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Kizer Escort (ki4481) Review

By Matt, 12/8/2016
Kizer Escort 1

INTRODUCTION

Well I’ll just come out and say it, I’m prejudiced against China knives.  Always have been.  Almost every time I’ve decided to give one a go I have been disappointed and wished that I had saved my money.  As such, it had been quite a time since I had purchased a China made blade. 

That changed when this year, after the relaxation of the Australian knife import restrictions, Kizer Cutlery joined the Australian Blade Forums (ABF) and started offering their knives for a pass abound.  After quite a bit of positive feedback from other users I decided to take the plunge and try one out. 

Looking through the Kizer catalogue the simple lines of the Kizer Escort designed by Dirk Pinkerton really caught my eye.  I ordered the knife from Tony and True Talon Knives via ABF.  It cost me $240 express posted (however, at the time of writing I note that prices have dropped to $225).
 

GENERAL DETAILS

  • Overall Length: 20.4cm
  • Blade Length: 9cm
  • Closed Length: 11.4cm
  • Blade Thickness: 4mm
  • Blade: CPM S35VN
  • Hardness: RC 58-60
  • Handle: 6AL4V Titanium
  • Lock: Frame lock with steel insert;
  • Pivot: Ceramic bearings
  • Weight: 152 g (5 ¼ oz)
  • Country of origin: China


FIRST IMPRESSIONS

I must admit that the knife made a good first impression.  My first thoughts were: ‘these guys are giving ZT a run for their money’.  In hand the Escort feels very well built, heavy and solid. 

The decorated pivot (Kizer’s signature pivot) immediately struck me as looking a bit cheap and not fitting in with the utilitarian simplicity of the rest of the knife.

The flipping action was smooth but a little gritty out of the box and the detent was noticeably light. 

My favourite part was how the little clear ‘Made in China’ sticker flew off its resting place on the blade after the first flip!  Although, I wish they went with the classic gold sticker.


BLADE
The classic simplicity of the Escort drop point blade is one of the main reasons I went for this model as my first Kizer over some of their other better known models. 

The blade is made from 4mm thick S35VN and has a nice high sabre grind with a fuller milled into the blade.  It has proved to perform well for general utility uses and despite the thick stock, it slices ok and doesn’t bind up too much when cutting sheets of material.  I do think that the large sharpening coil could have been made a little smaller (or removed) as it does seem to catch on things when cutting.

The sabre grind allows a good amount of material to remain behind the tip, meaning that twisting and light prying wasn’t an issue.

The blade is coated with a black coating of some description (not sure if it is DLC, cerakote or something else).  When new the coating had a sort of satin texture to it, however, after some use the texture smoothed out.  Otherwise the coating has held up well with only minor signs of wear.

Out of the box the edge was sharp, however, after a few days the factory edge picked up some microchips along its length.  I figured that this may have been due to the edge being overheated during the factory sharpening.  Whatever the cause,  re-profiling the edge to 30 degrees a side with a 20 degree micro bevel seems to have solved the issue. 

Overall Kizer has done a great job on the Escort blade and it re-enforces my admiration for S35VN.   It just continues to proves itself to be a great all round steel which holds a good edge, and is relatively easy to sharpen. 

Kizer Escort 2


HANDLE

Like the blade, the simplicity of the Escort handle design really drew me to the knife.   With the forefinger resting in the finger groove the knife becomes an extension of your hand, and excels in multiple grips.  All the edges are nicely rounded off, and there are no real hotspots.  Dirk did a great job on this handle.

The titanium is slick especially when wet, but, the sand blasted finish does give the handle a slight sticky grippiness when dry and it hides wear quite well.

The jimping on the spine is nice and aggressive and does a good job locking your thumb on top of the blade.  There is also jimping at the base of the blade which gives good purchase when drawing the knife from the pocket.

The decorated ‘signature’ Kizer pivot is a pet peeve of mine.  I feel that it looks cheap and nasty on all their knives that use it.  A poor attempt at ‘custom’ hardware if you ask me.  It is particularly jarring to my eye on this knife because of the simplicity of the design.  Pointless decoration on a tool designed to work… it just doesn’t fit.

 

POCKET CLIP

The clip is a low rider design and quite simple.  It has pretty poor retention if I’m honest and fell out of my pocket when I was on my back under the car on a couple of occasions.  Also, it needs another slight bend to flatten the tip of the clip, as the tip digs into the hand when gripping the knife hard.  I would love to see version two of the Escort have a milled titanium clip like the one they use on the Ursa Minor. 

