Contest Winner Jeff O. Shows Off His New Mini-Griptilian

 

Editor’s Note: Jeff O. is the winner of our Gun/Knife writing contest. FNH-USA working to send him his brand-spanking new FNS-9, which we’ve been told will still take a few weeks to ship. He didn’t have to wait that long for his new Benchmade Mini-Griptilian, however. We’re thrilled that he’s taken some time to compare it to his previous EDC knife, the excellent Kershaw Shallot ZDP. Read and enjoy…

Image courtesy Jeff O.

Top: Benchmade Mini-Griptilian. Bottom: Kershaw Shallot ZDP

When my new Benchmade 556 Mini Griptilian® arrived yesterday (thanks TTAK!) I was surprised just how different it is from my current EDC knife, a ZDP-189 Kershaw Shallot, but then as I played with my new toy, er, I mean tool, I discovered that I really liked it, in many ways because it is so different. I still love my Shallot, but my new mini-Grip is really growing on me.

The mini-Grip is closer to the Kershaw Leek in size, and I chose the Shallot over the Leek because I wanted a larger blade and I really liked its graceful lines. However, over time I’ve found that smaller knives tend to be more nimble and easier to control.

Here are the specs on these two great knives. The ZDP-189 Shallot is discontinued, but you can still find Shallots in Sandvik 14C28N, and eBay still has a few Damascus models available if you want to pay a premium.

Knife

Kershaw Ken Onion Shallot 1840CBZDP (2008) Benchmade Mel Pardue 556 BKSN (2013)

Steel

“Composite” ZDP-189 (63-64HRC) edge bonded with a 14C28N spine 154CM stainless steel blade (58-60 HRC) with BK-1 coating

Geometry

Flat ground, recurve clip point Hollow ground, drop point

Handle

410 stainless steel, bead-blasted finish, with G-10 spacers Valox with stainless steel liner

Mechanism

SpeedSafe assisted opening with a frame/liner lock AXIS Lock with thumb studs

Clip Options

Tip Down or Tip Up Tip Up only, Ambidextrous

Blade Length

3.5″ 2.91″

Blade Thickness

0.09″ (2.25mm) 0.100″

Handle Thickness

0.35″ 0.510″

Overall Length

7.375″ 6.78″

Closed Length

4.375″ 3.87″

Weight

4.2 oz. 2.56 oz.

They are quite different, but someone looking for a good EDC knife will appreciate the strengths each one offers.

 Image courtesy Jeff O.

I love the way the Shallot SpeedSafe opens. I just press the flipper with the tip of my index finger and SNICK!, the blade is open and locked. Then I just adjust my grip and go. It’s got that switchblade-like intimidation factor that gets people’s attention (whether you intend to or not!) and in a self-defense situation you will make the bad guy think twice. The thumb studs and AXIS lock on the mini-Grip took me about 10 minutes of play time to get used to. The trick is to flick the thumb stud with my thumb nail like I’m trying to push the blade straight out the front like a stiletto, rather than deliberately trying to swing it out sideways and around. At the same time, I give a solid flick of the wrist and it locks into place. To close the knife (and this is my favorite part), I just pull back on the AXIS lock with my thumb and index finger and then flip the knife closed. It’s a lot easier than disengaging the Shallot’s liner lock with my thumb while simultaneously starting to close the blade, then adjusting my grip to get my fingers out of the way and finally closing it with my index finger. Both locks hold the knife blade positively closed, offering resistance to accidental opening and both are very strong. I’ve never worried about my knife closing on my fingers at an inopportune time, especially while I was putting some muscle into the job.


One of the drawbacks of the Shallot comes from its slick stainless handle. I’ve only had it slip out of my pocket twice in the years I’ve had it. The most memorable was on base right in front of some Security Forces guys, and of course, it landed perfectly on the flipper and popped open right there on the sidewalk where everyone could see. Heart pounding, I nonchalantly picked it up, closed it and put it back in my pocket and kept walking. Nothing to see here, move along… However, despite its slick feel, I’ve never had a problem with the knife slipping when I’ve used it. Granted, I haven’t tried to disassemble an elk with it, but the well-designed contours and minimalist jimping assure a positive grip, even when my hands are wet. The mini-Griptilian, with its textured, jimped, contoured scales, is almost sticky in comparison. It doesn’t draw as easily as the Shallot, but it sure stays put in my pocket. I can foresee it wearing out the edge of my pocket a lot faster than the Kershaw. The ergonomics are wonderful no matter which grip I use for my cutting task. The balance on both knives is a shade handle heavy, but it makes the blades feel light and quick.

