Review: Improved Spyderco Military C36GSE

Oct 3, 1998
Here is a review of a sample of one of the newer Spydie Military models. These are the knives advertised in the December 1998 issue of Blade magazine and the January 1999 (yikes!
) issue of Tactical Knives magazine. Hope you all enjoy!


Having had an opportunity to road test a Military model (ATS-34 bladed) from the original production run about a couple of years ago, I discovered this to be a great heavy-duty large folder. After the company made improvements to this model over the brief amount of time that the knife has been on the market, I was eager to road test the knife again. I was especially looking forward to revisiting the Military because of the CPM 440V steel. I've had experience with about every steel used on production knives, and this was looking forward to experiencing 440V.

Here are my observations and highlights of the C36GSE:


· CPM 440V is the toughest steel I have used to date.
· Fully serrated blade - nice and very sharp out of the box.
· The curve of the cutting edge makes the knife an excellent slicing tool.
· Notched thumb rest and choil make it easy to choke up on the blade for precise control when needed. This grip is very secure.
· Laser etching on the blade itself provides an attractive alternative to the standard location on the tang.
· Another aspect of the blade I found favorable was the short (1" long) plain edge section at the very tip of the blade. This short plain edge makes it convenient to do some precise cutting (opening boxes and other slicing and nipping jobs). So, this fully serrated blade can perform some tasks that a plain edge blade can tackle. Makes the knife more handy - kudos on not really fully serrating the blade!


· G-10 handle is of nice texture. Not too harsh like other manufacturer's G-10. There is enough texturing to provide a secure grip. The perfect texture!
· Love the clip's attachment points to the handle - leaves the pivot free for adjustment.
· The clip's curvature is unique. Matches that of the handle. I like that extra touch!
· The curves of the handle accommodate the user's hand very nicely.
· Torx assembly screws on both sides of the handle - strengthens the handle for sure.
· Lock release recess and blade hole are larger than normal for good purchase, even with gloves. Hence, this will be a good knife for those who wear gloves. No need to stop and take the gloves off to open/close the blade. I used am able to wear my work gloves and open/close the blade as if I'm not wearing any gloves.
· Notching on the lock bar, a nice touch. To give a sure purchase with or without gloves.
· Minimal spacer - promotes ease of cleaning/drying.
· Overall shape of the handle conforms to the user's hand. No hand movement forward or backward.


The Military is very easy to carry around - a large folding knife without the extra weight or bulk as with other folders on the market. The knife was carried clipped to the top of the right front pants pocket and inside the waistband. In either location, there was no discomfort.

To tell you the truth, I had fun with the cutting tests! The CPM 440V steel withstood everything I threw at it. With all I did to it, I managed to slow the edge down a bit but not seriously dull it. The factory edge is very easy to maintain. When the edge started to dull slightly (thus, requiring more pressure applied to the blade to make the cut), I touched it up on a steel. After a few minutes of steeling, the serrations zipped through anything easily! After a couple of weeks of use, the edge could no longer get by with just simply a few swipes on the steel. Therefore, the blade was sharpened with a DMT Diafold serration hone in coarse grit. The serrations turned out nice and sharp and were ready to go. I suspect sharpening the fully serrated blade took about 10 minutes. I finished the sharpening process by swiping the blade on the steel. Here is what I tackled with the C36GSE:

· 1" I.D. PVC pipe - 5/32" thick: The thickest PVC pipe I have. Handled this task with aplomb. Made 10 cuts.

· 1 3/16" I.D. PVC pipe - 1/16" thick: Absolutely no match for the C36GSE. Went through this pipe as if cutting through paper. Made 1 cut.

· 1 7/32" I.D. cardboard tubing - 5/32" thick: A little tougher than sawing through the PVC pipe, but the serrations powered through.

· Garden hose - 5/8" I.D.: made numerous repeated cuts. Hardly slowed the edge down! This hose was one that was stiff from being exposed to the elements.

· Pruning - One of my favorite tasks to test out fully serrated knives. This knife is definitely a performer in this area. The belly of the blade accentuates the force applied to sever cleanly through branches up to 3/8" diameter.

· Plastic molding - 2 7/16" wide. The belly of the blade allowed the C36GSE to cleanly saw through the material. The cleanliness of the cut is comparable to that of a hacksaw. Made 2 cuts. The belly of the blade made it easy to slice across the flat section.

· Cardboard sheets - I did manage to cut A LOT of cardboard with this knife. The thickest sheets measuring ¼" thick. Boy, this was certainly no match for the C36. Went through the stuff like, well, a hot knife through butter! (A well-worn phrase but best describes the fully serrated 440V blade)

· Produce processing - The poor citrus fruits didn't have a prayer with the 440V! The serrations cut easily all the way through. All that was needed was a gentle sawing motion, and the knife just worked itself through. Cucumbers were the same way! CPM 440V could be the ticket to high-performance kitchen knives. Albeit expensive, I wonder how the price tag would affect sales? This could be something to look into if the company wants to venture more into the area of commercial food preparation (e.g. restaurants).


