Love them or hate them, Ganzo is a knife company that has always pushed the limits of value per dollar. With their newest offering, the G753 line of knives they have extended the boundaries of that equation even further. Traditionally in their quest to give you the most knife for the fewest dollars Ganzo’s had few bells and whistles. However they have stuffed this new model full of features typically found on higher priced blades, making the knife lighter, more upscale, and more attractive. So, a decent budget blade or cheap crap you should avoid? Read on…
- Blade length: 3.5″
- Overall length: 8.25″
- Closed length: 4.75″
- Weight: 4.4 ounces
- Blade material: 440C
- Handle material: G-10 with carbon fiber laminate
- Locking mechanism: Axis style lock
- Country Of origin: China
- Price range: About $20
Before we dive in, let’s be clear about what we’re dealing with here. Ganzo is a Chinese budget knife brand – in the same category as Sanrenmu, Enlan, and CIMA. Their focus is truly the bottom end of the market – aimed squarely at price conscious consumers who want good looking knives at rock bottom prices. While the knives tend to be pleasing on the eye the sacrifice is typically in the quality, both materials and build.
These brands are not shy about cloning existing models and features from the more reputable brands like Spyderco, Benchmade and even Chris Reeve. Is it ethical? Is it legal? We won’t get into that here but I want to be clear that the majority of knives from these companies are simply not in the same class as their more expensive counterparts. The only reason you should be considering budget blades like this is when price is a major factor for you. Either that or you simply happen to be a collector of budget chinese blades. Okay, now that’s out of the way, on with the review…
The Ganzo G753, here reviewed in the carbon fiber finish, offers aggressive styling, a 440C steel blade, Axis-style lock, anodized hardware, chamfered and carbon fiber laminated G10 handles, custom pivot hardware running on washers, and milled stainless steel liners. All this makes for quite a feature rich knife, especially for one that can be purchased for around $20. The milled liners, custom pivot, and anodized hardware are all firsts for Ganzo, and all are clearly meant to make for a sexier, lighter and easier to carry knife.
The best part of this knife is the weight reduction, as compared to most other budget blades of this size. The first and most important are thinner milled out steel liners. All too often cheap knives use overly thick steel liners to make up for poor build quality. Here that is not the problem, and in fact they are 3mm thinner than other Ganzo models, and while that does not sound like much you can feel it both in hand and in pocket. Thin liners are a smart choice for an Axis-style lock knife – the Benchmade Griptilian and Spyderco Manix Lightweight both use thin partial liners to great effect. Force is delivered from the knife into the piston not the liners. All the liners do is hold the piston in position.
Like many of Ganzo’s knives the G753 is a modified copy (aka clone) of an existing knife, in this case the ProTech TR-5 SA. They simply changed the handle, pocket clip, and locking mechanism to avoid being a direct copy. This is par for the course with Ganzo’s offerings, they take (steal?) proven designs and make them their own. Love it or hate it, it is what they do.
The blade of the Ganzo G753 is a 440C flat ground drop point, that tapers to a very acute tip. The delicate tip is further emphasized by a long swedge covering three-quarters of the spine.
This is a very aggressive shape clearly prioritizing piercing over durability. While I don’t think the knife is fragile, it is clearly not intended for any prying tasks. Ganzo did moderate the thin tip by the use of a flat grind here instead of a hollow one. It balances out the lack at metal in the tip with extra material in the belly.
440C is a decent budget steel but a far cry from today’s premium steels. In carrying Ganzo’s 440C extensively as my EDC, I got a couple of weeks effective use before the need for touch ups.
I routinely ask medium duty tasks of my EDC knife including cutting banding, opening boxes, removal of shrink wrap, etc. often against wood or steel surfaces. I typically prefer 440C steel to AUS-8 or the Chinese CrMoV steels as the higher carbon content gives me noticeably (but not overwhelmingly) longer edge retention, all while still being easy to sharpen. Ganzo’s heat treat is generally okay, and this blade seems to be no exception. Again, it’s a decent budget steel but you will need to maintain this blade.
With this in mind Ganzo has made extensive provisions for blade maintenance when designing this knife. The blade features both a sharpening choil and a flat portion near the thumb studs that makes an excellent spot to clamp consistent angle sharpening systems to. These features along with the constant gentle curve of the belly make for very easy touch ups, it just does not get much easier than this to maintain a knife.
Out of the box, this knife was sharp enough to uncomfortably shave arm hair. The bevel is not even, and there was some discomfort in the process, but it cleaved some off all the same. The edge is not quite uniform and noticeably got caught up during paper tests. Overall edge retention is okay and what you’d expect from a budget blade like this.
Handle and Ergonomics
The ergonomics of the Ganzo G753 are relatively good. There are no hot spots to speak of, no sharp edges and the sides are chamfered at several angles making for very round edges. The only odd choice is a handle that is overly long. I wear extra large gloves and in most grips I have a full inch of extra handle sticking out the back. This does allow for an exceptionally natural reverse grip, but in every other grip it just feels like more handle than you need.
The blade shape and overall ergonomics do make for an solid push cutter. In my hands the most comfortable grip is one with the thumb fully extended far up the blade. This facilitates quite a bit of leverage on the blade itself instead of the handle. The flat grind helps here as it adds strength allowing you to aggressively dig into material.
The thumb studs are well positioned and comfortably shaped. There is jimping on the top front and back bottom of the handle. The jimping itself has a good medium traction that adds grip without being abusive. There are also relief cuts on the G10 back spacer that are set even with the surface of the scales, but still manage to add traction.
