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Spyderco Military Titanium C36Ti
Folding Knife Review

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Spyderco Military Titanium C36Ti ZDP-189 steel

Spyderco Military Titanium C36Ti was my first Spyderco folder ever, and unfortunately for me, things didn't work out as I was expecting. Nothing wrong with the knife, but try as I might, can't get myself to like it. I'll discuss the details below, but I guess I can say, I got burned for buying the knife based on the online photos alone, without actually handling the knife. On the other hand, I've been collecting knives around 15 years now and I've made very few mistakes, as usual, if you view enough images from various angles, you get pretty good idea about its design and appearance. My main mistake was the rush, or the fact that it was an impulse buy, without checking enough photos of the knife. As I mentioned in another review, I was specifically looking for a Spyderco knives, because I've decided I had to have at least one in my collection, given all the positive feedback and their reputation, plus there's the fact that Spyderco is always on the frontline of the modern steel research, constantly experimenting with the new alloys. So I rushed, and picked up the Titanium handled framelock version of the Spyderco Military. Special edition, or a sprint run in other words. Can't say it was a cheap one either, but given its quality and circumstances, it is a pretty good price. In the end, the lesson is, do thorough research before buying, each time ;) I kept postponing this review, in hopes to like the knife one day, but it's been a while, and still it doesn't click for me. Frustrating, especially that even though I don't have that many Spyderco knives, I really like Spyderco as a knife company in general. Very innovative, always experimenting with new alloys, not afraid to try new things, or make mistakes. It's just the designs that kill the things for me. Well, there are plenty of new designs in the pipe this year (2011) and next year, so hopefully I'll pick something up. Given my interest in high performance steels, most likely I'll be picking up various sprint runs, as the exotic steels don't come easily in production knives, but I am fine with that.

General

 - Military model is definitely amongst Spyderco's flagship knives. It is also one of their largest folders too, and definitely one of the more popular folders in Spyderco's very large assortment. I have not seen or had any "ordinary" Spyderco folder packaging, so I can't really say if the packaging of the Military or Spyderco Endura 4 ZDP-189 folder, or Spyderco Manix 2 CPM S90V are special or standard. At any rate, the packaging is very decent. The usual inspection revealed no flaws or defects in knife build. Very nicely made knife, even at a glance, you can tell the quality and attention that went into every detail, plus the fluted Titanium handle is not trivial to make by any standard, plus it's quite labor intensive. Thanks to Titanium as a handle material choice, and frame lock construction, the knife is lighter than one might think based on its size. The blade has nice satin finish, no scratches or blemishes either. Blade pivot area is highly polished, which provides for a really smooth action. Obviously, the washers are good too. Pivot screw, the three pins connecting the handle slabs, plus the lanyard hole which is a tube, are also well machined and polished. The clip is highly polished stainless steel, with Spyderco log on it. Definitely more refined than on the standard models. Three screws are used to attach the clip to the handle. As with numerous other Spyderco Military variations, the clip is positioned around the pivot pin, which means tip down carry. There are no extra holes on the handle to reposition the clip for tip up carry. I'll discuss that aspect shortly. Factory edge was very sharp, even though it was rather on the rough side in terms of finish. I'd guesstimate 220-400 grit range based on its appearance. However, the bevels are evenly ground, and overall edge quality was mucho better than that of the Spyderco Endura 4. As for the blade centering, it is pretty much dead on, but still very slightly off, although that would be less than 0.2mm, which is negligible. To complete the general description, I'll have to mention that there is no backspacer on the knife, so it's quite open design. Makes it easy to clean, and won't accumulate as much dust and lint inside the knife. On the other hand, when working, things will get inside easier. My main concern with open back design would be the structural integrity, specifically the flexing of the handle under significant loads, but Spyderco Military is a very sturdy knife, no issues with the handle flexing whatsoever.

