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Reviews > Knives > Folding > Benchmade Griptilian Knife > Test Report by Thomas Vickers

Benchmade Griptilian 551 Knife

Initial Report - December 3 , 2008
Field Report - February 4, 2009
Long Term Report - April 14, 2009

Thomas Vickers

41 years old
5 ft 11 in tall (1.8 m)
175 lb (79 kg)
Southeast Texas, Houston Area

Tester Background:
I grew up in the piney woods of southeast Texas. Camping was a quick trip into the mosquito-infested woods behind the house. My style has evolved and over the last 4 or 5 years, I have begun to take a lighter weight approach to hiking gear (I still use sleeping bags and tents, just lighter versions). While I have flirted with lightweight hiking, I feel that I am more of a mid-weight hiker now. My philosophy is one of comfort, while carrying the lightest load possible.

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Manufacturer Information:

Manufacturer: Benchmade


Year Manufactured: 2008

Model: 551 Griptilian (Pardue design)

MSRP: $ 112.00 US

Blade length: 3.5 in (8.9 cm)
Blade thickness: 0.115 in (3 mm)
Blade material: 154CM stainless steel
Blade hardness: 58-60HRC
Blade style: 551 modified drop-point
Thumb-studs: 551T trainer

Weight: 3.25 oz (92 g)
Clip: black, reversible
Tip-up lock mechanism: AXIS

Overall length: 8.07 in (20.5 cm)
Closed length: 4.62 in (12 cm)
Class: Blue

Information From Tester:
(all measurements approximate)

Color/model: black/551SBK

Weight: 3.39 oz (96 g)

Blade length: 3.5 in (8.9 cm)
Grip length:
4.5 in (11.4 cm)

Folded length: 4.5 in (11.4 cm)
Overall (extended) length: 8 in (20 cm)
Width: 0.5 in (13 mm)

Other details:
ComboEdge/BK1 blade coating
Noryl GTX handle scales
Lanyard Hole
Ambidextrous dual thumb-stud

Initial Report
December 3, 2008

Initial tester expectations:
After visiting the Benchmade website I was pretty sure that I had a grip on this knife. From what I could tell, it was going to be a fairly nice folding-blade knife with a nylon handle.  After a little digging I was able to discover the exact details of the AXIS locking mechanism and that this knife should be foldable and unfoldable while using only one hand.  The amount of technical and practical details on the site was very nice. The diagrams and photos clearly illustrated just how this knife and its technology works and took care of a lot of questions that I might have had as a knife purchaser. Overall, the Benchmade website was easy to navigate and very informative. I consider it the mark of success if a village idiot such as myself can visit a website and come away knowing how to do something and realizing that if I still had questions after the knife arrived, the first place I would visit again would be the Benchmade website. 

Tester's Description:
The Benchmade Griptilian 551 Knife is a folding knife with a locking blade. It is also so much more. The black handle feels like plastic of some

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sort, but it is apparently a nylon compound.  The handle and grip can be disassembled via five hex screws, but doing this voids the warranty. The handle/grip area is textured in several spots and has a belt clip that can be attached to either side of the grip area via 3 screws that require a hex wrench of some sort to attach.  The clip itself fits tightly against the grip and can be rather difficult to slide over items, but it does hold the knife firmly in place.

The blade  has a metal bar that runs through it near where it connects to the grip. This bar provides a point to grip and flip the blade out of the grip and into its locked position.  Located within the grip itself is another metal bar that extends completely through the grip and protrudes on both sides.  This is part of the AXIS locking mechanism and the bar is spring loaded. When pulled backwards, it allows the blade to be folded into the grip.

The blade itself is coated in a black substance and contains two cutting edges.  The edge closest to the grip is serrated and forward of the serration is a regular knife blade. On one side of the blade is the Benchmade logo  and on the other side of the blade is the phrase "154cm" which refers to the steel of the blade. On this side of the blade is also a logo which reads "Mel Purdue Design," which I assume refers to the designer of this particular model of knife.

