More Excellent Knives from Kershaw


by Greg Quinn

photography by Greg Quinn

December 28th, 2004
 has developed over the past five years into the undisputed leader in the online gun and related products test arena.  Starting as the first pure online gun test magazine, we established a reputation of quality testing in real world circumstances, and honest reporting of the test findings.  While we have opportunities to test a number of products from a multitude of manufacturers, we try to only consume our time with the testing of products that we know to be quality.  As Jeff has said many times, “We don’t test junk”.  This holds true for knives as well as guns.

For years we at didn’t pay much attention to Kershaw knives, although we knew they made a fine high-quality knife.  With the onset of their innovative Speed Safe opening technology a couple of years back, and the design genius of Ken Onion, we started to pay more attention to Kershaw.  Now, if you were to stop one of the Gunblast brothers and ask for a show of their carry knife, there’s a good chance that it’s a Kershaw. 

We have the opportunity to test a lot of excellent knife products from outstanding manufacturers, Kershaw being but one of these. We all have our favorites for whatever reason, but in the evaluation of what separates a very good knife from a great knife, Kershaw has done a marvelous job.  They manufacture a quality product with excellent innovation and design features, that are attractive and hold up very well to hard use, and that are affordable to most knife purchasers.  And, most of their knives are made in the good ol’ USA (even though Kershaw is owned by Kai Cutlery of Japan).  The quality of Kershaw’s manufacturing and design are evidenced once again in the evaluation of the fine knife products featured in this article.

Kershaw, with the help of designer Ken Onion, has figured out how to make a high-quality knife with innovative features and an attractive design.  For knives, Kershaws just look good.  In terms of innovation, they are about as cutting-edge as anyone out there.  In terms of attractiveness of design, they surpass most of their competition. 

A great case in point is the Rainbow Leek (1660VIB).  A Ken Onion design with their patented Speed Safe opening technology, the Rainbow Leek is a very pretty knife.  Constructed of 440A stainless steel in blade and handle, the Rainbow Leek’s blade and handle are coated with titanium-oxide in a manner in which the knife blade and handle are multicolored like a rainbow, hence the name.  The Rainbow Leek weighs in at 3.1 ounces, has a 3” blade and is 4” overall.  It has a nice pocket clip for ease of carry, and comes shipped in a nice cloth bag.  Retail pricing of the Rainbow Leek is $99.95.  It won Blade Magazine’s 2002 Overall Knife of the Year, and it remains one of my favorites in terms of beauty and function.  Now, admittedly, it’s not a knife I carry often.  Heck, it’s too pretty!  While it is made for serious use, I have a hard time bringing myself to scratch up a knife with this much beauty.  During the test period, however, even though I probably wasn’t as hard on the Rainbow Leek as some of the other (less pretty) knives, it performed admirably and would make a fine everyday carry knife for someone wishing to do so.  If you have a hundred bucks to put down on a carry knife that will accomplish the difficult mission of pleasing your wife or girlfriend as much as performing routine knife tasks, then the Rainbow Leek might just be what you are seeking.

A good number of months ago we performed some tactical knife head-to-head competitions from various manufacturers.  The Kershaws tested did as well as any evaluated in terms of performance.  With the Rainbow Leek, Kershaw sent a couple of additional tactical folders that we did not test during our initial tactical knife comparison articles.  We have now had about 6 months to use these knives on a regular basis, and I must say that we’ve been very pleased with their performance.  When we test a knife, we sometimes perform the various torture-tests that most quality knife manufacturers put their product through.  We at Gunblast, however, try to do our evaluations in real-world circumstances, and we recognize that the good-ol-boys we know will not spend $100 for a knife and then put it in a vice and beat it with a hammer to try and break the lock.  Instead, they’ll use the knife in real world scenarios, from picking fingernails to dressing game to self-defense to cutting everything imaginable to tactical police duty to prying to cutting steak at our favorite restaurant to driving screws to throwing in the ground to losing and running over with your car or ATV.  Over the past 6 months, these other two tactical folders have been through some if not most of these situations.  One, I have carried probably 60% of the knife-carrying time over the past 6 months.  The other, I gave to one of my brother-in-laws, who hasn’t had it out of his reach other than sleeping or showering in six months.  In routine daily duty in a variety of test situations that any knife owner would likely face, both of these knives have performed flawlessly.  These knives are the Blur and the Blackout by Kershaw.

