LA Police Gear TBFK Knife Gen 2 Review (S35VN for Under $50)

What if I told you could get S35VN blade steel for under $50? That’s what I have here with the LA Police Gear TBFK. S35VN is considered a premium powdered USA made blade steel and typically found on knives more than 2X the cost. I am going to call this a version 2 model because some changes have been made over the version that was first released a few years ago. So let’s take a look and see if the rest of the knife holds up. Thanks to LA Police Gear for reaching out and seeing if I was interested in taking a look at some of their gear. 

 

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Pick up the LA Police Gear TBFK V2 at https://la-police-gear.pxf.io/AoP56K and save 10% with the code LIQUIDRETRO at checkout.

 

Packaging

Packaging is very simple, it’s your cardboard tray style box that other manufactures use. The knife was wrapped in plastic inside and had a generous coat of oil. It’s a pretty generic box that looks like it could be used for multiple models, but on the back there is a sticker that has all the details telling you the model name and number, finish style, handle color and SKU. 

 

Size & Weight & Comparison

Unopened length I measured at 4.5”, Opened length at 8”. Cutting edge at 3.4”. Blade stock at 0.13”. Overall thickness at 0.58” give or take with the tapered scales. Weight is 5oz so this is definitely on the heavy side. Here are a few comparisons with other common knives.

 

The Good

Let’s talk about materials here because that’s what caught my eye and really is the big value here. As I mentioned in the intro this knife is using S35VN for the blade steel. Through the years a few youtubers have tested it and it does appear to be genuine S35VN. On my knife it came shaving sharp from the factory and has maintained that edge fairly well although I think the heat treat might be a little soft based on my cardboard cutting performance. That said it stopped up nice and sharp again with just a few passes. 

The modified drop point blade here is flat ground about ¾ up the knife blade. The sharpened edge was symmetrical as well. The knife comes in 2 versions, a satin blade and a blackwash blade that I have here. Scales are all the same black G10. The G10 has a little texture to it and is 3D contoured. It fits the steel liners here fairly well but there are few areas on my knife where they are not perfect. Overall the materials to value ratio is outstanding. 

One of the improvements on the version 2 of this knife is that it’s been switched from a tip down carry position to a tip up, The result is a knife thats super deep carry which you know is important to me. The clip here is long and does a good job of being secure in the pocket. It is right hand carry only, sorry lefties. 

In my medium sized hands it’s good, the jimping on the back of the blade spine is in the perfect spot, I do get a small amount of a hot spot by where the clip flares out when using it in my right hand but I don’t think many people will be bothered by that. The 3D contoured scales do take up more room in the pocket but fit nicely in hand.

 

The Bad

Let’s talk about the action here I would label it ok, keep that price point in mind. This is as it came to me, I have been using the knife for about a month, and carried it a few weeks during that time. It started off a bit stiff but has gotten looser over time. It’s a bit gritty and could benefit from being taken apart and cleaned. I did put a drop of oil on it and this improved things a bit. Even with the I was expecting more given this knife is on bearings. As is I couldn’t tell you if it was washers or bearings. 

 

Even thought it has a strong detent, and the flipper is large it flips pretty well and I have not complaints there. The flipper does have some jimping on it which I like on a blade this size. When I do go ahead and open it up to clean I will probably try to drill out the steel liners and reduce the weight here. 

 

My knife has a bit of an early lockup I would say about 40% engagement of the liner lock or so. That’s room for it to wear in 

 

The Ugly

The Thumbstuds

I don’t care for the thumb studs here. While the tip up carry eliminates the issue the first generation had of having them get snagging in the pocket I still think they are unnecessary since this knife flips pretty well. If you are going to have thumb studs anyway, I think they could be smaller. 

 

The Branding

I am not a fan of the branding on this knife, the LAPG logo is kind of large and very visible when the knife is closed. The TBFK name is an acronym for “The Best F***ing Knife, and I think that’s a stretch. V1 of this knife had issues, which they have made some changes, so if it was the best and you changed it to make it better was it ever the best? It also doesn’t roll off the tongue very nicely for me. 

 

Since the knife did change, I really do think LA Police gear needs to update the photos on their website to reflect these changers. While they do make note in the description of the relocated pocket clip and removal of the lanyard tube, that relies on people reading. Updated and accurate pictures are a must for ecommerce.

 

Conclusion

I have mixed feelings on the LA Police Gear TBFK V2 Knife. Admittedly I have become a bit more of a knife snob in recent times but I still see merit and value here. The overall value here is quite good. I can’t think of another knife that offers S35VN blade steel and G10 in this size for under $50. Even if the heat treat here might be a little soft that’s still a fantastic value. 

