Saturday, October 22, 2016

CRKT Mossback Hunter and Bird and Trout Review

I don't usually do two product reviews at once, but these two knives, while not different versions of the same model, are so closely related it felt silly to split them up.  Both knives are CRKT knives, with SK5 steel, G10 handles, pocket style sheathes, and were designed by Tom Krein.  Both are competitively priced for what they are.  And both are just really solid knives.  They won't blow you away.  They don't have any bling.  But the do what knives are supposed to do--cut--and they do it very well.  There is something to be said for just being solid. Think of these blades as the knife equivalent of baseball's least glorious pitcher--the Innings Eater. 

Here is the product page for the Hunter and here is the product page for the Bird and Trout. The Hunter costs $39.95 and the Bird and Trout (B&T) costs $34.95. Shockingly there are no video or written reviews, though my overviews can be found here (Hunter) and here (B&T).  Here is a link to Blade HQ, where you can find the either knife, and all proceeds benefit the site when you purchase things through this link:

Blade HQ

Here are my review samples:

The Mossback Hunter:

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and the Mossback Bird and Trout:

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Twitter Review Summary: Great bones, decent materials = Great Value

Design: 2

The longer I write this site, the more I come to love the work of guys that keep it simple.  You can keep your hype complex, beefy, hole-covered knives.  Give me work from folks like Jesse Jarosz, Ethan Becker, and the Master of Simplicity--Bob Loveless.  In this School of Anti-Excess, Tom Krein is like the Vice Principal.  This pair of knives came from Krein designs and they are, simply put, lovely.

The Hunter is a classic drop point hunter with a 3.25 inch or so blade.  The B&T, in case you are unaware, is a very hold knife type, basically a field use paring knife designed for processing small game and fish (hence the name: Bird and Trout).  If you aren't a hunter, this class of knives, which includes a wide variety of blades made by different companies, work very well as fixed blade EDC knives, both because they are relatively short and they are exceptionally thin.  This makes them easy to carry and great cutters. 

The blade:weight for the Hunter is: .72 and for the B&T it is: 1.41.  The handles are purposely large as with all Krein designed small knives so the blade:handle is all thrown off. As I mentioned above, B&T patterns are great fixed blade pocket knives and the performance ratio proves it. 

Fit and Finish: 1

Both knives had a few nagging issues.  First, the tang stood proud on the handles on both the Hunter and the B&T.  It wasn't offensive or anything, but it was noticeable.  There were differences from side to side on the scales for both blades:


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It is hard to see in the picture, or at least hard to see how bad it is, but the scale are a bit asymmetric. The left side is significantly thicker than the right, especially near the rear of the blade.  Both moderls were like this.  These issue were noticeable but had little impact on performance.  Importantly the edges were still very clean and the coating was even.

Handle Design: 2

Krein's handle designs are exceedingly simple, more of the jelly bean/blob genus than the Becker genus, but they work very well.  Importing these simple shapes over from his custom line not only fits perfectly in CRKT's user-centric line up, it is also something easy to do on a mass scale.  Both knives fill the hand well without been puffy, fat messes.  

Steel: 1

SK-5.  Its not terrible.

Blade Shape: 2

I positively love the shape of the Hunter, with its Loveless drop point and ample belly.

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The B&T is a little slender for me, but it too is classically trained:

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Why people mess around with recurve tantos and other random, weird unsharpenable bullshit is beyond me.  This is good stuff.

Grind: 2

Again the Krein simplicity translates so well into a production blade--the very pronounced hollow grinds here make for excellent slicing knives even with average to thick stock on the Hunter.  The B&T, which is basically a field paring knife, the grind is actually exceptional, especially at this price point. This is a knife that will fillet muscle and fiber, snap through tape, and sever boxes.  I liked it so much I used the B&T in the kitchen quite a bit.  The Hunter is good, the B&T is great and a very good rendition of a knife type known for its slicing capacities.  

Sheath Carry: 0

Brace yourself for the surprise--its a fixed blade review and the sheath is a problem.

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These are pretty sad and shitty sheathes.  Both knives would be really excellent with a kydex taco-style sheath with some Tek-Lok.  Alas what you receive with either knife is basically a tube sock with a plastic insert.  Over the months I have had and carried these blades the sheathes have progressively lost their holding power.  Now it is to the point where the blades are close to falling out with a good shake.  Even a Condor style leather sheath would be better.   

Sheath Accessibility: 2

As crappy as they are, its easy to get the knives in and out.  There is no snap or buckle to fidget with.  The sheathes are so tight you pull your pants off getting the blade out (though that is a real problem when it comes to retention).  These a good sheathes when comes to take out and putting in your knife.

Useability: 2

You'll love the handles so much that even with more expensive knives in your collection, you'll reach for these blades over and over again.  More than just about any knife I can think of, these knives feel better in your hand, given the materials, than  knives that cost two or three times as much.  The simplicity of the two Krein handles, which are different from each other, really work and are task appropriate.  Even with the slight fit and finish issues mentioned above there is no impact on how the knife feels over a long period of use.   

Durability: 2

SK-5 can take some hits and the G10 here is bulletproof.  The knives aren't super thick, but they are thick enough for their intended jobs.  I would pry with the B&T at all, as the tip is verging on Kershaw Leek-levels of thin, but its done okay and for a majority of the testing period, its main user was a 6 year old (with close supervision all of you helicopter parents).  That alone makes me confident that even though the B&T is a field use paring knife its not going to break on you.  
These knives scream to be used, to be messed up, to be beaten to death.  If you haven't chipped the edge after a few years of ownership, your doing something wrong.

Overall Score: 17 out of 20

Both the Hunter and the B&T are solid fixed blades.  They lack the gleam of a Bark River or the flourishes of a Fiddleback Forge, but for the money, like the King of the Budget Blades, you will find little that works as well as these blades do.  In fact, I think given how good they are and how bad the sheath is, its probably worth $40 or so to have a custom sheath made for these knives.  If they were keepers I would totally do that.  The Hunter with a good taco-style kydex sheath running Tek-Lock would be awesome.   If you need a knife to toss in a truck, a toolbox, or a backpack and leave there you will be delighted when, months after you forgot about them, you look around and find either of these blades.  They are another in a long line of very good CRKT knives, knives that while having an issue or two work well and provide very high value.  And heck, if CRKT released these with polished micarta scales and S35VN steel, along with the aforementioned sheath upgrade, well, damn, I'd be really happy to pay $150 or more for on.  Hint, hint...

6 comments:

  1. As a hunter and fisherman I always think of knives with these uses in mid even when reading reviews for truly edc stuff. Nice to see something that will easily fill both rolls.

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  2. I had forgotten that these knives existed, I may have to check them out, practical fixed blades are my favorite knife genre. Man though, your dream of micarta/S35vn on these designs would be heavenly.

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  3. These guys keep tempting me at Cabela's.

    CRKT should make upgraded, dedicated sheaths available for their affordable fixed blade models as stand-alone accessories.

    That way they can still hit that price point on the big-box racks, but also give a convenient option (and economies of scale) for the real knife aficionados who want to give the budget fixed blades a proper home.

    Thanks for the joint review.

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    1. I always see these at places like gander mountain myself. The main thing that keeps me from making an impulse buy is that they are marked up by about 20 bucks.

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  4. I'm curious. Have you ever considered picking up a pocket sheath from KnivesShipFree? I have one in each size (the little pocono would be right up your alley size-wise) and I just stick whichever small fixed blade I want to carry that day into it. It has been a really elegant solution to the sheath problem for me.

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