In previous articles, we discussed choosing a folding survival knife. Check them out in the links below:
A knife is one of the more important pieces of equipment you can have with you in a survival situation, and although a fixed blade knife is significantly superior to a folding (pocket) knife, it is not always practical to have the fixed blade with you. Carrying a folding knife in your pocket “every day” (where allowed) is the best way to maximize the chances of having a knife when you need it. Having a good pocket knife is also of use if you have a large (field) fixed blade knife to perform tasks which are inconvenient for a long bladed knife. As mentioned in the general folding knife articles, there are a number of suitable candidates from well known companies.
Why did I consider these knives?
In my opinion, the Benchmade Griptilian design is one of the best designs, if not the best, for an EDC (Every Day Carry) survival folding knife. The deciding factor is the Axis lock, which makes the knife extraordinarily easy to open AND CLOSE with one hand, and unlike many one hand systems, works equally well with EITHER hand. I have a Griptilian, and even better, a Doug Ritter RSK Mk1 which is a Griptilian handle with a better blade. Great knives, but with “street” prices ranging from $90 to $140. Do I carry either one? Usually not, because I have a history of losing pocket things, especially pens, but on occasion a flashlight or pocket knife.
So finding out that Ganzo makes a line of knives with Axis locks, at a price which will not freak me out if one gets lost, was an attention getter.
Who is “Ganzo”? I had rather less luck finding out than I have had for previous knives reviewed. Finally, I found a dealer who pointed me to the Ganzo website. It is in Chinese, but with English subtitles for some of it. Ganzo (or Guanzhu) Hardware started in China in the mid 90’s to create multi-tools, knives and kitchen utensils. Allegedly they will custom make stuff, but how that is requested is not clear (to an English speaker, at least) on the website. They are advertised as a high-end brand and designated manufacturer to the American Special Forces. What warranty you get is unknown; the “service” page on the web site has no English at all, and even if repair/replacement is offered, sending one back to China from another country hardly seems worth the effort. Make sure you check out the service available from whoever provides Ganzo knives to you.
It seemed worth evaluating, so I got in a couple of models similar to the Griptilian. These are “the mid-sized” ones. There is a shorter model, the G724, and a longer model, the G727. Usually, I would have been tempted by the larger version, but unlike the other three, it did not list which steel was used for it and the significantly lower price for a bigger knife hints that it might be a lesser steel. Call me anal, but I like to know what I am getting, and if my life will depend on it, all else being equal, I prefer high grade steel over low or medium grade steel.
Can a $35 knife be a satisfactory substitute for a $150 knife? I’ll put these to the test and see.
|Blade Length||G717 8.5cm / 3.35″
G720 9.0cm / 3.54″
|Overall Length||G717 20.5cm / 8.07″
G720 21.0cm / 8.27″
|Blade Width||G717 2.5cm / 0.98″
G720 3.2cm / 1.26″
|Weight (Knife Only)||G717 0.150 kg / 5.42 oz
G720 0.200 kg / 7.06 oz
|Blade Steel||440C||Grip Material||G10, Stainless Steel liners|
|Blade Shape||Drop Point||Guard Type||N/A|
|Blade Grind||Saber||False Edge||No|
|Blade Thickness||3.6mm / 0.14″||Spine “Jimping”||Yes|
Special Features: Available with orange, black or khaki (G717 only) or green (G720 only) grip scales, Ambidextrous clip, Deep carry clip (G720 only)
These make a good first impression. They are fairly heavy, which bodes well for their durability, but might be a bit much for EDC for some folks. They are heavier than the Griptilian; for me, this is not a factor, as they are in the same weight class as the last two knives I carried every day in place of my more expensive Benchmade knives.
The assembly appears to be excellent. There are no gaps between grip scales and liners. The blades are centered in the grips, and lock up well with no movement side-to-side or up-and-down. Blade grind is centered and even. The thumb studs make opening the blade quick and easy, particularly for the G720. The stud is right next to the side of the grip on the G717, which means it take a bit more precision to find it; there is a scallop in the grip scales which helps. The lock appears to be the Axis lock found on some Benchmade models. The Ganzo version of this lock is somewhat stiffer than the Benchmade ones I have, but still easy to close on the G720. The G717 is not any stiffer than the G720, but the activating stud does not stick slightly above the grip scales as it does on the G720, so again, this knife requires a bit more concentration to close than does the G720. I find it is easiest to close if I pull the activating stud with the thumb on one side and middle finger on the other, leaving the forefinger to nudge the back of the blade. Both of these knives are totally ambidextrous in operation, like the Benchmades which I like so much, largely for that very reason.
