The Bradford USA Guardian Series of knives is better thought of as a “knife system”. They are not “custom knives”, rather they are one of the best “customizable” knives out there. With models ranging in size from the 6.5″ bladed G6 down to the 3.5″ G3 (tested), they come in a variety of blade shapes which are paired with a several handle material options and your choice of a leather or kydex sheath.
In the end, the user gets a blade that is customized to their use and aesthetic requirements.
Brad Larkin, founder of Bradford Knives loaned us the G3 Sheepsfoot for testing and review as I was leaving the BLADE Show.
I have carried the G3 as a primary EDC for several months now, and am now ready to put my thoughts down on (digital) paper.
Bradford Guardian 3 Specs:
- Blade Type:Guardian Series
- Overall Length 7.0″
- Blade Length 3.625″
- Cutting Edge 3.5″
- Blade Thickness 0.14″
- Blade Material: Bohler M390
- Hardness: 60 – 61 RC
- Blade Style: Sheepsfoot (tested), Drop point, Wharncliffe
- Blade Grind Options: Full Height w/ Swedge
- Finish Options: Stonewash, Nimbus, Black DLC
- Handle Length 3.25″
- Handle Thickness 0.85″
- Scales/Handle Material Options: Micarta (tested), G10, Carbon Fiber
- Handle Color Options: Black, OD Green, Camo, Natural, Black and Blue G10, G-Wood, Carbon Fiber
- Weight 3.42 oz.
- Sheath: Leather (tested), kydex
- Knife Type: Fixed Blade
- Model: Guardian3
- Use category: Everyday Carry
- MSRP: $159-$219
All Guardian Series knives are made from Swedish M390 steel which according to the Zvisoft app is prized for both its corrosion resistance, as well as its overall durability and edge-holding.
It features a full flat grind, which makes the knife a solid slicer as you will see in the testing sections. There is jimping on the spine between the scales and ricasso. There is a full finger choil, and this knife is meant to be used primarily with the index finger on this choil and ahead of the scales.
The scales, in this case Micarta, are affixed with proprietary 2-pin screws, two to a side. The scales fit well, but they are not as perfectly flush as on a knife where the scales are sanded after being affixed to the tang. One can feel the transition if you are concentrating on it, but it is unnoticeable during use.
I might be more concerned with the fit and finish on a knife with a price point over $200. At the G3’s price point, it falls well within what is acceptable in a knife that is direct from grind-to-hand, and more than acceptable in this “customizable” knife system.
The leather sheath I was given was set up for horizontal carry. While I am not a fan of full horizontal, preferring a bit of diagonal slant, the Bradford carried comfortably, and I would frequently forget I was even wearing it and would clip a folder to my pocket without thinking.
I was not optimistic about carrying a leather sheath horizontally, as I would rather have molded kydex with a more positive retention. I needn’t have been concerned. The G3 never fell out throughout a couple of months of carry. It sits deep in the sheath and natural friction is adequate.
My one beef with the sheath is that the plastic guard inside can slip out of position. It rode up one time and the naked blade pushed beyond the bottom of the sheath, splitting the stitching and opening slightly. I repositioned the plastic and the sheath has continued to function properly, even though I am yet to mend the stitching.
Ergonomics are always important in a knife, but even more so in a small knife. I really like the variety of comfortable grip options provided by the Bradford G3.
Both precision and power grips are possible with the knife. The upsweep fits comfortably against one’s finger or thumb.
I will update this review after I grab some rope to cut, it is just an oversight on my part. The knife had no trouble taking a newsprint shaving edge, and then I set about slicing cardboard.
The full flat grind zipped through the first 50′ with ease. The performance began to deteriorate slightly at this point, and noticeably by 75 feet. I decided to quit here, as the small handle made my hand tired, but the edge was still keen enough to slice a cherry tomato (pictured above).
On the practical side, I used this knife to break down boxes as part of its EDC trial, and it performed more than adequately. The sheepsfoot blade shape is excellent for detail work as well.
On one hand, the full-flat grind would suggest that the Bradford G3 would be a fine slicer, though its small size will hinder it overall. This is pretty much what I experienced. As long as the produce was small enough for the 3.5″ blade, the results were quite good.
I used the G3 while making salsa, and while I only expected to do a couple of tomatoes for demonstration purposes, the results with the Bradford were so solid that I used it for most of the batch. The upswept curve of the blade locked in against my finger and really felt like an extension of my hand.
The blade peels an apple with ease, and the blade is thin enough to slice rather than wedge-apart the flesh of the fruit.
It knows its way around a steak as well.
Making a feather stick was easy, though the rounded back edge does not do a great job of scraping a ferro-rod. The edge works fine for the task.
You might think a tent stake would be outside of the G3’s wheelhouse, and you are right. But with diligent shaving and contact-tapping plus a bit of judicious batoning, I was able to produce an acceptable result. It wasn’t a fast process though.
Ratings: (out of 5 stars)
Styling: * * *
I like a sheepsfoot blade, but the aesthetics do not blow me away
Blade: * * * *
The N390 was never showed signs of corrosion despite being worn under my shirt for a Tennessee summer. It slices well, holds a good edge, and is strong for its size.
Ergonomics: * * * *
Fairly nice. I like the variety of comfortable grips. I never suffered from hotspots, though my hand did become tired when slicing cardboard.
Ruggedness/Durability * * **
Its diminutive size should preclude you from trying anything that should stress the blade to failure. I beat on it pretty hard when cutting the notch on my tent stake. The G3 is every bit as strong as it needs to be.
Overall Rating/Conclusion: * * * *
The Guardian 3 is a solid option in an EDC fixed blade. The sheepsfoot blade is a useful EDC shape both for rough and precision work. If you prefer a wharncliffe or drop point, those are available as well. It carries comfortably and fits my medium sized hand nicely.