Take the Edge Off: Replaceable-Blade Knives Test
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The popularity of the replaceable-blade knife has boomed over the last several years. Originally the darling of the backcountry, hunters of all stripes have come to appreciate its utility in recent seasons. I’ve skinned, caped, and cut up moose, sheep, mountain goats, brown bears, black bears, and wolves with them, and rarely do I go into the field without one. Havalon set the standard for this simple but extremely effective style of knife, but recently Gerber and Outdoor Edge have jumped into the fray. Here’s our take on all three.
The Vital’s handle features a tacky rubber overmolding for maximum comfort and safety. It doesn’t come with a sheath, but it has a sturdy pocket clip. And even with the clip, the lock-back handle fits well in either hand. The blades are interchangeable with those of the Havalon Piranta. The push-button blade release takes away a bit of the blade’s cutting edge, but it allows for the quick and safe swapping of blades and is well worth the sacrifice. With the shortened blade, the Vital is less effective for tasks like removing quarters, but it’s a near-perfect caping and skinning knife. The small plastic case in which the replacement blades come has a slot for the safe disposal of used blades. All in all, this is a very impressive system.
Blade Utility 8
Edge Retention 8
Blade Strength 8.5
Blade Replacement 10
Weight 1.8 oz.
Length (Open/Closed) 7 in. / 4.25 in.
Usable Edge Length 2 1/8 in.
Price Per Blade $1.33
**2. Outdoor Edge
The Razor Blaze has a great rubber handle and the weight and heft of a good folder. Its proprietary blade is much larger and more heavy duty than the 60XT blades employed by Havalon and Gerber, and the long blade retainer essentially serves as the spine of the blade itself. A simple push-button release makes for fast, safe, and easy blade swapping. This knife doesn’t have a pocket clip, but it comes with a nylon sheath with a belt loop. This knife is ideal for skinning and butchering; however, it’s less than ideal for finer tasks. Also, be sure to wipe the knife clean before changing blades because built-up fat and tissue can gum up the works. This is a solid knife that will be popular with hunters who aren’t worried about shaving ounces.
Blade Utility 10
Edge Retention 9
Blade Strength 9
Blade Replacement **9
**Weight 3.6 oz.
Length (Open/Closed) 8 in. / 4.5 in.
Usable Edge Length **3 11/16 in.
**Price Per Blade $2.49
Havalon set the standard for scalpel knives years ago, and the Piranta still holds its own. Its simple, solid blade-retention system allows for effective use of nearly the entire cutting edge, though a pair of pliers is required to safely change the blade. The large plastic blaze-orange handle is easy to locate and fits well in a big hand. It’s equipped with a thin pocket clip and comes with a nylon sheath that holds up to a dozen spare blades. The liner-lock handle has rubber inlays on one side and texturing in the plastic to prevent slipping. It’s oriented for right-hand use but shouldn’t pose an issue for lefties. The Piranta is a dependable knife that I’ve carried for years, and it’s fantastic for everything from separating moose joints to caping sheep.
Blade Utility 9
Edge Retention 8.5
Blade Strength 8.5
Blade Replacement 7.5
Weight 1.6 oz.
Length (Open; Closed) 7 3/8 in. / 4.5 in.
Usable Edge Length 2 5/16 in.
Price Per Blade $0.35