The Blur is a knife that I tend to carry a lot.  I just like it.  I have a variety of knives in my “daily carry knife drawer”, but when I pull open the drawer and look for a knife to clip in my jeans pocket, the Blur gets the nod the majority of the time.  This doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s that much better than my Benchmades or Spydercos or Bucks or KA-BARs or whatevers or even other Kershaws, but for a variety of reasons it’s just one of my favorites.  The Blur I carry is model 1670BLKST.  This designates the black blade, partially serrated blade, black-handled Blur model.  It also comes with a non-serrated blade, and also comes in both configurations in red.  Another Ken Onion design, the knife is attractive as well as functional.  It is made of 440 stainless with a tough tungsten DLC coating.  The Blur has an anodized aluminum handle with a 410 stainless liner, and the handle has Trac-Tek inserts for just the right amount of tackiness in the hand.  The blade is 3 and 3/8 inches long, and the knife is 4.5” closed.  It weighs in at 4.2 ounces and has a retail price of $99.95.  And, it has the Speed Safe opening technology that just works. 

Speed Safe, as outlined in more detail in other Kershaw knife articles on Gunblast, is their assisted-opening technology moniker.  Not to be confused with “assisted-opening” or “switchblade” knives, Speed Safe uses a torsion bar and once moved a slight amount, this torsion bar takes over the opening of the blade from the handle in a fast and efficient manner.  When closing the knife, the torsion bar in the liner is moved and the knife is closed as most lock-blade knives of this configuration.  Speed Safe opening is, according to Kershaw, safer than other competitive “assisted opening” blade actions, and just as quick.  I must admit that it works well.  The only flaw we found in any of the Kershaw’s tested with Speed Safe was a very stiff torsion bar on one knife (Jeff’s daily carry Kershaw Boa) but with regular use it loosed up a bit and reliability has been admirable. 

I knew that whatever lock-blade knife I gave my brother-in-law Bill Williams, it would get very serious action.  Bill hunts every day that there is a season (and I mean every day).  When there is no hunting season, then Bill is doing something outdoors that could involve using a knife, so if he’s up and around, a good knife will be clipped to his jeans pocket or in his hand.  I gave him the Kershaw Blackout (#1550ST) to test, and told him that if he broke it I’d get him another, so be as tough on it as he liked.  He didn’t need my permission, but the boy loves this knife.  He uses it regularly, and he reports that he hasn’t asked the Blackout to do anything that it didn’t do well.  I’d say that’s a pretty good testament to this blade, and you’d agree if you knew Bill. 

Another Ken Onion/Speed Safe knife, the Blackout is made of 440A stainless, is tri-nitride coated, and has a polyamide handle (a tough plastic-like product).  It has a 3 and one-fourth inch blade and is 4.5 inches closed.  It weighs in at 3.5 ounces, and is priced at $89.95 retail.  The 1550ST also has a partially serrated blade configuration like the Blur.

Kershaw recently sent us another knife for test and evaluation, the fixed-blade RMEF.  This stands for “Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation”, and this knife was designed by Kershaw for this group.  Sporting a nice Realtree polyamide handle, the blade is made of AUS8A stainless steel, has a great hunting blade configuration, has a 4” blade, is 8 5/8” long, and weighs 4.8 ounces.  The RMEF has a nice leather sheath, and retails for a modest $54.95.  The RMEF gets use on my hunting belt quite often, and makes an excellent medium-game hunting/skinning knife.  The design is excellent, the fit and finish is outstanding, and the durability of the knife is as good as its competition.  Another winner for Kershaw.

Whenever we at get in a box from the “big brown truck of happiness” (Jeff’s nickname for UPS) that is marked “Kershaw”, we know that it contains knife products of outstanding design and quality.  We look forward to testing their other new products soon, so stay tuned for other reports from on fine Kershaw knives. 

Greg Quinn

Got something to say about this article? Want to agree (or disagree) with it? Click the following link to go to the GUNBlast Feedback Page.

Click pictures for a larger version.


Pictured are excellent Kershaw knife products featured in this article.  Clockwise from top: Rainbow Leek, RMEF, Blackout, and Blur.




From top to bottom, the Kershaw Blur and Blackout are fine carry tactical folders.




Talk about a pretty knife!  The Kershaw Rainbow Leek is as functional as it is pretty.




Designed for the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation that bears its name, the RMEF is an excellent medium-to-large game hunting knife.