It seems as though the one thing in life that resonates most with us relates to balance, the so-called yin and yang. Trying to find a balance of perfection in an EDC may be a fool’s errand, and yet we strive to perform that very task on a daily basis. Compound that with varying needs and opinions, as well changing tastes, then finding a “perfect” EDC folding knife is like searching for a zero calorie pizza.
Key Specs: Kizer Rattler
We have reviewed Kizer products here before, and for the most part have been rather positive about the offerings we have seen. With that said, some of the previous controversy with the brand has subsided, and Kizer is fast becoming a main stream knife brand in the United States. No real need to dive any further into that topic with the exception of one comment: If a company puts out good products, and does so with fair business practices and fair prices to consumers, it really does not matter where in the world they make them. So that’s what we think about that.
With that behind us let’s talk Kizer Rattler (model Ki4470). This is a relatively new model that is part of Kizer’s interesting 2016 line-up. All Titanium handles with a textured, almost dimpled design pattern that is offered in several anodized color options to choose from. Being the purists that we are, our model had no anodizing on the handles, or on the pocket clip. We are personally not familiar with designer Kim Ning, but he seems to have done a nice job in providing a solid flipper style folding knife design with a 3.625 inch CPM-S35VN recurve style blade.
The Rattler’s blade is undoubtedly attractive and has a pronounced recurve style shape that lends well for cutting, but perhaps presents certain challenges when the time comes for sharpening. On first inspection, our eyes were drawn to a small sticker on the base of the blade which read “Made in China” akin to the kind of small oval stickers you would see placed on the bottom of dollar store products. We know it is likely because of customs that this was needed, and ultimately it prevents the need to stamp or laser-etch the actual blade with a permanent mark, and yet still somehow it just seemed to cheapen the knife at first glance. It just rang a bit too on the nose for us.
With our nitpicking aside, the blade is oh so sweet! It has a shiny hunk of S35VN utility that was well sharpened, and with impeccable grind lines. CPM-S35VN is quickly becoming the choice premium steel ahead of its volume topping cousin, S30V. Crucible’s S30V is an exceptional “upper mainstream” steel, not in the same league as today’s super-steel candidates like S90V, M390 or ZDP-189 but perhaps the sweet-spot of performance and price. However, it often presents challenges to knifemakers in the machining and grinding process.
So, in collaboration with Chris Reeve Knives, Crucible took the S30V formula and introduced a new magic ingredient – niobium (hence the N in S35VN). Niobium complements the vanadium and chromium carbides which provide excellent hardness and wear resistance but this time increased the toughness of the steel without sacrificing much else. Improved toughness means less chipping – a blade’s worst enemy. I’ll leave the science there but check out my knife steel guide if you’re thirsty for more.
Feel in Hand
In full disclosure, the first Rattler model we obtained did not sit well with us. The lock-up was so incredibly early (maybe ~2%) there was a risk of accidental closure. It was apparent that the lock geometry and detent fitment was all wrong on that particular sample. Though that may sound disconcerting, we’ve had issues with this from many other production manufacturers and even a few custom makers. The good news is that Kizer was extremely responsive and offered a replacement promptly.
When we removed the Kizer Rattler from the very nice camo designed soft case that was included with the knife, we were very pleasantly surprised. First, the knife looks very cool, which in some way we were expecting but great to see it in the flesh. But more importantly, this knife had much better lock-up of about 30 percent and was like a bank vault. No blade play, perfect centering, and the lock-bar was steady in one place even when gently pushing against it with our finger in the opened position.
Even more, this thing was tuned perfectly. That’s right, the action was amazing. The handle to blade ratio is also pretty solid with the handle being 4.5 inches and the blade a full 3.625 inches.
It also is very comfortable in hand, with a nice design that contours the hand wonderfully. Not a single rough edge or non-rounded area on area part of the knife. Throughout the two weeks or thereabouts that we had carried the knife, we just could not stop flicking the thing open and closed. In almost a pathological manner, we just felt that it was so fun to play with. Truly, the Kizer Rattler is a knife fondlers dream. Of course we say this abashedly since we know full well that knives are tools and not toys, and everyone should conduct high levels of respect when handling any sharp bladed object. The thing is we just didn’t care… it was super fun!
