Since the original Paramilitary release in 2004, everyone wanted to see a smaller version that was more comfortable to carry in the pocket. Fast forward six years to 2010 and Spyderco released the Paramilitary 2.
Still, the people wanted something even smaller… Fast forward a couple more years to 2016 and Spyderco released what everyone seemed to be looking for: The Para 3.
But is it for you?
That’s what we’ll find out in in today’s Spyderco Para 3 Review.
Loved by most and despised by some, Spyderco’s recent release of the Para 3 in two variants with LOADS of exclusive sprint runs has made the Para 3 a very popular choice for those looking for a sturdy folding knife that doesn’t break the bank.
With its patented Compression Lock, the Para 3 boasts an EDC friendly blade size that is nearly indestructible when used properly and taken care of.
The best part?
Prices are usually around $100 for this great USA-produced pocket knife!
Basic Specifications Of Spyderco Para 3:
|Specification Type||Specification Detail|
|Overall length||7.24 inches|
|Closed Length||4.29 inches|
|Blade Length||2.95 inches|
|Blade Thickness||.145 inches|
|Blade Steel||CPM S30V (standard models - too many to list with Sprint Runs)|
|Blade Deployment||Spyderco Round Hole Opener|
|Handle Material||G10, FRN (Lightweight model)|
|Locking Mechanism||Spyderco Compression Lock|
|Pocket Clip Orientation||4-Way Reversible (Tip-Up or Tip Down, Right-Handed or Left-Handed)|
|Weight||3.4oz (Non-Lightweight version)/2.5oz (Lightweight version)|
|Country of Origin||United States|
Spyderco Para 3 Review
The Para 3’s CPM S30V blade is coated in a “DLC” finish, which stands for “Diamond-Like Carbon.” DLC finishes have recently joined the knife market and I first started hearing about them on higher-end firearms.
DLC coating toughens the steel and makes it less resistant to scratching and wear. Spyderco has done a great job on their DLC coating and I would argue that its added corrosion and wear resistance adds incredible value to the Para 3.
The Para 3 features a Full Flat Ground blade in a clip point shape. The full flat grind aids in slicing capability while the Clip Point design aids in finer detailed work near the tip of the blade.
I have carried my Para 3 for approximately nine to ten months now and it has seen a lot of cutting tasks in that time frame.
I receive tons of letters and packages every week and the Para 3 has no issues breaking down boxes after I rip open yet another new knife or flashlight to add to the EDC collection.
The Para 3’s CPM S30V blade holds up well and only needs a quick stropping from time to time.
CPM S30V is a great steel for any knife, but Spyderco has gotten their blades down to a science in their forty-four years of existence.
CPM S30V is known for its incredible edge retention and corrosion resistance. Add a DLC-coated blade to that mix and you have an almost-indestructible knife at your disposal.
The Para 3 was first introduced in Spyderco’s famous G10 handle scales. The G10 scales on the Para 3 are one of my favorite patterns in my collection. It is textured in a way that feels grippy in your hands but is not overly rough like some G10 material can be.
Look, Feel & Ergonomics
The Para 3 is stylish in looks and feels even better in the hand!
The knife boasts a very ergonomic handle with very usable jimping on both sides of the spine of the blade near the handle.
Due to Para 3’s design and the traditional “Spydie Hole” in the blade, there is a nice “ramp” that your thumb LOCKS into when the knife is in use.
The Para 3 features a finger choil between the handle and the start of the blade for multiple grip options. In a traditional grip without using the finger choil, I can still fit all four fingers on the knife and it fits comfortably. (I wear a Large size glove for reference)
With the utilization of the finger choil, I am able to choke up on the knife for more precision cuts and harder tasks such as cutting cordage. If you’re into the “reverse grip” the Para 3 is also comfortable in hand for that grip as well.
For those of you with even larger hands, Spyderco designed the Para 3 to include a sizable lanyard hole for adding lanyards and your favorite knife beads to.
Some folks may need the addition of a lanyard to aid in grip, but I have not found it to be an issue for me (Although some of the lanyards on my friends’ Spydies look pretty sweet!)
Deployment & Lockup
Like just about every other Spyderco I can think of, the Para 3’s deployment is lightning fast with the patented “Spyderco Round Hole Opener.” Instead of thumb studs or a flipper, the Para 3 offers a large hole in the blade for quick and easy one-handed opening.
Once you are used to it, the Para 3 can be opened with any finger. Most users, including myself, use the “Spydie Flick” method of opening; using your middle finger to “flick” the knife open.
If you can imagine the exact opposite motion of snapping your fingers, you’ve got the Spydie Flick. A one-handed opening can also be achieved in a more traditional sense of using your thumb to open the knife.
Instead of small thumb studs to worry about, you place your thumb in the Spydie Hole and push the knife blade out until it locks into place.
The lock choice for the Paramilitary series of knives from Spyderco utilizes the patented “Compression Lock.” The Para 3 utilizes this revolutionary compression lock design.
The compression lock is similar in theory to a liner lock, but instead of the lock being on the “front” side of the knife handle, it is on the spine (or back) of the handle. The compression lock is actuated by simply sliding it over and flipping the knife shut.
Spyderco knew what they were doing when designing this lock! In order to be safe when using your pocket knife, it is best when your hand is not in the blade’s path when closing.
Another advantage to the compression lock is it is easy for left-handed users to operate.
The compression lock can easily be actuated with either hand and with the Para 3’s pocket clip is reversible for right hand or left-hand carry. The Para 3 is a viable option if you carry your knife in the “wrong” pocket.