The Military C36GSE is a great combination of utility and defense knife, with more emphasis being on utility. The overall blade shape and size, along with the serrations, permit the knife to be an impromptu saw for light duty cutting jobs (as I had given specific examples above). Two brief recommendations: 1) The finger choil - add some notches here, like the early (circa 1996) models did. Makes for a more secure grip. 2) How about making a smaller Military model? Something like a 3" blade. Same features as the C36. Name it the "Cadet" or something similar.

[This message has been edited by Dexter Ewing (edited 10-02-98).]
The new military is available now. I received one today and it is improved over the old model. I have not tried it out yet, but it looks like this may be one that I want to carry everyday- lightweight and built strong. At just over $100, I think I like it very much. The CPM440v should prove to be a warrior from everything written about it. I settled on the plain edge-used to favor the serrated edges, but the plain edges seem to be more versatile.

Best Regards,

I second Dexter's recommendation that Spyderco should produce a smaller version of the Military, especially with the CPM 440V!

Great review Dexter. Keep 'em coming, I really enjoy reading your write ups.

Hello James - great to see you here! The eccentric pivot screw allows Spydie to tweak the action of the blade. I guess it's to achieve the tightest lockup possible on each knife.
Hey Dex,
Is this the same Military you and I have been carrying for about 8 months now? You know, with the new three screw clip that surrounds the pivot? Or is this a really NEW model?

I think your is the newer one. The older ones had a clip that had two screws instead of the traditional three (FWIW Spyderco took their clips and cut out the top screw hole to accommodate the pivot screw). Here are some other ways to tell if you have one of these newer Military models:

[*]The color of the G-10 scales. They still be, well, black after a month of carrying the knife in the pocket. Reason being is that the G-10 Spydie used on the original Militaries turned dark gray after a while of carrying the knife.

[*]Look at the clip side of the knife. You should see another set of the Torx assembly screws. This permits for a tighter overall assembly.

[*]Look at the liner. Original Militaries had bead blasted liners, newer ones have a polished liner.

Well, there you have it! Ways to tell if you have a newer Military C36 (hmmm...this is starting to sound like a Jeff Foxworthy routine

[This message has been edited by Dexter Ewing (edited 10-03-98).]
Thanks Dex!
I guess I DO have the newer Military. I checked mine, and it has the polished liner, and laser-etched blade markings. I have put many miles this summer, on my motorcycle, with the thing clipped to my back pocket, and the G-10 scales are still jet black. I just want to tell the people out there, if you haven't tried out the "new" Spyderco Military, (in CPM440V), please do so. This knife is such a "winner". The steel is very hard to dull. The quality is superior. It comes "razor sharp" as delivered. It is a "big" folder, but you would never know it, in that it is so flat, and so light. The weight of the knife is in the blade. It is a breeze to open, either by it's oversized opening hole, (the biggest one by Spyderco to date), or just a "flick of the wrist", (it has the "weight forward" balance that is so critical). I love this knife! Give it a chance, you won't be sorry, and you'll save big bucks.
GREAT SUGGESTION, Dexter! Spyderco couldn't go wrong by creating a smaller (6.5-7") version of the Military. Especially if they keep the same steel. The design of this knife is simply classic.

CPM 440V is the only steel I've found that I like better than ATS-34 (I've always had good luck sharpening ATS-34 is why).

Where is Sal Glesser? Someone get him on the phone!
OK, OK, now all you guys with those pesky "old" model Military's, go ahead and send them to me. E-mail me first and I'll give you my snail-mail address. Don't rush, wait till you get the improved model and then send it; I'm an approved disposal site for old technology. Sorry dealers, bulk shipments not accepted.

[This message has been edited by Brian Lavin (edited 10-05-98).]
Dexter, you state "CPM 440V is the toughest steel I have used to date", but all your stated tests are just on edge holding and cutting performance. (speaking of that have Spyderco stated what the Rockwell difference is between the new and old Military?).

Anyway, the common opinion is that CPM 440V will hold an edge better than ATS-34 but it noticeably weaker. Back when these first came out Josh of PV knife posted how he had got multiple returns on the new Military as the CPM 440V weakened the tip.

Did you do any point penetration tests (stab a phone book), point stress tests (stab a piece of wood and snap out to the side), or even serration stress tests (cut damaging material) to see which steel is tougher, the new or the old Militarys?

This tests will show for example that ATS-34 is generally tougher than AUS-8 (all other things being equal), or that M2 has the same advantage over ATS-34.

Sure its nice to have better edge holding, but not if the steel loses too much strength.

For example M2 can easily go much higher than 60-61 Rockwell, the problem is that while at 66-68 Rockwell the edge holding will be much better its also more brittle.

I wonder is the gain in edge holding in CPM 440V is achieved just by sacrificing toughness which is an easy thing to do.

Cliff - to answer your questions:

- There is no difference in Rc ratings for both the old and new Militaries in 440V, since they use the same steel.

