This is not a knife I am supposed to like. If you look at my preferences, which I hope have been clearly stated over the years, it seems impossible that I would like this knife. But I do. Its heavy, thick, and marked by a Humvee aesthetic that I never really got. In the end, the charm of this quriky, overbuilt blade, just spoke to me. I have owned or reviewed a dozen or so Hinderer designs and the Half Track is my favorite. The knife shows that Hinderer is always improving.
The Half Track is interesting for another reason—it is a showcase for American made production knives. In the past few years the high end of the production market has been dominated by the new Chinese brands. Reate, WE, and Kizer have been making new designs at a breathtaking pace and doing so with finish and complex machining that rivals or surpasses what we see from the major US brands. Spyderco’s 2018 line up shows that they have noticed and Benchmade’s recent run indicates that they are paying attention, but Hinderer’s recent stuff proves that even small batch makers can go toe to toe with the best China has to offer. This knife is every bit as complex and as well made as the Steelcraft Mini Bodega. And the price is darn competitive, given the high end part of the market Hinderer inhabits. What Hinderer and company have been able to achieve, especially given their size, is quite impressive.
Here is the product page. It costs $425 for the G10/titanium version. It costs more, from around $475-585, for the all titanium version. The knife comes in a satin finished blade or a heavy stonewash that Hinderer refers to as a working finish. There are two blade shapes as of 2018--a tanto and this blade shape which probably best described as a beefy clip point. There are no written reviews. Here is an amazingly...um...detail-oriented video review (Grayson, King of QC, you need to hand your crown over to this gentleman). Here is my video overview. You can buy the Half Track at Knife Art.
And here is the review sample:
NOTE: I have had the fortune of using two different Half Tracks. The black G10 version pictured above was a review sample from Knife Art. The cream G10 with blue anodized titanium is my personal Half Track. After I got the review sample from Knife Art, I decided to buy my own. However, I did not attempt to negotiate a deal for the review sample or offer to pay for it directly (as that would mean that I got free shipping). As such, after the review, I sent the review sample back on my own dime and then purchased a Half Track at full cost, including paying for shipping. There is precedent for this. I did the same thing with the Tom Bihn Cadet. I want to make clear that the review samples are either given to me (and then subsequently given away by me) or I pay 100% full price for them. I know this sounds a bit fanatical, but I want you to be informed and trust that my reviews are not swayed by getting stuff for free or at a discount.
Twitter Review Summary: American made awesomeness.
inderer’s aesthetic has always been something I have had mixed feelings about. It leans way to close to “Humvee” for me. The thick, bold lines always equate to heavier than needed knives. It also means huge knives. Both of these “features” are things I avoid. The Half Track still looks and feels like a Hinderer, make no mistake, but it seems a bit more usable and pocket friendly. Its over four ounces, so its a chunk, but is length, height, and thickness are more manageable. It is a good sized knife—dense enough to be reassuring, but not so bulky that you feel like you have a brick on a pocket clip. The 2.75 inch blade is just the right size for EDC. Whether its on a thin Spyderco like the Chaparral or this knife, I am not sure why you need more.
The clever mix of straight lines and curves is a departure from the jelly bean silhouette of the XM-18 and I am very much impressed. This is one of those knives that doesn’t look like it will work until you pick it up. Time and again I was impressed by how nice this knife is in the hand. It is also a good host for just the right amount of bling. Hinderers range from grubby work tools to bling magnets, depending on their owner’s preferences (which is a really cool thing, BTW), but here the Half Track in a cream and blue color scheme pops without looking farcical.
The ratios aren’t the best—this knife is a dwarf-from-Lord-of-the-Rings stout. The blade:handle is .70. Not great, not bad. The blade:weight is .63. That is well...ooof....its terrible. But this is not a knife you buy thinking it is a svelte pocket companion, and, as always, ratios are not the be-all end-all.
Fit and Finish: 2
After I reviewed the excellent Steelcraft Mini Bodega I was worried that American production knives would never be able to meet or exceed that level of machining without costing $1,000 or being produced in such small numbers that they were essentially customs. Worry no more. This knife is the equal to the Mini Bodega in terms of machining and complexity. Having handled two different Half Tracks, the original I handled had the diamond pattern machining on both sides of the knife, with the pattern milled into the G10 AND titanium. My personal Half Track is a bit more colorful, but has no diamond pattern machining on the titanium. Even on the simpler version, the knife’s parts mate as well as any production knife I have seen, the complex lines and angles are well done, the blade centering is excellent, the lock is smooth yet solid, and the flipper tab has just the right shape and feel.
The diamond pattern machining and the just grippy enough G10 make this knife great in the hand. The shape and cuts in the handle add to that feeling. Overall, there is really very little to complain about here. All of the edges and surfaces have a worn in feel (not because they have been, but simply because Hinderer has gone that extra step and really tuned the machining). The index notch is particularly inviting. One small ding, not enough to drop the score, but worth noting—the clip is a bit of a hotspot. Its unavoidable given the size of the knife’s handle, but it is not a big deal.
Despite all its niceties, this is still a Hinderer. While its not bad in the pocket (like the bigger XM-18s) its still not an easy knife to carry. Its thick and dense and heavy. Sometimes I like carrying a knife without using a clip. Here, that would be a terrible idea, as the knife is just too bulky to let it sit at the bottom of your pocket. A 2.75 inch blade on a four and half ounce folder is hard to make truly pocketable, regardless of how good the rest of the knife is.
