The new for 2017 Hogue X1-Microflip is right up my alley. It shares many traits with my longtime preferred edc (the discontinued Benchmade Doug Ritter Mini-Griptilian) so I look forward to seeing how the Hogue comports itself in my day to day exploits. When Neil Hogue himself offered me one to test at the BLADE Show this past June, I was happy to accept. (Full disclosure: I paid him one American dollar for the knife). Let’s see what this U.S.-made bad boy can do.
Designer: Allen Elishewitz
Blade: CPM154 drop point. Hollow grind with swedge.
Rockwell Hardness: 57-59 HRC
Locking mechanism: Button Lock
Clip: Reversible, tip up only.
Country of Origin: U.S.A.
MSRP: $149-$159 depending on handle/blade finish variations
Dimensions (measured on this test sample)
Overall Length: 6.66″
Handle Length: 3.98″
Handle Thickness: 0.46″
Blade Length (tip to scale): 2.68″
Blade Thickness: 0.12″
Weight: 2.95 oz.
On quick glance, the X1-Microflip may not look all that innovative. An aluminum framed, button-lock flipper with CPM-154 blade steel may be an attractive package, but it is not revolutionary. There is more than meets the eye however.
Under the skin is Hogue’s new patent-pending, tunable detent. Rather than try to explain it myself, I will quote the information I received from Hogue’s marketing department.
The mechanism is uniquely factory tuned to have optimal pop (inertia build-up to release the knife fully). It should not be adjusted by the end user. The action is so crisp and consistent that it is nearly impossible for the blade not to be fully deployed – all without springs!
The mechanism is completely captured (protected) inside the frame. The ball, made from E52100 hardened alloy steel is captured inside a 416 stainless steel internal detent board.
The blade operates between 2 precision machined surfaces so no bearings are necessary. This also means there is no wiggle in the blade when the knife is in closed position.
No springs means there is no fear of an accidental deployment.
What this means for the user is a crisp, clean flipping action – as good as any bearing-based flipper I have used, and better than a lot of assisted opening knives out there as well. I can attest that it is nearly impossible for the blade to not fully deploy as Hogue states above.
The rest of the knife screams exactitude as well. Perfect grinds and precise machining abound, with edges softened only by the matte finish on the aluminum, which seems almost bead blasted. Likewise, the stonewashed finish on the blade has made the thumb jimping (more of a series of grooves, really) very comfortable by easing the edges during the tumbling process.
The only sharp part left on the handle is the glass breaker pommel, which is integrated with the solid aluminum backspacer.
I’ve said before that Hogue’s have the best factory edges in the business. This knife had a highly refined edge when looking under the microscope and it had no problem slicing through phonebook paper.
Performance on my other benchmark test medium of ¾” manilla rope was less impressive. Short blades struggle with this test in general, but this particular knife had an edge issue that I did not discover until I moved onto our cardboard test.
Although the test is far from scientific, in an attempt to maintain a level playing field I always run the blade through my Spyderco Sharpmaker to get it “hair-shaving” before beginning. When I put the X1-Microflip to the sticks I found the edge to be on the obtuse side, a few degrees past 20. As such, the Sharpmaker rods could not make contact with the edge. I would need to rebevel the blade to a proper angle before continuing.
Moving on to the corrugated cardboard, I sliced through 295 linear feet against the grain, when I stopped due to an impending blister. The knife is as comfortable as it needs to be for a light duty edc, but the ergonomics don’t lend themselves to prolonged heavy work.
Even after all those cuts, the knife was slicing pretty well, with only slight degradation from the initial cut. The hollow grind moved efficiently through the material, aided by the long swedge which helped reduce friction as I sliced.
The edge was no longer hair shaving, but twenty alternating strokes on my hanging strop – first with black compound, then with green – had the knife splitting hairs like it was before I started.
Verdict: CPM-154, and Hogue’s heat treat is spot on. The blade geometry makes for a capable and efficient slicer, but the edge geometry on this particular knife was a bit off.
After using the knife as my primary carry for two months, here are the observations I came away with.
