Flippers are huge in the knife industry right now. It’s no coincidence that most of my recent test knives have been these speedy, finger-operated manuals: you can hardly drop your wallet in a knife store these days without it landing on a flipper. Their speed and ambidexterity make them extremely versatile. Every major knife maker except Benchmade (even Spyderco!) has had at least one of them in their catalog for a while. And now Benchmade has joined the flipper-fest . . .
I’ll admit it right here: I was predisposed to like this knife, since it happens to be a much-loved souvenir from the 2013 NRA convention that I never went to. Gift or no gift, however, I put it through the same TTAK wringer as all our other knife tests and I wrote this review 100% determined to tell it like it is.
The heart of a knife is its blade, and the Axis Flipper beats with a rugged 3″ drop-point that’s perfectly executed in flat-ground 154CM stainless. If you fancy a thin, elegant blade, you’d best look elsewhere: this shiv is more than one-eighth inch thick and one and one-eighth inches across. Svelte? Not so much: if it were a spear point it would look like a miniature shovel.
But remember that beauty is as beauty does. You might be able to snap off the tip of this blade if you tried hard enough, but you could probably pry open a high-school gym locker without breaking the rest of it.
The drop point has reverse bevels near the point, and the four flat bevels taper precisely with the flat back of the blade to meet at its perfectly-centered tip. It’s all finished in a muted surface that used to be called ‘satin’ or maybe ‘bead-blasted’ but which is now apparently known as ‘stonewashed.’
Whatever you call it, it’s an attractive finish which almost perfectly resembles the finish of my polished 1980’s-vintage Smith & Wesson Model 686. And the blade has “CHRIS DUMM” and “TTAK” laser-engraved into it, which sends a little Chris Matthews-like thrill up my leg. Not really.
The blade came from the factory with a modestly sharp edge. I say ‘modestly’ sharp because it wasn’t dull by any stretch, but it gave a lackluster performance in the cutting tests until I sharpened it myself. I’m no meistersharpener, so I was pleased that my efforts could improve on the Benchmade factory grind. I improved it significantly (and it wasn’t easy), but more on that later.
The back of the blade has a short section of prominent jimping just behind the opening studs. The face of the flipper is also aggressively jimped, and as with most flipper designs it also serves as a prominent blade guard when opened.
This picture shows everything else you need to know about the Axis Flipper. It’s made of two sturdy stainless liners, scalloped/textured G10 grips and stainless spacers, all held together by Torx fasteners.
The 300 Axis Flipper takes its name from Benchmade’s own Axis locking system. When the blade is open, a spring-loaded stainless steel locking bar rides forward in its tracks and engages a cam on the blade’s tang. In its locked forward position it prevents any blade movement, and when the knife is folded it also serves as the blade detent.
Benchmade is rightly proud of the strength of their Axis lock system, and in this video they test it to destruction with a computerized hydraulic press. Note that the Axis lock never fails, the .130″ CM154 tang snaps first under more than 615 inch-pounds of torque.
This makes it one of the strongest folding locks anywhere, and I’d be surprised if many partial-tang fixed blades wouldn’t snap before the Axis Flipper does.
FIT AND FINISH
The construction and assembly quality of the Axis Flipper is impeccable. It arrived with every part perfectly aligned and every fastener perfectly tightened. There are no toolmarks, blemishes or stripped screw heads to be found anywhere.
The blade is perfectly centered between the liners, with no rubbing anywhere. In fact, the blade’s only points of contact with the rest of the knife are the pivot, the lock bar, and the brass washers.
The tan G10 scales fit perfectly flush with the liners, with no gaps, flash or overlap. As I’ve tried to show with my photos, the metalwork is absolutely smooth and extremely precise.
The Axis Flipper is both comfortable and solid in hand. The large G10 scales are textured and scalloped, and the result is exceptionally grippy without being abrasive. You can absolutely crush the grip with your hand without discomfort, and this makes for very safe and comfortable cutting.
The carry clip is often the Achilles Heel of EDC knife ergonomics, but the Axis Flipper’s clip actually adds to the knife’s grip comfort. It even has a perfectly shaped curve that matches the knuckle of your middle finger.
The Axis Flipper offers multiple ways to open the blade with either hand. You can use the jimped flipper tab as shown here…
Or you can use the double-sided opening studs, which are perfectly grippy without being sharp or painful. Two of my other thumb-stud knives have overly sharp opening studs which tear up my thumbs and wear holes in my back pockets, but Benchmade gets them exactly right.
The Axis lock bar also double-sided unlocking studs for complete ambidexterity. They’re oversized and slightly flatter versions of the opening studs, and they’re equally comfortable to use.
The Axis Flipper isn’t a slender or lightweight knife by any measurement, but it carries easily and comfortably in normal-weight pants. At 4.85 ounces, it tends to drag down thin slacks or super-lightweight cargo shorts.
