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2000 Emerson Commander

Oct 26, 2000
I've debated on buying a Commander for some time. The design appealed to me, but the complaints of spotty QC, and the cost deterred me. Finally, I went ahead and bought one. I got it from www.onestopknifeshop.com, and Mike inspected it before shipping to ensure proper lockup. The liner locks up a little left of center when opened with the thumbdisc, and dead center when snapped open, or forcefully "Waved".

The Commander has a 3.75" recurved blade, a 5" handle, and 8.75" OAL. The handles are black G-10 (also avail. w/green G-10) with double titanium liners. The blade is ATS-34, and available w/ or w/o Black-T coating. It comes in plain or combo edge. Mine is the Black-T plain edge. Here's a picture:
My first impression was that this was one solid hunk of a knife. The width and thickness of the blade had convinced me that it would be blade-heavy, but it balances on the forward part of the finger groove. The handles fit my medium-sized hands very well (better than my AFCK, even!), and the grip is comfortable and secure.
The blade is double ground, but the edge is single ground at about 30 degrees. It took a little experimenting to find the best way to sharpen it, but I've had good luck with a Spyderco Sharpmaker 204 at 40 degrees (included). The blade has to be tilted to adjust for the edge bevel, and care must be taken to turn the hand in (while allowing the wrist to turn outward) to keep the edge properly aligned on the stone while accounting for the recurve. Had good results sharpening freehand with the Spyderco stones, and will probably stick with that in the future.

Fit and finish left a little to be desired. The liners are very rough, with lots of tooling marks, plus they look like they were finished with 50 grit sandpaper. The liners and G-10 scales had sharp edges at the rear of the finger cutout, which have since been sanded. The screws in the scales are not fully or evenly countersunk. They all protrude. One more than the others. Even though the knife has dual ball detents the blade almost drops out of the handle when held upside down. I'm not really concerned about it opening in my pocket, since it's carried tip-up in the right-hand pocket with the spine of the blade against the seam.

I've been comparing the Commander to the BM AFCK, since that has been my daily carry for the last few years. I performed several cutting tests, on things that I commonly use a knife for, materials that were available at work and around the house, and some just for fun. Since the AFCK is familiar to many, if not most, of the people who are likely to read this, I think listing some of the results are appropiate. Since these are both "tactical" knives, I tested them against, clothing, too. These are very different blade/edge designs so the results varied greatly, and there was no clear "winner".

Cloth (free hanging cotton shirt):
The AFCK penetrates cleanly, thrusts leave small holes in the exact shape as the blade profile. When drawn down through the material, it cut straight through with almost no resistance.
The Commander made large jagged holes, though sometimes it did not even penetrate the free-hanging shirts. When drawn down through the material, it cut aggressively, though not nearly as well as the AFCK.

Denim (jacket):
Again, the AFCK thrust effortlessly through the material. When slashing, it made small perfect slices, usually about 1 1/2" long.
Thrusting with the Commander was successful, though the blade had to be angled down a bit (keep in mind the jacket is free-hanging). Slashing was a whole 'nother story. The Commander made long clean cuts several inches across followed by a long gash that resulted from consciously forcing the blade in at the end of the slash and ripping with the tip, rather than continuing the arc, and allowing the blade to come free. I was afraid to try this with the AFCK, for fear of breaking the tip.

Cardboard (about 1/16" thick):
The AFCK sliced through the thin cardboard with almost no resistance. The Commander's thick edge buckles the edge of the cardboard unless it is hit at the proper angle. It also had no trouble slicing through the thin material.

Cardboard (corrugated, about 3/16"):
AFCK again slices well, though requiring a little more effort. The Commander performed even better. I started the cuts at the rear 1" of the blade with the blade perpindicular to the cardboard to get started, and let the blade go in to the rear of the recurve, then brought the blade down to about 45 degrees (relation to the cb). It was like putting a zipper in the cardboard, it cut so easily.

Hose (heavy-duty air/water lines with hard rubber outer shell, and neoprene lining):
This stuff is hard to cut. The AFCK needed 2-3 tries to get through it, and substantial effort. The rubber seemed to grab the thin blade, keeping it from cutting all the way through. The thicker blade of the Commander parted the rubber more effectively, and allowed the edge to cut through in one try. I repeated this about 6-7 times with both knives, and am convinced that it is the thicker blade of the Commander that allows this, (though the recurve probably helps at the end of the cut) because the AFCK has a much finer edge.

Leather (welding gloves):
Thrusting cuts with the AFCK were again effortless, with the blade penetrating completely through both sides of the glove. Slashes left a line in the leather, but did not penetrate.
The Commander successfully thrust through the gloves also, but with much greater effort, and care to angle the tip downward. It did slash more effectively, going through one side of the glove, and leaving a cut about 2" in length.

Plastic straps (chopping free-hanging straps):
Just fooling around. The straps are about 1/2" wide, and maye 1/16" thick. Like big zip ties, and very similar to what we called "POW ties" in the military.
The AFCK took a small chunk out of the side, but never successfully cut one in half (I've done it maybe 5 times out of a hundred tries with a Spyderco Goddard). The Commander lops them off every time.

Notebook paper (free hanging):
Both knives halved the paper, though the AFCK makes a cleaner, and much straighter cut. The Commander has to be held at just the right angle (I suppose because of the single ground edge) to keep the paper from buckling.

Notebook paper (free falling):
I can slice free falling paper with the AFCK every time. I haven't been able to do it at all with the Commander-looks like I hit it with a 2x4.

