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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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!