Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Gear Review: Benchmade Adamas Knives, Fixed blade and Folding blade

It is a long held belief that a folding knife can never possess the strength to solo as a survival knife. The fears of a folding blade includes that they are too short, have a weak pivot point, and any locking mechanism simply cannot be strong enough. A significant challenge to the sub-standard folder belief arrived with the Benchmade Adamas 275.

The Sibert Designed Adamas folder has a 3.8 inch blade of D2 steel that’s a full 0.16 inches thick. But what sets the 275 apart from not only other Benchmades, but from all other knives in this category is that the Adamas has the strongest Axis Lock ever made which says a lot given the incredible strength of the regular Benchmade Axis mechanism.

In a laboratory stress test the Benchmade 275 Adamas withstood over 1600 inch-pounds (that’s 143 foot-pounds) of torque, and over half-an-inch of deflection before failure. A more understandable force would be to consider the lever distance of approximately two inches from the Axis lock and a force number of over 800 pounds is conceivable. Those numbers are impressive, not just for folders but for many fixed blades as well.

At 7.7 ounces, the the Adamas is probably the heaviest lightweight knife you could carry without ripping your pocket off. The faintly textured G10 scales saved some mass so the balance point of this knife lands directly on your index finger. And with a handle thickness just under three-fourths of an inch, when deployed the Adamas 275 feels just like a fixed blade.

Bread and Butter
For such a beefy folder, something that must be experienced to be believed is just how smooth the blade swings especially with the “Axis lock flip” where the Axis bar is pulled back and the momentum of the blade carries to it attention with a slight flick of the wrist. Buttery smooth is a common description, but the magic is in the polished metal and a pair of phosphor bronze washers that patrol the border between blade and grip with icy precision. In fact, the mechanism is so silky, and the blade so massive, that you can deploy the blade to full attention without releasing the Axis lock; just a firm downward shake on the handle followed by an upward jerk to seat the blade.

Jimping appears on all sides near the corners as well as the back spine of the blade. The handle has a slight guard built into the scale shape at the front, and another curve encloses the back of the grip. As more of a survival/fighting knife, the most common ways to grip this blade will be the forward and the reverse grip with while keeping the spine against the palm.

A short fuller or so-called blood grove hovers in the upper center of the grip-side of the blade and just under the Benchmade Butterfly. While the fuller’s diminutive size saved little weight, it was more likely added for strength and to breakup the significant amount of otherwise bland blade D2 real estate.

Unfortunately Benchmade retained their usual pocket clip. That's like putting a one-inch hitch receiver on your Ford 350 Super Duty pickup. Why would a near-eight ounce Benchmade beast have the same sized pocket clip as a two-ounce folder? While I haven't yet had the knife fall off the rim of my pocket, once the heft of the knife is put in motion during pocket extraction the clip's grip on the seam is almost unnoticeable.

For those who prefer a fixed blade, Benchmade co-released a companion blade named the Adamas 375, another Seibert Design. Without a folding mechanism, the blade length could exceed four inches without stepping on the toes of local knife laws. At 4.2 inches, and just a hair thicker, the skeletonized handle allows this D2 steel mini-monster to be longer and wider than the 275, but at a weight savings of more than two ounces over its folding brother. Two other obvious differences between the 275 and 375 is that the fixed blade version has no fuller but does contain a wicked serrated saw-back along a majority of the blade. However, a partially serrated main blade is available on the 275 folder.

The stock sheath that comes with the 375 addresses covering the blade quite well, but really needs an effective thumb ramp and and truly tunable compression adjustment in order for the user to customize the security and deploy the blade at will.

As much as I love Benchmade fixed blades, some of their sheaths are nothing short of comical. I actively seek water adventures so my stable of knives contains many water knives including those from Spyderco, Gerber, Kershaw, and Benchmade. In the case of the Benchmades, I have their two attempts at fixed blade water knives and while both blades are exceptional in their own right, both sheaths are nearly worthless if you really want your knife to stay put while bouncing off rocks after you’re forcibly removed from your watercraft. Perhaps thats why Benchmade as abandon its fixed blade water knives and gone with an Axis Lock folder, which I also have one of those as well.

Both the 275 and 375 have Ceracoated steel. The liquid ceramic hardens into a surprisingly durable protective coating but also minimizes the heat signature of the blade for those cutting jobs you won’t be hearing about. The coatings come in two flavors from Benchmade; black and desert tan, but while the 275 is available with desert tan scales, its blade options can be any color as long as its black. The coating is not an afterthought. As a D2 steel, the higher carbon and lower chromium contents allows rust and staining to take hold easier than with stainless steel options.

The sheath options for both knives are made in either black or tan as well, but both suffer from the same affliction that many Benchmade sheaths suffer, namely being wildly outclassed by the blades they are designed to carry. Frankly, I prefer Leatherman’s MOLLE-compatible sheath. It’s build quality equals the Adamas and it’s additional pockets and straps are welcome additions when needed.

The choice of D2 steel was probably a no-brainer for Benchmade given the intended purpose of these knives. Previous tacticalish Benchmade knives were forged of 154CM steel; a fine choice, but not the best choice. Of course the best choice for steel is always debated, but some agreement is found with steels that should be avoided. My previous Benchmade favorite in the knife space the 375 now occupies was a Nimravus Cub in 154CM. It was a fine little fixed blade, but needed to visit the sharpener more often than I liked. As a softer steel, the Nimravus took an edge quickly, but what if I was too busy using the knife to stop and hone it? Enter the D2 steel choice. D2 is an air cooled steel that often Rockwells at or over 60. Some might think the steel is excessively hard for most EDC knives, but it’s well within tolerance for a survival/fighting blade. D2 is also known as a semi-stainless steel meaning its higher chromium content resists rust, corrosion and staining better than other high carbon steels.

Theory into Practice
The Adamas folder is an exceptional piece of hardware. Everything about the 275 demands respect from the oversized scales to the excessive jimping on every corner, to the substantial crack when the blade locks into place. The grip, the blade, the balance, and the edge are enjoyable to use. I find I carry the 275 Adamas just itching for jobs where it can be flashed into action. Palming the scales gives you superpowers. Pictures don’t do this blade justice. Before I spent time with it, I thought it would be an ungainly, blocky, heavy slab of sharp steel that would be about as much fun to use as chopping ice with a rock. Well, maybe not that bad, but close. Instead, I was so surprised by how well this massive folding knife melts into my hand. The Adamas makes cutting chores a breeze. The D2 steel is quite edgeworthy and matches the demands of this slicing machine.

Whether fixed or folding, the Adamas knives will fight to the end. A blade can only be overbuilt if it’s under used. I cannot imagine under using anything during a WROL so I’ll be keeping a diamond or two in my pocket and in my pack.

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