Image courtesy of David C. Andersen
Knife Review

Knife Review: Benchmade 665 APB Assisted-Opening Knife

Image courtesy of David C. Andersen

When visiting the Benchmade booth at BLADE Show 2015, I had the chance to handle the 665 APB, and I was impressed at how comfortable the knife was. The 665 features an ambidextrous push-button lock that is new for 2015. It was developed for the 6800 APB automatic knife, and appears here in assisted-opening form.

No folder can ever match the in-hand comfort of a good fixed blade, but the APB is one of the best I have encountered so I was eager to give it a try. I wondered if this knife could dethrone my customized Doug Ritter Griptilian as my go-to folder for outdoors pursuits. Benchmade was kind enough to give me a 665 so I could find out.

Overview


Detailed Specs
Blade: 154CM Drop Point, Flat Grind, light Stonewash Finish
Rockwell Hardness: 58-61 HRC
Scales: Black/Blue G10
Pivot: Adjustable
Locking mechanism: Ambidextrous Push Button with spine mounted safety
Clip: Ambidextrous, tip-up, black painted “deep carry” clip
Country of Origin: USA
MSRP/Street Price: $210/$180 approximate

Dimensions (measured on this test sample)
Overall Length: 8.3825”
Handle Length: 4.8125”
Handle Thickness: 0.67” at the pivot, tapers to 0.473” at the butt
Blade Length (tip to scale): 3.57”
Sharpened Length: 3.345”
Blade Thickness: 0.125”
Weight: 5.45oz


Image courtesy of David C. Andersen

The heart of the 665 is the new lock. Ultimately, what I want to know is how well it compares with Benchmade’s superlative Axis lock system.

Most importantly, how strong is it? The Axis is famous for being able to withstand over 1000 pounds of force before failing in some configurations, and it is often the liner or scales of the knife that fail first. According to the Benchmade blokes the APB is an evolution of the Axis design but they haven’t yet released final figures on strength. The 665 is currently in the queue at their test lab and we will let you know when those results become available.

Image courtesy of David C. Andersen

The APB mechanism is significant when it comes to automatic knives as most push-button autos are set up for right handed individuals. Benchmade is the first (as far as I know) to get around this by creating a mechanism that works just the same for lefties and righties. It looks almost like an Axis lock, but instead of pulling back on a bar, you push a button instead. You can push either side individually, or both simultaneously. The process is the same for closing the blade. Pick which buttons you want to use, press in, and close.

Image courtesy of David C. Andersen

That covers how the automatic version works, but the 665 is an assisted-opening variant of the APB system. With the 665, you open the blade just like any other one-handed opener. After pushing out on the thumbstuds, the assist takes over and the hefty blade slams open with a solid thwack. I’ve gone out of my way to repeatedly open and close the blade many times and after a brief break-in period, the spring is still as strong as the day I first opened it.

Like many assisted devices, closing the blade requires more effort than opening, and can be difficult one handed. This is one of the first areas I feel the APB is inferior to Benchmade’s Axis-assist system.

With the Axis-assist devices, you can close the blade one-handed, without your fingers ever crossing the path of the blade. You simply pull back on the lock bar with your thumb and middle finger, and then close the blade with your index finger.

With the APB, I found it impossible to use the same motions because the forces on the left and right side are pushing against each other, rather than pulling in the same direction. The closing process went like so:

Grasp the handle with your fingers wrapped around the front, push the button with your thumb, start to move the blade with index finger, move other fingers out of the way, finish closing. A bit awkward to say the least. Even though I’ve gotten used to it over time, it is less than ideal. To be safe, two-handed closing is strongly recommended.

A feature the APB shares with the Axis-assist is a spine-mounted safety. This sliding bar locks the lock, not the blade, and can be used with the blade opened or closed. It isn’t stainless however. After a dunk underwater, I did notice some minor surface corrosion on the bar.

Image courtesy of David C. Andersen

As to the aesthetics of the knife, I was a little put off by the combination blue and black G10, but in person it was far less garish than I feared. The blade is a classic drop point, dressed up with black thumbstuds and a lightly stonewashed finish. The amount of belly should be conducive to outdoorsy tasks, but not too much that it interferes with mundane EDC duties. There is also a lanyard hole that is large enough to accept paracord.

