Saturday, May 19, 2012

Spyderco Gayle Bradley Carbon Fiber - C134CF Review

Spyderco Gayle Bradley and a Whitethorn Acacia - Acacia constricta

Click on any of the photos for a larger version

A while back, I was perusing the Spyderco website and came across a photo of a knife that had the shape of Texas emblazoned on it's blade along with Gayle Bradley - Weatherford above and below it. Being a Texan myself, I thought it was probably a violation of some obscure Texas law for a knife guy not to own this knife; we are a somewhat proud lot :) I saw that the steel was a type I had not owned previously so I thought it would probably be an interesting purchase, so I bought one.
Sunset photo of the Spyderco Gayle Bradley


Gayle Bradley is a Texan (obviously) from Weatherford who made his name in the knife world via custom knife making and winning cutting competitions with his blade designs. Being from Texas naturally makes him a bit smarter, a bit tougher and anything he makes would presumably be a bit better than knives made anywhere else in the world (that ought to get me some ugly emails). I thought a collaboration with a fine knife maker like Spyderco should produce one heck of a knife. So adding this knife to the collection should be a no-brainer.

When I received the Spyderco Gayle Bradley in the mail and opened the box and began handling it, I immediately thought of my Spyderco Chinook that I had purchased many years ago and still own. The Spyderco Chinook is the largest and beefiest Spyderco I own. I love the Chinook and it's toughness. So the fact that the Gayle Bradley's toughness reminded me of the Chinook is a very good thing.
What makes the Spyderco Gayle Bradley even better? The Texas symbol of course...


The Gayle Bradley uses twill Carbon Fiber for scales or it's handle. The Carbon fiber is nicely beveled along it's edges for comfort. I'll be the first to admit that prior to handling this knife, I've never been a big fan of Carbon Fiber Scales. In the knives I've handled previously, I found them more gimmicky than anything. Carbon Fiber works very well to conserve weight on my Cannondale Road bike and my wife's Specialized but I've never seen the utility in knife scale use. Well, Spyderco has changed my mind with the scales on the Gayle Bradley. There is just enough texture to provide a good grip and the beveled edges make for a comfortable purchase under hard use. Well done Spyderco.

Underneath the Carbon Fiber Scales is a set of stainless steel liners that provide added strength and also contain the Michael Walker liner lock. The knife is constructed using torx screws to hold the scales and liners together which gives it a little added touch of class. The Gayle Bradley is an open back design which makes for easy cleaning. The standoffs (the parts between the two scales that the torx screws run through) are big and thick. One of the things I love on my Rick Hinderer XM-18 are the big standoffs and the Gayle Bradley's standoffs reminds me of those; and that too is a good thing.

The Blade is made from satin finished Crucible Steel CPM M4; or for the purposes of this article just M4. M4 is a very tough steel with excellent wear resistance. M4 is not a stainless steel and thus will rust if not taken care of. Many knife folks like to nip the rust monster in the butt by creating their own patina on their blades with everything from mustard to citrus fruits to moist coffee grounds. It all depends on the pattern or look that you're looking for. For me, I'll just do my regular cutting and let the patina develop on it's own. If you don't like rust or patina, I highly recommend Tuf Cloth . It beats back the rust and doesn't leave a nasty oily blade like other options available. Despite the rust potential, after using this M4 steel on everything from food to tree limbs to just whittling, M4 has held its edge VERY well and it STILL slices through paper with ease; I'm a new M4 fan. 
Testing the M4's toughness against Anacua wood, a semi-tropical hard wood known for it toughness. The M4 passed with flying colors and as you can see, got the whittled point to a very fine tip.

The M4 blade is a somewhat significant 3.4 inches and comes with no choil. Some people have been concerned with the lack of a choil and normally I would be as well. I've sold blades before due to the lack of a choil but the choil built into the handle right behind the blade works well as a replacement. A choil usually also aids when attempting to close a blade with one hand in keeping one's finger(s) from getting cut. This knife at first was a little difficult to close one handed but the lack of choil was not the issue (I'll cover that later). The blade shape is a hollow ground blade made with cutting in mind and man does it cut. I've used this knife for pruning, food prep, whittling, opening things and even a little carving and it does them all very well. On top of that, this blade has amazed me with its ability to hold an edge. In short, I REALLY like this blade shape and the steel.


