huge fan of S30V, and as a dedicated steel junkie, I am thrilled to get the chance to try a new steel and S90V is new to me.  With that, the decision was made--I'd get the 940-1 when the opportunity arose.

For those of you that listen to the podcast (Gear Geeks Live, with co-hosts Dan from and Andrew of Edge Observer), you know this story, but it is so touching it is worth repeating.  I knew my family (my wife, my son, my parents, and myself) were going on vacation to Maine in August of 2014.  We traditionally stop in Freeport, Maine before heading even further north to Acadia (which is a spectacular place).  Freeport is a quaint New England town, complete with simple, white single spire churches, old inns, and traditional industries (furniture building at Thomas Moser takes place just outside of town).  It also happens to be the home of LL Bean.  The entire town is infused with an upsacle, outdoorsy feel.  Freeport also happens to have a GREAT knife store: Casco Bay.  They sell kitchen stuff too, but knives are the center of the show.  Inside I found a single 940-1 and I plunked down my saved pennies.  When I did I found that the knife was being paid for by none other than my Dad.  Its an expensive blade, and I hate to think that someone spent that kind of money on me, but its hard to fight with your Dad over money.  As a side note, he also got a knife--a Spyderco Dragonfly and my son got a "kid safe" wooden kitchen knife--we all walked out with a blade.  Needless to say, this makes the 940-1 a bit more special, its a super premium set up with a good story.  

Oh, but wait, there is more to this story than just a surprise gift.  I'll get to that in a minute.  The question for the review is pretty simple--can a 3.44 inch blade make a good EDC for a person that thinks the Dragonfly II is perfect?

Here is the product page.  Here is a written review.  Here is a video review.  Here is the datasheet on S90V.  Here is the review sample (a gift from my Dad):


You can find the 940-1 at two affliates: Blade HQ and  Purchasing it at either place will benefit the site and giveaways.

Blade HQ


Twitter Review Summary: The Lotus Exige of big EDC knives

Design: 2

The Warren Osborne designed 940 is a mainstay of the Benchmade line up, every bit the signature piece that the Griptillians and 710 are.  This is, in large part, due to its superior form.  If you are looking for an EDC knife bigger than the the Dragonfly, the 940 should be on your short list.  The 940 is one of those designs, that, if you listen carefully, you will hear lots of people reference.  Nutnfancy loves it.  Chris from Knife Thursday loves it.  Its just a brilliant design.  There are two reasons--first, the performance ratios are bonkers, even on the stock version (they are better here, of course); and second, because of simple and effective shapes.  Look at the handle:


Nothing crazy, nothing complication, just a good place to put your index finger and a nice palm swell on the spine.  It works and works well.  Even the cut outs on the handle scales help--giving the knife a curved three dimensional feel in the hand.  But that's not all--the reverse tanto blade shape is quite good too.  It allows for a massive amount of thickness to be carried very close to the tip of the blade, but still gives you an easy to maintain and useful belly.  Its simplicity is the key to its success.  I could do without the faux (or here: invisible) bolster, but its such a non issue it barely warrants mentioning.  The long and short of it is this--the 940-1 is a superior design.  Finally, as a small point--I love the tiny splash of color in the standoffs.  The anodized blue really pops, see it peeking out there:


But the curves and cuts tell only part of the story, and from my perspective, it is the smallest part.  The 940, and especially the 940-1, hold sway over the market of large EDC knives because of the incredible performance ratios.  First, to show you that this ain't not dainty thing, here is the 940-1 on a deck of cards (the Zippo has been retired, or more appropriately, but into use, in my fire starting kit):


