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Survive! Knives GSO-4.1 - comparison to BRKT Bravo 1 & Swamp Rat HRLM

Discussion in 'Knife Reviews & Testing' started by chiral.grolim, Apr 16, 2013.

  1. chiral.grolim

    chiral.grolim Universal Kydex Sheath Extension Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Dec 2, 2008
    Survive! Knives GSO-4.1

    Guy Seiferd's 4" blade design has evolved into this:

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    Specs:
    Length: 4.375" Blade (4.1" from tip to choil) + 4.625" Handle = 9.00" OAL
    Blade Width: 0.43" saber-flat + 0.75" primary bevel + 0.06" edge bevel = 1.24" OAW
    Thickness: 0.16" stock down to 0.03" edge bevel
    Bevel Angle: 5-dps primary, 15-dps edge
    Handle width/thickness: 0.78 x 1.12 Swell down to 0.65 x 0.94 index groove.
    Steel: Bohler M390 hardened to 60 Rc; Skeletonized tang
    Handles: rough canvas micarta

    My first impression of this knife is that it is bulkier in width than I was expecting, but also lighter. The 4.1" blade (measured ahead of the choil) is ~1.24 inches wide - the flats of the saber grind are 0.43" while the primary bevel is 0.74" and the edge bevel is 0.06" wide while ~0.030" thick behind the edge sharpened to ~15 dps. Stock thickness is ~0.16", and the knife weighs in at a mere ~6.4 oz. Guy accomplishes this low weight on such a 'beefy' knife by skeletonizing the tang, removing extra material while retaining structural integrity and accomplishing perfect balance on the index finger immediately beneath the guard.

    I will compare this knife to two others of similar dimensions, similar designs for a "hard use" outdoors knife: BRKT Bravo 1 and Swamp Rat HRLM.

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    The Swamp Rat has a longer handle (5.2") on its 4.1" blade, OAL 9.3". The blade is ~1.39" wide with 0.475" saber-flats and an edge identical to the GSO-4.1 (0.06" wide x 0.03" thick, 15-dps). Stock thickness is ~0.187" but the coating brings it to 0.19". The knife weighs ~9oz with its wider profile and un-skeletonized tang, balancing ~0.75" behind the index groove.

    A skeletonized tang for good balance is a promoted feature of the BRKT Bravo 1. This is an original A-2 version - a better comparison would be the rampless spear-point 3V version of nearly identical profile to the GSO-4.1. The A-2 Bravo 1 weighs ~7.5 oz, convex-ground from ~0.22" stock down to a "zero edge" (no secondary bevel) 0.015" back 0.06" from the apex. The edge approximates 8-dps, hardened to 59 Rc. I have read that the CPM-3V versions are thicker behind the edge and heavier, but I do not have the measurements. The BRKT's handle is slightly longer and thicker than the GSO.

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    Last edited: Apr 16, 2013
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  2. chiral.grolim

    chiral.grolim Universal Kydex Sheath Extension Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Dec 2, 2008
    Before going into ergonomics, let's look at geometry and edge durability.

    All of these knives are promoted as suitable for "hard use".
    BRKT promotes the Bravo 1 as "a Heavy Duty Bushcraft/Survival Knife that can stand up to Abusive use in Real Time Situations." Destruction tests have challenged this assertion, demonstrating that the thin-edge on the Bravo 1 may deform and fracture under very hard use where thicker edges (0.030") will not. This may explain why the 3V versions have thicker edges even though they are made from tougher steel. This knife could be re-beveled for higher durability at a loss of cutting performance. The stock and spine are very thick at 0.22", the tip very robust, able to withstand heavy prying and lateral stress. As a trade-off, the thick spine increases the knife's tendency to wedge in tough materials (e.g. wood, kydex, sheet metal, etc.) where deeper cuts may be required. A trapped blade can result in edge-torque and damage when the edge is too thin. The thinner GSO-4.1 and HRLM are less prone to wedging on deep cuts, and their thicker edges (0.030") are less susceptible to torque, improving performance as "hard use" tools. This comes at the cost of cutting efficiency - the initial force required to complete a cut 3/4"-deep with the Bravo 1 is far lower than is required for the other two. For higher cutting performance, the edges of these two could be thinned by knocking off the bevel shoulders, at the risk of reduced edge-durability against lateral stress.

