I like what the Minuteman Watch Company is trying to do. Their 3 key goals are:
We Created our Minuteman brand for 3 key reasons.
- To raise funds for charities that assist Veterans and their families. (25% of the profit from our net annual sales of Minuteman products goes to charities assisting veterans & their Families).
- To provide work for Americans whenever we can.
- To provide a quality product that will stand the test of time.
They are building a reputation for doing just that. They have recently begun to partner with American knife companies to produce blades that meet the above goals. Their first effort, The Adjutant, is manufactured by Justin Gingrich (Gingrich Tactical Innovations), and if I understand correctly the charitable portion of the profits are slated for the Green Beret Foundation.
Minuteman has recently released a second knife in partnership with Zac Brown’s Southern Grind – a limited edition Spider Monkey with a charitable donation to the Red Circle Foundation.
Before I go into the full review details I need to explain a bit about my initial experiences with this knife. I don’t know if I got a dud, or if the knife is meant to arrive without a finished edge. “Finished” is perhaps the not the right word, but dull sounds too derogatory. It was initially unable to shave arm-hair (not necessary for a positive review), or slice newsprint well. It positively mangled a couple of cherry tomatoes, and was worthless for slicing cardboard. These latter 3 actually do count towards my assessment of a knife I am reviewing.
I didn’t think much of it, as it is not uncommon for me to need to touch up an edge to give an accurate picture of a knife’s performance. However, for whatever reason, I had a heck of a time sharpening this knife myself. I tried the Sharpmaker, Worksharp Guided Sharpener, and even my Tormek, and could not get the edge where I wanted it. I want to make clear that this was on me and my novice ability. Every once and a while I just run into a knife that gives me fits. I ended up chasing after my own failure, and before I did damage to the knife decided to seek out the help of a professional. I ended up dropping the knife in the mail to a maker-friend to see if he could fix my mistake.
He did his best to replicate the original geometry, though under other circumstances he would have recommended a more extensive regrind, with a more acute edge. Given his druthers, he would have brought the grind up considerably higher, in the interest of increasing slicing performance. This would not have been appropriate in this case as it would have led to an inaccurate assessment of the knife one would be ordering from Minuteman.
Upon the knife’s return, it could shave, slice newsprint, and perform most other tasks with much greater effectiveness. The one thing it still can’t do is slice cardboard efficiently – but more on that below.
The Adjutant is available in Basic (skeletonized) for $130, or with multiple scale options. I tested the Desert G10, ($175 MSRP) but there is also Kirinite ($195), carbon fiber ($195), and deluxe, two-tone G10 ($175)
Blade: 154CM Stainless. It is listed on the Minuteman website as 1/8″ but as you can see it actually comes in a hair under 3/16″. It has 2.5″ of usable edge, and the full tang gives the knife an overall length of 6″. It has a saber-grind, with a secondary bevel.
The spine is ground suitably square as to be able to scrape a ferro-rod.
Handle: Scalloped G10. I have a mixed impression of scalloped scales as a rule, though in the case of the Adjutant, it had among the most comfortable scalloped handles I have used. One unique facet of the Adjutant is that instead of torx or hex-headed screws, they are a standard Philips. It looks odd, but only because it is an unfamiliar look. There are two threaded brass cylinders into which the screws are tightened.
The handle was rock solid throughout testing.
Sheath:Fairly basic pancake kydex. There is more than enough retention for handle-down neck carry. There is also an available belt clip available from Minuteman.
This is a nicely ergonomic knife. I mentioned the scales are quite comfortable. At 3.5″ the handle is fairly long for a neck knife, but consequentially provide closer to a 4-finger grip which felt solid throughout use. I found an thumb on spine grip was most comfortable for rough work, and index-finger on spine grip was best for detail work.
I did give myself a blister on my thumb while carving, though I blame this more on the extremely hard maple I was carving, not the knife.
TTAK Testing Protocol:
Once I received the knife back from my maker friend, who tried to keep it as close to the original profile as possible, I tried testing it again. The edge could now shave arm hair, and did a reasonable job slicing newsprint.
I could cut 1/2″ static climbing rope and 3/4″ manila no problem, though as one would expect from a short blade, it took several passes. All in all I have no complaints about the rope cutting performance with a properly sharpened Adjutant.
Cardboard is this knife’s Achilles heel, which is unfortunate as I see this knife as a viable EDC in many other ways. However, slicing up boxes is one of the most frequent tasks to which I subject an EDC blade – especially when I was working retail. The short, thick blade of the Adjutant is not very good at it. It works, if you only have a couple that need to be broken down roughly, but it takes more effort than many other knives, and the results are decidedly accordion-like.
