Sunday, November 24, 2013

Review: Elk Ridge Er-196 [Fixed Blade Knife]

Elk Ridge Er-196 Product Link
Someone on the budget light forums suggested Elk Ridge knives to me as a good budget brand of fixed blade knives. I'm still looking for that perfect camping knife which gives me the durability and functionality I am looking for, but doesn't look too aggressive or tactical. I guess you could say I'm looking for an 'old man' knife. So, I want a classic looking hunting knife that's high quality and also cheap. It's a small playing field with these criteria.


My review sample was purchased from Amazon for about 21 bucks with Prime, and it arrived in the usual 2 days just like expected. I also see that it has come down a few bucks since I purchased mine--even better.

Product Description

Price: About $20 Online

This model is a classic looking fixed blade, full tang hunting knife with the typical hollow ground, drop point blade and leather sheath. It also features wood handles with brass rivets and a brass lanyard hole.

Official Specs (From Amazon)

  • 8.75-Inch Overall
  • 440 Stainless Steel 4" Blade with Etched Elk
  • Black Wood Handle
  • Includes Leather Sheath
Elk Ridge Er-196 Fixed Blade Knife - Next To Sheath
Elk Ridge Er-196 Fixed Blade Knife - Split View Out Of Sheath
Elk Ridge Er-196 Fixed Blade Knife - Split View In Sheath
Elk Ridge Er-196 Fixed Blade Knife - Closeup Of Logo

First Impressions


It looked clean and classy looking in the Internet, so I was pleased to see that unboxing it produced pretty much the same knife I was hoping for. It's on the heavy side, but when they say full tang, they mean it. There's no skimping on steel here. The handles look beautiful but really scrutinizing them I noticed that they aren't even close to being cut even. But again, it's something I really had to look hard to notice. The sheath is also beautiful but also a little rough around the edges. Other than that, my first impression is that this may turn out to be a gem since so far I have not found anything that would affect the functionality.

Elk Ridge Er-196 Fixed Blade Knife - Uneven Scales
Here you can see the uneven scales. They look great--they're just uneven

Blade


The blade is made of budget Chinese 440 steel with a full tang construction. The Chinese are getting better at heat treating their steel, but buying a knife like this is still playing the lottery. My sample didn't come with a very good edge, but other than that, I have a good feeling about this knife because the blade shows a lot of attention to detail. The grind looks really good and it's polished better than any cheap knife I own.

Elk Ridge Er-196 Fixed Blade Knife - Closeup Of Blade 1

Elk Ridge Er-196 Fixed Blade Knife - Closeup Of Blade 2

Elk Ridge Er-196 Fixed Blade Knife - Closeup Of Blade 3

Elk Ridge Er-196 Fixed Blade Knife - Closeup Of Blade 4

Elk Ridge Er-196 Fixed Blade Knife - Closeup Of Blade 5


Elk Ridge Er-196 Fixed Blade Knife - Closeup Of Blade 6

Elk Ridge Er-196 Fixed Blade Knife - Closeup Of Blade 7


Handle


Are the scales real wood? Beats me. They could be, but I'm a little skeptical at this price point. Whatever it is, it looks nice and has a really polished, classy finish. The polished brass rivets and lanyard insert are a nice touch. With a polished handle over a polished blade attached by polished rivets, this knife is not going to give you the same amount of grip as more exotic materials like G10 or Micarta. Other than that, the grip is very ergonomic and fits well in my hand.

Elk Ridge Er-196 Fixed Blade Knife - Closeup Of Handle 1

Elk Ridge Er-196 Fixed Blade Knife - Closeup Of Handle 2

Elk Ridge Er-196 Fixed Blade Knife - Closeup Of Handle 3

Elk Ridge Er-196 Fixed Blade Knife - Closeup Of Handle 4

Elk Ridge Er-196 Fixed Blade Knife - Closeup Of Handle 5

Elk Ridge Er-196 Fixed Blade Knife - Closeup Of Handle 6

Elk Ridge Er-196 Fixed Blade Knife - Closeup Of Handle 7

Sheath


It's leather, and seems decently well constructed. It has a few small fit and finish flaws, but nothing major. The sewing seems solid and so does the snap and belt loop rivets. It has an Elk Ridge logo etched onto the sheath but it looks a little cheap. At this price point, you're lucky to have the leather sheath to begin with, so all things considered I am pleased with the sheath. It's very low profile and fits the knife nice and snug.