The big drawback here is that the carbon fiber laminate is very smooth. It is beautiful to the eye, and catches the light in very interesting ways. However, it in no way adds traction to the knife. The G753 still grips well with the rest of its ergonomic features, but some will definitely take issue with this lack of surface texture.
The pocket clip set for a fairly deep tip up left or right hand carry only. For many this is ideal, but tip down fans are out of luck. The carry depth is just about perfect, as one can easily get a good purchase on the handle while still not looking like a massive knife in your pocket. The balance between utility and discretion is done well here. The only issue here is again, the long handle. In some of my shorter pockets it does bottom out, though not enough to prevent carry. As stated above, with the low weight (4.4 oz) thinnish profile and good pocket manners, this blade carries very well in any pocket it fits in.
Deployment and Lockup
The lock up is reasonably solid having little up and down play, and only a hint of side to side play. The slight side to side play is unfortunately common with the Axis-style lock design. Ganzo tuned my particular knife well in that it is loose enough to swing open but not so loose as to have extra side to side play.
The Omega spings of the Axis lock system are lighter here than on older Ganzo offerings, and a step closer to the Benchmade Axis locks. I can easily manipulate the piston with just one finger, a feat that typically takes two on other Ganzo knives. Truth be told I like the older heavier springs as they give me piece of mind, but if internet consensus means anything I’m clearly in the minority with this opinion.
Deployment itself has a slightly plasticity feel to it. Ganzo has chosen to use one phosphor bronze and one plastic washer. The combination works with out excess friction, but with ball bearing pivots becoming the norm this is hardly an ideal arrangement.
Out of the box the action was slightly stiff but it did break in nicely with use. With the plastic washer it will never be silky smooth, but for day to day use it functions well. Also, in EDC use a knife with zero friction can be a liability while working a little friction slows things down for safe operation.
Fit and Finish
The fit and finish are relatively good considering the price point. The edges are smooth, the titanium finish on the blade is even. The carbon fiber laminate is uniform and catches the light beautifully. The hardware is all anodized a nice even blue.
There are two issues though. The largest of which is the blade centering. My particular knife is way off center, and lays closer to the left hand scale. While it does not hit the scale, it is clearly less than perfect. Second, the relief cuts in the back spacer are also not quite evenly spaced. Both of these are purely aesthetic flaws, and do not impact the day to day functionality. Naturally, you’re far less likely to experience flaws like this on the more expensive offerings from brands like Spyderco and Kershaw.
The blade is offered in both a satin and titanium finish. I chose the titanium as I feel it complements the carbon fiber well. The finish seems to hold up well.
Below are a handful of suggestions for alternatives in the same price ballpark.
Spyderco Tenacious (~$40) – The Tenacious offers superior ergonomics and a stronger tip, but in a much less flashy package. The jimping on the thumb ramp is perfect and the handle shape melts into your grip. The action is also far smoother. It however uses slightly softer 8Cr13MoV steel, is very wide in the pocket, and costs close to double the price, despite being made of very similar materials. Still, despite this being one of Spyderco’s budget offerings, we feel it’s streets ahead of the Ganzo in terms of design and build quality.
Kershaw Cryo II (~$30) – The Cryo is one of Kershaw’s most popular budget options although it comes in at the slightly higher price of about $30. In fact, the Cryo is one of the best selling budget folders across all brands. Its steel frame liner lock is arguably the strongest lock option mentioned here for hard use. Still, that comes at a price in weight at 5.5oz. Ergo’s are close to a draw, but I prefer the G753 with its real pointer finger choil. Again, Kershaw uses a slightly softer steel (8Cr13MoV) and you sacrifice .25” inches of blade length.
Ontario RAT 1 (~$25) – The RAT is a legendary budget heavy use knife that represents amazing value for money. I much prefer the ergonomics of the RAT, but the handle is even longer than the G753! The FRN scales and AUS-8 steel are again a slight technical step down from 440C and G10, and the weight is higher by almost a full ounce. Its saving graces are the markedly stronger tip and an action that blows the G753 out of the water. Again, simply a better made knife all-round.
Ganzo G727 (~$15) – The G727 is Ganzo’s answer to the Ontario RAT I, but with an Axis-style lock and a slightly smaller handle. The price of this knife varies from $13 to $20 depending on vendor. The ergonomics are good and the weight is similar. If you are a good shopper you can find it for significantly cheaper than the G753 but if you can afford the extra few dollars I would simply recommend the Ontario RAT 1.
The Ganzo G753 is clearly a big step in the right direction for Ganzo. This is a sexy knife with decent ergonomics and few real flaws other than the overall build quality. Sure there are much better knives if you’re willing to pay more. Throw in another $10 and you open up a whole other league of budget folders that will serve you better in the long run. Still at $20 the G753 is tough to beat, especially if aesthetics are high on your list.
Like many of you, I dismissed Ganzo and its other ugly sisters as a ‘no-go’ area. But this knife reminds me of the tomboy next door. You two have played and worked hard together for years, but you never really gave her much thought. When senior prom arrives you ask her to the dance because she has always been in your back pocket anyway. Then the big night comes around and ZANG! What shows up on your doorstep is completely transformed. She has a flashy new outfit, a little too much makeup, and is a few pounds lighter. Despite all that she is still that same dependable hard working fun girl you have known for years.
The Good: Sexy, sleek, decent steel for the money
The Bad: Mediocre build quality, some blade play, handle lacks grip
Bottom Line: For under $20 it’s tough to beat, but better options are within reach.