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Benchmade has been a mainstay in the knife industry for decades and is often at the forefront of the discussion with what many U.S. military members consider the best new knives every year. Recently, however, Benchmade has been in a bit of a blue period, stuck competing with the new wave of Chinese knives on the market while trying to continuously innovate with new designs, and address complaints of quality control issues like unimpressive factory edges.
At SHOT Show 2022, I had the pleasure of speaking with Benchmade representative Nate Hellman, who walked me through their new line of knives. Key among these were three military-focused knives, each with a different specialty and opening mechanism: the Shootout, an out-the-front switchblade; the Anonimus, a fixed-blade survival knife; and the Claymore, a durable, automatic folding knife.
To test these knives, Benchmade provided me with the Shootout and Anonimus, and I got hands-on time with the Claymore thanks to a local authorized dealer. I spent the ensuing weeks seeing if Benchmade is back in 2023. Spoiler alert: Yes, they are.
How we tested
For these knives, we were fortunate to get hands-on time and put these knives through their paces in a way that adequately tested them for their intended use. Benchmade kindly cooperated with this evaluation and sent us two out of three of these knives with no editorial constraints, allowing us to get valuable testing data on these new designs well in advance of these coming to market.
The Benchmade Shootout is the company’s attempt to make a more affordable out-the-front knife to add to their lineup alongside the likes of the Infidel, the Autocrat, and the Phaeton. A spine-fired OTF tanto blade, the Shootout relies on their new CF Elite material to keep weight and cost down while maintaining durability and enhancing the design. rnrnThe blade is made of CPM Cruwear, which is a steel that Benchmade has fallen in love with and embraced wholeheartedly in recent years because offers better hardness and edge retention than materials like D2 steel with none of the brittleness that D2 was known for. Combining these features with a swappable pocket clip and a carbide glass breaker, and this is Benchmade’s effort to own the sub-300 dollar OTF market, competing with knives like the Microtech Ultratech and UTX-85.rnrnOne thing that every Benchmade knife executes well is its design. Benchmade puts a lot of effort into their design process, and features like the varied texturing on the grips to make the knife more secure in your hand, the optimal blade shape to prevent snapping, and the steeper cut on the activation switch than the rear for quick blade retrieval shows that every aspect of the knife has been meticulously designed. The CF Elite ensures that the knife remains incredibly light so it’s something that you’ll forget about until you need it. The action is solid, on par with the famously snappy actions of brands like Microtech, but with the addition of an easier open due to the aforementioned opening switch, which is just as easy to open as it is to close.rnrnBenchmade has unfortunately had to contend with complaints from users regarding their factory edges, and alas, the Shootout shares this issue. The stock factory edge on the review sample that Benchmade sent me was uneven which, while it didn’t affect cutting capability, is not something that should be present on a tanto that costs roughly $300 MSRP. It’s unclear how much this is going to cost retail, but the Shootout, while cheaper than many of Benchmade’s other OTF options, is still more expensive than competing OTFs from companies like Hogue and Microtech. Finally — and this isn’t an issue with the Shootout as much as it is with OTFs in general — these are illegal to carry in many locales, making them little more than a $300 toy for many people.rnrnUltimately, as long as Benchmade can ensure that their production knives have even edge grinds and provided the retail price is competitive with options from other market giants, the Shootout will remain a great choice for those who want an ingeniously designed and extremely light OTF knife.
- Blade length: 3.5 inches
- Steel: CPM Cruwear
- Grip material: CF Elite
Not significantly cheaper than competitors
Uneven blade grind
OTF knives are not always legal
The Benchmade Anonimus made our list of the best bushcraft knives as an ideal knife to address multiple use cases, and with good reason: instead of being a purebred bushcraft knife, or a purebred hunting knife, the Anonimus is designed to be a multipurpose, light, packable knife that can do almost anything you need it to and keep going after heavy use. With features like a dune-like texture milled into the G10 grips and a finger guard that’s allegedly inspired by the shape of a Geissele trigger, this is a knife that knocks the ergonomics out of the park. It includes a thin, compact kydex sheath that features a loop for a ferro rod and incorporates a belt loop for easy mounting. rnrnFor the person who swears by “ounces equal pounds, pounds equal pain,” the idea of a lightweight, durable, and comfortable knife is optimal. The Anonimus addresses all three of these factors through an inspired design, using contoured G10 grips instead of the squared rubberized aluminum on the Nimravus which preceded it, saving on weight, and using cerakoted Cruwear instead of the earlier model’s 154CM for added blade durability. Each of the design features of the Anonimus has a real survival use, like a flat grind optimal for bushcraft, a notch ahead of the finger guard to accommodate the sold-separately ferro rod, and a sand dune-esque grip texture that provides the knife with grip while both barehanded or wearing globevs. The Anonimus also doesn’t resign itself to looking boring, contrasting silver cerakote on the blade with light green grip scales to round out this solid package.rnrnPersonal preference plays a huge part in whether a knife works for the user, and I prefer heavier knives for use during bushcraft so that, when hacking through branches or stripping a tree, I’m not forced to use my own strength to get every bit of force out of the blade. Since the Anonimus is a very lightweight knife, it unfortunately does exactly the opposite of what I want it to. In a similar vein, the knife’s light weight is aided in no small part by its thin blade, and for users trying to do outdoor tasks like batoning logs, this blade can look tiny compared to offerings from companies like TOPS. Finally, the cerakote finish picks up stains from using the ferro rod or engaging in bushcraft tasks that involve trees with sap or green wood in general, requiring dedicated cleaning to remove.rnrnI really had to struggle to find something wrong with the Anonimus, and that’s with good reason. I love this knife, and it fits well into the role of the all-purpose knife. Most of my heavy use does veer into bushcrafting, but I already have a dedicated bushcraft tool set and sometimes I just need a lightweight knife that can do almost anything in a pinch.