Elk Ridge Er-196 Fixed Blade Knife - Closeup Of Sheath 1
Fairly good sewing job on sheath

Elk Ridge Er-196 Fixed Blade Knife - Closeup Of Sheath 2
Seems sturdy but the finish looks a little cheap

Elk Ridge Er-196 Fixed Blade Knife - Closeup Of Sheath 3

Elk Ridge Er-196 Fixed Blade Knife - Closeup Of Sheath 4
The rivets look good


Elk Ridge Er-196 Fixed Blade Knife - Closeup Of Sheath 6
The snap is solid and holds the knife snug in the sheath

Elk Ridge Er-196 Fixed Blade Knife - Closeup Of Sheath 7

Elk Ridge Er-196 Fixed Blade Knife - Closeup Of Sheath 8
The etching isn't that great. They almost should've just left it off--the sheath would look better

Elk Ridge Er-196 Fixed Blade Knife - Closeup Of Sheath 9
Like I said, it does seem sturdy

Usability


We are out of season, so I haven't had a chance to use it in the field. But I'm definitely familiar with this type of knife, and I expect it to excel as a camp knife. This type of grind and blade shape do well at basic food prep, slicing chores like ropes and lines, and a rugged, full tang model like this one should be able to fill in for most other tasks you would need a knife for. The belt loop does look a little dicey, but the rivets look strong and the snap seems to hold the knife securely. It's very compact for how much knife it is, though again, it's a little on the heavy side at 7 ounces with sheath.

Elk Ridge Er-196 Fixed Blade Knife - Next To Ruler
Elk Ridge Er-196 Fixed Blade Knife - On Scale In Sheath

Elk Ridge Er-196 Fixed Blade Knife - On Scale Out Of Sheath


Conclusions


This is now the main contender to be strapped to my waist the next camping trip I go on. The fit and finish on pretty much everything has small issues, but I have enough confidence that the blade is well constructed to take it out into the field with me. I really like the look and style of this knife, and if it works as good as it looks, it'll be a great beater that will serve me for years. And if the heat treat fails and the knife snaps like a brittle stick, you can be certain I will have a backup, usually my Ka-Bar BK 14, Mora or both. I think that for 20 bucks, it's definitely worth taking a chance on.

I am definitely open to purchasing another Elk Ridge knife, and probably will. If it wasn't for the little fit and finish issues, this would almost look like a $100 knife. But for what it cost, it is already exceeding my expectations. Also, I haven't done any modding yet but I'm looking for something to try, and I think this knife may be a good candidate for a custom sheath or paracord wrap for the handle. We'll see how it goes.

From Top: Buck 480, Elk Ridge 196, Gerber Freeman, Hultafors GK, Ka-Bar Becker BK14
From Top: Buck 480, Elk Ridge 196, Gerber Freeman, Hultafors GK, Ka-Bar Becker BK14 

From top: Elk Ridge 196, Spyderco Native, Sunwayman D40A
From top: Elk Ridge 196, Spyderco Native, Sunwayman D40A

From Top: Sunwayman M20C, Elk Ridge 196, SanRenMu GB-763
From Top: Sunwayman M20C, Elk Ridge 196, SanRenMu GB-763


2 comments:

  1. It has been 2 years since your review of the Elk Ridge knife, any additional notes or conclusions?

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    Replies
    1. It's a decent knife, and I carry it once in a while. It's good for those situations where I don't want something too tactical or scary looking. But when I'm out in the woods with my serious face on, then I'm usually carrying my TOPS or something a little more rugged. It's a good budget fixed blade, but I wouldn't trust my life to it, so it's something I'm more likely to carry for a weekend at the lake.

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