Vosteed have seemingly come out of nowhere – literally, the brand was formed in 2021 – and started dropping a series of absolute bombs on the EDC market. Our first taste of the new brand, with design input by the talented Yue Dong (@doctor_edc on Instagram) was the Nightshade LT just a few months ago. I came away immensely impressed by the quality, unique design based on the traditional Shilin Cutter pattern, and addictive flipping action – as well as the useful blade shape. The Nightshade is admittedly a weird knife, probably not the first “decent knife” someone would buy before they fell headfirst down this hobby we’ve all been sucked into, more of a 12th knife to carry on special days or when you’re planning on cutting up some tomatoes at a picnic.
Since the release of the Nightshade LT – a knife that the community seems to universally love – Vosteed has released a few more folding knives, including the Bellamy (a 3.4” clip point liner lock in M390 with Micarta scales) and the Thunderbird with Yue’s own lock design, the Trek Lock. They also released a sweet leather-bound knife roll that sold out quite quickly on Amazon. But their latest release, the Raccoon, will probably be their biggest seller. It offers a utilitarian drop point blade shape, a button lock and thumb stud deployment via ball bearings, and handsome Micarta handles all for $60. On first impression it seems this knife is destined for success in the affordable EDC market, just based on what it offers for the price, but it demands a closer look. Let’s dive in.
Key Specs: Vosteed Raccoon
The Raccoon’s blade is the ideal shape and size for an EDC folder – no odd blade profile like the Nightshade here. Measuring 3.25” long and a thin 0.118” across the spine, Vosteed mentions the blade has the ideal “3 to 1” ratio of length to height. This is something I’ve never really paid attention to, but there’s something there: it’s well proportioned, beefy without being too cumbersome. It’s a traditional drop point pattern with the tip lining up with the centerline of the handle and a nearly full flat grind, just the slightest flat section at the top along the spine. The treatment of the plunge line is nice, a diagonal cut from the flats down to the choil, which is rounded toward the front and transitions into an angle towards the rear to create a 50/50 finger choil while wasting minimal sharpened edge length.
Blade steel on this Raccoon is 14C28N, a steel originally used by Kershaw who had a hand in its development with Sandvik in Sweden. It was intended to supersede 13c26, offering similar edge retention but with better corrosion resistance and improved fine-blanking ability (being able to stamp it out without cracking it) making it a better all-around steel than 13c26 for knife users and manufacturers alike. It did this by lowering the carbon content, increasing the chromium content, and replacing the removed carbon with the addition of nitrogen – which allows relatively high hardness while still maintaining corrosion resistance. In terms of performance relative to other steels at this price point, 14c28n is going to offer less edge retention than D2 but much better corrosion resistance and ease of sharpening, while offering better edge retention and corrosion resistance than AUS-8A, and similar performance to BD1N. For the price, a totally fine steel.
Deployment & Lockup
The Raccoon opens via a set of ambidextrous thumb studs, pivoting on caged ceramic ball bearings, with a button lock to keep it open located by an external stop pin. I’ve tried out a few button lock knives – the Hogue X-1 Microflip, the (Kizer-built) Tangram Vector, and the Kershaw Launch 5, which sort of counts since It’s an automatic. The Hogue is the only one I’ve really liked, which is a moot point since my wife promptly stole it. (Did you see that color blue? I don’t blame her.) The Vector had a wobbly button and just-OK action, and the Kershaw I never gelled with since it was an auto, which I quickly discovered I didn’t like. So I’ll give kudos to Vosteed for making the first button lock I’ve tried that feels like a feature and not a hindrance.
Deployment via the thumb studs is very smooth, as you’d expect from a ceramic bearing knife, offering sufficient detent strength – solely provided by the interaction of the blade tang’s angled surface with the lock barrel. The surprisingly strong detent on the aforementioned Hogue comes from other means entirely – it uses a spring plate with a detent ball nested in the liners to give the X-1 a feeling like it’s spring assisted when it isn’t, which gives it a super crisp detent but some additional hazard when closing it, since you have to overcome the force of the spring plate when you shut it. Whereas the Raccoon just drops shut when you hold the button lock open without any friction at all. Since I consider the closing action to be equally important to opening (which is why I usually prefer manual knives to autos or assisted opening mechanisms) this is a plus.
