Having just read through some of the bewildering laws regarding pocket knives, and their legality in different states, I’m going to have to start this article with a disclaimer: While this review of two different knives was done with their utility for outdoor activities in mind, it’s up to the end user to determine what constitutes legal carry, especially in urban settings. I’ve never been questioned about an openly carried knife while hiking or camping, but if you choose to carry a knife every day, for whatever purpose, please be sure to stay on the right side of the law.
The Rapid Response series of knives from Coast (www.coastportland.com) may be designed for law enforcement and emergency personnel, but their features make them an excellent choice for outdoors use as well. First and foremost is the S.A.T.™, which stands for Smooth Assist Technology. For those times when you need to open your knife with one hand, this design allows the blade to quickly spring open and smoothly lock into place, thanks to friction-reducing roller-bearings. The bearings let the blade unfold with less spring load on all internal blade-assist components, which contributes to its silky action, while reducing wear. In addition to the liner lock, there’s MAX-LOCK™, which is a sliding switch on the handle with a red circle to indicate unlocked, and a padlock to indicated locked status. This can be set with the blade either opened or closed, for maximum safe handling. A simple clip allows secure and discrete portage, keeping your knife out of the way, yet accessible. It’s also easily reversible with a small flat blade screwdriver. In keeping with the ambidextrous design, there’s a thumb stud on both sides of the blade, and the fiberglass-filled, nicely textured nylon handles have a cutaway on either side to help guide your thumb to the stud. Of course, no knife would be worth carrying without a decent blade, and the high carbon stainless steel used by Coast seem to hold an edge quite well.
My evaluation was based on several components – wearing/transporting, ergonomics/handling, and actual cutting. I carried the 3.0 every day, rain or shine, during all my waking hours, for a full week. It was so unobtrusive, I nearly forgot it was there until I needed it. The clip makes for a solid hold, so the only time it comes out of your pocket is when you want it to. From there, it’s a simple matter of acquainting yourself with the locking mechanism, and letting your thumb find the groove which points it naturally to the thumb stud. A gentle nudge and the blade flicks open and locks into place. The diamond texture of the handles provides a fair amount of grip, complemented by some grooves on the spine of the blade, for serious cutting work. Speaking of cutting, the blades made quick work of cloth, cardboard boxes, plastic packaging, and 550 paracord. I even whittled a sharp point on a stick, which is the extent of my whittling skills. At the end of our test, both knives still kept their edge, so either we didn’t abuse them enough, or the grade of steel is acceptably high. I’d like to think it’s the latter, since everything we’ve seen from Coast has been of good quality.
Specs on the $38 Rapid Response 3.0 are 3 inches for the blade, with a total length of 7 inches and a weight of 3.7 ounces. The Rapid Response 3.9 retails at $44, and has a 3.9 inch blade, for a total length of 8.75 inches and a weight of 4.8 ounces. One potential shortcoming I could find on the 3.0 was that the clip may be a bit of a nuisance for longer jobs, but that may have more to do with how the knife is gripped. Likewise, I’d prefer a reversible stud, rather than two-sided, but that would add to the cost. Finally, the blade is perfectly symmetrical in every visible way, with the exception of the grooves on the spine. One side has a fine bevel, while the other side, curiously, does not. None of these are a dealbreaker, just observations. At the listed prices, either knife represents more value than expected.