Benchmade Griptilian Review

In the search for an everyday carry knife, a sub-in for an A.G. Russell One-Handed Folder that was a gift from my father, I came across a knife magazine review (actually a “shoot-out” among 5 or so folding tactical knives) of the Benchmade Griptilian. Let it be known that I do not subscribe to a knife magazine; let it also be known that doctors’ offices in Utah have strange reading material.

Why do I need another knife when I have a nice knife already? Therein lies the problem: it’s nice. It is a “gentleman’s” pocket knife, too nice and too expensive to fuck up while opening beer bottles, slicing cardboard and cutting zip ties. On the other hand, there are “tactical” folders, which are tough enough to handle most anything, but make you look like some kind of closeted Special Forces wannabe when you take one out to dissect an apple. Both leave the owner wanting. What you really need is a knife that you can carry all the time, that can not only take a beating, but that looks relatively tame and that you don’t particularly care if it looks like it took a beating. I digress.

Back to the shootout.

The Griptilian won, hands-down. It was the toughest by a long shot after myriad tests, most of which (for instance, stabbing a side of beef to test “penetration”) I could never see myself performing, but appreciated for their enthusiasm. Nevertheless, I didn’t like the Griptilian’s aggressively pointed blade shape, I didn’t like the name, and I think thumb studs are second only to fingernail notches in their difficulty to operate. A year later, I saw the same knife in person at a trade show…with the second blade shape: a slight sheepsfoot with a thumb hole. I bought it on impulse, in the olive drab and black nitride color combo, which I now slightly regret as it looks a bit too military.

Benchmade Griptilian closed


I’m not what you’d call a heavy knife user; most days it stays in my pocket. However, when the situation has demanded, there’s been no cutting task the Griptilian can’t handle. I’ve used it for everything from opening mail, sectioning fruit, and performing minor surgery, to trimming wire, opening cans, and splitting kindling using the baton method (hammering on the spine of the blade to drive it through a log). The latter was a task from the shootout, and broke four out of the five knives being tested, but not the Griptilian. I remembered this, otherwise I probably wouldn’t have tried it. Clearly, for a folding knife with a composite (a.k.a. plastic) handle, it is astonishingly solid. Compared to my father’s old Buck Lite lockback, and a more recent Spyderco Clipit, it’s practically superhuman.  Operation is faultless; opening and closing with one hand is smooth, and the lock never jams closed or fails to engage. I’ve used it saltwater fishing, riding in the desert, and camping in the mountains, with zero appreciable wear to either the pivot or the locking mechanism. I clean it with dish soap and hot water, air dry it, and so far I’ve yet to see any rust develop. The only real wear on the blade has been the removal of some of the black nitride coating on the spine, in the spot where it doubles as an improvised bottle opener. The 154CM steel blade takes and holds a good edge, and a diamond rod once a year on the serrated section keeps the teeth from rounding over. I sometimes debate whether the plain edge would have been a better call, and the answer I think is yes; for daily use, a longer edge would be more functional. However, I have needed the serrated section for cutting rope, webbing, and other slippery items, to the point that it has justified itself. The pocket clip holds well in any pair of shorts or pants, and I like the fact that it is reversible for left-pocket carry.

Benchmade Griptilian 1

Overall, I am very pleased with the Griptilian. Benchmade clearly has the design down to a science, and the build quality of this knife is unequalled in its category from what I have seen. The best part is, since it’s not wildly expensive or a particularly beautiful tool, you can actually use it to its full potential, knowing that if it ever breaks or gets lost you’re only out about $100. There is a D2 steel version available now, for additional cost. Is it worth it? I doubt it unless you are a full-blown blade nerd or a real bushcraft guy, in which case you should have a sheath knife and another sheath knife as backup. I think the 154CM version is a bargain for anyone who is seeking a tough, comfortable, rock-solid knife for casual everyday use.
– Rob de Luca