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M4 vs. S90V Knife Steel: Benchmade Mini Freeks Face Off

The Benchmade Mini Freek comes in two models. One has M4 steel, and the other has S90V. But which of these premium knives is better?

Benchmade Mini Freek - 2(Photo/Nick LeFort)
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When I got into knives, way back when, Benchmade was where I started my journey. Over the years, it’s become more than obvious that its goal is to make premium knives with premium features and materials that last.

I don’t think I am sharing any secrets here. However, sometimes they come out with a couple of knives that may seem so similar when you’re looking at them on the screen, that you need a deep dive to figure out what’s the best model for you.

Case in point, Benchmade currently offers two versions of their Mini Freek folder. The 560BK-02 comes with M4 tool steel and G10 handle scales. The 565-1 has S90V stainless steel and carbon fiber scales. Otherwise, both knives are identical and should act and react the same when put to the same tests.

M4 and S90V are two of the most sought-after, premium steels out there. But with one being tool steel and one being stainless, what’s the difference? And even more, which one is better for you? Well, there’s only one way to find out.

A battle royale! A test of might! Mortal Kombat!

Or, in more boring terms, a head-to-head test.

In short: Testing out two very similar knives with very similar blade steel isn’t going to be easy. But that’s why we’re here. Think of us GearJunkie folks as the Goonies of Gear Testing.

Benchmade Mini Freek 560BK-02 & 565-1


  • OAL 560BK-02: 7.05” | 565-1: 7.05”
  • Blade length 560BK-02: 3” | 565-1: 3”
  • Blade steel 560BK-02: M4 (Cerakote) | 565-1: S90V
  • Blade shape 560BK-02: Drop point | 565-1: Drop point
  • Grind 560BK-02: Flat | 565-1: Flat
  • Hardness 560BK-02: 62-64 | 565-1: 59-61
  • Handle 560BK-02: G10 | 565-1: Carbon fiber
  • Lock type 560BK-02: Axis | 565-1: Axis
  • Carry 560BK-02: Tip Up | 565-1: Tip up
  • Weight 560BK-02: 2.89 oz. | 565-1: 2.74 oz.
  • Price 560BK-02: $280 | 565-1: $340


  • Both knives are premium and, all things considered, affordable
  • Axis lock, duh.
  • S90V and M4 are both grail knife steel


  • S90V is not fun to sharpen
  • M4 can tarnish and corrode if not cared for

Benchmade Mini Freek 560BK-02 & 565-1: Comparison & Review

Benchmade Mini Freek - comparison & testing
(Photo/Nick LeFort)

Design and Features

Benchmade’s Mini Freeks are midsize folding knives made from premium materials. Both knives have a drop point blade, and standard pocket clip, and are tip-up carry only. In a market that seems hell-bent on deep carry pocket clips, it seems a little odd that Benchmade went with a standard depth clip, but it’s hardly noticeable in your pocket.

Both Mini Freeks are dimensionally identical, and the 5660BK-02 weighs 0.15 ounces more than the 565-1. It also feels thicker, but after taking a bunch of measurements, I’m fairly certain that’s just a false perception due to the texturing of its G10 handle scales.

Both knives also rely on their handle scales to provide structure and only have steel reinforcements around the pivot. They also have Benchmade’s bombproof Axis lock, as well as ambidextrous thumb studs for easy opening.

The 560BK-02 uses cerakoted M4 tool steel. Users know this steel for its abrasion resistance and prolonged edge retention. But, being that it’s tool steel, it doesn’t have enough chromium in its batter and therefore is susceptible to corrosion. Being that the steel is cerakoted on the 560BK-02, corrosion will not be an issue.

The 565-01 uses S90V stainless steel. It has great abrasion and corrosion resistance, as well as its prolonged edge retention. S90V is considered one of the most premium knife steels on the market but can prove to be difficult to sharpen, especially when compared to M4.

Additionally, the 560BK-02 has stylized G10 handle scales with a red liner, whereas the 565-1 uses carbon fiber without a liner.

First Impressions

Benchmade Mini Freek - Fresh Out Of The Box
Benchmade Mini Freeks, fFresh out of the box. The M4 steel is on top, S90V on bottom; (photo/Nick LeFort)

Both of these knives are beautiful and rugged. It’s the nice mix that Benchmade knives are known for. The Mini Freeks are three-finger knives, which means that most pinkies will hang off the end of the knife.

Benchmade has compensated for this by ramping up the back of the knife blades and adding in jimping. This forces you to move your hand forward, allowing your pinky room on the spine, and giving you some really great, ergonomic control.