While I'm not usually a fan of liner locks, the Michael Walker inspired liner lock on this knife locks up like a bank vault with absolutely no blade play. While I really like the toughness of the lock and in use it has really won me over, it is also the one small negative I have on this knife. While the lock is super tough, due to the design of the handle, the lock can initially be a little tough to disengage. Trying to close it one handed was somewhat difficult although after some practice it becomes much easier. When I first got the Gayle Bradley , I tried over and over to learn a technique to close it one handed and all I got was a worn out thumb. I have, over time learned to close it one handed and can say it has actually become pretty easy now. I still however find myself closing it with two hands on occasion. I know some people that have ground out the opposite side of the carbon fiber and stainless steel liners to make it easier to access the liner lock. I personally don't mind using my other hand to close it. Maybe Spyderco will come out with a V2.0 that will address this one very minor issue.


The ergonomics on the Gayle Bradley for me are very well done. I'm a big guy (6'1") and have big hands and  this knife fits my big hands very nicely. The overall length of the opened knife is 8.078 inches while the closed length is about 4.7 inches. Despite it's large size, in my opinion this knife handles nicely and in hard use, proves it's utility. While this knife is a little heavier than most of my knives, at 5.5 ounces, it's only going to bother those who only like feather weight knives. In jeans, I have forgotten it is in my pocket. In slacks, you will probably know it's there. Due to it's shape, there are very little if any pocket hog issues. I can easily retrieve keys in an out of my pocket that the Gayle Bradley is clipped into. The only jimping found on the Gayle Bradley is on the thumb ramp on the blade and on the liner lock; everything else is smooth.
Spyderco Gayle Bradley and a Snake Apple - Ibervillea Lindheimeri

The pocket clip on the Gayle Bradley is almost perfect. It's long enough and has enough flex to get it in and out of the pocket with ease. The clip can also be moved to any of four positions, left, right, tip up or tip down.Spyderco almost always gets their clips right..


The Gayle Bradley despite it's large size can be easily flicked open with one hand very easily but as mentioned earlier can at first be a bit difficult to close one handed but it does get better over time. Despite what some have wrote around the net about the issue of the Spyderco hole being partially concealed behind the scales, it is not an issue to me. I can flick it open as easy as any other Spyderco I own. The Gayle Bradley flicks open with allot of authority and snaps in place very tight. It's an excellent "flicker".


Out of the box, the fit and finish is one of the things that really struck me about this knife. I cannot stress how impressed I was that this is a knife costing just over $140 in most places. This is one SOLID, WELL BUILT KNIFE. For a production knife, I've not seen any better. When in the hand, it screams hard use. That being said, the carbon fiber scales give it a look that could pass as a gentleman's folder. So this puts the Gayle Bradley in a unique position amongst knives. It could be used as a gentleman's folder AND makes one heck of a hard user. I don't know that I own another knife that can fit both bills as well. There is no blade play in any direction, the clip came tight and has remained tight. The torx screws are nicely recessed into the Carbon Fiber scales. It's just a good looking, extremely tough knife that Spyderco has somehow managed to price for the average knife user. I don't know how they did it but, VERY well done Spyderco. 
The Gayle Bradley and some Anacua berries. The Anacua is also known as the Sandpaper tree. If you look at the leaves, you can see where I used them to sand my coffe table. The berries are also edible.

The Gayle Bradley and a Lantana flower, another Texas Native.

The modified drop point blade lends itself to good slicing and the M4 lends itself to hard use. In truth, the possibilities are endless; slicing, heavy cutting tasks, food prep, skinning, pruning, scraping thorns out, carving, whittling, you name it, this blade can do it. It's a great blade all the way around.


If you haven't already figured it out, I REALLY like this knife. How Spyderco managed to keep the cost down on such a well made knife with materials like those included in this knife is beyond me. I have seen many knives with similar materials costing well into the $400-$500 range. The Gayle Bradley is a seriously bad a$$ knife. Even after lots of use, it still has zero blade play. It locks in place extremely tight, cuts like nobody's business, retains it cutting edge extremely well and fits the hand like a glove. If I have to ding anything on this knife (and that's a stretch) it would be the initial difficulty accessing the liner lock for one handed closing and the fact it's Taiwan made.This is not a ding on Spyderco's Taiwan factory, they have put out some GREAT knives. I just like owning United States made products. That being said, if this knife were  made in the U.S. with these materials, it might be out of the price range of a lot of buyers. These two issues are very minor and should not detract from the fact that this is one of the finest production knives made in $200 price range; and it runs around $140.00! If you haven't had the pleasure of owning a well made knife that will last you  a life time, a knife that you can brag about, a knife that people will want to handle, I highly recommend the Spyderco Gayle Bradley. You won't regret it.
Right to Left: Spyderco Gayle Bradley, Spyderco Dragonfly2 & Spyderco Endura4 FFG
Ergonomics: 9/10 (This knife just feels right)
Looks: 10/10
Materials: 9/10
 Fit and Finish: 9/10 (EXCELLENT for production knife)
Camp Use: 9/10 (uses are endless)
Military/Police Use: 9/10 (tough as nails. If you don't mind the weight, a LEO would love it)
EDC Use: 9/10 (despite its size, very EDC'able)
Food Prep: 10/10 (excellent slicer)
Skinning/Game Prep: 9/10 (would make a great prep knife)
Warranty: 8/10
Zombie Usefulness: 8/10 (The first Carbon Fiber knife I would carry in the face of a Zombie onslaught)

