Friday, February 12, 2016

Microtech UTX-70 Review

As is par for the course, I am going to lay out some of the dirt on Microtech and Anthony Marfione before getting to the review.  There are always rumors of more nefarious stuff than this, but this is what my research found.  To reiterate my policy, when there is something negative associated with a brand or its head, I feel obligated to warn you as the consumer.  Unless it is something REALLY bad, such as being a racist or a rapist, I am going to note it and move on.  If it is really bad, I won't review the product (and concomitantly I won't own or buy the product nor will I provide them with publicity by naming names).  Also, I am going to only reference things that I think have been clearly proven, such as the Tim Britton/Kizer thing or Mick Strider's problems with how he represents his military service.  Skirmishes between people over possible money deals, failures on warranty claims, and general bitching will be ignored.

The case against Microtech and Marfione is simple--they stole a KAI USA design, rushed it to market, and tried to capture some of the hype KAI had built up for the product.  Here is Thomas's comment on the matter.  Here is a video on the issue.  Here is a side by side of the two knives:

In particular, after the ZT0777 won the overall knife of the year award from Blade Show, Microtech rushed to develop a ripoff of the knife, the Matrix and got it to market first.  The ZT0777 was marked by a ton of delays--the concept of the knife was a tough one to pull off (to this day no one else, custom or production, has even tried a composite blade with Damascus), and so all of the positive momentum from the Blade Show win was just hanging out there.  Marfione and company copied the design, lowered the difficulty level, and put out the Matrix.  This isn't just a similar looking knife or a situation where the knife's lines are so generic there are dozen blades that look like it--this is a straight up ripoff.  To make matters worse, when the baby brother of the ZT0777 was shown, the ZT0770, Microtech had another ripoff waiting in the wings, the Mini Matrix, and again beat KAI to market.  

For all of the bitching people do about Chinese knockoffs of US products, this is worse.  The ripoff is obvious and it comes from a company with a history of great designs.  Microtech doesn't need to ripoff KAI.  They have proven time and again that they can do great stuff on their own.  It's not clear to me that Kevin Johns and the other counterfeiters out there have the same creative spark.  And so, to me, the Matrix is just as bad as a Kevin Johns knife, and probably worse.  

Honestly this is the single reason why it has taken me so long to review a Microtech product.  That behavior is both egregious and shameless.  But they haven't done something like that since and so I am willing to chalk it up to someone being a petulant child, throwing their toys out of the crib once, and move on.  

On to the review.

In this day and age, with flippers, bearing pivots, and superior designs, no one but a handful of folks NEEDS a switchblade.  Even as legal restrictions are rightfully coming down all over the country, we are  in a position where, with a choice among legal options, the auto is not clearly a winner.  Frankly, the legal restrictions have been in place so long that innovation has passed them and the need for an auto by.

But no one needs a car that can go 240 MPH either.  The UTX-70, even for folks that can legally own a switchblade, is a luxury.  But what a fun luxury it is.  If you are the kind of person that understand the logic of having a "drive to work car" and a "fun car" then you get the reason to own an OTF knife.  They aren't terribly practical, but they are fun, fun, fun.  The fidget factor on this little guy is SUPER high, even more than a good flipper.  There is nothing quite like the bang of a good, well made OFT firing in your hand.  I get why that sound scared the US Congress enough in the 1950s to pass the stupid Switchblade ban.  Like a whip cracking, a sword being unsheathed, or a shotgun being racked, the sound of an OFT firing is intimidating.  But the odd thing is, given its size, the UTX-70 is actually a pretty practical EDC knife.  There are a few things inherent to OTFs that make it less practical than, say, the Dragonfly II, but I was really surprised at just how convenient this thing really is.  

