The Havalon Piranta Original pocket knife is our Top Pick for hunting and angling. For dressing game, a fresh, factory-tuned blade is almost crucial. Dressing large game will require multiple iterations of freshly honed blades. You can accomplish this, in the heat of the moment, with time and sharpening hardware, but it takes expertise and you rarely/never get the edge "as good as new." The Piranta allows you to carry, and swap in, brand new blades (it comes with 12 extra blades). Havalon's parent company makes surgical scalpels. Piranta replacement blades are tuned for everyday use and are as sharp as medical tools. No other knife we tested is as good for the dressing of wild game as the Havalon Piranta.
Havalon Piranta Original Review
Cons: Rattly blade, narrow handle
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Piranta Original is the only knife in our test with a user-replaceable blade. In fact, it is designed for frequent blade changes. The Piranta is designed to work with the Havalon 60a scalpel blade. A bunch of such blades are included with your initial purchase. To keep a fine, usable edge, users of the Piranta change the blade rather than resharpening it. You put in a brand new blade when the edge has degraded below your standards or needs. This is clever and valuable in certain settings. Some tasks, especially those related to hunting and preparation of game, will wear down a tuned edge or two within a single session. Some hunters carry sharpening equipment, some carry multiple knives, and now some can carry the Piranta. We recommend the Piranta for exactly this reason and purpose. Having a factory-tuned, low-angle, wicked-sharp edge through the dressing of an entire large mammal is incredibly valuable. Having that at a low weight with minimal hassle is possible with the Havalon Piranta.
Blade and Edge Integrity
Analysis of the blade of the Piranta is almost entirely different than analysis of other pocket knives. The unique edge performance of this Havalon knife is tied entirely to its fundamental design. Your typical pocket knife is meant to be resharpened. Resharpening works and has for millennia. However, it requires effort, time, specialized equipment, and a blade that has material and structure different than actual cutting might require. A blade that is built to be resharpened is thicker and softer than it would be if it were optimized for cutting alone.
The blade of the Piranta isn't meant to be resharpened. You swap it out with a brand new one when you need to. This makes it fast and convenient, but also allows Havalon to make the blade much thinner, with a gentler front edge angle, than the blade on virtually any other pocket knife. The Piranta edge is very fine and cuts very, very precisely.
The edge wears at about an average rate. Edge wear is a function, mainly, of material hardness and edge angle. A steeper edge angle and harder blade material contribute to longer-lasting edge integrity. Harder materials are harder to sharpen at home. Your typical pocket knife is built with steel of moderate hardness and moderate edge angle, attempting to strike a balance of cutting acuity, edge integrity, and ease of resharpening.
Since the Piranta blades aren't meant to be sharpened at home, the steel can be harder than typical pocket knife blade steel. Factory sharpening and honing equipment and techniques are more effective and more tolerant of hard steel than home techniques. We did not test hardness but we have good reason to believe that the Piranta blades are much harder than typical pocket blades. We deduce this because the edge holds up about like we've come to expect of typical pocket knives, but the edge angle is very, very low. The blade starts thin and takes a long and slow taper to a razor edge. If they were made of typical home-sharpenable steel, we would expect the Havalon blades to wear very rapidly.
The Havalon Piranta knife is built to work with their "60a" scalpel style blades. Havalon's parent company, "Havel's Inc," is exclusively a scalpel company. Surgical grade scalpels come in a variety of styles. Interchangeable blades are pretty common in that setting. The blade change interface is fairly standardized, but not perfectly universal. Surgical #60 scalpel blades are built to work on #4 handles. As best we can tell the Havalon 60a blades are the same as #60, but a little thicker. If this deduction is true (and we've done a fair amount of digging) only Havalon #60a blades will work on the Piranta. This shouldn't be a problem. It is a good blade shape, works very well, and is widely available.
In use, the Piranta is familiar and comfortable. Havalon's intent seems to have been to make a knife with all the advantages of a surgical scalpel but with the usability and familiarity of a pocket knife.
The Piranta is about the same length as other compact full-size pocket knives. 3.7 inches is about perfect, to us, when we're looking for optimum balance of dexterity and carriage. Because the blade is so thin and compact, the handle can be narrow too. The handle is a little too narrow if you ask us. For heavy and extended use, which the Piranta is designed for, a slightly bulkier handle is better for most adult hands. The textures and contours are good but don't make up for the narrow handle.
Swapping blades in and out is also an ergonomic consideration. It can be done with your bare hands, but this is really sketchy. You're quite likely to cut yourself if you try to remove or replace a blade with bare hands. Pliers work too, but that also takes some risk. Best is the included plastic tool. The clamshell-like orange tool that Havalon ships with this knife is slick and clever for both removing and installing new blades. Mind your fingertips as you manipulate and unwrap new and old blades.
1.9 ounces is very, very light for such an effective and purpose-built tool. We like that. We also like the tight pocket clip. Other online reviewers cite issues with the pocket clip losing its spring, but we haven't experienced that and have a hard time even imagining that. There's also a pair of holes in the handle for the installation of a lanyard cord, should you so choose.
We don't usually expect knives of this stature to include a belt sheath. The Piranta Original comes with this. At first, it seems far from necessary. The knife is small enough to disappear in any pocket and pocket clipped carry is faster and easier to deploy than from a sheath. However, when you realize that you need to carry extra blades most of the time and that the Havalon sheath holds some of these, the sheath makes more sense. The sheath is compact enough that you could carry it just as a vessel for your extra blades while the Piranta itself lives in your pocket.
Aside from the blade, Havalon's Piranta employs familiar construction cues and materials. The handle is two pieces of steel bolted together. The inside of this frame is wide open for ready cleaning.
Piranta pivots and joints are tight and smooth. The frame lock yields no play and disengages readily. Unlike any other knife we tested, the blade itself is temporarily affixed to the knife. This interface is secure, but rattles a little bit. You will definitely notice this, but we cannot envision a situation in which it would actually matter. The blade interface relies on fairly close tolerances and small grooves. Real messy tasks (like game dressing, for which the Piranta is optimized) can fill the grooves with gunk during blade changes. We got it messy this way and found that all but the most stubborn detritus in the way could be removed from the important interfaces by some sharp taps to a firm surface.
There are no other features on the Havalon Piranta.
Havalon makes other knives that include multiple interchangeable blades or a traditional blade in conjunction with the interchangeable blade. They also make a multi-tool that we review elsewhere. All these other products from Havalon can employ the exact same blade as the Piranta.
The Havalon Piranta is solidly mid-range, in terms of price. For innovation and modularity, it is a good value. The option to extend like-new function indefinitely, with replacement blades, further enhances the cost-benefit calculation. Havalon also makes less expensive products that employ the same blade interface and options. We reviewed their original Piranta and like it for its intended use. If you need a knife for hunting and angling, this model has great value.
It was easy to give the Havalon Piranta Original our Top Pick Award. It is quite unique and brings performance attributes that should appeal to certain niche users. Mainly, for dressing game of all sizes, the opportunity to pretty much always have a brand-new knife blade is quite appealing. There are some minor drawbacks that some will not like for every-day-carry, but backcountry hunters can't do any better than this Top Pick.
— Jediah Porter