 

That said the knife has some issues and its action is only ok and it’s fairly heavy. I wouldn’t be surprised if the profit margins here are less than your more typical $50 knife, and I suppose they have room to do that since they are selling it directly not through other dealers. I think the thumb studs are unnecessary and the branding just isn’t for me but those are not deal killers. 

 

The value here is quite high, and the overall knife is decent. Other than being a bit large and heavy there isn’t anything that would prevent me from carrying this knife daily. So if you’re looking to try out a more premium steel or needing a good knife under $50 to try out a super steel, I can recommend this, but don’t expect it to compare to the fit and finish of knives over the $75+ range with lesser steels. 

Vero Axon Review

Today I have a knife review for you of the Vero Engineering Axon. This is a knife I preordered, and have been waiting since August 2020 for. I have had it for about 2 weeks now and been carrying it most days during that time. This is going to be a bit of a long review so settle in and enjoy.

 

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Who is Vero

Vero Engineering is one of the hot new knife designers of 2020. Joseph Vero has a background as a mechanical engineer and was working in the drone industry in a professional setting. Vero Engineering started as a hobby with some CAD sketches but with it’s growth, it has allowed him and his wife to work on Vero Engineering full time which I think is an accomplishment in itself, especially with everything that happened last year economically. The Axon is his 3rd knife design. All knives are made by Bestech in China, to Vero’s tolerances and standards.

https://veroengineering.com/

 

Packaging & Specs

The knife comes in a zippered taco pouch with padding. You get a Vero branded microfiber cloth that the knife is wrapped in, as well as an identification card with the specifications of your specific knife on it too. The case has a cool velcro embroidered patch with the Axon on it. The background is green which is perfect for me.

 

Specs & Size Comparison

      • Overall Length: 8″
      • Weight: 3.67oz
      • Blade Length: 3.4″
      • Cutting Edge: 3.25″
      • Blade Thickness: 0.135″
      • Blade Material: M390
      • Blade Style: Sheepsfoot
      • Blade Grind: Full Flat
      • Finish: Hand Rubbed/ Hand Belt Satin/ Stonewashed
      • Lock: Titanium Nested Liner Lock w/ Steel Lockbar Insert
      •     Handle: Micarta/ G10/ End Cut Carbon Fiber

The Good

I had high expectations for this knife as the hype was real and it was the most expensive knife to date, that I have purchased. Fit and finish wise it didn’t let me down. I have the black micarta configuration here that’s unoiled which I am really enjoying so far, and the belt satin grind on the blade. Centering was perfect and there is absolutely no blade play which is saying something with how well the action works here.

The grinds on the M390 sheepsfoot blade are all symmetrical and pretty intricate, you have the belt grind on the blade, then the flat is going in a different, contrasting direction, then an upper faeit, again, is ground like the blade. The edges where you’re going to be touching on the spine have a nice chamfer and these get slightly less and less as you go towards the tip. To the point of there are sharp edges on the sheeps foot but no burr. Then the rectangular ‘V-spot” (Which has what the Vero community on Facebook has named it) notches in the blade are bead blasted inside which is a nice touch and some added contrast.

I am a fan of the sheepsfoot blade, it’s slicing machine, everything from opening boxes, breaking down cardboard and more. The blades “belly” is flat in the warrencliff style and gives you a lot of cutting surface and it should be easy to sharpen on a normal stone or other sharpening systems when it’s time to do so, and there is a small sharpening choil to help with that as well. It’s not your best piercing blade shape but the only time I miss that in my EDC use is to open envelopes under the flap and that still works for that task. It’s a nice touch that every knife does have a hidden serial number at the base of blade near where it locks up. There is jimping on the spine of the knife just where you need it to help with deployment and no more.

 

Weight

When I first picked up this knife out of the package the weight was the first thing to hit me. It was lighter than I expected for the size. My scale says 3.67oz and this is thanks to the extensively milled titanium liners, backspacer, and clip. For the size of the blade this is fairly light weight while still feeling solid in your hand. For me it works well.

 

Action

The knife runs on ceramic bearings inside brass races which makes for a super smooth action. This is the factory action, I haven’t taken it apart, added oil, or messed with the pivot tightness at all. There is no grit or break-in needed here. There are multiple deployment methods which I will talk about in a minute. The knife does have a detent ramp, which makes it feel even smoother, while still having a knife that won’t fall open. That said if I flick it hard with my entire arm or shake it violently in my hand, I can get it to come open on its own. Lockup on my knife is about 40% and there is a steel insert on the titanium nested lockbar, so no lock stick concerns.

