The original big three: Chris Reeve, Rick Hinderer, and Mick Strider. They’re all known for being the conglomerate that make the best production folders available today. Chris Reeve Knives (now run by his wife Ann, and son Tim) is the grandfather of folding knives, with the claim to fame for making classy pocket knives that work hard, for inventing the Reeve Integral Lock, and for being the first to make a serious, high end production folder. Rick Hinderer has a past peppered in firefighting and a EMT paramedic, he has first responders at the forefront of his high-tech, high quality designs.
Mick Strider. The ultimate tactical, military driven knife maker. Despite some controversy that we won’t dwell on here, he has made a name for himself that parallels “hard use” down to his personal look. He and his shop make some of the most heavy duty fixed and folding blade knives around, and they look the part, too. The Strider SnG is their most popular EDC knife, and for good reason. It’s tough, looks the part, and is built with premium materials and superb build quality. Here’s a detailed look at the SnG, and how it holds up to it’s legacy.
Key Specs: Strider SnG
The SnG has had many generations come and go. The most current generation, with the blade stamped “M. Strider”, comes in a few common blade shapes, and many one-offs and customs. Today’s example of the SnG is a traditional drop point, made from CPM 3V steel. It’s a Monkey Edge exclusive variant, but the blade grind is the same as all the standard production model SnG’s. This blade is ground very thin near the edge, but retains a stock thickness of 0.19” in this “fatty” variant. The thicker blade on this model carries over to the other fatty models, but the standard SnG thickness is 0.16”. But, even with very thick blade stock, this knife is ground thinly enough at the edge, that most cutting and moderate slicing tasks are still enjoyable with great performance.
The SnG comes in “drops”, meaning the shop will make a batch of knives in a particular configuration, sell that batch off, and start on a different configuration. Their blades are commonly offered in drop point and tanto variants. Our test unit, utilizing the high flat grind with a swedge in the spine of the blade, and matte black oxide coated finish, looks absolutely sinister. And with 3V steel, there’s really nothing this blade can’t handle. The base of the blade has a large forward choil, for the index finger to comfortably sit within. Above the finger choil, is a sharpening choil. Then, finally, the edge of the blade begins, all for a disproportionate 2.75” of sharpened blade length.
For an 8” overall knife, that’s a very short amount of usable blade. We’ll discuss that particular design aspect of the knife later in the field test, but there’s no denying the lack of proportion between the size of the knife and the cutting edge length. The blade also features what appear to be thumb studs, but are actually blade stops for keeping the blade open in place of a traditional stop pin. With a large, oval cutout in the blade for deployment, this knife can be opened in multiple ways, whether you prefer to flick open your folders, or slowly roll them open. The spine of the blade has 4 pronounced jimping notches for traction when in a saber grip. Just beyond the jimping is the top swedge cut into the blade, to maximize piercing ability, while retaining a thickly ground tip for toughness and potential prying.
I must admit, this is one of my favorite blades I’ve ever used. It’s confidence inspiring, tough (even in the alternative commonly used steels, such as CPM-20CV and PSF-27), looks great, and has my personal favorite deployment method. It’s ground for cutting performance and, simultaneously, for piercing and prying. Even though it’s cutting edge is relatively short for the overall size of the knife, it’s a worthy sacrifice for having this blade. It’s also ground thinner at the heel of the blade than it is at the tip; just another point for a well thought out design.
Deployment / Lockup
The deployment of the SnG is by the way of a oval opening hole. The blade stops, which look like thumb studs, are positioned in a way when the knife is closed that they’re not usable for deploying the blade. And that’s all fine and dandy, because that was part of the design of the knife. Running on phosphor-bronze washers, the SnG blade kicks out from the handle with absolute smoothness and authority. Not all SnG’s utilize the thicker blade stock used on this variant, but all variants do use a heavy enough blade that in deployment, you’ll find a very authoritative slam open.
