With 2017 behind us, I thought it might be fun to take a look back at my favourite tactical folders of the year. Before anyone gets upset, please take this list with a grain of salt. As you may have noticed, my tastes are a bit ‘old school’ when it comes to folding knives insomuch as I prefer the classic style of the 80s and 90s to the latest and greatest ball bearing flippers.
The arbitrary list of rules I have concocted for this exercise is as follows:
Rule 1 – Production knives only;
Rule 2 – Must have been produced in 2017; and
Rule 3 – Only one knife from each company.
Without further ado, let's get on with the show!!
10) POHL FORCE MIKE SERIES
I just couldn’t leave the ‘European Strider’ off my list for 2017. After picking up a Mike One early in the year, it quickly became one of my favourites. Design by Dietmar Pohl and built by Lionsteel, the Mike features perfect fit and finish, great ergonomics and is as tough as nails. You can check out my full review here. It does seem that in 2017 their American distributor pohlforceusa.com disappeared. Which could be a bad sign... However, 'optimistic Matt' is hoping Pohl Force goes from strength to strength in 2018. Who knows I may even put in the effort to work out their naming and numbering system!
9) BOKER J.W. SMITH SD-3
The Boker J.W Smith SD-3 was one of my last knife purchases of 2017, but in the short time we have had together it has charmed the pants off me. Designed by the tactical knife maestro, J.W. Smith, it evokes the style of early custom tacticals. The SD-3 has top-notch fit and finish, great ergonomics, CPM154 blade steel and deployment as smooth as a baby's bottom. After having so many Chinese made Boker knives with issues it is refreshing to be reminded of just how good their German stuff really is. I really can't wait to start reviewing this one. I just need to get number 8 knocked over first…
8) FOX TERZUOLA 525Ti
I'll admit it, I am a Terzoula slut. Periodically I will do a word search for ‘Terzuola' on the major knife purveying websites. Imagine my delight when I stumbled across this gem. Seriously, if someone asked me to design my perfect ‘Sebenza killer' this would be it. A sexy, thin, light titanium framelock with lock bar insert, milled clip, thumb disc and awesome fit & finish. The high hollow ground blade is nearly as thin behind the edge as my Japanese kitchen knives and slices like a mofo (as my poor thumb will attest). I have deliberately been taking my sweet-ass time writing the review of this one just so I have an excuse to enjoy carrying it more!
7) HINDERER XM-18 3.5"
Ahh the XM-18, such a classic. I often forget how damn good this knife is, but then I carry it again and I realise why it is an icon (and why I have four of them). Funnily enough, despite being panned for being a crap flipper, this is one of only two flippers which makes my list. The XM isn't going to win any tomato slicing contests, but it will bust through a brick wall if you need it to. Available in a bazillion configurations and infinitely customisable with factory parts, Rick really hit it out of the park with the XM. Hopefully, he can get back on form in 2018 after a year of ugly new knife designs, I'm looking at you Jurassic…
6) CHRIS REEVE KNIVES (CRK) LARGE INKOSI
If I went back to January 2017 and asked myself what my CRK of the year would be, my answer would be "why future-Matt, it will be my Small 21 Insingo of course! Just like every year". But, this year something happened, that something was the Large Inkosi. It fixes everything that was wrong with the 25 and has been by far my most carried CRK this year. Just a bit beefier than the 21, the minor upgrades seem small in isolation, but all add up to an exceptional knife. I'm looking forward to seeing what 2018 brings for CRK given the rumblings of new products.
5) SPYDERCO MILITARY
There is a reason that the Millie has been on the market for 20 odd years. That reason is simply that it rocks. Light as a feather, with a big ass full flat ground blade, one of the best liner locks in the business, and Spyderco's CQI (constant quality improvements) the Millie is an all-time hall of famer. Personally, I hope they never introduce a Millie 2 as it is damn near perfect as it is (and if they do it better not have a f**king compression lock !!!!). With Spyderco's 2018 catalogue looking bland and MAP increases across the board I really hope Spyderco has a few nice surprises up their sleeve for us in 2018. If not, I might be having a year off from what was once my most frequently purchased brand.
4) STRIDER SnG
With the demise of Strider Knives as we know it in 2017, I am praying that the SnG stays on this list for 2018. I much prefer the svelte SnG to its girthier sister because it is so much easier to carry. You can read my gushing in the review, but needless to say that the SnG and SMF are part of the tactical knife trilogy for a reason. This is a knife you need to try. Let's hope production picks up in 2018 as there is undoubtedly a lot of pent-up demand for this classic.
3) AL MAR FALCON ULTRALIGHT
I'll be honest, I nearly excluded the Falcon from my list this year. Not because of any fault of the knife, but because I have had two SHOCKING quality control and warranty experiences with Al Mar this year which make me hesitant to recommend their products. However, the Falcon is simply awesome and I couldn't bring myself to leave it off this list. This featherweight knife is unlike anything else on the market and regardless of whatever else I am carrying I will always have a Falcon on me.
Regarding Al Mar, I fear that this once proud company stopped innovating long ago and has been just resting on its laurels. With the selling of Al Mar's classic designs to the likes of KAI and TOPS, I fear that the company is in a death spiral. I hope I am proved wrong and things pick up for Al Mar in 2018.
2) EMERSON CQC7
The 7 is arguably the most influential production tactical knife ever and one of my all-time favourites. Frankly, I am a bit stunned that this old gal got bumped to number 2. The 7 has been in production since the early 90s and is the quintessential Emerson production knife. Whenever there is hard, dirty, abusive work to be done this is the knife I reach for. I love how Emerson designs his knives as tools rather than fashion accessories. They are just made for working. If not for rule #3 I could have easily crammed a few more Emerson knives on this list. I am really looking forward to what 2018 brings for Emerson.
1) G&G HAWK TAD DAUNTLESS
Well blow me down, who would have thought that Grant and Gav would sneak in and steal the whole show. The TAD Hawk is my knife of 2017. In a world of generic $500 slab sided titanium flippers, this thing is so unique and so good I was just blown away. While somewhat expensive, the TAD Hawk is worth every penny. The action is like a bolt action rifle, the lock unique and bloody bulletproof, the hollow ground blade actually cuts, and it is all wrapped up with the build quality that the guys at Milit are known for.
Overall 2017 has been a great year for G&G with their small batch production runs knocking it out of the park. Their Mudd folder would be finishing pretty high up this list as well if not for rule #3. I can't wait for what weird and wonderful stuff G&G bring us in 2018!
Not a single Benchmade this year!!! WTF is going on I hear you say. In a normal year, Benchmade would be near the top of my list. The trouble is that in 2017 they discontinued pretty much all that was left of my favourite classic Benchies and replaced them with a bunch of boring generic folders (bugout excluded).
Benchmade, bring back my bloody Stryker, 710 and AFCK and you might get back on the list!!!!
As per BM, not a single ZT makes my list. Frankly I am bored with ZT as of late. The ZT Style has increasingly veered away from the rugged hard-working aesthetic that the company was built on (and I quite liked). Now don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with ZT going in this direction, it is just that their current offerings don’t really do much for me. The Emerson and Hinderer collaborations just seem to lack the sparkle of the real deal, and the ‘working folder’ of the line-up, the 909, has now been discontinued.
All this could change at the drop of a hat when we see what ZT has in store for us in 2018. I am really dying for a cool Al Mar collaboration…
And that is that folks! I hoped you enjoyed the list and perhaps even found it thought-provoking or dare I say it… interesting.
Please feel free to comment and let me know your thoughts and personal 2017 top ten.
Here's to a great 2018!
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