This is one massive talon of a blade.  But unlike other long reach wonders, the 940 is still elegantly slender in the pocket, falling in and disappearing when stored as if Benchmade had somehow mastered the Whovian trick that makes the Tardis possible.  No knife (I don't think) is going to approach the Al Mar's numbers, but for a blade this size, the 940-1 probably equally impossible to challenge.  The knife weighs a staggeringly light 2.44 ounces (trimming off a full ounce from the already impressive regular 940), but it packs a blade length of 3.44 inches.  This is a frame that, when closed, is only 4.47 inches long and about an inch wide.  I don't normally lay out all of the specs for a blade, but here, they are so integral to the reason why the 940 and the 940-1 are amazing designs they need to be made explicit.  The blade:handle is .77 (above par, certainly).  The blade:weight is 1.40, easily within the Chill territory, but not quite the insane 1.96 of the Hawk.  But even these numbers don't spell it out entirely.  The thing about the 940-1 that just kills me is out slender it is.  It is not a wide blade and the entire thing is impressively thin.  No knife I have reviewed packs as much in to such a small volume.  I wish I had someway to calculate volume (thanks for the suggestions, but all of them would threaten the structural integrity of the knife or at least create a maintenance nightmare), but if I did I am sure the 940-1 would rank higher than anything else I have review.  

The design of the 940-1 (and the 940) is a stunning achievement on Benchmade's part and handling and using the knife have proven to me why it is so beloved in the community.  This is one killer piece of kit.

Fit and Finish: 1 (0 on the original knife; 2 on the replacement/fixed knife)

And so we get to the part of the review where things don't go as planned.  I bought this knife on a road trip to Maine, as I said before, and when we left little Freeport and were all comfortably in the car, I opened the package and dropped the slender beauty out of its little satin bag.  It seemed fine, but then I noticed the clip was oddly discolored, as seen here:


When we finally got to Acadia I put the knife in my pocket and did some chores around the beach house.  One time when pulling it out of my pocket it got stuck.  As I pulled I noticed a screw had fallen out.  It was the screw that held the carbon fiber plate in place.  Strike two.

Then I noticed that one of the pocket clip screws was loose.  As I tried to tighten it, it just spun in its hole.  On close inspection I saw this:


The screw was not only loose but the threaded plastic insert that held the screw in place in the carbon fiber was popped out of place and rotating freely.  I would never be able to tighten that screw, as its housing would just spin.

But it got worse.  The blade was radically off centered.  Not knife-nerd-complaining-on-the-Internet-off-centered, but cutting-into-the-handle-scale-and-leaving-flakes-of-carbon-fiber-in-my-pocket-off-centered.  This was bad.  Really bad.

Finally there was this:


That grind line should be perpendicular to the blade spine, not cut across it on a diagonal.

The knife, simply put, was a $260 pile of junk.

But, and here is the real take away, Benchmade's service was fantastic.  I sent the knife out and got it back within a week.  I received an email when they got the knife and an email when they sent it back (which happened in the same day, about an hour later, from a real person).  The return shipping was great.  In short, there was nothing I could have asked for that they didn't do.  Its a bummer to get a bad knife, especially one this bad and this expensive, but there are errors in all human endeavors, knife making included.  The real thing is how someone responds to errors and here Benchmade did a great job.

The fit and finish on the knife I received back, which is probably a new knife, given how quickly they sent it to me, though I am not 100% sure, is flawless.  It is, simply put, the nicest production knife I have seen--on par with my peerless Al Mar Hawk and the still amazingly nice Spyderco Techno.  The knife is, frankly, better put together than my Strider PT, my Hinderer XM-18, or even the much vaunted Sebenza.  It is smooth and effortless to open, it is trim with no sharp or extraneous edges to the carbon fiber.  Its simply superb.

So how do I score this knife?  It was, to borrow a line from one of my least favorite mandatory reads in high school, the best of times and the worst of times.  In the end I think it is fair to average them.  The original was a pile of parts.  The new or improved knife is insanely nice.  Chances are, you'll get a nice one.  I am a bit concerned at how bad the first knife was. It wasn't just a little off, it was quite literally broken.  Parts of the knife--the clip and blade--didn't work.  For the money and from this company, that's pretty stunning.  But, as I said, they fixed the problem perfectly.  No one remembers how bad the original Lexus cars were because of how thorough and perfect Lexus's response was to the problems.  Now they are one of the most high prestige luxury cars in the world.  Mistakes matter, but response matter more.    

