Friday, June 10, 2016

Benchmade Mini Griptillian 555-1 Review

This isn't a full blown review, as you can tell by the length of the post.  This knife is very similar to the original Mini Grip and so I am cutting the review to the bare bones.  I am also not bothering to wait the normal month or so testing period.  No need here.  I am familiar enough with the bones and the improvements are so obvious, I don't need to wait any longer than I have (a week).  While the differences are few, they are tremendously important.  Going from a score of 18 or 19 on the scale to a 20 is very tough.  Going to that next level--the Perfect 20/20--is even harder.  Let's see if Benchmade can do it.

Before I get to the score justification part of the review, let's clear the ground and get to the point.  Should you buy the Mini Griptillian 555-1?  Yes.  Should you upgrade if you already own the 550hg? Yes.  Simply put, the 555-1 is one of the best production folders available.  All of the great design elements and features of the original are preserved in the 555-1, but the flaws, few as they were, are corrected.  But they didn't just fix mistakes, they added features that make the 555-1 a perfect EDC.  Finally, though it is hard to detect, especially if you didn't own the 550hg, Benchmade has gone back and made a few fit and finish upgrades that make this knife one of the finest the Butterfly has ever made.  In short, buy this knife.

Here is the product page.  The knife runs around $170.  There are combo edge and straight edge versions (buy the combo edge if you are a dummy).  There is obviously a larger version with both blade types as well.  The 20CV blade steel is not an option on the Benchmade customized yet, as such there are no handle color variations.  Here is a review of the 555-1's big brother.  Here is a video of the 555-1.  Here is a link to Blade HQ where you can find the 555-1 and all sales benefit the site:

Blade HQ

Finally, here is my review sample, purchased with my own money to keep and fawn over for all time:

P1070125

Twitter Review Summary: Iteration at its best--a perfect blade.

The upgrades are simple:

1. G10 handles instead of the hollow feeling Grivory scales.
2. A new deep carry, over the top pocket clip.
3. 20CV instead of 154CM

These are the big changes but there are a few subtler ones that make a difference as well.  

The tolerances on the Axis lock are the tightest I have ever seen.  Nick and Austin have rightfully taking Benchmade to task over on the Modern Neanderthal podcast for the inherent slop in the blade caused by the Axis lock.  Even very high end knives like my 940-1 have exhibited this.  But this version has none of that.  The pivot here is very smooth, the knife pops open with kinetic ease, and yet the blade is still rock solid--no movement whatsoever.  Maybe they haven't improved the tolerances at all, but given how much better this one unit is compared to all of the Axis locks I have handled (the original Mini Grip, the Sequel, the Emissary, the Valet, the 940-1, and the 300SN), I would not be shocked if they just dialed everything out a few more decimal places and got the lock dead tight.

The knife also has a flow through design--no backspacer anymore.  The standoffs are a gleaming blue and match the eye catching blue liners.  It's not just a better design, it is also aesthetically pleasing.  

Finally, and though again I am not sure this is a purposeful thing or just luck, but this is the sharpest production knife I have ever had out of the box.  Benchmade has traditionally had a hard time with this, falling well behind Spyderco and SOG, for example.  But here, the edge is so sharp that it gathered arm hair like a magnet picking up metal shavings--effortless and efficient.  Frankly, the edge is as sharp as some of the most proficient customs--Jesse Jarosz would be perfectly content with the edge here. 

Running this knife through its paces in a week has been fun.  The 20CV steel, which is an American made equivalent of M390 (though it is a touch easier to sharpen), is superb.  I think I may have relented a while ago and just conceded that it is the best all around performer out there, it's resistance to tarnish being better than ZDP-189 with only a modicum of lost edge retention.  I cut a lot of cherries with this knife in the week I have had it and it did great--slicing with ease, sculpting around the pit like a scalpel, and all the while rejecting anything that looks like stain.  I have had CTS-XHP stain with cherries.  I have had S30V look a little funky.  But nothing here--not a speck.  Benchmade claims that 20CV is easier to sharpen than M390. It is, but there is only a modest difference. Anything is welcome on this front as sharpening supersteels is almost a violation of bans on torture.  

The clip has also been sublime.   

P1070123

The clip, in addition to be being a better shape, falls on to a smoother spot in the handle, making the entire thing less shreddy and easier to remove from your pocket.  It's not a huge difference, but often the margin between good and perfect is a small upgrade. The clip has  perfect tension on almost any material.  Finally, there are no hotspots at all.  

Owning a thumb hole Mini Grip has reminded me of how much I love the blade shape.  It's just amazing.

P1070124

The hump going down into the point creates an aggressive profile, something like the silhouette of a Porsche 911.  The curve in the blade gives you good rocking cut abilities and belly.  As I mentioned above the Axis lock is great here and the deployment is butter smooth.

One thing that has come up in the community is that "liners" are actually paint.  Benchmade's product literature specifically states that they are "layered gray and blue G10."  It'd pretty hard to claim that and then just have them be painted.  I am not sure either way, but I do know that it has no impact on the blade's performance and painted or not, they look nice, at least for now.  I hope the blue interior is actually blue G10 and not blue paint on G10, but if its not I don't really think it matters. 