The opening hole is placed on the blade in such a way that allows the knife to be opened very naturally. Whether you prefer to flick the blade open or slowly roll it out, either method is natural and comfortable. These knives flick open well, too. I’m a bit of a detent snob when it comes to folders, and the SnG is tuned quite well. The blade can be shaken out from the handle by gravity, but only when very purposely manipulating it to do so. This is an attribute that’s very hard to get away from in folding knives. There aren’t really any knives I’ve handled, in manual configurations, that will retain the blade no matter how hard it’s shaken when closed. But I digress, the SnG does quite well here. Part of the reason for this ability to hold the blade closed tightly, is in the detent ball shape. The vast majority of folders available today use a round detent ball.
Some higher end knives in this price range, like all of Chris Reeve’s knives, use a ceramic detent ball for long life and smoothness. But the SnG utilizes a flattened steel detent ball. This shape gives the knife a very positive feel when it’s being opened or closed. But, I do question the life of that detent ball, since it’s made of steel rather than ceramic, and it also tends to cut a deeper groove in the blade over a long period of time. Unlocking the SnG, once it’s broken in, is smooth and just as natural as any other frame lock. But there’s an emphasis on “once it’s broken in”. I’ll explain.
The lock geometry on Strider knives is slightly unique when compared to most other frame locks. Typically, the blade tang is cut in such a way that it’s angled to accept the lock bar in it’s path, blocking the blade from closing. So far, we’re on track with the SnG here. But where it diverges from some other frame lock knives, is in the lock bar geometry. The lock bar is ground in a way that’s angled, with the side closer to the blade angled upward. This gives the lock interface between the lock bar and blade tang very little contact, especially when the knife is new. After some time in use, and opening and closing the knife hundreds of times, this lock bar will wear itself into the blade tang further, giving the lock interface a more complete lockup.
Sounds good, right? Well, not in my eyes. There are some notable issues with this theory of lock geometry. The first is lock stick. The SnG has been reported, from time to time, to lock open so tightly when it’s new, that another tool may be required to pry to the lock bar away from the blade. And the most rare and extreme cases of this have required users to send the knife, completely locked open, back to Strider Knives to get the knife functional again. So, on average, if you open the SnG with some flick, be sure to have some lock stick even in the best case scenario that the lock is in it’s normal broken-in state.
And now for my least favorite part of the lockup, lock rock and blade play. Lock rock refers to the blade moving from the back of the handle toward the direction of unlocking, while the blade is locked open. Blade play is when the blade will move side to side when the blade is locked open. The latter of these two issues is much more common on folders, as there needs to be some room for the blade to move from open to closed. So in that regard, we’ll call it “normal”. But you may ask, how is it that a knife with blade stops, and a titanium lock bar can have lock rock? My only theory is that the materials used for the handle scale on the non-locking side (aluminum or G10) isn’t hard enough to endure repeated slams open, and a titanium lock face that isn’t carburized or hardened in any way wears down too quickly to ensure a solid lockup over the life of the knife.
To support this theory, I’ll use Strider Knives’ warranty repair for this particular issue. This problem is apparently common enough, that if you are to send your SnG in for repair because of lock rock, the company will install either larger blade stops to make up for lost material, or install sleeves over the existing blade stops for the same effect. After all the years that the company has been making this model, and it’s respective cousins, the SmF and PT (the larger and smaller variants, respectively), they haven’t found a way to correct this issue? I ask this of a big name company, with Military contracts, who charges around $425-450 for their folding knives. Why is this a recurring problem? I understand an issue from time to time, on any given consumable product. But comparing this knife to it’s most closely related alternatives (Chris Reeve Knives and Hinderer’s folders), this issue seems to be inevitable and repeatable with many examples of the SnG.
