Keen Insights — Benchmade Claymore: Front Toward Enemy

The Benchmade Claymore is a deceptive tool. While it looks like some of the other Benchmades, this automatic knife is built to bring a high level of performance and strength in a package that is still subtle enough to carry in a pocket on a pair of slacks. This is fast becoming my favorite go-to for EDC, and would be a solid choice for a go-bag, too.

The Claymore, like its namesake, is built tough enough for war.

The Benchmade Claymore.
The Benchmade Claymore. Nothing overly pretentious about the design—at all. Just ergonomic functionality.

Claymore Specifications

  • Blade Length: 3.60″ | 8.64cm
  • Blade Thickness: 0.114″ | 2.896mm
  • Open Length: 8.60″ | 19.81cm
  • Closed Length: 5.00″ | 11.18cm
  • Handle Thickness: 0.60″ | 14.99mm
  • Weight: 3.50oz | 97.24g

I’ll highlight a couple of these. The blade length isn’t gratuitous. At just over three-and-a-half inches, this is hardly a fighting knife designed to perforate internal organs. Still, it is a capable design for self defense.

The second is the weight. 3.5 ounces. That’s nothing. Yet Benchmade notes that this design has proven to be their most robust folder—it held more weight before breaking than any other Benchmade design.

The Claymore has a rock-solid clip. It is stout. And the jimping frames each side and end, top and bottom.
The Claymore has a rock-solid clip. It is stout. And the jimping-like textures are on each side and end, top and bottom of the frame.

Features

  • Blade Edge: Serrated
  • Blade Finish/Color: Cobalt Black
  • Blade Steel: CPM-D2 (60-62 HRC)
  • Blade Style/Shape: Drop-point
  • Clip Type: Deep-Carry
  • Clip Position: Reversible Tip-Up
  • Handle Material: Grivory

The Claymore’s frame, which only extends through part of the grip, is steel. Like other Benchmades, it is a minimalist design that works surprisingly well. This is what keeps the weight down. The Grivory is a very hard plastic, and has a plastic feel, but that’s something you’ll need to live with for the weight/strength ratio.

The dots and dashes here are a nod to the Benchmade's namesake. FTE. Front Toward Enemy. This is a subtle homage to the M18A1 Claymore anti-personnel mine, and good advice for the knife, too.
The dots and dashes here are a nod to the Benchmade’s namesake. FTE. Front Toward Enemy. This is a subtle homage to the M18A1 Claymore anti-personnel mine, and good advice for the knife, too.

If you read Morse Code, the Grivory FTE will point you toward the homage. As I will explain later, the Front Toward Enemy advice is sound.

But let’s get back to the crux of this design—the CPM-D2 blade that scores a Rockwell 60-62 score for hardness. That’s important. This blade is thin, and most American knives stay lower on the Rockwell scale—closer to 56-58. The increase in hardness means the blade will hold its edge better, and longer. It also means it will be moderately more complicated to resharpen. And it can equate to brittleness.

This blade (and I’ve been testing it regularly for more than 6 months now) has not broken, chipped, or dulled. It is holding up superbly and makes a compelling argument for harder steel used in such designs.

Automatic Knives

They Claymore is an auto. It would be what we colloquially call a switchblade. Inside the covers there’s a coiled spring that flat-out launches the blade out when you push the button.

The Claymore has a safety, too, which is useful—and should be used—as I found out.

I don't much like external safeties on my handguns, and I often will disable them on knives. This one, though, is easy to actuate and works as intended.
I don’t much like external safeties on my handguns, and I often will disable them on knives. This one, though, is easy to actuate and works as intended.

Note, first, the picture below. If you carry this in your pocket, with the clip facing out, the button (at least in the right hand orientation) faces in. Any impact on the knife itself will compress it into your leg, and won’t deploy the blade. And if it did—like if there was pocket change or something that hit the button, the blade would open out, and not toward—well—vital organs.

The backside of the closed Claymore. Wearing it this way—with the pocket clip on the back of the blade, keeps the button from bumping things through your pocket.
The backside of the closed Claymore. Wearing it this way—with the pocket clip on the back of the blade, keeps the button from bumping things through your pocket.

I was working on a review with my laptop on my lap when my cat went for a bird that had landed in a near-by window sill. The cat hit the glass, scared itself stupid, and then ran back across me—claws out. I dropped my Mac, scrambled to catch it, and the corner of the laptop landed precisely on the button of the Claymore which I had in my pocket (but not secured with the pocket clip).