- I can see why Josh at PVKAT got a few returns on the Military for broken tips - the tip of the knife is relatively thin. I know for a fact that if I tried the Cold Steel-type test of stabbing the blade into a wood block then snapping the handle sideways, that tip will break. Those who have returned their Militaries with broken tips have used the knife as a prybar which does the proverbial "voiding the warranty" thing

- Darrel Ralph has stated to me that 440V hardened to a Rc of 57 will outlast an ATS-34 blade hardened to 61 Rc. In this case, it is the composition of the steel, not the hardness that makes 440V a real workhorse of a steel.

Hope this info helps and thanks for posting!
By the old and new models I meant the really old models, for example the ats-34 versions you mention in your original post.

Your point about tip weakness is well taken, blade profile is very important here. However, tough steel can make up for that.

For example, a Deerhunter in AUS8 is weaker than one in ATS-34. Joe posted his results of a penetration test into a phone book on both models and the AUS8 one bent slightly whereas the ATS-34 did not.

Now of course this was only one model but it did give predictable results.

The tip on a Military may be too weak to take a snap to the side in ATS-34 or CPM 440V, however it should take a straight poke without the snap.

An AFCK for example can be stabbed into a phone book without tip damage in ATS-34 and its tip is really weak. (you can really put strain on the M2 on contrast version without much damage).

I would be interested seeing how the CPM 440V held up to a military in AUS8 / ATS-34 / BG42 in regards to tip strength and serration durability.

While Spyderco does intend their knives for cutting obviously, we all know that they get used for just about anything and toughness is a real issue.

With regards to the AFCK, the cutting ability is basically the same in M2 and ATS-34 but the difference in toughness is easily worth the money.

The last comment you make about Rockwell in CPM 440V and ATS-34 is very curious, I am assuming that you mean edge retention when you say "outlast", if so that is impressive. If its just toughness that would be expected because of the lower Rockwell.

On a final note CPM 420V is supposed to be tougher than BG42 _and_ hold a better edge, that's an impressive claim too bad this is not a production steel yet.



I apologize that I did not make my comment cleasr enough about 440V outlasting ATS-34 - it is about edge retention.

You mention 420V - have you tried the stuff yet? I have not. I have heard others say that if you love 440V, then you'll take to 420V instantly. 420V is an even tougher steel than 440V, so I am anxious to try it out. Unfortunately, I don't think 420V will ever be a production steel. Heck, Spyderco is probably the only manufacturer who uses 440V. The problem is that 440V/420V steels are difficult to work with (e.g. grind).
Dex, you are so right. Phil Wilson who is making me a "utility/hunter" out of 420V, told me he uses up about $40.00 worth of belts on every knife he makes from 420. And the steel is EXPENSIVE. Both 440 and 420V, are VERY hard to get a nice finish on. Reasons you won't see alot of 440V, much less 420V, on production blades, (I believe Spyderco and Kershaw are the only ones currently using 440V). As a sidenote, I was on a wilderness camping trip a couple of months ago. I stabbed my Military,(in 440V), into trees a few times to hang my canteen and other stuff. I had to wriggle the knife to get the blade out. The steel took it without a wimper. I know this is not a scientific test, but it sure tested the lock and the tip of the blade. I love this stuff!
Reading Dexter's review on the Military
was all I could take.I had to have one.When
I opened the package my initial reaction
was shock at the size of the thing.That is
one honkin big knife! I don't know why,but
I was expecting an AFCK size knife.Funny
thing is,although it's footprint is larger
then the AFCK , it feels smaller in the
pocket.The knife was absolutly flawless out
of the box .I don't know if I am in the
minority on this but I believe Spyderco
executes the locking liner better then
Benchmade.More of the liner contacts the
blade and the ramp is shorter.I still like
Benchmade handles with twin liners as opposed
to Spydercos approach.The blade geometry
of the Military is exemplary in my view.
Overall , this ones a keeper.
SDMatteson - Thanks for posting. I'm glad you like the Military too! I agree with you - I like Benchmade's dual liner construction, as it makes the handle have more lateral strength, but I have not had any problems with the handles on both of my Militaries. Considering the fact that I won't drive any heavy earthmoving equipment over the Military, so the partial single SS liner will do just fine

Dexter, I have not tested CPM 420V yet. Do you know any production models that are in CPM 420V? I am not really that interested in stainless as a general rule as they usually cannot compare to high carbon steels in toughness and edge holding.

Now if say CPM 420V edge holding ablity is up there and its rust resistance is so much better it may be worth looking into for a knife with a thin blade profile which is primarly a slicer so the toughness problem is not important.

Hi Cliff,

Unfortunately, there are no production knives made of 420V. Spydie is the only company that works with 440V FWIW. So, the route that you'll have to take is custom made! Gene has ordered a fixed blade utility hunter from maker Phil Wilson, and it has a 420V blade. He told me that he will review it and post his finding here.

I would really like to see more high end production pieces with either 440V or 420V steel - these are the tickets to high performace!