Saturday, September 3, 2011

Rick Hinderer 3.5" XM-18 Review

NOTE: Click on any of the photos to view them at their intended size. 

Back several months ago, I purchased a knife I had seen rave reviews for all over the net. So when I purchased Rick Hinderer's highly touted XM-18, my expectations were admittedly pretty high. Rick started as a farrier (Horse Shoes) when he made his first knife. He was later a firefighter / EMT for several years as his primary job but continued producing knives on the side. He does not have a regular production schedule and does "runs" of his various knives at different points through out the year. So back in March after a couple of months of waiting for a production run, I finally bought a 3.5" XM-18. When it arrived at my house, it came in a plain, no frills white box and a small ziplock baggie. Apparently Rick doesn't make a big production on his boxes which I guess most get thrown away anyway. He allows the knives to speak for themselves. (Article about Rick here)

Upon opening the box and taking out the knife, it became very apparent, this was a knife made for hard use.

The frame of the XM-18 is 6AL4V titanium and despite the extremely thick lock side of the frame, it's fairly light for it's size. Rick allows you some choices on how you would like your titanium frame to look such as tumbled or sand blasted. The knife blade itself (on mine) is made from CTS-XHP (lightly stamped on the blade). CTS-XHP, also known as carpenter steel by some, starts life as a powdered metal. In blade form it has the corrosion resistance of 440C and the a RC hardness of 64; almost that of D2. This combination makes for a very nice blade in my opinion. The scale on the non-lock side are made of various colors of G-10 (or an optional carbon fiber). The one sided G-10 scale makes for a perfect grip in less than ideal situations.

Fit and Finish:
My initial impressions of the Fit and Finish of the XM-18 were VERY good but that has been my impression with several knives out of the box so I reserved my review until after a few months of use. After having this knife now for several months, I can honestly say, Rick's close tolerances and eye for detail have created a knife that has no rival in the Fit and Finish department. It becomes very apparent in use that Rick actually uses the knives he develops and the small details show it. The open back design allows for easy cleaning. The stand off's (the spacers between the two sides of the knife handle) are made for the apocalypse. All of the screws are counter sunk and flush with the handle of the knife. I can say that after months of use, none of them have backed out like they have on several of my other knives. The pivot screw which is an essential part of any hard use knife is a beast. I beleive Rick developed his own pivot screw and is one of the things immediately recognizable on an XM-18 (pictured below).

His pivot screw is more substantial than the pivot on my strider and much smoother.

Lock up:
Like I stated earlier, the lock side is made of titanium and very thick titanium at that. It is a frame lock style lock with Rick's very own Lock Bar Stabilizer.

Lockup is ROCK solid, quite honestly the most solid lock up of any frame lock I have ever owned. A co-worker / knife nut that I let use the knife for a day described it as "fixed blade-like solid". It locks in with the knife tang at approximately 50%. Even after months of use, I still find zero blade play; impressive to say the least.

Ricks standard grind is another Rick Hinderer exclusive known as the spanto grind. I think it comes from a combination of Spear point and Tanto blade; hence "Spanto". I am no fan of tanto blades and I even emailed Rick to ask if there were any other options to which he replied there were not (NOTE: I've heard they are going to offer a slicer grind for the next run). When I received the knife and began using it, I discovered the genius behind the "Spanto" grind. It allows for a very thick end but yet still has characteristics of a good slicer. In every day use, it proves itself very well.

Rick also has two types of opening options on his blades, a flipper and a standard thumb stud. For my first Hinderer, I chose a thumb stud. The flipper has a thumb stud as well in case you choose to use it that way. This blade has worked very well for every cutting task I have thrown it's way. I guess I could be called a "Spanto convert".

While Ergonomics is a personal preference, I have found the ergos of the Hinderer very intuitive. If you look at photos of the Hinderer XM-18, you'll notice a slight angle not seen on other knives. This like the Spanto concerned me before I handled the knife. Having owned and used the knife now for several months, I can say this too is another indication of Ricks actual use of his knives that has translated into his design. In short, IT WORKS.

Size and Weight:
If you are looking for a small knife, then you may want to look at a Hinderer 3" or look elsewhere. The 3.5" Hinderer is a REAL knife. Real in that it fills the hand, inspires confidence in it's durability and commands space in your pocket. That being said, I can still comfortably remove my keys from my pocket with the 3.5" Hinderer clipped in. I could not say the same for my Zero Tolerance 0301 (a beast of a knife in it's own right). The weight of the 3.5" XM-18 is a comfortable 5.6 ounces. Rick minimizes the impact of that weight by it's ergonomics. I ended up selling my ZT 0301 and rarely carry my Strider due to the weight issues and them being pocket hogs. The Hinderer while a substantial knife pulls off the weight and size issue as best as any knife of this size could do. In short, I carry it often hiking, working and doing my photography thing. That alone should say allot.
A Trio of Titanium frame locks from left to right: Spyderco Sage 2 , the Hinderer XM-18 and the Zero Tolerance 0550 (second generation)
Smoothness of opening:
I don't often see this mentioned in reviews but to me it's an important factor. I have several knives that open smoothly but very few I would classify as buttery smooth. This Hinderer opens buttery smooth I would put in the class of a Sebenza smooth. The Sebenza lacks one thing however; "Flickability" While the Sebenza opens buttery smooth, it's more of a gentleman folder and doesn't "flick" open as well as some knives. My Spyderco knives are the epitome of flickers and the Hinderer falls somewhere in between. It doesn't flick open as fast as the Spyderco Delica , Endura, Sage 1, Sage 2 or Native but it can definitely be flicked open with authority. Keep in mind, I am speaking of the thumb stud only model. I will post my thoughts on the "flipper" model when I get one. All in all, it has the buttery smoothness of a Sebenza and close to the "flickability" of a Spyderco; VERY nice.