In the end, I lied.  I am not going to tally this thing up.  No need.  It's a 20/20 Perfect.  Even the additional weight caused by the G10 and full, but nested liners, is not enough to talk me out of the Perfect label.  This knife is just killer.  Summer has a new official EDC and it is the 555-1.  Go buy it.

Overall Score: 20 out of 20, Perfect.


32 comments:

  1. Tony, Awesome review. I am glad you got this. I totally agree - iteration at its finest.

    Dan

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  2. Quick question - I know with the original mini-grip you could request a deep carry clip from Benchmade and swap it out, but can you do the reverse here? I just dislike deep carry clips, and I've been trying to decide between this and a Ritter Grip.

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    1. Benchmade is super nice about providing clips, just send them an email.

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    2. Benchmade will send you any compatible clip for no cost, including the non-deep carry. I know because I only recently got sent a new standard one for my 940 :)

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    3. This clip is identical to the one on my 940-1, which is a replacement for the original clip, which is the same one on the 550hg, so I think this will work. I can't say for sure, but it seems like the hole placements are the same.

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  3. I agree. This is my favorite pocket knife of all time.

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  4. If you email benchmade and request it, they'll give you that same clip for your old 555. The only catch is instead of saying you have the 555 you have to say you have a knife that originally ships with that clip. I can't remember but google will tell you. Benchmade seems to be aware and fine that it happens from what I've read.

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  6. Thank you for the write up. I've always found the mini a bit cramped for my hand, but you may just have pushed me into ordering big brother.

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    1. I felt the same way about the mini. I just didn't love the grip, and REALLY wanted to.

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  7. Great write-up. I like how you took a look at this knife; it made sense to summarize the differences and give it a single score instead of rehash the things that didn't change.
    When the first upgraded version came out, I had hoped they'd do the sheepsfoot SpydieHole version as well. I've handled examples of this knife and I can verify that they are immaculate and rock solid. I haven't bought a Benchmade yet, but this one is the first I'll get, and it's really tempting. I think if I got this next I'd be skipping a PM2 so it's a tough decision. What would you buy next?

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    1. You should definitely handle the S110V PM2. It is an excellent knife too. It is so close I think you could go either way depending on how something fits in the hand or something like that.

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  8. Tony,
    It's hard to tell in pictures, but it looks like the 555-1 is a flat/saber grind (like the thumb-stud 556 version) instead of a hollow grind like the 555-hg. If that's the case, what are your thoughts on that? I've got a 556-1 on the way myself; can't wait to get it!

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  9. Love the blade shape, steel, and spydiehole, But the clip still looks like it falls within the texturing which makes for a pocket shredder. I wish BM would address that. I am tempted to buy this and put my carbon fiber Deathgrips on it.

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    Replies
    1. The texture on the G10 is not rough at all. There is no concern here with pocket shredding.

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  10. "The standoffs are a gleaming blue and match the eye catching blue liners. It's not just a better design, it is also aesthetically pleasing."

    This is subjective imo. And while I like blue, the kind of blues you tend to like (royal, electric) aren't my favorites.

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    1. I'm fine with the blue but dont like the gray... I really wish it was black with blue accents. I might throw it in a Rit Dye bath eventually.

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  11. I handled one at a knife store yesterday and it definitely looked like blue-painted G10. There were a couple spots where you could see the color bleed over onto the grey G10. I think the knife deserves several points off for this tacky tactic.

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    1. If this is true, Benchmade should change their product literature. They clearly state it is layered G10.

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    2. I guess all G10 is layered when you think about it! Maybe thats what they mean XD

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  12. Tony, How would you compare the 555-1 to the Ritter Mini Grip in M390 with regards to deployment, blade shape, and blade steel? Aside from the scales, as their are a number of replacement scales on the market that anyone can get pretty much whatever they like.

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    1. I actually like 20CV a touch better than M390. It is ever so slightly easier to sharpen. It's not a huge deal, but big enough to make a difference.

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  13. Nice review. I've had a 555-1 for some time now and agree with your points. While I'm not a fan of the deep clip, I know it's very popular. This model is, in my opinion, a different beast than the base 555HG, even though it shares the same pattern. I consider everything on this knife an upgrade, even the grind that you forgot to mention. It's truly a top tier production knife.

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  14. As many I'm sure can relate, I spent a very long time trying to find the perfect pocket knife to give my father for his 70th birthday. It was to be a user and true EDC... After countless "auditions" and second thoughts, the 555-1 was the knife I gave him. Perfection.

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  15. Replies
    1. I don't know. I have both and I have been carrying this more often. When knives are that good the small differences matter and here the clip is much better than the Gemini clip. That said, all the cool kids carry flippers....

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  16. I have the 550-1 and it is definitely layered G10! Unfortunately, I had it on my lap in my car and when I got out it slammed onto the blacktop and took a tiny chunk out of the back of the handle where it's blue. No doubt it's layered G10. Not painted.

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  17. Does the 555-1 have a hollow grind? Is it a better slicer than the 556-1, or is it just the opening hole that you like better?

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    1. Flat ground blade. And yes, it is just the hole.

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  18. Agreed with the 20/20 a perfect EDC production folder.

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  19. How do you qualify the PM2 S110V : 20/20 PERFECT ?

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