Hogue Knives: Top 3 Expert Picks

Michael Janich, GetZone.com Contributor

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If you’ve been a shooter for any significant length of time, you’ve probably heard of Hogue, Inc. Since 1968, Hogue has been a leading force in the design and manufacture of high-quality handgun grips, rifle and shotgun stocks, and a variety of other products. As a family-run company, they approach every aspect of their business with exceptional attention to detail and only work with other detail-oriented people they can trust like family. When they decided to add knives to their product line a number of years ago, that’s precisely why they chose acclaimed custom knifemaker Allen Elishewitz as their design partner.

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Elishewitz is an incredibly talented knifemaker, an accomplished martial artist and shooter, and a world-class machinist and craftsman. He also collaborated with a number of other knife companies before settling at Hogue and knows what it really takes to translate custom-quality designs to manufactured products with little to no compromise. I’ve been a fan of Hogue knives since I handled my very first one. As the scope of their product line has steadily expanded, so has my personal collection. And after years of testing, carrying, and using Hogue Knives, I’d like to share my top three picks.

EX-01 3.5″ Drop-Point with G-Mascus Handle:

The EX-01 was Hogue Knives’ first knife in the Hogue/Elishewitz Extreme Series. Designed to be an all-purpose folding knife, it also boasts all the features necessary to allow it to excel as a serious tactical knife. Although it’s available in a number of different variations, I prefer the versatility and utility of the drop-point blade and the enhanced grip texture and light weight of the G-mascus handle. If you’re not familiar with it, G-mascus is basically the same fiberglass-epoxy laminate used in standard G10, but treated with the same methods used to create patterns in Damascus steel. The result is a very cool, one-of-a-kind colored pattern in every knife.

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The EX-01 with G-mascus handle has a dramatic layered handle pattern reminiscent of Damascus steel. Its wide, spoon-shaped clip offers an exceptionally smooth draw and a choice of tip-up or tip-down carry.

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One of the advantages of Hogue Knives’ use of the button-lock mechanism is that it allows the knife—here the EX-01—to be closed quickly and easily with one hand without ever placing your fingers in the path of the edge.

The linerless construction of the EX-01 keeps its weight to 4.40oz., but its construction doesn’t sacrifice strength. Stainless steel plates nested into the pivot area of the handle reinforce its structure and provide a foundation for its button-lock mechanism. This mechanism is extremely strong and offers a rock-solid lockup. Unlike most locks, it also allows you to close the blade without placing your fingers in the path of the edge and is backed by a sliding secondary safety that prevents unintentional release of the lock during use.

This knife’s blade is machined from 0.150″ 154CM stainless steel and has a high flat grind that balances strength and low-friction edge geometry. It features an ambidextrous thumb stud for quick one-handed opening and a non-reflective tumbled finish.

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Designed for right-side carry, Hogue Knives’ EX-01 has a wide, spoon-shaped clip that can be configured for tip-up or tip-down carry. The clip’s design is extremely secure and promotes smooth, exceptionally quick deployment. You can buy the Hogue EX-01 on GunBroker.com.

X5 Flipper

Generally, I am not a big fan of flipper-style knives because most require fine motor skills (the stroking motion of the index finger) and a somewhat compromised grip to deploy. However, I am a huge fan of innovation and technological refinements that force me to totally rethink my opinions. And Hogue Knives’ X5 flippers did just that.

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The X5’s flipper provides excellent leverage and, in combination with its advanced button lock and detent mechanisms, ensures quick, positive, one-handed opening.

The X5 was designed by Allen Elishewitz and engineered by Hogue Knives’ president Jim Bruhns. Available in two sizes (3.5″ or 4″ blade) and two different blade styles (spear point and modified Wharncliffe), the X5 is, in simple terms, a flipper-opening folder with a button-lock mechanism and secondary safety. Simple terms, however, don’t do this knife justice.

To me, the most impressive features of this knife are “under the hood.” All flipper-style knives rely on a precise balance between the leverage afforded by the flipper tab, the mass of the blade, and the strength of the lock’s detent—the aspect of the mechanism that provides tension to keep the blade closed. As you apply increasing pressure to the flipper, the detent is ultimately overcome and the “built-up” tension on the blade launches it into the open position. Achieving this balance with a light blade is difficult. With the light detent typically afforded by a button-lock mechanism, it’s practically impossible. So, the “brainiacs” at Hogue Knives got creative.

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Most flippers use a ball bearing detent in their LinerLock or frame-lock mechanism to generate pressure for the detent. Often, this requires the detent ball to be poorly placed for optimal flipper operation and causes highly focused friction of the ball against the tang of the blade during its opening arc. If you’ve ever disassembled a LinerLock or frame-lock knife and seen the arced scratch mark of the detent ball on the tang, you know what I’m talking about. This focused friction occurs when the lock spring is under maximum tension, causing significant drag and all too often, incomplete lock engagement.

