Monday, November 10, 2014

Protech TR-4 (Tactical Response) Automatic Knife Review

Look up bad ass knife in the dictionary and you might see this....
The light of a south Texas sunset makes the color look different than the other photos.
NOTE: Click on any of the photos to see a larger version

Disclaimer: Automatic knives are illegal in many states. Know your laws before purchasing one or carrying one. For many years in Texas (where I live) autos were a big no no. Last year however, they were legalized.......I love my state :)

If you're a fan of automatic knives, the name Pro-Tech needs no introduction. Dave Wattenberg, the owner of Pro-Tech has made a name for his company not only amongst auto knife enthusiasts but also law enforcement and military operators everywhere.  I own a fairly decent collection of auto knives and Pro-Techs are amongst my favorites. When I saw the Pro-Tech TR-4, I knew I "needed" to own it. Throw in a sterling silver skull in the handle and I'm sure I'd be breaking some knife nut code for NOT owning one.

Several months ago, when I received this knife in the mail, I had two friends standing around when I opened it. As I took the knife from the box and from its pouch everyone said the same thing; "Whoa!" When I depressed the auto release button and the blade came popping out, it was a unanimous, "Holy crap!" Several things were immediately apparent:

1.) This is a Big knife
2.) This is not your normal every day carry (EDC) knife.
3.) This knife opened around sheeple will surely illicit bladder control issues.
4.) If you own and open this knife in public, your "personal space" just got allot bigger.
5.) If you ride a Harley Davidson or Sport a Rocker Patch, this will definitely fit the Motif.
6.) If you are in Law Enforcement or the Military and have need for a last ditch SHTF, window breaking, self defense knife, they don't get much serious than this.

A thing of vicious looking beauty...
Pro-Tech has several iterations of the TR-4 knife all with different aesthetics for different tastes. The one thing they all have in common however is that they are all serious blades for people wanting a big auto. The TR in this knife stands for Tactical Response. While the one I own (portrayed here in photos) is a limited edition Shaw Skull version, most all other specs remain the same in the TR-4 line.


Like I said earlier, this a BIG auto. At 9.25 inches overall, this is not a discrete knife by any stretch of the imagination. The blade itself is 4 inches with a 3.5 inch cutting edge. .5 inches of the blade is a nice finger choil. The blade thickness is around .125 inches; not too thick, not too thin. The aluminum scales or handles are 5.25 inches. This all adds up to one serious looking knife.

The Pro-Tech TR-4 compared to a Spyderco Citadel

The 4" blade is made from 154CM, a common steel in mid to upper priced knives. It wasn't too long ago when 154CM was considered by many to be the "super steel". It's properties are very similar to 440 C in that it holds an edge very well, is fairly corrosion resistant and holds up to fairly heavy cutting (albeit not as good as higher carbon steels). 154CM has seen use in many higher end production and custom knives. Most all of my older Benchmades and many of the newer ones use 154CM. 154CM varies in quality from manufacturer to manufacturer depending on the heat treatment. Benchmade seems to have perfected the process as the knives I have used from them with this steel have performed very well. The same can be said for Pro-Tech as I currently own 5 different Protech knives and my one "user" has been used and abused and  Pro-Tech's 154CM has held up very well . 154CM is pretty corrosion resistant and none of my Pro-Tech's have had any issue with rust or corrosion. The blade shape on the TR-4 lends itself to just about any EDC chore you can throw at it. Of course people might get a little concerned if you break out the TR-4 during a family get-together to cut up a Thanksgiving Turkey.
The beautiful blade shape of the TR-4
Limited Edition TR-4 Shaw Skull #3 - #185 of 300.
The clip is long enough and flexible enough to clip into and out of the pocket perfectly. It is held in place nicely with three torx head screws. I assume Pro-Tech uses some type of holding glue (loctite blue maybe?) to hold the screws in place because I haven't had any issues with the screws loosening on any of my Protechs. The clip is not too tight, not too loose, very well done. The pocket clip on the Pro-Tech TR-4 is a one choice, tip-up carry. Opinions on autos vary when it comes to carry. The main concern or issue with auto's is accidental opening in the pocket. Fortunately the TR-4 line of knives comes with a safety switch to prevent this if you so choose to employ it. The proponents of tip down carry would argue that tip-up carry in the case of an accidental opening, could potentially damage a hand shoved into a pocket. Proponents of a tip-up carry would argue that very little adjustment is needed in your grip for knife deployment when removed from your pocket is needed. Since most law enforcement officers carry auto knives as a last ditch resort in a life or death situation, I would argue for the tip-up carry. There are other arguments but these are the main ones I've heard. With this model, you only get one choice; tip-up; good by me.
The pocket clip is nicely done on the TR-4
In my 20+ years of law enforcement I've had very few incidents where I've needed to break the glass on an auto; they do occasionally arise however. In these cases, the majority of the time, it needs to be done immediately. If you've never tried breaking the glass in a modern automobile, you'd be surprised how tough it can be. I've watch many first responders use everything from rocks to the tips of their ASP Batons (works if your REALLY hammer the window) Most first responders that I know carry a dedicated glass breaker . In two instances for me, it was a child locked inside a hot vehicle and we needed to get in quick. The key to breaking auto glass is to focus the breaking energy to as small an area as possible. The usually involves a somewhat sharp tip which is not usually pocket carry friendly. Protech has rounded off the window breaker protruding from the rear of the handle but the energy needed to break a window is still fairly focused. I have not used it yet but rest assured, if I do, I'll report back.

