Pat Cascio’s Product Review: Benchmade’s H&K Entourage

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I’ve known many of the folks at Benchmade Knives for more than 20 years. It is a credit to the company that there isn’t a very big turnover in those folks that I’ve worked with over the years. At some companies it seems like the turnover is like a revolving door. I’ve been friends with Benchmade’s own Les d’Asis for more than 20 years now, and he’s one of the nicest guys around. One thing I’ve often commented about with Les is that he isn’t a suit and tie type of guy, like me. Last time I put my suit on was when my oldest graduated college– 12 or 13 years ago.

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I’ve toured the new Benchmade plant several times, and I’m well overdue for another tour; they have grown. They would like to grow faster, however, you just can’t walk in the door and get hired. They require highly skilled personnel to operate the CNC machines, assemble the knives, inspect and especially design their knives. They do very few collaborations with custom knife makers . Most knives are designed in-house.

Benchmade has gone through several PR/marketing people over the years, and at one time they even used an outside PR firm, which didn’t work out. For the past couple of years, I’ve been dealing with Derrick Lau, who is their PR guy, and he puts up with all of us “worthless” writers always hounding him for samples for articles. When a knife is available, Lau gets a sample right out to me. Other times, I hound him to death for a particular knife that isn’t in production just yet, and he puts up with me, somehow!

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Benchmade produces H&K knives, under license. This is important, because you will see many H&K products and knives on the market that are not licensed by the gun maker, and they are of poor quality and more often than not made some place in China. As soon as this is discovered and papers get served, the store front address closes down, only to open some place else. It is a never-ending problem with pirated products made in China! If you want a genuine, licensed H&K knife, then seek them out at Benchmade.

The updated H&K Entrourage that I tested is an automatic opening folder. I’m blessed that I live in an enlightened state that allows one to carry automatic opening knives. We have Hollywood to “thank” for the term “switchblade” knives, and I’m not even sure what that term actually means. Of course, Hollywood has demonized automatic opening knives, where the bad guys use them most of the time in the movies. Look, an automatic opening knife, in my humble opinion, doesn’t open any faster than many manually opening folders or assisted-opening folders. I can usually draw a manually opening folding knife from my pocket and fling the blade open faster than I can do the same with an automatic opening folder, because I have to take an extra moment to find the button to push to open the blade. An automatic opening folder is just a bit more convenient for many people, but it is no more “deadly” than any other folding knife.

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A quick look at the Entourage finds a 3.74-inch blade made out of D2 tool steel with a Tanto-style blade. It can also be had with a drop point blade. The blade is also blackened with a Ti-Ni finish, subdued! The knife only weighs 4.64 ounces, and closed it is only 4.70 inches, or opened it’s 8.44 inches. Rockwell hardness on the blade is 60-62, which is about par for D2 tool steel knife blades. D2 tool is hard to work with, but when the blade grind is perfect it will hold an edge an incredibly long time. There is also a sliding safety on the top of the handle that locks the blade in the closed position, so there are no worries about it accidentally opening in your pocket. Plus, once the button is pushed to open the blade for use, you can slide the safety back to the “safe” position to give the blade that added safety of keeping it locked open.

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The anodized black aluminum handle scales now have an insert made out of tough G10 material for an even better grip on the knife, plus grooves milled into the handle scales, once again giving you a better hold on the knife under all sorts of conditions.

There are friction grooves on the rear and back of the handle scales. This is just another feature that keeps the knife secure in your hand, and it also adds a great feel when using the knife in the reverse hold, too. We have a pocket/clothing clip that can be switched from one side to the other, and the blade is carried tip-up. I used to prefer one method of carry over the other– tip-up or tip-down carry . Any more, it really doesn’t matter to me. One is just as fast/good as the other. Lastly, there is a lanyard hole in the back of the handle, for attaching a lanyard loop of 550 para cord. This is a good idea if working over water!

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You can also have the Entourage with a partially serrated blade, and this is outstanding when cutting rope or opening cardboard boxes. It really cuts right though these materials, and if that’s not enough, you can have your Entourage blade out of 440 stainless steel. As of late, Benchmade is allowing customers to, well, customize knives from the factory. You can even get some engraving done, again, at the factory.

Many may not realize that some of the automatic folding knives that Benchmade manufactures are authorized for military use. They have an NSN (National Stock Number) and are sold through the PX on military bases. It takes quite a bit to earn that NSN, believe it or not. It isn’t just given to any product.

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I did like the slightly over-sized button that you press to release/close the blade. Some auto opening folders have a very small button that is recessed too deeply into the handle scales, making it harder to get the blade to open. Plus, Benchmade auto-opening folders all have a very stout coil spring that really flings that blade open. Some companies have a very anemic spring that oftentimes doesn’t have enough power to always open the blade all the way, which is not a good thing, eh?

As to be expected, the H&K Entourage came without any blemishes. It was perfect in all respect. The grind lines were perfect, finish was perfect, and everything was perfect. I expect no less from Benchmade products. To be sure, quite often, Benchmade knives are out-of-stock. They have a difficult time keeping up with supply and demand. It has been this way for as long as I can remember. Remember though, Benchmade is a little bit picky about the folks they employ; they want the best and wait for the best, even if that means some products are in short supply!

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I opened and closed the Entourage hundreds and hundreds of times, and the blade never once failed to fully open. There was no hesitation at all. The tension on the pivot pin was just perfectly adjusted from the factory, too. I carried the knife for several weeks in my right front pocket with the pocket/clothing clip. The knife stayed put, which is something that doesn’t always happen. Some clips are too loose, knives come out, and you lose them.

The H&K was used for all manner of cutting chores around my small homestead, and it sailed through everything I put the blade to. Additionally, the blade didn’t dull in the least. As I stated, D2 holds an edge a good long time. However, it is a little harder to re-sharpen but well worth the effort. D2 isn’t a “stainless” steel, thus the Ti-Ni black coating on the blade to protect it from rusting; however, D2 doesn’t rust very easily to start with.

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Benchmade has my number when it comes to blade length in a folding knife. I like a blade between 3.5 inches to 4.0 inches, and the 3.75-inch blade seems perfect for my tastes. The Entourage hit the mark with the 3.74-inch blade length.

There wasn’t anything I didn’t like about the Entourage in the least. It hit all my hot buttons in a folding knife, plus it is an auto-opening folder. What’s not to like here? Full retail is $200. Yeah, it’s a bit steep, but you are getting Benchmade quality and their limited lifetime warranty, too. When you carry a Benchmade, you are also wearing/carrying something of a badge of honor, too.

– Senior Product Review Editor, Pat Cascio

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