My New EDC Knife: Review of the Benchmade 551BK-1 Folder

by Erich

Before I get into the actual review of the knife I really wanted to quickly provide some context and background about what knives I currently carry as an every-day carry knife and where this knife fits into that.

When it comes to daily carry there are two knives that I will choose on a regular basis, and depending on where I go that day determines which knife I ultimately carry with me.

The two knives are the Doug Ritter RSK MK1 (made by Benchmade) or the Hissatsu folder that I reviewed in a prior article that you can find here.

Why I switch off between these two knives is because of their differences in terms of utility. The Doug Ritter knife I used primarily for every-day carry in the rural town that I live in and if I visit the surrounding areas. It’s an excellent survival type knife and if you notice the blade profile pictured below (with it’s wide blade and drop point) it’s perfectly suited for survival types of activities like making bow drill sets, skinning animals, making primitive traps or simple carvings and even light splitting of smaller pieces of wood using the baton technique. All in all it’s very strong and is an excellent every-day carry survival knife.

doug-ritter-edc

The downside to the Doug Ritter knife is that due to its wide profile, using it as a self-defense knife would be not ideal because it would be difficult to penetrate into someone — especially when encountering ribs or a threat who’s wearing heavy winter clothing or a leather jacket.

Compare that with the profile of the Hissatsu Folder whose primary purpose is for self defense and is clearly intended to for stabbing and penetration as seen by the blade profile in the following photo (As a side note, I was able to easily penetrate this knife into and through a wood board as you can see at the end of this video I put together):

hissatsu-folder

However, it functions poorly as a survival tool because of its steep blade angle, lack of drop point, and thick spine which prevents it from easily slicing into wood and overall, making bushcraft activities a difficult process.

Up until now, anytime I’m local or head into the bush, I have the Doug Ritter, and those times I’m heading into the city, or a strictly urban area, I will primarily carry the Hissatsu folder with me, which brings me to today’s review…

For the longest time now, I’ve been looking for a knife that could really serve both purposes — it would work great as a survival knife but at the same time you would have the proper blade profile to function as a self-defense tool.

Enter the Benchmade Griptilian 551BK-1 knife…

Review of the Benchmade Griptilian 551BK-1

Overview

Benchmade 551BK-1 Review

The Benchmade Griptilian 551BK-1 knife was designed by custom knife maker Mel Pardue.

Mel has been around the knife making seen for over 25 years now and is well known for his elegant style and his simplicity in design. He’s collaborated here with Benchmade to offer an excellent knife I’m happy to review for you guys.

Locking Mechanism

The locking mechanism of this folder leverages the proprietary Benchmade Axis Lock System.

You might be asking what the big deal about the Axis Lock System is and why you should care so let me just explain here for a little bit:

The fact is, locking mechanisms for folding knives have been and still are in many cases far from reliable.

Older designs like the lock back or the liner lock designs are some very common ones where the mechanisms don’t always keep the blade in the lock position. This can inadvertently lead the knife to fold back into one’s fingers as you’re gripping the knife’s handle

Bench made’s axis lock is a proprietary mechanism that is probably my favorite locking mechanism. It’s easy to use with one hand but also it’s completely ambidextrous if you happen to lose the functionality in one hand and are required to use the other.

Axis_Lock-System Benchmade

Here’s how it works: The lock is really a bar that’s under spring tension that slides back-and-forth along the track that is cut into the handles of the knife.

The butt end of the folding blade itself has a flat spot that allows the spring tension bar to lock into place when the knife is open.

To close the blade all you have to do is pull the bar backwards and then using one of the thumb studs (again these are on both sides allowing for ambidexterity) to fold the blade shut.

Opening the blade does not require any manipulation of the locking mechanism. All you need to do is manipulate the thumb studs like many other folders and open it that way.

See the following video for an example of closing and opening the 551BK-1 knife:

The Blade

551bk-1_blade

The blade is premier stainless steel that is been coated with a black non-reflective coating and a plain edge that lends itself to a large variety of every-day uses.

For you steel hounds out there who care about the details (like me), the steel has been upgraded from Benchmade’s current M390 steel to this CPM–20CV steel. The upgrade in steel offers better edge retention but it is not quite as tough to resharpen as the M390.

In all honesty I prefer the S30V steel that the Doug Ritter survival knife has over the 20CV steel because it has less carbon, is less prone to chipping and it’s all-around just a little bit tougher.

Still, with that being said, the blade profile ultimately what won me over to this knife.

If you compare the picture below between the Doug Ritter and the 551BK-1 you can see that it will perform a lot better as a self-defense tool due to it’s narrower profile but at the same time, still still work well as a survival tool.

Again now comparing it with the Hassatsu Folder, while it doesn’t have the extreme self-defense profile it is nonetheless a great midpoint between the two.

knife-comparison

The Handle

While the blade profile design is enough to sell me on this knife, the excellent handle was just icing on the cake which lead me to want this to be my every-day carry.

The handle features the well-known Griptilian diamond texturing for grip and comfort. Gray G10 forms the basis of the outer handle with blue G10 accidents inside. In addition there’s some partial stainless steel liner is to support and house the locking mechanism.

griptilian-grey

As with other Benchmade knives, the construction will provide for easy disassembly, cleaning, and overall maintenance.

As a side note, the combination of the handle size and locking mechanism lends itself well to working with gloves on during colder temperatures.

Price and Where to Buy

The retail price for this knife goes for $225 and can be found in most knife stores online. If you’d like to get a discounted price for this be sure to check out this knife at KnifeArt.com where you can purchase it currently for around $40 off the list price (these knives are popular and sell out quickly so be sure to get them while they’re still in stock).

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2 Comments»

Comment by Glockasp
2016-04-26 13:50:29

While I love Benchmade knives they are always out of my price range. I wish I could afford to spend $200. On a folding knife it looks awesome.

 
Comment by Marco
2016-07-14 16:54:55

I got the 550-1 awhile back (same as this knife without the BK1 coating). I was very surprised by how much I like it. I am normally heavily biased toward Spyderco, and have had a few bad experiences with Benchmade, but this knife is just great.

I’m considering a 550BK-1 which is the same as this knife except that it has a sheepsfoot blade design (which I do not like) and a thumb hole opener. I prefer the drop point blade design, but also prefer thumb holes over studs, so any choice is a compromise. For some reason, Benchmade does not offer this knife in a drop point blade with a thumb hole opener.

Actually, I prefer thumb holes for opening, but the thumb studs are nice for closing. I am right handed, and use my index finger on the left side of the knife to close the blade. Can’t really do that with a thumb hole.

 
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