Benchmade vs Kershaw: The Ultimate Blade Showdown

benchmade vs kershaw

Welcome to another battle of the blades.

This time, we have Benchmade and Kershaw as the two competitors.

As you know, choosing the right survival knife is important. In a worst-case scenario, your life may depend on that thin piece of steel you’re carrying in your pocket.

So even if you have a survival axe or machetes in your bug out bag, packing a reliable survival knife is a must.

Is Benchmade better than Kershaw?

In the past years, I have found knives from both brands offering excellent service in the outdoors. To be honest, these are dependable blades that delivered excellent service for years.

That said, each brand has its own strengths and weaknesses. And not all the knives will match your needs.

Let’s take a closer look to find out more.

Quick Comparison of Benchmade vs Kershaw

For starters, a quick look at the main points that differentiate between these two brands. 

  • Benchmade started in 1979 by manufacturing balisong knives. Today it has its own manufacturing unit in Oregon City, Oregon. Kershaw was established in 1974 and it collaborated with Kai Corporation to manufacture knives. The brand has its manufacturing faculty in Tualatin, Oregon, USA.
  • Benchmade makes traditionally designed, premium-grade knives from high-end materials. They also allow users to customize a knife design. Kershaw knives come in many unique designs and the materials vary from budget-grade to superior-grade
  • All Benchmade knives are made in the US. Kershaw knives are manufactured in the US, as well as in some overseas locations.
  • The products from both brands come with lifetime warranties. However, Benchmade has the Lifesharp support service that sets it apart.
  • Kershaw uses a wide variety of materials for knife handles as well as multiple locking mechanisms. Benchmade uses premium grade handle materials and relies on its tried and tested Axis lock mechanism
  • If you’re looking for an affordable knife that offers the right bang for your buck, Kershaw is the right brand to go with. If you have a higher budget, you can’t go wrong with Benchmade products.

Company Comparison and Manufacturing

Benchmade

Benchmade was launched in 1979 by  Les De Asis from a small shop in California. Since he manufactured only hand-made butterfly knives or Bali Songs, the company was named as Bali-Song. Later the name was changed to Pacific Cutlery Corporation.

In 1987, Les was willing to reintroduce products with a focus on quality, and customer relationships. The term  “Benchmade” seemed to be the perfect choice for the brand. In 1990, The company shifted to a larger manufacturing center at  Clackamas, Oregon.

As the products became hugely popular, the company shifted to a 144,000 sq. ft. manufacturing center in Oregon City, Oregon. The brand introduced new manufacturing techniques and innovations like the AXIS lock feature.

Benchmade collaborates with some of the top designers in the industry to design knives that offer the best functionality. In addition, Benchmade also offers the Lifesharp feature to all its customers. This allows you to resharpen the knife for free anytime you want.

All of the Benchmade knives are manufactured in the facility in Oregon. So if you buy a knife with a Benchmade logo, rest assured that it’s manufactured in the US.

Kershaw

Pete Kershaw founded the brand in 1974 and set up the company in a cement plant in cement plant in Lake Oswego, Oregon. All the products manufactured at this stage were hunting knives. At the same time, Pete was looking for a supplier who can deliver premium quality knives.

Meanwhile, Kai Corporation in Japan was looking to introduce their products in America. The two brands decided to collaborate and have worked together ever since. Both the brands had their teams focused on technology, quality, and innovation.

Innovation has always been an important aspect for Kershaw. In 1995, the brand released the Liner Action series with liner locks. Then again in 1998, the SpeedSafe assisted opening mechanism was introduced. 

Since then the mechanism has become an integral part of Kershaw’s identity. Kershaw has developed other technologies as well to push the concept of innovation.

A large segment of Kershaw knives is manufactured at the facility in Tualatin, Oregon, USA. Other than that Kershaw also has multiple overseas manufacturing facilities.

Each stage of the design and manufacturing process is guided by the Kershaw quality control process. The knives manufactured in China receive special attention from the QC team.