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Looking “under the hood” of the X5 clearly shows its separate detent spring bar, the detent hole, and the “drag relief channel” that keeps the detent ball from dragging on the blade during its opening arc. Note that the blade’s Cerakote coating has been removed from the tang to ensure smooth operation.

Hogue Knives’ patent-pending approach to solving this problem is brilliantly different. First, they separate the lock and the detent, allowing each to do its respective job. A dedicated spring plate nested into the obverse handle scale contains the detent ball and a tension screw this allows them to perfectly calibrate the detent tension during assembly. Very importantly, the ball also rides in a ramped “drag relief channel” machined into the side of the blade that allows the detent to do its job, yet totally eliminates the ball’s drag through the remainder of the blade’s opening arc. Once the blade is open, the stout push-button lock engages and keeps it there without a hint of play. For even greater security during use, a sliding secondary safety can be engaged to block the button and guarantee the X5 will never close until you want it to.

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Many flippers use complicated ball-bearing washer assemblies in their blade pivots to smooth the blade’s opening arc. Unfortunately, they can also make the pivot a magnet for dirt and other crud and can reduce the blade’s side-to-side stability. Hogue takes a different approach. The interior of each of the meticulously machined 6061-T6 aluminum handle scales features a raised circular “pad” around the pivot pin. Although the CPM 154 blades are cloaked in black Cerakote, the coating on the tang is precisely removed to create a matching circle of polished steel. The broad mating surfaces of the circles are then greased to provide an exceptionally smooth, low-friction action that also provides unparalleled lateral strength and stability. The blades of Hogue X5 knives lock like bank vaults and have absolutely no play.

The X5’s handle is anodized a deep, uniform black and contains twin inlaid scales of black G-Mascus G10. The forward section of the scales has a machined stippled texture, while the rear portion is machined smooth to complement a deep-pocket carry clip for a snag-free draw. The clip is curved to match the arc of the handle, so it can’t be reversed for left-side carry. Instead, a second, dedicated left-side clip is supplied with every knife. Both clips nest into recesses in the butt end of the handle and are secured by a stout Torx screw. A “filler” plate is also provided to fill the offside clip recess.

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Allen Elishewitz has attended my annual Martial Blade Camp several times. The last time he trained with me, we had a long talk about blade profiles, edge geometry, and related topics and I got him to appreciate my love of Wharncliffe blades. I firmly believe the modified Wharncliffe on the X5 reflects some of that influence. It certainly cuts with serious authority and makes this highly refined design even more impressive.

You can buy the Hogue X5 on GunBroker.com.

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The cutting power of the X5’s modified Wharncliffe blade profile is clearly evident in the results of this test cut on a “pork man” target.

EX-F03 Neck Knife

Fixed-blade knives are stronger and faster to get into action than folders. If you can legally carry one in your jurisdiction, it’s a great choice for both personal defense and utility. If it’s small enough to be carried as a true neck knife — worn like dog tags around your neck — it’s also completely compatible with all your styles of dress. Unfortunately, many neck knives and the sheaths that house them fall far short of their potential. Not so with Hogue’s EX-F03.

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Despite its compact size, the excellent design of the EX-F03 Neck Knife provides a solid, hand-filling grip and excellent edge and point geometry.

This knife is simple, straightforward, and functional. Made from a solid piece of 154CM stainless steel, its ergonomic handle is skeletonized to reduce weight and large enough for a solid three-finger grip reminiscent of a good pocket pistol. Available in two profiles (clip-point and hawkbill), the 2.25″- blade is hollow ground for better edge geometry for its small size. All edges of the handle and spine are thoughtfully radiused for comfort and a short paracord fob aids in achieving a positive draw.

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The EX-F03’s sheath is one of the best neck knife sheaths on the market and allows the knife to be inserted with the edge facing in either direction. With a breakaway ball chain, it would be just about perfect.

The EX-F03’s sheath is exceptional for a neck knife. Expertly molded from Kydex, it allows the knife to be inserted with the edge facing in either direction and accepts it with a positive “snap.” It holds the knife very securely, leaves enough of the handle exposed for a secure grip, and releases it with a firm pull. Its only shortcoming is its stout neck cord, which could pose a strangulation hazard in a contact-distance incident. Replace it with a breakaway ball chain and you’ve got one of the most capable neck knives available. Like all Hogue knives, it’s made in the USA, making it an even better value at its $79.95 MSRP. You can buy the EX-FO3 on GunBroker.com.

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For more information on Hogue knives, visit www.hogueinc.com/knives