I’m a G10/Micarta type of person and I have never been blown away by carbon fiber. However, the styling and finish of the carbon fiber on the 565-1, complemented by the stainless pivot reinforcement, red offsets and thumb stud, and stonewashed blade, make this knife look ultra-posh.

That said, it’s hard to ignore how awesome the stylized G10 on the 560BK-02 looks — especially with the red liners, offsets, thumbstud, and the matte black, cerakoted blade.

Deep sigh.

This is one of those ideas that looked great on paper. But once the knives arrived, I knew it would be a pain in the fanny to try and work through. That said, the 565-01 feels better in my hand. The carbon fiber is smooth and gives the false impression that the knife is thinner than its G10 equipped counterpart.

This is going to come down to performance in the end. Seeing how M4 works compared to S90V is an epic comparison. I just need to make sure I’m paying attention to the minutiae, as I feel like this may end up being a close call in the end.

In the Field

Like all of the other knives I test out, I was a real jerk to both of these Mini Freeks from the get-go. At one point, I even went back to the bush-league testing of cutting cardboard and rope. I needed results on both an obvious and granular level. But overall, for 3 weeks, these knives were my ride-or-die EDCs.

Benchmade Mini Freek - 560BK-02 with Apple
Benchmade Mini Freek – 560BK-02 with apple; (photo/Nick LeFort)

I’ve been doing a lot of work out in the yard. More specifically, I am picking apples off of our trees, trimming vines around both our cucumbers and pumpkins, and building a small pond from the natural spring in our backyard.

I exposed both Mini Freeks to a lot of dirt, juice, and goop. I also dropped (and left) them in the muddy puddle that the spring was when I started framing the pond out.

Benchmade Mini Freek - 565-1 and Steak
Benchmade Mini Freek – 565-1 and steak; (photo/Nick LeFort)

I also cut up a lot of steak and potatoes with the knives and, on one night in particular, used them to split bits of kindling for a small fire we got going to keep the mosquitos away. Both knives provided excellent grip and ergonomics throughout.

Besides that, these knives lived in my pocket for the same period of time, and I did my best to make sure I was switching up using them from task to task. Sure, a couple of people started looking at me like I was a weirdo, but hey, it’s all good in the hood. It not only shows that I am prepared but that I am also educated.

That said. you’re probably going to want to know which Mini Freek fared better. Well, even though both knives are still incredibly sharp after the prolonged, full-frontal assault I put on them, the 565-01 is my choice between the two.

After all of my testing and use, the M4 on the 560BK-02 is starting to show spots on the blade edge. Additionally, though it is barely noticeable, the tip is chipped. These are both things I can correct with a little honing and resharpening — but the facts are the facts.

I wasn’t testing these knives out to see which one looked better, but how they performed. The 565-01 and its S90V blade steel still look factory fresh.

Additionally, I have a wide and meaty paw, and the carbon fiber scales on the 565-01 just felt better to me after prolonged periods of work. This was especially noticeable when I was slicing up steak and shaving up fir sticks. My hand didn’t feel as fatigued when I was done.

Benchmade Mini Freek 560BK-02 & 565-1
(Photo/Nick LeFort)

That said, both of these knives are incredible and premium. On a day-to-day basis, both of them would suffice as your EDC knife for years to come. If you’re someone who finds themselves in a variety of elements and putting in hard work — yes, the 565-01 will stand up to your abuse better.

But, if you’re someone who wants a reliable knife, and you want to save $60, the 560BK-02 will get the job done for you, with a little more maintenance in the long run.

Benchmade Mini Freek 560BK-02 & 565-1: Conclusion

I was never the star athlete in my family. Sure, I have the size and strength, but my cousins were the football stars. Collectively, we’re a ton of fun at a party and could pick up your car and hide it on you.

What I’m getting at is that it’s hard to figure out who or what is going to perform better when looking at it on a computer screen, or through a glass case. It’s not until you get down to brass tacks and start seeing how things perform that you can make a qualified decision.

Does that make one “better” than the other? In this case, with all of my experience in knife testing? No. No, I don’t think the 565-01 is that much better than the 560BK-02. This test — just like seeing the two Mini Freeks on a screen, or in a case at the store— was never going to be a blowout. That’s why I picked these two knives to do this type of comparison.

Big picture: I’ve heard rumblings that the Mini Freek is destined to be the successor of the Mini Griptilian. While I have no idea if that is true or not, these knives would do just fine in that role.

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