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)


  1. This is an excellent review. Probably the best thing about is the fact that I can't try out how the knife feels in hand, and being somewhat of a bigger guy (6'1 with bear paws for hands) that likes to use his knives and have a solid work horse, having read so many positive things coming from a guy who obviously has the same perspectives and size issue is just what was needed.
    This deserves way more than an A+

  2. I agree sir...after months of use it's still tough as nails