Grip: 2 

If you have read more than one of my knife reviews, you probably know that I am not a jimping fundamentalist.  I don't hate it, but I think a knife can have a good in-hand feel without it.  The famous Ethan Becker handle doesn't have a smidge of jimping and it is still wonderful.  The key with the Becker handle and the key to the good grip on the 940 is the same--a fundamentally solid and flexible design to the handle.  You want a handle that promotes many good grips and the 940's handle does just that.


There is, as I mentioned above, a good palm swell on the spine and the handle is pleasant shaped. There is also a nice, though not overly forced space for your index finger.  This being an EDC knife first and foremost, there is no parrot's beak in the back to lock your hand in place, and in the intended use, I don't think that is an issue.  Overall, the handle is excellent.  Finally, if you ARE a jimping fundamentalist, there is a run of very slightly textured jimping. It does nothing for me, but the already great handle shape means that its ineffectiveness is irrelevant.  

Carry: 2

Okay, the 940 is a great knife, you know that much by now, but here is where it gets pushed from "great" to "all time classic."  The entire knife is so tautly designed, so perfectly proportioned, and so masterfully executed that it is one of the best carry folders ever.  It provides you a comparatively monstrous blade given the carry package.  I absolutely love how the knife feels in the handle, but it is a slice of divine perfection in the pocket.  This is the key to the 940--a large and capable blade in a tiny, slender package.  Think of it as the Lotus Exige of knives--relentlessly designed to provide the most performance in the smallest, lightest package.  

Steel: 2

Holy hell, S90V is amazing, both on paper and in person.  It has a huge dollop of carbon, but more than that, it has a nice balance of everything else.  ZDP-189 is the freak steel that it is because it basically squeezes as much carbon and chromium into the mix as possible, but the ingredients of S90V are more elegantly balanced. All of the good stuff is here.  

And my testing proved that S90V is worth all of the money and hassle (it is notoriously tough to grind and finish, even Benchmade's normal stellar finish is a bit muted here).  It was basically tougher and harder than D2 and more corrosion resistant than 440C or VG-10. I took it on many a hike and camping trip and did fire prep and food prep with it and it was fine. From whittling, making feather sticks, and roasting sticks to slicing up meat and tomatos (I'm Italian so we sub in tomatos for potatos), it did amazingly well.  In the same set of tests, 3V developed a distinct patina (though that comparison is hardly fair as 3V is designed specifically to not care about corrosion and focus instead on insane toughness). 

In the end I just can't say enough good about S90V.  It is everything everyone claims it to be and more. The steel, more than the carbon fiber, is worth the cost of the upgrade, and probably then some if you are steel junky.  If not, well, I don't know, I still really like it a lot.  S90V is clearly in the top eschelon of steels with M390, ZDP-189, M4 and 3V.  Gun to my head, I don't know which I would choose for general EDC tasks, but S90V would be one of the last to go.  

Blade Shape: 2

Okay I will admit it.  I thought the reverse tanto blade shape was something of a gimmick, but the more I used it and the more I carried it the more I realized that it was just a darn useful blade shape.


In addition to providing some good penetrating power for stabs to start cuts, it also has enough belly to do roll cuts and the like.  It may not be simple, and I am not a huge fan of the long narrow blade, but the reverse tanto works and works well. 

Grind:  2

While a bit busy the grind is fine.  Again, the slender, long blade is pretty short for a hollow grind, I have not found it is a problem in practice.  The performance of the grind was fine, but I can't help wonder how much it was aided by the insanely awesome steel.  It just might be that a pry bar would be fine in S90V. 

Deployment Method: 2

It has happened over time, but I have slowly become a convert to thumb studs. I still like flippers and thumb holes quite a bit, but a well executed thumb stud, as the one is here, is a joy.  With a quick flick of the thumb and no wrist action, you can pop the 940-1 open in a flash. Even with the pivot tightened (I like mine tighter than factory on most knives) the 940-1's thumb stud allows for perfect, thoughtless deployment.  Finally, I think one of the main reasons I have come to appreciate the thumb stud is that it allows for a thinner overall size to the knife when compared to a thumb hole or flipper and given the dimensions of the 940-1 I don't think I'd want any other deployment method.  
Retention Method: 2

Bucking the trend of using the split arrow clip on their more premium offerings, the 940-1 comes with the standard spoon-style clip and you know what?  Its damn good.


