Spyderco Para3 Lightweight Review


Its always hard to buck popular opinion and my original Para3 was doing just that—giving Spyderco’s most popular new release in years a less than glowing review.  It did not put me in good stead in the IKC.  I was the proverbial turd in the punch bowl at the Para3’s debutante ball.  But the core of those criticisms is still true.  It takes the big-knife-that-carries-like-a-little-knife appeal of the PM2 and just makes it a knife that carries like the exact size it is.  It also makes the compression lock, which was already a bit pinchy for my liking and makes it the centerpiece of a handle resulting in a grip as inviting as a live lobster’s claw.  And finally there was the clip, which, without spare real estate to hide in, was like the hotel lobby at a tech convention—a myriad of hot spots.  It was a meh knife in an uber competitive market where “amazing” was par for the course.  Suffice to say the Para3 is not a knife I recommend on a regular basis.

But Spyderco released a new version, a lightweight version, and a few of the criticisms I had are gone.  Yes, this knife is better than the original Para3.  But that is a backhanded compliment, like being the skinniest sumo wrestler.  Yes, it is also a Delica-killer.  Which is, as well, something of a mixed message.  Sure it is a Delica-killer but so are about three dozen other knives.  In the end, I am convinced that the LW is the best version of the Para3, but I am not sure what that amounts to compared to the rest of the market.  Let’s see how it does by the numbers.  

Here is the product page for the Spyderco Para3 LW.  There is currently only one version.  That will change perhaps before you finish reading this sentence.  The knife runs $91 at Blade HQ.  Here is my review sample (purchased with my own money):


Twitter Review Summary: Slightly less meh than the original. 

Design: 1

While the weight is down a bit, the two problems I had with the original remain.  For its blade length this is a tall, fat knife.  It may be lighter but it is still a medium sized knife that carries like a medium sized knife.  The mirage of the PM2 is still not found here.  The other problem, the pinchy handle thanks to the lack of real estate and the inclusion of the compression lock, remains as well.  

After a year or so, I am sort of mystified by the people that love the Para3.  Are they not using the same knife I am?  Do they have freakishly shaped hands that allow them to grip this knife and not be snapped at when opening the blade?  I just can’t figure it out.  In the traditional grip used to open a Spyderco I am getting bit by the lock about 90% of the time.  Sure, I can do some real finger yoga to get out of the way, but the fundamental problem remains—the smallish handle and large-ish lock make for a bad and painful combination here.  Is it really the case that everyone is finger flicking or Spyder dropping this knife open? 

B:H is .70 while the B:W is 1.25.  Both are okay with the weight one being better here, but even then, its nothing to write home about (not that you do that—write home about knife design: “Dear Mom, I got this new version of an old knife everyone is raving about and it still kinda stinks...” ).

Fit and Finish: 2

Nothing to complain about here.  The FRN, for as much as people complain about it on the Internet, is still really good in use and is well made here. The blade centering is dead on, the blade is nicely finished.  Golden may not be as good as Taichung, but they are certainly very good at finishing knives.   

Grip: 0


Still stinks for reasons discussed above.  Honestly, why people ignore this in their extended lovefest for the Para3 is beyond me.  Its almost like an old fairy tale about a political leader that refuses to don clothes.  The clip is much improved here, but the original was so bad that even an improved grip still results in a score of 0.  

Carry: 2

Its still pretty good in the pocket, but the point made in the review of the original remains—why bother carrying this when you can get all of the same features on a PM2 and it takes up roughly the same amount of space.  Or, for an even more pointed comparison, see this versus the Chap in FRN.  Honestly, while this is a good knife, there are a dozen knives in Spyderco’s own line up that are just superior.   

Steel: 1

Let’s be clear—BD1N is a good steel, probably my favorite non-PM steel out there other than some weirdo steels like LC200N or INFI.  But the inclusion of this newish steel is a cost savings move, it is not because the steel is better than the steel on the original.  Its a shame and an obvious money grab that they release this knife with this steel.  It gives them room to release yet another Para3 LW with better steel.  Don’t believe me?  See the original LW knife in Spyderco’s line up—the Manix 2 LW.  BD1 steel then upgraded steel.  See also every evergreen knife in the Spyderco line up (and to be fair, lots of knife companies do this).  Releasing a new design with meh steel only to release that same design with better steel is as predictable a move as GM releasing a Z06 in the second year of a new Corvette model.  The steel itself isn’t bad at all, not great, but definitely good.  The frustrating thing is we all know a Para3 LW with balls-out great steel is coming.  Can’t we just cut to the chase and get the good stuff first? 

