Military versus AFCK

Oct 12, 1998
I would like to know your opinion on these two knives: the Spyderco Military and the Benchmade AFCK. Which one do you prefer? I would like to hear you opinion, especially on the following categories.
-secure grip
-public acceptance, of the knife if you
pull it out for utility chores.
-overall fit and finish
-speed of deployment
-comfort of carry, especially when carried
inside the waistband

Another question "for fun": Can the Military be considered as the production version of the often hailed Sebenza? You see, all the positive remarks about the Military a little while ago made me very curious.

[This message has been edited by Mr Blonde (edited 22 August 1999).]
I was a Military fan, but not for long. In the opened position, with pressure applied to to the spine, the liner lock can be seen sliding across the knife, giving it some blade play. Which gives me serious concern on this knife. I have tried touching it up thinking maybe it just has a burr or such on it. This makes it stick very solid, but not for long! I have two Military's and would only have one if I had seen this sooner.
My AKCK is the new M2 steel model. I have had this knife now for about 2 months, and not one complaint so far. When I bought mine I did have to look at more than one because some of the blade's did rub the liner upon opening. The lock's are hard at first to unlock, but after a week of opening's, it has become very smooth now.
Of all your catagories... I think the AFCK fit's them all hand's down!


Haven't seen the latest military, but I was burned by the early ones.

In any case, the AFCK is a classic. Hot, new knives come out all the time, but somehow the AFCK finds its way into my pocket (maybe its the ergonomics, great handle, track record, easy opening, strength for a folder, etc...). Also, I tested one on a dummy and it beat my other folders hands down.
I have both and I like both.

I really like the big size of the Military. The edge holding on the 440V blade is fantastic. I don't like the fact that it does not have liners but that does make the knife quite lite and I'll be the first to admit that I am not a heavy user.

The AFCK (both mini and full size) are classic tactical knives. They are well designed and well constructed.

No experience with Military other than by reputation.

I have carried the same AFCK since they were first introduced. That would I think make it about 5 years. It has been in my pocket virtually every day. It is the best knife I have ever carried, with the possible exception of the new McHenry & Williams Axis lock that I have been carrying for the last two weeks.

I have no complaints with the AFCK. Mine locks up like a bank vault, no blade wobble, and doesn't touch the liners or the spacer. It is so smooth I can almost open it by mind control.

I am aware that there are occasional problems with the AFCK, it is just that mine doesn't have any of them.

I am sure that the military is an equally good knife. I would assume that the best out-of-the-box military is better than the worst out-of-the-box AFCK, and visa versa.

I think you are going to have to play with them side by side to decide which you want, or more likely which you want first.

Maybe I need a Military too.


There's a long string on rec.knives about this just now, you might want to check that also.

The bottom line for me is, there's no clear winner among the 2 knives, but enough differences that personal opinion might sway you to one knife or the other.

For example, for me the AFCK handle feels both more secure and more comfortable. For whatever reason, the Military's handle just doesn't work as well for me. Many people really like the Military handle, however. Likewise, many people cite the Military's thinness as making it very carryable. For me, the greater length and width of the Military's handle make it much less carryable than the AFCK. So you'll need to handle both knives and figure this one out for yourself.

As far as blades go, both blade shapes have things going for them. I like the AFCK's more traditional blade shape better, because I like the belly up front. On the other hand, I like the Military's flat grind. On the other other hand, the AFCK's forward rake makes up for blade geometry to some extent. The Military's 440V may beat the AFCK's ATS-34, but the AFCK is less expensive. There's also an M-2 AFCK, and that one is competitive with 440V.

I have heard of locking problems with both knives -- not surprising, since they're both liner locks. On the other hand, both knives have well-done liner locks, and my AFCK at least is rock solid. Bottom line on the locks: both knives have a reputation for well-done locks, but failures are not unknown, so test the lock of the knife you buy.

Either knife should both thrust and slash well for defensive use. If you don't have a strong preference of one over the other based on your knife fighting style, it's doubtful one will be a huge advantage over the other. The biggest deciding factor should probably be ergonomics, and you're the only one who can decide which one has better ergonomics for you.

