Hinderer, alongside Emerson, has long been an intriguing brand to me. Both brands boast overtly tactical, aggressive designs that otherwise don’t appeal to me. And yet…there’s something very interesting about them. I had my first opportunity to try a Hinderer 3.5″ non-flipper about a year ago – you can see that review here. It didn’t do much to squelch the intrigue – I found it incredibly comfortable in hand and the action was outstanding, but practically I didn’t see myself carrying it.
As time went on, I couldn’t get the XM-18 out of my head. Even though the non-flipper didn’t totally do it for me, there was enough there that the XM-18 always stayed in my mind as a knife I wanted to check out again in the future. I started thinking about it recently, and decided that the next skinner or sheepsfoot that popped up would be mine for review if nothing else. Enter this beauty.
Gorgeous knife. Really beautiful, and aesthetically right up my alley. Unfortunately, this is yet another XM-18 that isn’t quite right for me. First, though, let’s hit on some good things.
The G10 is awesome. I love both the form and function of Hinderer G10 grip patterns, and I think it looks even better in this light grey color. I’m actually generally not a fan of frame locks that have a scale material on one side – it always feels disjointed to me and the lack of symmetry frustrates me. But on the XM-18, I love it. I can’t explain it, but it just works. Much like the clip, actually.
I find the ergonomics once again to be very good – though the knife as a whole is too small for me. The blade is both attractive and incredibly utilitarian. To be honest, that is the #1 reason I tend to stay away from tactical knives – I just generally don’t find the configurations to be practical in the day to day. They’re usually designed much more for the eye than the hand. But this skinner blade has enough of a forward drop at the point that makes it an excellent box opener and piercing blade, but plenty of belly for slicing cuts.
Ok, on to the bad. The knife is just too darn small for me. That about sums it up. Because of the smaller size, the action isn’t quite what I remember from my time with the 3.5″. I have to think about the deploy more than I did previously, and I don’t find that the knife drops shut quite as nicely. Not bad, mind you – the action is still very good. But…not amazing. When you add to that some aggressive jimping on the flipper tab, it’s an all around negative experience to me.
It was very interesting for me to notice that the size between this knife and the small Inkosi is nearly identical – even the blade to handle ratio is very similar. However, while I find the 3″ XM-18 to be cramped in hand, the small Inkosi feels great. Further evidence to me that when a knife is aggressive in shaping a handle to accommodate a specific grip, it is generally really hit or miss. The 3.5″ really worked for me, but the 3″ really did not. I suspect that many will find the 3″ perfect, while many others will find it very uncomfortable. The Inkosi does have the most handle shaping of any CRK, but it still allows for a wide variety of hand sizes and grips. You’ll see a comparison to the small Sebenza 31 in the video – perhaps even a better side by side than the Inkosi.
Additionally, the blade spine is too thick for my taste. I didn’t notice this on the last Hinderer I tried out, and I think it’s just especially noticeable on the smaller size. It’s not terrible, especially for a more utility blade, but it does bother me and lead to some wedge splitting action on some cuts.
This one is an unfortunate cut for me. Incredibly frustrating, because it has again failed to drive a nail in my Hinderer coffin – I am just as intrigued as I was before, perhaps even more so. I do think this was a valuable data point to me – I strongly prefer the 3.5″. However, I also love a lighter overall package, and a skinner/sheepsfoot blade. So…3.5″ skinny next up?!