First Impressions: Top 5 New Blades of 2016

They’ve just seen and held prototypes of the new 2016 blades unveiled at SHOT Show, so we’ve enlisted the help of a gear expert and an industry insider to cut through the noise to find out what impressed them the most and what they’ll be buying in 2016.

BudgetBugout is one of the fastest growing knife related YouTube channels having attracted over 65,000 subscribers in just the past couple of years. Not everyone can drop hundreds of dollars on a knife without hesitation. BudgetBugout’s success is fueled by helping narrow down the best value blades for the intended use. After SHOT Show 2016, Marty who is an active duty member of the military and hosts BudgetBugout, spoke to us about the five knives that stood out to him most:

#1 Benchmade Crooked River

There is every reason to believe the new Crooked River will be a huge seller for Benchmade this year and beyond. It’s a knife that was frequently mentioned by the dealers we spoke with and the reviewers who attended SHOT Show. “This knife absolutely tops the list for what I want for my birthday,” says Marty. It’s a sizable knife with a 4” blade but has a timeless look that appealed to Marty. “The classic wooden handle contrasts beautifully with the orange accents on the G-10 backspacers and anodized pivot ring. This combination adds both elegance and practicality as it makes the knife easier to see if dropped into foliage. I didn’t test out the clip because I felt that I wouldn’t be able to relinquish the knife once it was in my pocket.”

#2 Kershaw Grinder

Kershaw unleashed a deluge of new blades onto the market this year, but the one that stood out the most to Marty was the Grinder. “The Grinder is a rare combination of everything I’m looking for in a knife in one affordable package,” he explains. “First off, the handle fills the hand just like the full-sized [Benchmade] Griptilian. Second, the wharncliffe blade shape makes the knife perfect for both piercing and slicing which is optimal for everyday carry tasks.” According to Marty he was impressed that the knife does everything well at a price that leaves room for other knives or gear. “It sells for $19.95 making it the ideal beater knife. I’m tempted to buy more than one because if this product doesn’t catch on, the perfect beater flipper could disappear from shelves before its true potential is realized.”

#3 TOPS B.O.B. Folder

B.O.B., which stands for Brothers of Bushcraft, is a coalition of like-minded outdoorsmen, adventurers, and minimalist surviors who collectively designed the original B.O.B. fixed blade with the features they wanted to see on a bushcraft knife. The folding version of the knife was on display at the TOPS booth at SHOT Show. “I own a lot of folders, but very few of them I would attempt to use in the bush even as backup blades,” says Marty. “However, that is exactly what TOPS have been doing with this knife in the jungles of the Amazon. Like most TOPS knives, it hails the famous 1095 blade steel. It has a heavy duty handle with a 154CM frame and tan canvas material which makes this a beefy, yet portable secondary blade for the outdoors.”

#4 Victorinox Classic SD

Maybe the biggest news to come from Victorinox this year was the announcement of their partnership with the Wounded Warrior Project. The company pledged a sizable donation to the charity and launched a line of WWP-branded knives to raise the money. The Classic SD might be Victorinox’s most popular folder, and often the first knife that many people even consider carrying. Tiny enough to hang on a keychain, yet packed with utility. “I think even the most novice of knife users are familiar with this model,” Marty explains, “but as someone who is active duty military and who has friends that are physically affected by battle I’m happy to see that Victorinox is contributing a portion of their proceeds – a guaranteed donation of at least $100,000 to the Wounded Warrior Project.”

#5 FirstEdge 1250 TrackLock

FirstEdge is a newcomer to the cutlery market, but their small line of military bona-fide designs has already made fans. “Tactical knives are cool. Plain and simple. The only thing that is cooler than a tactical knife – other than a tactical gun – is a tactical knife designed by and for special operations units like the US Navy Seals,” says Marty. The USA-made TrackLock folder also features a new patent-pending lock designed to withstand over 500 lbs of pressure, and a tanto-ground ELMAX steel blade. “FirstEdge has been working behind the scenes to develop the knives needed for these operators .. I now have one, I’ve been carrying it every day since the show and I love it.”

Brands that Impressed

As the buyer for, it’s Jason Kunkler’s job to anticipate what his customers are going to want. “Based on the dollars we invested and the quantity I booked, we are betting big on Kershaw and Zero Tolerance, especially the ZT0450CF,” says Kunkler. Overall, KAI as a company impressed him this year: “The biggest takeaway for me of SHOT Show 2016 was the breadth and depth of new offerings from Kershaw and Zero Tolerance.”

But KAI wasn’t the only brand on his list: “CRKT always has an impressive line-up,” says Kunkler. In particular, he praised their new partnership with Ruger firearms. “What they are doing with Ruger Knives is so well thought out. They are not just licensing the Ruger name, they are building knives that relate back to popular Ruger guns, by way of the handle designs and materials.”

The recent growth of German cutlery maker Böker in the marketplace stands out to him, too. “They have become such a broad-based company. When you include their new 2016 products, Böker covers every price point, knife category, and size imaginable – they do everything well.”

American traditional knifemakers W.R. Case & Sons Cutlery Co. got a nod from Kunkler: “Case always impresses me with their new variations. They are about 125 years old, but their line up always feels fresh. It’s no wonder they enjoy such a loyal following.”

And finally, Cold Steel’s new line up also caught his attention. “[They] have some exciting new stuff,” says Kunkler. “Over the last two years they’ve reinvented who they are. The 2016 line up builds on what they did in 2015, moving them into position as a mainstream brand.”

Knife featured in image: Kershaw Grinder