Ganzo Folding Knives (Part 1)
Innovating Folding Survival Knives
I recently did a review of a couple of Ganzo Knives. I was pretty impressed with their quality AND price, so as a knife aficionado, I decided to investigate the brand further. After all, although the two models reviewed proved to have use for both Every Day Carry (EDC) and impromptu survival, neither was completely perfect. Maybe there are models which would be an even better choice for one or the other of these areas of specialization and/or defense, which would be available from this brand.
Ganzo (Guanzhu) Hardware is a Chinese knife and tool maker who have been innovating knives and multi-tools for twenty years. They keep coming out with new models almost faster than I can keep up with them. Recently they came out with a new web site (ganzoknife.com) which makes it easier to keep track of their product line by having easier navigation, more of the product line included, and being completely in English. Their multi-tools seem to have model numbers of the pattern G1xx, G2xx and G3xx. The site mentions some knife sharpeners, with models like “Touch” and G5xx, although it appears these are not available in the United States yet. There is even indications they are coming out with some fixed blade knives with models like G8xx. So far I have only investigated their folding knives.
Their old site (ganzo-tools.com) is of limited use if you don't read Chinese (and is often not available). There is some English translation, but the new site seems more useful. For instance, from the new site, we now know the warranty is one year, although sending one back to China would probably be more trouble than it is worth.
My source for Ganzo knives, www.gearbest.com, offers forty models (as of this instant in time), in multiple colors. Usually black, often green and orange, sometimes camo and occasionally even other colors. Models numbers seem to follow the pattern of G6xx or G7xx(x). From what I can find, some of the G6xx models are (or were) made with 440 (AKA 440A) steel (a low grade steel) and ABS handles, while many of the G7xx(x) models use the high grade 440C steel and G10 handles (a few seem to offer an option of wood grips or blackened blade). It could be that the G7xx(x) is the “high end” line and the G6xx is (or was) the “economy” line. It could also be that G6xx was the original line and G7xx(x) is the current, improved line, although the new web site gives some indication that the G6xx line is still undergoing updates. For a chart showing all the models compared to other similar knives, check out the forum entry here.
As mentioned, many of the G7xx(x) models are made of 440C, while some use 4116 or do not specify the steel used. 440C has proven itself over time. It used to be a top choice for high end stainless knives, but has been eclipsed by ATS-34 and 154-CM. Still, it is a good choice, particularly for mid-priced knives as it is easier to work with and more affordably priced then those newer steels. Having the highest amount of carbon in the 440 line, it is the least rust resistant, but that is still pretty good. It generally is tough and holds an edge well, but due to its larger, less uniform microstructure, does not exhibit the extra sharpness and chip resistance of the newer steels. Per my testing in the previous article, the 440C as produced by Ganzo has proven itself; further intensive testing would just be duplication of effort.
4116 is a German stainless steel which I have not experienced yet. It is most often compared to a modified 420C (the top of the 420 line of steels, which is different from the 440 line) or sometimes AUS8 (the middle grade of that line of steels). If you ask the “experts” about it, you'll get responses everywhere from terrible to better than 420C, and a few who even compare it favorably to 440C. From this I draw the conclusion that the heat treating and tempering methodology used for a 4116 blade has more impact on its usability than does the formulation of the steel. That is, two similar 4116 based knives from differing manufacturers could perform at different levels. Either that, or some of those “experts” are incorrect.
In the G7xx(x) line, there are eight models not, or no longer, listed on GearBest; at least some of these have probably been discontinued. These are the G703, G705, G706 (odd two blade knife with the grip in the middle and one blade on each side), G709, G714, G715, and G725 (a three blade pen knife), as well as G731 which I can find no information on, so possibly that model number has not been used, which is unusual. Then there are a few which appear to be new models which are not in stock there yet (G7371, G7372, G740, G7412, G7412P, G7413 and G7413P).
During my investigation, I encountered a few cases where there were two knives which seem to have the same model number, but differing prices, and even more confusing, slightly differing physical specifications. Why is this? My best guess is one is a newer version. My backup guess is that there was a glitch entering the model or specifications into the online catalog. In any case, don't go by the model number alone; verify the specifications to ensure you are getting what you expect.
