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Vero Engineering is a company owned by Joseph Vero. He’s a well versed designer, making an array of tools for different fields of use. Professionally designing drones and drone hardware, and even a proprietary electric motorcycle, he’s put out a variety of modern pieces of technology out into the world. And, as a knife connoisseur, he one day had the idea to design a folding knife. Since then, in just over a year’s time since his first unveiling, he has released multiple knives under his company name, having them produced by Chinese powerhouse Bestech. And the Impulse Mini is an internet sensation, selling out upon release in literal seconds.
But is the hype justified? Is a knife, made by a third party manufacturer, designed by an engineer of much different purpose, executed with all the aspects desired in today’s folding knife market? I think you know how to find out…(read on, if you’re wondering).
Key Specs: Vero Impulse
To get the formalities out of the way, we’re looking at a 3.4” blade, comprised of M390 blade steel, with a thickness of .138”. The blade of the Impulse Mini is a tanto profile, with a full flat grind. It was available with a wide variety of options in terms of the blade when it was released (and available for less than a minute): Stonewashed, hand rubbed satin, belt satin, DLC, and blackwash. The satin blade options were available with raw accents, blue accents, timascus clip, or purple accents. The DLC blades were available with stonewashed hardware, or DLC hardware, and the blackwashed blade was available with stonewashed hardware or blackwashed hardware. Today’s variant is the last of the long list just mentioned.
And this blade looks amazing in person. I can’t help but compare it to the legendary Chris Reeve tanto Umnumzaan blade. The overall profile is extremely similar, albeit slightly shorter, and with a fuller on the lock side only, rather than thumb studs and blade stops. The Impulse Mini blade is ground very thin behind the edge, maintains a well ground geometry, and has the aesthetics to back it. Keeping the blade grind slightly thicker at the tip, to retain a little more strength, the tanto profile is done well, with plenty of thought being executed in manufacturing and design.
The blade is nearly void of branding and billboarding, save for the “Vero” name along the spine, and the number of each knife made along the flipper tab. And, speaking of the flipper tab, it’s nearly invisible, or at least hidden with the knife open and closed. More on this little piece of ingenuity in the deployment section, but it’s very well thought out. With a subtle amount of jimping along the flipper tab, which translates to the thumb rest position when open, the blade juts out away from the handle with very sleek, straight lines. Details like this, and many others, are where Mr. Vero has taken what he has in his bag of tricks in engineering and design, and has brought a vision to fruition that’s quite visually appealing. But are looks enough?
Deployment / Lockup
A “great action” on a pocket knife requires a few very specific attributes, but still somehow leaves quite a bit to interpretation from person to person, as to what makes that particular action desirable from one knife to another. I’ll be blunt about it; I’m phosphor bronze washers kind of guy. There are things that each of the three most common pivot systems have either for, or against them. I like washers because, although they tend to be less snappy in speed, they’re sturdy, don’t seem to mind a little dirt, and get smoother with age as they smooth out and polish themselves with debris and wear. But I digress. The Vero Impulse Mini (and the original, larger standard Impulse) uses a caged bearing pivot with teflon housings. The bearings appear to be ceramic, which is great, but I was unable to find that information to substantiate that assumption. This bearing system gives the blade a swift, snappy action to it. Bringing in the aforementioned flipper tab, and the precisely chosen detent ball and lock bar strength, the sum of parts that attribute to the deployment of this knife allow it to have an incredibly free and fast action.
But it’s not all roses. The learning curve to the deployment on the Impulse Mini isn’t too steep of a curve, but there is one nonetheless. The biggest problem most first-time users experience is the void created in the handle to access the flipper, gives the index finger a very perfect place to land, and that’s not optimal. The cutout for the flipper isn’t left sharp, rather the contrary, it’s very well chamfered and finished. But the overall shape of it, the thin nature to the scales at that point of the handle, and the position the cutout is in, allows the deploying finger to smash down on a rather uncomfortable place. There is a remedy for this, though; deploying the blade as it was intended.
To bring the explanation to as few words as possible, the lightly jimped flipper tab was designed with the intent for the finger to pull the blade away from the handle, not downward. After finding this preferable motion on my own, I found Joseph’s 5 part YouTube video with Millie PM2 P3 club, he very specifically mentions this deployment method to be his intent. And the single sided rectangular fuller is a decent secondary deployment method, but isn’t without criticism; it’s fairly low on the blade, making it difficult to push the blade out to a fully locked open position.
And, once the blade is sent flying open, it is locked in place with a titanium frame lock, with a steel lock bar insert. Quite the common system these days, really. It works fine, with one exception; I am able to detect an audible amount of front to back blade play when specifically testing for it. I wouldn’t say it’s bad, or even noticeable. In using the knife, I never felt any amount of blade play, side to side, or front to back. But with the knife in hand, I can detect it quite clearly. Maybe this is a nitpick. But I beg to differ that it isn’t. For a knife with this kind of hype, limited runs, and overall difficulty to attain, I say we nitpick. Especially at $325. Aside from this one specific (potentially non-issue) nitpick, I really couldn’t find anything to dislike in the lockup. The beauty of the top flipper / hidden flipper tab is that when the knife is open, the flipper tab disappears again. Which seems to follow Joseph’s aesthetic design importance.
