We’ve all been in the same boat in our search for the pocket knife: a lightweight, durable, and sharp blade that fits in the pocket well. Introduced in 2017, The Benchmade Bugout fits all of those requirements with ease.
The Bugout is one of the lightest pocket knives on the market today. With durable S30V blade steel, ergonomic Grivory handle scales, and the famous ambidextrous Benchmade AXIS Lock the Bugout is sure to become your new favorite EDC pocket knife.
Basic specifications of Benchmade Bugout:
|Specification Type||Specification Detail|
|Overall length||7.46 inches|
|Closed Length||4.22 inches|
|Blade Length||3.24 inches|
|Blade Thickness||0.09 inches|
|Blade Steel||CPM S30V|
|Blade Deployment||Thumb Studs|
|Locking Mechanism||Benchmade AXIS Lock|
|Pocket Clip Orientation||Deep Carry Reversible (Right Hand or Left Hand, Tip-Up Only)|
|Country of Origin||United States|
The Bugout’s blade is a 3.24” Drop Point designed for any daily cutting tasks you put in front of it. Having a thinner profile, the .09” thick blade slices through paper and cardboard with ease.
Holding true to its name, the Bugout is also a durable outdoors knife for around camp and in the woods. Making kindling and feather sticks is extremely easy with the Bugout’s razor-sharp CPM S30V blade
. Fire making is also a breeze when using the Bugout’s 90* spine for throwing sparks on a ferro rod.
Although better steels are available, Benchmade has got CPM S30V down to a science. Every blade I have come across from Benchmade has been properly heat treated and can hold a good edge for a long time.
CPM S30V is known for its corrosion resistance, toughness, and is also easily sharpened in the field.
I’m sure Benchmade will produce more versions of the Bugout in the future (hopefully with even more premium “super” steels) but for now I am good with the S30V variant.
The only negative thing I have to note on the Bugout’s blade is the lack of jimping. Most knives nowadays include jimping on the spine of the blade close to the handle.
If I need to choke up on the blade for finer, detailed tasks I find my thumb slipping on the highly polished blade spine. Benchmade did add some jimping on the handle scales towards the blade, but we’ll get to that in a moment.
The Bugout features a moderately textured Grivory handle. A diamond shape pattern has been laser cut into the majority of the handle scales which aids in a firm grip when the knife is in use.
Although the handle is extremely thin, the Bugout fits well in my Large size hands. When I have a strong grip on the knife the scales do flex a little bit but I have not found it to be an issue in functionality at all.
The Bugout’s thin profile is in part due to not having any liners behind the scales. This is the main reason for the slight flex in the handle but again, I have not found it to hinder any functionality when I’m using it though.
Another pro of the lack of liners is the weight savings it provides. The Bugout is one of the lightest pocket knives in its size class but is still plenty durable to stand up to any daily cutting tasks you put in front of it.
A generous lanyard hole is provided by Benchmade for added stability for larger size hands. I have no problem getting a full-handed grip but a lanyard adds a nice flair of personality to any pocket knife.
As mentioned previously, the Bugout does offer some jimping in the handle just South of the Pivot screw on the spine. Two small pieces of steel have been placed behind the Grivory scales to aid in the strength of the design and have raised portions to aid in traction.
The jimping is not well defined, however.
The jimping on the Bugout barely protrudes above the handle scales and it not aggressive by any means. It does help a little, but is nothing to write home about.
Look, Feel & Ergonomics
The Bugout is incredibly stylish and will wow anyone you show it off to. My first thought when I grabbed the box was “is there even a knife in here?!” The Bugout’s weight is astounding.
At 1.85oz this is the lightest knife I currently own. The Bugout really does disappear in your pocket and you forget you have it until you need to open that next Amazon package.
Benchmade did not cut corners to lighten the knife; they reinforced the most crucial parts that may be prone to breaking while still keeping the weight under 2oz!
The ergonomics on the Bugout are some of the best in the business. The handle fits my size Large hands comfortably with zero hotspots. There is a slight curvature in the scales near the pivot which acts as a traditional finger choil would.
The pocket clip is designed to fill the lower portion of your palm where the scales become more narrow without creating an uncomfortable grip in the hand.
Deployment & Lockup
Blue anodized thumb studs allow the Bugout to be manually opened easily by either hand. The thumb studs are raised only slightly above the handle scales which keeps the sleekness of the Bugout intact.
We’ll get to the lockup in a bit, but one of the most fun parts about any Benchmade is being able to open their knives via their AXIS lock. With a quick flick of the wrist, the Bugout can be opened by holding down the AXIS lock and “flicking” the knife open at lightning speeds.
Lockup is amazing on the Bugout. There is no blade play in any direction and the AXIS lock has not failed me yet. The AXIS lock has been around for decades now and is a strong mechanism for holding your knife open (or closed.)
There is one drawback to the AXIS lock design, however. The AXIS lock utilizes two “Omega” springs to actuate it, and if one of them breaks your knife is essentially useless.
I’ve heard stories on how much of a pain it is to replace them but those stories are few and far between.
And if you ever find yourself in the unfortunate position of having to replace the springs, Benchmade has you covered. Their lifetime warranty covers all manufacturer defects and is one of the best warranties in the business.
The advantages of the AXIS lock highly outweigh its flaws. Ambidextrous actuation is a must for some users, including myself. The AXIS lock also allows for you to close the knife without having to put your fingers in harm’s way.
Due to its design, you will never have to put your fingers in the path of the blade when you’re closing it. That in and of itself is a huge factor when I look at new knives to purchase.
