One of the side effects of our Knife Madness tournament is it has allowed me to reengage with existing contacts at the various companies, or to initiate contact with some of those whom we have not yet started a relationship. The latter is the case with Utica Cutlery – a century old knife company in you guessed it – Utica, New York. They have been known more for their kitchen and tableware in recent decades, but have reentered the outdoor space. They released a series of new survival-type knives at this year’s SHOT Show.
After profiling them in their contest with KA-BAR in our tournament, I cold-called and was connected with a member of their Marketing department. After a short conversation, he said that he would send us some knives, and a few days later a UTK-S4 & UTK-B6 arrived at my door.
I will be sending the smaller S4 on to David for a full review, and keeping the B6 to test for myself. But I figured that since I had them together for side-by-side, a comparison was in order.
While one of our commenters said that these knives look like a slightly less expensive, still USA-made, alternative to an ESEE, David’s gut reaction to the first picture I sent him was “ESEE much?”. He was specifically referencing the S-4, which is awfully close to an ESEE 4, the most noticeable differences being in the UTK’s multi-piece scales and the shape of their respective pommels.
I am a little more charitable in my assessment. I would argue that a traditional US style slab-scaled 4″ drop point hunter is going to look like a traditional US style slab-scaled 4″ drop point hunter. It is fairly close to an Ontario TAK as well. At least one that wasn’t turned into a clip-point in James Terrio’s garage/workshop.
In terms of chopping ability and wood processing performance, both knives performed similarly to the TAK, with the B6 being a better chopper, as one would expect. It isn’t weight-forward like a true chopper, as the balance point of the 7″ blade is right about where the bolster piece meets the primary scale.
There are some distinctive features of the sheath, some good, some bad. On the positive side, the firesteel has a detachable scraper, which is really cool, and works better than the spine of most knives. There is also an integral carbide sharpener. Not my favorite style, and I wouldn’t typically use it, but in an emergency or in a pinch, it would work passably.
I do have a couple of issues with the sheaths though. They are molded plastic instead of kydex, which gives a touch of “battle” rattle, but they do provide good, snap-in retention. I was not able to shake the S4 free, and it took a good shake to drop the B6. I like the retention better than on the Gerber Strong Arm which also has a plastic sheath.
My beef with the sheath is that there is only a spring clip and not a belt option. The clip is too weak, especially for a knife the size of the B6. I know that I am going to catch the sheath in the brush, and that will cause problems. The S4 rides a little higher and is a smaller, lighter knife, and thus less likely to snag. The problem lies in the retention of both knives was enough that I could pull both off the belt, rather than out of the sheath.
That wouldn’t be an issue if they included a belt option. Another option would to make the sheath rivets “Tec-Lok compatible”. Their clip-plate/ rivets do not line up with a Tek-Lok, which really is the industry standard for aftermarket clips. I would highly suggest considering a tweak to the rivet placement to allow the end-user the option.
All in all these feel like solid knives. Not groundbreaking, but a respectable effort and legitimate option in a USA-made blade. With a street price of $85 or less from several online retailers, my first impression is you will not be disappointed in these knives. I look forward to taking the B6 out on the river and clearing out some fallen limbs.
Thank you to Utica Cutlery for providing us with these knives for testing.