In my opinion the knife’s struggles with cardboard are more a function of the blade’s thickness rather than it’s ability to take an edge.
One look would suggest that the Adjutant is not a kitchen knife. You would not be wrong in that assessment. Before I sent the knife to off to the have the edge fixed, it positively mangled cherry tomatoes. Upon its return, it could do a passable if inefficient job of food processing. It cubed pork-chops nicely, minced garlic and diced onions acceptably well. It still had trouble with cherry tomatoes, but this time it was able to slice through the skin. The remainder of the cut was far from perfect still.
The harder the food, the more the Adjutant’s thick blade had a tendency to wedge as opposed to slice. This is a common complaint I have with steep grinds. Scandi’s are the worst, but the thick, saber grind of this knife had similar issues.
This was the area in which the Adjutant performed the best. It shaves wood well, and makes a decent carver.
The fuzz stick was no issue, not that I expected it to be. I decided to make a tent stake, starting by cutting down a sapling. Obviously one is not going to chop a tree down by swinging such a small knife, but by batoning around the base of the sapling, it came down quickly, and I repeated the technique to cut it to the desired size.
Sharpening the point was no problem, nor was cutting the notch by batoning once again.
For what I would consider a backup blade in the woods, I am comfortable saying that it is capable of prepping kindling to start a fire, and performing adequately on larger pieces. As I was able to cut the sapling for my tent stake, I am certain that staves for a shelter, stretcher, or travois. As this ability is something I require in a guiding knife, not a backup neck-knife – the Adjutant is punching above its weight.
Finally, I used the Adjutant to begin to rough out the shape of a spoon. I was using a piece of incredibly hard cutting board maple, on which the knife gave a game-effort. I needed to stop after about half an hour, as I began to develop a blister on my thumb (I blame the wood, not the knife for this). I also wanted to stop before I screwed up. I liked the way the spoon was shaping up, and didn’t want to risk ruining it because I was getting fatigued from the effort. However, the curls of wood came off easily, even at the end. For comparison, my freshly sharpened Mora 163 spoon-carving knife is struggling mightily at hollowing out the spoon’s bowl. The Adjutant could still slice newsprint (with careful technique) passably.
Update: Since I began this review, I have finished the spoon. While I did not use the Adjutant exclusively, it did a significant portion of the work, especially around the outside of the bowl. Over the course of this extended use, I began to appreciate the Adjutant more than I had in early testing.
Wood processing is definitely the strong suit of this knife. I imagine a similar Gingrich knife with a 3.5+” blade would make an extremely solid bush knife.
Ratings: (out of 5 stars)
An attractive if somewhat stubby looking knife. I like the bead-blast finish paired with the desert G10 scales.
Slicing ability is everything in most knives. It is just not there in this knife.
Very good. It is quite comfortable to grip, which is not always the case with “3 finger” handles. It is among the most comfortable scalloped handles I have used. Various grip positions are possible, though index-finger on spine is the most effective.
You are not going to break this knife in normal use, period. You would have a hard time breaking it if you tried. However, this strength comes at the expense of cutting performance.
The Adjutant is too small to be a brute-force object, and lacks the cutting performance to be a precision tool.
This is without a doubt the hardest review I have ever had to write. There are many reasons for this, but most importantly because I love the Minuteman Company and what they stand for. It is one thing to write a fairly critical review of a knife from a major manufacturer, it is another to write one about the first knife that a company is bringing to the market.
I also have admiration for Justin Gingrich, though I have never met or spoken to him. Not just because he was an Army Ranger, but also because Ethan Becker speaks very highly of him. The latter means a lot to me, as Ethan is not known for sugar-coating things. (this may be the Understatement of the Year – I once heard him describe a knife as doing a reasonable impression of a boat anchor).
I have spent a bunch of time perusing the Gingrich Tactical Innovations website, many of his knives look like they have a style and geometry that is more versatile than that of the Adjutant.
While my honesty has likely poisoned the well, I would very much like to test another one of Justin’s blades, or the new Minuteman collaboration with Zac Brown’s Southern Grind – a special edition Spider Monkey, the profits from which are slated to benefit the Red Circle Foundation.
The Adjutant is a well constructed knife from quality steel and other materials. When the Adjutant debuted it was $175 for the skeletonized and $225 for the desert G10. This was too high. You could get an ESEE Izula and custom scales for half that price. It is now $130 for the skeletonized and $175 for the G10. This seems more reasonable. Of course you are paying a premium for a respected custom maker and a small, American company – and then $20 of that is going towards veterans’ charities.
In the end the geometry keeps this knife from earning our highest rating, but the knife is certainly the most robust and seemingly indestructible neck-knife I have ever used.