Features, Fit and Finish
The “fatty” variants of the SnG featrure a weight of 5.1 ounces, a 0.19” blade thickness, and an overall length of 8”. Most variants of the SnG are available with either an aluminum or G10 show side scale, and all variants come with a titanium lock side scale. The knife features a frame lock (AKA Reeve Integral Lock), blade stops to hold the blade in it’s locked open position, and a lock bar stabilizer to remove the risk of the lock bar being pressed too far away from the handle. This model from Strider also features many types of steels, from 20CV, 3V, PSF-27, S30V on older models, and 154CM. Also available in many different blade grinds, such as full flat, spear point, tanto, recurve tanto, and chisel, it’s hard to think of a configuration that hasn’t been made.
The SnG has a bit of an interesting pivot, in that it’s not quite proprietary, yet not quite common. I’ve been told that it’s the same assembly used in a bicycle chain ring bolt, and the tool I purchased for disassembling chain ring bolts did work on the SnG, albeit with a slight modification via my battery powered Dremel. And, in disassembling the pivot, the phosphor bronze washers are exposed. This is one large pivot assembly, sure to stand up to some hard use. The back side of the pivot uses an allen key, so no special tool required on that side of the knife. Once the torx body screws are removed, the simple construction is revealed, showcasing the fact that not many parts are needed to make a quality piece of hardware.
Also under the hood of the SnG is the detent ball, of course. It’s positioned in such a way that it holds the blade closed well, and allows a snappy feel to deployment. Part of the reason for the crisp feel in deployment is due to the detent ball being flat on it’s surface contacting the blade. I question the longevity of this method, as we’ve discussed before, but Strider’s warranty is apparently quite good, and just about anything on the knife can be repaired or replaced if necessary.
The fit and finish of the SnG is quite good. All edges on the blade are chamfered very well, and are smooth to the touch. The jimping is just aggressive enough to keep your thumb in place when you’re gripping it hard, but “soft” enough that you won’t notice it in lighter cutting. The fitment of the handle scales to one another isn’t absolutely perfect, like you’d find in any Chris Reeve knife, but I’d still consider it to be very good. The blade returned to center very easily upon reassembly of the knife, and I had no issues threading together every screw.
Putting a knife to use that’s built like the SnG is fun. There’s not a lot of worry that anything will break or become an issue, and with so much hype surrounding the knife, it’s a pleasure to get the chance to try one in real use, rather than just holding it for a tabletop review.
So to start my simple testing that I do with many review knives, I like to cut up an apple. Thick blade stock like this is sure to split the apple slices with lots of cracking, but I wanted to give it a shot anyway. The thickness behind the edge of this blade is great; it’s very thin and bites into material easily, but retains a beefy stock thickness for overall toughness. But, with a flat primary grind, it’s not the perfect blade geometry for all tasks. Giving credit to Mick Strider’s design of the knife, it’s obvious this knife wasn’t meant to compete with the Spyderco Kapara or Spydiechef.
Breaking down 4 or 5 cardboard boxes in the garage gave some good feedback in hand. But, also some bad feedback when shaving down a 2×4, and cutting some heavy rope. The benefit of a blade’s thin cutting geometry aids in ergonomics, where hot spots are not perceived as severely since the force needed to make the cut is lessened. But, for my personal use, the ergos of the SnG were not perfect. The forward choil is in a place that asks for the index finger to wrap around it. It’s sized well for most hands, and feels good in a grip without making any cuts. But, when I began to put more and more pressure down on the blade for harder cuts, my pinky wasn’t as happy as before. It’s kind of ironic, how some of the biggest names in folding knives today have such a different idea of how the handle should be shaped.
Chris Reeve knives are flared at the butt of the handle to keep the knife in hand without rocking from tip to end, when making harder cuts. Hinderers are tapered down at the butt of the handle, so it’s more comfortable in a saber grip. And Striders are almost twice as wide at the butt of the handle than they are at the top. This theory of handle shape is good, in that the handle won’t rock from tip to base in heavy cutting since your pinky will be supported during use. But, the handle scales are about as blocky as a sock full of Legos. Contouring these handle scales, or at least chamfering the edges moderately, would really aid in keeping this knife’s handle from becoming a small brick in your hand.