NOTE: I know the mall ninja's will prefer to call this a "Skull Crusher" but a glass breaker is much more utilitarian.
The TR-4 Glass breaker protrudes from the rear of the scales seen here.

Right out of the box, all of my Pro-Tech 's including the TR-4 exude quality. All torx screws have always been tight, blade springs fire like nobody's business and I find zero blade play. These are the reasons, I keep going back to Pro-Tech for my automatic knives; quality. After using and carrying this knife for several months, I can honestly say that in a production automatic knife, Protech matches or in most cases exceeds the quality found in my Spyderco and Benchmade autos. You will not believe how hard this knife fires for such a big blade.


The lock found on most push button automatic knives is the button itself and the Pro-Tech is no exception. The button locks into a notch in the rear of the knife blade in the open and closed position. This provides for a nice secure lock up but depending on the tolerances, it can cause slight blade play in some "cheaper" brands. I'm happy to report that with my Pro-Tech knives, including this TR-4, tolerances are very well controlled and there is zero blade play in any direction. I have put my Pro-Tech TR-3 which uses the same lock under some serious pressure in use and have never had any issues of lock failure what so ever. The button lock on the TR-4 locks up night and solid. Of course you use to same button to activate/open the knife as you do to unlock it from the open position.


The one thing different on the TR-4 as opposed to my other Pro-Techs is the implementation of a safety switch. I have a safety switch on my Benchmade's and Spyderco's and I find that I prefer them. On this particular knife, an accidental opening of such a large blade in the pocket could prove VERY painful if not down right dangerous. I was glad to see Pro-Tech incorporated this into the TR-4. The switch operates just like the ones on the Benchmade's and Spyderco's. It locks the blade switch in place both open and closed.
The TR-4 Safety switch and button

As I've stated previously, while I'm usually not a fan of all metallic handled knives, I have found the ergo's of this aluminum handled TR-4 to be nicely done. It has jimping on the back of the scales near the front, on the opposite side near the rear and even on the back spacer/glass breakers. The finger grooves and nice choil top off the good ergos on this knife.
I have many autos from many different makers and can honestly say, Pro-Tech has some of the strongest springs and "snappiest" opening knives I've ever seen; and the TR-4 is no exception; especially for such a large blade. When I show a Pro-Tech knife to anyone, I first qualify it with a, "Now, If you're going to open it, hang on tight". Without that statement, I've unfortunately seen my Pro-Tech knives inevitably pop out of loose grips and fall to the floor. These things, pop open with authority! When anyone does open it, every one gets the inevitable grin on their face and  I just wait for the, "WOW, this thing is strong!" which happens every time. Add the size of the blade to this equation and the look you get from knife nuts is similar to gun nuts firing a full auto weapon for their first time.  

One word of caution, accidental opening in the pockets are usually a minor issue and rarely happens. If however you carry an auto without an external safety, I highly recommend you give it it's own pocket without other items such as keys than can inadvertently press the button and can cause accidental blade deployment. I also highly recommend that you get in the habit of NOT plunging your hand into your carry pocket haphazardly. Checking first has become second nature to me as I've carried them for years. In probably over 13 years of carrying an auto, I've only had one accident where I was bitten and that involved a Benchmade that had an external safety but I chose not to engage it. When I carry an auto knife at work, I usually carry it in a dedicated pocket with no other items in it and even if there is a safety available, I usually do not use it. The reason being is that I carry an auto for one reason; a LAST ditch effort to save my life. In a life or death situation, simplicity is paramount and I don't want to have to fiddle with a little safety switch to save my butt. I also carry another knife in a different pocket for EDC purposes but I usually do not use my autos for anything else so they remain sharp. Being a firearms instructor for many years, "duty carry" means being ready for all SHTF scenarios. A law enforcement officer does not go on duty without a round in the chamber and I apply the same theory to my auto knives. Off duty where I carry the TR-4, the safety on my TR-4 is on. I don't carry the TR-4 on duty due to the skulls....more on that later.

