First Look at the New CRKT M-16 | Keen Insights

If you consider yourself a knife-guy and this is your first introduction to the CRKT M-16, then we need to talk. This knife has been a go-to staple for 23 years. This design was one of the first widely available flipper designs, and has seen numerous iterations (there are some 41 versions currently listed).

The stonewashed finish on the CRKT M-16 gives it a worn-in feel, right from the start.
The stonewashed finish on the CRKT M-16 gives it a worn-in feel, right from the start.

And the design originated from a designer with a service background. Master Sergeant Harold Joseph “Kit” Carson’s take on the pocketknife blended an obvious military homage with one-handed functionality, lightweight materials, and serviceable steel to make the M-16 a design that has proven to be adaptable.

CRKT M-16 tanto blade
The tanto blade is one of a couple of options. There’s a longer tanto, too—closer to 4 inches.

This newest version has a couple of upgrades that make it one of the most robust and fluid M-16s around.

CRKT M-16 Specifications

  • Blade Length 3.12″ (79.15 mm)
  • Blade Edge Plain
  • Blade Steel D2
  • Blade Finish Stonewash
  • Blade Thickness 0.12″ (2.95 mm)
  • Overall Length 7.38″ (187.33 mm)
  • Closed Length 4.28″ (108.59 mm)
  • Weight 4.00 oz. (113.40 g)
  • Handle Aluminum
  • Style Folding Knife w/Deadbolt Lock
  • Deadbolt lock
  • Assisted Opening
  • Flipper
  • IKBS ball bearing pivot

CRKT’s Deadbolt

Deadbolt's bar
When closed, the deadbolt’s bar is proud of the handle. Just barely.

Liner locks are easy to use one-handed. They work. Lock-backs are crazy strong—my favorite design—but they usually take a second hand, or more concentration, to close and are a bit stiff to open. The deadbolt, though.

The blade has a cutout in it. The bolt, such as it is, is spring-loaded and wants to fall into that cut. When the blade opens into position, the bolt drops in. Now there’s a physical pin locking the blade in the open position.

The Deadbolt on the M-16 sinks into the frame when the lock is in place.
The deadbolt on the CRKT M-16 sinks into the frame when the lock is in place. It is easy to feel, and strong.

As you might imagine, steel on steel has a certain amount of friction. As you open this knife, you won’t feel any drag. The lock, though, is relying on that friction as part of its strength. It won’t simply pop undone.

CRKT M-16 lock button
When open, the lock’s button sits proud of its frame. It is easy to find and actuate.

Push on the button opposite of the lock, though, and the pin will slide out. The blade can then fold up. Two things to note, though: the lock is hard to disengage if there’s working pressure on the blade, but with no pressure, the blade is free to drop out of position with just the slightest nudge.

The M-16’s Blade

CRKT M-16 tanto blade
Note how the hollow-ground ends in a flat-ground tip. A nice visual touch.

With all of the different versions available, two main blade shapes rise to the top. The tanto, pictured here, and a spear point. The spear has a narrower look and a long slope to the point. The tanto has more mass and could arguably provide more strength for prying, though this isn’t something I’d recommend from this design.

The tanto has a deep hollow grind. This convex shape is offset by the flat grind at the tip, providing a subtle aesthetic that shows off the curves of the hollow grind. And it would be a fairly easy blade to sharpen.

jimping on the CRKT M-16 blade
The jimping on the blade extends down into the body when the blade is open.

CRKT has built this version with a D2 blade. Again—this is a staple now and can’t be understated. D2 provides excellent hardness and decent corrosion resistance. It can be sharpened by those who know what the hell they’re doing, and provides really good edge retention for those who don’t. D2 has been a go-to for mid-tier production knives for years, and for good reason. It is more expensive than you’re average tool steel but worth the extra spend.

The M16’s Handle

Here’s where I find people either love or hate this aesthetic. And let’s talk for a minute about the old M-16 itself (the gun). The holes on the handle are clearly an homage to the holes in an M-16’s forend.

CRKT M-16 folding knife
This knife is easy to keep in the pocket, but just large enough to be useful for EDC and field use.

I tend to like clean, straight lines on my handles. I gravitate toward pocketknives that through aesthetics out the window in favor of purely functional design, or those that completely ignore ergonomics and function in favor of a defining look. The M-16 is a knife that pays tribute to its namesake—and not just in its name.

The M-16 looks thin at a glace, but the knife fills the hand.
The CRKT M-16 looks thin at a glace, but the knife fills the hand.

The handle is reasonably slick. There’s no texture in the aluminum, other than the holes. But the grip follows the hand nicely.

There’s also plenty of width. The aluminum scales are lined with steel. As with any pocketknife, there will be some maintenance required—the holes expose the blade, and the spring of the assisted opening mechanism is also exposed.

posts on the knife blade
The posts on the blade are not for opening, as they sit firmly against the frame. These stop the blade from inserting too deep into the handle of the M-16 and keep it from traveling too far when open.

The flipper becomes a guard when the blade is open. This is a solid design feature on this knife and rounds out the overall feel. You can really grip the hell out of this, with the blade forward or to the rear, and feel confident that the knife is going to stay put in your hand.

Last but not least…

disassembled knife
The M-16 taken down. The blade’s milling is quite complex.

CRKT has added one more performance feature to the design. The bearings. As the photo above shows, this blade rides on tiny ball bearings and it opens and closes with a very smooth action. I’m eager to see how well these stand up to hard use. While I have no doubt that they will withstand the demands of pocket carry, this is a knife that has seen more than its fair share of use in really sandy environments.

The M-16 next to a G19 mag, for size context.
The CRKT M-16, next to a G19 mag, for size context.

That said, the design is serviceable. The first thing I did when this knife arrived for testing was to google how the lock worked. That didn’t suffice, though, so I grabbed some tools and took it down.

It was easy.

Is this an over-improvement?

The M-16 line begins at a reasonable price point. Sub $40, retail. This model has an MSRP of $125.

The spring for the assisted opening device is visible from the outside.
The spring for the assisted opening device on the M-16 is visible from the outside.

There’s a lot more to it, though. The blade steel, the new lock, the assisted opening, the bearings… Maybe the CRKT M-16 is growing up, aging well, earning rank—I dunno. Stick a metaphor on there for this evolution.

What had been a staple entry-level design is now much more refined.


David Higginbotham is a writer and editor who specializes in everyday carry. David is a former backcountry guide in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and Boundary Waters Canoe Area who was a college professor for 20 years. He ultimately left behind the academy for a more practical profession in the firearms industry and was (among other editorial positions) the Managing Editor for a nascent Mag Life blog. In that Higginbotham helped establish The Maglife's tone and secure its early success. Though he went on to an even more practical firearms industry profession still, he continues to contribute articles and op-eds as time and life allow.

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