 

The closing action is great too, it’s so close to being drop shut that I think after a bit more use or a cleaning the first time; it will be. All it takes now is a slight jiggle to drop shut in a controlled manner. The sharpening choil is also sized just right so the blade will drop on your thumbnail which is nice considering how free flowing it is.

 

Deployment Methods

There are multiple deployment methods with the Vero Axon. It’s designed as a front flipper, with the jimping on the spine allowing you to roll your thumb over it to open if you want. You can also use your index finger to kind of light switch it from the front side. I can’t do this myself one handed, but you might have better luck with larger hands or longer fingers. Other options are using what the Vero Facebook group has called the “V-spot”, which are the rectangular reliefs on each side of the blade as a Spydie hole of sorts, it works well and since they are on each side you can easily middle flick it from the underside too.

 

Material choices

Another thing I really like is the wide selection of materials that Vero is offering on most of his knives but especially the Axon. At preorder your you had 3 blade finish options on the M390 Steel (Tumbled, Belt Satin, Hand sanded hand satin), 2 colors of unoiled Micarta, a Red G10, and an end-cut carbon fiber. Since then, he has offered, or teased, that DLC will be an option for the blade, clip and body, brass scales have been offered as well. Bacon Damascus has been talked about for the blade here too. I wouldn’t be surprised if you see Timascus back spacers or clips offered eventually as it’s an option on most of his other designs. With that wide selection of options, it feels more like a custom knife then a production model. It’s also been said that Joseph is going to have scales available for purchase after all the preorders ship too so you can swap out colors. I am thinking I may have to pick up end cut Carbon Fiber or the Red G10.

I like that all of the scale materials options ship unoiled too, so you can let the knife either take on your own patina as you use it or oil it if you prefer. The micarta I have ads a nice grip without being too grippy. Blade steel here of M390 is a great choice for this price range.

 

The Not So Good

One of the areas I think there is room for improvement in future generations of the Axon is access to the nested lockbar when you disengage the blade. It’s a little tight and hard to access, I have to press my thumb pretty hard into the knife and then over to get it to move. If you had larger fingers, I think this would be even more difficult. I think possibly changing the relief angle or even amount on the opposite scale to open that area up ever so slightly would improve the user experience when closing the knife.

 

Screws

One of the reasons the Axon was slightly delayed was the screws. They were changed in the late stages from T6 on the prototype to T8 on the production models to make the design a little more robust for owners who plan on swapping screws. All the screws and the pivot are stainless steel, and the screws are a bright polished finish. On my knife the screws were a little inconsistent in their depth – which is something that isn’t an uncommon problem in the industry on popular designs. I tightened them which helped slightly but I still have one in the rear that sticks up a little higher and isn’t perfectly flush with the scale. This seems to not be a widespread issue based on other owners I have chatted with and it’s pretty minor.

 

Clip

I feel a little bad listing the clip as a not so good on this one because it’s a good clip but let me explain a few small issues I have with it if I am really nitpicking. The clip is mounted internally using hidden hardware and is solid titanium. It is mounted for right hand carry only, and is not reversible. It’s deep carry but not ultra deep carry, about 10mm of the knife will stick out of your pocket. Tension is good, with a few pairs of pants I have tried, my issues comes with the amount of relief that’s in the clip. Depending on the pants you’re wearing you may have to either pry up on the clip slightly or hold your pocket to keep from bunching up when carrying the knife. This is still better than a clip being too loose in my opinion and it’s easy to get used to.

Ergonomics in my hand are decent, this kind of goes back to the clip which is why I am putting it here, but the bottom of the clip where it flares out is a bit of a hot spot in my hand if I grip the knife really tightly in a normal way. If I choke up, or slide back a bit so the flare of the clip fits between my fingers instead of my palm it feels better. I do like how the body slightly tapers as you reach the clip. It helps the knife feel slimmer. 

 

The Ugly

There isn’t a lot to say here about the Axon, but the availability of any of Vero Engineering designs is a bit of a negative. They sell out in 2 to 3 minutes tops, everything from the various knife designs to the prybars, he just can’t keep them in stock. The result is they are hard to get, and even the secondary market is hot if things do pop up. This isn’t new to other knife manufacturers, or things in the EDC world but just a little frustrating if you’re a fan trying to get one.