Now about why I said the knife wasn't what I've expected. Well, simply put, I didn't like the design, and proportionally it wasn't what I imagined based on the images. To be precise, the blade/handle proportions were rather off to my taste. And I wasn't very happy with the blade geometry either. None of that means Spyderco military is a bad or inferior knife in any aspect. However, to me and I'd say to a lot of people, visual cues are very important and the fact that I didn't like the design was a major spoiler for me. There is not much in this knife to keep me interested, certainly not CPM S30V steel, which wasn't the reason I bought this knife to begin with. So, in the end, things are very simple, it's a good knife, but I don't like the design, so I guess I'll sell or trade it for something more interesting. On the other hand, your taste might be different, and perhaps it'll make you happy.

Blade

 - Fluted Titanium version of the Spyderco Military folder features 101.60mm(4") long, full flat ground blade. I am not sure if all the variations of the Military were the same blade grind, but obviously, they all were 101.60mm(4") long. The blade is 31mm wide at its widest, i.e. where the famous Spyder-hole is located, and thickness is 3.65mm. That's rather on the thick side, most of the 101.60mm(4") long blade folding knives I've seen and handled were closer to 3mm thickness, or even a little less, e.g. Camillus CUDA D2E folder which sports 5.5" long blade is just 3.17mm thick. Anyway, officially, Military is a combat folder, which implies hard use, although, I'd still refrain from prying with it. Besides, the blade tapers in two directions, towards the edge and towards the tip. The tip is quite thin and capable of handling fine cutting tasks without any problems, but because it's thin, it makes prying that much more undesirable activity. The blade has gimping on two sides, on the top, above the Spyder-hole, which I'd call a thumbramp, and on the choil as well. Notches on both are just about perfect, as in, they are aggressive enough to improve grip security and prevent slippage, but at the same time, they are not too aggressive to cause irritation during hard use. Although, I can not comment on really prolonged use, let's say 2 hours or more. At that point, I think that gimping might takes its tall, depends on how hard you have to lean on the knife to make a cut. On the other hand, if you expect such a hard chore, gloves might be a good idea :) The steel used in this version of the Spyderco Military is the Crucible CPM S30V steel. I've seen at least one other, Takefu VG-10 steel version of the Military. VG-10 steel is quite popular in general and Spyderco uses it widely in their knives. That's not to say, CPM S30V is not popular though. Plus, it's US made steel, so as far as usage goes, it's more widespread. I don't really have strong preference for one or the other, they're ok alloys for me, but lots of people swear by them. When I was buying the knife, I wasn't really excited to have it in CPM S30V, I'd rather have something much more exotic, like Crucible CPM S90V, or Crucible CPM S110V, or Hitachi ZDP-189, but I've settled for CPM S30V, granted that there was no other choice. As for the Spyderco trademark opening hole, I've covered that topic in detail in the Spyderco Endura 4 ZDP-189 folder review, so I won't repeat all that here.

Tip up or Tip Down

- Considering that the Spyderco Military is tip down only carry, I guess I'd have to say a few words about that aspect as well. Generally, there are numerous threads on various knife related forums, discussing advantages/disadvantages of one or the other, so if you are interested, just search the net for the tip up vs. tip down carry. In my opinion, there is no significant difference, unless we are talking about sub-second deployment speed differences, and potential dangers of the knife opening during the draw. I've never experienced the later, and as of the former, I doubt those split seconds are important enough to influence my decision either way. I do prefer tip up, simply because it's easier to open, and a little faster as well, at least to me. If you are very tactically inclined and deployment times are very important, then you'll have to choose yourself and perhaps do some serious training to achieve the fastest deployment time. Most of the folding knives these days do offer the option for both types of clip positioning, so it tip down isn't your choice then you can easily find another knife that offers it. Like I said, I don't really consider it to be deciding factor, even though I have my preferences.