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    Keep in mind that an edge bent out of alignment is more susceptible to catastrophic failure, which is not so easy to repair. Sometimes trading cutting efficiency for edge strength can make the difference between a knife that cuts, albeit poorly, and a knife that is broken, i.e. no knife at all.

    A note on performance, the satin Bravo 1 and tumbled GSO-4.1 slide more easily through cutting mediums than the coated HRLM which tends to drag.

    When an edge is thin and cutting efficiency is wonderfully high, loss of sharpness due to edge-wear is more noticable, especially on hard or abrasive materials (e.g. animal hide, dirty rope, sandy environments) - cuts become ragged, tearing. However, that thin edge can be restored more quickly & easily than a thicker edge. With a good strop & abrasives, thin M390 and CPM-3V at 60 Rc are not much more difficult to sharpen than A-2 at 59 Rc, but the wear-resistance is many times higher, requiring repair less often. SR101, a version of 52100, is also touted to be superior.
     
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  3. chiral.grolim

    chiral.grolim Universal Kydex Sheath Extension Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Dec 2, 2008
    Impact toughness is important for any tool billed for "hard use" given the force-levels that thin material at the edge may experience. A-2 at 59 Rc can handle ~50J impact force compared to M390's ~40J at 60 Rc, and CPM-3V can take ~95J at 60 Rc. I don't have measurements for SR101 but have seen frightening impressive results from "abuse" tests - the tolerance is very high! Keep in mind that these values relate to a specific cross-sectional area of fracture. M390 (relatively "brittle") is nearly as tough as A2 at a full point higher hardness. To compete with a CPM-3V blade, these two may need to be twice as thick. But the GSO-4.1 & HRLM are already twice as thick at the edge than the A-2 Bravo 1 which translates to increased edge durability in regard to impact force.

    Finally, consider corrosion resistance. In wet or corrosive environments, edge-degradation (loss of sharpness) can proceed rapidly if preventative care is not maintained. CPM-3V is far less susceptible to such damage than A-2 and SR101, and M390's purity and high chromium content leaves both of these steels behind, which translates to maintenance-free use. Note, I am not concerned here with surface rust along the primary bevel - a little rust there might be ugly but won't hamper performance the way a crumbling corroded edge will ;) .

    I mentioned that the Bravo 1 is 0.22" thick to resist flex and allow heavy prying. Is the GSO-4.1 less strong for being only 0.16" stock? Check out Guy's video's demonstrating the lateral strength of the EDC-4:
    [video=youtube;Wo6vRFgOAAA]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wo6vRFgOAAA[/video]

    The GSO-4.1 certainly flexes more readily than the Bravo 1, but leverage forces on the spine of a knife this short are more easily controlled, and neither is all that great for such heavy prying. The thinner GSO can be slipped into tighter spaces when prying is required.

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    Last edited: Apr 16, 2013
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  4. chiral.grolim

    chiral.grolim Universal Kydex Sheath Extension Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Dec 2, 2008
    All of these knives feature bevels that taper near the tip for higher strength. The drop-point design (the GSO-4.1 drop is simply more dramatic) has superior versatility.

    The minimal choils of the GSO-4.1 and Bravo 1 allow the user to place maximal force behind the cutting edge when carving. However, the Bravo 1 choil is not radiused like the GSO, leaving the blade heel vulnerable to fracture from lateral stress. Even the GSO choil would be better off if the edge curved into the choil more, as it does on the GSO-10. The HRLM's "elf-choil" is too small to accommodate a 'choked' grip, so the force that can be placed against the heel of the blade is much reduced.

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    This brings us to ergonomics.

    Much has been written/said about the poor design of the Bravo 1 thumb ramp, useless and uncomfortable except during tip-work when thumb-ramps allow the user increased power in the tip of the knife (thrusts). BRKT's new "field" versions replace the ramp with a jimped spine section similar to the GSO. However, the BRKT jimping consists of narrow spikes unfriendly to cold or wet bare hands.
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    Guy's jimping consists of even 1/16" valleys and 1/16" plateaus which, while still sharp enough on the edges to catch skin, are far more comfortable and so provide much better thumb retention in use.
    (Note: Visible in this picture is discoloration for the heat-treatment process and laser-cutter markings which Guy does not bother to polish out - it is neither accidental nor is it corrosion, this is standard.)