The entire knife feels wonderfully balanced with most of the weight resting in the blade area. 

Initial thoughts:
WOW. I just wanted to start off that way since I do not feel that my description really conveyed my sense of wonder at this knife. I am a knife using fool and after opening and playing with the Griptilian 551 for a few minutes I realized just what a quality knife is about.

Benchmade starts right out of the box with instructions on how the clean the knife (flush with water) and when to lubricate, as well as pointing out that disassembling the Griptilian 551 would void its warranty.  I also liked the fact that Benchmade told me that the blade is sharp and the best way to keep it this way is to sharpen it regularly before it gets dull.  The literature that came with the knife also explains the different level of Benchmade knives (color coded) and I am very surprised to see that the Griptilian 551 is not considered a top of the line model. Just playing with it for a few minutes put it heads above any other knife I have ever used as far as quality is concerned. This is very visibly a well made and designed knife.

Getting it open:
The first thing I wanted to figure out was if I could really open this knife with just one hand and keep all of my fingers.  I was pleasantly surprised to find out that simply putting my thumb on the stud on the blade and pushing forward with my thumb allowed the blade to slip out and lock into place with almost no pressure or effort. The motion was smooth and fluid and I was never in danger of cutting myself as the blade came out of the grip and locked into place. 

Closing the knife one-handed is a bit trickier, but almost as easy as opening it.  I hold the grip/handle in one hand, place my thumb on one side of the AXIS stud and my middle finger on the other side of the AXIS stud and pull back on this stud to release the blade lock. After I pull the locking stud back, I then use my index finger to push the blade down into its folded position. This motion is a bit harder to pull off one handed, but almost no pressure or effort is needed to move the blade once the locking mechanism has been pulled out of the way.

The Benchmade Griptilian 551 is easy to open and close one handed and that was something that I had originally doubted after reading the website.  I was very happy to find that this feature was not only present, but works wonderfully without any fancy hand grips or juggling acts on my part. 

Now this is a knife:
What really impresses me about this knife are the small details that make it just so much better. The most obvious are the textured areas on the grip that are not located on the sides of the grip, but on the areas where my fingers grip the knife when it is open.   While not a huge deal, these are details that really make this knife nice. 

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Benchmade used the metal from the locking mechanism as well as the grip material to create these textured areas on the points on the knife were good friction was of benefit. I have no plans to stab anything with this knife, but it feels really good in my hands and makes me feel much more secure knowing that my fingers are unlikely to slip off the grip and get cut on the blade.

Final thoughts:
This is a serious knife. It looks great, feels great, and from all appearances is designed great.  I am looking forward to using this knife on the trail and I seeing if it is as durable and useful as its design and quality suggests.

Things I like:
1. I can open and close it with one hand
2. Blade is sharp right out of the box
3. Textured grip areas in just the right spots.

Things I don't like:
1. Nothing right now.

Field Report
February 4, 2009

Sam Houston National Forest
Other locations in Southeast Texas

Total days use: 20
Temperatures: 28 to 78 F (-2 to 26 C)
Precipitation: Freezing rain, light rain, and mostly no rain.

Household stuff

Where to carry:
My first big dilemma with the Griptilian was where to carry it. I have worn knives on my packs, around my neck, and in my pockets, but I really did not have a good answer for this one. The one thing I was not going to do was clip it to a pack and lose it, so at least one of my options was easily removed from the que.

The next thing I tried was attaching it to a lanyard and carrying it around my neck.

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The lanyard had a removable clip so that I could take the knife off and not have to yank the entire lanyard over my  head. This was not a horrible way to carry it, but I soon discovered that a whole plethora of reasons not to do this. The first reason was that the knife was going to leave a mark if it banged against my body too hard. The second reason not to carry it this way was had to do with the ease of access. If I wore it under my shirt it would not bang against me, but it was a pain to dig out when I needed the knife quickly.   The last problem came from wearing it on the lanyard outside of my shirt. If it was over the sternum strap on the pack I was wearing, it banged me. If it was under the sternum strap on the pack I had issues getting to it quickly.