There’s sufficient space between the scales and the thumb stud to wedge the pad of your thumb against the stud and build up sufficient pressure to pop the blade open reliably. You can also just depress the button lock and flick the knife out, but this requires additional practice and dexterity since the blade can “bounce out” of locking position if you don’t release the button quickly enough, making that method less practical. It does also sometimes bounce back out of the closed position when you swing it shut, which is something of an issue with button locks – not sure how the manufacturer could avoid that.
The button lock depth is well-engineered, sitting flush with the handle scales when closed but slightly proud from the scales when open, making it easier to find the lock release when you need to. Unlike the Tangram Vector, I never noticed any wobble in the button, and after a short break-in period it was very smooth to depress with well-judged spring tension – not too hard to beat up your thumb, but not too soft to feel mushy. It also never stuck or hung up in any position, a sign that Vosteed got both the engineering of the angle on the blade tang as well as the machining tolerances of the whole button assembly down perfectly. This seems like a much more complicated thing to achieve than just getting a liner lock right, so praise is earned here. Lockup is very solid, with no vertical or horizontal blade play to speak of in the open position.
Features, Fit & Finish
There are quite a few features you don’t expect to see on a $60 production knife here, starting with the scales. Linen micarta is always a nice touch – most knives around this price range use G10, a synthetic material that’s easier to produce. It’s available in three colors: black (seen here), green and light blue. Micarta isn’t a perfect handle material – it absorbs oil and other liquids which leads to patina, either a plus or a minus depending on your viewpoint – but it feels nicer to the touch than most G10 in my opinion and having scales that reflect the life the knife has led gives it an organic element. The liners are nested entirely inside the Micarta scales.
Construction is fairly normal, with a decorative pivot pin fixed on the show side and adjustable on the lock side. While the pivot has a triangular pattern machined into it, adjustments are made using a normal Torx T8 – same as the rear body screws that secure the backspacer. The front body screws and clip screws are Torx T6. That pocket clip is a bent steel deep carry clip, held in place by two vertical screws and secured from twisting by the rectangular pocket it sits in. The Raccoon arrives in right hand tip-up carry configuration but can be switched to left-side carry by removing the blanking plate on the lock side and switching the hardware around. A lanyard pass-through is included behind the mounting screw for the backspacer. There’s not a ton of branding on the knife, with just the Vosteed brand name etched on the blade behind the thumb stud on the lock side, and the model name and steel type on the opposite side as well as the Vosteed logo etched into the pocket clip.
How does Vosteed make such a well-finished, high-quality knife with a button lock for only $60? I’m not sure, but this is an immaculately assembled knife. The blade grinds are crisp and symmetrical, with a nicely applied vertical satin finish. The nested liners are skeletonized for weight reduction, which isn’t unusual, but they are mirror polished – which is. You can’t even see the liners unless you take apart the knife or look inside with a flashlight, so the fact they polish them is a nice little easter egg. The pocket clip is also polished for a little extra bling. All your standard hallmarks of quality control are there, of course: blade perfectly centered between liners when closed, backspacer level with scales, body screws flush with scales, recessed clip screws level with the surface of the clip and blanking plate. It’s very well made, just like the Nightshade LT was. My only gripe, and it’s a minor one, is that while the blade came sharp it had a relatively toothy low-grit edge on it. Since it’s 14c28n, you can easily fix this with a few passes on a ceramic stone or guided rod sharpener, but I’d like to see these coming from the factory with a finer grit edge on them.
The Raccoon fits well in the pocket, thanks to its relatively light 3.39 ounce (about 96.1 g) weight, as well as its narrow shape from blade to spine while folded. Vosteed doesn’t list handle thickness on their website, but I measured them at 0.488” across, under my 0.5” threshold for what I consider slim pocket carry. The deep carry pocket clip works excellently, with enough angle at the end to easily allow it to slide into a pocket – aided by the smooth polished finish of the clip – and a nice wide contact point. The shallow angle of the main portion of the clip also keeps it from being too noticeable in the hand.
Ergonomics are a strong suit, especially the forward finger choil – the way that it opens up as it travels rearward, transitioning into the forward edge of the scales, gives you a relatively wide forward finger choil area while giving up less of the sharpened blade length than you usually would need to. That’s important with a 3.25” blade. The only jimping anywhere on the Raccoon is along the spine above the thumb stud, lining up nicely with the position of the forward finger choil to give you a better grip when you’re choked up on the blade. A rearward grip works well too, with the terminating edge of that forward choil sweeping back up to form a finger guard. The edges of the Micarta scales are contoured all the way around the handles, making it more comfortable to grip. A+ ergonomics.
