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August 2005field test

Folding Knives

From the classic Swiss Army knife to blades designed for the U.S. Special Forces, “folders” offer something for everyone.

By Gibbs Milliken

Top-quality folding knives with high-test steel blades are fast-opening, compact and safer to carry than fixed-blade knives of the same size.

Traditional Folders

Want a very functional pocketknife for everyday use? The Swiss Army Knife, first introduced in the late 19th century, remains one of the most popular folding knives in the world. The smallest is the Classic, a keychain version only 2-1/4 inches long when closed, with a stainless blade, nail file, screwdriver, scissors, tweezers and a plastic toothpick. Wide assortments of other models have job-specific tools like the Angler, which is 3-1/2 inches closed, and comes with most of the features needed by anglers. ($16, Classic SD. $42.95, Angler. Victornox Swiss Army, (800) 243-4032, <www.swiss army.com>)

Another impressive knife is the 8-1/2 inch Puma Prince, handmade in Germany with a natural stag handle and solid brass bolsters. The blades are individually tested for a Rockwell hardness of 57-59. With excellent balance in the hand, this long and graceful clip-point knife has a deeply hollow-ground blade and locking back safety. It is best carried in a belt case because of its 5-inch closed size. It is also available in smaller models of the same design. ($119.95, Puma Prince. $29.95, Leather Belt Case, Coast Cutlery, (800) 426-5858, <www.coastcutlery.com>)

Contemporary Designs

The liner-locking folders are the easiest type to open and close with one hand. Using the thumb-operated safety feature, these folding knives are ideal for field use. One excellent example is the hefty 420HC stainless Buck Folding Alpha Hunter with an ultrasmooth mechanism and nonslip rubber handle-slabs that are easy to grip even when they’re wet. The sturdy 3-1/2 inch blade will accomplish most any task, including field dressing big game and fish with its guthook blade. A smaller, pocketsize version is the Buck Alpha Dorado, with a stout 2 1/2 inch ATS-34 blade, a contoured frame and laminated rosewood scales. Both of these are excellent choices for everyday use and outdoor service. ($70, Folding Alpha Hunter #278BK. $78, Alpha Dorado #271. Buck Knives, (800) 326-2825, <www.buckknives .com>)

A blend of contemporary liner-lock form and function with traditional elegance can be found in the new Browning Eclipse Knife. This Italian-made, black-blade beauty is very light, razor-sharp and is fitted with fine European stag handle scales. Constructed of high-grade steel coated in scratch-resistant black Teflon, it carries the laser-engraved signature of John M. Browning and comes in a compact leather case with a special belt loop that can be attached or removed with a snap. ($156, Eclipse #092, Browning, (800) 333-3288, <www.browning.com>)

A larger, liner-lock tactical design is the CRKT Desert Cruiser, which is a great new military/survival knife made for use by the U.S. Special forces. It has all the advantages of a fixed blade, but is compact and safer to carry in the folded position. The handle is deeply textured for a positive grip and has a strong, multiposition side-clip for snapping on to a pack, belt or pocket. ($79.99, Desert Cruiser, Columbia River Knife & Tool, (800) 891-3100, <www.crkt.com>)

As easy as folding knives are to carry, they’re even easier to lose. To prevent loss, you might consider some sort of lanyard attachment. The handy Scientific Anglers Magnetic Net Release for knives and accessories has a coiled cord and magnetic connection for easy removal and reattachment. It is good insurance for keeping tabs on your favorite folder in the field. ($34.95, Magnetic Net Release # 014836, 3M Scientific Anglers, (888) 364-3577 <www.3m.com/us/home_leisure/scianglers>)

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