Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Review: MTECH MT-20-35BK [Fixed Blade Knife]

Buying cheap knives is kind of like playing the lottery; you could end up with something fantastic, or you could lose a few bucks. And just like a lottery ticket, you don't know if it's a winner until you're holding it in your hands. Mtech makes some pretty appealing looking budget knives. I was intrigued by the look of the  MT-20-35BK model, so I went ahead and threw one in on an existing Amazon order. For 9 dollars, what did I have to lose?

MTECH MT-20-35BK Fixed Blade Knife: Product Link
MTECH MT-20-35BK Fixed Blade Knife: Product Link

Product Description


This is a typical hunting / camp style knife with a drop point blade and a full tang. The scales are slick plastic--probably not anyone's first choice of material but they are removable. The knife extends past the handle a little bit, forming a pommel with a lanyard hole. The blade itself is coated black. It also comes with a standard-looking nylon sheath.

Official Specs (From Amazon)

  • 8" OVERALL WITH A NYLON SHEATH
  • 3.75" BLACK DROP POINT BLADE
  • 3.3MM THICKNESS FULL TANG BLADE
  • BLACK PLASTIC HANDLE
  • 16MM THICKNESS HANDLE WITH LANYARD
MTECH MT-20-35BK Fixed Blade Knife: With EDC Friends
Shown Above with a couple EDC friends

From Top: Tops Fieldcraft, Elk Ridge ER196, Mora Companion, MTech MT20-35BK, Ka-Bar Becker BK14 'Eskabar'
From Top: Tops Fieldcraft, Elk Ridge ER196, Mora Companion, MTech MT20-35BK, Ka-Bar Becker BK14 'Eskabar'



First Impressions


As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, this Mtech knife is something I threw in with a larger order just for giggles. I wasn't really expecting much when I unboxed this knife, so imagine my surprise when I opened the box and saw what looks like a solid, usable knife. 

It's very compact for a knife with a blade this size. But that means the handle is a little on the small side for someone with large-ish hands like mine. It's hard for me to get a full grip on the handle, but that's OK because this thing is much more compact than I thought it would be. 

Just like everyone else, I noticed that the scales, while sturdy-looking, are a slick plastic with no grip value. This thing is definitely ripe for some custom scales or maybe a paracord wrap if I ever figure out how to do it.

MTECH MT-20-35BK Fixed Blade Knife: Product View 1

MTECH MT-20-35BK Fixed Blade Knife: Product View 2
MTECH MT-20-35BK Fixed Blade Knife: Product View 3

MTECH MT-20-35BK Fixed Blade Knife: Product View 4

MTECH MT-20-35BK Fixed Blade Knife: Product View 5

MTECH MT-20-35BK Fixed Blade Knife: Product View 6
MTECH MT-20-35BK Fixed Blade Knife: Logo Closeup 1MTECH MT-20-35BK Fixed Blade Knife: Logo Closeup 2

MTECH MT-20-35BK Fixed Blade Knife: Product View 7


Build Quality


This knife has a surprising build quality for a 9 dollar knife that also includes a sheath. The steel is cheap Chinese 440 but that's OK because I'm not paying a premium for it. This kind of steel is softer and needs to be sharpened more often, but it's a decent steel for cutlery.

The quality of the handles is acceptable even though they are smooth. The machining is good--jimping, everything. Overall the knife is well done, including the sheath. The sheath uses a cheaper nylon, but seems well made. Especially considering the price.

Fit and Finish


My sample came completely dull. Probably the dullest blade I've ever received on a knife--a real pet peeve of mine. It's a good thing that I'm almost semi-proficient at sharpening them. There were also lots of little scratches on the handle. The scales suck, so it's no extra loss to have some scratches on them.