 

The other thing is the time it took to get my Axon. I ordered in August, and it showed up late January. 5 Months is a long time for a preorder for a production knife, I knew it was going to be a while, but I didn’t quite expect it to be this long, and I was even in the first wave. Not everyone who did that preorder the same day I did has their knives just yet.

 

Conclusion

I am really happy with my purchase of the Vero Axon. I was worried after waiting for months and seeing the continual hype that it wouldn’t live up to what I built up in my head but for me that’s not been the case. I see holding onto this one for quite a while and it being a staple in my EDC rotation.

I think this is about as close as you can come to a “Custom” knife but with high end production level prices. Production location doesn’t matter to me, as long as the quality is there and for me Vero and Bestech achieved that. This is a really nice design that’s been well executed. Should you have the issue Vero Engineering is easy to get a hold of. They have an active social media presence too, with live streams of updates on preorders, upcoming models and more. That’s one thing I always like to see when paying for a higher end EDC item is that the maker is accessible not only for service but I think it helps create a community feel and draws at least me more into the brand.

So, let me know in the comments if you have been able to pick-up any of the Vero Engineering knives and what you think of the Axon.

Full Image Gallery https://imgur.com/a/tvSAd5T

Kizer Noble Knife Review (Ki4550, S35VN, Titanium, Sebastian Irawan)

Today I have a new knife from Kizer on my review table; the Kizer Noble. It was announced at Shotshow 2020 and is a flipper style knife with a 3.5” blade, 3.25” effective cutting edge, titanium scales, urban style EDC knife and it comes in at just 3 ounces. This is a prototype version that Kizer asked if I would be interested in taking a look at and I jumped at the chance. The expected launch date is sometime in July of 2020 but that may be delayed due to the pandemic situation. That said, like all of my other reviews, I will remain impartial and give my true opinions on it, good, not so good, and ugly. 

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The Basics

In case you don’t know who Kizer is, they are a Chinese knife brand making high quality yet affordable knives. They are known for using genuine blade steels and other materials and high quality workmanship at affordable prices. They are one of the origins of high end Chinese knife manufacturing. Kizer is creating new designs and partnering with respected custom knife designers in the knife community too.

 

The designer of this knife is Indonesian Sebastian Irawan, and if you follow him on social media like I do, this knife is very much in his style.  He has worked with Kizer in the past with a few other designs like the Raja, and Kobold for this year. The speed holes not only achieve a reduction in overall weight, but you can tell they are part of the design element and overall aesthetic .

 

The Noble is a flipper design, and it has a very small tab with some jimping at the top of the tab. Despite it’s small size the blade flips well with a light switch style motion. The small tab also helps comfort in the pocket too. I like how Kizer has chosen to label the steel at the very bottom of the tab too keeping the blade cleaner of markings.

 

Stats & Comparison

Some official Stats from Kizer.

  • Overall length came in at 7.875”
  • Blade length is 3.50”
  • Cutting length is 3.25”
  • Blade width is 0.75”
  • Blade thickness is 0.13”
  • Steel is CPM-S35VN
  • Weight is 3.0 oz
  • MSRP is expected around $155 mark
  • Screw sizes on this are T6 and T8 Torx

 

Compared to other knives

The knife is fairly ambidextrous in my left hand. I had no issues flipping it and when closing I was easily able to pull the lock bar back with my thumb to close it. The clip is reverseable to the left side scale. I will add the caveat I am fairly ambidextrous myself so what’s easy for me might not be quite as easy for you.

 

Packaging

Packaging for the Kizer Noble is quite nice. It’s a flat black box and once the inner sleeve is removed you get a bifold flat black box. Inside is a small folder containing all the paperwork (Manual, Warranty, etc.) and a cleaning cloth. The knife is then inside a nylon pouch with a Kizer vinyl patch sewn on. It’s a nice presentation.

 

The Good 

The Noble is made from Grade 5 TC4 Titanium with a smooth, very tumbled finish. All the edges here are nicely chamfered where they should be, no complaints there. Inside the scales have been milled to reduce weight bringing the overall weight down to 3 ounces on my scale. The lockbar has a steel insert and I didn’t find any lock stick.  If you would like to see a takedown and cleaning video, let me know in the comments below. 

The blade is running on ceramic bearings, and the blade itself is made from domestic U.S. Crucible Industries’ CPM S35VN. It’s widely regarded as a fantastic price to performance steel for EDC uses and the stone washed finish helps hide any scratches it picks up during use. I have this steel on other knives and have been happy with its edge retention and relative ease of sharpening. The blade’s grind is a great slicer with its full flat grind style, that transitions to a “mild” Tanto.

