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).
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.
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
- IKBS ball bearing pivot
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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 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.
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…
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.
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.
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.