Blue Light Special: $10 Kershaw Hotwire Tested

When it comes to budget knives, few companies offer as wide a selection as Kershaw. At $10, the Hotwire is the cheapest in its lineup.

Cheap Thrills: Kershaw Hotwire $10 Knife Review

The Hotwire is a Walmart exclusive equipped with a liner lock and SpeedSafe assist. In many ways, this pocket knife is the very definition of “disposable.”

But is there a reason to choose it over a no-name gas station blade? I used my latest trip to Colorado to find out.

Setting The Scene

Cheap Thrills: Kershaw Hotwire $10 Knife Review

Picture this – It’s 8 p.m. as you stumble out of the airport terminal. You’ve been awake since four in the morning, prepping for cross-country flights.

Now, after hours of delays and aggravations, you’re standing in front of the baggage claim. The conveyor belt goes around several times before the realization hits you: The airline lost your bag, along with all of your adventure gear. And there’s just 10 hours before you and your buddies head out into the woods.

$179 Walmart MTB Downhill Carnage
$179 Walmart MTB Downhill Carnage
Will a $179 Walmart Huffy survive a double black diamond downhill mountain bike run? Watch and find out. Read more…

For most of us, this would result in a mild financial crisis. You’ll need to spend most of your vacation fund on the necessities, leaving little room for tools and gadgets.

Even if you have the extra cash, do you really want to purchase something you’ll have once your bag is recovered? What’s a Gear Junkie to do?

Kershaw Hotwire Review

Cheap Thrills: Kershaw Hotwire $10 Knife Review

For blade fans, the Walmart knife selection is sort of like the menu at McDonald’s. You’ll usually be able to find something boring and serviceable without paying too much money.

But it’s also not a place you’d want fellow enthusiasts to see you, and you may regret your purchase within 12 hours.

Cheap Thrills: Kershaw Hotwire $10 Knife Review

First, the aesthetics on this knife are pretty silly. I mean, just look at the flipper tab and the texturing beneath the pivot. But once you press that tab and the SpeedSafe assist takes over, this actually becomes a pretty compelling package for the price.

Cheap Thrills: Kershaw Hotwire $10 Knife Review

The liner lock snaps nicely into place, and the ergonomics are surprisingly good. The 3-inch blade swings on two teflon washers sandwiched between stainless steel liners, with grippy GFN scales hugging the sides. The pocket clip is basic and largely unobtrusive, with the option for left- or right-hand tip-up carry.

Cheap Thrills: Kershaw Hotwire $10 Knife Review

In fact, carry-ability is one of the biggest things the Hotwire has going for it. With a heft of only 2.1 ounces, it disappears in the pocket of your travel pants.

When it’s time to open a package of hot dogs around the campfire, you’ll be able to effortlessly open and close the knife with just one hand. In fact, this is one of the easiest single-handed knives I own. Don’t play with it too much, though, or the pivot screw will start to loosen.

Swinging Steel

It’s a decent enough cutting companion around the grill and picnic table, thanks in part to its hollow grind. But let’s talk about the 3-inch elephant in the room: Kershaw has outfitted this big-box special with 3Cr13MoV steel. That’s pretty terrible.

Will it take an edge? Sure. Will it hold an edge? Nope!

Cheap Thrills: Kershaw Hotwire $10 Knife Review

I tried shaving some wood from a dry branch, but chips formed in the blade. I decided to call off any further woodsy tasks. No batoning for this Kershaw.

To be fair, I tested this knife under travel conditions. That means I didn’t take it apart or sharpen it through the course of its review. I did, however, tighten the pivot to reduce some pretty pronounced side-to-side blade play.

This exposed another issue. The Hotwire is put together in such a way that you get two choices: Either live with the blade wobbling back and forth, or tighten it down to the point where the SpeedSafe no longer works. Again, this is a $10 knife.


So, do I recommend that you buy a Kershaw Hotwire? No!

Save up enough money for three Hotwires and get yourself an Ontario RAT 2. Don’t want that? What about an Opinel No. 6? Or a CRKT Squid?

Cheap Thrills: Kershaw Hotwire $10 Knife Review

Here’s the deal, if you’re looking for a disposable, easily obtainable knife with modern assist and locking features, then this isn’t a horrible option.

The steel is trash and the blade play is iffy, but the action and carry-ability of the Hotwire are way ahead of other sub-$10 knives. I’ve owned two of these little guys in my cross country travels, both of which have proved effective during their brief service.

So, if you’re broke, desperate, or maybe just morbidly curious, the Kershaw Hotwire is an acceptable light-duty travel knife. But just like the joyride you get from another kind of hot wiring, don’t expect the thrill to last.