Carrying the SnG is not for the feint of heart. It’s relatively heavy for it’s overall size, it carries fairly high in the pocket, and with that wide handle base it’ll remind you that you’re carrying it more often than you may appreciate. Some Cold Steel knives I’ve owned and carried have been much heavier and even more obtrusive in the pocket, but with the size of the SnG being that of a medium sized EDC knife, it seems to carry much bigger than it really is.
All these knives available at BladeHQ.When looking for a heavy duty, hard use folder in the $450-550 range, there are only a few competitors that get all the glory. Of course, the Strider SMF and PT are respectively the larger and smaller brothers to the SnG, and if you’re looking to stay in the Strider folding knife family in a different size range, these are your only options.
But, if you’re willing to branch out to one of the other USA based legendary folding knife companies, the Chris Reeve Knives Large Inkosi is one very strong competitor. I’ll admit, Strider’s knives are a little less readily available that Hinderer’s or CRK’s. And the Inkosi has a grocery list of features that give it the credibility to stack up to an SnG. The washers found on the Inkosi are about twice the diameter of the SnG’s, giving the blade absolutely zero side to side play when locked open. Using the ceramic detent ball as both the closed position detent, and the locked open position lock interface, the 97 HRC ceramic ball lockup is one tough cookie. It’ll take repeated opening and closing for years, and not have any change in it’s lockup position. The Inkosi retails for $450, features S35VN steel, and has a weight of 5.1 ounces. S35VN has a reputation for good toughness, and decent edge retention when coming from the CRK family based plant, but is regarded as a downgrade from most of the Strider steel variants. The Inkosi also has the sheepsfoot (insingo) blade shape option, as well as the drop point or tanto. Handle scale inserts in the form of black, natural or red micarta are also alternatives to the standard bead blasted titanium handle scales.
And Rick Hinderer’s XM-18 is the 3rd piece of the “big three” big name EDC high end user knives. The XM-18 has some strong arguments on it’s side for being the possible best value for this 3-way competition. Coming in at $425 for most common variants, and using the Tri Way pivot system gives this competitor some gusto for which to defend itself. It’s cheaper than the other two options, has an optional phosphor bronze, Teflon or bearings (every knife comes with all three choices), and uses CPM-20CV or M390 blade steel. Deployment is also “choose your own adventure” here, as the XM-18 in it’s more common form has a flipper tab as well as blade stops. And the XM-18 can be deployed with the blade stops, unlike the SnG. This is one extremely customizable knife, with tons of factory and aftermarket parts and accessories, and tons of blade shapes to choose from, too. The only knife on this list of alternatives to also have a tip up or tip down carry is present on the XM-18 as well, if you delve in the madness that is tip down carry. This is a do-it-all knife, with a great warranty, nearly endless options and configurations, and a legacy that’s up to par with Strider and CRK.
When spending $425-500 on a folding knife, the choices get tough, and the criticism is heightened. The SnG obtained it’s legacy from a hardcore group of knife makers, who show up to the fight with a serious knife. It looks tough, and acts the part. It isn’t made to be a kitchen companion, or to have a sleek, slender appearance. It’s made to cut well in heavy utility use, and be a bad ass to it’s core. I think Strider Knives has done a good job in executing a knife with the theory of what it’s made to do. What it’s not, though, is a polished, plush, friendly looking pocket pal that’s going to be well received by the office crew at lunchtime. It looks like a weapon, acts like a tool, and has some muscle to spare. Just don’t expect it to be quiet at the dinner table. This is a knife made to be aggressive and tough, not to shimmer and shine as pocket jewelry.
- Tough and stout, superb blade, many available variants, good for hard use.
- Inconsistent lockup, polarizing looks and ergonomics, difficult to obtain with production bursts.