Like AUS-8 a steel generation before it, S35VN has become the default steel for the market. Its on Chinese made knives and more expensive American produced knives. It is the default for Cold Steel's nicer blades. It is EVERYWHERE. But unlike AUS-8, it is considerably better than average (though, of course, that will change over time just like it did for AUS-8 which was probably average when it started its run as the default steel). This is sign of how great gear is right now--our default steel is an amazing all around performer. You could certain ding the Half Track for having S35VN or alternatively for being so expensive. Its price tag warrants a higher end steel, say 20CV, but that is a criticism that rings hollow. In this case, you are paying for a more expensive steel solely so your knife has more expensive steel. S35VN does quite well.
Blade Shape: 2
I like the blade shape here, its stout without being comical (see Lionsteel SR1). The clip point is very attractive and the tip has a ton of steel to it, making it a very practical blade shape. This is not a knife you are worried about, the idea of snapping off the tip is basically impossible absent mindless jackassery. There is even a bit of a finger choil in the microscopic chance that you want to choke up on this baby.
You won't mistake this for a Chaparral and its not capable of making radish rosettes, but the Half Track is surprisingly competent as a slicer. It passed the apple test, something not all knives do and something I have yet to have happen with a Hinderer design. Given its intended use, this balance between choppy and slicey is just right.
Deployment Method: 2
Hands down--this is the best flipping Hinderer-made knife I have handled and I have handled a lot of them. It runs teflon washers (again, the right choice--bearing wouldn't work well on a knife purpose built to handle crud) and thanks to a superb detent and a perfectly shaped and textured flipping tab, this knife is amazing. I absolutely love it. Who would have thought--a Hinderer with addictive flipping action?
Retention Method: 2
This runs the classic Hinderer clip and while it is not as good as the Spyderco wire clip (the best production clip, FYI), it is quite good for a stamped steel design. I'd prefer something a little more low profile, but the Hinderer clip is fine for EDC use. If I were using this as a fixed blade replacement, I'd have no problem giving the clip a 1.
Rick Hinderer has had his locks dialed in for years. Of course they are stable, easy to engage and disengage, and highly functional. That is a given, but what makes them special is just how precise they are. By “precise” I mean in the scientific sense. Precision and accuracy are often used interchangeably in lay person talk, but in scientific circles they mean something different. Precision is how close two things are to each other, while accuracy is how close a thing is to a given standard. A person that is is precise with a bow and arrow with clump arrows in a given spot on the target, though not necessarily the bullseye. A person that is accurate with a bow and arrow will hit the bullseye, though not necessarily repeatedly. Time and again, Hinderer’s locks feel identical. There is a smidge of lock stick, just enough to let you know that the lockbar is being disengaged. They are smooth and fluid during disengagement. And the sound of the lock engaging is identical from model to model. In a way that no other company does, Hinderer’s locks are precise. Wonderfully, the locks on the Half Track, both my review sample and my own personal knife, are accurate as well—sure and effective with no wiggle in the lockbar or the blade at all. If you want one indication that Hinderer makes a great knife, its his locks. They are, and always have been, 100% dialed in, knife after knife, year after year. That sort of repeatability is a sign of great machining.
Overall Score: 19 out of 20
You could probably guess that this knife was going to get a good score given that I bought one after I got my review sample. Its a damn good knife and having two different ones gives me a perspective that is hard to get in knife reviews. This wasn’t a lucky hit, it is a knife that is good because of how its designed and who made it. If you have been wanting a Hinderer and just couldn’t take the sizes of his knives, the Half Track is it—a truly EDC friendly Hinderer in a way that no other knife in his line up is, even the 3” XM-18.
Aside from the great size, the knife exhibits growth in the maker. This knife is not a “good flipper for a Hinderer” it is a “good flipper, period.” That difference is an important one. While Hinderer has done grinds and locks well for a long time, his knives have been as bad a flipper as a 300 pound gymnast. They were sluggish and required all sorts of cheats, but now, with this knife, you get a rapid fire snap. Its all the more surprising given that this is probably the lightest blade ever found on a Hinderer knife.
And then there is this—the Half Track hangs well with the high end Chinese brands, both in terms of machining and in terms of value. Sure, you could want for a more exotic steel, but that’s more about knife nerd preconceptions than performance. If you stack this knife up against Steelcraft stuff it is a very favorable comparison and...wait for it...this is a 100% USA Made blade. I have stated this before, but it is worth repeating here—I am not willing to ignore knives made elsewhere, but I am willing to pay a premium for USA made stuff. Here, I get just as good a knife, maybe a little better, for the exact same price as the awesome Min Bodega. That’s a huge deal, especially for a comparatively small company in my home state of Ohio. Hinderer is bringing it and the flag-waving part of my soul is just a little bit happier for it.
The Half Track’s biggest competition, the ZT0900 and the the Strider PT, are both out of production. The Spyderco Techno is a similarly OOP knife. All of them were good, but I like the Half Track better. In terms of these small, beefy blades, the Half Track is my favorite. It happens to be as good or better a cutter than those knives are (were?). I also like it better than the WE Knives Valiant and the Peaceduke. The Valiant is a better flipper by a tiny margin, but the Half Track is a better, more refined knife overall and better in the pocket (which says a lot about the Valiant). The Techno II or whatever Spyderco is calling the next Slycz knife is a real competitor, but its not out as of the writing of this review.
As a side note, the Half Track’s design is solid enough I’d like to see some iteration. If they slimmed down the knife 10%-25% it would still be tough enough to be called a Hinderer, but it would be much more pocketable. We’d move from “great” to “all time great.” This is a knife that screams out for the LT treatment found on the Bark River Bravo 1. And I wouldn’t scream in protest to see a Hinderer folder in 3V.