The finish on the aluminum frame rocks. I was expecting to get “snail-trails”… small rubs and shiny spots from pocket carry, but it took almost two months for any to show up, and only on the clip side. The presentation side looks as good now as it did when I first started carrying it.
Even though the button lock is right hand biased, I had no problem closing the knife with my left hand. With a reversible, tip-up pocket clip (with excellent retention by the way), that means southpaws aren’t left out in the cold with the X1-Microflip.
The glass-breaker is quite sharp at the corners. When I was wearing jeans this wasn’t a problem, but in my summer shorts with their angled pockets, the breaker had a tendency to scratch the meat of my hand unless I was very careful with my approach vector. I thought about using fine sandpaper to ease the edge. It would be an easy mod, but I decided not to.
The small frame of the X1-Microflip actually works against itself in certain scenarios, and that is due to its limited surface area. Until I got used to it, I found it easy to accidentally have my finger on the button lock when opening the blade. This causes the blade to hit the stop pin with a loud “ting” and rebound. Not good, but also not a problem once I got used to it.
Moreover, you have to pay more attention to finger placement when using the knife than you do with other designs. On several occasions, I accidentally disengaged the lock in the middle of a task, leaving the blade free-floating, suspended only by the material I was cutting. Your mileage may vary.
I found myself missing the secondary lock that was on the EX-03 I tested a couple of years ago. Although I dinged it at the time for not allowing you to also lock the blade closed, that secondary system would allow you to keep the button lock from being depressed with the blade deployed, enabling safer cutting. Sadly, that feature was also sacrificed to allow the smaller form factor.
I am willing to chalk the issue I had with the edge geometry up to a rare mistake. I have seen and owned enough other Hogue pieces that had perfect edges, that this one feels like an anomaly.
I am a bit more bummed out by my experience with the lock however. Without a secondary lock you have to pay more attention to your grip, which can be limiting due to the small frame, but even so, a momentary lapse in attention could result in mangled fingers or worse.
I still like the knife very much; it has come closer to dethroning my Ritter-Grip than anything ever has. If it had an Axis-style lock, it would be perfect. As of right now, I am still carrying it, albeit cautiously.
I had high hopes for the X1-Microflip. It is right-sized and right-shaped for my needs. It is made in America which I prefer for my personal carry, is expertly machined, and thanks to their new detent system, is a joy to operate. If they were to re-release this knife with the secondary lock, I would have no reservations recommending it, and would probably purchase one for myself. As it stands, the X1-Microflip is an excellent knife with a button-lock shaped asterisk.
Hogue has reached out to us after the review with the following statement from Scott Bruhns, lead engineer on the X1-Microflip. Looks like they had already identified the need to add the secondary lock and are already in the process of making that happen.
They are also checking in on their sharpening division to see if there is anything that might have caused the edge geometry I encountered. I, and they, still think it was a fluke but seeing them perform due diligence just in case is appreciated.
From Mr. Bruhns:
Excellent review, please send my regards to The Truth About Knives for their honesty. The few weaknesses in this design were outlined very well and were more than fair during assessment. Please inform the Truth About Knives that a revision change is underway for the X1-Microflip to include a secondary lock, or safety as we call it. This was identified at Blade Show 2017 and we are now quickly working to add a safety to the knife to give our customers that extra level of protection during heavy use.
There was a Revision B implemented months ago to address how easy it was to accidentally compress the lock button. We went with a stiffer spring and a lower profile button. The combination of those two changes really made for a less finicky button overall, even without the safety.
I asked whether existing customers could have their Rev A versions upgraded to Rev B if they suspected they have one. This was the response:
Absolutely customers can call our customer service line and have their REV A knives upgraded to REV B, free of charge! It is a very simply assembly modification and can be performed in minutes at the bench.
I will be having my review sample sent back in for the Rev B upgrade, and I will let you know how it effects the knife.
In addition to letting us know about the upcoming safety lock change (Rev C), they are also going to be sending me one of those knives so I can do a firsthand update for you, our readers. This was not expected nor requested by me – confirmation of the change would have been enough – but rather than taking it on faith they wanted me to be able to report on one directly. Consider me impressed by this upstanding reaction to my review. I think it speaks volumes about the company.