Unlocking the blade is just as joyful as flipping it open. The cutout for the lock bar access is generous, chamfered, and easy to press. The design and thought of this lock bar cutout went as far as cutting a relief into the show side scale, as well as the lock bar, to ensure as much thumb material as possible would fit into the void between the scales, making it as easy as possible to unlock. That’s the good news, and it is quite good. The bad news, for my use, is the top of the handle. This part of the handle is quite flat, and doesn’t give anywhere for the index finger pushing the blade closed to go. So, in use, I press the lock bar with my thumb, and the index finger of the same hand begins the blade’s descent to the closed position. But, just after initiating the closing sequence, the index finger runs out of room to move the blade, and gets stopped short by the top of the handle.
Again, maybe a nitpick. But I found the two-stage motion of closing this knife to be against it’s primary focus of being a fidget knife that can do a decent job cutting material. After all, why else would one use ceramic bearings, on a frame lock flipper? I assume the ever-popular “dropping the blade onto the thumbnail and then shaking the blade closed” is the preferred method of action here. And maybe, for many users, that’s preferred. But to me, in an EDC knife, it seems a bit cumbersome, especially with a blade that falls as fast as this one does.
Features, Fit and Finish
There are some great features to the Impulse Mini. One that I greatly appreciate is a consistent screw head size. All screws necessary to break this knife down are a Torx T8. I love that. The pivot, body screws, and even the lock bar insert screw (which I would not recommend tinkering with as it is unnecessary), are all the same size head. The pivot has a “D” shaped cutout on the show side scale, removing the potential issue of a frozen pivot screw, should you feel the desire to disassemble the knife.
Continuing the contemporary design, Joseph also specifically mentions that he left the lock bar relief cutout on the outside of the knife for aesthetic reasons. I’m here to once again argue that this was not a good choice. Yes, it looks cool. It gives a subtle hint of industrial design to the boring side of the knife, making the boring side of the knife the better looking side. But the placement of the cutout, in conjunction with the pocket clip retention point, create a perfect pocket of snag-ability when trying to get this pocket knife into the… pocket. This is deeply frustrating. It furthers the argument that the design is more important that functionality of the knife overall.
Featuring a sleek, well finished backspacer, the bottom half of the handle looks and feels great to the touch. The quality and precision of machining is shown in aspects like this. The pocket clip has a great design to it, and mimics the look of the blade in it’s open position. That is seriously cool. The titanium handle scales are milled internally for weight reduction, showing dedication to design even in hidden places. The blade uses an internal stop pin, keeping aesthetics clean on the outside of the knife. This is a common feature in many knives today, but seems to be a great choice.
My only qualm with this, is the stop pin not being secured. It rests within pockets in both handle scales, and is secured with the knife being assembled, but I always have more confidence in a stop pin that has a mechanical connection to the handle. The pocket clip does have a large “V”, with the “ero” letters completing the Vero name, branded on it’s broad side. It’s subtle, and looks great, showing the brand while keeping things modern and sleek. Overall, the knife is finished well, has no sharp edges where there shouldn’t be, and all the pieces fit together with precision. Bestech makes a great product, in terms of fit and finish.
I truly enjoy using knives. I’ll admit that most my use is in the EDC realm, but I think that’s what the majority of folders are intended for in this day in age. To reiterate my frustration with the pocket clip placement, the knife is a bit cumbersome to get in and out of the pocket. This is quite a shame, with such well finished titanium handle scales and a sleek design, I had the hope that it would slide in and out of the pocket more like a Spyderco Spydiechef. Once the knife is in hand, flipping the blade open was always fun, for a lack of a better word. Flippers are kind of fun to open, right? Just don’t forget to pull the blade back instead of down, or you’ll land on that cutout for the lock bar. And in using the blade to cut material, it works fine. But I hoped for great.
The factory edge put on the blade wasn’t particularly bad, but it was slightly over polished. I feel again the need to compare to Chris Reeve Knives; they always highly polish their factory edges. This gives a good look to the edge, and it’ll cut paper and string fine. But in attempting to cut some sisal rope, the edge slides off the material a little easier than I had hoped. This doesn’t mean the heat treat is bad, or the M390 blade steel isn’t capable of being a great cutting steel. It just means that for this part of the field testing, I desired a more aggressive edge. And from a sharpening standpoint, I know that M390 is quite capable of a very aggressive edge.
