So I recently purchased a new knife, having unfortunately lost my previous one out raking leaves on the same day, ironically, that I lost my wallet, keys, and cell phone… but that’s another story.
My last knife was a CRKT M16-13Z, which was a pretty decent knife. You can find a good review of it here. The only thing I’d add is to say that I found the clip somewhat less than satisfactory. The black paint wears off pretty quickly, at least with the kind of wear I put it through. Worse still, the three little screws that hold it on are placed in a short line or arc, and the leverage of being in my pocket as I move throughout the day would loosen them significantly. I did use Loctite® on them a few times, but it only helped partially. This did nothing to help the fact that the clip is a bit small for the knife in the first place. So not the greatest clip, but all in all a good knife — beefy and tactical, and I really liked the “flipper” opening mechanism. But now, on to the feature presentation.
At the risk of being redundant, however, I’ll reiterate the main points of interest, as well as give my personal impressions. First off, as I mentioned, the knife is affordable; pricing runs from around $18 to $25 on most retail websites. Its weight is 2.4 oz, meaning it’s easy to forget you’re carrying it. Nevertheless, it still feels quite sturdy, which brings me to build quality. The knife handle scales are made of G10, an extremely durable, lightweight material. From the Benchmade website:
G10: An extremely durable makeup of layers of fiberglass soaked in resin, then highly compressed and baked. Impervious to moisture or liquid and physically stable under climate change. Most commonly black, but is available in various colors, too.
Besides being surprisingly light and rugged, the handles are also nicely checkered for grip. The M16-13Z I previously mentioned had Zytel plastic scales, which give more grip in extreme conditions than stainless steel or titanium, but they were also thicker and heavier. These G10 scales accomplish the same thing without the thickness or weight. So, those are good, if you hadn’t got the idea. Moving on.
The blade is 2.875 inches long and made up of 8Cr14MoV steel, which is comparable to AUS8. In other words, it’s a high-quality (especially for the price) blade with good hardness and edge retention. Have a look at this steel chart for a more technical breakdown. The volcano-shaped thumb studs work very nicely, and the blade flicks open with ease. This is largely due to the Teflon and what looks like Phosphor Bronze bushings, both low-friction materials that make for a very smooth deployment. The top of the blade and the liner lock at the choil area have minor jimping, but this knife is decidedly more of an EDC (Every Day Carry) knife than a tactical model. Oh, and I like the blade shape… kind of understated and attractive. The liner lock is solid and holds the blade rigidly in place. Like the M16-13Z, the liner incorporates a little knob that corresponds to a divot on the base of the blade, meaning the blade snaps firmly shut, and requires a bit of pressure to flick open; this is a nice feature because it keeps the blade from coming open easily in a pocket or backpack. However, the Drifter does lack the LAWKS system found on many CRKT models, and even a good liner lock like this may fail under extreme torque. Again, EDC, not tactical.
Finally, the pocket clip. This is, in my opinion, one of the real strong points of the knife. Going back again to the M16-13Z, this is another area where the Drifter wins out. For a knife that CRKT markets at $60, twice the price of the Drifter, one might expect AUS8 steel instead of AUS6, Teflon *and* Phosphor Bronze Bushings, G10 scales, and a decent pocket clip. Don’t get me wrong, I like the M16 series, but the Drifter really has something going. (It does have a couple of down points too, but I’ll get to those in a minute.)
As you can see from this picture, the clip is securely mounted with three screws around the pivot screw. Furthermore, the triangular arrangement of the screws provides a much stronger bracing against day-to-day tension and leverage. To be fair, I should mention that the clip is not adjustable, so if you are left-handed or favor a tip-up carry, you may prefer something like the Spyderco Tenacious. But for a knife in this price range, you can’t expect everything, and the Drifter does quite well on most counts. I described above the shortcomings of my M16-13Z on this point, and I’m pleased to say the Drifter nails it. This clip is awesome.
Having said that, I suppose I should get to the cons, few though they are. Firstly and most importantly, the gray satin finish on the blade is something less than rugged. Maybe I’m just rough on blades, but for an EDC knife like this, I shouldn’t have the finish wear off under relatively mild abrasion. Granted, other stainless or bead-blasted blades I’ve had got scratched up after so much hard usage, but after a month this blade has a number of scratches where the satin finish has worn off, which is somewhat annoying. My input? Go with a bead-blasted finish, CRKT. And secondly — well, I guess this isn’t really a con — flicking this blade open or holding it for normal use, the knife doesn’t even fill my whole hand. The handle is 3.625 inches, which in comparison to the M16-13Z at 4.75 inches is definitely on the petite side. Then again, for a lightweight EDC knife I don’t guess it’s such a bad thing… it just feels weird when aggressively flicking it open.
So there you have it. In summary, the CRKT Drifter is an excellent-value, lightweight, rugged, liner-locking EDC knife with a quality blade and smooth deployment. I love the shape and feel of the whole knife, and definitely recommend this one.