Its not a wall banger or a paint scraper and with the right material underneath (like well finished carbon fiber) it provides the perfect amount of tension to keep your knife in the right place.  

Lock: 2

Wonderful, stable, and easy to disengage, the Axis lock is really nice in an EDC knife, and here it is executed to perfection.  I wouldn't say it was noticeably better than the rendition on my Mini Grip, but it seemed a bit more dialed in.  Even when the knife was butter smooth flickable, the lock up was rock solid. Nothing bad at all and lots and lots of good.

Overall Score: 19 out of 20

I think the 940-1 is probably the best EDC knife out there if you like bigger blades.  At 2.4 or so ounces, its an insanely discrete and polite pocket companion.  The carbon fiber handle is not only functional, its a nice touch.  The feel in the hand is great as the handle itself, though simple, is very effective in the hand. And then there is the steel.  I LOVE the S90V.  It is amazing.

For a steel junkie this is one of the better production knives out there, especially if you find the ZDP-189 Dragonfly too small.  Its probably not as capable as a hard use knife as the Paramilitary 2 is but it is quite tough.  Really, its main role is as a bigger EDC and in that capacity there is nothing out there that smokes the 940-1.

My prior experience with Benchmade leads me to believe that the fit and finish issues were just a series of random flukes.  I wouldn't let that stop you.  This is a great version of an all-time classic.  And if you think it is expensive now, just image how much it will be if they decide to end production.  As gift it won't ever leave my collection, but given how good a knife it is, it probably would stay put regardless of how I got it.  This is freakin' awesome knife.  Had there not been the fit and finish hitch, this would have been a 20/20 perfect, but I have to be honest.  In all likelihood, yours will be that perfect large EDC knife.

The Competition serious.  


  1. It is a beautiful knife. Sentimental value is huge and transcends mere tangible value, it is a reliquary of memory. The deal breakers I see is price-point and lines. I will spend money on knives but for what you get on this knife it doesn't do it for me. The aesthetics are just not there. Love the blade shape, I dig the steel. I love axis locks but the axis lock is ugly the knife has no soul to it. The lines do not work together.

  2. Reminds me of the old story...I have George Washington's ax...but replaced the handle and then the ax head...

  3. Excellent review, as always. One quick note - the ratios are not impossible to challenge. While the 940-1 is almost certainly a superior knife, the Boker Urban Trapper actually crushes it in ratios (longer blade, shorter handle, over half an ounce lighter.)

    1. I like the look of the Urban Trapper but the steel is meh and the flipper drove me NUTS. It just doesn't work.

  4. Thanks for the review, T. Glad to see you're coming around on thumb studs.

  5. "The Competition"

    I dunno, how about some of the sprint run G-10 Manix's? Or even better the Manix2 Lightweight in S110V?

    S110V lightweight - 3.38" full flat ground blade (I think a more useful shape than the reverse tanto Osborne thing for actual cutting- maybe not prying) in CPM S110V - which is similiar in crazy performance to S90V. FRCP one piece handle with a ball bearing lock, which isn't AS smooth as the axis lock but very nearly. But it's thinner, giving you a thinner overall handle profile. Weight is 2.9 oz.

    (I really like mine. It was a gift. But for reference MSRP is $180 and retail is around $100.)

    There's also a G10 Manix2 (non lightweight) in CPM Cru-Wear, but that's like 4.3 oz.

    1. I addressed this in the Top 5 post, but basically, this knife is all of the performance of the Manix LW with a better silhouette. The Manix is just WIDE in the pocket and the 940-1 is a slender figure.

    2. The Manix S110v with FRN handles crushes anything out there from a factory made knife and even a lot of custom makes. In another league and the quality control of Spyderco speaks for itself. Benchmade is overrated and in my experience has poor quality control. Tony's example is not a rare event. I agree the Manix line in several Sprint and regular production should be reviewed again. Maybe emotion is clouding our authors mind. Great site and good review information here but this is one of several areas where a re-review would be appropriate.