So, my best compromise was to clip it on the upper front portion of my pants pocket with the knife on the inside of the pocket.  This situation was much better than just dropping the knife in the bottom of my pocket. It allowed me to get the knife out quickly and prevented me from having to dig in the pocket itself to find the knife.

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With the "where to put it" question out of the way, I was now off to do some testing.

Using it on the trail:
I have always carried a knife even though at times it seems like I never need one. I do not whittle or carve things when on the trail and I have yet to have to defend myself from man or animal in the woods. That leaves me with simple uses like cutting tape, webbing, cord, rope, cheese, or sausages.  While it may not be glamorous, it is how I use a knife on my backpacking trips.

It can be a dayhike or an extended backpacking trip, but I will always have two things with me. One is a knife and the other is a block of cheese.  Probably the most common use for any cutting tool on my trips is to slice off various sized hunks of cheese and stuff it in my mouth. The Griptilian has proven very good at cutting the cheese.  I have had no issues with it slicing cheese or the summer sausage that I also sometimes carry.

The coating on the knife has stayed intact and does not transfer to the food in anyway. The blade also wipes clean with a couple of swipes of a bandana when I am done. The last thing I want is a stinky cheese coated knife in my pocket.

I have also had to trim the end off of a 11 mm (0.43 in) diameter static climbing rope and while rope is never easy to slice, the serrations on the Griptilian blade made it a much easier task than I had expected. I do not do a ton of rope cutting, but it was nice to know that when a tough job presented itself, the Griptilian was more than up to it.

Along the way I have also taken the knife to nylon cord, duct tape, nylon webbing, and stitching. It handles everything from cheese to the fine stitch ripping work with ease and finesse. It is not just a cool looking knife, but it works great too.

The raised portions if the grip that I mentioned in my initial report have proven themselves to be very useful.  No matter how cold or slick the knife has been, these areas help me hold a firm grip on the handle and I have never had my fingers slip off. I really have to say that this is just one little 'extra' that makes using this knife a joy. There is a very apparent attention to detail in its design and construction that show that Benchmade wanted to make a great knife.

Keeping it clean:
While the blade and grip show little or no wear at this point, I have noticed that the Axis locking mechanism has a gritty feel to it.  I have dropped the knife in dirt, sand, and on pine needles during this phase of the test. The blade still opens and shuts very smoothly. The gritty is only apparent when I use the Axis bar to unlock the blade or right as the blade locks open. 

This is not a big issue because I know knives get dirty.  I do not have access to the cleaning instructions at this moment, but in my long term report I will report back on how well the cleaning instructions from Benchmade worked for getting the dirt and grit out of the locking mechanism.  I am tempted not to clean it, but I do not want to destroy this knife.  It works just fine as it is, but I want to keep it in great condition.

Final thoughts:
This is one fine knife. It is a bit large, but it came out of the box SHARP and has stayed that way despite the high level of use I have put it to. I am loathe to try and sharpen it, but Benchmade suggested sharpening the blade before it gets dull, so I will make a decision on that during the next portion of the test.

This is the first knife that I have ever carried that includes a clip.  I was worried that carrying it clipped to my pants pocket would loosen the clip and I would have to resort to carrying it in the pocket. So far the clip has remained very stiff and tight. It holds the knife to any pocket I have worn it in and at at this point I am more worried about the knife/clip damaging my pants when I pull it off the pocket than the clip coming loose and my losing the knife.

I have cut a wide variety of objects with this knife and I have yet to encounter anything it could not handle. It is easy to hold when cutting, even if it is fine work, such as ripping out a seam/thread.