Neither knife is particularly civilian friendly, just based on size alone.

And no, I don't think either knife can even remotely be equated to a "production Sebenza", both are pretty different from the Sebenza is a number of important ways. The Sebenza is a production knife anyway!

Anyway, bottom line: You'll need to handle both knives, they both have a lot going for them, and both have legions of loyal fans. Don't believe anyone who says one is an obvious choice over the other.


PS My choice in the 4"-bladed folder is the Axis.
I want to begin by saying that the first run of Militaries was plagued by many problems of both design and construction, and should not, IMO, have been sold. The new model incorporates many improvements and is a differet beast entirely. I was a skeptic, my impressions of Spyderco very hurt by the first Militaries; I now carry one and consider it among the finest large production folders, and feel that Spyderco shows the best customer-support and willingness to improve of any large production company.

I'm not clear on how it might be considered a "production Sebenza," except that both have an excellent lock, great service departments, and fanatic fan following. The Sebenza already is a production knife, however, and teh Military has some substantial advantages: better blade geometry, faster deployment, and 1/3 the price. to the Sebenza's credit, it boasts the best fit-and-finish you may ever see in a production knife.


Getting to the question of Military versus AFCK, I would like to do a detailed comparison and then cover the points you raised:

Beginning with the basics, the Military has a better blade steel, hands down. Benchmade's ATS-34 is very hard and brittle, which gives good edge-retention but makes chipping a concern in many materials and makes sharpening difficult and unpleasant. 440V has at least te same edge-retention while remaining softer, tougher, and much easier to sharpen. The M-2 version of the AFCK is a big improvement, tougher than 440V and maybe a bit easier to sharpen, but the exposed edge can rust and it requires that the rest of the blade have Benchmade's BT2 coating. if you hate coatings, as I do, you will find this one especially bad as it wears easily and isn't even very attractive when new. I like the M-2 version but would much rather keep a stainless and have the performance - 440V.

The blade geometry of the Military can't be beat, as it has a full flat grind all the way to its 5/32" spine. The AFCK is also a great cutter, with a fairly long saber-grind on 1/8" stock. Both knives have very narrow points (fairly fragile, especially in ATS-34), good, deep bellies, and flat grinds. In short, both are excellent shapes for fine work, general utility, slashes, and thrusts. Both are moderately strong - not thick, beefy knives, but an excellent blend of strength and cutting performance. I feel the Military has a slight cutting advantage with its full grind, but the AFCK is more attractive with a more complex grind and has a better blade-to-handle ratio. AFCKs can be had plain, fully serrated (rare, coated only and no M-2) or combo. Militaries come plain or fully serrated, though the latter has nearly 1" of plain near the tip.

The giant blade hole on the Military is odd at first, but I've come to like it as I grow familiar. I think the "normal" hole on the AFCK is quite sufficient, though, unless you are wearing gloves. For fast deployment, both are in a tip-down position that allows "drop" opening by the hole, which I feel is faster than any method except eprhaps Emerson's "wave." Unfortunately, the pronounced grooved "hump" on the Military snags when drawn from some pockets. I chamfered mine and the problem went away, but I have to give the AFCK the nod in this area. Also an interesting note is that the open butt-end of the Military can snag the pocket between the scales when replacing the knife, a very minor concern.

The AFCK carries slightly lower than the AFCK, but its clip interferes some with the grip, cutting close to the finger-groove (or actually across it, in the Mini). AFCKs have black clips, but Militaries soon will, too. Both clips screw into metal liners. I think there is no clear winner here.

The lock on both knives are quite secure (mine pass spine-whacks with such reliability that I no longer use precaustions when demonstrating, to show my confidence), though I have read of folks who could release either with the proper grip. I can't - folks all have different hands. I'd say try both and see what your hands do. The AFCK has titanium liners, which will wear faster on the lock than steel. I don't feel this is a problem - I've carried mine four years with almost no shift in position when locked open. Ti definitely galls and sticks at first, but this stops with a few weeks' wear.The Military also has an eccentric pivot, so even if it wears, it can be adjusted to correct this. I feel the Military has the better lock, but both are quite good unless you can unlock them with your tightest grip.

