By Steve Harvey
With their designer series, Benchmade Knife Company Inc. aspires to make the talent and inspiration of a few of todays top private knife makers available to everyone at production knife prices. The Stryker, Benchmades latest collaboration with knife maker Allen Elishewitz, fulfills that aspiration brilliantly. The Stryker is a truly custom quality design. The geometric tanto blade is tactical-tough, and has also taken some utility lessons. The handle integrates into the hand as though it were bone and sinew.
Benchmade produced the Stryker in response to some commonly heard criticisms of their first geometric tanto folder, the Emerson CQC7. Apparently, there are a significant number of folks who are enthusiastic about the strengths inherent in the geo-tanto blade shape, but who aren't too excited about the limited utility of the chisel grind, or a bead blasted finish. The Stryker, with its double ground blade, shallower secondary edge angle, and satin or BT2® finish, is intended to satisfy those folks. It would be incorrect to view the Stryker as a design compromise for the sake of utility, however. The Stryker may be the toughest blade that Benchmade has offered to date, and though the V-grind is more versatile than the chisel grind, it is still a geo-tanto.
In his review, Howard stated that the Stryker blade is one of the prettiest production blades he has seen. This didn't seem to fit the stubby, angular knife I saw in the pictures, but after seeing the Stryker in person, I agree with him. The graceful curves of the blade-top and swedge juxtaposed with the angular edge bevels are visually interesting, even appealing. The satin finish on the Stryker reflects, if you will pardon the term, a significant improvement in Benchmades process. It looks like a 400 - 600 grit sanded finish, and the phonograph record grooves that were characteristic of older Benchmade satin finishes are not in evidence.
The blade is an excellent tactical design. The shallower secondary edge angle has allowed lowering the point of the blade down to the center line for ideal point presentation. The angles of the secondary edge bevels are such that the distal taper from the full blade thickness to the tip is less than .6 inches in length. Compare that to over .8 inches on the 975, and 1.6 inches on the 800, both blades of approximately the same thickness (.12 inches). What does that mean? A sturdy tip about which you will have no qualms when punching through tough materials such as thin gauge metal (within reason, of course).
The handle of the Stryker is brilliantly conceived and executed. It interlocks precisely with the hand in both forward and reverse grips. In the saber grip, the rounded butt fits perfectly into the pocket of your palm. This allows a very efficient transfer of force from the wrist, to the handle, to the tip of the blade. Choke up on the Stryker for cutting through tough material, and the thumb rests on the front, down-hill side of the thumb hump, right over the opening disk, again resulting in greater comfort and cutting efficiency.
You have to look close, but there is some room for improvement. The liner lock is partially protected by the right side handle slab, but a white-knuckle grip while wearing thick gloves could potentially loosen the lock. When the knife is closed, the thumb disk is not centered in the finger cutout. This allows the handle to interfere with opening to a small extent, even with the nifty flutes that Benchmade has ground into the G-10 handle scales. The Stryker is reasonably ambidextrous, but left hand opening is further impacted by the shallower lock-side cutout. I found opening to actually be aided, rather than hindered, by putting on a pair of medium-weight knit shooting gloves. The fabric tended to catch the opening disk better than the skin of my thumb did.
I came up with what I think was a good test of the Striker's capabilities, a test in keeping with the season: carving the Halloween pumpkin. The Stryker penetrates the shell of a large pumpkin with ease. That is not very useful information without some frame of reference, so lets compare it to the 975SBT. The Stryker penetrates better. The shallower secondary edge angle is probably the reason. Cutting a lid in the top of the pumpkin, the Stryker is easier to steer in a circle. The 975 wants to veer off in a shallow arc toward the flat side of the blade, and requires more effort to turn in either direction. As I cut out the eyes, nose, and mouth (and I thought a pumpkin test would not be gruesome), I find that the secondary point, (the bend in the edge) really does cut twice, as they say. It makes for some ragged eye sockets (on a jack-o-lantern). How valid is testing tactical folders on a pumpkin? I don't know. I do feel it gave me a rough idea of some of the relative strengths and weaknesses of the Stryker and CQC7 blade geometry.
How about pure cutting ability? Lets go out in the back yard and sharpen some wooden stakes to use on those inevitable Halloween vampires. Take a couple of good deep cuts with each one, and it is clear that the chisel ground CQC7 is cutting into the wood more aggressively. Maybe it is the CQC7s finer edge geometry, or maybe Ernest Emerson is right, and chisel ground edges do have magical cutting properties.
My standard point strength test: opening a 24 oz. tin can of Denisons culinary delight. The Stryker happily pierces large tin can lids without receiving a scratch. I wonder how the edge will withstand a little twisting as I shear the metal? Two or three twisting thrusts, and I can see little glinting deformations in the edge. Not chips, just deformations, but doing this all the way around the top of the can is going to put the edge in serious need of re-sharpening. I would label puncturing tin containers acceptable use for this knife, but twisting as you go, is a sure way to obliterate the cutting edge. In summary, do not make the mistake of thinking of the Stryker merely as a CQC7 that has been toned down to appeal more to civilians. Nor is the Stryker going to knock the AFCKs and Leopards out of first place in Benchmades utility league. The brilliant handle design and double grind do make the Stryker a better utility knife, but the Striker's true nature is tactical. It is a folding tanto with a geometric edge, and a blade that may be the toughest in Benchmades line. It may concede some pure cutting ability to the chisel ground CQC7, but in compensation, it has stronger edge geometry, better penetration (at least on pumpkins), and a less extreme, you might even think pretty, appearance. The Striker's ergonomics are so superb that it is worth reevaluating the type of utility knife that is right for you. If most of your cutting chores are straight and tough, or you just like to carry a knife that is ready for anything that might come your way, the Stryker has to be on a very short list of your best choices.
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