CRKT Squid XM Pocket Knife
(Photo/Josh Wussow)

Squid XM Review: CRKT’s Best Pocket Knife Ever — And It’s Under $50

From the first moment I held CRKT’s new Squid XM, I knew it was going to be special.

Even before I pressed the flipper tab and sent the blade rocketing open with a satisfying clack, something with this knife just felt, well, right. The weight was perfect, the materials were good, and the black G-10 and stonewashed steel blended together to form a truly cohesive package.

Still, I had to put CRKT’s latest folding blade — the Squid XM — through its paces. For nearly 2 weeks, I used the XM for everything from breaking down boxes to carving sticks and making dinner. The review sample, supplied by Columbia River Knife and Tool (CRKT), outperformed in every task I threw at it.

And while I’d encourage you to read the balance of this review, I’m going to cut to the chase here: The Squid XM is the best pocket knife CRKT has ever made. And it’s not a close race.

Squid XM pocket knife
(Photo/Josh Wussow)

In short: An efficient, precise blade, married to balanced, thoughtful, not-too-fancy, not-too-basic construction gives rise to an extremely capable and affordable pocket knife. The Squid XM easily takes the lead among CRKT’s folding-knife stable. And at $45, it ought to find its way into plenty of pockets.

3 pocket knifes lined up on table
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Review: CRKT Squid XM Pocket Knife

Surprised? I know I was. When the original Squid debuted in 2016, I was lukewarm on it. The shape was blobby, and the all-metal construction and 8Cr13MoV blade were pretty heavy in the pocket. It was nice as far as sub-$20 budget knives go, but it was nowhere near as good as the hype made it seem.

Since then, designer Lucas Burnley has spent a good deal of time revising the template. Let’s take a look at some of the details that elevate the XM from its rather humble beginnings.

The Blade

CRKT Squid XM Pocket Knife - blade
(Photo/Josh Wussow)

The length of the XM’s blade is pitch-perfect. At 2.95 inches, it has plenty of reach to tackle moderate cutting tasks while sneaking in just under the length restrictions imposed by certain municipalities and states.

And with a width of just 0.1 inches, it’s narrow enough to pass easily through whatever you’re cutting, as opposed to splitting it like a wedge. Combine this with its relatively high blade height, and you’ve got the makings of an incredible slicer.

But all of the statistics didn’t prepare me for just how capable the XM would be. Its first test was simple: helping me prep a mess of veggies for dinner. After the first couple of strokes, I genuinely laughed aloud. Onions, carrots, garlic, peppers, and tomatoes — the Squid cut them all as if it were born for life in the kitchen.

This prowess carried through to other chores, both around the house and outdoors. And see how its drop-point tip aligns almost perfectly with the centerline of the knife? This is useful for detail work and general control of the edge.

And while the D2 steel employed here has been known to discolor in the face of moisture, I’ve encountered zero staining on my tester.

CRKT Squid XM Pocket Knife - cutting
(Photo/Josh Wussow)

The thumb studs, which can also be used to open the knife, do indeed hover above the slicing path. But perhaps because of the overall height of the blade, I didn’t find this to be an issue. It slices, it dices, it’s a spring-loaded paring knife for your pocket. And that, of course, leads us to the next topic.

The Assist

Generally, I’m not a fan of assisted knives. Beyond their various legal complications, these mechanisms are often used to mask poor weight distribution and manufacturing tolerances. But on a worker blade like the Squid XM, it suits the ethos to a T.

Best of all, the assisted opening here doesn’t feel cheap. Thanks to the IKBS ball bearings in its pivot, the entire process of deployment is as simple as it is authoritative. Press flipper tab, get blade — it’s really that simple.

In challenging or dirty conditions, you can be confident that the XM will properly fire.

Clip and Chassis

CRKT Squid XM Pocket Knife - The Clip and Chassis
(Photo/Josh Wussow)

As mentioned, the rest of the Squid XM is composed of stainless steel and G-10. Both of these surfaces are well-sculpted and fit my medium/large hand with perfect security. I particularly like the texture of the G-10, which has enough tooth to be grippy without becoming abrasive. The stonewash on the remaining metal and frame lock is nicely done too.

All told, the XM spans 4.11 inches closed (7.03 inches open) and weighs in at just 3.6 ounces. This represents a significant uptick in size from the original while adding just one-tenth of an ounce.

If I have one small complaint, it lies in the clip. Rather, the problem lies in its screws, which aren’t recessed into the steel. This creates a bit of an obstacle for the lip of your pocket and will surely contribute to the wear on your jeans. But other than this minor flaw, the ride of the knife is superb.

Conclusion

Looking back across CRKT’s rather storied history, the M16 might be its most “iconic” design, but it’s by no means the brand’s best. That honor belongs solely to the Squid XM.

From its quality construction to its friendly carriage and every-ready attitude, it’s been a long time since I’ve been this impressed by a pocket knife. The Squid XM is the peak form of an interesting idea, the best evolution of Lucas Burnley’s original.

Casual users, enthusiasts, and people who just want something that will cut for days — all will find something to enjoy here. And at just $45, I can’t think of anything I’d recommend more readily.

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Josh Wussow
By

Josh Wussow is a writer and power sector worker based out of Wisconsin. He has degrees in English and video production, but you wouldn’t know it by his reviews and photos. Josh enjoys camping, hiking, and anything involving a campfire or grill. His work has taken him from Tennessee to New Mexico and Colorado. He misses the mountains very much.