Accessory Review: Allen Putman G10 Scales for Bencmhade Griptilian and Mini-Griptilian

Image courtesy of David C. Andersen

If you are like me, you love your Benchmade Griptilians. They are solid, completely ambidextrous, USA made, and feature Benchmade’s excellent Axis lock system. I find the Mini size to be perfect for my EDC, and the Large makes an excellent alternative or backup to a fixed blade when I am in the field.

The only criticism I level at these knives are towards their handles. Don’t get me wrong, they are perfectly functional and I have never had any issues with them throughout years of use. They are strong and lightweight, and their ergonomics are excellent. But, Benchmade makes them out of Noryl GTX. Translation: plastic. Considering the cheapest Griptilians cost nearly a c-note, this can rub some people the wrong way.

Fortunately, there are options out there to upgrade your Grips!

Allen Putman Blade Scales is one company that offers replacement scales not just for Griptilians, but for assorted Benchmade, Spyderco, and Zero Tolerance models. I decided to order a set of his G10 Honey Pattern scales for my Mini and Large Ritter Griptilians and see what they would do to improve my blades.

Image courtesy of David C. Andersen

Package Contents

Putman has a variety of colors that are available. I chose Royal Blue for my Large Griptilian, and classic Black for the Mini. Each set of Putman scales comes with two side slabs with the honeycomb pattern machined into the surface, a crenelated black backspacer, and new screws for the pocket clip.

Assembly 

Assembly is fairly straightforward. Apart from the clip screws, all of the original screws that secure the factory scales are reused. Thread lockeris applied to some of them so you may need a little extra torque to remove them. It should be noted that disassembling your Griptilian in this way will void your Benchmade factory warranty.

On reassembly it can be a little tricky to get the pivot pin all the way back through, but this is due to the nature of the Axis lock and nothing to do with the scales.

Image courtesy of David C. Andersen

The factory scales have a sort of “raised platform” that the pocket clip screws into, whereas on the Putman, the holes are flush with the surface. Because of this, the ends of the pocket clip screws protrude into the center more than with the stock scales. The replacement screws that Putman includes are shorter to prevent any blade contact with the screws.

Fit and Finish

I was impressed by the quality of the fully assembled product. Everything screwed together perfectly on both sets, with no gaps. Unlike the stock scales which are heavily contoured, the Putman scales are slab-sided in nature with nicely chamfered edges to keep them comfortable. The factory jimping on the thumb ramp and forefinger area line up perfectly with the cutouts on the new scales.

Image courtesy of David C. Andersen

On the Large scales I did find two small discolored spots on the presentation side, but otherwise the scales were perfect. The backspacer did have a few issues however. The crennelations were a little uneven, but more importantly, the blade edge was making contact with the backspacer on the end closest to the blade pivot.

Image courtesy of David C. Andersen

The contact was minor, and was nothing a couple seconds on the belt sander couldn’t take care of, but I emailed Allen to let him know about the issue. This was his response.

Thanks David – I’ll check that out, back spacers can be a pain to make – probably a finishing mistake or tool wear – Allen

I was hoping for a little more in answer from him but fair enough.

The issue could also be attributed to variances in blade shape. I have owned a few examples of the Ritter Mini-Griptilians and the blade shape has been visibly different on each one, all dependant on how they were sharpened at the factory. I’ve even had one with a factory edge displaying a bit of a recurve, due to the sharpening job by Benchmade. The two featured in this review are ground very thin at the edge and have taller sides than I have seen on many examples. 

Image courtesy of David C. Andersen

I did find some minor F&F issues with the Mini scales, but overall the construction is quite good. There were no blade contact issues with the backspacer, but the crennelations also displayed some unevenness and there was some evidence of rubbing near the pivot area of the scales on both sides. The pivot fit through the holes just fine, but the countersinking is just a little off center. I feel like I’m just picking nits here.

The screws stick out into the center a little bit, more than on the stock scales, but are nowhere close to making contact with the blade. I wouldn’t call this an issue, just an observation, as the scales would either have to be thicker to eliminate this issue, (and they are already thick enough as it is) or a full set of screws would need to be included.

Some other details worth noting:

  • The holes for the pocket clip are drilled for right-side carry only. Sorry southpaws.
  • All of the screws are countersunk on the Mini, but the pivot and liner screws on the Large are not.

Image courtesy of David C. Andersen

  • The lanyard holes are a bit smaller than the factory holes, but still large enough to accomodate paracord.
  • The Large is roughly the same overall thickness of the stock scales and the Mini is slightly thicker than stock.

