The CRKT Drifter is the king of the budget blades. If you have only a small amount of money to spend on a knife the Drifter should be your first choice.
The bottom of the knife market is crowded. There are a lot of knives designed and built in China (the Drifter was designed in the US but made in China). Kershaw and Spyderco both have budget blades in their line up. Ka Bar’s Dozier designs are quite nice. But for the money, around $22, the Drifter slays them all. This is a knife that punches far above its price.
Perfect Size Pocket Knife
The Drifter’s size is perfect (note there is a Drifter II that is larger, I prefer the original). Its blade is just right for broad legality (though check local knife laws first) and the weight is just right. Additionally, the pocket clip is strong and sturdy. The handles are surprisingly nice for the price, opting for real G10 instead of a plasticky FRN material. The thumb studs are very catchy. The blade shape is nice, a drop point with a very mild recurve. Everything about the Drifter hits the mark.
In almost every other budget blade I have used, the deployment is always wretched. Not here. The thing that gives the Drifter its truly superior feel is the pivot. I have owned at least three different Drifters and all opened with ease. The dialed in detent and very good washers allow the Drifter to both roll open slowly and smoothly and, when desired, flicked open with a push from your thumb.
There are a few concessions to price, but thankfully none of them really harm the Drifter’s performance. First, you can’t switch the pocket clip to different sides — this is right handed tip down carry only. In the long run that is probably the right choice for the vast majority of the population, but lefties beware.
Second, the steel is a lower to middle tier Chinese steel — 8Cr14MoV. Its not terrible, a very slight upgrade from 8Cr13MoV, but it is a steel that will need regular attention from a strop and isn’t the most corrosion resistant. Beyond those two things, though you’d be hard pressed to guess the right price if you didn’t know what it was.
Drifter Knife Variations
There are two variants of the Drifter, both of which are good: a stainless steel framelock and a G10 liner lock version. I prefer the lighter G10 blade, but having used both they are both great values. There is also a larger version, but again, I prefer a lighter blade so the choice is easy. In the end, there are few knives that rival the Drifter in terms of value, and none that surpass it.