In the confusion, and worried about catching the laptop that I’d half-way thrown, I didn’t notice that the knife had opened. The blade simply snapped into my pocket and I was none-the-wiser.

Until I stuck my hand in my pocket, later.

Keep the safety on. Keep the surgical tape on hand. Use the pocket clip. All sorts of lessons gleaned from this review.
Keep the safety on. Keep the surgical tape on hand. Use the pocket clip. All sorts of lessons gleaned from this review.

This was a bad one. My thumb ran over the serrated portion of the blade and the cut, which more than half-an-inch into my thumb (and would have gone farther had it not been for my thumbnail arresting the momentum).

The next moments seem oddly comical now. I ran around the house, dripping blood everywhere, looking for my wife who I found taking a nap. It wasn’t how she wanted to be woken up. And the cut was a bit of a bitch to close up—super clean cuts often are—and we were trying to use butterfly closures on a cut that should really have been sewn up.

The Practical Side of the Claymore

Twenty years ago, I had a good friend who was an ER nurse. He was the first person I’d known who carried a Benchmade. He was also a very skilled woodworker and understood blade angles, steel composition, and how to keep tools sharp. His Benchmade, he said—as a tool—was worth every penny.

While the knife is robust, and Benchmade claims it is their strongest folder yet, it remains very thin. This makes the Claymore ideal for EDC.
While the knife is robust, and Benchmade claims it is their strongest folder yet, it remains very thin. This makes the Claymore ideal for EDC.

At the time, I couldn’t afford one. And I can see how the $230 MSRP on the Claymore might be an obstacle for many. While I don’t put any stock in fashion, and can’t stand paying prices based on brand names, I will say that this is a price I can defend. From the intracacies of the lock mechanism to the quality of the steel, the Claymore delivers.

The Claymore's lock is built into the same mechanism that opens the blade. And here, at the back of the blade, the frame peeks out and provides even more jimping. The silver pin locks the knife shut and open.
The Claymore’s lock is built into the same mechanism that opens the blade. And here, at the back of the blade, the frame peeks out and provides even more jimping. The silver pin locks the knife shut and open.

You will need to keep things clean. The button that deploys the blade is also the lock. Pocket lint and dirt will impede function.

There’s no difficulty or nuance needed for cleaning, though. Simply run it under a sink, or brush out larger obstructions. Oil occasionally–though do so lightly and with a thin oil.

There’s a point of pride in being able to say U.S. MFG. There’s no mincing “made in USA” trickery based on the origin of the design or carefully considered percentages.

The knife—even the lock—is built from corrosion-resistant materials. The Grivory may get chewed up a bit with regular use. The blade has a Cerakote finish that may—eventually—show wear. The other metal pins and bolts are all finshed, too, in coating designed to keep rust at bay.

The blade coating is a non-reflective, matte, almost grainy, Cobalt Black Cerakote.
The blade coating is a non-reflective, matte, almost grainy, Cobalt Black Cerakote.

How to sharpen the Claymore?

How often will you need to sharpen this knife depends, of course, on how you use it. The CPM-D2 is a powder deposition steel and has a low chromium content. It will pose a challenge to a novice sharpener.

The spear point end of the Claymore is easily serviced.
The spear point end of the Claymore is easily serviced.

The flat secondary edge will be easy enough to work, though. The serrations are a different story. I would avoid cutting with that part of the blade to prolong the life for when the aggressive nature of the serrations is needed most.

And a note on serrations. The reason why there are high points is to keep the cutting edge from contacting the harder, abrasive surfaces (like plates or cutting boards). Consider cutting an onion. The teeth ride on the cutting board and the protected edge inside the arc does what it does best—it cuts.

On the Claymore, the teeth are more useful for the emergency needs of cutting a seat-belt or cutting ropes.

Serrations. While they're a bitch to sharpen, the ridges keep the cutting edges protected, so you won't need to sharpen then as often.
Serrations. While they’re a bitch to sharpen, the ridges keep the cutting edges protected, so you won’t need to sharpen then as often.

Final Thoughts

The Claymore is an accomplishment of engineering and design. While it isn’t a knife that strikes me at first glance as an aesthetic masterpiece, I’ve come to love every aspect of the knife. This is one that I’ll inevitably have several of.

Benchmade says this color is Ranger Green. In some lights, it has the same FDE/Coyotoe color as some guns, like thie Springfield Armory Hellcat. In other lights, it is more green.
Benchmade says this color is Ranger Green. In some lights, it has the same FDE/Coyote color as some guns, like the Springfield Armory Hellcat. In other lights, it is more green.

If your local laws allow you to carry an auto, this is my recommendation.

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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