Moving to the pocket clip and fit in the pocket we were mildly impressed, which is to say we were satisfied. Nothing really ground breaking or unique in this department. The Rattler did what it is supposed to do, it held well in pocket, and was mostly easy to remove from the pocket when worn in either jeans or slacks. The standard bent titanium spring style clip is not particularly attractive, but also does not call attention to itself and sits rather low to the knife as to not really make the knife fit any thicker in hand.
But enough with the look and feel, let’s start to discuss the important bit about how it performs.
Testing and Usage
All tools can be boiled down to the most basic of purposes, and when it comes to a folding knife, that purpose is EDC usage, overall performance for common tasks, and durability. To switch things up, we incorporated some slightly unconventional tests when we reviewed the Rattler. We think you will agree that the tests may match both the curiosity and usage of the standard knife enthusiast.
Like most modern folding knives, this blade is made of a stainless steel, in this case CPM-S35VN steel. Our test has been designed to determine whether a knife can handle the some light water situations that may be common to some in the event that they either neglect to dry off the blade after usage in the rain or other wet conditions, as well as in the event that the knife has been left outside and completely exposed to the elements for several hours to perhaps a few days. I would not recommend performing this test on your very own knife.
We placed the rattler in the Kitchen and cut freshly washed wet strawberries (quite nicely) and cleaned the blade with running water when we concluded. We let the knife sit sopping wet on the already wet countertop for about 1 day. We returned the next day with a singular question of “will we see any signs of rust on the knife”? The answer: No. There was no visible sign of corrosion. Not too shabby.
With that positive result under the Rattler’s belt, we felt more ambitious. We took the knife to the back yard and left it out on the lawn simulating a situation where one might have either lost, or perhaps just forgot to grab the knife to bring back with them. We left the Rattler out for 3 days. The conditions that it faced included stormy thunderstorms, mixed with hot and humid temperatures, plus the occasional sprinkler system watering the lawn that it rested on. We would like to tell you that the Rattler came away from this completely unscathed, and surprisingly we can – seriously good steel and very durable to say the least. We were extremely impressed and surprised by this result. The Rattler passes this test with flying colors… well done Kizer!
The all too familiar cardboard cutting test has been the long term staple for many a knife reviewer. Who are we to argue with precedence? Having planned ahead, we had a mess of boxes from Ikea that needed to get processed and cut down. Using gloves we cut through what must have been about the equivalent of about 5 or 6 yards cardboard. The results were amazing. This thing can cut!
It is thin behind the edge, and with the slight recurve blade just sucks the board through the long strokes that it allowed us to make. It was also really comfortable with gloves. Our hands are about medium to medium large and it was a very ergonomic handle to use. We cut an additional yard of board without gloves and still seemed very comfortable without any perceivable hot spots. The Rattler may have outperformed our go-to fix blade in cardboard cutting.
The really cool thing is that we looked at the blade, and didn’t notice any real wear at all. The edge was actually reasonably sharp after this test, allowing us to strop instead of sharpen the knife as we moved to our next test. One knock we must give was that the blade started to walk and loosen. Nothing major, but a clear sign that we either had to secure it, or keep adjusting it to keep it center and free from minor blade play. This is a fairly common issue most production knives have. As we have said before, a simple way to solve this issue is to use Blue Loctite for a more permanent solution, or use our recommended method which uses Teflon tape and simply wrap it around the pivot screen. It was a small issue, with a small fix.
Time for us to play butcher with the Rattler. We got ourselves a mess of meat from the market. A side-loin of beef, weighing in at over 13 pounds is what we had to process.
Normally we would use a 7 inch Chef’s knife to break down the meat, but for the sake of this test, we opted for the Kizer Rattler. The knife was excellent at cutting the meat itself, but because it lacked the longer type shape, it was difficult to extract the fat from the meat. Smaller detailed cutting suffered, but longer slice type cuts excelled. More importantly, the knife felt secure in hand, and kept solid traction and feel as a result of the textured milling throughout the knife handles.
