Two-Way with Benchmade

In this corner we have Benchmade’s Anthem and in the opposite corner we have Benchmade’s Bugout.  All right, I want a clean fight.  No clip gouging, no biting and no hitting below the axis lock.  Okay?  Now go to your corners and come out on the bell.

Bonggggg!

This is an unfair fight.  But let’s see how it shakes out.

The Anthem is a manual opener with Benchmade’s famous AXIS lock.  Introduced in 2017, its unique feature is the handle is machined out of a solid billet of titanium.  For the same strength, titanium is 45% lighter than steel.  So this knife weighs in at 3.66 ounces.  The titanium handle is sculpted in a chevron pattern that is pleasing to the touch and attractive to the eye.  The knife is set up for tip up carry and the titanium clip is left/right reversible.

Anthem knife
Hey, good looking…
As soon as anyone uses the term wonder steel, a new one appears on the horizon.  Still it is the correct adjective to describe this steel.  Let’s talk composition.
20CV is a martensitic steel containing 1.9% carbon, 20% chromium and a whopping 4% vanadium with 1% molybdenum and a smidge of tungsten.  The high concentration of carbon and vanadium produces a high volume of incredibly hard vanadium carbides.  These carbides strengthen the steel and give it wear resistance which benefits any knife blade.  The chrome rich steel has excellent corrosion resistance. 

Starting as a powder steel 20CV has small grain and uniform distribution of tiny carbide grains.  But machining is difficult, having only 35-40 percent of the machinability of 1% carbon steel.  Hardening, annealing, tempering operations are complex and time consuming.  Despite these complications the Anthem’s blade reaches 59-61HRC.

Anthem folding knife
The screws in the spine anchor the AXIS lock
The opening stud is easy to find and is spaced nicely from the body allowing easy access.  The blade glides open on what looks like bronze washers.
It’s a beautiful knife.

If I had to summarize Benchmade’s Bugout, I would have to say: “Now for something completely different!”  I also have to add different isn’t bad.

The Bugout was introduced this year, 2018.  It too is a manual opener with an AXIS lock.  It’s thinner, lighter and more compact than the Anthem.  The steel is CPM S30V, another super steel.

S30V is a martensitic steel containing 1.4% carbon, 14% chromium and also 4% vanadium with 2% molybdenum. The rest of course is iron.  Vanadium reacts with carbon to produce very hard carbides.  Harder than chromium carbide.  Generally, steel has to contain 10.5 % chromium to be considered stainless.  One factor to consider in this equation is how much of the chromium is removed from the metal as carbides.  Fortunately, as chemical reactions go, vanadium carbides are the favored product, so most of the chromium is available for protection from oxidation or staining.

Bugout in your Bug-out Bag
A nice Introduction to Benchmade quality knives.
Powdered metal products, in general, have smaller grain size and a better distribution of the carbides than cast steel.  It’s reported to be as easy as D2 steel to machine, which according the fount of all knowledge, Wikipedia, isn’t all that easy. 
Hardening, annealing, tempering operations seem to be relatively straight forward.  Bugout’s blade reaches 58-60HRC.

The handle is a glass fiber filler nylon called Grivory.  It one of many types of engineering nylons and its properties are well understood.  There will not be any surprises here.

The knife is set up for tip up and the metal clip is reversible left/right and set up for deep pocket carry.

Partial Steel Liners Bugout
You can see the steel liner ending just at the top finger.  there’s a second one on the other side.
The knife doesn’t have full handle metal liners.  The metal liner is about 1.7 inches long and it looks like it’s injection molded into the handle and then screwed at the tail end for additional strength.  The opening stud has a nice blue color but it’s held near to the grip making the knife a little more difficult to open as compared to the Anthem.  The AXIS lock is also tucked into the handle and the blade doesn’t swing free when the AXIS lock is used as does the Anthem.
As Gin Wigmore says “going head to head”:

Property

Bugout

Anthem

Steel

CPM S30V

CPM-20CV

Handle Material

Grivory

Titanium Billet

Blade Hardness

58-60 RHC

59-61 RHC

Blade Length

3.24 inches

3.5 inches

Closed Length

4.22 inches

4.56 inches

Lock System

AXIS

AXIS

Weight

1.85 oz.

3.66 oz.

Clip

Reversible – deep carry

Reversible

Orientation

Tip Up

Tip Up

CATRA Edge Retention

145% of 440C

180% of 440C

Cost

$135 MSRP

$500 MSRP

CATRA edge testing is one of the new witchcraft testing procedures to produce a reproducible, operator independent, meaningful edge retention value.  The problem with many of these types of test is finding a test material that is also constant and reproducible.  In any case it’s better than you and buddy shaving leather or cutting steaks.

So, what do I think?

These are knives designed for different needs and different people. 

The Bugout is a nice “Welcome to Benchmade” knife.  It’s small and compact but provides enough cutting ability for most uses.  It’s the knife I would carry in places I couldn’t carry a knife.  Places I thought I might lose a knife.  If I was packing a true hell-for–leather bugout bag, one of the knives would be a Bugout.  If I was going to stash a knife, a couple hundred in twenties, compass and matches in a sealed wax container… you get the idea.

The Anthem, well, it a great knife and for me it would a “barbecue” knife.  Something I’d pull out of my pocket to show off.  I’d carry it in places where I never intended to use a knife.  It would be a status symbol for me, if I used those kinds of status symbols.  But look, if you need to get the most out of a knife, if you use a blade hard and need every possible advantage of edge, weight and durability, the Anthem could be your answer.  It’s pricey, but I think it would hold up better than the Bugout to hard, brutal use.