Knife Review: Hogue X5 (spear-point 3.5″)

Hogue X5

I have been remiss in reviewing the Hogue X5 because it is from my personal collection rather than a loaner or a testing sample. It was given to me by the designer – Allen Elishewitz, as my tip for taking his wife Val and him flyfishing in the Smoky Mountains this past April. It has been a regular part of my EDC rotation ever since.

I need to disclose a personal friendship with Allen. I have been to his house several times (before he moved to Texas) and he was a regular participant in the “Knoxville Knife Syndicate’s” Friday lunches. That disclosed, I will leave it to you the reader to judge the objectiveness of my review on its own terms.

 

Hogue X5 Stats (as reported by Hogue).

Blade Length: 3.5”
Overall Length: 8.15”
Closed Length: 4.75”
Weight: 4.66oz

Locking Mechanism: Push-Button with Manual Safety
Handle Material (Frame): 6061-T6 Anodized Aluminum with G-Mascus® Black G10 mini-piranha inserts
Pocket Clip: Stainless Steel Ambidextrous Deep Pocket Carry

Blade Style: Spear Point with Flipper
Blade Thickness: 0.15”
Blade Material: CPM154 Stainless Steel
Blade Hardness: RC 57-59
Blade Treatment: Cryogenically Treated
Blade Finish: Black Cerakote

MSRP: $239.95 Street Price: ~$205

My measurements matched those reported by Hogue.

 

Construction:

Hogue X5

Fit and Finish: In a word – exquisite. I didn’t notice any of the grind irregularities that have bugged David with the X1 Micro. The knife moves like butter. I will discuss this more in the Pivot section. The cerakote is even and free of blemishes. I have carried this knife regularly since May, and the only places the cerakote has worn is on the tip of the flipper (visible in the picture in the “Handle” section, and on the spine. Some portion of the latter is from use wear, some is from striking the spine with a baton while making a tent stake.

Blade: In addition to the Spear Point I tested, the Hogue X5 is also available in a wharnclife blade, and both are available in 3.5″ and 4″ blade lengths. The grind is fairly close to full, with a pronounced swedge on the harpoon.

Handle: It is a mashup of aluminum frame and G10. I can’t say scales, because the G10 is more integral to the structure of the knife than simply bolted on. The aluminum frame components do not extend past the pivot and locking area of the knife. The mechanism is built off of this. The remainder of the handle is G10. You can see this in the photo below.

you can see the aluminum frame under the G10

It is pretty angular, and may not be comfortable for all hands.

Flip, Lock and Pivot: In a nutshell, smooth and crisp. When I first tried the knife I asked Allen what bearing Hogue was using. He responded, “No bearing. Just proper machining”. There are lesser knives I would still consider “properly machined”, but his response exemplified the mindset all of us at TTAK have witnessed in our interactions with Hogue.

David has written about his issues with the Hogue X1 Micro flipper in terms of the button lock and lack of a safety. He was concerned with the prominence of the button lock resting right under his thumb in use. Hogue actually took this feedback to heart, and redesigned the button to be more flush with the handle.

While the button on the X5 is fairly proud from the handle, the X5 has a locking safety. This is easy to deploy, and  is intuitive to use. It only functions to lock the blade open. This isn’t a problem since my X5 is a fully manual flipper, and the blade is held closed by a firm detent. I confirmed with Hogue that the X5 Autos have a lock which functions to both lock the knife open and closed.

Which leads me to the detent and its role in deployment of the knife. It is fairly stout (I believe it is specifically tuned at the factory), but provides enough resistance that it takes a deliberate pressure on the flipper to overcome. The benefit of this is that if the detent is overcome, it means sufficient energy has been applied that the blade flips open and locks – smoothly and cleanly every time.

There is just the tiniest amount of blade wobble. Barely worth reporting, but as it is detectable I need to mention it. I can tighten the pivot enough to eliminate it entirely, but that comes at the expense of increased friction and less reliable deployment. It is really not enough to complain about. The only factory knife I have ever used with less is the Cold Steel Mackinac Hunter.

Clip:

The stock clip is abysmal. It was not Allen’s design and is possibly the result of a miscommunication between design and production. I wrote about it earlier this year.

I called up John at Pop’s Custom Clips and inquired about an aftermarket clip. As the X5 is fairly new, he did not have one designed yet. I sent him the knife and he designed and produced a titanium deep-carry clip. He did this for me gratis, though he now has the design up for sale on his Etsy Page.

The new clip functions flawlessly and looks great to boot. Note that the knife rides most naturally slightly forward of the back of the pocket. Some of this is the shape of the pocket, some is the “height” of the closed knife.

Ergonomics:

The Hogue X5 is not a Cinderella slipper for me. The handle is fairly angular, and the subhilt hits my fingers at a slightly awkward point. It is not so uncomfortable as to be problematic, as one is seldom grasping an EDC blade with the same vigor as they would a bushcraft fixed blade. It was only when I made a tent stake that I found the handle ergonomics to be an issue at all.

There is sufficient meat on the spine to provide a reasonably comfortable perch for one’s thumb or index finger.

Reverse-Grip/Tactical Use: Not that I am an expert, but I do not typically recommend a folder for a defensive knife. Too much can go wrong with deployment and I would not want a knife that has even a remote possibility of closing on my hand if at all possible. That said, Allen Elishewitz is acknowledged as one of the pioneers in the genre of “tactical folders”. Allen grew up in Asia, and is instructor-level proficient in multiple martial arts styles. Various elements of classic Asian “fighting knives” find their way into his designs.

