Friday, October 9, 2015


The GSD has been an exceptionally difficult knife to test and evaluate.  I have the review sample in for more than two months and each time I think I have figured this knife out, I have to go back to the drawing board.  The reason for all of this indecision is because there are a few areas where the GSD is an great knife for the money and a few areas where I strongly dislike the production choices CRKT made.  My big hurdle here is that most of these drawbacks are based solely on my personal opinion.  

If you have read this blog for a while there are things you know I just hate, though I am willing to concede that some of those pet peeves are just my own opinion.  In the past I tried to review things from a more objective point of view, saying things like "I don't like X, but the majority of users will."  That sort of review never works well.  First, I don't know what the majority of users will like.  I can guess at it, but invariably guessing can go wrong.  Second, I don't think it is useful for you the reader to have a wishwashy opinion.  If you go to some of the shill sites you see this kind of language all of the time.  Andrew Lang and I talked about it on this episode of GGL.  Its a way of couching, so that the writer can explain a flaw that is evident to everyone and then cover up it so that the review or comment doesn't appear too negative.  That sort of bullshit is not what I do.  I am not good at it and I think it is deceptive.

That said, taking a more subjective approach to a knife with as polarizing a feature set as the GSD can make the overall review seem much more negative than it should be.  Oh well.  I'd rather the review appear negative but clear than some mushmouthed version of the product literature.  But this deliberation is why it has taken so long.

Here is the product page. The CRKT GSD costs $63.95. Here is a forum review. Here is a video review. Here is a link to Blade HQ, where you can find the GSD, and all proceeds benefit the site when you purchase things through this link:

Blade HQ

Here is my review sample:


Twitter Review Summary: Charles Dickens EDC--it was the best of times and the worst of times. 

Design: 1

No aspect of the knife better captures my confused sentiments than the design.  This is a truly gorgeous knife.  Its aethestic attention to detail (such as carrying the line of the swedge into the handle) is really first rate.  And its not just little touches.  The overall look of the knife is quite beautiful--clean, with a confidence that every line matters.  This is a pushback, and an effective one, against the bling blades like the ZT0999.


But it is not all good.  This knife is exceptionally thin for its size (which is good), but it is also exceptionally heavy and very tall.  The  heft comes from the unmilled stainless steel handles.  I know there is marketing data that shows people equate heft with quality (this is why Bang and Olufsen made their remotes out of zinc), but when you make products for an enthusiast crowd, that sort of trickery isn't necessary.  The weight is exceptional for a knife with a blade this long.  But that's only half the problem.  The  height of this blade is just bonkers.  It feels like you have a tradepaper back in your pocket.

Bang--this knife is 5.8 ounces. The blade:weight is a wretched .57.  No one will confuse this with the Al Mar Ultralight Hawk.  The blade:handle is .76 which is awesome (and a sign that Mah really knows how to design knives).  This is the same as the SOG Flash I, a notably good knife in this one aspect.


Fit and Finish: 2

Fit and finish is simply superb. The blade is centered, the satin finish is quite nice, the chamfering is good.  Everything is very, very good.  The Taiwanese OEM is really quite capable.  The lockbar, however deserves special mention.  Look how tightly and cleanly it is cut:


I have had customs (Bob Dozier customs) that didn't have a lockbar this well made.  Everything is just snug, tight, and clean.  And it is not just surface beauty.  I'll go into more below, but the well made lockbar is actually one of the best framelocks I have used.

Grip: 2

The knife does very well in the hand thanks to well placed jimping, the ample chamfering of the scales, and a nice, but not over done index notch.


Its not great, merely very good.  My one small ding is that the clip can, in some instances, get in the way.  Not a big deal, but a noteworthy one.

Carry: 0

Yikes!  There are three problems here: the height of the knife, the weight of the knife, and the positively awful pocket clip.  I'll detail more on the pocket clip below, but this knife is just too big in the pocket for what you get in terms of blade length.  It is the inverse of the Paramilitary 2--a small(ish) knife that carries like a big knife.  That's not the way things should be.  And worse than three independent problems, these three problems play into each other--the ill-fitting clip and the weight of the knife mean that the knife sloshes around in the pocket, even when clip to your pants.  Ugh.