The difference in clip orientation on the mini-Grip is giving me some issues. I carry the Kershaw tip down, but the mini-Grip only allows tip up. Because I’ve been conditioned to putting my Shallot in my pocket with the hinge up, I keep trying to put the Benchmade in my pocket upside down and, with the clip going in backwards, the knife just slides in like a traditional folder. That got me thinking that I could just remove the clip and use it as a pocket knife (sacrilege!). It’s small enough to keep from printing too much and rides pretty comfortably. I will experiment with it and see which works best, which is something you need to do with a new knife before settling into a routine. On the whole, these are minor issues that a little practice on my part will resolve. When you invest in a quality tool, it pays to take the time to learn to use it.

BM556-KershawZDP-2


The lesson I finally learned just before buying my Shallot was that cheap knives with cheap steel just cause more work, although they did give me lots of practice using a whet stone. Don’t buy cheap shoes, and don’t buy cheap knives. Both of these knives are made to last. ZDP-189 is classed either as a “super-steel” or by a few as an “exotic.” With a Rockwell of 63 or so, it holds an edge forever, but I’ve found it still pays to do regular maintenance every couple of weeks to keep the edge in top shape. It just takes a few swipes on the stone to keep the edge razor sharp. Because it is so abrasion resistant, sharpening ZDP-189 is more difficult, but not as impossible as some people have opined. I use my Lansky set with its synthetic stones for both touch ups and full sharpening jobs and it does very well. (I’ve found the same with my Benchmade D2 Bone Collector hunting knife.) I won’t get into the whole, “oil, water or dry” religious discussion, but I’ve found sometimes using a dry stone with the harder steels works a bit better. The 154CM in the mini-Grip has a good reputation, so I expect good performance from it as well. The grind looks even, and even though the edge isn’t mirror polished (yet), it shaved hair off my arm easily.

So now I have two very different knives, but I like them both a lot. I think the Shallot, being bigger, is better for self-defense when I can’t legally carry a handgun and sometimes a longer blade is handy. I don’t know if the mini-Grip will replace my Shallot as my EDC, but for those occasions when I need to put on a tie (for marryin’, buryin’ or interviewin’) and a knife clip sticking out of my pocket doesn’t really fit the social situation, the mini-Grip will sit concealed in the bottom of my pocket. Being lighter and having a better grip, it will definitely be coming along on hiking / camping / fishing / hunting trips.

I am very grateful to the guys at TTAK for this knife. It is really a wonderful prize! I’m also excited about receiving my new polymer, striker-fired, DAO FNS-9 in another week or two. Like my new and old knives, it is totally different from my all steel, hammer-fired, DA/SA IWI Baby Eagle. I have a feeling I’m going to have a similar reaction, and a similar article.

 

comments

  1. Out_Fang_Thief says:

    Congrats on the win, Jeff. It’s clear that you will enjoy both of your rewards.
    About the pocket carry. When I last had a girlfriend, she sewed a secondary pocket in my pocket(leg-side) to carry my folder so it wouldn’t get stripped by the bucket seats in my 2 seat rocket car. The heart-stopping anxiety of reaching for a knife that isn’t there is about as bad as wondering just when and where the knife got out. With a little hand stitching, the fit can be properly tailored for more than one knife. FWIW.

    1. scubamatt says:

      If you are into cargo pants, Tru-Spec’s tactical pants come with ambidextrous knife pockets sewn on each upper outer thigh area, basically just behind the outer seam of the pants leg and a few finger widths from where you normally clip a pocket knife in the front pocket of your jeans.

      I wear cargo pants pretty much every day at work, and the Tru-specs are very comfortable (they have a hidden elastic panel on each hip), and my EDC knife is always in one or the other pocket. They are not large/deep enough for a really big pocket knife, but they fit medium small folders comfortably and secure.

      1. Chris Dumm says:

        +1 for the Tru-Spec recommendation.

  2. Mark Davis says:

    Jeff – thanks for the write-up. I like the mini Griptilian, but I think the full size Grip might be a better comparison for your Shallot. I encourage you to try one – they’re great knives.

  3. Jeff says:

    Thanks for the idea, Fang. Unfortunately, my wife hates sewing, so the task almost always falls to me.
    Mark, the next time I’m at the store I’ll check out the full size Griptilian. Quality knives are an investment, so it pays to research and play before you buy.

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Contest Winner Jeff O. Shows Off His New Mini-Griptilian

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