Feel and Grip 

Here is where my opinion of the two sizes diverge. The character of each knife is changed fundamentally by the addition of the scales, but in different ways and to different degrees of success. 

putman-large-in-hand

The effect of the Putman scales on the Large Griptilian are transformative, immediately being felt in the way the knife balances in the hand. The Benchmade scales on the Large are very light, and tend to come off feeling hollow. This gives the knife a very blade heavy balance. The Putman scales are more weighty and they move the tipping point almost perfectly to the natural resting point of the index finger. This makes the balance almost neutral, but slightly biased toward the handle, which better suits a knife this size than does a blade heavy bias. As a result, the knife feels more nimble and fast in the hand.

putman-mini-in-hand

Whereas the Large Griptilian becomes more nimble with the addition of the Putman scales, the Mini becomes slightly less so. The thinner and more contoured Benchmade scales allow for finer control over the blade than the Putman slabs do. It isn’t really the extra thickness that is the problem, but the lack of contouring, especially around the forefinger area. Conversely, the Putmans do give you more to hold on to in heavy grips.

Image courtesy of David C. Andersen

Speaking of, both sizes of the Putmans excel in heavy use. Apart from the thumb and forefinger jimping, the Benchmade scales have a lot of additional ridges, jimping, and texturing formed into the plastic, and these can cause hotspots for me when whittling hardwood. The Putman scales are much more comfortable for these tasks, especially when you really have to bear down on a cut.

This extra smoothness is also a boon for your pockets. The texturing on the Mini-Griptilian is fairly sharp when new. Unless you smooth down the part underneath the pocket clip it can chew up your pockets over time and I’ve got the jeans to prove it. No such problem with the Putmans. Retention is still good, but it makes pocketing and deploying the knife less destructive on your garments.

The G10 does naturally add some heft to the knives, but the weight gain is minor. The stock Ritter Griptilians are lightweights, 3.82 oz on the Large and 2.68 oz on the Mini. Weighing my assembled examples, the Large Ritter Griptilian with Putman scales weighs in at 4.5 oz, and the Ritter Mini-Griptilian with Putman scales is 2.95 oz.

Image courtesy of David C. Andersen

Conclusions 

The price for these scales is currently $75, which may seem steep. You’ll have to decide whether it is worth it to you. For me, it is a must-have upgrade on the Large Griptilian. The improved balance and hard use comfort is a good trade off for the slight increase in weight. On the Mini, the results are less clear cut. If you prefer a handle better suited to heavy use than the stock Benchmade scales, then the Putman scales are a great option. They may have a few minor finishing issues, but the quality is good and they possess sharp  looks that will compliment your sharp blade!

comments

  1. Cool article David. You definitely hit my #1 criticism of the MinGrip, notably it’s tendency to shred ones pockets. But I love the knife. And it is nice to see some aftermarket interest in any knife.

  2. Dutch S. says:

    You know, I certainly “get” the idea of a relatively expensive knife. I have several that I hesitate to put in leather for field use because of either price or aesthetic reasons. In the end though, much like your Griptilian, they do get used and often. Mine tend to be fixed blades but six of one and half of the other…

    That said, a quick check on Amazon and the Benchmade(s) are about $100 each. Despite the Axis Lock, neither BM offers anything unique relative to some other US made blades at similar or lower prices. I won’t offer examples as that would sidetrack your review. Which I’m grateful btw to add pointed out merits and drawbacks without becoming free marketing for BM.

    For $100+ I refuse to think I’m going to need aftermarket scales for a good and proper fit. At that price point, it’s a given that the tool is “run what ya’ brung’. With shipping we’re now pushing the $200 barrier and that’s ridiculous for a folding EDC. Not for one second am I bashing the price point…if you have the coin and this is your “thing” then by all means… However, the Griptilian is marketed (paraphrasing hear) as an all day – every day workhorse. Oh, just as long as you pop for grips that are made from a proper material and may or may not fit any better than the OEM’s that came with the knife out of the box.

    Benchmade is rapidly turning into a great marketing company that just happens to make folding knives. $100 out of the box should buy a well thought out and comfortable tool for most jobs. A $200 tool is deep into the piggy bank and to read it still isn’t quite 99%, well… I pass.

    Dutch S.

    1. “$100 out of the box should buy a well thought out and comfortable tool for most jobs.”

      I’d say it still does. I’ve carried the Mini for about 5 years now and have loved it. Nothing I have tried has been able to unseat its role as my main EDC. For the review I tried to highlight improvements that the Putman grips made to the knives.

      That said, now that Benchmade has been enforcing higher prices with online dealers, they are not as much of a bargain as they once were, and the lack of better handle materials at the price point is a disappointment.

  3. Nice review.
    I love my mini grip as is. I’ve never had a problem with it tearing my pants. In fact IMO it is one of the better pocket clips I have ever used.