Blade Shape: 2


Like Greg Maddux at the height of his powers, Spyderco keeps pumping out this blade shape with consistently great results, grooving it in there like Maddux’s two seamer.  There really isn’t another knife that has this blade shape, in large part because of the Spydiehole, but it is, was, and probably always will be very good.  If you have owned a Spyderco in the past 20 years, you know this already. 

Grind: 2

I bitch because the knife is tall in the pocket and that is definitely true, but that height has one major advantage—it gives the grind plenty of real estate to reduce a thick spine to a thin edge.  Like its design brethren the PM2 and the Military, your getting an excellent grind because it has the beefiness of a thick blade stock with a very keen, slicey edge.  Personally, I have no qualms starting with a thin stock to begin with, but if you like your steel like your vegetable soup—chunky—this is a way to salvage some performance.  

Deployment Method: 2

While not as slinky and quick as a knife on double washers or bearings, the single washer and FRN set up works well here. It doesn’t fire out, but it is smooth and rolls out easily. The thumb hole is very large, the largest on any Spyderco I have seen and, of course, it is the key to the knife’s nice deployment.

Retention Method: 2


Let’s just clear the forest—the Spyderco wire clip, the stiffer version, is the best production clip in all of knifedom.  Its discrete, never a paint scraper, and rarely causes hot spots.  Here it is a substantial upgrade to spoon clip on the original.  It relieves the knife of all hotspots other than those associated with the pinchy compression lock. 

Lock/Blade Safety: 1

As a lock, the compression lock is great.  It’s side effect is something I have noted above, but lock-wise it is good.  Having tried the button activated version on the Smock SK23, I prefer that version to the stock Spyderco version. 

Other Considerations

Fidget Factor: High

With the compression lock you might not get a comfortable grip, but you get lots and lots of finger entertainment.  It allows for a cool looking but useless Spydie flick opening.  Snap, click, open, squeeze, click, close.

Fett Effect: Very Low

With a blasted blade and FRN handle, this knife will look like new for years.  If that is your jam, this is a great carry option.

Value: Medium

For less money you can find better steel.  The XHP on the Chaparral is a nice improvement.  Chinese blades at this price bear better materials all around.  Compared to the Gent, for example, this is a bit of a shabby value, though it is not obscenely bad.  This is about par. 

Overall Score: 15 out of 20

The original was not my favorite knife and yielded a score of 14 out of 20.  This knife is better, but even with a bit of weight shedding and a objectively superior clip, its only marginally better at 15 out of 20.  One day, many years from now, all of knifedom will wake up from its collective fever dream about the Para3 and say: “Man, this knife isn’t that good.”  When it does, I will be there with a cool, damp cloth, patting sweat from knifedom’s brow saying: “I told you so” in hushed, comforting tones.   

The Competition

This is an odd knife where we have a direct competitor in the same line up.  I am planning on doing a shoot out between this knife, the Bugout, and the TRM Neutron, but before we get there, let’s just revel in a single comparison—the Para3LW v. the Chaparral in FRN

The price is basically a wash.  The Para3 LW is $91 at BHQ.  The Chap FRN is $89.05.  The difference of $1.95 is small, but breaks in favor of the Chap.  The Para3 is a bigger knife in the hand and in the pocket.  As you can see below, it is longer when closed:


And taller as well:


But in the one measure that really matters, blade length, they are a virtual dead heat:


The weight breaks in favor of the Chap, 2.0 ounces v. 2.4 ounces.  And the steel breaks in favor of the Chap, a very good PM steel versus a very good non-PM steel.  Same intended focus for the steel—overall performance, but one is just better than the other.  The Chap is significantly thinner and far better in the pocket.  It is also way thinner behind the edge thanks to very thin stock.  It out slices the Para3 like a sword outcarving a hockey stick.  Some people complain about the Chap’s thin stiff lockbar, which I agree with, but it is nowhere near as painful as the pinchy lock on the Para3 LW.

And so the comparison comes down to this—there is no objective measure of these two knives in which the Para3 beats out the Chap.  Some folks like the compression lock and that is fine, but that is a preference (and a poor one at that).  But objectively speaking, the if we are talking about Delica killers, the Chap FRN crushes both the Delica and the Para3 LW.  Other than fanboys of the Para3, there is no one I would recommend the Para3 LW to over the FRN Chap. 

Look for the Lightweight Full Sized EDC Shootout coming soon for a broader comparison to other non-Spyderco knives.