WARNING: Excessive analysis and nerding out over something very mundane.
A few months ago I decided to look into finding a nice folding pocket knife for every day use, something that could be opened easily one handed when needed, but small and unassuming.
I quickly fell into a rat hole of manufacturers, opening mechanisms, pocket carry clips and blade steels. I spent more time than I’d like to admit watching YouTube on the subject.
I now find myself with three knives…
I do not need three knives. I barely need one.
Regardless, in the hopes it helps someone else, I will claim it’s all for science and share where I ended up and why, because these are lovely little things and very handy to have around.
This was my first purchase, a Civivi McKenna with copper scales and a damascus blade, which is several different steels welded together to make the pattern you see. This knife is super slim, very unintimidating, and I dare say classy particularly in this spec. Despite the size the blade length is pretty good for anything a normal person would need in their day to day.
Civivi is a Chinese company, and the “budget” side of WE Knives (see below), but is an extremely well regarded and quality knife maker. There’s no doubt this McKenna is well made, it feels really solid and is perfectly centered.
Those copper scales make it incredibly heavy (and your hands smell like pennies), and the damascus blade doesn’t really do anything for me, so personally I’d suggest going for the much cheaper version with G10 handles and simple D2 steel.
I never quite got the hang of the front flipper tab, I can’t open it smoothly and have to first get it moving until it hits my palm and then can flick it open pretty easy. Still very satisfying though, and people love it so perhaps I just haven’t figured it out yet or it doesn’t work with my hands well.
Really nice knife though.
Spyderco Paramilitary 3 Lightweight
Next up was this Spyderco. I’d read nothing but good things about Spyderco, and while that hole in the blade they typically have was a little off putting at first, once you get used to it and realize the versatility it offers, it makes total sense. After hours of research I decided this Para 3 lightweight was probably the best option, it came in at a lower cost than the regular PM3 or PM2, but still has Spyderco’s patented compression lock which makes it really easy to close with either hand. The FRN Chapparal and Delica were other contenders here, but both had a less appealing backlock, though they are still reportedly very good.
Spyderco is US based but manufactures in both the US and China, I believe this model is made in the US.
However, out of the box I was not impressed and was considering returning, for two reasons:
(1) The “lightweight” variant here was more startling than I expected. The knife is so lightweight it actually feels kind of cheap. I know it’s not cheap, nor is it weak, those FRN scales are insanely strong, but after carrying the copper scaled McKenna for a few weeks it was quite a shock. It still feels a little strange to me even now, almost unbalanced because the blade weighs more than the handle. However if you’d like something crazy light, this will be a huge upside for you, it’s almost unbelievable how light it is. I’ve come to get used to it, but I still suspect I’d slightly prefer the regular PM3 with heavier G10 scales.
(2) The opening action was not what I expected. It was sticky, difficult to open, impossible to flick. However within a couple days I figured out that this is all a matter of how you adjust it. After disassembling a couple times and lubricating the pivot with a good oil, I found that the way you tighten the pivot makes all the difference in the world. If you tighten it snug, that blade isn’t moving at all, period. You need to back both sides off just a tiny bit to get it just right and once it’s dialed in, it becomes absolute perfection. I can open and close it with both right and left hands, using either thumbs or index fingers, and then pinch to close and it will drop right shut. I love that compression lock.
It has a terrific deep carry wire clip, disappears in the pocket and you forget it’s there.
I still think the black coated blade looks neat, and while I need to use a knife in situations where it’s important not to reflect sunlight and give away my position as much as the next guy, it might look a little too hardcore. You can of course get a PM3 LW with an uncoated steel blade, actually for a little less.
I also love the size, it’s the largest of the three (though weirdly the lightest), fits great in the hand, and for any extended use this would by far be the best.
WE Knives Banter
This Banter is made by WE Knives, the flagship brand of the same company that makes Civivi’s. This is the most expensive and best manufactured of the three.
For starters I love the way it looks, it’s very unassuming, and super compact, at home in your pocket or backpack or laptop bag. Despite the small size the blade is a very usable length and once opened, it still seems to be a very usable size.
This was my first knife with G10 scales and honestly I really love it, it gives this one the ideal weight for my preferences compared to the other two, which are a little too heavy and too light respectively.
The blade is S35VN, which from what I gather is about perfect for an everyday knife, holds an edge really well, corrosion resistant, but also not too hard which would make it difficult to sharpen. This Banter also has a really nice satin finish.
It’s very satisfying to open, great action and locks into place with a really chunky click. I can open with either hand, but closing one handed is only possible on the right. Even with the right, the liner lock is a little abrasive and as it’s not particularly well exposed. If you’re a fidgeter, which I am, this one is super satisfying, but a little hard on the hands at least for awhile.
As much as I like the McKenna, I think I’m going to sell it. It’s a lovely little thing, but I don’t find myself using it for anything given the other two. Anyone on the market for one I’d suggest saving your money and just getting the G10 D2 version, which is a good 40% less.
The Spyderco PM3 LW I think is technically the best knife here, for any extended use this is the one I’d want, and if I had to choose just one it would probably be this because it does it all. It’s a keeper for now, and I think I’d only get rid of it if swapping for a heavier regular PM3 with G10 scales and maybe better steel.
The Banter is however, my favorite. I love the way it looks and feels, the build quality, the opening action, and it’s compactness. It’s very discrete, it’s not alarming, it doesn’t look out of place, it’s just perfect for every day casual carry and use.
And that’s it, I set out to find a great knife, ended up finding two. I’m done for now, I hope…