Ergonomically speaking, the Impulse Mini isn’t bad. But it’s not great, either. The pocket clip placement once again rears it’s ugly head. With the knife in a conventional saber grip, with the index finger in the main handle choil and the thumb on the blade spine jimping, it is decent in hand. A little pushing into thick cardboard forced the clip to leave a hot spot in the palm, and left the handle feeling just a touch short for my hand (large sized gloves fit me perfectly, for reference of hand size). The blackwashed blade finish, and pocket clip finish, show no additional wear from when the knife was new, after the use I put it through. Cutting up food is not bad with this little knife, no splitting in apple slices, and other standard vegetables and fruits were no problem. The Impulse Mini feels decent in the hand, but a bit blocky and awkward.
All these knives available at BladeHQ.As far as alternatives to the Vero Impulse Mini are concerned, there aren’t a ton of extremely similar knives. But we can come close in terms of pricing, materials, overseas manufacturing, and style. And the Brian Brown Knives Yeager-M Production knife is quite close in these regards. Both knives use a flat grind, titanium handle scales, and M390 blade steel. The Yeager-M has a 3.5” blade vs. the Impuse’s 3.4”. The Yeager uses a wharncliffe blade, and of course the Impuse is using the tanto blade we’ve talked about earlier. The Yeager has an option for micarta handle scale inlays, though, or just the plain titanium. The Impulse does have a ton of options going for it, but no inlays on this particular model (although many of Vero’s other knives have inlay options of carbon fiber or micarta). The Yeager is $350 (when they’re available), and the Impulse Mini is $325, so they’re priced fairly similarly. Both are frame lock flippers, and have an overall similar philosophy, with the Impulse being more contemporary and the Yeager touting a more gentleman knife style. The Yeager M is produced by WE Knives, and the Impulse again by Bestech.
And for another, slightly different alternative, the Spyderco Smock. Now, hear me out… I know the Smock is $175 vs the Impulse’s $340. And yes, the S30V found on the Smock is slightly less desirable than the Impulse’s M390 blade steel. And I’ll also admit that titanium almost always beats out the carbon fiber overlay G10 scales found on the Smock. But, for nearly half the price, we are looking at a knife with a bearing pivot, top flipper (one that’s more comfortable to be honest), a button compression lock (that’s also much more fidget friendly and easy to disengage), and an overall size that’s nearly identical to the Vero. The Smock is sporting a reverse tanto blade profile vs. the Impulse Mini’s real-deal, industrial style tanto blade, but both have their strengths and weaknesses. The action on the Smock is undoubtedly much less smooth, since it’s using steel bearings, and, for whatever absurd reason, a second (constant pressure) detent. But, these two flippers have a lot of the same philosophy of use in mind, while admittedly the Vero does it much better, and looks a lot better while doing it. And, the Smock can be had at just about any given time, while the Vero’s remain a limited commodity amongst fidgety blade lovers.
Another very popular knife in this genre is the Pro-Tech Malibu reverse tanto plunge lock flipper. Yes, it’s an aluminum handle instead of the Vero’s titanium. The blade length is a touch shorter, at 3.25”, next to the Vero’s 3.4” blade. But the Malibu uses CPM-20CV blade steel, an analogous steel to the Bestech’s M390 on the Impulse Mini. And, with the “plunge lock”, or button lock, fidgetability is again bested by the Malibu. It’s a slightly less aesthetically pleasing knife, but only because the Vero is top notch in looks. The Malibu is about ½” shorter in overall length, but also uses the every popular bearing pivot for the flippy action many are looking at tinkering with. With the Malibu being made here in the USA, it’ll be the only option on the alternative list here that keeps it’s roots stateside. And, for it’s best attribute, the Malibu is a standard production knife. They are selling out quite quickly at the time of this writing, but the Impulse Mini’s seem to come in such small batches, and with limited frequency, the Malibu feels much more attainable, even on the secondary market.
The Vero Impulse Mini is a fun knife. It’s designed with aesthetics, style, and modern materials at it’s forefront. The design has been brought to life by Bestech in a very respectable level of quality and fitment, finished with integrity and dedication. But it’s hard to justify the price, in my view. If you’re looking for a very contemporary knife, with all the current hot buttons in design, like the ceramic bearings, M390 blade steel, Timascus clip options, “fall shut” action, and fidgetability, this is a decent knife to scratch that itch. And to complement all the attributes, we have a tech designer who loves knives, and has been able to bring a vision to life, multiple times, with many different knives in the lineup. Additionally, he’s been a very community oriented knife designer, keeping up with feedback from users, replying to various social media input, and even doing raffles in fun, engaging ways. This is quite the rare attribute in the knife world, with many larger companies either being very distant with their users, or even flat out unresponsive.
But, with extremely limited availability, a somewhat steep price tag, and some nitpick issues that seem to be largely overlooked by many Vero fanatics, it’s hard to recommend this knife over some other possible options available for this price range. It feels like it was executed as intended, but the impulse to buy may not live up to the visual allure one may find from pictures alone.
- Good fidget knife, premium materials, great build quality, looks amazing, designer is attached to the community.
- Some minor design flaws, not the best user knife, very difficult to get in and out of the pocket.