Fit & Finish
The Para 3’s fit and finish really doesn’t really need to be talked about, but we will anyway. Anything from Spyderco is going to be tested and reviewed before it leaves the factory and blemishes are extremely few and far between when you open the box for the first time.
The Para 3 is no different.
Every Para 3 I’ve had the pleasure of handling has been extremely well built and the fit and finish is on par with knives that cost twice what the Para 3 will run you.
My Para 3’s blade was centered perfectly out of the box and that still holds true today. Some knives may need some adjusting to get the blade centered, but the Para 3 was perfect. This is a testament to the time Spyderco puts into ensuring every knife they produce will make the customer happy.
After almost a year of use, my Para 3 has no “blade play” in any direction. Sometimes you will find that after continuous use over a period of time, pivot screws may loosen and your blade will have a slight “wiggle” when testing the knife’s lockup.
I have had no issues with my time using the Para 3 of any kind of blade play back and forth, or up and down for that matter. Spyderco knows how to put a knife together and make sure it’s going to stay locked up tight for a lifetime of use.
Alright…now it’s time for the only complaint I have with the Para 3: the pocket clip. The stock pocket clip leaves something to be desired. I compare Spyderco pocket clips with the crappy plastic sights you’ll find on most Glock pistols: easily replaceable with something usable.
The stock pocket clip on the Para 3 makes the knife fit very uncomfortably in the pocket at an odd angle. The first thing I did was order an aftermarket, deep carry pocket clip for my Para 3.
I decided to go with an MXG Gear deep carry clip for my Para 3 and couldn’t tell you where the stock clip is now. As it sits in your pocket, the Para 3’s stock clip sits over .5” out of the pocket’s edge.
A deep carry clip will add more security knowing the Para 3 is seated fully below the pocket line and you won’t run the risk of accidentally letting that brand new favorite knife of yours fly out of your pocket!
As with most Spyderco’s, the aftermarket offerings are abundant for the Para 3. You can customize just about every piece on the knife to better suit your style. As mentioned above, several companies offer deep carry clips for the Para 3 but it doesn’t stop there.
You can find custom handle scales, screw sets, back spacers, lanyard hole tube inserts, and many more items at very reasonable prices all over the web.
Speaking of the lanyard hole, the Para 3 offers an oversized lanyard hole for the addition of your favorite lanyards and beads to customize your Para 3 however you see fit. I have seen some awesome Spyderco emblem lanyard beads and just might pick one up for myself in the near future.
Alternatives to Spyderco Para 3
There are plenty of knives I could compare the Para 3 to in performance and ergonomics, but no other company has perfected the patented “Spydie Hole.” Spyderco has allowed Benchmade Knives to use the Spydie hole on several of their pocket knives, but the design is still a Spyderco by nature and patent.
Other companies such as Fox, CRKT, and MKM have duplicated the basic theory behind the Spydie hole, but in my experience, they are not on par with the large round hole that Spyderco offers its users.
Another offering from Spyderco is the Delica 4 which features Spyderco’s classic bi-direction FRN handle scales and a back lock.
The Delica 4 is less expensive than the Para 3, but at a price.
- The Delica 4 offers VG-10 blade steel which is a step or two below the Para 3’s CPM S30V’s offerings.
- The Delica is similar in size and weight to the Para 3 but lacks the more durable feeling of the Para 3’s G10 is less “filling” in the hand.
In addition to the better steel and more ergonomic lock choice, the Para 3 offers something the Delica does not: the additional finger choil. Utilizing the finger choil to “choke up” on the blade for finer cutting tasks is a huge deal for me.
I also own the Delica 4, but I reach for the Para 3 more often.
As mentioned earlier other companies have utilized a thumb hole reminiscent of Spyderco’s offerings but none have been as easy to deploy. CRKT offers several budget options such as the Piet and Amicus, but you sacrifice better blade steel, fit and finish, and lock type.
I enjoy fidgeting with both the aforementioned models and have owned them for a long time but they do not come close to Spyderco’s USA made quality.
Other lightweight options are also available from other brands such as the Benchmade Bugout. The Bugout features lightweight Grivory handle scales, a CPM S30V blade, and the ambidextrous Axis Lock.
Although the Bugout is a great knife, if you’re looking for a hard-use folder the Para 3 is obviously the better choice. The Bugout is designed for light EDC tasks whereas the Para 3 can take a beating and keep on going.
If you’re looking for a Spyderco but aren’t sure about the Spydie Hole yet, there are budget options from Spyderco as well. The Ambitious is the smallest in the Chinese-produced line, so it’s obviously not a direct comparison.
The Para 3 is a beefier version of their lower-priced options and is definitely stronger thanks to the Compression Lock, but it wouldn’t hurt to pick up an Ambitious as a good backup knife if you don’t want to loan your more expensive Para 3 out to a buddy.
With a lustrous history of innovative and interesting designs, Spyderco is in the top three in every list you’ll find when you Google “best pocket knife.” The Para 3 ranks right up there with the best of the best. It is a durable knife with great ergonomics and a blade that will hold up to years of abuse.
As mentioned previously, the only personal complaint I have with the Para 3 is the pocket clip. Adding an aftermarket deep carry clip to the Para 3 is a game-changer and will make you fall in love with the knife all over again. Other than that, the Para 3 is a hard use, no-frills, box cutting beast at a price most people can afford. Do yourself a favor and pick one up today!