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Spyderco Endura4 Flat Ground FRN ~ C10F - VG-10 Review

Spyderco Endura4 Flat Ground FRN
NOTE: Click on any photo to see the entire series enlarged

If you know knives, then the Spyderco Endura needs no introduction. In fact, I put off this review for so long because the Endura is so well known, I always thought that I wouldn't be telling anyone something most already knew anyway.

The Endura in it's many forms has been around since 1990 and is one of the two knives (the Delica being the other) that put Spyderco on the map. I've owned at least four iterations of this particular knife. As with many Spyderco knives, the Endura4 is a result of Sal Glesser (owner of Spyderco) and Co. constantly listening to and considering feedback from their end users. They call their evolutionary process of refining knives their C.Q.I. (Constant Quality Improvement) process. Sal, his son and their staff are well known in the knife industry and among enthusiasts for their constant interaction via email exchanges and on the various forums around the net (including their very own at I've had this knife now for almost two years. As far as the Endura series goes, this one is by far, my favorite.


The Endura4 uses Bi-Directional Texturing FRN (Fiberglass Reinforced Nylon) as it's scales or handle. If' you've ever owned a Spyderco, you know what these scales feel like. They are nice and grippy. Under the FRN scales are dual skeletonized stainless steel liners that give the Endura4 handle added strength without any appreciable added weight.

The Blade is made from one of my favorite steels, VG-10. VG-10 was originally designed for the Japanese cutlery market but was picked up by Spyderco for use in several of their knives. VG-10 lies in the mid range for RC hardness at around 59 or 60. I have found in use that I can personally sharpen VG-10 to a sharper edge than any blade material that I own. I can routinely get my VG-10 blades to razor or shaving sharp. Even better, they hold that edge for a long time. Not too hard, not too soft and it's stainless. I really like VG-10 steel.

Spyderco chose to utilize screws to hold everything together rather than the pins they used to use. I think this just exudes more quality than the pins and it allows for repairs or cleaning.
Spyderco Endura4 Flat Ground FRN


The VG-10 blade is a significant 3.75 inches and the cutting edge is a slightly shorter 3.4 inches. The blade on this limited production version is only available in plain edge (spyderedge is available on the regular production version of the Endura4). The full flat ground blade makes an excellent slicer but due to it's thin 3mm (width) profile, is not as robust for hard work as some other thicker spined knives. The thin full flat ground (tapering from sharp edge to the spine) blade makes for an excellent food prep and /or self defense blade.

NOTE: If you're wondering what the brown dot on the blade was in the first photo, this blade, like all others does not like being used to hot-wire ATV's. Last year during the heat of the summer, we chased some smugglers on a stolen ATV across several miles across the South Texas ranch land. When the smugglers finally figured that they were cornered, they abandoned the ATV and ran on foot. We found the very hot ATV sitting in some very thick brush with the wires hanging out of the ignition. Fearing that the ATV could start a fire in the extremely dry brush (it was during our worst drought on record), I decided to hot-wire the already exposed ignition wires. In a rush, I cross grounded the two wires using my Endura4 starting the ATV. The ensuing sparks and "popping" sounds alerted me to the spot welding occuring to my Endura4 which nicely re-tempered two small spots on the blade. While we got the ATV started and moved, it left two nice little permanent burn marks on my blade that went all the way through it to the other side...pictured below:


The lock is a standard yet capable lock back style. Nothing fancy but it works and works well. It suspect that it would not fare as well in spine whacking experiments as some more robust locks.


The fit and finish on my Endura4 was very well done. All screws were tight, the clip was tight and the blade was reasonably centered. When open, there was zero up and down blade play but there was a very miniscule amount of side to side play. Due to the thin blade profile, you do notice some blade flex under pressure.