    In regards to price/performance. I don’t think for $90-$100 that you can find a better american made EDC knife. ..
    And man…that Axis lock is fun.

    The only upgrade I would ever think about doing is putting wood scales on it. To give it a classic look.

  4. Raina Collins says:

    I own one Grip, a plain black large clip. It does feel cheap in the handle area but the blade is my complaint. The geometry on my example sucks and I cannot get the 154CM to take or hold an edge for anything. I adore the Axis lock and the comfortable handling, but the heat treat on mine is unacceptable.

    1. Bummer. I love mine. You can tell by the pocket clip in my “Are you Mono-laminous” post. Paint has rubbed off with a couple of full years of use.

      I have never had a problem with the blade holding an edge. Hmm…

  5. Bob says:

    I have 2 mini grips. First thing I did was ditch the ninja clips. They’re pocket knives.

    Didn’t know there was anything wrong with the handles until I read this. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

  6. Len Zielenski says:

    A very nice, thorough review. Thank you. My first observation would be the F&F of aftermarket scales, or their lack, can be and apparently is, more a comment on the lack of quality control of the Benchmade blade than the scales. At their price point this is sad. More so when you can find near 99% repeatability in a $20 China made knife.

    I also have both large and small Griptilians. I can’t comment on their EDC usability because I simply can’t make myself carry either except under rare occasion. The cheap feel of the handle and hollow echo when closing the blade bother me, especially in light of their price is a total put-off. Consequently I probably will purchase a set of Allen’s scales. Its just a shame I will literally have to double the price of my Mini-Grip just to make it a satisfying carry. This just goes to show that being American Made doesn’t inherently make it better. You have to work to be the best. If Benchmade adopted the Spyderco motto of Constant Quality Improvement this might never have been an issue. Bottom line, Allen has made it possible to turn a Grip into a Delica. Your mileage may vary.

    1. Doug DePaul says:

      While I love and carry my Delica often, it does not have an AXIS lockup, one needs to step up to a Benchmade if such things matter. And to match a Doug Ritter Benchmade Grip now your talking Spycerco Paramilitary…and still no AXIS lock.

      1. Len Zielenski says:

        If you like an Axis lock, by all means please indulge yourself. It is one of my absolute least favorite locks. A lock that allows a blade to drop freely on my fingers is far down my list. At least a compression lock forces the hand to the back of the knife and clear of the path of the blade while still giving you that free-flipping feel. More to the point, is a Doug Ritter really even a Griptillian? The blade isn’t. So if you put Allen’s scales on a Ritter blade, what is it? Oh! I know! Expensive. You’re now in the double Paramilitary 2 range. Let’s face it, people speak with their wallets. There are what, a thousand to one PM2′ s for every DR Grip? Maybe 10 thousand?

        This just furthers my point, the Grip, designed in 15 minutes is a decent knife. Better handles make it a BETTER knife. Nothing done as of yet makes it a REFINED knife. Minor improvements can make a world of difference in a tool. For a manufacturer to assume an offering is perfect out of the gate and stick with a design despite any comment to the contrary is sheer hubris.

  7. john burke says:

    would like the blue honey comb G 10 scales for my Delica 4. Can you install them?

  8. mixilplict says:

    Hi all,

    For the guy who said there are lots of sub $100 US knives please tell me what they are, and how they are comparable to a Grip? For the PM2 lovers it’s a great knife best spyderco offering in years it’s still a $150 knife at best and usually more if you want to ensure its not a fake, also the S30v in it rockwell is soft so they might use the steel but you don’t get the full benefits. (Yes I had it independently Rockwell tested) Axis compared to compression, you can close anything on your fingers if you are a dunce, I love the compression lock but the axis is better especially for the left handed of the world. As far as the price point I agree that investing 200 in a griptilian is sort of silly unless you already have one and just want to upgrade after some time. The most bang for your buck is a Benchmade HK with Axis lock G10 scales and D2 at $140 is a deal, for the people who don’t want to mess around just get the Contego. All said the custom scales are awesome and definitely make the Grip a better knife, are there options, yes but if you love your Grip and want it pimped out its an awesome offering.

  9. Len Zielenski says:

    I don’t see anyone making claims for sub $100 US made knives since the thinking person knows that country of manufacturer is irrelevant anyway. I also consider the PM2 a $100 knive, I got mine at Howes for $99, new. It pays to shop. If you still irrationally want a US made knife, Spyderco Native fills all bills. So does a Kershaw Blur. I even picked up a new, open box ZT200 for $80. Talk about build quality! And to remain on topic, I would carry any of the blades listed above over a stock Grip.

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Accessory Review: Allen Putman G10 Scales for Bencmhade Griptilian and Mini-Griptilian

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