Issue 55 Unusual Suspects: Lockback Knives Mike Searson Join the Conversation Lockback knives seem to have been around forever. Chances are, if you were a Boy Scout or Cub Scout, it may have been the second knife, after a slip joint, that you were most familiar with as an introduction to edged tools. Although they may seem a bit dated compared to modern liner locks, frame locks, or other type of locking mechanisms, there’s no question about the inherent strength of a properly made lock-back. The easiest way to describe a lockback’s method of operation is that a locking arm sits along the rear of the handle and engages with a hook that fits into a notch on the rear of the blade. As the blade is opened, the hook snaps into the notch and locks the knife. The user depresses the lock bar in order to close the knife. Because the principle of the lock is typically steel against the steel of the blade, there’s no premature wear, and these knives tend to have an unusually strong lock. They can be made cheaper and more efficiently without sacrificing strength, and in the rare case that the lock seems to be wearing out, the knife can typically be replaced without breaking the bank. SOG Knives Twitch 2 OAL: 6.2 inchesBlade Length: 2.65 inchesBlade Material: AUS-8Weight: 2.6 ouncesMSRP: $53URL: sogknives.com SOG has been making knives for military and law enforcement use for over 30 years. The Twitch 2 is an assisted opening knife that uses torsion springs to hold the blade closed. When the user applies manual pressure to open the blade by using either the thumb stud or the flipper mechanism on the back side of the handle, the springs release and the knife opens completely. The handle is made from aluminum. The minimalist pocket clip, which resembles a pen cap more than a typical knife clip, is reversible for right- or left-hand carry. It’s a lock-back design and incorporates an additional safety which can aid as a secondary lock in either keeping the knife open or closed. PROS + Lightning-fast deployment — this is one of the few assisted openers that is faster than most switch blades.+ The Twitch 2 is lightweight and carries well. CONS – A bit on the smaller side for hard extended use. You don’t want to use this one for batoning firewood or hacking through the fuselage of a downed aircraft.– The lock can stick at times when you first receive it but works in nicely after a while. Columbia River Knife & Tool Offbeat OAL: 7.57 inchesBlade Length: 3.23 inchesBlade Material: 8Cr13MoVWeight: 3.3 ouncesMSRP: $50URL: crkt.com What started life as a custom blade from the bench of Pat Crawford in 1979 is now a factory offering from CRKT with the Offbeat II. For this model, Pat and Wes Crawford scaled down the profile and added GRN handle scales for an improved grip. Dual thumb studs and a particularly innovative lock-back mechanism allow for ambidextrous opening and closing. PROS + The best part of this knife is Crawford’s easy-to-use locking mechanism. It’s innovative, intuitive, and strong.+ Crawford’s drop-point blade design is perhaps the best in the industry.+ A perfect weight for an EDC knife CONS – The pocket clip is a bit on the small side. A slightly bigger one would be a bit more appropriate.– The thumb studs can be a bit aggressive and rough on the thumb if you constantly and repetitively open and close the knife while watching TV. Buck Knives 110 Auto OAL: 8.62 inchesBlade Length: 3.75 inchesBlade Material: 420 HCWeight: 7.6 ouncesMSRP: $200URL: buckknives.com The traditional Buck 110 folding knife has been one of the best lock-back knives ever produced, and we dedicated an entire article to it in our sister publication, RECOIL OFFGRID. It’s made with a 420HC clip-point blade with a proprietary heat treatment. The Macassar ebony Dymondwood handle scales are accented by brass bolsters, liners, and pins. The automatic version is one of the strongest autos we’ve ever seen. The knife lacks a clip, but ships with a quality leather sheath for belt carry. PROS + Rock-solid lockup in a knife built like a tank+ Razor-sharp blade that retains an edge+ Classic lines and a perfect example of a traditional design still relevant 50 years later CONS – A bit slow to deploy due to the sheath– Slightly heavy for standard pocket carry Buck Knives 110 Slim Pro OAL: 8.62 inchesBlade Length: 3.75 inchesBlade Material: S30VWeight: 3.4 ouncesMSRP: $94URL: buckknives.com The Buck 110 has been given a radical makeover with the 110 Slim Pro. Made with tan Micarta handle scales and a classic 110 clip-point blade of S30V, they reduced the weight and made it more pocket friendly with a reversible clip. A matte coating on the blade aids in corrosion resistance. I rarely profile two knives from the same manufacturer but had to in this case, as it shows how far Buck has come with their most classic design. PROS + The S30V blade is an extremely nice upgrade from 420 HC steel.+ The lighter weight and slimmer profile makes for a superb EDC knife for under $100. CONS – The clip is a bit blocky but does its job.– The lock was a bit stiff at first but broke in well. Spyderco Knives Siren OAL: 8.75 inchesBlade Length: 3.61 inchesBlade Material: LC200NWeight: 3.4 ouncesMSRP: $250URL: spyderco.com Designed by professional kayak fisherman Lance Clinton, Spyderco’s Siren is a tough-as-nails folding knife built to tackle anything in a rough water environment. The full-flat-ground blade is ground from ultra-corrosion-resistant LC200N steel and features an impressively strong lock-back mechanism. Both G-10 scales feature a blue accent layer, and the knife can be secured in a pocket or on a belt with a reversible deep-pocket wire clip that offers secure carry with quick access. PROS + Spyderco has been offering lock-back-style knives from the very beginning, and they build one of the stoutest.+ The blade comes wickedly sharp out of the box, another area where Spyderco bests most other manufacturers.+ The blue accent area gives the knife a unique look. CONS – The wire clip can be easily damaged; we prefer a traditional three-screw clip for securing the knife in the pocket.– Some users may find the G10 a bit too aggressive. Al Mar Knives Eagle Talon OAL: 9 inchesBlade Length: 4 inchesBlade Material: VG-10Weight: 3.3 ouncesMSRP: $199URL: almarknives.com Although it’s officially called a Front Lock by Al Mar Knives, the Eagle Talon is essentially a lock-back blade with the lock placed closer to the axis of the pivot. The Al Mar Eagle Talon features a thin black G-10 handle with a VG-10 stainless steel blade with dual thumb studs for ease of opening. The reversible pocket clip attaches through the lanyard hole. PROS + The long and slender drop-point blade makes for a superb knife for delicate cutting chores. The handle geometry allows you to work this knife like a scalpel.+ Classic looks combined with the weight and ergonomics make this an ideal EDC blade. CONS – If you opt for attaching a lanyard to your knife, this one can be a bit awkward.– Not ideal as a heavy-use work knife; this is more of an occasional use, gentlemen’s folder. 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