Handle

- The handle is what makes this variation of the Spyderco Military so special, and frankly, the best part of it. Titanium as a handle material is considered very desirable amongst knife cognoscenti. It is more scratch resistant than anodized Aluminum, lightweight and durable. Strength-wise Titanium is also quite adequate in knife handles. Spyderco Military was once already produced with Titanium handle, although that was a smooth handle. I think, fluted titanium is more interesting and visually attractive than the smooth slabs. Besides, the grip is more secure thanks to those grooves. Obviously, the fluting adds to labor costs, and contributes to the higher price, but that's beside the point, isn't it ;) The grooves radiate from the pivot pin, and become more and more pronounced as they go further from the pivot. Frame lock generally is considered one of the most reliable locking mechanisms, although I myself prefer Axis lock and Spyderco ball bearing lock over frame locks. Still, when there is no other choice, I settle for framelocks. The locking bar engages the blade pretty much 100% of its width. There is no blade play in either vertical or horizontal direction when the blade is locked. Also, there are six oval notches on the lock bar, to improve the grip or purchase then engaging the lock with your fingertip. As I mentioned above, there were two reasons I disliked this knife, the blade geometry, and blade/handle length ratio. On its own, the hand on Military is quite comfortable. I have larger than average palms, and for me the handle is really comfortable. I've tried various grips, and cutting techniques, and the handle always felt "at home". For those who like using lanyards, the Spyderco fluted Ti folder also provides the lanyard hole. I'm no big fan of lanyards, but from the looks of it, it'll do alright for most types of lanyard. As described in general section, the lanyard tube is well machined, no sharp edges and it also serves as an extra pin to reinforce general knife structure.

Usage

- Pretty much none. I've kept postponing serious testing, just played with the knife, carried for few days, hoping that one day I'd wake up and like it enough to decide to keep it, alas, that never happened. And because of that I didn't really have much interest in spending few hours on testing it. I already know how CPM S30V steel performs, and Spyderco heat treatment is pretty much as good as it can get with factory knives. Yes, on occasion they get things wrong too, when they experiment with new alloys, but CPM S30V is nothing new, not in 2011, when I write this review. Therefore, steel performance wasn't really an unknown factor, and for other types of cutting, I didn't really have to spend too much time to understand how does the knife perform. In short, I'd rate it quite high on folder performance scale. Full flat grind, curved edge, handle geometry and thumbramp, all contribute to high cutting performance. You can really lean on the knife if/when you have to and on the opposite side, when you have to perform more delicate work with your knife, the tip of the Military if fine enough to be up to the challenge. As usual, when you have to do fine work with the tip of the knife, you naturally try to choke down on the knife. Well, you might try otherwise too, but you'd have much less control, and besides it's dangerous to you and the knife, forget the medium you are cutting. The thumbramp and curved section of the handle in the front form very convenient shape for choke grip. As far as cutting and working abilities of this knife go, there are no complaints from me. Ideally, if I liked it and wanted to keep, I'd probably with for a little thinner knife, and different blade alloy, already listed what I'd prefer, but all that's in the theory department. I don't like it visually, so the rest is irrelevant.

Conclusions

- Well, conclusions are clear, as far as Spyderco Military Fluted Titanium folder's pure knife abilities go, it is a very good knife. The questions you'd have to consider, or to be precise, the questions you'd have to answer when considering this knife, are: a) whether fluted Ti handle is worth extra price for you; b) whether or not Crucible CPM S30V steel is good enough for you. I know there also was Crucible CPM S90V steel run of the Military and Takefu VG-10 steel, but those had liner locks, not the frame lock, which is considered to be more reliable. Well, if the answer was yes to both questions above, then go ahead and get that knife, you won't be disappointed ;)

Last updated - 03/24/14

Specifications:

  • Blade - 101.60mm(4")
  • Thickness - 3.65mm
  • Width - 31.00mm
  • OAL - 241.00mm(9.49")
  • Steel - CPM S30V steel at 60HRC
  • Handle - Titanium
  • Weight - 148.30g(5.01oz)
  • Acquired - 01/2011 Price - 250.00$

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