The deep pocket clip is reversible for tip-up carry on either side, and my only critique is that the bright stainless finish can be pretty conspicuous. If it’s covered up by clothing (or if you’re not overly concerned about someone noticing it) the clip works marvelously. The knife stays secure in your pocket, but still withdraws easily.
Despite it’s size, it has become my rear-pocket EDC blade of choice. Even though it’s fairly chunky it dethroned my previous favorite, the Kershaw Skyline, because it rides so much deeper in my pocket.
The Axis Flipper didn’t perform terribly well at any of these tests out of the box, so these ratings and descriptions refer to its cutting performance after I re-sharpened the blade.
I edged it lightly on a 750-grit diamond stone, honed it lightly on ceramic sticks, and polished the edge with green polishing compound on a hardwood block before doing a gentle final stropping on an old untreated leather belt. The knife was arm-hair shaving sharp and could easily slice deep curves into copier paper, so I knew I was approaching the limit of my sharpening skill and equipment.
The Axis Flipper sliced through hanging newsprint reasonably consistently, nearly as well as the excellent Kershaw Skyline which is the current leader in this category.
The Axis Flipper sawed, chopped, and ripped through tough 3/4″ manila rope more neatly and efficiently than any plain-edged knife of similar size that I’ve tested so far. A single vigorous push or draw stroke would neatly sever the rope without requiring extreme effort. With the heel of my hand on the back of the blade (the firm grip and thick blade work well for this) it parted the rope like it was chopping a fibrous old carrot.
When I put a short loop in the rope, the Axis Flipper’s blade pulled through it neatly with moderate effort.
The excellent shape and texture of the grips made the rope tests a cakewalk. Grade: A-
With a fresh edge, the Benchmade cleaved the first 20 feet of 2-ply cardboard like it was heavy-bond office paper. The blade suffered some small dings at that point, and the cutting efficiency worsened as the abrasive cardboard took its toll.
After about 40 feet the blade was still cutting, but it had lost its crispy edge and took a lot of effort. The blade caught a few times beyond this point. At 63 feet it was tearing and rolling the cardboard pretty badly unless I used just the perfect cutting angle and cut with the sharper belly of the blade. At this point it was time to tag it and bag it.
The blade had had enough, and a close inspection showed significant edge wear and a few dings I could feel easily with my fingernail. The edge was in serious need of repair, and it took a while to work the dings out. The 154CM blade is hardened to 58-61HRC, and it takes more than a few passes on the croc sticks to sharpen a blade that hard.
UPDATE November 2013: after reprofiling the edge to 30 degrees, the 300 Axis now has a significantly sharper edge and performs all of the cutting tests more cleanly and easily.
- The strength and build quality are amazing; you get the feeling that this knife will do whatever you ask it to for decades.
- The grip is supremely comfortable and secure, and gives this knife amazing handling for a pocketknife. It has a better grip than many fixed-blade knives.
- It looks rugged and practical, without going all Mall Ninja.
- The shiny pocket clip makes truly discreet carry unlikely unless you wear a cover garment. It looks great on the knife and it actually improves your grip, but it’s too conspicuous.
The Benchmade 300 Axis Flipper is an all-around great midsized folding knife. Its got comfort, strength and cutting performance that few other folding knives can match, and it puts a healthy slab of 154CM in your hand for about $150.
Type: Locking folding knife.
Opening mechanism: Flipper and ambidextrous thumb studs.
Blade dimensions: 3″ length, .130″ thickness, 1.13″ width.
Blade material: stonewash-finish 154CM stainless steel, 58-61HRC.
Locking mechanism: Axis locking bar.
Carry clip: Deep carry pocket clip, reversible for left/right side tip-up carry.
Construction: Dual stainless steel liners, textured/scalloped tan and brown G10 scales, stainless steel spacers.
Overall dimensions: 4.25″ closed, 7.36″ open, .59″ thickness.
Weight: 4.85 oz.
MSRP: $175 (street price $150)
RATINGS (out of five stars)
Styling: * * * *
Rugged and practical, but not Mall Ninja. Perfect with Dockers, denims or Tru-Spec cargo pants.
Blade: * * * * 1/2
A sharp and sturdy blade, meticulously machined from top-end 154CM steel. Very good all-around cutting performance and impressive edge-holding, but only after a careful (and lengthy) sharpening.
Ergonomics: * * * * *
Fully ambidextrous, with multiple opening options as well as the comfort and handling of a fixed blade. I’m not sure how much more comfortable a folding knife could be.
Ruggedness/Durability * * * * *
Overbuilt, and perfectly so. As strong as some (lesser) fixed-blade knives.
Overall Rating: * * * * 1/2
A tad chunky, but so solid and comfortable you’ll carry it for years and never care.