The Ganzo G7xx(x) Line
Due to financial and time constraints, I decided against investigating nineteen of the forty available models because, according to the catalog, they give the appearance of having factors which might make them less appropriate for either EDC or unexpected survival situations:
– The following six models seem to use other than 440C steel or don't specify what steel they use: G621 (4116), G701 (?), G7142 (4116), G722 (?), G726M (?) and G727M (?). I would generally not buy a knife which will not tell me what steel it is made of. As for 4116, it may be fine, but with neither model offered in this steel meeting criteria to be a superior survival folder, I'm not prepared to run the extensive tests on either model at this point in time, just to evaluate the steel.
– The G707 is a stiletto blade, which is of limited use in a survival situation, not optimal for every day use, and is illegal to carry in some locales. It also appears to be a “switchblade” which may have safety concerns and additional places where it would be illegal to carry. Possibly in a few places, it may be illegal to even possess. Silly, but then laws sometimes are.
– Five other models which are called “spring locks” and appear to be “switchblades”, with the accompanying safety and legal concerns are: G719 (clip blade), G7211 and G7212 (drop point blades), and G7361 and G7362 (straight blades).
– The G713 (clip blade) is a classic lock back, which is a decent lock, but usually rather more difficult to close with one hand than the liner and Axis type locks prevalent in the G7xx(x) line. It also has the liners extending beyond the grip panels, which looks weird and might be uncomfortable to hold.
– In addition to the G713 already rejected, the following six models appear to have a significant false edge: G702 (clip blade), G704 (spearpoint blade), G708 and G711 (clip blades), G712 (upswept blade) and G718 (spearpoint blade). The purpose of a false edge is to give a more penetrating tip and possibly a bit of weight reduction. It also can make a blade “look cooler”. The down side is that it weakens the tip, and although that may be acceptable or even desirable in an EDC knife, I don't usually accept that in a folding knife which might be called on in a survival situation.
This left twenty one models to consider for more in depth evaluation (the bold ones are the ten “unique” models I ended up getting):
– Of these, the following are “Axis” locks: G710, G716, G717, G720, G724M, G729 & G7291, G733 & G7331, G735, G738, G7392 & G7392P & G7393 & G7393P.
– And the rest are liner locks: G723 (frame lock), G728, G730, G732 & G7321, and G734.
Axis vs. Liner Locks
The liner lock is a classic, and tends to be the strongest lock type. When the blade is open, a spring leaf snaps into the blade channel behind the blade, blocking it open. To close the knife, the leaf needs to be pushed out of the blade channel. Other locks CAN be as strong, but require more design and manufacturing care (and generally more cost) to achieve that equivalence. From a usability standpoint, most liner lock knives are easy to close one handed using your right hand. Many CAN be closed one handed using your left hand, but it does require a bit more contortion. That is why I prefer the Axis locks and equivalent (such as Spyderco's externally similar one); not only are they easy to close, but they are truly ambidextrous. These have some form of latch which mates with a notch in the blade, holding it open. To close these, a lever with a knob sticking out from each side of the grips needs to be pulled rearward. I'll be looking at the Axis models first, since they are my favorite, but I'll include examples of the liner lock just to see if they are as good a value as the Axis models have proven to be.
The 10 knives received met the following standards of quality:
Fit – No gaps between the grip scales and liner.
Finish – A nice, even matte
Centering – Mostly excellent, my G724M is slightly off center.
Grind – Even and centered
Lock up – No movement up/down or side/side
Blade action – Smooth, medium resistance or less
Lock action – Stiff to medium (Axis models), easy (liner models), but see the section in Part 3 about the G732 lock not fully engaging
Sharpness – Nearly razor (cuts a few hairs) to truly razor sharp (the G732)
Note: To see the catalog page for any of the following models, click on the model number in the title:
These are the two I reviewed in depth in a previous article (a link to the review is at the beginning of this article). There is not much more to say about either; either is useful for both EDC and unexpected survival situations. Their quirks are few. The G720 tip is a bit wide to be optimal for some tasks, and the knife is fairly big and heavy, but otherwise is quite impressive. Functionally, the G717 doesn't have enough “belly” to excel at skinning, but does everything else very well. From an operating standpoint, the G717 thumb stud is right next to the edge of the grip scales, and the lock lever is recessed slightly below the ridges in the scales. Still quite usable, but it does require more precision to both open and close this model. The pocket clip is not as good as on other models, and with the aggressive grip ridges, it does not clip to, or remove from, the pocket easily. This model carries better loose in the pocket; the clip could be removed to make it carry loose even better.
See Part 2 for details of the other Axis lock models.