In the case of the Hogue X5, it is actually very comfortable and secure in a reverse grip. While Doug Marcaida and others with a background in knife-centric fighting styles prefer a knife-in-lead-hand stance, I prefer the opposite.

To the extent that I have trained with integrating a knife into my self-defense strategy, I have been working with my knife in my right hand. You will fight as you have been training, and as I train Krav Maga several days a week, I find that even with a knife in my right hand I can perform most of the Krav actions and movements that I have been training. I imagine a right-hand hammer-fist is exponentially more effective when said hand is grasping steel.

 

Testing:

 

TTAK Testing Protocol:

The rope cutting results were merely average, which isn’t unexpected for a 3.5″ plain-edged knife. Slashing hanging rope made it through 1 of the 3 strands of 3/4″ sisal rope, and it took 3 draws to fully part taught 3/4″ rope.

The Hogue X5 positively shines in cardboard however. The high grind and extremely sharp edge positively ate through foot after linear foot of corrugated cardboard, tallying a whopping 325′ before performance had dropped off enough to call the test. The knife could still slice newsprint, barely, with concentrated technique.

Wood:

An EDC knife is obviously not a bushcraft tool. That said, the reason we EDC any item is because we want to be prepared for the eventualities one might face. I decided to make a tent stake, just to see how the knife performed.

Ethan Becker likes to say that he can tell everything he needs to know about a knife from making a single tent stake. I don’t quite have that level of Zen-mastery yet, I understand what he is saying with it testing several different facets of a knife’s performance.

The Hogue X5 performed as well as could be hoped for a task so far out of the design range for the knife. The blade bit deeply into the wood while shaving, and forming the notch was no problem. While it is inadvisable to baton a folding knife, I did so for the purposes of testing. Aside for a bit of chipping to the cerakote on the spine where it was struck, the X5 held up fabulously. I did not even need to tighten the pivot. This abuse did not create any new blade wobble.

Culinary:

The Hogue X5 is not a kitchen knife either, but does a fair approximation thereof. Again, the flat grind behaves well in a wide variety of produce and meat, including pineapple, onions, apples, tomatoes, potatoes, as well as steak and chicken.

Particularly impressive is how the Hogue X5 cleanly peeled an apple and sliced without wedging. As apples with nutella is a common snack for my children, this task puts the Everyday in EDC.

That is a lot of slices out of a cherry tomato!

The Hogue X5 is comfortable, if not ideal for kitchen tasks. I used it on quite a few steak and chicken dinners over the past 7 months as well, but for some reason I cannot find any pictures. I specifically remember taking one with the knife perched on my pint of Guinness, with a cleanly sliced steak in the foreground. Said picture has apparently been lost to the ether.

RATINGS: (out of 5 stars)

Aesthetics ****.5

It depends on one’s personal style. I cannot fault anyone whose eye tends to favor a more traditional look. As a rule, Elishewitz designed knives have a distinct look to them, with angles and embellishments which might not be the first choice for the Filson crowd.

The fit and finish are exquisite for a factory knife. The blade is well centered, and there are no blemishes anywhere on the knife.

That said, the distinctiveness of this knife is part of why I like it. I think it looks like a bit like a Batarang. It has an intimidating look to it. Might raise an eyebrow if you cut your steak at the Country Club banquet. Then again, you might find this to be a feature, not a bug.

Blade: *****

The spear point which I tested performed admirably in every task I threw at it. It even did passably on tasks like making a tent stake which are well beyond the typical wheelhouse for an EDC folder.

The combination of steel, grind, and heat treat give the Hogue X5 a wicked edge, which it keeps through a tremendous amount of use. It slices extremely well for a knife which is on the thicker side, and is not designed for kitchen use.

I do not give out 5 Stars on a blade often. The CPM154 blade on the Hogue X5 deserves every bit of it.

Ergonomics: ***

It is angular and slightly awkward to hold. The sub hilt hits my index finger wrong. That said, I did not get any blisters through 325 linear feet of cardboard. Being a “tall” knife from spine to flipper (nearly 2″), it isn’t the least noticeable blade in one’s pocket.

The stock clip is, as I described, sub-optimal at best. It is difficult to slide onto one’s pocket, hard to draw, and uncomfortable to bump with your hand. The only knife I have used with a worse stock clip is the CRKT Hootenanny. With the switch to the Pops Custom Clip, the knife became a pleasure to carry.

Ruggedness/Durability: ****

This is a robust knife. Not only is the blade thick at .15″, the cerakote handled everything except being struck with a baton (beyond expected EDC stress). The pivot and lock remained rock solid, and while one can tighten the pivot with a torx bit, I never needed to throughout more than 6 months of use.

OVERALL: ****

Conclusions:

The Hogue X5 makes an excellent EDC. It deploys quickly, does what is asked of it efficiently, and returns to the pocket easily. Most EDC tasks are dealt with so quickly that to whip out a camera is an afterthought. But rest assured this knife breaks down boxes, trims loose strings, and cuts out the famous “Box Tops” for my kids’ school with the best of them.

I like the Hogue X5 a lot. It is unlike my typical EDC folder in terms of size, styling, and price. However, as I mentioned in my review of the Peachsmith Chimera, one gets a particular feeling when they use a knife that is a step (or more) above a budget folder. It is hard to describe. It goes beyond the feel of a precisely machined pivot, or crisply engaging lock. While a budget knife might get the job done in utilitarian fashion, the Hogue X5 does it with appreciable style.

 


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comments

  1. Sam L. says:

    Interesting. Hogues are out of my price range, but I’m always happy to read about them.

  2. Jason says:

    There newer stuff definitely has the bad-ass look to it. Glad to see that it got a good review also..

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Knife Review: Hogue X5 (spear-point 3.5″)

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