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    The HRLM has no jimping but features a wide groove/ramp which, along with the coating, provides decent thumb retention, simple indexing, and comfort. The HRLM spine grooves/ramps are well implemented. :thumbup:
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    The spine of each knife has chamfered edges, increasing comfort (and annoying those who like to use the spine for scraping firesteel).
     
    Last edited: Apr 16, 2013
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  5. chiral.grolim

    chiral.grolim Universal Kydex Sheath Extension Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Dec 2, 2008
    All three feature canvas micarta scales. Like Bussekin and ESEE, Guy's scales are rough-finished, providing excellent retention in wet/dry/cold/hot/etc. conditions. The loose surface fibers give a "warm" feeling to the user as well as enhanced safety, requiring less effort to keep the knife in hand and the blade facing the intended direction.

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    The HRLM takes this a step further with grooves cut all along the scales - especially helpful for gloved use. The HRLM handle is of uniform width but is countoured along belly and spine in a way that "melts" into the hand for increased comfort. The handle is longer to accommodate larger hands, and the heel drops more dramatically than either of the other knives which are nearly straight with minimal pommel swells (the BRKT is more dramatic than the GSO). This heel-drop enhances retention and the comfort of advanced leverage at the pommel lacking in the BRKT & GSO. The HRLM pommel is rounded for comfort in a variety of grips, the tang extended for easy lanyard attachment and careful pounding.

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    The Bravo 1, while available in a wide variety of handle scales, is polished for appearance and provides dangerously poor retention in adverse conditions, requiring a tighter (i.e. tiring) grip, particularly when gloves are worn.

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    The scales of each knife are contoured to enhance comfort and retention, swelling slightly in the palm and narrowing at the index. The GSO-4.1 and Bravo 1 have, again, very similar handles. However, while the ratio of width to height for the GSO-4.1 is 0.696 in the swell and 0.691 in the index groove, the Bravo 1 is 0.809 and 0.769 respectively. In essence, this is a measure of circularity. Why do these values matter? In cold, wet, or slippery conditions, proper indexing and manipulation of a cutting tool (i.e. keeping the edge cutting in the direction intended) can become challenging. A tool in which the handle is close to equal width & height is difficult to index properly at the outset, and also has a tendency to twist in hand or not twist as desired unless a very firm grip is maintained. As the ratio of width:height reduces, ease of manipulation increases, allowing for a lighter, more nimble grip, ease of use with gloves, etc. Surgeons' scalpels have flat handles (width:height) to maximize control at the finger-tips. A nearly circular and highly polished handle make the Bravo 1 harder to control and prevent dangerous slipping & twisting unless held with a very tight grip. The GSO's flatter handle not only decreases its profile but also further enhances ease of manipulation. The Swamp Rat HRLM is ahead of both in this regard, 0.554 in the swell and 0.735 in the index groove, much easier to manipulate.
     
    Last edited: Apr 16, 2013
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  6. chiral.grolim

    chiral.grolim Universal Kydex Sheath Extension Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Dec 2, 2008
    The GSO-4.1 tang is also extended slightly, and deliberately flat with jimping as on the spine to provides excellent thumb retention and a grip-surface to prevent the butt from slipping off target when used as a hammer, where it is superior to the HRLM. There is a hidden lanyard hole, a feature found only on Survive! knives (to my knowledge). I recommend using a lanyard for safety and also to fill the void so that materials do not become lodged in the hole as will happen when the pommel is pounded and no lanyard is in place. A note on the pommel/heel shape: the heel flares out to enhance retention, however this creates a corner which can dig uncomfortably into the heel of larger hands in certain grips. A more 'oval'-shaped heel would enhance comfort.

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    The BRKT sports a Loveless style pommel not designed for pounding (though it can be done), the lanyard tube is narrow and long, evidently an after-thought in the design. The heel is again rather pointed and uncomfortable in certain grips, but the longer handle mitigates this somewhat.

