By September 8, 2011

CRKT Point Guard Folding Pocket Knife Review

Due to some absolutely ridiculous knife laws in various Minnesota municipalities, I had to stop carrying my very, very good Ka-Bar TDI knife. Apparently the TDI’s 2 5/16″ fixed blade knife is “dangerous.” However, due to how the law is structured I can carry a folding blade up to 4″ long in some areas. Because, you know, a longer folding blade means you’re less likely to commit a crime or something.

I needed to find a folding blade that was easy to open, easy to hold on to, had a decent edge on decent steel, and could be opened with either hand. I also wanted to be able to wear the knife in either pocket. Oh yeah, and could it be less than $50, please?

I found the Columbia River Knife & Tool company’s CRKT Point Guard folder on sale at Steep and Cheap for $16 before shipping and thought I’d give it a try.

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The Columbia River Knife & Tool (CRKT) company has a reputation for making affordable knives. They aren’t the best, but their knives won’t break the bank and have a lot of good features for the money. Maybe you don’t get the best steel, the craziest edges, or the most fabulous locks, but their products are inexpensive and you won’t be afraid to use them. You can focus more on cutting stuff instead of worrying about a super-high-tech finish on a $300 knife.

Plus, CRKT is based in Oregon, and that means they’re at least 42% more awesome than an equivalent company. <3 OR.

Dimensions and construction

Blade length: 3″ from tip to handle
Total knife length, closed: 3.75″
Total knife length, opened: 6.5″
Handle material: Zytel with anodized aluminum and stainless steel
Opening mechanism: thumb wheel
Assisted opening: no
Lock type: Auto LAWKS with lockback safety switch
Blade material: 420J2 stainless steel
Weight: 2.6 ounces

An important thing to get out of the way: you have to be careful with published knife blade length specifications, and how knife blades are measured in your state. Again, knife laws are monumentally stupid, and measurement methods vary from state to state. Some states measure from the tip of the blade to the top of the handle. Some states measure from the tip of the blade to the first point where the blade meets the handle. Depending on the blade and handle design this can make a very big difference. For example, the CRKT Point Guard is listed as having a 2.625″ blade, but it’s actually 3″ using Minnesota’s measuring system.

The CRKT Point Guard is very reasonably sized for a reasonably sized pocket. It is comfortable in a dress pant pocket, a jean pocket, or a cargo short pocket. The overall design, length, and blade shape won’t draw unwanted attention should you need to use the knife in public.

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Snuggled up in my cargo shorts pocket

The clip is on the right hand side of the knife in the point down position. It cannot be moved. This is a terrible design flaw. I prefer point up carry and need to mount the clip upside-down; some of my friends are left-handed and need to switch the clip to the left side. Some of my friends who are medics and EMTs carry multiple knives for different purposes. A single mount point for the clip locks them into certain positions and type of carry.

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The left side of the CRKT Point Guard. There needs to be two clip mounting positions on each side.

The clip is very tight from the factory. I was unable to clip it to the thicker cotton fabric of my cargo shorts. I had to loosen the screws on the clip and bend it back slightly.

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The blade is nice, although I really dislike the trend of coating the blades black. It’s inevitable that the finish will wear. I have a Cold Steel Recon 1 knife that already has significant scratches on the finish. There are YouTube videos of knife owners obsessing on whether or not cutting cardboard boxes will screw up their finish. Come on guys, a knife is a tool. It’s going to get banged up. Knife manufacturers: please do us all a favor and stop tacti-cooling the knives with some bullshit coating.

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Opening and handling

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I really dislike the thumb wheel. The thumb wheel is supposedly great for ambidextrous opening. Unfortunately the Point Guard isn’t suitable for ambi carry due to the clip mounting oversight, so it’s wasted. A typical thumb stud or even a Spyderco-style cutout would have been much better. I have pretty strong hands and have been opening knives via thumb mechanisms since I bought my Spyderco Cricket in 1996. However it is hard for me to open the Point Guard smoothly and reliably.

Sometimes the blade opens with a nice click, other times I have to push really hard with my thumb or change my thumb position mid-open. I am not a fan of disassembling knives in order to loosen opening mechanisms, lubricate locks, or fool with any other parts. If I were to carry the Point Guard on a regular basis I might change my view. This knife needs a little work.

The Zytel G10 handle is pretty good. The scales are conservatively sized and shouldn’t damage any pockets like more aggressive grips may. My hold on the knife felt good even when my hands were damp. The Point Guard isn’t a tactical knife so I’m not sure the grip is aggressive enough for that kind of usage. However for battle with cardboard boxes, zip ties, rope and twine the grip is just fine.

Safety

The Point Guard features the Auto LAWKS system, which is basically a thumb-operated secondary safety.

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This is an okay feature. The Auto LAWKS may afford better security than just a traditional locking liner. However, some locking liners are better than others depending on their design and thickness. Other liner locks are so fragile that I would be nervous about them failing and sending the blade down on my fingers. The Point Guard’s liner is pretty good on it’s own. It is about half the thickness of the blade, and extends almost halfway onto the blade itself. My “test” Point Guard survived several hard whacks against the table.

Auto LAWKS is nice and all, but I’d rather just have a better-designed axis and perhaps a more robust liner lock. I don’t like specialized doo-dads on my tools, whether it be a knife, a gun, or a drill. I’d rather have a well-designed and well-built tool than one that has an add-on to cover up for deficiencies. What happens if you forget to engage the Auto LAWKS? It’s manually operated; there isn’t much automatic about it.

Some reviews on the Internet indicate that the Auto LAWKS engages accidentally in pockets. This has the opposite intended effect — you can’t open your knife when you need it. I have yet to have this happen, but I store very little in the pocket that my knife clips to. This may be more of a problem if you remove the clip entirely and just put your knife in your pocket with your other goodies.

Conclusion

As usual, my happiness with something is highly dependent on how much I paid for it. I bought two CRKT Point Guards from Steep and Cheap for around $40 shipped, which brings each knife to less than $20. That’s about half off the usual price once you factor in shipping.

I find the clip mounting issue to be a massive deal breaker for every day use. You might luck out and happen to be right handed and like point down carry. It is a decent “use every once in awhile” knife that may find a home in a hiking pack or the glovebox of your car.

Otherwise, I suggest you pass on the Point Guard.

The Point Guard can be found at discount knife e-tailers, closeout e-tailers like Steep and Cheap, and some meatspace retail shops.

Not recommended

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1 Comment on "CRKT Point Guard Folding Pocket Knife Review"

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  1. Brice says:

    I run a CRKT as my everyday knife. The full size M21-14G. It has a nice ‘flipper’ on the back for easy opening. The pocket clip is reversible in all directions. It’s also got a 4″ frigging blade. Probably to big for Minnesota. The M21-02G is a 3″ version, but the pocket clip is single sided. At least you can go point up carry with it.

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