Benchmade Grizzly Creek Hunting Knife
By Gary Zinn
Benchmade Grizzly Creek folding knife. Image courtesy of Benchmade USA.
It is hard to believe that Benchmade USA has been a participant in the contemporary style knife industry for barely over thirty years. During that period, the firm has achieved a reputation for making a variety of high quality, innovative products, which have been well received in the cutlery market.
The Benchmade website lists knives under six broad categories: Everyday Carry (EDC), Hunting, Outdoor, Rescue, Survival and Tactical. The focus of this review is the Grizzly Creek, one of four locking folder knife models in the Benchmade HUNT series of fixed and folding blade knives, designed for hunters. I used the Grizzly Creek as a good example of a modern style locking folder hunting knife in an earlier article (Choosing an Exceptional Big Game Hunting Knife) and decided that a detailed review was in order.
I expected to find much to like and little to criticize about this knife and that is what happened. The outstanding features of the Grizzly Creek include the excellent blade profile, premium steel, a robust frame and handle, rock-solid blade locking mechanism and a blade and handle size that is adequate for use in field dressing and processing most big game animals. A flip-out gut hook is a bonus.
My relatively minor criticisms are that the handle is a bit too slab-sided for optimal ergonomics and the pocket clip is virtually non-functional. These are negatives shared by the majority of contemporary style locking folder knives I have reviewed, so the Grizzly Creek is not unique in these shortcomings and they do not come close to overriding the positive features.
An exceptional knife starts with a great blade and this one qualifies. It features premium CPM-S30V steel with a drop point profile. The blade has 3-3/8 inch of sharpened edge, is 0.124 inch (3.1mm) thick at the spine, and is one inch wide at the belly, with a good all-purpose radius and sweep between the belly and tip and a slight recurve between the choil and belly.
One might wonder if a 3-3/8 inch blade is adequate for a hunting/field knife. Certainly, the suitable size of knife can be different for different situations. A blade that is just right for dressing a deer may not be large enough to efficiently work up a moose. That said, I have been using both fixed blade and folding knives for over half a century and I can think of very few instances in which I needed a blade with more than a 3 to 3-1/2 inch cutting edge in the field.
The satin finished blade sports a high hollow grind, with a secondary micro bevel forming the final cutting edge. The factory edge of my knife was Extremely Sharp, my top qualitative evaluation of sharpness. With wear-resistant S30V steel sharpened to this acuity, the knife will go for quite awhile before it needs even a light touchup sharpening. (See Sharpening S30V and Similar Super Steel Knife Blades for techniques and tips on sharpening the new super steels.)
Thumb studs facilitate one-handed blade opening. This is exceptionally easy, since the AXIS lock provides very little resistance to rotating the blade. The lock engages with a click that can be both heard and felt. It is rock solid, with no play or instability when the blade is deployed, and is easily disengaged with the thumb or forefinger. (Cam locks, such as the AXIS lock, are the easiest blade locks to manipulate, in my opinion.) The Grizzly Creek is totally ambidextrous, with thumb studs on both sides of the blade and a lock release stud that can be manipulated from either side of the handle.
The handle is solidly built around stainless steel liners, covered with Dymondwood (resin-impregnated wood veneer) scales, dyed in a walnut hue. This is a solid and durable handle design.
The knife is 4-3/8 inches long when closed and the handle has an adequate 3-7/8 inch working length; it is 7/8 inch wide at the index finger groove, flaring to 1-1/8 inches wide toward the butt, with a maximum thickness of about 9/16 inch. A steel spacer between the liners provides just enough counterweight to offset the forward weight of the open blade, giving the knife neutral balance in the hand.
All in all, the handle fits my medium-large hand well, but I do have a small criticism. The handle is just slab-sided enough to keep it from having optimal ergonomics. The length and profile are good, but the girth and radius of the handle could be better. Handle covers thicker in the middle and more rounded on the edges would make for better comfort and less hand fatigue when using the knife long or hard. This is not a deal breaker, but something about which prospective buyers should be aware.
The pocket clip was a disappointment. The only good thing I can say is the clip is sized and shaped so that it did not dig into my palm when I used the knife. Otherwise, Benchmade messed this up (as often happens with many brands and models of modern folding knives).