The handle of the Military employs only a partial liner on one side, recessed in thick six-weave G-10. I find no handle flex and feel this is very strong and allows a slimmer knife, even with the thicker blade stock. This might make a more comfortable carry (though the mIlitary has a larger profile), but I still prefer the symmetry and thicker grip of the AFCK, which has twin Ti liners supporting G-10 scales. The Military handle shape supports a great choked-up grip, but lacks a substantial guard (the hump acts in a similar way to some degree). The Military also has a pinky-hook to keep the knife from being pulled forward from the hand, which the AFCK lacks (though its deep finger-groove compensates some). The AFCK has one of the best integral guards on any folder, but its area for choking up is too small, too shallow, and offers nothing to keep yur hands off the blade. Both are curved for a pronounced saber-grip, which some people dislike.

The construction of the Military is where it really stands out. Screws come in from both sides to thread into a steel stop-pin or steel inserts in its spacer (allowing it to be taken apart from either side first). The liner is perfectly recessed in a milled area that has a deeper milled slot to allow the lock to "overtravel" as the detent ball rides against the blade. It emplys incredibly thin washers to ensure smooth action with no lateral play. The AFCK has a similar threaded stop-pin (except on very old models), but uses a very flimsy Delrin spacer, and has steel inserts in the clip-side scale to hold its screw threads (just threads in G-10 on old models). The AFCK deals with lock overtravel by using very thick washers. These are compressible, so there is always slight lateral blade-play, even on well-tuned AFCKs. In short, I feel the AFCK is a fine way to build a high-tech knife that can be disassembled, but the Military's approach is even better, and makes fewer concessions to ease of production in favor of tiny performance gains. I will say that it is easier to disassemble, modify, and re-assemble an AFCK.

OK, that's a novel. Let's summarize the points you brought up:

Utility- Both are excellent. Military may have a better blade shape, better steel unless you choose M-2 and then it gets close, though you have the hassles of rust and coatings. I feel the Military's great choked-up grip is a big utility advantage.

Defense- Again, slight nod to the Military's blade shape. The AFCK deploys more reliably, though, and has a substantial guard to keep the hand from slipping in a committed thrust. To their credit, Spyderco did not design the Military as a defensive weapon. I think the AFCK has the advantage here, but personally I'll take a factory-sharp Civilian for this job.

Secure grip- The AFCK has a great guard, lousy choke-up area. The Military has less guard, a great choil, and a pinky-hook. Both want a saber-grip.

Lock- Both very secure and reliable for my hands. Your mileage may vary. Military less affected by wear.

Public acceptance - Neither is very PC. Don't open either fast or one-handed in public. I see no advantage to one or the other.

Overall fit & finish - I have had to send back several Benchmades and my first Military for factory defects. I feel that the QC on Benchmades is downright awful (though customer service/repair is good). On the Spydercos, I don't have enough of a sampling of US-made models to judge, but there are clearly some problems (I feel Japanese-made Spydercos show reliably excellent fit-and-finish). Suffice to say that neither has the QC it should, but when "right" I feel the Military and AFCK have similar fit-and-finish. Not excellent (like the clean, hand-ground lines and invisbly set pins of a steel Spyderco), but of a uniform standard for modern production folders that involve extensive machining or laser-cutting.

Speed of deployment - already covered. The AFCK is as fast as anything out there, the Military is likewise when the hump doesn't snag.

Comfort of carry - AFCK is slightly smaller, somewhat thicker. Miltary is slim and BIG. Both are very large folders, which some find uncomfortable. I believe the AFCK is a tad heavier.

OK, is this the longest post ever? One more thing to add. I prefer the AFCK, but to me it's like the competition between the YF-22 and YF-23; both are head-and-shoulders above everything else out there. I feel the AFCK is worlds prettier (something I avoided above) and, as mentioned, has a cleaner draw. I'm attempting to ignore the bias from the extensive modifications I've made to my AFCK (thick, contoured scales, less obtrusive clip, full-length spacer...) and just talk about the "stock" model. I cannot, however, erase the bias I have from carrying this knife for over four years.

