Benchmade Mini-Barrage 585 Review
Cons: Pricey, blade lock mechanism not intuitive
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Benchmade Mini-Barrage is indeed a little smaller than a standard, "full size" pocket knife. However, our testers agree that it strikes the perfect balance of compact carriage and ergonomic structure. The Benchmade brand makes excellent blades and has for a long time. The blade can also be locked closed, which is perhaps the only aspect of the knife that we found to be a bit annoying. There's a learning curve to properly engaging and applying the mechanism that locks the blade closed. It is also a sizable investment. To realize the value of this high-tech tool we recommend treating it like a piece of technical equipment. Don't lose it.
Blade and Edge Integrity
While it's true that all modern pocket knives come with adequate steel, it must be noted that the metal and construction of the Mini-Barrage blade is above par. Benchmade puts lots of care and work into every design. The blade arrives polished to a sheen. The experience of cutting with a brand new (or newly factory reconditioned - see the section on "Value" below for an explanation of Benchmade's LifeSharp program) Benchmade Mini borders on sensual. The edge and sides of the blade seem to propel themselves through delicate and durable tasks alike. Never in our testing, whether cutting soft and corrosive things like tomatoes or robust and inert items like sun-faded climbing rope, did the Mini-Barrage blade show a single sign of weakness. The blade is just the right length to whittle on a stick or slice through a block of cheddar.
The blade's "depth" lends stability and confidence in extended usage and heavier tasks. The blade is remarkably similar to the cousin Benchmade North Fork. With virtually identical external dimensions of blade and handle, the North Fork and Mini-Barrage are very close "competitors." The difference, however, is in the populations they are targeting.
Both are decent for everyday carry, but the Mini-Barrage is a little more versatile. It comes with more customization options; for instance, it comes with either 154CM (As we tested it) or the more expensive S30V blade steel. The North Fork only comes with the S30V. "By the numbers" then, the North Fork is a little better blade than the tested Mini-Barrage. However, in extensive use of both, we have found no notable difference.
Each knife we reviewed fell somewhere on the spectrum between good ergonomics and portability. In short, smaller knives are more portable, while we've found that larger knives are more useful in-hand. Each of our testers found that, for every day, pocket-clipped usage, the Mini-Barrage 585 struck the perfect balance. It isn't the smallest, nor is it the largest. The handle fills a clenched fist and sturdily delivers force to the blade's leading edge. Gentle curves on the handle leave no pressure points to the user.
While Benchmade uses flashy and reliable materials and equips the Mini-Barrage with a smooth-operating assisted opening function, it is the location of the pocket clip and its modular design that stands out. The Mini-Barrage can be configured for left or right pocket carry. When stored and clipped to the edge of a pants pocket, the knife can be pulled out and the blade deployed in one smooth motion.
While self-defense types will look to this feature as a safety benefit, the actual benefit is in purely pedestrian usage. Trust us when we say you will use the knife far more often when you fully embrace the convenience of this simple design subtlety. Some others take this modular pocket clip feature a step further, offering left and right-hand options as well as "tip up" or "tip down" pocket carry, depending on which set of holes you screw the pocket clip in to.
Finally, the Mini-Barrage's assisted opening function works intuitively while the locks (locking the blade both open and closed) function smoothly and reliably. There is an initial learning curve to disengaging the lock that holds the blade closed. Thankfully, if you don't need that feature, you can leave it unlocked with no inconvenience. All the assisted opening knives we tested have locking blades.
Like its performance in the Ergonomics category, nothing about the Mini-Barrage's portability stands out. It isn't the smallest or lightest knife in our test. It is far from the thinnest. However, again, it seems to strike the perfect balance of size and function. If you carry a smartphone in one front pants pocket, a small set of keys and Mini-Barrage in the other it will balance out your stance and equip you for anything a day out and about might require.
Unlike in the other scoring metrics, there are products with clear advantages over the Mini-Barrage. For ultimate portability, whether your pocket space is indeed cluttered or you don't justify carrying around a full-size pocket knife, others are much much smaller. Some of these smaller knives have more features for day-to-day use.
The best-designed equipment comes out of the package ready to use and never again prompts another thought to its construction or durability. With assisted-opening springs, dual thumb-studs for blade opening, Benchmade's proprietary Axis blade lock mechanism and a tab for locking the blade closed, the Mini-Barrage solves some potential failure points in a small package. The miniaturized machinery proves to be durable and reliable. In none of our testing have we had any trouble with the performance of any of the Mini-Barrage's features.
Indeed, the other Benchmade knives in our test offer competitive construction quality. What we find notable about the Benchmade products is that they manage to be strong and durable, without feeling heavy.
This model is a simple knife. The blade is the feature, with nothing else.
The Mini-Barrage 585 is expensive. You get what you pay for, but to realize that value one must keep track of the knife for a long time and keep up with maintenance. Whether you sharpen it yourself or employ a professional service, realize that the Mini-Barrage, just like all knives made, requires periodic tuning of the blade edge. No knife, no matter what the manufacturer says, will hold a usable edge indefinitely. Furthering the value of any Benchmade knife, know that they offer their generous and industry leading "LifeSharp" service to all knife owners for a very affordable fee. Just return your knife whenever you wish. It will be returned to you sharpened and polished to like-new status.
The Benchmade Mini-Barrage 585 is an excellent, precision-crafted piece of useful equipment. Those willing to make the initial investment will not be disappointed. We heartily recommend this knife. While the Mini-Barrage is our top scoring product, there are others that come close. We are betting that the Mini-Barrage will serve most consumers very well, especially if those consumers take advantage of the potential customizations Benchmade enables. However, in a close-scoring field, it is also likely that one of the other top-scoring products may be a little better for you. For this investment, investigate at least a few of our top scoring knives before you "pull the trigger."
— Jediah Porter