Here is the product page (note: Microtech cycles through the production of many of their blades and so not all models are always in stock--the UTX-70 is one that comes and goes).  The UTX nomenclature is a bit wonky, so here goes: the original OTF from Microtech (one of their first knives in fact) was the Microtech Ultratech.  After the success of that knife, they released two scaled down versions--the UTX85 (which is 85% the size of the original Ultratech) and the UTX70 (which is 70% the size of the Ultratech).  There are dozens of variations of all of these knives--dagger blades, serrations, full serrations, black coated blades, and different colored handles.  I went with the UTX-70 with drop point, stonewashed blade with black handle. Here is a video review from Jim Skelton.  There are no written reviews. Here is a link to Blade HQ, where you can find the UTX-70, and all proceeds benefit the site when you purchase things through this link (this is a keeper--I can't mail it because of all of the legislation involving autos):

Blade HQ

Finally here is my little gem:

Twitter Review Summary: Very fun, surprisingly practical, and quite nice to carry

Design: 2

First a bit of lingo.  I love the fact that this knife is a "dual action" OTF.  That is mall ninja for auto deployment and retraction with the blade coming out the front of the knife.  It is 100% unnecessary and 100% cool. 

I want to ding this thing for the use of proprietary fasteners, but unlike with a manual, these screws are never meant to be adjusted and tightening or loosening them does nothing to tweak the blade.  The could, for all intents and purposes, be pins.  If this was a knife you could tweak, I'd deduct a point.  Beyond that, this is a superb design--smaller than a pack of gum with a great and discrete shape in the pocket.  You'd be hard pressed to find something to bitch about here.  Note that the other blade types are all harder to sharpen, especially the dagger grinds.  If you are an OTF newb, like me, opt for the drop point.  Also, if you aren't a mall ninja, opt for the drop point.  Anything else and I am afraid that the innate Mall Ninja-ness of an OFT will have you buying a $249 katana in a week's time.

The ratios are competent.  The blade:handle is .70.  The blade:weight is 1.91.  For reference the best ever ratios are found on the the Al Mar Hawk Ultralight with a .84 and 2.81 respectively.  Not all time great, but very good. 

Fit and Finish: 1

Here is the deal--all of these scores are, as I have said before and occasionally note--subject to change.  S30V is soon not going to be an automatic 2 in the Steel category and similarly, an OTF with blade play is no longer state of the art.  Granted it has taken a very long time for someone, the Hawks, to solve the problem, but the Dead Lock, from all reports (including two hands on reports from Blade Show by Dan and Andrew) is exactly what it claims to be--an OTF without blade play.  That is state of the art.  This is not.

Aside from that one major issue, the UTX-70 is a virtually flawless blade.  Everything about it is smooth, precise, and clean.  The blade is nicely finished and the handle is pleasing to the touch.  Even the firing button is nice--grippy but not shreddy.  

Grip: 2

You wouldn't think something shaped like a pack of Wrigley's Spearmint Gum would be so good in the hand, but it is.


There are few reasons.  First, it is not EXACTLY shaped like a pack of gum.  Like with the Sebenza, there is a subtle curve to the handle and it gives you a surprising amount of grip.  Second, the finish on the handle is quite grippy.  Finally, the clip, thankfully, just stays out of the way.  I was concerned on a knife this small it might be an issue, but it isn't.  The entire think just works in the hand.  Now all of this should be seen in the correct light--this is a knife that can't even remotely be seen as hard use.  It can whittle (and has).  It can open packages.  It does okay at mild food prep, but this is a purely light duty EDC knife.  Even a larger UTX would scare me off because of all of the complex internals, but you get the idea--in role, it's quite good. 

Carry: 2

The square shape may be slightly odd in the hand, especially today when EVERY knife is ergonomically shaped, but in the pocket it is a dream.


A knife this thin and small is easy to drop in a pocket and forget about until you need it.  Even in thin dress pants, the UTX-70 was an ideal pocket tenant.  The clip is excellent and thanks to a grippy but not shreddy surface underneath it worked wonderfully.  Overall, this might be one of the best knives in the pocket I have ever had.  It's incredibly lightweight means that it is good even in the shirt pocket.  Simply awesome.  Oh, and just in case your wonderful, there is almost ZERO chance this thing is deployed in the pocket accidentally.  The firing button requires just too much force for that to happen.