Both grips have ridges from side to side; the ones on the G720 are straighter and closer together; those on the G717 are a much more aggressive (and attractive) pattern. The G720 has more of a recess for your forefinger than that of the G717, but both of them are completely slip resistant with the hand dry, wet or oily. Both have clips for tip-up carry, which can be moved to the other side for a left hand carry. The one on the G720 is attached to the end of the grip, which makes it a “deep carry” clip, so that none of the knife is visible above the pocket. The one on the G717 is in a depression in the side of the grip, so some of the knife sticks up above the pocket; it is held on with a Torx bolt, so should be easy to switch if you have the right Torx bit or driver. The aggressiveness of the grip panel ridges makes it somewhat harder to clip on or draw the G717. Personally, I’d take off the clip and just carry the knife in my pocket. The clip on the G720 is a better shape, and the grip panels have less aggressive grooves, so is easy to clip on to the pocket and draw it. However, the bolt holding the clip on is something I’ve never seen before; I don’t know how you are SUPPOSED to loosen it, but I managed using some serrated parallel jaw pliers. Apparently, there is a slight ramp or bend from one side to the other, so if you move the clip into the left carry position, it sticks down at an angle rather than straight down the middle of the grip. This can be easily overcome by putting the hole end of the clip into a vise, then slightly bending the long end 1/4″ (6mm) to the left to compensate for the offset. Bending it one way and then back the other way will weaken or break it, so don’t plan on switching back and forth between left hand and right hand carry. Right hand is ready to go, left hand requires a bit of tweaking and then should be left that way “forever”.
The jimping on the G720 is on a small thumb ramp, and is equal to that on the Griptilian but not as good as the even more expensive RSK. The jimping on the G717 is so shallow and smooth it really does not provide much benefit.
The edges of the G717 spine are quite smooth and rounded, so they will not be of use for survival purposes, but might be useful for smoothing something onto a surface. The G720 spine edges are sharp enough that they may be of use for survival tasks.
The lanyard hole on the G720 is pretty good; the one on the G717 is just barely big enough for paracord and there is no filler between the liners which makes it a bit tricky to navigate. Make sure your paracord tip is nicely melted, no bigger than the cord itself, and long enough to bridge the gap, in order to maximize your chances of getting the cord through both sides. The edges of the lanyard holes are not rounded, so check your lanyard for wear every now and again. The holes are through the grip scales, so it might be practical to chamfer the edges if it is necessary. .
There is no blade coating (none is really needed for stainless steel). The finish is “stonewash”, which is fairly matte, and cannot be used as a mirror or signal.
There are two questions to be answered – how are these as EDC knives, and how would they serve as survival knives?
These are made of 440C, a high grade stainless steel which has been around for a while. 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 appropriately 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 the edge well, but due to its larger, less uniform microstructure, does not exhibit the extra sharpness and chip resistance of the newer steels.
The knives came reasonably, almost razor, sharp (cut a few but not all hairs). Not the sharpest knives I’ve ever received, but entirely adequate and sharper than some of the much more expensive knives I’ve reviewed. After 50 slices through cardboard, they were no longer almost razor sharp but were still usable (would slice paper). The G720 was sharpened up to the original sharpness and even a bit more with a “pocket” sharpening system. Oddly, the G717 did not quite return to the original sharpness level with an apparently equal (same number of strokes) amount of sharpening. Additional effort brought it back to the original sharpness. It is not clear why this would be. Slightly different steel batch or hardening? The different blade shape? Different technique although that seems unlikely? The important thing is it CAN be done
To summarize, it appears that the steel in these knives has good rust resistance, fairly high strength, very good edge capability, good or better ease of sharpening, moderate resistance to chipping and good edge holding capability.
- Cutting cord – This is often necessary during construction of shelter, fishing, sewing and making snares and traps, as well as other times. As the most commonly available to survivalists, I tried paracord, as well as 3/8″ Manila and 3/4″ Sisal, just because paracord would seem to be trivial for any knife worth having. Cutting the paracord, both under tension and laying on a flat surface, was no problem. Both models went right through the Manila and the G720 went right through the Sisal. The G717 had a little trouble with the Sisal, but by no means the worst I’ve encountered.
- Making notches in branches – This could be required for shelter construction and making snares or traps, as well as other times. Both of these did rather well at this. They seemed to cut with the grain nicely, and were sharp enough to make the perpendicular stop cut adequately; the G720 was a little better at this than the G717.
- Trimming/Sharpening/smoothing branches – This would be for shelter construction, as well as making arrows, spears, stakes, walking sticks and even bows. Both knives both did a very good job of this.
- Pounding in stakes – This could be required for making shelters, snares and traps. Neither knife is set up to perform this function.
- Use with a magnesium bar or ferrocerium rod works quite well with the edge of the G720 spine; it shaves and sparks well. The spine of the G717 is way rounded so is completely useless to use with a ferrocerium rod; use the regular edge (or the striker which came with the firestick).
- Making a “featherstick” with these knives is fairly easy; they prefer big curls, but can do small curls if you do your part. It does take a bit of control to keep the curls from hitting the ground instead of staying attached to the base stick.