Would we endorse this kind of chore for the Rattler? The answer is no. But let’s be real, we always say ‘the right tool for the job’ is key, and this was not the right tool. A proper kitchen or chef’s knife was needed, and it would not have mattered if this was another pocket knife, or a fixed blade bush craft knife. They all would pale in comparison to a good kitchen knife.
This knife can cut. We don’t need another 10 tests to determine that. As a slicer or EDC user knife, the cutting performance is top notch for the price point (and beyond). The question we want to answer is whether it can hold up to the type of abuse we might all unwittingly perform on our EDC. That is the inevitable washer and dryer test. Oh yes folks, I know we are not alone. It happens all too often that you have your knife in your jeans pocket and just forget it’s even in there (especially when it sits well in the pocket like the rattler). Next thing you know it found its way to the washing machine, and then the dryer. Yup, we actually performed this test, and again we were surprised by the results.
Our expectation was that the knife would fall out of the pocket and get all marred-up by hitting against the sides of the machines. Surprisingly that was not the case at all. The pocket clip stayed strong and did not let go. We found the knife in the same spot we left it in our jeans pants in near-perfect condition, no scratches, dents or anything. This minor abuse seemed to be nothing more than a wash and rinse for the Rattler.
All these knives available at BladeHQ.Many newer knives are competing for your hard earned dollars these days. At about 200 dollars street price, the Kizer Rattler is a very competitive offering. Savvy consumers still cross-shop, and if you were interested in looking at some competitive options to the Rattler we would suggest the following choices:
Zero Tolerance 0220 ~$230 – This Jens Anso designed flipper folding knife offers a 3.5 inch S35VN stonewashed blade, titanium handles and a slightly unconventional drop point blade design. It runs on KVT ball bearings and is a frame lock design. At about 230 dollars street value, it is a knife worth checking out (especially if you are interested in the ‘Made in USA’ thing). Check it out here.
Spyderco Slysz C186TIP ~$300 – The Slysz Bowie frame lock titanium knife provides a 3.375 inch stonewashed blade making this option just a bit smaller in blade size and overall size at 7.75 inches. The thumb opener hole is a nice option for those who are not into the flipper craze that has consumed the knife world. The full flat ground blade is sure to cut very well, making for a formidable opponent to the Kizer Rattler in that department. Price of admission rises to about 300 dollars if you want in.
We Knife Co. 601 ~$285 – This frame lock knife features a 3.75 inch drop point blade with Gray Titanium frame lock design. A fellow Chinese made knife with excellent looks and build quality, the We Knife Co. may be in a position to complete toe to toe with Kizer. But regardless of whether that is true or not, the price tag is a bit higher at about 285 dollars. Unique style adornments and the stonewashed S35VN blade might have you wondering if this would cost more if it had more familiar name brand as its manufacturer. It is worth a look for sure. See it here.
The Kizer Rattler may not be the perfect knife but I’ve yet to see a knife that is considered flawless. It will probably not provide you a level of exclusivity or collectability that some other knives might potentially offer, but it absolutely carries an abundance of charm. It’s size is near-perfect for EDC use and the daily tasks that call upon the versatility of a folding knife. It’s much less suited for tactical use.
More importantly it is not uber-exclusive, or collectible, or expensive which means that the people who buy it might actually use if for what it is intended. That is where the Kizer Rattler really shines. It is a performance driven tool that takes a beating and keeps on going. It does what I knife is supposed to do best… CUT! Oh boy the Kizer Rattler can cut.
Is it a mainstream knife, or perhaps a high-end knife at the low end of the spectrum, we leave that up to you. Frankly we don’t care. It is a folding pocket knife from a Chinese company that has proven to make two things clear: 1) Kizer can put the Rattler up against any other production knife and it performs very well, and 2) At under 200 dollars, the Kizer Rattler performs as well if not better than the competitive leaderboard at this price range.
So is this knife a good deal? In my opinion it’s practically an amazing steal. Ditch your hatred of anything Chinese-made and go grab yours before they sell out.
- Impeccable fit and finish, feels great in the hand, smooth action, excellent cutting ability
- Uninspiring pocket clip, some minor blade loosening after heavy usage, blade shape can be challenging to sharpen.