A quick word about price. Online, I have been seeing these go for about $180. A 551 Griptilian will set you back about $100, and if you want G10 scales, look to spend at least $75 for something like the aftermarket Allen Putman scales I have installed on my Grip (although installing them will technically void your warranty). The extra 5 bucks you spend on the 665 will get you a less-satisfactory lock, but also a thicker blade, better handle comfort, a backup safety lock, and an intact warranty.

Fit & Finish / Initial Edge

Fit and Finish on my example was near perfect. Everything was smooth and the blade was dead center when closed. There was the tiniest hint of horizontal play in the blade when open, but overall the 665 is very solid. Good job Benchmade.

Image courtesy of David C. Andersen

The only thing that was a little off-putting was a small rattle that comes from either the locking or assist mechanism. Not sure which, but it is noticeable whether opened or closed.

Image courtesy of David C. Andersen

Factory edge was better than a lot of Benchmade’s I have seen before. Shaving sharp, smooth enough to cut magazine paper, and only two alternating strokes to saw through ¾” manilla rope.

Somewhat rough, but better than I have seen in the past from Benchmade.

Somewhat rough, but better than I have seen in the past from Benchmade.

Ergonomics

Image courtesy of David C. Andersen

The 665 is a heavy beast, making itself known in the pocket at all times. The balance is perfect however, with the tipping point hitting right at the index finger, making the knife fairly nimble despite the weight.

Image courtesy of David C. Andersen

The comfortable handle is easily the best thing about the 665. The ridges on the secondary lock are the only real issue; some hot spots can occur when bearing down on a cut. The only other comfort improvement would be to use a flush backspacer instead of metal standoffs between the scales. Not a big deal at most times though.

The clip on the knife is a fold-over style, but the knife is not exactly deep carry. Roughly ¼” of handle will poke up above your pocket.

benchmade-665-apb-spine

I found extraction to be laborious. The clip will flex a little–noticable while opening the blade–and so I tightnened it as much as I could to minimize this. The tight clip and the small amount of handle to grab made it difficult to remove the knife smoothly.

Interestingly, the scales are drilled for a 3 screw-hole clip, even though the standard clip only uses 2 screws. One could swap out for the non-deep carry clip on other Benchmades, which should made extraction easier.

Sharpening

154CM is not the most difficult steel to sharpen and I had no issues with it when using my Spyderco Sharpmaker. It did take slightly more work that usual to “set” the edge at the first sharpening (usually due to the roughness of typical factory edges), but it was easier afterwards.

TESTING

Cardboard

After putting a fresh edge on the 665, I set into a pile of cardboard and wound up filling a trash bag with corrugated scraps. The 154CM blade put up respectable numbers; the knife was still going after cutting 368 linear feet against the grain. I could still push through at this point, but the cut edges were getting quite frayed and the blade was no longer sharp enough to cut newsprint.

Image courtesy of David C. Andersen

Comfort was good throughout, using a saber grip most of the time. The leading edge of the handle scales can be a little “pinchy” if gripped too hard, but was still better than most of my other folding knives.

Food Prep

I couldn’t get slices as thin or as precise as I wanted on onions. The blade had a tendency to wander a bit. Likewise, the knife tended to split the onion during radial cuts.

Image courtesy of David C. Andersen

Potatoes were dispatched a bit more cleanly.

The blade is large enough to halve an apple with one cut. Once quartered, the core can be cut out with a v-shape as the blade is too wide to smoothly scoop it out.

Image courtesy of David C. Andersen

This was the only food prep I was able to complete. More on why, later…

Whittling

Woodworking can be a weak spot for many folders, where the scale openings tend to create hotspots. The APB is better than most, but I would still advise wearing a pair of work gloves for the hard stuff.

Image courtesy of David C. Andersen

The blade works well for cutting notches and points into sticks. Whether whittling traps or making tent stakes, the 665 should have you covered.

Image courtesy of David C. Andersen

After some whittling I made some fuzz sticks and performance was adequate, but not great. A quick touch-up on my field strop helped however.