Benchmade or Kershaw: Main Buying Factors 

Your choice of a knife will depend on the purpose of use, functionality and durability you’re seeking. And both Benchmade and Kershaw have a wide range of knives that are designed for various activities.

That means you can’t make the right choice without knowing the details.

When it comes to a Kershaw vs Benchmade comparison, comparing individual product lines isn’t a practical choice. In this section, we will compare the two brands based on some of the most important features of tactical and survival knives.

Design 

In terms of design, both brands have their own unique footprints. Since design is a matter of individual preference, it depends on the user to find out what works best.

Benchmade focuses on symmetrical designs and premium quality. They use a wide variety of blade styles including the reverse tanto and the wharncliffe.

If you prefer traditional designs, Benchmade can be the best choice for you.

No matter what your purpose, you’ll find a Benchmade knife designed for that purpose. From an everyday carry knife to survival knives, there is a wide range of products to choose from. 

One of the best features of Benchmade knives is they can be customized. From titanium handles to Damasteel blades, Benchmade has made it easy to customize the knife you dream of.

Benchmade also uses a proprietary Selectedge technology to deliver superb sharpness and precise bevel angles.

Kershaw is more of a maverick in terms of design and you will find some unique knives in their catalog. They too use similar blade styles and edges. You’ll even find throwing knives in their product range.

Other than that, Kershaw also offers a variety of opening actions including slipjoint opening, manual opening with washers, and manual opening with ball bearings.

Other than that, Kershaw also introduced the assisted opening knife mechanism. Here, a thumb stud or flipper is combined with a torsion bar to ensure a smooth opening. This makes the deployment as fast as an automatic knife.

In terms of ergonomics, both brands do a great job. Ultimately, it comes down to the purpose of use and functionality.

Personally, I would choose a Benchmade product for outdoor and survival use. When it comes to hunting, fishing, or self-defense, I’ll choose a Kershaw product.

Winner– Benchmade

Build Quality 

The most important factor related to knife quality is the blade steel. The alloying elements and the process of heat treatment are two important factors in this regard.

Benchmade knives come in three categories.

  • The Blue class is made for daily use.
  • The Black class is designed for tactical use.
  • The Gold class consists of premium quality limited edition knives.

Benchmade uses high-quality steel in their blades like CPM-S30V, CPM–154, CPM-S90V, and CPM-M4. These materials ensure high toughness, wear resistance, and excellent edge retention.

Kershaw doesn’t have various categories in its product range. The products are categorized based on their functions and utilities.

Kershaw uses a wide range of steel for their blades as well. These include alloys with varying percentages of vanadium and molybdenum.

One main highlight is Kershaw uses a composite blade technology to combine two steel types into one blade. In some of their knives, the spine and the blade edge are made of two steel types to deliver the best of both worlds.

Fact is, choosing one brand above the other in this category is tough. 

But considering this…

When it comes to Benchmade, you get premium quality at a relatively higher price.

Kershaw uses quality materials even in its budget range of products. So no matter the knife you choose you can depend on the blade in times of need.

Buyers on a budget will find Kershaw offering more value.

Winner– Kershaw

Warranty 

When it comes to warranty and customer service, both brands are on equal footing.

Well, almost.

Kershaw offers a limited lifetime warranty for all its products. It also offers a free repair and sharpening service that is offered for free. Broken blades are replaced for a charge of $25.

Beyond the standard warranty claims, Benchmade has a dedicated team of technicians to offer the Lifesharp support service to all customers. This includes replacing the worn-out parts, resharpening, and lubrication for free.

Another Benchmade feature that some users might find useful is the personalization of the knife through custom laser marking.

When it comes to customer service both brands are on par. Most users found the services to be responsive and helpful.

Winner: Benchmade

Handle 

The importance of the handle of a knife can’t be overstated. Unless you have a secure and comfortable grip on the blade, you can’t make the best use of it during an emergency.

When it comes to handle aesthetics, Kershaw is a clear winner. Their knives come with aluminum, stainless steel, or carbon fiber handle. Other materials like G10- a cloth woven from glass fibers- and micarta are also used.