- Drilling a hole (for a fire drill) was accomplished quite well by the G720; my expectation was that wide tip would fail at this, but who knew? The G717 drilled well, but the narrow blade made a hole not nearly wide enough. Turning the knife sideways and slicing the sides of the hole at a wider angle worked very well. More work than usual, but it got the job done.
- Batoning for access to tinder or making kindling is not a suitable function for a folding knife, so I did not try it with either of these.
- Use as a throwing knife – A word to the wise, don’t. If you throw your knife, you may not get it back, or it can be damaged, particularly if it is made of stainless steel which is a bit brittle. And even more particularly if it is a folding knife. Even if the G720 could be thrown, the tip is probably too broad to be effective.
- Use as a spear – Turning your knife into a spear gives you additional reach, but throwing a spear made of a stainless steel or folding knife is more susceptible to damage than is acceptable. Personally, I can’t think of many cases where I’d lash a pocket knife to a spear.
- Both chop veggies pretty well and the blade shapes should be adequate for skinning and butchering. The G720 does not have an optimal tip, and the belly of the G717 is not as wide as preferred, but either seems like it will do the job. The G717 might be decent for filleting, but the tip of the G720 likely will make this task a challenge.
- Digging for grubs and bait. It is hard to imagine anything which can dull or damage a knife quicker than digging with it, and stainless is at risk of chipping if it hits a rock, so I don’t recommend using either knife for digging.
- Sticks or fronds – For shelter and other construction, splints and firewood. Chopping is not a function suitable for a pocket knife, so I did not try it with either of these.
- The grips are excellent and the tip shapes have utility for defense. The G717 blade is better; a bit narrower and pointier, so would have better penetration. The G720 is slightly longer and might be better for slashing. Both can be deployed quickly with a bit of practice, so can be adequate for defense if you don’t have a more suitable fixed blade knife available.
Ease of Carry
- An EDC knife must not be an annoyance to carry, or you won’t do it “every day.” For instance, I carried one nice knife for a few weeks and a sharp corner on the grip “ate” a hole in my pocket. I have not touched that knife since. The Ganzo knives are fairly heavy; that did not bother me. But my clothing is usually jeans; if I had to wear dress pants I might be forced to a lighter (and probably less durable) knife. The G720 carried nicely clipped onto my pocket. The G717 was carried loose in the pocket, due to the aggressive ridging making it harder to clip on and draw. That inch of orange grip sticking out of the pocket when clipped was a factor as well.
- EDC knives are used for every day purposes. Mine usually is things like cleaning my fingernails, opening packages, cutting off a piece of a sandwich, scraping off a label, sharpening a pencil, cleaning mud out of the cleats of my shoes, cutting a coupon and the like. I found the pointier blade of the G717 better for some of these tasks than the blade of the G720, although it was able to do all the jobs adequately.
Neither knife came with a sheath, as one would expect for a folding knife with pocket clip. You could probably find a generic pouch in nylon or leather which would fit if you really wanted to carry this on your belt. Both come with a nice suede-like cloth drawstring bag.
No accessories are available; typical for folding knives.
Price and Availability
The prices of Ganzo knives listed on the Ganzo website are not helpful, since they are in yuan, and the website does not even seem to show these models. Thus, “list” price seems to not be readily available. Generally it appears you can get these for $35 or less; significantly less if you work at it a bit. The best prices seem to be available from e-commerce stores.
They do not appear to be available directly from Ganzo Hardware or widely available in the United States; they are available through eBay or Amazon, but I found www.gearbest.com to have a good selection, free shipping and better prices ($18 and $22). Plus they were quite helpful.
UPDATE: I just went to the Gearbest site, and they appear to be having a big(ger) sale or price reduction; at this instant, the prices on these knives are $15 and $17 (orange grip versions are higher).
I like both of these knives, but for different reasons. The handle of the G720 is much better, in my opinion, but the blade shape is not optimal. The G717 is less convenient to clip on, and to open and close, while its blade shape is a bit more useful for many of my every day tasks. Either could reach “perfection” with “minor” changes, but change would not be free, and the high quality/low cost aspect of these knives is one of their attractions.
For EDC in heavy clothing, either of these knives will work, and will do anything you can reasonably ask them too. They may be too heavy or bulky for light or dress clothing.
For survival, either of these have utility, and the durability to last through the situation. The G717 tip is better for some tasks and particularly defense, but being less easy to open, is not as reliable to deploy quickly under stress. The G720 blade is better for other tasks, and is easier to open and close.
These are pretty decent knives, and I have enough confidence in them to carry either of them everyday (and do, usually the G720). Of course, if I KNOW I’m going to be stepping off the pavement, I’ll swap for my RSK Mark 1; it has better steel, a better blade shape, and an easier action. For that matter, if I can, I would go for a fixed blade knife or even two. But these Ganzo knives are pretty good, at a small fraction of the price; if one of these gets lost or worn or battered or gooped up, I don’t care; I’ll just order another (if I don’t already have a backup on hand). And if unexpected events DO occur when I have “only” a Ganzo, it should be entirely adequate for the situation.