Steel: 2

It's Elmax.  I like Elmax.  Shut up Elmax whiners.  Even if there were some truth to the tale, they have fixed whatever the problem is by now and the UTX-70's steel (along with every other Elmax knife I have had) is just fine. 

Blade Shape: 2

You can get a dagger blade with two edges, but an OTF veteran warned me against it, point out how hard they are sharpen, especially when there is a bit of blade play, as there is with this knife.  The drop point is not as Greaser cool, but it is still very good here.  

Grind: 2

It's hard to screw up a blade this thin and make it a bad slicer, but even with that reduced difficulty score factor, this is still a very well ground blade.  The main grind is even with crisp lines and a sharp plunge line and the cutting bevel is wobble free and very nice.  Impeccable is not a stretch.  

Deployment Method: 2

It was about a week before I stopped audibly laughing with each firing.  It took about a month and half for me not to smile each time I fired the UTX-70.  This is a delightful and addictive thing.  BANG, BANG.  Double action OTFs are awesome.  And they lead to lots of hilarious stuff, like opening a candy  bar with an automatic.  When retracted the whole thing just looks innocuous.


You'll be shocked at just how powerful the spring is when you pull the trigger.  The pull weight is VERY high, so high that accidental deployment is inconceivable to me.  You'd have to be a real dumbass to accidentally fire this thing off, I guess that is possible, as there are a dozen or so videos of yahoos chopping up cinder blocks on YouTube, but in normal situations the UTX-70 will never fire accidentally.  

Retention Method: 2

Simple and great clip.  I like the double dip in it that is a straight up rip off of the Sebenza clip, but it's such a small thing that I have seen elsewhere that I am not about to howl about the IP "borrowing".


Good, good stuff. 

Lock: 1

The Deadlock makes this thing a lesser knife.  Sorry, it just does.  But in terms of failure, given the size of the blade, I don't see that happening, unless, again you use the knife like a moron.  A bit of knife sense, to use Derrick Bohn's phrase, goes a long way.  There is, obviously blade play and no problems with engagement and disengagement.  

Overall Score: 18 out of 20

This is a delightful, useful, and well made little knife.  It's almost at the point of being a novelty, it is so small.  If you like the design but don't share my affinity for small blades, the UTX-85 or the original Ultratech is probably the way to go.  This is a really slick little package, though, and easily the most fun to digest with knife I have ever owned.  It's not a necessity.  It's not even a nice thing to have.  This is a pure luxury, but like any good luxury item it is eminently pleasing to handle and own.

The Competition

There is a wide array of competitors, but the most directly comparable knife is the Benchmade Mini 
Infidel. It is a more sinuous and curvy package--the Beyonc√© to the UTX's Kate Moss--but it's steel isn't quite as good.  For me it is really a toss up.  I prefer the smaller footprint of the UTX series, but any Benchmade Infidel is quite good.  


  1. Great review. It looks like a really good knife, and the In/Out auto must be so much fun :)

    Just a shame they are illegal in the UK. I hope there's a change in the law like in some US states, but there's zero effective political will to relax knife laws, and they'll probably just get worse. Still like you said you don't really NEED an automatic knife anyway so it's not a big loss.

  2. Cute as a bug! Great review.

    I own a Protech TR3 out-the-side auto. It's a quality knife that lacks the gadgety fun factor of a D/A OTF.

    I may start looking for a UTX-85 locally, though I'd have to grind down the stupid glassbreaker. Man, I hate those things. Glad the UTX-70 doesn't have one.

  3. The problem with the proprietary fasteners is that if you need to dissemble the knife you can't. A number of guys took Micro Tech's to the sand box where they immediately failed due to the moon dust like sand there. Since no one had the special tool needed to take apart the knives for cleaning they became paper weights. By the way, what is the point of proprietary fasteners?