I love the use of copper In Kershaw knives.It adds a reddish-orange layer to the handle and delivers a unique look. 

All in all, if you’re looking for something different in terms of handle design, Kershaw is a better option.

That said, stainless steel handles in some Kershaw knives are heavy. With a lack of texture, you don’t get the best grip either. That’s why some Kershaw knives aren’t the best choices for self-defense.

However, the Kershaw knives with G10 and co-molded rubber handles are excellent for outdoor use.

On the other hand, Benchmade handles come with a familiar feel and standard designs. The brand uses three main materials for knife handles. 

Carbon fiber and dymondwood are two common materials used. In addition, G10 ia also used in some popular models like the Mini Griptilian

With any Benchmade knife, you’ll get a robust handle with great ergonomics. Benchmade handles also offer excellent grip and are extremely durable.

Admittedly, the choice of a handle is a personal decision. You need to feel the knife handle to see if the design works for you. But in terms of overall quality, Benchmade has the edge.

Winner: Benchmade

Accessories

If you are looking for some additional accessories for your bug out bag, both brands have some options you can look into.

Kershaw comes with accessories like knife sharpeners, bottle openers, and multi-tools. In addition, there are other useful gadgets like the spoon-and-fork tool and a fire starter.

Benchmade offers a wide range of honing tools, sharpeners, and lubricants. There are a wide variety of pouches, carry clips, and sheaths as well.

Both the range of accessories offer excellent quality. But keep in mind, Benchmade products are more expensive.

Winner: Kershaw

Locking Mechanism 

Both Benchmade and Kershaw knives come with reliable locking mechanisms. However, Benchmade knives come with the popular Axis lock system.

The mechanism was introduced back in 1988. It uses a small spring-loaded bar located at the rear of the blade to lock the blade.

Benchmade has extended this system to three other locking mechanisms. These are the Axis Automatic, Axis Dual-Action Automatic, and the Axis Assist. The main advantage is, this time tested locking mechanism offers easy ambidextrous operation and solid safety.

Coming the Kershaw, the brand uses as many as nine different locking mechanisms in its knives. These include common mechanisms like the frame lock and the liner lock. Some of the models also come with a push-button lock and a slipjoint system.

I haven’t faced any issue with Kershaw locking systems and they are dependable. Even so, each of these systems has its own shortcomings.

When you have to use the knife in any stressful situation, you need something simple and reliable. And in terms of strength and reliability, the Axis lock system is the winner. 

Winner: Benchmade

Price

If you’re looking for budget-friendly knives, Kershaw is the better option. It has a wide range of knives and many of the products are priced much lower than Benchmade knives.

There are some special Kershaw knives that cost as much or even more than Benchmade products. But in general, you’re more likely to find a value-for-money option from their products.

And when you choose right, you won’t be sacrificing performance or quality with a Kershaw knife.

In this regard, they are more like a knife maker like Spyderco.

With Benchmade, prices are higher. And so is the overall quality.

One major reason for this is, Benchmade knives are manufactured in the US. So, they have to deal with higher labor costs. 

In addition, these knives are manufactured with premium materials that are expensive. This raises the overall cost of production towards the higher end. 

That said, there are some Benchmade knives that offer excellent value. But you need to take a good look at your exact requirements and choose carefully.

Winner: Kershaw

Benchmade vs Kershaw: Best Benchmade Knives

Benchmade 535BK-4 Bugout Pocket Knife

Pros:

  • Highly durable M390 steel blade
  • Aircraft-grade aluminum handle
  • Cerakote finish on the blade
  • Deep carry clip
  • Lightweight with stylish looks

Cons:

  • It’s an expensive knife
  • No molle compatibility


Why We Chose It: 

If you have never used a Bugout before, let me tell you this- it’s one of the most popular knives that Benchmade has ever manufactured.

With a shiny all-metal construction and a robust M390 steel blade, the Bugout is a great knife to have in your hand in any tough situation. With a closed length of 4.22 inches and a weight of 2.5 ounces, it’s also the perfect knife for everyday carry.

