Cut or Carry: Benchmade Bugout Review
Ah, the Bugout. You’d be hard pressed to find a more popular and yet controversial piece in the wide, wide world of knives. It’s so lightweight! But overpriced. But the blade is awesome! But the scales flex. But it carries so well! But you’re a wimp if you like knives like this. But…
Let me start this review by saying I am not generally a “Benchmade guy”. I don’t even really know what that means, but in general I just don’t love Benchmades. I see their appeal, and I genuinely like some of their designs (the Bugout, for instance). However, I just don’t gravitate towards them as a brand. If I was forced to define it, I would say I typically find them overpriced for what you get, and I find the construction to be frustrating and suspect over the long haul. That said, anytime I make those complaints, Benchmade fans come out of the woodwork to yell “940!” at me – and that’s fair. I loved my brief time with that knife, and I really like the knife, despite feeling like I constantly had to worry about blade play and concerns with the springs breaking.
But, to borrow and adapt a Michael Scott quote – the Benchmade Bugout was love at first see…with my hands. And, even though it’s no longer in the weekly rotation, my initial impressions have not changed much since I first picked one up. Quick story time.
Let me set the scene. My wife and I have a 3 year old son, and she is pregnant with twin girls. I have a knife/watch addiction, and have yet to progress beyond acceptance. As such, there are packages constantly going in and out of my house as we draw near the delivery date. Perhaps some sort of unconscious “last hurrah” flurry of acquisitions and sales before the inevitable sleepless nights of infancy. Anyway, up late one evening I finally snag a sweet looking Bugout on a Facebook group. The next night, my wife goes into labor.
A few days later, with two happy and healthy baby girls beside us, my wife senses that her husband is losing his mind in the hospital. True story – I actually tried to convince the doctors to let us go home the same day we had the girls, but they rejected my idea. Anyway, she sends me home to get some things from the house, grab a shower and…let’s be honest – get out of her hair for a bit. I may or may not have tracked my new Bugout while in the hospital and may or may not have known it would be waiting on me when I got home. The following picture was taken in the hospital elevator on the way back to my girls.
Please don’t tell her. This is strictly between us, but I also may have watched an episode of Mandalorian while I ate a quick dinner.
So all to say: my Bugout acquisition was a memorable time for me for other reasons. I’ve tried to purchase commemorative watches or knives in the past for big events, and with only a single exception that I can recall, the sentiment is forced and I end up selling the piece because it has no real meaning. But the Bugout was just a piece I happened to pickup around that time – it wasn’t an intentional thing. When I carry it these days, it reminds me of one of the best few days of my life, and the months of double newborn fog that followed. If you only knew how many boxes of diapers I have cut open with this bad boy.
Stripping away the gooey sentiment, I still really love this knife. And to be honest, I don’t have much to add to the normal reviews. The blade is a beautiful design and incredibly functional – stout enough to hold up, but thin enough to slice with ease. The S30V is an excellent choice, and one of my favorite steels. I know next to nothing about knife steels compared to your average knife bro, but Benchmade’s S30V has always performed very well for me, and has been fairly easy to sharpen and holds a fine edge over time. So from an actual knife tool standpoint, it does its job well.
And then specifically as a pocket-knife, I’m thrilled – it carries really well. For starters, it’s just under 2oz, an incredibly feat for a knife of its size. The pocket clip is a weird-but-awesome stubby fold-over deep carry deal. When I first got it, I thought “there’s no way this thing holds well in the pocket – it’s too short”. Almost a year and a half later, I’ve yet to have an issue with it. When you consider the overall weight, the standard rectangular profile and excellent clip, this thing absolutely disappears in the pocket. It’s become my go-to “basketball shorts” knife – and if you’re a true knife bro, you know exactly what I mean and why you need one.
In terms of cons for the Bugout, only a few things bother me. And no, one of them is not the scale flex. I very rarely (read: never) find myself putting any pressure on the middle of the scales. It is akin to my thoughts on the CRK “lock-rock” scandal: I think you’re far more likely to injure yourself by trying to reproduce the issue than as a result of the issue. In the case of scale flex, I would say this is objectively the case.
So then, my only two real complaints on the Bugout have to do with the axis lock and spring system – which is not really a complaint against the Bugout, but Benchmade in general. In short, I have little faith in these systems over time. And I know, I know: you’ve used and abused a 940 for 10 years and if I would actually use my stuff instead of just making sissy tabletop reviews I might not say such stupid things. I’ve heard it all before, and it doesn’t change my thoughts one bit. Let your anger flow through you!
See, here’s the thing. I’ve handled a bunch of axis lock Benchmade’s over the years. In theory, I love the lock system, they’re really fidgety and cool, quick to deploy and safe to close. But, in terms of pocket knife lock mechanisms, they’re fairly complex – lots of interconnected parts and 2 thin, semi-exposed pieces of metal. I work in IT, I was a developer for many years. I know that with each additional component of a system, you increase the complexity and greatly increase the risk of something going wrong. That’s why I love a good backlock – big hunks of metal that just fall into place and lockup tight.
Those small gripes aside, the bugout is awesome – easy carry. Get one, thank me later. I have really enjoyed mine – and even more so when a friend sent me a Applied Weapons Technologies Grip Kit to try out. Although I almost *always* like stock knives, this was a welcome upgrade – though it does fundamentally change the knife in some ways. More on that in a future post.