Batoning

I don’t make a habit of batoning folders, but I have tested my Ritter Grip once in this capacity in order to learn its limits. What I found was that the Axis-lock could disengage under a pounding, and the blade is a little thin, but it works. The thicker blade (0.125” vs 0.115”) on the 665 should mean it is more effective, and the secondary-lock means it should be safer as well.

In theory…

In practice, the 665 failed.

Spectacularly.

I got half way through the first log, which included strikes on the blade spine and some tapping on the butt of the knife, and I noticed some significant play develop at the pivot. I removed the knife and found that the blade had a few degrees of travel up-and-down, and the lock was jammed open. I could not close the knife.

Image courtesy of David C. Andersen

Taking the knife apart to try and remedy this reveals inner workings that closely resemble the Axis-lock but with more frippery. You can see the omega springs and lockbar that are calling cards of the Axis mechanism.

The failure appears to be with the liners, which have deformed around the lockbar. There is also some scoring on the lockbar itself. It does not look like much, but the tolerances are so precise that I could never get the bar to seat properly again.

Image courtesy of David C. Andersen

Now, batoning a folder definitely constitutes abuse, and I would never suggest otherwise. However, if I am carrying a folder as my main camp knife – and I believe the 665 is more suited to this mission than to any other role – it is because I am unable to carry a fixed blade. If things take a turn for the worse – a hiking injury, a capsized canoe in deep wilderness, being trapped by weather, etc. – your camp knife could quickly become your survival knife. As such, you may need to be able to rely on your knife to baton wood, and in the case of the 665, it can’t hack it. The Griptilian however, can. As I mentioned before, despite the lock occasionally popping loose, the batoning never hurt the knife. I have continued to use that knife for years afterwards with no issues at all.

Conclusions

I was frankly surprised at how little force it took for the knife to fail. Seriously, not even all the way through one log. Which is a shame, because the 665 is not a bad knife. Had it not failed, my assessment would have gone something like this…

So what is the Benchmade 665 APB good for? EDC? Not for me, but maybe for you. The knife is rather girthy, and can be cumbersome for the small work I typically desire of my everyday carry.

The 665 APB, to me, is an outdoorsy bruiser of a knife. The scales are very comfortable and the added safety of the secondary lock is appreciated. The blade is the perfect shape and is fairly easy to sharpen. The high flat grind helps the APB to work well enough on food prep, and there is enough belly that it should skin alright as well.

My only hesitation is the APB lock, and this is a case where Benchmade is cursed by their own success. The system makes a lot of sense on a push-button automatic knife, and they truly deserve credit for coming up with an innovative and functional new twist on the format. However, in assisted form, the Axis-Assist has the APB beat six ways from Sunday. One-handed closing is significantly easier and safer, and should the assist spring fail, you would still be left with an excellent manual system with backup safety lock to boot. If they ever re-released this knife as the 665 Axis, I would be the first in line to pre-order it.

So, even if the 665 hadn’t failed during testing, my conclusion is this. In assisted form, the APB lock simply does not do anything different or better than the Axis lock. If you want an assisted-opening Benchmade, take a look at the 580 Barrage instead. If you want a strong folder that you can take camping, go for the 551 Griptilian, or better yet, the Doug Ritter RSK Mk1 Griptilian.

Discussion

3 responses to ‘Knife Review: Benchmade 665 APB Assisted-Opening Knife

  1. Great review, now I get why you baton these things in your testing. Better you break it than me, and my Hammond Cruiser will put up with that sort of abuse all day, for just over $20!

  2. Thanks for the review, David. That’s a great looking knife, and I love Benchmade, but I didn’t buy it because I was apprehensive of the new lock system. I don’t see why they didn’t use the Axis lock in this knife, seems it would have been a better, simpler choice. I’m also not a fan of the 154CM steel, it’s adequate but I prefer S30V or even Kershaw’s 14C28N. My 580 Barrage uses the 154CM and I’m not completely happy with the edge I can get on it. Otherwise its a great defensive carry knife. I just keep coming back to my Kershaw S30V Blur.

  3. thx for the review … great news for the lefties BUT no nice blade design, big and fat … not really aesthectically (is it spelled right?) appealling to me…

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