The drop point blade is 3.24 inches in length, and the handle is made from 6061-T6 aluminum. The handle comes with a special pattern that offers a great grip.

What’s more, the bugout looks great too. The dual maroon thumb studs form an attractive contrast against the monochrome finish of the metal.

If you want a knife with a more outdoorsy feel, there are better options. But when it comes to offering the right balance of functionality and aesthetics, the Bugout is a clear winner.

However, considering the high price tag, it’s not for budget buyers.

benchmade knives

Benchmade 535BK-2 Bugout Fine-Edge Knife

Pros:

  • Blacked out tactical design
  • CPM-S30V steel blade and carbon fiber handle
  • DLC coating on the blade
  • Weighs 1.8 ounces only

Cons:

  • Lacks some tactical features
  • Some users found the handle uncomfortable

Why We Chose It: 

This version of the Bugout comes with a blacked-out design and a lower price tag. That makes it a more practical choice for any outdoor adventurer.

While the length remains at 4.2 inches, this knife is lighter. The weight stands at 1.8 ounces. Honestly, you can hardly feel it in your pocket.

The blade material is CPM-S30V steel and the blade comes with a special diamond-like-carbon” (DLC) coating. This improves the corrosion resistance.

That’s not all…

The knife has the new CF-Elite handle technology. that makes it highly rigid and more resistant to pressure.

Benchmade has also used carbon fiber–reinforced nylon for the handle. This has helped in weight reduction while improving rigidity.

At this price, the  535BK-2 Bugout is an excellent choice as an EDC knife and also for law enforcement personnel. And even if you need to put it to tactical use, it works like a champ.

Note, due to the relatively small size and lightweight build, this knife can feel inadequate for users with big hands.

benchmade 3

Benchmade 162 Bushcrafter Knife

Pros:

  • S30V stainless steel blade provides excellent durability
  • 4.43 inches long blade
  • Ergonomic G10 polymer handle
  • The blade needs minimum maintenance
  • A great tool for survival situations or self-defense

Cons:

  • A high price tag
  • Too heavy for everyday carry

Why We Chose It: 

Here’s the thing- this is one of the first knives that’s designed specifically for bushcrafting.

The Bushcrafter has a full tang construction with an S30V stainless steel blade. The blade has a length of 4.43 inches.

At 7.72 ounces the knife feels heavy. The blade is robust and has excellent edge holding capability. That makes the knife great for heavy cutting work.

There’s one aspect that makes this knife special.

The G10 polymer handle comes with hollow titanium tubings. You can use these hollow tubes to use the knife like a machete or a spear.

In fact, users have used the knife to cut through logs by batoning. The blade was able to take the beating without losing its edge or breaking.

The buckskin leather sheath that comes with this knife is well designed. However, some users didn’t find it durable enough.

Overall, a well-designed knife designed for adventurers, survivalists, and hunters. Surely, Bushcraft meant business when the designed this knife.

Benchmade vs Kershaw: Best Kershaw Knives

kershaw 1

Kershaw Brawler Assisted Opening Lockback Knife

Pros:

  • 8Cr13MoV stainless steel blade with DLC coating
  • Durable glass-filled nylon handles
  • Liner lock for safety
  • Affordable price tag

Cons:

  • Not designed for heavier tasks
  • The black coating comes off with time

Why We Chose It: 

The Brawler is an affordable knife that delivers the right combination of strength and style.

If you like tactical designs in knives, this is a good pick. The blade length is 3.25 inches and the knife weighs around 3.8 ounces.

The tanto-style blade is made from 8Cr13MoV stainless steel. While this isn’t the toughest and most corrosion-resistant material, considering the price, we aren’t complaining.

Blade deployment is super snappy, thanks to the Speed Safe assisted opening. That said, tanto blades may not the best choice for every purpose.

In reality, the tanto blade shape has a sharp tip and is great for piercing and slicing. Also, the handle is slightly wider than standard pocket knives. This gives you a comfortable grip for tackling heavier tasks.