- Blade length: 5 inches
- Steel: CPM Cruwear
- Grip material: G10
Every design feature has a survival use
Excellent looking knife
Too light to use as a dedicated bushcraft knife
Finish stains easily
Too thin to baton
I don’t think it’s a surprise by this point for me to say that Benchmade makes very well-designed knives, but the Claymore is exceptional. The core goal of its design is to make a folding knife that’s super strong and capable of standing up to anything the hard-wearing user would throw at it. Aptly named when compared to its Scottish namesake, the Claymore is a big, beefy knife rendered in CPM-D2, which is an unusual variant of D2 tool steel that uses the same particle metallurgy that high-tech steels like S30V, M4, and Cruwear use to improve performance. It’s a side-opening push button automatic, meaning that no matter what, you can get this one open in a hurry.rnrnThe Claymore is a solid knife that performs just as well as it looks owing to the durable opening action, locking blade, and well-designed handle. The handle in particular is the shining feature of the knife, with jimping placed carefully on the top and bottom of each side of the grip to allow your fingers to get a good purchase on the handle. The handle also widens towards the hinge of the knife, which further enhances grip comfort and security. The hinge itself is strong and further enhanced by a locking safety that can either keep the blade open or closed, preventing accidentally losing blade stability during heavy use due to an accidental button press. The blade steel is an interesting choice, simply because “D2 but now made with a fancy scientific process” is something that offers a marginal improvement, but which also stands out among Benchmade’s more high-tech alloys of late as something of an anomaly. If for no other reason, the Claymore is worthwhile to curious knife nerds who want to own a knife in this blade steel from a reputable manufacturer.rnrnI immensely dislike side-opening automatic knives, viewing them as the worst of both worlds. You get an opening action that puts this type of knife into legal hot water as a spring-loaded knife that’s activated with a button, but without any of the features that make OTF variants appealing. Benchmade also seems to be counting on the grip shape and jimping to provide all the handling needed for complex bushcraft or hunting tasks, since the blade has no jimping on the spine to speak of, which would have been nice for more delicate work. Finally, it’s hard to get excited about D2, even if it’s CPM. It’s a neat oddity, but it’s more or less in the same category as the non-CPM variety, which is an affordable, durable, semi-stainless steel.rnrnThe Claymore is an affordable, durable, hard-working knife that can do almost anything, and does so in a well-designed package. If it was a manual-open or spring-assist knife, I’d consider it right up there with Benchmade classics like the Griptilian and Presidio.
- Blade length: 3.6 inches
- Steel: CPM-D2
- Grip material: Grivory
Ergonomic handle design
Blade steel improves on a proven classic
Side opening automatic action is the worst of both worlds in many ways
D2, even CPM variety, is somewhat played out
Spine of the blade isn’t comfortable for using as a thumb rest for bushcraft
Our verdict on the new Benchmade knives of 2023
Benchmade is finding new ways to improve on their existing products, replacing classic designs like the Phaeton and Nimravus in 2023 with vastly improved models. Overall, I can say that most of the Benchmade knives in their new line that I’ve seen in person at any of their authorized dealers have had none of the issues with factory edges or opening actions the consumers have complained about in the past. Here’s the verdict on the three tested for this article:
- I can take or leave the Claymore. It’s not a bad knife by any stretch of the imagination, I just don’t personally care for side-opening automatics, and CPM-D2 isn’t a cool enough steel to make me overlook that.
- The Shootout is a competent, cool, and ultralight OTF knife, and if my only complaint with the knife itself is that the blade needs to be ground evenly, that’s not a problem with the design as much as it is with whoever did quality assurance on this particular knife.
- The Anonimus is my favorite knife of the trio because it achieves everything it sets out to do. My only major complaint with it is that it doesn’t do this specialized task that I like to do, i.e. bushcraft, and that’s less about the knife and more about how I’m using it.
FAQs on new Benchmade knives of 2023
Q: How much are the Benchmade Anonimus, Shootout, and Claymore?
A: The Benchmade Shootout has an MSRP of $300, the Anonimus is listed at $290, and the Claymore is $230, but all of them will retail for much lower.
Q: When are the new Benchmade knives coming out in 2023?
A: Late April, or as you’re probably reading this!
Q: How can I purchase a switchblade?
A: Switchblades, or OTF knives like the Benchmade Shootout, are restricted for sale by commercial retailers over the internet, and either have to be bought by people who are military or first responders, purchased in-person, or privately transferred. If you’re not in the military and want to purchase a Shootout, find your local Benchmade authorized dealer and order one through them.