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    Weight and balance have already been mentioned. The GSO-4.1 and Bravo 1 both balance perfectly on the index finger :thumbup:, but the lighter weight of the GSO-4.1 makes it more nimble in hand. The HRLM is heavier and not quite as well balanced.
     
    Last edited: Apr 16, 2013
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  7. chiral.grolim

    chiral.grolim Universal Kydex Sheath Extension Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Dec 2, 2008
    Fit & Finish:

    The HRLM came to me directly from the Swamp. The coating is impressively durable but increases drag, the scales exquisite and perfectly flush with the full-width tang, held in place by flared brass tubing (so not removable). SR101 steel. The edge was sharp but very obtuse, requiring a lot of time on my diamond hones to reach 15-dps. No sheath. There have been very few (if any?) reported issues with actual steel quality, Lifetime warranty, but it is sometimes challenging to contact customer service (may need to go through Busse Combat to get questions answered). The HRLM is now discontinued but previously cost ~$130.

    This Bravo 1 is second-hand but came to me razor sharp, the thin convex grind cuts with intensity. The A-2 steel has a few spots and some light patina on the nice satin finish. The scales and bolts are well polished, smooth and shiny, scales perfectly flush. BRKT puts a LOT of effort into presentation, very pretty knives. I purchased one with the "Deluxe Sharpshooter Sheath", but the standard A-2 model comes with a throw-away leather or kydex sheath at ~$200, CPM-3v pushes the price to ~$240. They offer a lifetime warranty and have a LOT of very loyal fans. BRKT's owner has serious some issues (criminal past?, excessive censorship?, off-putting arrogance?...).

    The Survive! Knives GSO-4.1 pre-order was steeply discounted and took months of waiting, but the standard model should begin normal production soon and be available in CPM-3v or M390 steel with a high-quality KiahDex sheath for a grand total of ~$200 - pricier than the Swamp Rat, cheaper than even this BRKT, well below any knife of comparable features! I'll talk about the sheath quality below. The tumbled finish on the blade is superb, the edge is frighteningly sharp and of acceptable geometry for the intended use. The stock-perimeter retains the marks of laser-cutting, but the edges are chamfered for comfort. The scales are rough-finished on the outside, strings of fabric visible in places, and are not quite flush with the uncoated tang, perhaps cut to the specs of the coated models? They are milled to an exact fit for the heavy-duty screws and pillars that press fit into tang-holes. The scales are detachable (and customizable!) and Guy seems dedicated to aligned screw heads :). The "flaws" in the finish are cosmetic, and Guy has stated that he deliberately cuts back on finishing touches that don't add to performance in order to reduce costs to the user, reminiscent of Dan Busse from -Scrapyard Knives - dedicated to performance over aesthetics, not for "safe queens"! Guy is dedicated and humble, prone to giving in to pressure to satisfy his quickly growing customer-base, making promises which he later realizes he cannot keep, upsetting impatient buyers. As his business grows structurally, long wait-periods, lost orders, and un-replied-to e-mails may become a thing of the past - but hopefully not his dedication and humility!

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    To summarize:
    All of these knives are very capable for myriad outdoor tasks. The less expensive Rat has the best ergonomics but highest weight and excessive choil, excellent steel but came with an unacceptably obtuse edge and no sheath. The more expensive BRKT comes with high polish for aesthetics to the detriment of actual usability, potentially dangerous ergonomics, good steel with a thin edge that cuts with superiority but might not stand up to the same level of abuse (despite advertisements to the contrary), and a 'crappy' sheath (but decent alternatives like mine are available). The GSO-4.1 has lower weight and better ergonomics than the BRKT, more useable but less 'presentable' finish, MUCH better steel, an excellent edge capable of high durability, and an excellent sheath. As a ready-to-go, easy-to-maintain outdoor-knife set-up, the quality and performance capabilities of the GSO-4.1 are hard to beat for the money. :thumbup:

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    Last edited: Apr 16, 2013
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  8. chiral.grolim

    chiral.grolim Universal Kydex Sheath Extension Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Dec 2, 2008
    About the sheath:

    I would consider kydex-bender Kiah to be Survive! Knives' second employee, with the owner being the first! Guy has demanded high output from Kiah whose own business has had to grow in order to deliver... and "deliver" he has! The 0.093" Kydex provides excellent durability and maintenace free use, chamfered edges for comfort, almost seamless. The sheath sports a well-placed thumb-ramp for easy deployment. The mouth flares to accept the guard with ease and swallows the handle ~1" with tight retention and no rattle, even against heavy downward shakes. A minimal number of rivets and two slots allow for a variety of mounting positions and accessories like Tek-Loks, leg-ties, neck-lanyard, etc. Kiah includes his own kydex MOLLE G-clip that will fit a 2" belt. The sheath is neither overly long nor wide for the knife and features a full-blade drainage channel to a hole at the tip, the BEST design I have ever come across :thumbup:. He just needs to start including drop-attachments like I've made for myself ;) For those desiring a kydex sheath, it's hard to imagine a better design for the price.

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    My kydex drop-loop attachment:
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    Of course, you could also use a leather sheath able to fit a BRKT Bravo 1:

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  9. chiral.grolim

    chiral.grolim Universal Kydex Sheath Extension Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Dec 2, 2008
    As the weeks go by, I'll use my GSO-4.1 as often as possible out of doors and will return with further assessments on comfort and performance. I am editing a couple of videos carving and prying with it. Stay tuned....
     
  10. Tixx

    Tixx Gold Member Gold Member

    Mar 19, 2011
    Good stuff! Thanks for putting this together!
     
  11. AZ2AK

    AZ2AK

    Oct 8, 2012
    Excellent review and comparisons! Thanks for putting forth the effort!
     
  12. bzelflipador

    bzelflipador

    155
    Mar 28, 2013
    Wow! Great review! I just got my 4.1 as well it's awesome! I can't seem to put it down!,,
     
  13. HikingMano

    HikingMano

    Sep 2, 2008
    Excellent review :thumbup: :thumbup:

    I've had my eye on these for a while, can't wait to get one. And as a long time customer of Kiah's, I can attest that his sheaths are by far the best kydex work I've ever had :thumbup:

    Great job!
     
  14. loonybin

    loonybin Gold Member Gold Member

    May 18, 1999
    Thanks for the review! I'm even more excited about the GSO-4.1 that should arrive at the end of the week.
     
  15. LG&M

    LG&M

    Dec 19, 2005
    Outstanding job, Thanks. Lots of good pictures and infomation.
     
  16. Thomas Linton

    Thomas Linton

    Jun 16, 2003
    Impressive review, Sir.
     
  17. SavageSmurf

    SavageSmurf

    908
    Oct 9, 2009
    Great review. I also like the kydex on my GSO 4.1; it seems very well-made and functional. For the price, I like the knife as well, but I have to admit, my expectations were a bit higher. I had heard that Guy maintained very strict quality control over the knives that go out, so I was pretty surprised when I received my knife and found that the scales were not flush with the tang, and there were grind marks left all over the spine. I was expecting a tighter fit+finish, but as I said, for the price it's still a good deal. My only real concern is that if I sand the scales down to fit flush with the tang, it might not fit the kydex as tightly--a good reason why this should be done in-shop (and not by the customer), before these knives get fitted to kydex.
     
  18. chiral.grolim

    chiral.grolim Universal Kydex Sheath Extension Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Dec 2, 2008
    In my review of the GSO-10 I mentioned the marks left on the perimeter of the knife and Guy discussed this aspect, letting everyone know exactly what to expect. These sort of marks and others would also show up under ANY coated knife from any company. For perfect appearance, Guy would need to spend more time/effort and increase the price OR customers can order coated blades. The Cerakote finish is pristine and quite durable.

    The scale fit surprised me as well, which is why i wonder if it was spec'd for the coated blades... But it does nothing to impede comfort or use of the knife. Sanding the scales down along the spine and belly will not appreciably affect the fit of the sheath which really relies on the guard for retention. If you find that it rattles slightly, you can tighten the fit by re-pressing after heating, but I would be very surprised if that is necessary...
     
  19. Brisket

    Brisket

    Aug 2, 2009
    Great review and interesting read.
     
  20. dingy

    dingy

    Feb 19, 2008
    did great , man.
    thanks for sharing.
    ""
    how did you get the conclustion of the steel that like "excellent"&"much better"?
     

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