If you are in the military or Law Enforcement, look no further if you want the ultimate hard use knife. As a federal Law Enforcement officer of almost 18 years and a firearms instructor (I think this might qualify me as a gadget nerd), I have carried knives from just about every major company and even a few customs. While my main carry knives at work are a Spyderco Endura, Delica and Dragonfly . I do so because of their utility, cost and I would not spend hours walking through tall brush looking in despair if I lost one; I'd buy another. This being said, I love carrying my Hinderer occasionally at work and almost every day during my other pursuits off duty. I have used this knife (hard in some instances) and it works just as it was designed for. It works equally well slicing foods as I've used it for food prep and even helped dress out a feral hog. It is made to be used.

Customer Service:
Rick and his front man Rob Orlando have earned a well deserved reputation amongst knife nuts as good folks. They interact on forums such as and answer questions quickly either by email or forum posts. They respond quickly to the very rare problems and generally just take care of their customers.This being said, they specifically state on their website that if you "pimp" your knife in any way, it voids their warranty.

As stated before, I have owned knives from several major companies such as Spyderco , Benchmade , Zero Tolerance , Kershaw , Gerber , Buck , Cold Steel, Columbia River Knife and Tool , Chris Reeve, Strider, et al. I can honestly say with out reservation, the hype behind Rick Hinderer's knives is very well deserved. If I were choosing between a Strider, Hinderer and Sebenza my choice would fall to the use I had planned on using the knife for. If I needed a gentleman's folder, the Sebenza or Hinderer would fit the bill. If I needed a sharpened prybar, I'd go with either the Strider or Hinderer. If I needed a good all around working knife that was a good slicer, up for hard use in a tactical (military or Law Enforcement) environment, I'd personally go with the Hinderer. The Hinderer is a beast of a knife; a highly refined, smoooth opening beast of a knife with fit and finish with very few rivals in the knife world. My Hinderer XM-18 is my favorite knife in my collection; a knife I will hand down to my son someday. Did I mention I REALLY like this knife?

Some photos of my 3.5" non-flipper XM-18:
UPDATE: As of Feb. 2014, I have added the pictured Orange flipper style, slicer grind Hinderer to the collection. I REALLY like these knives.
The new flipper with the orange scales are a thing of beauty...

Ergonomics: 10/10 (Senor Hinderer really thought this knife through)
Looks: 10/10
Materials: 10/10
Fit and Finish: 10/10 (Great!..Hinderers are like lays potato chips, one won't do, you'll want more)
Camp Use: 10/10
Hard/Military/Police Use: 10/10
EDC Use: 9/10 (might scare some sheeple)
Food Prep: 9/10 (a slicer grind would get a 10)
Skinning/Game Prep: 8/10 (worked good for me, not enough belly for a great skinner)
Warranty: 9/10 (great warranty but only if you leave it in stock form - see above)
Zombie Usefulness: 9/10 (only fixed blades get a 10, but Zombie's fear Hinderers)

Hinderer Knives Website


  1. It’s hard to find knowledgeable people on this topic, but you sound like you know what you’re talking about! Thanks for sharing this with others.It's really a great blog.Thanks for sharing.


  2. A very good review, thanks. I own a few of Rick's folders and I agree with the majority of what you say. My only difference in opinion comes from the ease of use in terms of slicing. I've found my xm to be found wanting as a great slicer - something like a benchmade rift 950 or a spydie military does a better job - again in my opinion. But I agree that the fit and finish of this knife, and the joy of use it gives you, is hard to beat. To me it's a bit like a car. Sure a hyundai will get you there, but to travel in style in a jaguar, well it's just a better all-round user experience.

    Again, thanks for the review. Great stuff.

    1. I agree. there are better slicers (the 950 being one of them). I've been wanting to get one of his new slicer grinds but haven't gotten around to it yet. I was just impressed how well the sponto worked as compared to what some folks were saying. Thanks for the comment.

  3. hello great review!You resharpend the knife or you keep the factory edge?

  4. Do you have this knife right now?or you find another for edc?
    I really love your reviews..This review the reason why i bought the xm 18

    1. I still have this knife and carry it often. It's the toughest, most robust folding knife I own.

  5. i like mine too...Im working in military and i tested and carried about 120 knife but i think this on is the most perfect in every aspect..I really intrest after so many years of use how much wear the lock of your knife? Mine is around 40 percent