I love value in a true every day carry folding knife, one that will get used hard but still stand up to the rigors of what a folding knife should be, and the new Kershaw Barstow folder is worth a close look.
Kershaw Knives has been around since 1974. It is right here, in my home state of Oregon, not too far from Portland but just far enough from the maddening crowds. Kershaw never ceases to amaze me with all the new and very different knife designs they come out with each year. To be sure, and to remain competitive in the cutlery field, they have some of their knives made overseas. I have no problem with that, so long as the quality is there and the value is exceptional. I don’t especially enjoy buying products made in communist countries, but we live in a global economy, like it or not, so we all must overlook things like this.
Exceptional Value and Nice Blade Features
The Kershaw Barstow is made in mainland China. But it is an exceptional value, considering all the features this little folder has to offer. The 3-inch long spear point blade is plenty tough, and it has the look of being a double-edge blade though it is not; it is only sharpened on one side. The blade’s steel is 8Cr13MoV. This is an economy stainless steel, but it holds an edge a decent amount of time and is actually easy to re-sharpen. Kershaw applies their BlackWash coating for an “already broken-in” look, and it helps hide any scratches on the blade from use, which is nice! The black glass-filed handle material is also plenty tough with an arrow type directional pattern, for a sure grip.
Pocket Clip and Speedsafe Assisted-Opening
There is a deep-carry pocket/clothing clip that is easily changed from one side of the handle to the other. By deep-carry, we mean just that; the entire knife disappears into your pants pocket with only the clip showing, yet it is still easy to draw from your pocket. The clip is also BlackWashed, along with the liner lock and spacers for a very subdued look. For quick opening, the Barstow is set up with the Kershaw Speedsafe assisted-opening. When you press on the flipper, the blade opens fast, very fast. In the blink of an eye, and the blade locks open solidly, with no wiggle!
Lightweight and Good Control
The Barstow only weighs 3.4 ounces. Its closed length is four inches and open length is seven inches, as already mentioned, and the blade is three inches. I personally like a blade on my folders a little bit longer, and I find that 3.75 inches works best for me. However, for an everyday carry folder that will see a lot of utility use, a shorter blade doesn’t bother me, and a shorter blade affords more controllability, too. Quite often, I can be found carrying two folding knives, one in either front pocket. The knife in the left front pocket is reserved for utility work, and the knife in the other pocket is reserved for serious self-defense use, if it comes down to that sort of thing.
The overall appearance of the Barstow reminds me of a rifle bayonet design, but keep in mind that this is an EDC folder and it’s meant for serious cutting chores. The blade actually has a “blood groove” right down the middle of the blade on either flat side. This is a very nice touch. And, the flipper has two sides; one actually is the flipper itself for opening the blade, and the other side acts as a cross guard, so you fingers don’t slide-up on the blade.
Month Long Carry During Testing
I carried the Barstow for the better part of a month, in my left front cargo pants pocket. I actually forgot it was there once, and it got washed with no damage to the knife. The only time I was reminded that the Barstow was in my pocket was when I’d reach for the car/house keys that are carried in the left front pocket, and it nestled nicely deep in that pocket with the deep-carry pocket clip.
Yeoman’s Work Done to Test
When it came to testing the Barstow, it did yeoman’s service around the kitchen, cutting up all manner of veggies and, of course, during meals. Yes, I do test many knives at the kitchen table. Of course, there is the almost daily UPS, FedEx, and USPS package that arrive at our digs, and the Barstow was used to open the cardboard boxes, and some especially super-tough heavy-duty boxes that contain ammunition. These are a challenge to open at times. My German Shepherds love to tear cardboard boxes apart, and I need to get boxes opened and in their possession ASAP or else they will steal them off the kitchen table on me.
Living in rural Oregon, there is always a need for a good, sharp knife on our small homestead, and the uses may consist of cutting rope or the tough task of slicing down some blackberry vines, and if you’ve ever tried to cleanly slice through this fibrous material you know what I’m talking about. While the Barstow came hair-popping sharp, alas, the short 3-inch blade wouldn’t always completely slice through one of the heavier blackberry vines, but it came close most of the time. It’s not the fault of the knife but rather the shorter blade.
People of Varied Opinions Loved It
As always, whenever I get some new knives in to test, I take them to the local gun shop and get varied opinions on them. One of the owners is very critical of many knife designs, and several times I suggested that he try his hand at designing knives if he thought he could do it better. He has had no comment! However, he did love standing there and using the Speedsafe assisted-opening flipper, and he continuously opened and closed the blade numerous times. The blade never once failed to fully open and lock open. Everyone who had a chance to examine the Barstow really loved it. It seems like it is just the right size for EDC for many folks. This is excellent!
For Use Everyday
Remember that an EDC folder is meant to be used, well everyday. While we all love an expensive folder, or even a custom-made folding knife, when we get them we tend to not use them for fear of doing some damage to the knife or scratching up the blade. So they sit at home or, worse yet, stay in your pants pocket without ever getting used. I think we all need to remember that a knife is our oldest tool, and a tool needs to be used if it is of any use to us.
A Good Deal
The Kershaw Barstow has a full retail of $39.99, which is one good deal, and if you shop around the ‘net, you can find them deeply discounted. So, there are no fears about damaging an expensive knife that needs to be used daily. And, at the retail price, they are a great gift for anyone on your shopping list for a birthday, Christmas, or “just because” list. Then, every time they use that knife they’ll be thinking of you and your generous and thoughtful gift.
I’m sure most of our readers love a deal, and I’m a deal shopper. If something isn’t priced “right” or isn’t up to my quality expectations, I’m not interested in it. The Kershaw Barstow is one good deal, for the price. Check one out at your nearest big box or gun shop. I think you’ll really like it.
It’s not always possible but I try to avoid buying any product made in China regardless of quality or value. I would be willing to pay more for a product made in Taiwan and wish knife manufacturers would source their offshore manufacturing from there.
I used to buy CRKT, Kershaw etc. until I bought a U.S. made Buck knife for around $30. Now I pretty much only buy Buck knives. My EDC is the Vantage series. The quality is high and for the same price as something made in China – a no brainer.
Thanks for another great evaluation Pat. I always enjoy your articles but please don’t suggest that I should “overlook” the country of origin for this product. I know, I know, decent products can and sometimes do come from China. But I have a “gut” feeling to contend with, and “made in China” just plain does not give me a good “gut” feeling. Yes I’ve purchased a few quality items from China, but the junk I’ve purchased far surpasses the good stuff, and often the junk ends up in the dumpster at the road.
I have a Kershaw that was made in the USA and I love it, that being said, sorry that your articles on products made in China are always attacked but I have to agree with the commenters above. It’s time we stopped pouring our money into a communist country and helping them build a war-machine that we will one day have to fight. Maybe if enough people make it known that we don’t want products that are made over there, these companies will come back to the U.S. and give American workers the jobs making the products we want to buy. With the new tax laws they need to come home and quit using slave labor to build there knives or any other product. Trekker Out
I have variety of knives from multiple manufacturers, some USA, some China. I particurly like my assisted opening Kershaw’s.
Again-Made in China. Sorry but this is just a cheap knife, using cheap materials. My suggestion is save for a USA made knife. Above commentor pointed out that Buck knives are made in USA and at very reasonable prices. If you want top quality save for a Benchmade, also made here in Oregon.
Note that while the majority of Buck knives are made in America, about 13% of their line is still made in China. (sourced from an interview with Chuck Buck in 2011)