Monday, January 18, 2016

The $4 Walmart Knife - Ozark Trail "Flip Opening" Knife Review

I don't typically shop at Walmart. But sometimes it's 2 AM and you realize you're out of toner for your printer, and in those instances you are typically glad to have a 24-Hour Supercenter nearby.

And in those kinds of trips, I'll often swoop through a bunch of different aisles on my way to checkout, just to see the sights. On that last 2 AM toner run, I happened across the famed "$4 Walmart Knife," pictured above. 

Officially, this is called the Ozark Trail Flip Opening Knife, and as of writing, and at time of purchase, this was $3.87, so a tad under $4. But I have seen other people saying online that the prices have gone up, closer to $5. Still a very fair price for what you get, but I definitely wouldn't order this on the website because shipping and tax will push this into the $12 purchase range, and you get better materials with that money from Sanrenmu or similar.

This thread on Bladeforums has comments from the alleged program manager for this $4 knife program, and he/she says it's 3Cr or 420J (even the person in charge of getting these made doesn't know for sure?) and real G10, and that fit/finish was emphasized over material choice to hit the $4 mark. Can you even buy this much 3Cr for $4? Maybe if you buy a huge amount of it, and have Walmart's distribution you can. Only way this knife makes sense is if they can sell a million of them to unsuspecting midnight shoppers, like me.

This knife looks like it is "inspired" by Browning's No Boundaries folder, which itself is a budget item at around $24. The handle has an interesting scalloped surface that provides okay grip, but the G10 itself is smooth. I prefer basic flat slabs of G10 for day-to-day carry, but this isn't so bad as to be unusable. There's also some jimping applied along the liners in a few places, as well as the lockbar tab and thumb ramp. It feels like a big handle for a 3" blade, possibly because of the shape, and it's pretty comfortable to hold, overall. Certainly this could be lower-profile than it is but I don't mind the chunkiness.

Stainless standoffs and some stout looking white plastic washers on the blade pivot decorate the inside of the knife. The liners are solid, which I'd expect on a knife this inexpensive. You also get thumbstuds to accompany the flipper, and you're going to need them for a while. Out of the box, the thumbstuds couldn't even get the blade to deploy all the way, needing a wrist flick to finish the job. Maybe it'll keep breaking in and loosen up enough to use the flipper in time, as I'd love to take the studs off completely. You could always monkey with the pivot screws a bit to loosen it up, but some light oil and plenty of use should also do the trick. 

I used this guy extensively over the holidays, opening packages and breaking down cardboard (so much cardboard), as well as around the house and in the garden a few times. It took care of plastic packaging, rope, zip-ties, thin wire and plenty of other things without issue, but the blade did need touching up as I went. The mystery steel is plenty soft and took an edge right away, but doesn't stay sharp with heavy use. That's not a bad thing, necessarily. I like forgiving steels for everyday use, and this would be a great knife for people just entering the EDC folder world - inexpensive and plenty capable for basic tasks.

In almost every respect, this is a very well-finished knife that could pass for a $30 Kershaw or CRKT - the blade is perfectly centered, the stonewash is nice and the grind is even. I will say, though, that the  lockup is on the late side, the lockbar is very stiff and you can only carry one way (right hand, tip up) because the clip isn't adjustable. All of this feels easily overlooked given that price, and other more expensive knives have some of these same problems. But being locked into one carry position is going to be a problem for a lot of people. With a little bit of tuning, this can be a nice little knife. 

It's a great foundation for mods if you want to try your hand at custom scales or something, and definitely a worthwhile use of $4 if you need a beater knife. You're getting a lot more than you might expect for $4, but probably won't become your go-to. 

If you like the look of this knife but would prefer a bigger blade and some upgrades to materials and features, the aforementioned Browning would be a good choice. For $20 more you step up to 8CrMoV and multiple carry positions, and the option for a black handle if you so choose. Hard to say if those things are worth $20, but they might be for some people. 

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