Fit and Finish
The Fit and Finish on the Bugout is everything you come to expect from a major knife company like Benchmade. Anodized standoffs and thumb studs accent the knife beautifully and the black scale screws and AXIS lock make the blue handle scales really pop.
The AXIS lock on my Bugout was a little gritty when I first got it, but that was remedied after a few minutes of fidgeting with the knife.
The Bugout’s blade came centered right from the factory. There was no need to adjust the detent screw to get the centering every knife lover with OCD has to be perfect.
The action when opening the knife was just a hair stiff when I first started using it, but just like the AXIS lock the action was broken in after a few minutes of use.
The Pocket Clip
The Bugout has one of the best stock pocket clips you can find. Not too short, not too long…just right. After owning the Bugout for a year and a half I can say this is definitely my favorite pocket clip on any of my knives to date.
The clip only takes up about a quarter of the length of the handle and seats the knife deeply in the pocket.
Many knives in today’s world feature deep carry pocket clips, but they can easily get snagged on things when in your pocket. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone to take my seatbelt off getting out of my truck and my pocket knife comes with it.
I haven’t had this issue with over a year of experience with the Bugout.
The pocket clip is also reversible for the handful of lefties out there. In addition to the ambidextrous AXIS lock, the ability to swap the clip to the opposite side makes the Bugout truly fully ambidextrous. The clip is also designed how all pocket knives should be: tip up only.
Sharpening and Care
After owning the Bugout for over a year and a half and carrying it frequently, this thing still slices paper with ease. I haven’t felt the need to touch up the blade on my WorkSharp Ken Onion sharpener and don’t foresee myself needing to any time soon.
I’ve only put it on my strop every couple of months to get it back to hair-shaving sharp.
As with all knives in your collection, you should make it a point to take care of them. Most knives including the Bugout do not require much maintenance, but keeping them clean and lightly lubricated can go a long way to ensure you get a lifetime of use out of them.
About once a month I will grab my Bugout and give it a once-over with some CLP and wipe it clean. This allows the AXIS lock and blade to stay lightly lubricated and protected against rust and dirt.
Aftermarket Accessories for the Bugout
After accessories are plentiful for the Bugout. I chose not to customize my personal Bugout due to it being a gift from my wonderful girlfriend, but I plan to purchase a second one and have some fun adding some flare to it.
You can find aftermarket scales in materials such as copper, titanium, and brass.
Other accessories for the Bugout include pocket clips, screw sets, standoffs and back spacers to make the knife your own. A couple weeks ago, Benchmade added the Bugout to their “Custom Knife Builder” where you can pick and choose blade steels, scale colors, hardware, and even add a custom logo to your blade.
These custom made knives run a little more than your standard Bugout but are well worth the extra price to be covered under Benchmade’s lifetime warranty.
Alternatives to the Bugout
The Benchmade Bugout is currently one of the most popular pocket knives, and for good reason. It is lightweight, extremely fun to fidget with, and will handle any EDC tasks you need it for. However there are other alternatives if you prefer other brands.
Due to Benchmade’s patent on the AXIS lock expiring this year (2020) several companies have borrowed the idea to create their own version of the popular locking mechanism. Recently Hogue Knives released their contender for the best lightweight pocket knife, the Deka.
The Deka is the closest knife I can find to the Bugout in almost every way. The Deka is about a half an ounce heavier than the Bugout, but it includes steel liners behind the handle scales.
The handle scales are also slightly thicker than the Bugout. Although the Deka provides a more premium blade steel in CPM 20CV, it comes with a price. CPM 20CV is harder to resharpen than CPM S30V steel and its other attributes (edge retention, toughness, and corrosion resistance) are almost identical to S30V.
Another flaw of the Deka is its pocket clip. You already know that I LOVE the Bugout’s clip. The Deka features a very slim pocket clip, which is great, but it is nowhere close to “deep carry.” The Deka’s handle sticks out a good quarter inch above the pocket line.
The Deka looks promising, but it was only released a year ago (2019) so time will tell if it holds up against the Bugout. The AXIS lock has been around for over 30 years and is still being used today on many new Benchmade designs. Hogue’s “Able Lock” is a very similar design to the AXIS lock but I would argue it needs more time in the field for me to trust it as much as Benchmade’s legacy design.
If you live in a state with strict knife laws that require a blade under 3”, let’s take a look at the recently-released Mini Bugout. Utilizing all of the amazing features of the original Bugout, the Mini takes the design and shrinks it by about 15%. The Mini is also (obviously) lighter by tenths of an ounce.
Although the Mini Bugout is more “pocket friendly” I still prefer the full size version. The Mini disappears in my size Large hands and would need the addition of a lanyard to get a full four-finger grip.
If you add a paracord lanyard, you’re going to add the difference in weight between the Mini and the full size Bugout; this basically defeats the purpose if you’re looking for an even lighter blade for everyday carry.
If you’re one to customize your knife, there are not near as many options for the recently released Mini Bugout as there are for the full size. The parts are not interchangeable due to the size difference.
I’m sure more companies will release a plethora of parts for the Mini Bugout in the future, but for now you’re better off going with a full size Bugout for customization options.
Benchmade has probably sold tens of thousands of Bugouts since its initial release in 2017, and for good reason. It’s durable, lightweight, and quite possibly the “perfect” EDC knife for a vast majority of users. The Bugout’s blade is sharp, sleek, and easy to sharpen. The knife has classic styles and will last a lifetime with proper use and minimal care.
I’ve enjoyed owning my Bugout and will probably hand it down to my children years down the road for them to enjoy as well. I’m sure by then we’ll see even better designs, but maybe it will be the next 50 year old classic Buck 110!