Other than that, the fit and finish on the blade itself is above average. The coating is uniform, and there's to scratches, tool marks or other obvious artifacts from the machining process. Well, except for some roughness on the jimping. I'm not sure I see the point of the blade coating because the steel is stainless, but it's uniform at least. The blade is dull, but in this case I won't subtract that from the fit and finish because there's no imperfections in the blade which normally come with a dull edge. It's not ground wrong--it's just not sharp.

The sheath is good. It's cut, stitched, and fits the knife perfectly. Even though the nylon is a little cheap, the fit and finish on the sheath is above average.

MTECH MT-20-35BK Fixed Blade Knife: Jimping CloseupMTECH MT-20-35BK Fixed Blade Knife: Sheath Closeup




Blade


The blade would be the reason to buy this knife, and it appears to be well made. The MT-20-35BK has a 440 stainless hollow ground blade with a drop point. It's a very common blade shape for a reason: it works well for camping / survival / bushcraft tasks. Blade thickness is good, jimping is good--again, it seems well made.

However, the blade on mine came almost completely dull.

MTECH MT-20-35BK Fixed Blade Knife: Blade Closeup 1

MTECH MT-20-35BK Fixed Blade Knife: Blade Closeup 2

MTECH MT-20-35BK Fixed Blade Knife: Blade Tip Closeup


Handle


I knew that I would intensely dislike the plastic scales on this knife, and I do. I can't claim I didn't know about the issue, though, because other reviews pointed it out. The plastic is smooth and scratches easily, but at least seems fairly durable. It's not a pleasure to grip, but the handle is functional. The handle is also a little small for my hands, which I forgive because the knife is so compact.

One of the reviews mentioned taking the scales off and putting on a paracord wrap, and that's probably a good idea.

MTECH MT-20-35BK Fixed Blade Knife: Handle Closeup 1

MTECH MT-20-35BK Fixed Blade Knife: Handle Closeup 2

MTECH MT-20-35BK Fixed Blade Knife: Handle Closeup 3
MTECH MT-20-35BK Fixed Blade Knife: Handle Closeup 4

Sheath


The sheath is of the typical cheap nylon variety. It's decently put together and seems sturdy enough. I've never been a huge fan of nylon sheaths, though at least they are very light. This one is definitely above average for its price point. The construction is good, and it's actually a good fit, unlike most of the sheaths out there.

MTECH MT-20-35BK Fixed Blade Knife: Sheath Closeup 1
It has a loop to hang securely on your belt

MTECH MT-20-35BK Fixed Blade Knife: Sheath Closeup 2

MTECH MT-20-35BK Fixed Blade Knife: Sheath Closeup 3


Usability


The blade geometry and handle shape make this an ideal camp knife as long as you don't mind the short handle. The hollow ground blade with the drop point is a versatile configuration, and works well for slicing tasks like food prep, cord cutting, and in a pinch you can even use the drop point to remove a splinter.

As far as heavy camp / bushcraft tasks, you take your chances with this type of steel. In my experience, Chinese factories tend to be hit and miss on the steel heat treatments, but at least the ones making OEM products for American companies tend to have better quality control practices. So there is a fair chance that this knife could perform in a survival role. Either way I don't hesitate to use it as a backup.

MTECH MT-20-35BK Fixed Blade Knife: In Hand 1

MTECH MT-20-35BK Fixed Blade Knife: In Hand 2


Conclusions


This knife seems to be a really good value given that it's under 10 bucks. What's funny is that there are actually quite a few fixed blade knives at this price point, and I still think it's a good value. The handle is a little small, but it's a lot of knife for how small it is, and I still think it's a good value.

My review sample will most likely go into my truck's emergency kit. Once I sharpen it, of course. It would probably also make a good starter knife, and I would also expect it to be a good beater and a decent backup. It should also be decent for backpacking because it's light for a full tang knife, and the sheath is light as well.


Gallery



MTECH MT-20-35BK Fixed Blade Knife: Next To Ruler

MTECH MT-20-35BK Fixed Blade Knife: On Scale





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