I will continue to carry this knife on all my outings for the remainder of the test period. I am sure to find many creative uses for it, but I hope that I will never find something it cannot handle. 

Things I like:
1. Still sharp
2. Clip holds knife in place
3. Easy to hold

Things I do not like:

Long Term Report - April 14, 2009


Sam Houston National Forest
Other locations in Southeast Texas

Total day used: 15+
Temperatures: 32 to 75 F (0 to 21 C)

Day Hiking
Every day usage

This is a knife:
I have carried a knife for most of my life. They are tools and I expect my knife to do a lot of little chores to earn its keep. I have tried everything from ultralight, bare bones knifes to fixed blade monsters and after many years I have settled on folding and locking blade knifes as the best all around performers. 

The Benchmade Griptilian 551 takes my idea of a durable tool to a new level. Not only is it tough, well made and functional, but it looks great and feels good in my hands.  I have carried it almost every day of the test period even if I was going to work or church.   While every day carrying may not lead to a ton of use, I do think that it says a lot that I want this knife with me at all times.

On the trail, I have used the Griptilian 551 to cut open food packaging, cut sausage, cheese, and to sharpen small sticks.  The blade has never lost its edge and while I know it cannot still be as sharp as the day it arrived, it is pretty close despite being used heavily.  I have cut everything from climbing rope to paracord and in one instance I had to use it to strip a sparkler of its combustible parts so I could use the wire portion to secure a windshield wiper in place duing a rainstorm.

In short, it has done everything I could ask of it and some things I never imagined and it has never let me down.

This knife has been carried in my pocket for most of the time. It is either lying in the bottom of my pocket or securely clipped to the front of a pants pocket.  The carrying clip on the handle has never come loose and is still securely attached to the knife. I figured that I would have to tightened during the test period since it is taken in and out at least twice a day and often many more times than that, but so far that is not the case. The screws have remained secure and the clip has not bent or loosened a bit.  While this may be a small thing it goes to show the attention to detail that Benchmade put into this knife.

The Griptilian has been dropped in dirt, water, and grass and keeps on ticking.  On several occasions I have flushed the locking mechanism with lubricant to get the grit out, but that was more for my peace of mind rather than due to diminished performance. The dirt did cause the knife open and close a bit less smooth, but I got the feeling that it would have kept going much longer before it ever really started to become a problem. 

After four months of constant wear and tear, the blade can still be opened and closed one handed with a very smooth motion.  The AXIS locking mechanism seems rather complicated for simple knife, but it does work well even with a little grit in it. I am very happy with the way this knife continues to work. My concerns about it being a bit too fancy for a knife have proven to be baseless.

Final thoughts:
I depend on a knife when on the trail. I have never had a serious emergency, but a good knife gives me a very special peace of mind when I am alone in the woods.  The Benchmade Griptilian 551 is a knife that works for the smallest tasks and can take abuse. It is well designed and well constructed and has not let me down. I know that I can get it dirty and it will keep on working. I have discovered that no matter how dirty, wet, or lint filled it gets, I can open it with one hand and get the job done. In short, it is just what I want in a knife. It looks cool and works like a charm. No matter what cutting needs I have on the trail, I feel comfortable with the Griptilian 551 along for the ride.

This knife cuts everything from cheese to rope like it was butter.  The blade is sharp and has held an edge for the last four months with no problem.  The grip is designed to keep my hand from slipping (and it does) and the locking system works well. It is one thing to see a piece of gear that works, but in my view, this knife is a whole lot of good in a small package. It may be a lot more knife than  I need for day to day use, but it is a good tool to have on the trail. It is a case of I would rather be safe than sorry and Griptilian 551 goes a long way towards making me feel safe.

Things that I like:
1. Holds an edge
2. Cuts anything
3. Durable (belt clip stays put)

Things I do not like:
1. Nothing

Read more reviews of Benchmade gear
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Reviews > Knives > Folding > Benchmade Griptilian Knife > Test Report by Thomas Vickers

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