Automatic knives are just like any other one handed opening knife, they can be used for anything that their blade shape and size allows. I've used my TR-3 for many things and have EDC'ed it many many times. The TR-4 reviewed here has a blade shape that lends itself to many tasks from food prep to general cutting tasks. While being an "auto" might make the general public / sheeple believe it only has one evil purpose, make no mistake, it has as many potential uses as any other knife of similar dimensions. The auto aspect was unfortunately demonized by movies in the 50's through the 70's and of course politicians took the bait and knife aficionado's suffered. In Texas, Joe Blow used to be able tote around a fully loaded .45 cal. pistol, a deer rifle or even a fully loaded shotgun but not a knife with a spring?!?!? Texas has, to the pleasure of many knife nuts come around and now autos can be carried just like what ever else you choose to carry. An auto knife is no different than any other knife and their uses are endless. In any situation where one hand is tied up with another task and you only have one hand to deploy your knife, an auto sure is handy.

All this being said, one should exercise some common sense when opening a large auto like this in public. Most people are not knife nuts and the TR-4 (especially this one with the skulls) popped opened in the baby section of WalMart may likely get you a visit with the local PoPo (police). Everyone has their opinion on issues like this but my personal opinion mirrors that of open carry of a firearm. I don't mind open carry of a firearm one bit; in fact, I'm glad Texas is moving in that direction with our new governor. There is a small minority of people however who take the right too far and then act like shocked halfwits when the police come to chat with them. If walk into a Jack-in-the-Box sporting a loaded AR-15 you should expect unwanted attention (or more than likely they do want attention for their cute little YouTube channel)  and you don't pop open a four inch auto knife sporting skulls in Sunday School to clean your fingernails. YouTube attention whores are the bane of 2nd amendment advocates and the same goes for folks breaking out mini katana swords in public to open an envelope. Just because you can do it, doesn't mean you should. It's called common sense, if more people would employ it, the world would be much better off. **Steps off soapbox**
I like skulls for collection purposes, that's it. Skulls to the general public screams, biker, bad guy, mall ninja, wanna-be tough guy, Pirates of the Caribbean, et. al. Skulls to a defense attorney or prosecuting attorney screams, "gotcha!". Lord forbid if you had to use this knife in a self defense situation, trust me when I say, a lawyer would LOVE to hold this up in court and say, "Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury, take a look at this knife adorned with a DEATH SKULL on the handle and even a skull on the lanyard. Does this look like the tool of someone concerned about their defense? or does it look like to you, as it does me, a knife owned by someone that would love to use it on another human being to show how tough he/she is?" As cool as the skulls are, I don't want to ever be put in that position. Again, common sense, we need to use it..That being said, they do look cool :)
Sterling silver skull in the TR-4 LE handle

Skull adorned lanyard

The Pro-Tech TR-4 does come with a nifty pouch. I don't usually wear a belt off duty so I don't usually use it. That being said, if you do wear a belt, it comes with a very nice lockable pouch.

After I bought my first Pro-Tech many years ago, and I let a few co-workers handle it, they immediately wanted to buy some for themselves. In the span of three years, I think we purchased well over 100 knives in various models from TR-1's, TR-2, TR-3's, to Godfathers and Godsons, etc. Dave has a very well earned reputation of always taking care of everyone. Only once that I know of did one of our marine (boat crew) units have an issue with a spring breaking. He called Dave Wattenberg at Protech and within a week or so, had a good-as-new, re-sharpened knife. Well done Pro-Tech!
I'll be direct and to the point. If you want a large, well built, hard firing automatic knife and can legally own and carry one, you won't find one better made than the TR-4 in my opinion. This knife will get you Oohh's and Ahhh's from your knife loving friends but it will also get you the same reactions of a black and white Japanese man in a Godzilla Movie from societies sheeple. It's an awesome knife, a very tactical knife, a great SHTF knife but not very good for an EDC knife in a sheeple environment.
Pro-Tech makes great autos and this one is no exception. Fit and finish is great, screws were tight, everything was smooth. I can't say enough good things about this knife in that department. Due to it's large size however (and in this case skulls), it's uses can be somewhat limited. If your an auto knife collector grab one ASAP before their gone. If you ride a Harley Davidson sporting XXX rocker patch, your club may elect you president with this knife :)
Ergonomics: 8/10 (very good for such a large knife)
Looks: 9/10
Materials: 8/10
Fit and Finish: 9/10 (for a production auto, very good)
Camp Use: 8/10 (while I don't usually use autos for this, My TR-3 has proven handy in outdoor situations)
Hard/Military/Police Use: 8/10 (Tailor made for last ditch police/military self defense use, but not prying hard use)
EDC Use: 5/10 (know your local laws and don't open around sheeple)
Food Prep: 8/10 (would work very good for food prep)
Skinning/Game Prep: 7/10 (while it would work good for this, this one's a collector piece for me)
Warranty: 10/10 (Dave Wattenberg takes care of his customers!)
Zombie Usefulness: 9/10 (Zombies fear big, skull adorned knives :) )

No comments:

Post a Comment