    3. If he did a re review, it would likely be a higher score. Most benchmades do have great fit and finish, and if you play the odds it wouldn't have your desired result. Frankly, my friend's 940 is better built than my S35VN PM2 and my Manix2LW.

      Also, he gave the Manix2LW a 20/20 perfect score. What do you expect out of a re review of that?

    4. He might have a new category of "Holy Grail" knives. :)

    5. My experience with Benchmade F&F has been 100% positive - 550HG mini grip, full size Lum Deja Vu, a Bradley Alias (large), and other knives that friends have bought.

      After carrying the Manix2 S110v pretty much every day for more than a month, I will say it's not perfect. The wire clip moves around when you're gripping the knife which is unnerving. The cage around the ball bearing has radial play which is unnerving. S110v is basically impossible to sharpen. And I don't like pinned-together knives.

      The upsides of the killer ergos (loooove the 50/50 choil), light weight, and perfect blade shape still ring true. The ball lock has broken in nicely and works well (aside from the cage rocking, sadly). It's a great EDC knife for the money.

      Of course compared to the 940-1, it's literally half the retail cost, so I can forgive some sins. For $240ish you expect a premium handle. I play with a regular 940 (the cool ano green one) at a store and want one now, they're very cool.

    6. Also @Tony, you mean wide like backspacer to spine, not handle to handle, right? I will admit that makes it hard to get the phone out around, but it's so light and rides so low that I can forgive it.

  6. Tony, under Blade Shape you have a photo of the handle.

  7. Imo the Al Mar Eagle HD in ZDP189 is a good competitor. Any thoughts on that one, Tony?

    1. I have wanted to get my hands on one of those for a while.

  8. I have had a great experience with my Barrage model 580 with a serrated blade. Check this site out. It has tons of models and variations including 1st Production knives.

  9. Regarding the volume measuring issue, wrap the object in cling film. Get a graduated measuring cup of some sort and fill it with water to a certain point on the graduations (half?)but less then full. Put the wrapped object in and note the increase on the graduations. Subtract from the initial fill amount for the volume. If wrapped correctly the water should not come in contact with the knife. You could also use a solid small media such as sand if waterproofing proves to be difficult. You would have to empty the container partially of sand, then put the object in, then refill and shake to compact. Might not be spot on exact but would likely be repeatable enough to make comparisons.

  10. Hi,

    I ordered the 940-1, to some extent based on this review and the top 5 recommendation, and just received it. It is my first Benchmade and I am afraid mine is a lemon too.

    What's off? 1. The blade is far off-centred - almost touching the scales; 2. the bevel grind is very uneven - narrowest part is less than half as wide as the broadest part; 3. it came with a loose pivot screw and, even after careful tightening, it comes keeping loose with blade play as a result.

    At around the same time I received the 940-1, I also received a Kershaw Strobe. In comparison, the Strobe is vastly superior in fit an finish: perfectly centred, even grind and did not have to touch the pivot screw at all. It literally cost 1/8th of the 940-1.

    So I will be sending the 940-1 back to Benchmade under warranty. Problem is, I live in continental Europe (Belgium) and resending takes time and one risks having to pay import duties again on the re-import or, at least, having to deal with the custom authorities.

    Tony's review confirms that the bad QC is not an isolated incident. Even though their after-sale service may be top-notch (I have yet to experience), buying a 280 USD should not be hit-or-miss. I mean, Benchmade is not a new kid on the block in the knife world (as Lexus once was per Tony's comparison). They should know what is going on and have probably made a cost-benefit analysis on the level of their QC. Nobody would accept a Lexus with badly closing doors now that there are Toyota's with perfect fit an finish.

    So I would think twice about recommending this as a top 5 knife.

    1. About two months after sending it to BM, I got the knife back. Good news is that I didn't have to pay import duties again (I live in continental Europe). As to why I sent the knife back:
      (i) They re-centred the blade. It is definitely an improvement, but it is still not dead-centre. I would say about 65% to the right.
      (ii) The bevel was re-ground and is now symmetrical left to right side. However, the bevel widens considerably towards the tip.
      (iii) The pivot screw has been tightened and hasn't come loose since receiving the knife back.