Kizer Escort 4

 

LOCK

The titanium frame lock has a steel insert (which also acts as an over travel stop for the lock bar) and locks up tightly at around 30 percent.  There is no play in the blade at all, and no flex or change in the lock position when gripping the knife tightly.

Initially I had heard from some forumites that the lock would be difficult to disengage due to the lack of a cut out on the mark side scale.  On handling the knife this wasn't the case.  The lock sticks up slightly above the mark side frame with angled cut-outs on both the lock and mark side of the frame allowing space for the thumb to get in there to disengage the lock.  The lock might get harder to disengage as the frame wears and the gap for the thumb gets tighter.

Kizer Escort 5

 

DEPLOYMENT
Out of the box the flipping action was a little gritty.  On rinsing out the bearings under the tap this improved considerably and the knife opened extremely smoothly.  The flipper tab is easy to operate, however, the jimping under the tab did chaff my finger somewhat.  One big complaint is the lacklustre detent strength which makes quick flipping a challenge without some wrist action.   

The back end of the fuller groove is just accessible enough to enable the blade to be opened with the thumb.  If this is the intent of the groove (other than just looking cool) it is far from ideal and could easily be improved by milling the fuller groove further back on the blade.

The stop pin is set into the handle slabs a couple of mm on each side.  To my eye it looks rather slender when compared to most of my other flippers, but, it has remained solid after hundreds of flips.

So, all pretty positive then…. and it was.... until I dropped the knife on some hard tiles one day.  On inspecting the knife, it was clear that the pivot had loosened up some and the blade was now rubbing the mark side liner quite badly.  No big deal I thought, I’ll just tighten her back up.  Unfortunately, the pivot wouldn’t tighten or loosen it just spun freely. 

I contacted Kizer via Australian Blade Forums but and they didn’t seem to understand the issue:

The Pivot screw have the glue in it ,so you should Twist down the screw hard.

If you want to fix this problem , you should disassembly it , and assembling , and glue it again .

Do you have the gule for threadlocker ? If not, you should purchase one .

You could use the T10 screwdriver to fix it , let me know if it is possibel .

Kizer

 

I then contacted the designer of the Escort, Dirk Pinkerton, via the USA Bladeforums.  I can’t speak highly enough of Dirk, he was an absolute gentleman and went out of his way to assist, even to the point of disassembling one of his own Escorts. 
 

OK, I disassembled my Escort to see if I could duplicate the spinning pivot issue.

First, the pivot is not a "D" pivot. When you take the pivot screw off, you see what looks like a "D" pivot, but it doesn't run the entire length of the pivot. It is only a notch that extends only about 1/8".

I was able to duplicate the spinning pivot. I removed the pivot screw and then reinstalled. I tightened as far as could and then the entire pivot assembly would spin and the blade developed lateral play. I have seen this happen with other folders and what seems to happen is the thread locking compound loosens just enough to let the pivot screw back out just a bit. Because the compound has filled all of the threads the entire length of the pivot it prevents the pivot screw from easily being tightened. The compound needs to be cleaned out or loosened to permit the pivot screw to be tightened correctly. As counter intuitive as this sounds, I have found this is a bigger issue with pivots that have tighter tolerances.

I would return it to Kizer for repair.
Dirk

 

Following the response from Dirk, Kizer contacted me again and offered a refund, replacement or repair.  Rightly or wrongly I opted to get mine repaired, and as a result my Escort was the very first to go back to go back to the Australian Kizer warranty repair centre run by Tony at True Talon.

It turned out that the pivot pin was faulty and the two halves were jammed together and needed to be drilled out and replaced.  A couple of weeks later the knife arrived back as good as new and has been operating perfectly since. 

Kizer Escort 6


FINAL THOUGHTS
Hopefully I was just unlucky with my Escort as I really like many of the Kizer designs and their quality seems to be right up there.  However, I do have a nagging doubt that there is something fundamentally wrong with the design of the pivot.  So far this has stopped me buying another Kizer.

Pivot issue aside, the design and construction from Kizer was impressive.  They are nearly matching it with ZT in my opinion.  However, I do think that Kizer will need to work hard to make sure their Australian prices stay competitive.  I have noticed that some of their products are getting dangerously close to ZT prices.

 
 
 

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