The ergonomics on the Endura series to me has always been very good and this one is no exception. I'm a big guy (6'1") and have big hands and  this knife fits my big hands very nicely. Despite it's large size, in my opinion this knife is easily one of the best handling one handed knives on the market if not the best in it's length and price range. Despite it's size, it weighs in at a feathery 3.4 ounces. You can honestly forget that is in your pocket when clipped in and there are very little pocket hog issues. The jimping on the FRN leading up to the thumb ramp and the thumb ramp of the blade is well done and provides good traction in use. VERY well done Spyderco.
A size comparison shot against the Spyderco ParaMilitary
Spyderco Endura4 Flat Ground FRN and Paramilitary 1
 A size comparison shot against it's little brother the Spyderco Dragonfly2
Spyderco Endura4 Flat Ground FRN and Dragonfly2


The pocket clip on the Endura four is excellent. It's long enough and has enough flex to get it in and out of the pocket with ease. My only ding, if you can call it that is that I wish it was a bit recessed to keep forward and aft movement to a minimum. It had a tendency when I first bought it to wiggle a bit after long periods of use. I finally decided to remove the clip, place a dab of locktite blue on the screws and replace them. Since then, I have had zero issues with the screws loosening. The clip can also be moved to any of four positions, left, right, tip up or tip down. Again, well done Spyderco!

Spyderco Endura4 Pocket Clip


The Endura4 despite it's large size can be easily flicked open and closed with one hand very easily due to the included Phosphor bronze washers. As my most carried knife, opening and closing it one handed has become second nature. This is one of the Spyderco's that all other brands of one handed opening knives are measured. While this may seem trivial to some, for a law enforcement officer, someone in the military or anyone in a life or death situation, muscle memory is paramount. To be able to deploy and use any weapon under stressful situations, well trained, instinctual muscle memory gives one a distinct advantage. With the adrenaline flowing, the fine motor skills required to open a knife are diminished greatly and so muscle memory skills from training and repeated deployments are very important. Spyderco has greatly simplified training the muscle memory aspect with their Spyderco Hole deployment and is why their knives are amongst the most carried brand of knives amongst law enforcement and military around the world.


The Spyderco Endura has many conceivable uses in which it would work well. The Endura4's full flat ground blade works better in my opinion than my previous versions in many situations. I am often asked by people at work and people via email, "What knife would you recommend as a gift for a Law Enforcement officer?" Well folks, this one is at the top of my list. It has the length, the toughness and the weight that is just about ideal for Every Day Carry (EDC) for law enforcement officers. The length and size is crucial for self defense/last ditch defense in a life or death situation. It's tough enough to last many years under normal use. It's light weight characteristics cannot be over stated. Most modern law enforcement officers carry LOTS of equipment on their duty belt, so much so that it can cause lower back issues. This being the case, every single ounce that one can shave off is crucial and the Spyderco Endura fits this bill nicely. Another important factor is it's cost. The Spyderco Endura4 can be found in the $60-$70 price range so if you lose one in the field, it's not going to hurt as much as if you lost a  $500 Rick Hinderer XM-18 (my all time favorite knife period). These reasons are why this knife is my EDC at work as well as MANY fellow law enforcement officers.

Of course the Endura4 can fill may other rolls well and in fact works excellent as a food prep knife. In the case below, I was out working in the South Texas brush and was hungry so I popped off a few prickly pear fruit, put the Endura to use and had lunch. Good stuff.. (You peel them like a Kiwi by the way):

Spyderco Endura4 Flat Ground FRN and Prickly Pear Fruit (Tuna)
Spyderco Endura4 Flat Ground FRN and Prickly Pear Fruit (Tuna)


If you haven't already figured it out, I LIKE THIS KNIFE. In the never ending search for the perfect knife, one sometimes comes across a knife that just works. While the Endura4 may not have the allure of a Hinderer, a Chris Reeve or a custom Yuna, it fills it's niche and then some. The grip is excellent, the blade steel is excellent, the ergonomics is excellent, the price is well......excellent. It doesn't even get the same sheeple reactions that I often get opening smaller (more scary) knives. Maybe it's the colored handle making it look to sheeple like a toy. Make no mistake however, this is no toy, it is a serious well made tool, one that I won't be without at work.

Want the Emerson wave feature on your Spyderco? Add a little zip-tie, clip off the excess and there you have it. Works great!

AVAILABLE COLORS: Blue, Brown (like this one), Green, Purple and Gray

Ergonomics: 9/10 (This knife just feels right)
Looks: 9/10
Materials: 9/10 (I love the materials. Good blade steel and FRN is perfect for LEO knife)
Fit and Finish: 9/10 (Very good for a knife of this price range)
Camp Use: 7/10 (might be a little lacking for hard use)
Military/Police Use: 9/10 (probably one of the most popular police knives in existence)
EDC Use: 9/10 (despite its size, a sheeple friendly, light weight GREAT EDC knife)
Food Prep: 9/10 (excellent slicer)
Skinning/Game Prep: 7/10 (would be great but cutting through big game bone wouldn't be a strong point)
Warranty: 8/10
Zombie Usefulness: 8/10 (This is one of the knives I'd want in the zombie Apocalypse)