I’m writing from the point of view of prepping, not as an expert in knives. I recently purchased a Griptilian 551-S-H2O folding knife from Benchmade. I chose this knife specifically for emergency preparedness, so my review will be based on that intended use.
The Griptilian® knife by Benchmade is really a series of knives, with a similar design, but many different options. The Mini-Griptilian has a 2.91-inch blade, an overall length of 6.78 inches, and weighs in at 2.56 oz. Butch has been using a Mini-Griptilian for some time now. He raves about the knife here. I have the full-size model, with a 3.4-inch blade, an overall length of 8.07 inches, and a weight of 3.82 oz. Full Specs are here. (Beware of state, county, and city laws restricting carry knife length to 3 inches, less than 3 inches, 2.5 inches, or some other length.)
There are so many options for the Griptilian series of knives that Benchmade lets you customize your Griptilian knife. Choose mini or full size. Choose the handle color out of 12 choices; you can even have one side of the handle one color and the other side another color. Choose the style and color of the clip, and the color (silver or black) for the liner, the Axis lock, and even the screws. Blade options include color (satin or black), 3 styles of blade, 4 types of steel, and plain or serrated edge. There are over 55,000 different possible combinations, assuming both sides of the handle the same color. (Assuming any odd combination of 2-color handles, the number of combinations jumps to over 650,000.) In addition, you can add customized text or a customized image to the knife, for a truly unique Griptilian.
However, the knife I ordered is not on the custom menu. It’s the H2O version of the Griptilian: dusty orange handle and special X15-TN steel. This particular steel is highly-corrosion resistant, but also has a high hardness (58-60 HRC) and excellent edge retention.
“However, the folks at Benchmade Knife Company have begun using a ‘super corrosion-resistant blade steel’ that is known in the industry as X-15 T.N stainless steel. Furthermore, this new steel also offers incredible edge retention. X-15 T.N was developed by the French firm of Aubert & Duval for use in jet engine ball bearings…. The special properties of X-15 T.N are the result of its manufacturing methodology, resulting in superior corrosion-resistance in extremely harsh environments like saltwater.” (Tactical Life
The knife is called H2O because it is designed to resist corrosion, even with extended use in damp conditions. Other steels that are highly corrosion resistant, like H1 or N680, lose their edge more easily. The H2O Griptilian should work well with extended use outdoors. So for prepping purposes, this type of steel is excellent. It takes a sharp edge, wears well, and resists corrosion better than other steels of the same hardness.
I keep wanting to call this knife the “Gripzilla”, for some reason. The handle and its grippiness is supposed to be one of its main selling points, hence the name “Griptilian”. The handle is a little controversial. I’ve read a few other reviews of this knife, and they all have similar comments: The handle is a lightweight plastic, that stands up to hard use well; but it seems cheap somehow.
My take on this is that the lightweight handle is a feature, not a bug. With a sturdy 3.4″ blade and a light handle, the balance point of the knife is right over the index finger. This balanced weighting offers control and ease of use when manipulating the knife. A heavier handle would not have the same balance.
The plastic itself is very hard, despite being light. So it has good, well, whatever the handle equivalent of “edge retention” would be. It does not scratch or mar easily. However, this hardness makes the plastic itself a little too slick in its feel. To counter this disadvantage, the grip has raised diamond-shaped markings on both sides, and horizontal grooves on the top and bottom edges. These provide a firm purchase on the handle, whether one holds the knife lightly or firmly. The pocket clip covers much of these grip-markings on one side of the knife. So you might want to remove the clip if the knife sees frequent hard use.
The handle on the H2O Griptilian is an orange color. I suppose they were thinking of possible uses as a rescue knife. But the color is a dusty orange, not the bright obnoxious “rescue orange”. I think that the color makes this knife look less threatening. I need a knife that is a tool, something I can use around other people without them seeing it as a weapon. Butch makes the same point here. Despite its 3.4″ partially-serrated blade, the knife seems less like a weapon due to its disarming dusty orange color. It does evoke “rescue”, rather than “tactical” or (worse still) “zombie”.
If I were to get a customized Mini-Griptilian to go with the H2O, I’d pick a color like bright blue or yellow for much the same reason. For some reason, knives designed to look menacing, sell well. But there is something to be said for a knife that looks like a tool, and can double as a weapon in dire circumstances.
The blade on the H2O Griptilian is the X15 T.N steel, which is a medium gray, not the lighter shiny steel-gray color of most other blades. The blade is marked with a Benchmade butterfly on one side and “X15-TN” on the other side. The back of the blade has thick jimping (wide grooves) to provide traction with difficult cutting jobs. The jimping extends back to the exposed metal liner of the handle and the plastic beside and below that exposed portion of the liner. The result is a very good grip when working the knife.
The knife opens via a thumb stud that is grooved for good traction, and ambidextrous. The position of the thumb stud is perfect. Some knives are difficult to open because of the position of the stud and its leverage, or lack thereof, to open the blade. But the Griptilian thumb stud is far enough away from the handle, far enough out on the back edge of the blade, and far enough from the pivot point to allow an easy push from almost any angle to open the knife. You can push the stud straight up or straight out to the side, or any direction between those two directions, and the blade slides smoothly around the pivot point.
Then it locks open firmly with the Axis lock. When locked open, the blade is held securely, so that it will not accidentally unlock and close on your hand, as can happen with some liner locks, or some lock-backs. A pull on the Axis lock button unlocks the blade. But you have to push on the jimping or otherwise push the blade out of position, so that it doesn’t re-lock when you release the button. You then manually pull the blade back to the handle with your thumb, or your free hand. The knife can be opened easily with one hand, and can be closed a little less easily with one hand.
As a tool in prepping, rather than as a weapon, I’m not concerned about being able to open the knife quickly. I don’t care for assisted opener knives. It is not a feature that I have any use for. And as I said about the color of the handle, I’ll say even more so about assisted openers, it makes the knife seem more like a weapon, and less like a tool.
Plain or Serrated?
A sharp plain-edged blade will cut almost anything that a serrated or partially-serrated blade will cut. But the partial serrations on a prepping knife will let it cut certain things more quickly and easily: paracord, rope, tarp or canvas, and I’m not sure what else. The serrations have the disadvantage of making the knife seem a little more like a weapon than a tool. But I don’t think the serrations actually provide any advantage in a self-defense type of situation. It only seems that way.
I think the main disadvantage to serrations is that they make the knife more difficult to sharpen. Even the Benchmade LifeSharp Service does not apply to the serrated portion of the blade. So if your knife sees heavy use, you might want to consider the plain edge.
Beyond the type of steel, the design of the knife, and the various features, there is another factor in knife selection: quality. Regardless of the brand name and reputation of the company, which for Benchmade are excellent, quality is an ethereal factor. It is more than the sum of the knife features. This knife has quality. It is a very well made knife, with a Benchmade warranty and the “LifeSharp” lifetime knife sharpening service.
The Griptilian knife from Benchmade, in any of its many forms, is highly recommended by Prep-Blog.com