I have owned both.

I carried the Military far more. The slimmer handle, bigger opening hole, smoother action, flat groud blade and 440V steel were the deciding factor for me.

Again, find them both and play with them.

Marion David Poff aka Eye, one can msg me at If I fail to check back with this thread and you want some info, email me.

Check out my review of the Kasper AFCK, thougths on the AFCK and interview of Bob Kasper.

I`ve had this debate with a clerk at a local cutlery shop, and I think we`ve decided it comes down to brand loyalty. He`s a hardcore Benchmade guy and he carries the AFCK. But, in the final analysis, feature for feature, we`ve concluded it`s pretty much a draw. You aren`t going to go wrong with either. I think it comes down to eye appeal and what the owner thinks a knife ought to look like.

Personally, I like the look and feel of the Military, and I like the 440v. But that`s just me.....
Glad this came up. I purchased an AFCK in M-2 about 2 months ago, and have carried it heavily. Feels good, is strong, tough and sharp. From the factory it had huge chips in the edge,the edge hits the spacer when closed (may need to send it back, just learned that this is not supposed to happen) was mediocher sharp, and the BT2 finish was worn off the high spots of the blade. The blade takes and holds an edge, and the finish wears as you look at it. The liner is migrating a little, but is still in the middle third of the tang. For knife drills the handle is comfortable and secure. The knife got wickedly sharp when I backbeveled it with a 204. I really expected to prefer it over the Military.

I handled my first Military last Wednesday. It was BIG, but light. It didn't feel as secure in my hand, but it felt more dextrous. Just looking at it screamed "use me", the 440V, the lack of a pretty coating, the beefiness of the handle, the lock up was phenominal, and the flat grind just looked, well, useful. The blade that the counter help took from the store room to give me had chips in the edge exactly where my AFCK had them. I bought it, and the price was almost the same as my AFCK, which was less than $100. At first the blade had some reliability problems when it was flicked, but they seem to be almost gone. The lock locks up solidly on the first 1/3 of the tang.

They are both big, and my coworkers think I am nutz. Neither is very accepted, but both are comfortable IWB (more than in the pocket) The AFCK is my primary defensive knife, which is carried on my left side and can be used for everyday cutting. The Military is my everyday cutting knife, carried on my right. that can be used for defense. I really think both knives are excellent all around folders. I really can't pick a winner, because they both do lotsa stuff really well, and are outstanding in different areas, with few real faults.

I wish I could give a more clear cut preference, but both of these knives fill separate niches in my life to a tee. I couldn't pick a clear winner without alot of perameters. I also handled my first Sebenza, and learned a little about how they stand up in to other knives in terms of strength (destructive testing). I really would not want one of those. I mean, a knife is a knife, and I wouldn't turn one down if offered, but I wouldn't go out and spend that much money on one either. I like users.

Great replies! You have given me exactly the kind of info I was curious about.Regarding the Sebenza comparison. I thought about that because of the little 'research' I did on the Spyderco forum. Many were about as fanatically about their military as many Sebenza fans, and both frequently stress the reliable locks, great utility value and that the knife seems to scream for being (ab?)used. So that's why I wondered if the military could be considered as a "cheaper" Sebenza. Maybe I should drop that subject for now and try to stay on the subject of AFCK/Military comparison. I am looking forward to more opinions.

Perhaps to offer more clarity, my intended use for a military would be: a utility knife first and defensive tool next(I prefer to carry a fixed blade for that). But I want it to be a solid performer if I have to use it for self defense. Right now, I lean towards a plain edged Military, as I think it would serve me better for allround utility tasks(including occasional food preparation), and may scare bystanders less. Again, I am looking forward to more opinions.

[This message has been edited by Mr Blonde (edited 22 August 1999).]
I used my BM for utility until I got my Military. Right now I think of my Military as my do-all knife, including defense. I still carry my BM as a defensive blade, now I have 2 4" folders that I can carry on duty, and my Native is my off duty knife.