Hunting frequently boils down to a game of inches. Being in position and placing an effective shot will make or break a season’s worth of hard work. When it comes to designing a knife, that same game boils down to thousandths of an inch. The bottom line is that small adjustments can make a noticeable difference on precision and performance, in the never-ending pursuit of the perfect knife.
Benchmade’s Hunt collection has steadily grown since its official inception in 2014. This collection is comprised of a mixture of folders and fixed blades meticulously engineered to excel in harsh environments. These knives are a far cry from what most of us grew up with, Benchmade wouldn’t be a world class manufacturer if we settled for “good enough”. There isn’t any substitute for time spent pouring over data and designs in the factory, but feedback from customers and experts alike provides insights that just as important.
Having gone back to the drawing board over the last 18 months, the team decided to tackle a fixed blade face lift this year. With ample time to generate firsthand feedback from our stable of talented partners and consumers, we set our sights on redesigning the Saddle Mountain Skinner, Hidden Canyon Hunter, and Steep Country.
Each of the three models received updates to handle ergonomics. Skinning and dressing larger game often requires the user to spend hours at a time with a knife in hand, making comfort a paramount requirement. Rounding off the back-end of the handle eliminated a common hotspot in the palm of the hand during prolonged use, without compromising control.
With each knife having a set of milled grooves along the spine of the handle, the 90 degree angles were softened for added comfort and convenient cleaning. The handle texture of the Saddle Mountain Skinner and Hidden Canyon Hunter remained relatively unchanged, but the Santoprene handle of the Steep Country received a new patterned texture. Premium variations of the Saddle Mountain Skinner (15002-1) and Hidden Canyon Hunter (15017-1) were the first Benchmade HUNT products to incorporate Richlite handles, a sustainable material crafted from resin-infused paper. Richlite offers a traditional look and feel, while living up to modern standards for durability
Having experienced the benefits of high-edge retention blade steel in the 15200ORG Altitude, the new Hunt collection added two new materials for the Saddle Mountain Skinner and Hidden Canyon Hunter. Known as a high-performance stainless steel with incredibly high edge retention, S90V keeps hunters from having to sharpen or dispose of their blades as frequently with simple honing maintenance.
The location of each blade’s jimping was repositioned to give users a comfortable placement for added control when putting pressure on the blade with an index finger or thumb. The aforementioned feedback from the field, led our team to slight adjustments of blade geometry and shape to alleviate a few small limitations with the previous designs.
The Saddle Mountain Skinner had previously sported a slight recurve. Straightening the edge by a few thousandths of an inch allowed for easier touch ups without sacrificing overall edge retention. The pronounced fingerguard on the previous Hidden Canyon Hunter often caught on stringy fascia and hide. This posed a significant risk for slippage or mishandling during the skinning process. Rounding down this small guard was enough to avoid the hang up, while securing the index finger behind the blade in slippery situations.
The common denominator of any knife is the sharpened edge itself. Geometry, surface texture, and material all culminate in performance (or lack thereof). Taking this concept to heart, Benchmade launched a new sharpening technology SelectEdge™ with the MeatCrafter™ in June and has found a home for the technology on the premium variations of the Saddle Mountain Skinner and Hidden Canyon Hunter. Designed to excel in push-cut performance, SelectEdge™ provides a smoother, finer edge sharpened to 14 degrees per side. Precision cutting has never been so effortless in a fixed blade, making your last cut feeling just as impactful as the first.
Despite the fact that we’ve spent the majority of our time covering the knives themselves, a significant overhaul to the sheaths of every model deserves a little recognition. What good does a high-quality knife do you if you can’t store or secure it properly? Striving to maintain the traditional aesthetic of our lineup, the leather sheaths have been redesigned with durability and security in mind. The 15002-1, 15006, and 15017-1 have transitioned to low profile Boltaron sheaths, with ample retention to keep the knife secure. Flared openings at the top of the sheath make it easy to find with the knife tip.
At the end of the day we’re passionate about our time afield, and equally passionate about building top level gear. Blending these two passions allow us to share our experience with those that are motivated by early mornings, long days, and short nights on the mountain. Hunting is a game of inches, and every thousandth matters. Travel light, shoot straight, and cut wisely.