Can a non-locking knife hold up against the rigors of modern use? In testing, the Proper 318 proved itself a rugged and ready worker.
Dubbed a “modern take on the classic gentleman’s knife,” the Proper 318 from Benchmade combines throwback designs with state-of-the-art materials.
The Proper 318, $135, is Benchmade’s take on the traditional knife, or non-locking folder. While pricey, high-quality materials like CPM-S30V steel and a thin body make the Proper 318 a solid all-around knife.
Eager to find out how this non-locker compares to modern knives – and if it can hold up to heavy use – we put the Benchmade Proper 318 through the paces for review.
Non-Locking Folder: Benchmade Proper 318 Review
Benchmade offers two blade styles in its Proper line: the 318 clip point shown in this review and the 319 sheepsfoot.
The 318 has a flat grind and CPM-S30V steel at 0.9 inches thick. It measures 6.65 inches and weighs 2.28 ounces. Handle scales are available in red G10 and brown Micarta.
Unlike most traditionally styled knives, the Proper is fitted with torx screws. This means it can be taken apart and maintained.
The backspacer/leaf spring sandwiches between a pair of stainless steel liners. These make the knife solid, and it saves weight with holes punched out.
The blade swings against a pair of phosphor bronze washers, with a half-stop courtesy of its flat tang. Altogether, the entire package is secured by a trio of screws, two along the spring and one at the pivot.
The Purpose of a Traditional Knife
The roles played by fixed blades and modern locking folders may be clear, but the purpose of traditional knives is more opaque.
One standout in the Proper 318 is its handle thickness. At just 0.4 inches wide, the Proper disappears in the pocket. This puts it in the same territory as knives like the Spyderco Dragonfly 2 while containing a noticeable increase in blade length.
But how does it work as a tool? I was curious to see what sort of tasks I could perform with a non-locking knife. Turns out, it does just about everything my modern locking knives can do.
The thin blade stock makes it an excellent slicer. It cuts food, paracord, cardboard, and packaging with minimal effort. I even managed to do some simple whittling and fire prep. The half-stop and sharpening choil provide an extra bit of security, and at no point did the blade attempt to close on my fingers. A good thing, too, considering this may be the sharpest knife in my collection.
The steel – S30V – came with an incredible edge that’s yet to require sharpening. A few swipes across my strop was all it took to bring the tested blade back to hair-shaving sharp.
How Does it Compare: Benchmade Proper 318
The resurgence of traditional knives has brought about some impressive knives. One such Proper 318 contemporary is the Lion Steel Roundhead ($100–125). This Italian-made slip joint has a wide range of handle scales, with a price similar to the Proper.
Titanium liners and bolsters with a blade wrought in M390 steel are the big differences. That’s a sizable uptick in materials for nearly the same cost.
But here’s the thing: What sort of tasks do you expect to perform with a non-locking knife? I highly doubt that it’s anything that requires a genuine super steel like M390. And sure, titanium is great, but you’re looking at a weight savings of just 0.13 ounces versus the Proper. It should also be noted that the Lionsteel is difficult-to-impossible to fully disassemble.
Then there’s the ubiquitous Case brand. Like the Proper, these knives are made in the United States. They’re cheaper than the Benchmade, with a three-bladed stockman model selling for just over $50. But the company’s “Tru Sharp” stainless steel doesn’t hold a candle to S30V, and its pinned construction prohibits adjustment or takedown.
There are other options out there, especially if you’re not keen on the Proper’s price point. It costs $135 on the manufacturer’s site – $115 elsewhere – and it feels a little high. But the quality of this knife justifies the price.
The End Point: Benchmade Proper Review
In testing, this Benchmade turned out to be a solid performer. The Proper 318, with traditional styling and classic appeal, has been an eye-opener to me.
I expected the Proper to be inherently limited in function but instead discovered it to be a rugged and ready worker. It’s light, well-built, and strong enough for basic-to-medium tasks. Yes, it’s pricey, and no, it doesn’t lock. But if you’re sick of the tactical and titanium trends, I’d recommend giving it a look.