I don't own either of the Airweights but have handled the smaller one. These knives are *very* sturdy and will not loosen up on you. Micarta is much stronger than FRN, for example, and will not weaken over time. Also, the pivot pin is bigger than those on most folders and, therefore, should remain secure with no "play."
Depending on your uses, the "weakest" part may in fact be the ATS-34 edge treated to 60-61 RC. I cannot recall its "edge geometry" but AG Russell does tend to like his sharp things very sharp -- and therefore possibly with a very acute edge. If so, it will likely perform very well on most materials but may be prone to "microchipping" on harder substances.
The blade stock on the smaller is 1/8" and the bigger is fully 3/16" -- the thickest stock I am aware of on ANY folder. So they are designed, at that level, for "hard use." But the Micarta handles, while equally sturdy, are also given a very smooth rather than rough (e.g., bead blasted) finish. I suspect it may become slippery when wet, sweaty, or oily. That, and the lack of any small guard, recessed index finger cut-out, or even traction grooves, makes for a very clean and elegant, but somewhat impractical design, IMO.
On the other hand, AG Russell also has the very best warranty I know of -- truly "no questions asked." You can buy it and try it out -- you can't know if it is the "right one" for you until you give it a go. If it doesn't work for you, AGR will take it back with no quarrel, just for the price of shipping.
I'm not encouraging you to "take advantage" or their warranty for a temporary look-see. But it does indicate their belief in their products -- and it's that level of service that keeps customers coming back to AGR.
My .02 -- happy holidays,
PS: Where are the Airweights listed for under $100? I've not seen them below $199 or thereabouts.
[This message has been edited by storyville (edited 12-28-2000).]