All praise for ergonomics, sure, but how about the blade shape? Same thing: Unlike the charming weirdness of the Nightshade LT, the Raccoon just has a traditional, high-flat-ground, satin-finished drop point. To me, this is perfect: it’s got some belly, some straight edge, a nice acute tip for piercing, great edge geometry for slicing, and no strange blade shape to get in the way. I think the sweet spot for an EDC knife is around 3”, but 3.25” is still in the ballpark, never feeling too long so as to be cumbersome. The Raccoon does particularly well slicing cardboard, being thin behind edge (0.028” by my micrometer) with a long flat grind to thin out the profile and a low-drag satin finish. The rearward grip using the finger guard is nice and secure and lets you really plow through it.
I never had an issue with the button lock throughout my carrying and testing period at all – no sticking, no popping out, no accidental releases or anything of that nature. The 14c28n blade performed about as expected- requiring sharpening sooner than D2 would, but still being very easy to touch up on a guided rod sharpener setup in a few minutes. I think a version of this knife with a higher end blade steel and a loftier price tag would sell just fine.
All these knives available at BladeHQ.At $60 with a manual action button lock, ball bearings, and measuring 7.6” overall, there are some direct competitors for the Raccoon – and most of them are from Vosteed’s neighbors.
Artisan Cutlery’s value sub-brand CJRB offers a compelling alternative in the Pyrite. Despite its name, the Pyrite is not made from Fools’ Gold, but rather has a blade made from AR-RPM9 stainless steel, a proprietary steel made specifically for Artisan. Its claim to fame is offering powdered metallurgy construction in a budget format, with performance like D2 or 9Cr18MoV but a better, finer grain structure and being easier to bring back to sharpness with a strop. It’s a unique selling point in a flooded market. It also deploys via a thumb stud with a ball bearing pivot with a button lock and has a 3.11” drop point blade with a 7.3” overall length. The Pyrite has G10 handle scales and weighs a scant 2.65 oz.
Civivi sells a button-lock version of the Elementum – and by that, I mean button lock deployment and lockup, which doesn’t appeal to me. Then again, neither did the Elementum itself – a knife almost universally loved by the community, but which left me kind of cold. Instead, check out the Altus. The smaller brother of the 3.5” Conspirator, the Altus offers a 3” drop point blade in Nitro-V steel, thumb stud deployment on bearings, a button lock, and G10 handle scales. Civivi makes very nice knives – although perhaps Vosteed makes nicer knives – but regardless of where you end up in that debate, neither is a bad bet. At 7.12” overall and ~$75 retail, it’s a little smaller and more expensive, but also a touch lighter at 3.1 ounces. Nitro-V and 14c28n are very similar steels, and the Altus also offers an ambidextrous tip-up deep carry clip like the Raccoon. It’s a little more tactical-oriented than the Raccoon but both would be great EDC knives if you like button locks.
Finally, Kizer has the Assassin – designed by Carios Eistner – to offer in this segment. At ~$60, it sports a 3” drop point in 154CM steel, flipper deployment on bearings with a button lock, and red Micarta scales over stainless liners. It weighs a nearly identical 3.4 ounces, and measures 7.25” overall, offering a deep carry pocket clip for ambidextrous tip up carry just like the Raccoon. Kizer build quality is always good as we’ve seen in many past reviews, so this might be the closest competitor to the Raccoon.
As is probably obvious, I’m a fan of Vosteed in general and the Raccoon in particular. I love Yue Dong’s designs, and this one is just a slam-dunk in terms of a usable EDC pocket knife. I love the button lock, the smooth Micarta scales, the useful blade shape, the smooth deployment, and really enjoy the surprisingly high quality this knife exudes for such a reasonable price tag. If you like the Raccoon and dig what Vosteed is doing, I recommend you check out the very active Facebook group they’ve got going (https://www.facebook.com/groups/vosteed) where you can interact with the designers and staff at Vosteed, enter some sweet giveaways, and score coupons for discounts on products as well.
- Extremely high value for money ratio in terms of materials and quality, useful drop point blade shape, smooth as silk deployment, fun and fidget friendly button lock, great in the pocket, slicing and piercing performance, Micarta scales.
- Could use a finer grit factory edge, Micarta is prone to staining from oil, just nitpicking at this point.