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Benchmade's Griptilian Knives

Graduates of George T. Williams’ three-day or fiveday Tactical Duty Knife Instructor’s course receive two knives. One is a Benchmade 551S Griptilian duty knife and the other is a Benchmade 551T Training knife. Those attending the one-day Tactical Duty Knife course receive the Benchmade 551T Training knife.

The Griptilian-series is the result of a joint design effort between Benchmade engineers, custom makers Bill McHenry and Jason Williams (of AXIS fame) and Mel Pardue. Pardue also designed Benchmade’s Model 330 and 850 Gent Folder; Model 720, 721 and 722 Axis Folder and Model 350 Folder (spear point).

The 551S Griptilian Pardue has a 3.45-inch long, 0.115-inch thick, flatground blade made of 440C stainless steel. The 551-series is available in either plain, straight edge or “S” Combo Edge, which means partially serrated. The 550 Griptilian with a Modified Sheepsfoot point blade was introduced in 2002. Shortly thereafter the focus backup.qxp 12/5/2005 4:04 PM Page 56 57 551 Griptilian with a Modified Drop point blade was released. For 2005, Benchmade added a Tanto point blade.

The Griptilian-series uses the AXIS locking mechanism. Stronger than either a lock-back or liner-lock, the AXIS lock uses a spring-loaded bar that rides in a slot in the handle and a machined slot in the tang of the blade behind the pivot pin. That bar engages a ramped notch cut into the tang to lock the knife open. When locked, the Griptilian has excellent rigidity. The blade movement up-and-down (as locked) does not exist. The side-to-side movement is likewise non-existent.

The Griptilian-series is fully ambidextrous. It can be opened and locked with either hand. The knife is opened by the smoothly-beveled, oversized thumb oval or opener-hole. It can be unlocked with either hand. The black stainless pocket clip can be mounted on either side of the knife for left or right-side carry in the tip-up condition. Right-handed officers will typically carry the knife in their left pants pocket.

The Griptilian-series uses heavilytextured, injection molded handles made of Noryl GTX 30% glass-filled nylon. The Griptilian name refers to this grip-textured surface and ribcovered spine. The palm-swell design also allows a good grip of the knife. The handle also has a hole for a lanyard. The Griptilian uses 410-series stainless steel handle liners.

The handle has knurled texturing on the top and bottom of the handles near the pommel, and at the top and bottom of the handle near the blade pivot pin. In addition, the stainless steel liner in the index finger groove and on top, above the pivot pin, has heavy jimping. Finally, the back of the blade, i.e., the thumb rest, is also heavy knurled.

All of this texturing, knurling, and jimping helps to improve the grip on the knife when it is wet. However, the texturing is not so aggressive that your hand is abraded when slipping by the knife in your pocket.

440C Stainless

The 440C stainless is an economical balance of edge holding and the ability to easily sharpen. This is not just a “440” alloy, but the full 440C, the classic, high-carbon stainless steel. The high-chrome gives it the stainless characteristics. The high-carbon gives it hardness and edge-holding, although not as much as the non-stainless, carbon steels.

Carbon content, and thus the hardenability of this stainless steel, goes up from 440A (.75%) to 440B (.9%) to 440C (1.2%). Unless the 440 stainless knife is marked 440C, the high-carbon material, it is probably the much softer 440A.

The 440C alloy is not as hard as 154 CM, for example, but is less costly and easier to sharpen. The 440C has slightly more chromium but much less molybdenum that the high end 154 CM and ATS-34 stainless steels, and are not quite as tough or as hard. These typically harden to 59-61 Rc. The 440C is usually heat treated to 56- 58Rc. Benchmade specs say 58-60 Rc. In fairness, 440C at its best is a few Rockwell hardness points below 154 CM at its best.

Griptilian Trainer

The Griptilian training knife, like all of the Benchmade trainers, is made to exactly duplicate the weight, feel and grip of the 550/551-series duty knives. The Trainer also uses an AXIS lock, so it opens and closes exactly like the 550/551-series. The Griptilian Trainer uses red G10 handles and 410 stainless steel liners. It has the palm swell of the focus backup.qxp 12/5/2005 4:04 PM Page 57 58 Tactical Response Nov–Dec 2005 real knife but not quite the same textured surface.

The holes in the training blade are designed to give the dull, rounded blade exactly the same weight distribution, and snap-open feel, as the duty blade. Using red handles instead of black, the 551T is virtually identical to the 551S for all practical training purposes. With eyes closed, or when wrestling against a disarm, it is impossible to tell the handling of one knife from the other.

The training knives are also available in 710T Axis Folder, 10T Stryker Folder, and 814T Mini-AFCK Folder. The training knives use blades made from GIN-1 stainless steel, which is virtually identical to 440B.

Instructor’s Choice

Williams supplies the Griptilian knife to his students because 1) it is based on the AXIS system, 2) its relatively low cost and 3) it works well as a duty knife. There is no lock mechanism better suited to emergency needs than the internal tang lock, of which the AXIS lock is a prime example. At just 3.3 ounces, the Griptilian is a very light knife. At about $100, the knife is cost effective for many officers who do not want to put $250 into a knife they might lose.

Williams used to supply the 550 Trainer for his short classes and the 550 Griptilian knife for his long classes. He changed this to the 551 series. The Model 550 (Sheepsfoot) uses an ambidextrous oval thumb hole. The Model 551 (Drop Point) uses a dual thumb stud. The reason was not a preference of the 551 Drop Point blade over the 550 Modified Sheepsfoot blade. Instead, Williams found most officers preferred the thumb stud (551) over the thumb oval (550) for reliable opening during a physical assault.

Williams feels the Tanto-style blade may look more predatory and cause an unfavorable prosecution or jury reaction during the inevitable aftermath. The Modified Sheepsfoot does not look like an aggressive fighting knife. In reality, however, it is a very functional defensive blade: strong tip, wide blade for good wound channel, a blade shape that would drive the edge forward, etc. The Modified Drop Point looks like a typical folding knife, and no more aggressive in appearance than any other knife. Of course, the pointability, piercing ability, and overall function of the Drop Point are well-known.

For small hands, Benchmade also makes the 555 and 556-series Mini- Griptilian. This uses a 2.9-inch long, 0.100-inch thick blade. Of course, the handles are thinner in both thickness and width and also shorter in length.

Officers completing the Williams’ knife course are eligible for a 40% discount on any Benchmade knife.

Published in Tactical Response, Nov/Dec 2005

Rating : 10.0

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