New Knives From Benchmade for '07

A few weeks back, I received a box from Benchmade. Inside were two folding knives. One was a Benchmade, but the other box was marked "Heckler & Koch." For those of you who didn't know, Benchmade is making the H&K knives. The H&K Knife I received was the H&K Ally, Model #14440SB (for anyone who wants to look it up on the Benchmade web site). I REALLY like the simplistic design and efficient functionality of this knife. The second knife was the Benchmade VEX, Model #10750BP. Both incorporate a thumb hole, but the Vex's is perfectly round, while the Ally's is shaped to fit the blade and overall design. Actually, it's not, but when the knife is closed you really don't realize that the opening hole is round. It seems more ergonomically shaped. For this week's review, I'm going to take a look at the specifications of each, comfort of carry, and general cutting performance. Let me get this out of the way up front: I put the Ally in my pocket every day now before leaving my house. It's my newest Every Day Carry (EDC) blade.

Let's start out with the Benchmade Vex. Pictured to the right, the Vex is a liner lock design sporting a blade just about 3.3 inches long. In slightly rounded numbers, the closed length is about 4.5 inches while the open length is about 7.75 inches. Weight is just under five ounces, or about a third of a pound. The blade is just under 1/8-inch thick and made from a Chinese steel specified as 8Cr14MoV. According to the Benchmade web site, this steel is similar to AUS-8. The Rockwell hardness is 56-58HRC. The handles are manufactured from the well-known G10 material.

With the Vex, Benchmade made some ergonomic changes in the grip shape, providing a finger groove which increases ease of access both to the thumbhole for opening and to the liner lock for easier closing. The pocket clip fits nice and tight against the grip panel for a secure carry in your pocket. The clip is reversible, but only for either side, not for either end. The knife is designed for a tip down/pivot up carry, so I recommend it in a waistline or shirt pocket. It would also do well on a gun belt, but you'd have to purchase the sheath separately. A small lanyard hole is provided at the butt of the grip.

Moving on to the Ally: simplicity best describes this folding knife. Also a liner-lock design, the left grip panel also serves as the lock. Made from AUS8 steel, with a hardness of 58-60HRC, the blade is just under 3 inches long and is configured in a soft spear point design. Benchmade calls it a modified clip point, but as I look at it, with the beveled false edge and tip shape, it just looks like a soft spear point to me.

Thanks to the way the handles are cut and the blade fits into them when closed, the round thumbhole doesn't feel round. Part of it is enclosed in the grips, leaving you with a little more than a half-moon to lever open the blade. It's in no way a challenge with bare hands, but if you have gloves on it may prove a little more difficult. Obviously, however, Benchmade didn't design the Ally as a combat blade, or even one for use in harsh conditions. Given its size, handle material, etc, I would think that Benchmade designed this knife for everyday companion carry--a knife of convenience to have at hand.

With a blade thickness of just barely under 1/8-inch, the closed length of the Ally is just over 4 inches with an overall open length of just under 7 inches. Weight is less than 3 ounces. The clip is 2/3 as long as the whole knife when it's closed, thereby providing a nice secure carry. The clip is also reversible with the proper sized tool for the two Torx screws that hold it in place. While the clip can be put on either side, the design of the liner lock and cuts in the grip handles make it more comfortably carried as a right-handed knife.

The back end of the spine, and the forward end of the grips align nicely to let you enjoy the ridges Benchmade cut in inviting your thumb to press down into harder cuts. The grip slabs and choil are nicely shaped to provide a firm hold even for big hands. There is a significant lanyard loop and a small surprise in the butt of the knife: a window breaker. Designed for tip up/pivot down carry, I find this knife ideally suited for a pants pocket.

Now, with all that out of the way, how do they cut? Bearing in mind that neither of these knives was designed to be your survival or combat blade, the only thing I tested them on was various material that should reasonably cut with them: string, twine, nylon rope, some 550 cord, and some ½-inch hemp. Both knives cut through all of the various materials without issue, although the slightly longer blade on the Vex made some of the cutting easier. The serrations on the Ally made short work of the thinner materials. While pushing hard into the cuts on the rope and 550 cord I tried to pay attention to any play that might show itself at the pivot point, but couldn't find any. Both knives seem quite sturdy, given their size and designs.

All in all, I rate them both as good knives. I like the Ally better for everyday carry, but the Vex would be well suited if you like the tip down and thicker grips.

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