Not all of our minions are, “knife guys” but we universally carry knives. Not because we plan on cutting throats throughout the day (it’s a given that we will) but because they come in so damn handy. We use them daily, and here’s an option for your consideration. Mad Duo
A Knife to Last – Review of the 9052, AFO II Tanto
Benchmade. It’s name in the edged-tool industry known by all, is kicking ass. Their folders are top notch and some would say the toughest you can buy. The “blade boom” is here, and new blade crafters are pushing the boundaries of design and craftsmanship to new levels. Benchmade seems to be right on track and willing to answer the challenge and lead the innovation in blade craft from the front.
I am a fan of edged tools, since my personal and professional lives have become dependent on them. I have a small collection of modestly-priced knives I really cherish, and a small collection of every day carry (EDC) folders and fixed blades that I keep on the dresser drawer. I have broken and lost as many as I own. My personal mindset on EDC may be different than yours, so I’ll focus on providing the down and dirty constants of the AFO2 that will apply to most folks who feel naked without a pocket clipped edged tool.
The AFO2 is an updated/upgraded model of the AFO 1, which was a fine tool in itself. But the AFO2 has greatly improved on the original. The biggest feature and draw to this pig sticker is that it’s an auto folder. Designed for armed forces and emergency response personnel, it’s available in Benchmade’s “Black line” of tools (which may not be legal to carry in your state).
The firing mechanism is a large button on the top left side of the handle which you press with your thumb. On the backside or spine and adjacent to the button is a sliding safety with 30% more strength than the original AFO1 safety. The blade for the AFO2 comes in a tanto or drop point, stainless or matte black finish. The platform for this snappy mechanism is an anodized aluminum handle with excellent shape and feel. The forward finger guard has been moved further out with a ridged grip. The pommel features an apex-shaped steel glass breaker for emergency situations, utility purposes, self-defense, and so on. The open back design of the handle allows for easier cleaning and faster drying. I really like how the steel retention clip is adjustable to one of four different right or left, blade-down or blade-up positions with the removal of three torx screws.
Those are the specs and features, so here’s my practical review.
Late last July the family and I set off on our annual weeklong camping trip in the White Mountains of Arizona near White River. Being a father of four, including 7 and 11 year old boys, and uncle to a handful of nature-deficient nephews and nieces, it seems that this trip is always a wonderful opportunity to ingrain the interest of exploring the wilderness. On these trips, tools and shelters are usually fashioned from wood, stone, foliage, and cordage; but damn it’s nice to have something with aerospace-industry quality in the form of a durable folder.
Lots of whittling, breaking, chopping and meat cutting took place and my AFO2 did great. I got great use out of this knife and found myself turning to my fixed blades less often. The most profound and heartstopping discovery about this folder was on day four when my 11 year old decided to conduct his own durability test. If you put anything sharp in this kid’s hands it going to be thrown (FYI he practices blade throwing often, which is my fault). I saw him line up on a stacked stump with my AFO2 ready to fly, I yelled “Stop!” just as he released it. A haunting image of my beloved Spyderco folder shattering against a tree nine years earlier came to mind. So as the AFO2 bounced off the stump and into the mud, I calmly walked over and picked it up to see what broke.
Everything was fine. Boom, Benchmade wanted a review and my son gave ’em one. I’ve broken folders, fixed blades, tomahawks, E-tools, and many other makeshift throwing tools. And of all the things that I would recommend not throwing, it would be a folder. In fact if you throw your 220.00 folder at a tree you are an idiot. If the folding mechanism, lock or handle doesn’t break your tip certainly will, and throwing will void your warranty. But the AFO2 survived being thrown.
Later I set off with my son to test what I consider the most appealing feature of a folder: durability. The AFO2 is an auto folder with a spring loaded mechanism and slide lock, which means there are a lot of moving parts. Just like a gun, the more moving parts the more susceptible a mechanism is to failure. We decided to test its throw-ability while evaluating its durability. My son does ten throw sessions when picking up an unfamiliar blade. He will try three main grips during those ten throws to get the feel of the blade’s weight, then release.
The grips he uses are handshake, no flip, and blade pinch grip. This really doesn’t matter as I am not trying to teach anyone how to throw a knife. What’s important is that there is a lot of trial and error when trying to stick a blade that is not advertised for that purpose, which means a lot of concussive force and risk of damage. Over a period of thirty days my son Gabriel and I threw the AFO2 at a 20” pine stump over dirt ground around 150 times collectively. I constantly checked for any creep in the safety, loosening of torx screws, slip between grip halves and found not one thing loose or damaged. The only wear that I could detect was scratches of the blade finish. This folder is absolutely top notch. It’s the most durable folder I’ve ever owned and has become my primary EDC folder.
I’ve learned many lessons with folders through the years. 1st lesson is you get what you pay for. Cheap folders can be dangerous. The locking mechanisms should do as advertised and I will limit the use of folders that seem to have any creep in the locking mechanism just due to the threat of failure on my fingers. The AFO2 safety is solid with no creep even after some pretty hard use. 2nd lesson is to carry something with a dependable retention clip, since your folder is in its best position clipped unless you really enjoy having to dig in your pocket. I’ve left folders on bases all over this country during my tracking classes. 3rd lesson, don’t throw your folder. 4th A sharp knife is a safe knife. 5th The best knife is the one you have on you, and a folder is the most non-invasive method of carrying and implementing an edged tool that can save your life or someone else’s.
As they say at Benchmade- “Make it Cool, Make it Solid, Make it Happen, and definitely make it Benchmade!”
Here you can find more information on the 9052.
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Emergency: Activate firefly, deploy green (or brown) star cluster, get your wank sock out of your ruck and stand by ’til we come get you.
About the author: One of our duskiest and insightful of minions, Mad Duo Freddy is a spiritual warrior philosopher who has been involved in tracking for over 20 years. He’s a Yaqui Indian and former Marine who grew up in the desert of Arizona. He currently runs the tracking portion of USMC Combat Hunter East at Camp Lejeune. He was an infantry squad leader with 1/4 Marines before completing the Scout Sniper indoc program/Scout Sniper School, eventually working as Staff NCOIC, 1ST Marine MTU (where he was awarded a Gold Star for his Marine Corps Achievement Medal in lieu of second award for excellence in innovative training techniques). He was later medically separated from the Marine Corps because he got broke (combat injuries sustained in OIF2). He’s the author of Index Tracking: Essential Guide to Trailing Man and Beast, and the guy who spearheaded the development of GLINT (Green Laser Index Night Tracking) and the Battlefield Tactical Acuity Course/BTAC (both of these are taught through his private company, Greenside Training. Though Greenside specializes in the interdiction of highly evasive individuals who rely on terrain exploitation to harass or evade our forces, it does not (as many other schools do) focus on the TTPs necessary for running a tracking operation. Greenside creates trackers who see more. Greenside offers classes for military, L.E., ESAR and civilian enthusiasts alike, of if you’re interested you should check them out on the web or Facebook.