Personally, I am not a huge Tanto fan but this one is mild, and I have found it to be quite useful, especially when opening packages where I don’t want to dip a tip too deep into the contents. The blade spine is rounded, so may present a bit of a challenge on your guided angle sharpening systems, but it is uniform so I don’t think it will be too large of an issue. Where the Tanto meets the belly the grind isn’t super uniform side to side but that’s nitpicking.  Overall, it’s a good blade and one that shouldn’t be too hard to sharpen at home if you are comfortable with multi angle blades.

 A few notes about construction here, the screws holding the knife together are all using T6 Torx screws. They do have some blue locktight on them but it’s very weak and they were easy to break free with a quality driver like my Boker Wiha Torx driver set here. The pivot is using a T8 Torx screw.

 Blade centering from the factory is perfect to my eyes. There is no side to side or up and down play, and lockup is a consistent 50% on my flips.

Kizer’s warranty is a limited lifetime warranty against parts and defects. They will usually ship replacement parts to consumers at low or no cost for those that want to do their own repairs. Depending on who you buy from the retailers can also help with repairs if needed. Shipping it back to Kizer in China is an option too but that does add significant time and cost. If you are doing you own knife maintenance, I don’t see a problem with this approach.

 

The Not so Good

Deployment here is quite good, smooth and easy, but like most frame locks it all depends on where your fingers land. This has a narrow width handle that I like when in my pocket, but this also means my fingers sometimes rest on the lock bar, making it harder to deploy. A quick shift of the finger position and all is well. My ZT-0460 has a similar design and problem. Maybe it’s just how I hold a knife. On the Noble at least your fingers have the speed holes to guide your hand for a comfortable deployment. The flipper tab itself is small, but does have jimping, and it stays out of the way; it’s not going to peck at your pocket contents. Overall, it functions well with a light switch style flick. 

Balance point on this knife is about an inch behind the pivot, not ideal but it’s not something I don’t notice to be honest. When I hold the knife in my right hand, I get a bit of a hot spot on my pointer index finger on the bottom of the scales if I really grip tightly, not a huge thing but something to mention. 

 

The Ugly

I like deep carry clips. If a knife or flashlight rides up too high in my pocket, I just don’t end up carrying it as much, and I like to conceal my EDC and I usually find it’s more comfortable too. This brings me to the clip on the Noble. It’s deep carry, and personally I like the design, but at least on this prototype it feels thin and kind of flimsy and it doesn’t make great contact with the scale (*took out “body” because it sounds like “your body” not the knife body) squarely. This hurt pocket retention, it never fell out of my pocket or came close, but it also doesn’t feel quite as secure as I would like. On thinner pants like dress slacks, it could be more of an issue than jeans. The clip is 3D milled clip out of titanium and it feels like it’s just one snag away from snapping.

I spoke to Kizer about this and they are taking it seriously and plan to make some revisions before the knife goes to production. To be fair, I have not had a problem with the clip snagging or anything during daily carry for several weeks. 

 

Conclusion

My use for this knife is an urban EDC and in the office. There isn’t a ton of texture here for rough or tactical use but for me that’s not the market this knife is designed for. For urban EDC it works well. It’s lightweight overall, and the blade is slicy. It’s an excellent package and letter opener, and has stood up to a bit more rigorous use with some cardboard breakdown duty and thick plastic strap cutting with ease. Despite the smaller flipper tab, the knife opens well as long as you don’t have your fingers on the lock bar. (Duh)

Personally, I like the look of it, and I feel like this is one of those designs that is going to be; love it or hate it. The speed holes save weight and the milling around them adds some style. I like that you can see through it as well as the flow-through construction. It’s more second factor cool and that works for me. 

Overall I am a fan of the Kizer Noble, it ticks my boxes for an urban EDC knife, with good materials, good value, and an interesting but functional design. Kizer has said they expect the production version of this knife to ship out to retailers in July of 2020, but production and shipping are difficult right now so that is subject to change. MSRP is expected around the $155 mark according to Kizer. Some of the well-known knife retailers like BladeHQ have it listed already and have an email notification that you can sign up for if you’re interested. If you like what you have seen here, go check it out!

 

Full Image Gallery: https://imgur.com/a/X466PZb

Kizer’s official website for the Noble http://www.tizi-outdoor.com/goods/details/1321

See it at BladeHQ https://www.bladehq.com/item–Kizer-Noble-Frame-Lock-Knife–106912