The SpyderCo Para 3: It’s a Wicked Little Devil!

If you are even remotely familiar with knives, Spyderco is probably not an unfamiliar name for you. For a very long time, the folks at Spyderco have been offering a staggering variety of knives, with new designs seeming to come out monthly (or maybe weekly?). But not only new designs; a variety of steels and finishes are normal.

When Spyderco introduces a new design, they often introduce limited runs and sprint runs that offer a variety of blade steels, handle materials, and different finishes and colors. There truly is a knife for every taste, as well as every price point. There is commonly a less expensive version of each design, as well as versions for those with fatter wallets (hey, some of us don’t get a large allowance). Yes, if you want, you can spend many hundreds of dollars on high-end Spyderco
knives. But if you’re a working man with a limited budget, they also have something just for you.

When you buy a Spyderco, you get a solid design made from solid materials (even on their less expensive models, the materials are still what I consider to be quite good).

One of my favorite Spyderco designs is the Para 3. It’s been out for a few years but has endured due to its popularity and solid design, and it doesn’t appear to be in danger of going away any time soon. I have two Para 3 knives and am considering ordering a third, which for me, is saying quite a bit; if I have more than one of a given knife model, that means I LOVE it!

So what’s so great about the Spyderco Para 3?

Come along, I’ll show you.

Spyderco Para 3 folding knife
The Para 3 Lightweight with SpyderEdge and FRN handle on top. Below is the Limited Run version with Coyote Brown G-10.

First, the size is great! It tucks away in the pocket and is unobtrusive until it’s needed, with an overall length of 7.24 inches when open. The blade length is 2.95 inches, according to the Spyderco website, which is plenty of length for the vast majority of everyday cutting tasks that most of us run into. That blade is Full Flat Ground (FFG) and .145 inches thick, which makes it thin enough to be scary sharp, and yet has enough thickness to not snap in half during heavy cutting chores.

Beyond the utility aspect, this knife seems to be useful for self-defense purposes, should we be forced into the terrible circumstance of having to defend life and limb. Although the blade is just under three inches long, it is fairly wide, which gives it good slicing and stabbing ability.

Spyderco Para 3 forward grip.
The forward grip is enhanced by jumping on the thumb ramp and the choil.

Next, the handle of the Para 3 deserves special mention because of its comfort; it really locks into my hand for a secure, comfortable grip. Spyderco really excelled in the design department here! Whether in standard or reverse grip, this knife just feels great in the hand. Two handle materials are available: G-10 and FRN (Fiberglass Reinforced Nylon).

Spyderco Para 3 reverse grip.
Reverse grip is comfortable and effective for defense.

The G-10 version weighs 3.4 ounces, which is certainly not a heavy knife. It offers a solid, rigid handle with a very grippy surface. It is available in a few different colors, among them black and Coyote Brown. I have the CB version, which was a limited run in S35VN steel (plain blade). There are stainless steel liners nested into the handle, which offer structural support for the Compression Lock.

Spyderco Para 3 Compression Lock.
This shows the open backed design, as well as the Compression Lock, which works very well. It’s a solid lock that disengaged easily.
Spyderco Para 3 folding knives.
The Para 3 makes for a small, light package.

The other option, the FRN, weighs 30% less than the G-10 version at 2.4 ounces. Although the FRN version is less expensive (I hesitate to use the term “cheaper”, because that makes the knife sound inferior, which it certainly is not), the handle on this model feels better to me than the G-10 version. Maybe it’s the texturing that Spyderco uses, or some other quality, but it just feels right to me. The FRN version also has stainless steel inserts in the handle to give support for the locking mechanism.

There is a thumb ramp with jimping, which helps to lock the handle into one’s grip. There is a choil for the index finger, also with jimping. The jimping, which are tiny grooves cut into the metal blade material, really go a long way in improving one’s purchase on the knife by making it almost impossible for the skin to slide on the metal.

The standard Para 3s these days are listed as using CTS BD1N steel, which has high Chromium and high Carbon, so they hold an edge well and resist corrosion well. Personally, I can’t tell the difference between S35VN and CTS BD1N steels in the edge holding department, they both work beautifully.

Sypderco Para 3 folder
The LW uses CTS BD1N steel, the bottom knife uses S35VN. Both steels perform very well and it’s hard to tell the difference.

My G-10 Para 3 has a plain edge blade, which works very nicely. My FRN version has the serrated SpyderEdge, which is a wicked cutting machine. Almost every knife manufacturer has serrated versions of their blades, but I have to say that my favorite serrations are made by Spyderco, they seem to have perfected the art.

Which is better? Both have their attributes. I’m slightly partial to serrations because they cut like there’s no tomorrow and go through everything you can throw at them, even when they’re dull. I’d really like to see Spyderco offer a half serrated, half plain-edge blade like Emerson does. And serrations can be stropped with a leather shoe lace to keep them fresh as long as you don’t allow them to get too dull. That leather lace can keep serrations going strong for years.

The Para 3 opens quickly and easily with the patented Spyderco Hole near the spine of the blade. The knife carries well with the standard pocket clip, which offers four positions of carry; either side, tip up or tip down. The FRN version uses a wire clip, which has worked well so far for me, I have no complaints. Finally, a lanyard hole adorns the butt of the handle for those wishing to utilize such a thing.

At the time of this writing, the FRN Lightweight versions with black blade can be had for around $112. The FRN Lightweight with uncoated blade is a little over $90. My G-10 version Limited Edition was around $150-ish. As you can see, there are several price points for everyone, depending on what you want. A good source for these knives is New Graham Knives.

Spyderco Para 3 folding knives with Glock 43x - EDC.
Para 3s with the Glock 43X make a well rounded package.

The Spyderco Para 3 offers a small, light cutting tool that is extremely comfortable to hold and very effective. All in a small enough package that you won’t really notice you’re carrying until you need it. And it does it affordably!

Spyderco: read more.

CQB - Close Quarters Battle Gif

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Jim Davis

Jim Davis served in the PA Dept. of Corrections for 16 ½ years as a corrections officer in the State Correctional Institute at Graterford and later at SCI Phoenix. He served on the Corrections Emergency Response Team (CERT), several of those years as a sniper, and also the Fire Emergency Response Team (FERT). For 25 years, he was a professional instructor, teaching topics including Defensive Tactics, Riot Control and Tactical Operations, Immediate Responder, and cognitive programs as an adjunct instructor at the DOC Training Academy. He was then promoted to the title of corrections counselor, where he ran a caseload and facilitated cognitive therapy classes to inmates. His total service time was close to 29 years. He was involved in many violent encounters on duty, including incidents of fatalities.


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