I used the Commander to destroy a broken shovel handle, too. It cut through the hardened wood with little difficulty, and I split it a couple of times by torquing the blade (I was kind of testing the lock-wearing welding gloves). Would never try this with the thinner AFCK, but the Commander didn't seem to mind.

Note: I did not test edge retention. This was not an extensive test. It is not even an overall comparison of these knives. I did this out of curiosity, and to see which one better suited the tasks that I personally use a knife for, and thought I would post the results. The AFCK is less expensive, and IMO, a much better deal. The Commander is an awesome design that needs some fine-tuning. I love both these knives, but since the Commander is still new, will probably carry it for a while, and then rotate between the two.

I have now sharpened the Commander similar to the method described by Joe Talmadge in the Axis lock thread (polished edge at the rear for push-cuts, roughed up a little over the recurve for more aggressive cutting), and look forward to seeing how this affects its cutting ability.

Man, I love playing with my knives

[This message has been edited by OwenM (edited 11-22-2000).]

[This message has been edited by OwenM (edited 11-22-2000).]
Thanks for the review.

I must admit that I really like the ingenuity behind the "wave" opening.

I'm always on the lookout on E-bay for a Commander. However, I don't think I want to pay full price of $170+ (basic model) on a knife with problems.

There are far too many other well-made knives for that price including: Microtech, Benchmade Axis, and Spyderco (does this company ever make flawed knives?

I hope Ernest Emerson -- a gifted knifesmith/designer -- works out some of the kinks in QC. In addition, I hope he realizes that some of us like torx screws, and allen bolts over ugly slotted screws from a hardware store.

Never-the-less, I'll buy one if I can find a good one on E-bay as I think it makes a great, quick-draw folder.

[This message has been edited by Full Tang Clan (edited 11-25-2000).]
Hey, FTC. I wouldn't really call it a review, because I didn't do any formal tests, establish any standards, blah, blah. Just comments, really.

I agree totally that there are too many other well-made knives for that price (and much less). I love the Commander's design, but it's quality is not up to Benchmade's standards. It needs more attention to detail, better liners, and a bigger stop pin, too.
I fully agree on the quality issue. I've had 3 Emerson's now, and all 3 have been major disappointments, especially considering the price you pay for them.
I just can't believe Emerson would be able to sell another Commander if some other company was able to use the "wave" feature..

Originally posted by OwenM:
Hey, FTC. I wouldn't really call it a review, because I didn't do any formal tests, establish any standards, blah, blah. Just comments, really.

I agree totally that there are too many other well-made knives for that price (and much less). I love the Commander's design, but it's quality is not up to Benchmade's standards. It needs more attention to detail, better liners, and a bigger stop pin, too.

I just played with my first two. I would have seriously thought of buying one but the price ($250) and a lock up problem. The blades on both were tight enough that you really had to concentrate to get the blade to lock open when drawing them from your pocket, alot of backward pressure and a slight circle at the end, or else the blade would not lock. When locked by wave,thumb, and snap the blade had significant lateral play. May just scare me away from emersons, and I am really rethinking the SOFCK.

Man, you guys need to shop around more for decent prices. Earlier this week I placed an order for an Emerson 2000 CommanderBTS from www.botachtactical.com, and the price? $149! 36 hours later I had this blade in my hands. Botach Tactical is aware of spotty Emerson quality control issues, and assured me that my Commander would be cream of the crop. This Commander of mine is silky smooth, nearly silent in operation, and very positive locking. I've been carrying a very reliable Cold Steel GunsiteII for over a year now,and it has been a total pleasure, but it will now be retired in favor of my new Commander for daily carry. This was the 4th time I've purchased items from Botach Tactical, and their service has always been way beyond my wildest expectations. Botach has more Commanders in stock. Check 'em out.
if you guys search the individual knives for sale forums you can pick up some great deals on emerson commanders.....i bought my first one from knives plus in amarillo texas for 150.00 shipped and i thought i had gotten a great deal as the commander was newly on the market and a very hot item in great demand and no one could keep them in stock...fortunately this black plain edge commander is perfect in not only fit and finish but also must have been made when the qc was better....about a year later when the fad factor wore off i was searching the forums and found another one just like it for 100.00 dollars with shipping included and it was supposed to be nib....well i received this commmander from the seller and it was just as described....i lucked out on this one and it too is perfect....i agree that emerson knives has some spotty quality control problems as i have been able to examine about 50 or so with my local dealer and the qc is spotty at best....his last shipment was so varied he has stopped carrying the emerson line and has something like three folders left and wont order any more....emerson is a gifted knife maker and designer but his qc needs to improve if he is going to continue to put out only production knives....i really like his products but i am now wary until i see and handle that particular piece i am interested in after what my local dealer has shown me.....also....maybe its a fluke but i think benchmade's qc is a bit off also as i have seen some real shoddy work recently from samples that several dealers have shown me...liners/handles that were not ground flush....pocket clips that were entirely misfitted or didnt even have contact between the handle slab and the clip....grind lines on the blade that looked like i had tried to make the knife and i cant grind worth a hoot...terrible edge geometry right from the box...really poor lock up of liner locks...excessive lateral blade play that is not subjective but quite obvious....dont get me wrong i am not overly picky just observant and poor workmanship and poor qc is not going to get me or other knife enthusiasts to buy poorly made or qc'd products...just my inflated .02 cents.....feverdoc

[This message has been edited by feverdoc (edited 12-02-2000).]