And considering the price tag, the Brawler offers excellent value. In short, a handy pocket knife that offers great functionality in a wide range of situations. 

kershaw 12

Kershaw Cryo Assisted Drop Point Folding Knife

Pros:

  • 8Cr13MoV steel blade
  • Titanium carbo-nitride coating on the blade
  • Simple and effective framelock mechanism
  • Robust stainless steel handle
  • Offers excellent value

Cons:

  • Not the best choice for outdoor tasks
  • The thumb studs aren’t effective

Why We Chose It: 

If you’re looking for a functional knife with a minimalistic design, the Kershaw Cryo is a great pick.

The Cryo is a product of a collaboration between Rick Hinderer and the Kershaw design team. Sleek and beautiful, this is a no-frills utility knife.

The blade length is 2.75″ blade and the overall length is 6.5 inches. The blade material is 8Cr13MoV steel which is budget-grade and reasonably tough.

Even so, the blade has a thick tip and performs well for cutting and slicing tasks. With the Speed safe technology, you get one-handed blade deployment. 

The stainless steel handle feels solid but adds to the weight. A G10 handle would have made the knife much lighter than its current weight of 4.2 ounces.

Now the knife works great for light tasks. But the ergonomics isn’t good enough for heavier tasks.

Overall, the Cryo is an affordable option for EDC and a good choice for self-defense as well.

Kershaw Volt SS Assisted Opening Folding Knife

Pros:

  • A 3.5 inches 8Cr13MoV stainless steel blade
  • 410 stainless steel handle
  • Aesthetically designed
  • 3-position deep carry pocket clip
  • Speedsafe assisted opening

Cons:

  • Not ideal for precision cutting
  • Edge retention isn’t the best

Why We Chose It: 

The Volt is another budget knife from Kershaw that offers an impressive performance.

While it’s not a big knife, the Volt boasts impressive aesthetics. In fact it looks similar to the popular Kershaw Leek.

As with other knives in this category, the blade material is 8Cr13MoV stainless steel. The handle is made from 410 stainless steel with heavy jimping for a secured grip.

With a 3.5-inch blade and a weight of 4.6 oz, this knife is on the smaller side. But thanks to the stainless steel handle, it offers a hefty feel in the hand.

You also get Speedsafe-assisted opening technology and a liner lock. The blade opens with a satisfying click and feels secure.

And speaking of the blade…

…it’s great for slicing and cutting. Besides, the tip is thick enough to withstand rough use. The grip is comfortable too.

If you’re looking for a no-frills knife that looks attractive, the Volt is worth a closer look.

FAQs 

Where are Kershaw knives made? 

A major segment of the knives is made in their facility in Tualatin, Oregon, USA by using American steel. However, some of the affordable knives are manufactured in overseas locations.

Is Kershaw a good knife brand? 

Kershaw is a reliable knife brand that offers an excellent valance of quality and affordability. You also get a lifetime warranty with their products.

Can you compare Kershaw vs Gerber knives? 

Both brands manufacture some great quality knives. However, Gerber is a budget knife company that’s best for beginners. With Kershaw, you get more specialized and high-end products.

Why are Benchmade knives so expensive? 

Since all Benchmade knives are made in the USA, the manufacturing costs, as well as the material costs, are higher.

Final Thoughts

That brings us to the end of this Benchmade vs Kershaw battle.

Admittedly, both brands have some great products designed for survivalists and adventurers. Not every knife will meet your specific needs but you’ll get solid reliability from both the brands.

Benchmade is all about premium quality and traditional designs that are built to last. Moreover, all their knives are made in the US. On the downside, their products are expensive.

Kershaw offers a wide variety of designs that will appeal to buyers of all budget categories. Not all their knives are manufactured in the US. But Kershaw has an excellent quality control policy to ensure customer satisfaction.

At the end of the day, the best knife is the one that meets your design preferences, functional needs, and budget.

That’s all that really matters.

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