The clip mount position is set up for right side, tip-up carry. A card in the knife box reads: "The carry-clip has been installed on the right side of this knife for right side pocket carry. If you prefer to clip-carry the knife in the left side pocket, it is important that you remount the carry-clip on the other side of the knife handle."
However, there are no screw holes on the opposite side of the knife handle, so the clip cannot be repositioned. Go figure. (I think this card is automatically put in the box of all Benchmade folding knives with a pocket clip, as almost all of them do have screw holes for repositioning the pocket clip. Someone in the Packaging Department needs to correct this error. -Editor)
Further, the clip has very little springiness, so it is hard to slip it over the edge of a pocket, waistband, or belt. All things considered, the clip on this knife is a bust.
I anticipated that the clip might not be satisfactory, so when I ordered the knife I also ordered a Benchmade Large Nylon Sheath (item #981087F, price $10). At 5-1/4 inches deep, this sheath is a bit too long for the knife, a problem I solved by loosely wadding up a 3 by 3 inch square of waxed paper and jamming it into the bottom of the sheath. This works, so I can carry the sheathed knife on my belt, in a cargo pocket, or in a field pack. I have removed the clip.
The flip-out gut hook is a welcome addition to the knife design. Benchmade has cleverly mounted this in a cutout in the butt end of the left side handle liner. A mild detent buried somewhere in the pivot area keeps the hook from flopping around when it is either closed or deployed; the detent is not strong enough to hold the hook open against back pressure, but the natural position for holding the knife, with the hook deployed, places the index finger against a finger choil on the hook shaft, which keeps it in place during use. (For safety, close the main blade before opening and using the gut hook.)
The functional design of the gut hook blade is simple and effective, plus the cutting edge is chisel ground, so that it can be easily sharpened with a small diameter ceramic sharpening rod, or a very fine needle file. Kudos to Benchmade for how they have done the gut hook on this knife.
Warranty and maintenance service
Benchmade backs its knives with a Limited Lifetime Warranty and a maintenance service they call Lifesharp. The core statement of the warranty is as follows:
Benchmade Knife Company, Inc. warrants that Benchmade knives purchased from authorized dealers will be free from defects in materials and workmanship. Benchmade will, without charge, repair or replace at our (Benchmade's) option, any knife purchased from an authorized dealer and returned for Warranty work that is found to be defective by Benchmade.
Here is the brief statement about the Lifesharp knife maintenance service:
For free we will clean, oil, adjust and re-sharpen your Benchmade knife to a factory razor sharp edge. Simply ship the knife to the Benchmade address, postage paid and insured along with the required service forms.
See the Benchmade website (www.benchmade.com) for complete information on the warranty and maintenance service.
The Grizzly Creek is an excellent production folding hunting knife. I could not help comparing it with a similar fine knife I reviewed recently, the Buck Model 557 Open Season Folding Skinner Knife.
These two knives have blades that are virtually identical in profile and sharpened edge length. The Grizzly Creek has S30V steel and the Buck 557 has S35VN, steels that are close cousins with almost identical performance characteristics. Both knives have sturdy steel frames and almost indestructible handle covers.
Beyond that, there are definable differences between them. The Grizzly Creek knife has a gut hook built in, while the Buck 557 does not. The Buck 557 is two ounces heavier, if carry weight is a concern. The Grizzly Creek has a discount retail price about $30 higher than the Buck 557.
The Buck 557 comes with a leather belt sheath, with no pretense that it is a carry clip knife. The Grizzly Creek has an inadequate carry clip, which means that one will likely want to acquire a pouch-type sheath for it. More subjectively, I believe that the Buck 557 has better handle ergonomics than the Grizzly Creek.
Which of these is the better hunting knife? One cannot go far wrong with either of them and there might be another brand or model of folding hunting knife that might suit one even better. (For example, someone who favors a simple, traditional style folding hunting knife might prefer the beautifully finished Buck 110 Folding Hunter Pro Knife, which also has a CPM-S30V blade and comes with a durable leather belt pouch. - Editor)
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