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Tactical triumph! Benchmade: from ground breaking to earth shaking!

Benchmade Knife Company is a commercial knife manufacturer who has been making some of the finest tactical folders on the market for over 15 years, well before the boom began. But to say the company just happened to be in the right place at the right time would be a huge mistake.

Benchmade started business about the same time custom knifemakers were developing a new genre of "combat folders," as they were referred to initially in the early 1990s. At the time, Les de Asis was a knifemaker himself and had an appreciation for the talent surrounding him. To his credit, Les recognized their design talents and foresaw the possibilities of incorporating their work into Benchmade's future efforts.

After getting the company on its feet, Les took to bold step of signing tip several of these custom knifemakers as designers and the rest is, as they say, history. Benchmade's collaborations with custom artisans, dating back to 1991, are now not only legendary, but widely practiced by manufacturers throughout the industry.

Benchmade's first tactical folders were well thought out. Highly respected knifemakers Mel Pardue and Phil Bogezewski were among the first the company signed on, and Mel remains a big part of the company's design team today: which features such other knifemaking notables as Warren Osborne and Mike Snody. Many of those early Benchmade designs were also offered as automatics, once again portending what has now become the rage in assisted-opening folders.

And to Benchmade's credit, the company has always made quality knives, pioneering the latest in designs and materials, reflecting many of the same traits the custom makers were offering. The company has built a highly devoted and extremely loyal customer base on the strength of such quality, which has in turn made Benchmade knives some of the most sought after modern knives among both serious users and collectors alike.

Enter The Triumvirate

Over the years Benchmade also created more excitement among the loyal customers by offering limited editions of more upscale versions of their standard line. More recently the company's marketing strategy became more clearly defined by the development of succinct classes of knives in the company's line.

Benchmade's standard offerings have always been packaged in a blue box readily familiar to their customers. Benchmade has now added a triumvirate of higher quality fare defined as Black, Red and Gold class knives.

The Blue Class is the heart and soul of Benchmade. The Blue Class is where customers have come to rely on exceptional designs, high-end materials, new technologies and innovation at its highest level. Everything within the Blue Class is made in the United States and displays a "fit and finish" unmatched in the industry.

The Black Class are professional, purpose-built products with an attitude of "best tool for the job"--focused on our Military, Law Enforcement and Public Safety personnel. These products are designed, developed and tested for extreme duty, and many are lawfully restricted for sale only to members of the armed forces and government agencies.

The Red Class is made up of a new level of products built to demanding engineering specifications by a select group of predominantly off-shore manufacturers. These products possess the same Benchmade mindset of leading innovation, modern materials and quality manufacturing driven to always be "best in class."

The Gold Class is another new level of products broaching the threshold of custom made knives. True to its name, Gold Class will be exemplary in its use of high-class materials, finishes, designs and heavily handmade execution. This is where you may see new concepts in manufacturing processes first developed; new designs and/or mechanisms come to life in a "custom class" effort.

Knives in each class are packaged in box colors according to their name. The new categorizations help customers better understand what type of knife they are buying and is a boon to users and collectors who want to move up to higher grade knives. Benchmade's Gold Class knives are made in what Les describes as a "plant within a plant" harkening back to the factory's custom knifemaking days. Gold class knives come packaged in a presentation quality case with a certificate of authenticity.

Pushing The Edge

Innovation has always been a key to Benchmade's success and the company's newest offerings continue the trend admirably. So respected is the company that two firearms industry heavyweights--the National rifle Association and Heckler & Koch--have partnered with Benchmade to produce their own private lines.

The Benchmade Rukus Blackwood-designed tactical folder (Model 610) caused a firestorm of interest at the 2006 Blade Show (where it garnered the 2006 American Made Knife of the Year award), and has not let up since, becoming of the most popular knives in the company's line. At 10.5" overall this is a handful of folding knife with a handle big enough to accommodate the largest of mitts.

The Rukus features a deep flatground 4.5" spear point blade with dual thumb studs for ambidextrous use and the blade locks up rock solid with Benchmade's patented Axis locking mechanism. The highlight of the Rukus, however, lies in a handle design not only drop-dead attractive but highly functional ergonomically. A deep index finger groove sits below a flared bolster that serves nicely as a guard and a two piece handle design that uses black G10 and green Micarta in a curvaceous combination. So popular is the knife that a Mini-Rukus (8.5" overall with a 3.40" blade) was recently introduced at the 2007 SHOT Show in Orlando.

Those looking for a hard-use, easy to conceal tactical folder will want to check out the Benchmade Apparition, Model 672. This folder, designed by Warren Osborne, is all business with G10 scales and a D2 steel blade with a Michael Walker liner-lock mechanism. The blade is assisted open by their removable "Optimiser" bar; all it takes is pushing the thumb stud up to a 30-degree angle and then the bar takes over, deploying the blade to its open position. The advantage of the removable Optimiser bar is the user can have a choice of a regular folding knife or an assisted opening knife, which comes in handy for some states whose laws don't allow for assisted opening knives. This is all good stuff, made even better by Osborne's trademark slick' n smooth styling.

Fixed Features

While Benchmade is known for their folding knives, the company has produced some very strong fixed-blades as well. The Mike Snody Model 210 Activator was first produced in a small 5.5" version with handles of black carbon fiber and silver G10. The knife has now been upsized (to 8.13" overall) into the Activator+ and fitted with handsome hardwood handles.

Benchmade's Presidio series features both a fixed-blade and folder, and for the design honors they harnessed up their two seasoned vets, Warren Osborne and Mel Pardue, to handle the design chores. Both knives feature highly sculpted machined aluminum handles with a grooved bi-directional pattern for enhanced grip and a black anodized finish for enhanced stealth.

Over 11" in overall length, the Model 155 Fixed Presidio is a handful of knife with the word "fighter" written all over it. The 6.2" 154CM stainless steel clip point blade can be had in a plain edge or partially serrated ComboEdge, with teeth on both the front and back of the blade. A highly functional multi-purpose black nylon sheath is provided.

The Pardue-designed Model 520 Presidio folder features the aforementioned machined aluminum handles with the AXIS lock incorporated into the handle. Pardue's clean styling is evident in the deep-ground 4.42" drop point blade (154CM steel) and nicely sculpted, grip-friendly handle design. Benchmade has spun off a mini-version of the Presidio, a model with a Tanto blade, and a training model as well. Automatic versions are available for both standard and mini Presidios.

Not one to be stuck in a groove, Benchmade has just released an emergency rescue tool dubbed the ERT-1 (Model 10105), This innovative tool features a folding hook blade for slicing through webbing, a spring-loaded glass breaker, and a submersible LED light--all wrapped up in a bright yellow handle. The blade is held secure via a lock-back mechanism and the light is easily accessed by a simple on-off button at the top of the handle. This tool is an EMT's dream.

It would take an entire issue of American Handgunner to cover the entire Benchmade line, which is mind-boggling to say the least. Pity the poor bean counters that have to keep up with it all, but you can wade through it easily at the company's website--just make sure you've got some time since you won't want to miss a page!

For more info: www.benchmade.com, (800) 800-7427.
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Author:Covert, Pat
Publication:American Handgunner
Date:Jul 1, 2007
Words:1451
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