      Although BM did address the issues to some extent, I am still not completely satisfied. For a 280 USD blade, the centring and grind should be perfect, especially after passing through their customer service.

      In the mean while, I got a Boker Plus Urban Trapper with cocobolo scales as a birthday gift from my wife. This knife is even lighter than the 940-1 (1,8 oz vs 2,4 oz on my scale) while having the same blade length! For 200 USD less, I can live with the VG-10 steel instead of the s90v. Also, this knife arrived in 100% perfect condition.

      @Tony (i): in light of the almost ubiquitous F&F complaints, the BM 940-1 is not a 'competitive option' in my view. Does it really belong on your top 5 list?
      @Tony (ii): please review the Urban Trapper. The blade:weight ratio of the cocobolo version is 1,91. The titanium framelock version is lighter still and may even beat the Al Mar Hawk ultralight...

  11. I would like to recommend a benchmade 42 article review via

  12. This comment has been removed by the author.

  13. I have two 940 models; the original in 154CM and the revision with S30V. I actually prefer the earlier model, as 154CM is a breeze to touch up, and that knife, being the first one, now has butter smooth action. This knive is my EDC for anything less formal than Easter brunch.

    So you can bet I was excited to have some extra cash, and ordered the 940-1 for my birthday.

    I get the knife, even wait a couple days, just to unbox the knife at the time and place of my choosing.

    Light, OMG, this is a light knife. Slim, of course, it's a 940 model, after all.

    But wait. The bevel where the tanto tip grind meets the spine is at a diagonal. And the S110 blade isn't really stonewash, nor satin - it's got tiny machining stripes running across the entire surface of the blade flats.

    Finally, while the centering wasn't so bad that it was eating the carbon scales, it was more than 80% off (tip closer to the scale than the center).

    Now sure, if I had the time, I'd have opened a case with BM and I bet all these issues would be taken care of. But I don't have the time - I just wanted to pocket my new blade and make it my EDC.

    So back it went into the box, and back for a refund it was sent.

    Yeah, maybe I'll try again, and maybe I'll stay a happy owner of a 940-1, but the first attempt was none too promising.

    Is anyone at BM listening?

  14. Well, after almost a year since reading this review, I finally caved and picked up a 940. While it's too soon to come to any conclusions about the knife, my initial impressions are quite positive, in spite of the fact I'm not really a fan of the knife's looks. Still, too many fans of the knife coupled with this review kept calling me to at least try the knife out.

  15. After looking at numerous pictures on the web and your blog; did you notice an uneven bevel? My 940-1 has a wider bevel (about 1/32nd more *noticeable to my eye*) at the tip as compared to near the grip.

  16. Volume of a knife is easy, drop it into a tube of water and measure the difference.

  17. The Osborne series is remarkable. I recently got a bigger iPhone and now all of a sudden the width of my EDC knives (which I carry back pocket clipped next to the phone) has become a critical dimension.

    The slim, capable BM 943 -- drop-point version of the 940 -- has basically swallowed up my EDC rotation.
    It's awesome.

  18. I recently ordered a 940 and the knifeworks special edition within a couple weeks of eachother......needless to say both blades are terribly off center . The knifeworks edition so off centered it's nesrly grazing the handle scales. Unfortunately i fall into the group bandwagon similiar to this poster...people who enjoy the 940 so much that QC is overlooked and will send back hoping to recieve a quality 940. Benchmade WAKE UP and please fire your entire QC department! Obviously your issues will eventually effect your sales if they haven't already

  19. How can u take a point away for a defect , especially when they fixed it so fast. I have a black 940, red 940 , CF 940-1 , and blue and black g10 940-1501, and a 943 and out of the almost 40 pocket knifes i have they get the most use. U get so much knife for such a small package . Just like a gun the length in the pocket doesnt matter as much as the width and the 940's are so thin in the pocket. Easily 20 out of 20 for me with the CF 940-1 the best and the 20cv 940-1501 in close 2nd

    1. How could I not take a point away for a defect? They fixed it, but it was such an obvious flaw it should not have made it out of the factory and the fact that there were multiple major flaws deserves a point off.