Saturday, January 15, 2011
Ultimate-Equipment m1911 Knife
The m1911 knife by Ultimate-Equipment of Canada is a handsome locking folding knife designed around the use the same grip panels as the classic 1911 handgun. It is my third knife to cost me (including shipping) over one hundred dollars. The first two are the excellent Fallkniven Garm boot dagger and the massive five inch folding SOG Spec Elite II. Both blades regularly make it into my EDC lineup. The Garm makes a great off-hand defensive knife for weapon retention. The Spec Elite II is so large that it easily carries inside the waistband, but deploys quickly and with authority. I consider them both well worth the money spent. However, is the m1911 knife worth the same? With the incredible popularity of the 1911 handgun, there are lots of the classic .45‘s fans that would love to know the answer.
The m1911 knife purchased is the full size version featuring a 3.5 inch satin finished blade, a pair of rosewood 1911 grips, and weighs in a hefty 6.4 ounces. Also, included is a removable reversible pocket-clip, a black nylon belt/web-gear sheath, and a hex key for the grips. I ordered mine with cocobolo grips, but they were out of stock. Terry, the head honcho of Ultimate-Equipment and designer of the m1911 knife, sent some rosewood grips with the knife with a promise of sending the cocobolos later.
Cosmetically, this is knife already looks the part. Fit and finish is great. The rosewood grips look sharp. It comes in either satin stainless or in a black oxide finish. It also comes in a smaller version that uses officer-sized grips as well as a fixed version using the standard 1911 grips. Black blades on stainless frames or vice versa can be arranged at ordering. Grips are offered in cocobolo, rosewood, and several different G10 textures and colors. There are nearly endless choices for customization as almost any after-market grips can be used. Terry proudly displays several pistol & knife pictures submitted by customers.
The knife’s construction is pretty heavy duty. The frame is a nice thick stainless steel. Its heavy and tough. The blade is made out of one of two steels. 440C stainless and S30v, costing $99 and $139 respectively. Mine is the 440C version. It is also the first point of contention with anyone who knows a little about cutlery steel. 440C is not a crap steel. In fact is one of the great knife steels available. It offers a solidly good performance in edge retention, sharpness, corrosion resistance, toughness, and ease to be resharpened at an excellent price. Quality blades in 440C start out for as low as $20. There are lots of fine knives in 440C of the same size and quality as the m1911 for around half the price.
A knife’s handle even more important than the steel its made from. A secure grip will make or break a design. The m1911‘s grips attracts a lot of attention and in fact they are the single best feature of the handle. The 1911‘s grip just become a 100 year old design. The rosewood grips of my knife swell nicely into the hand. The rough checkered texture adds considerably to the grippiness of this knife. However, that is really the only excellent part of the handle. The basic shape is reasonably comfortable so much that is not really uncomfortable. It a solid ok. Nothing more. The frame spine and the belly are very straight and very smooth. There is no texture or curvature to allow for a better grip. The finger guard is passable and very necessary. Without it, it would be a deadly dangerous design. With smooth 1911 grips, I would still rate this design as dangerous. The blade spine has very shallow jimping, but it is forward of the thumb-opener. Too far to be useful. My thumb falls squarely on the stud. I can’t decide if the locking lever’s jimping is meant to be useful or decorative. Without the frame matching these grooves, they are useless in any account. I never got to test the glass breaker. Frankly, with the lack of grip, I’m a little nervous about trying it.
The tactical part of tactical folder isn’t so much they’re ‘military’ but that they can be stowed and deployed easily. The pocket clip is really such a key advantage to the pocket knife that I don’t buy a folding knife that doesn’t have one. The m1911 has a detachable pocket-clip. There have been several designs of the m1911‘s pocket-clip, and the latest is supposed to be the best. It’s still not so great. All parts of this knife were designed around the grip panels. Therefore, the pocket-clip may always be lacking. It is hard to be drawn from a jean pocket. Even when pulling up on the tip of the clip, its still very difficult. It’s a problem I never had with my Boker automatic. The Ak-74's clip is pretty similar. It may sort itself out over time however.
The locking mechanism is the single biggest reason I bought this knife. Were it just pretty grips alone, it would have remained in Canada. However, I saw that this knife’s locking system is manipulated from the sides. The Hammerhead Lock works much like a classic lock-back. Instead, of the lock release being on the spine of the knife, its an ambidextrous system that is located next to the blade’s pivot. It doesn’t rely on tiny springs like Benchmade’s Axis-lock or SOG’s Arc-lock. It is a strong and sturdy locking system. However, it is tight. I am barely able to manipulate the lock after a week of carry and considerable opening and closing just to loosen it up. To close the blade painlessly, two hands are required. Looking for fixes, I located a FAQ on Ultimate-Equipment’s website on how to lighten the spring. For there to be a sizable FAQ, complete with pictures, tells me that I am by no means the only one to have problems. If problems must be fixed by punches and hammers... Perhaps, those problems are just too much. Nor will they lessen with time.
Opening the blade is rather difficult still after one week of use. It is lightening up however. I could see normal use after about 2 to 3 weeks.
The m1911 knife is very cool. Its very attractive. It looks awesome next to 1911s that match its finish and grips. It is also very well built. Customer service from this company is also great. Sadly though, good looks are what I feel this sturdy locking knife best for. This is no EDC knife. I do not feel that the smaller version will be much better. Perhaps further refinements will make it a more usable tool. Texturing the spine and belly of the frame alone could improve it by miles. The jimping problem is also one that should be addressed. On the thumb-opener, there should be some sort of grooves to maintain a proper grip. The jimping on their fixed blade version looks great! If many people are lightening the spring, perhaps allow folks to choose the different spring strengths. Until these issues are addressed, I can’t recommend this knife for much other than being a cool gimmick to match up with your favorite display 1911. There are too many excellent knives for this price and under to buy.
I want to be fair and mention that I did only carry this for one week. Nor did I hit it with any oils or any fixes. My unfavorable view of this particular design is certainly not because I wanted the knife to fail. It is designed around a gimmick, but its one that I and many other people want to work. I look forward to new designs by Ultimate-Equipment. Judging by the fit and finish of the m1911, a future hammerhead design might be quite impressive.
UPDATE: I was promised the cocobolo grips that I originally wanted. It is 7 months later, and no sign of them. The promise of getting those grips are what sealed this deal in the first place. I wouldn't have even minded sending the rosewoods back as long as I got the ones I wanted. Therefore, I must retract my appreciation of their customer service. This knife has been a $130(including shipping) failure.