Steel: 1 

AUS-8.  Nothing to see, move along, move along.  
Blade Shape: 2 

The shape of the blade, aside from the extra wide swedge, is a classic drop point and it is very good.  Liong Mah, aside from the focus on looks, does blade shapes very, very well.  I have yet to see a Mah designed knife that did not have a good, useful blade shape.
Grind: 2 

The grind is quite good. It is a high hollow grind that allows for real slicing, something you wouldn't expect from a knife this heavy.  I would note that the blade is not sharpened all the way to the edge, which is surprising because the knife have a true ricasso.  That's not a big deal though, more of an aesthetic thing.
Deployment Method: 1 

IKBS is awesome.  CRKT really nails their flippers.  So why a 1?  Well, the placement of the flipper tab itself is quite awkward.  I'd like to have some real estate on the spine of the knife to approach the tab and here you get nothing.  See the picture above under "Fit and Finish".  That's not a big deal though.  The other issue is that this is a surprisingly lazy flipper.  Its right on the border of needing a wrist flick.  It is almost there, sort of like a Hinderer, but not quite as bad.  Together they are worth a point.

Retention Method: 1

Sculpted clips suck.  They are very good for collectors or Jim Skelton, but for folks that use their knives, for folks that take their knives in and out of their pockets, they are almost always bad.  They are bulky, lack the spring tension to really hold a knife in place, and they tend to get in the way more during use.


But this is not just a sculpted clip--its mediocre one.  In the shot above you can see that the clip doesn't actually contact the handle.  I assume this was done because the clip lacked the springiness to open on thick material.  This is objective evidence that these clips don't work.  A spring (stamped) clip would have been 100% better.  As it is, unless you are wearing sweat pants, this thing will move on you.  Even jeans aren't thick enough.

Lock: 2

For all the crapiness of the clip, the lock is amazing.  There is zero stick (one factor is that the lock isn't titanium, a stickier metal), the action is smooth, the lock up is 100% perfect, and when locked there is zero bladeplay.  I have had many, many knives, some handmade, that did not lock up this nicely.


All of that fancy machining makes a difference in performance and here is one example.  Very, very good CRKT.

Overall Score: 14 out of 20

This knife is very definition of the unrepresentative average.  If you can handle heavy knives, you'll love the GSD.  Its main flaws don't matter to you.  The only thing I think everyone will dislike is the stupid clip (actually it is a pocket hook).  But there are many things everyone will like--the lock, the look, and the slicey grind.  

In the end, I liked the GSD, but was always bothered by it.  It was like that friend you look forward to spending time with but a half hour into your lunch with them you are ready to go your own way.  Its a good and pretty knife with a few pretty substantial flaws.  I think the score is correct, but I have reworked it a bunch, going as high as a 17 and as low as 13.  In the end, looking at other gear that received a 14 I think its is the right score. 


Here is why I think the 14 is correct.  The SOG Mini Aegis is just flat out better.  It is a similar size and has a similar blade shape, but it weighs two ounces.  It is substantially better than the GSD.  


  1. Glad that you pointed out the problem with sculpted clips. I found that out after purchasing a knife thinking it would be better than a stamped clip because no one other than you seemed to point out any downsides. Lesson learned.

  2. The knife would look even better if it weren't so tall.

    You are right, that lockbar looks like a $500 knife.

    Did you previously get 13 by scoring the clip 0? The clip gape looks really bad.

    Insecure pocket clips drive me bananas. Rafts of otherwise great 1xAAA flashlights (just to pick a category where this is a recurrent issue) are marred by weak clips.

  3. I agree on how terrible sculpted clips are. The 0454 sculpted clip is aesthetically gorgeous but has zero springiness to it. They're so rarely executed well, I think the Kizer Splinter is the only one that I've really thought worked well.

    As for the flipper placement, placing it above the pivot allows for for more centrifugal force (I may be wrong the exact physics term, but it's supposed to make it flip better). Most Mah designs have similar flipper placement. It works very well on the Remedy.

  4. Liong Mah is a very talented designer as you say. I own several of his knives, including this one (Massdrop bonus). However, I completely agree about the clip. Liong needs go back to Knife Design University and take some classes on clips. The clips on all his knives that I have are terrible.