With the Fourth of July approaching, it seems only fitting that I’ve been reviewing a slew of American-made knives. This time it’s the Boker Plus Patriot – A beautiful blade that, like our nation itself, has its share of both good and bad. And what better place to explore this dichotomy than the canyons and creeks of the American West? I spent the last few weeks carrying it in both. Here’s the rundown.
The Patriot has a lot going for it on this front. Designer Raimund Lhotak has put together an attractive piece, with a 3.375-inch drop point blade that’s nearly as long as its handle (4.125-inches). The steel here is 154CM, which is an improved version of 440C. Its saber-style grind tops out at a rather trim 0.12-inches, making it well suited for precision slicing tasks. This thinness carries over to the rest of the design. The side scales are GFN, with an assembled width of 0.43-inches. A sturdy lockback and ambidextrous thumb studs round out the package. Add this all together and you’re looking at a 2.1-ounce knife with an overall length of 7.5-inches.
Ergonomically speaking, it’s pretty clear that Mr. Lhotak knows what he’s doing. The Patriot fits perfectly in the hand, with no major hotspots or sharp edges. His maker’s mark graces the clip side of the blade, opposite “Boker Plus USA” on the reverse. He’s also included a rather nice run of jimping at the back of the blade. This provides a wonderful thumb rest, augmenting the knife’s already strong grip. Its thin profile also makes for a wonderful carrying experience. This is a knife that practically disappears in the pocket while still offering just enough purchase to allow for easy retrieval.
Full disclosure, guys – I’m in love with this blade shape. It’s just long and graceful enough to spark my fancy, without being too murdery for office use. The blue handle color helps a bit in that department, but the cutting surface itself is just barely benign enough for use in tentative company. But you know the old saying – You always hurt the ones you love? Well, the Patriot hurts me.
Let’s start at the tip. As shown in the pictures, it appears that my particular tester is slightly scorched at the apex. I didn’t use the knife around anything hot, so it must have come this way from the warehouse. It’s also slightly bent, though this could have been a result of my testing. But since I mostly used it for paper, cardboard, and plastic packaging, I certainly hope this wasn’t the case.
Moving down the steel, we come to the base of the sharpened edge, which ends abruptly just a few millimeters ahead of what appears to be a tiny finger choil. The grind in this area is fairly asymmetrical, lending an unwelcome “rough finish” aspect to the design.
Lastly, there’s the pocket clip. While it does a fine job keeping the knife secured, the bland wash on its steel doesn’t match the rest of the knife. It’s also unbranded, giving it a sort of tacked-on feeling. I’d love to have seen a tiny Boker logo or a subtle bit of text here. As it is, it looks like something from the spare parts bin. Again, despite this quibble, it’s a perfectly functional clip.
3.75 stars out of 5
Alright. Let’s get a couple things out of the way right now. First, the Patriot is an excellent slicer. Its blade (though graced with a subtly uneven grind) came very, very sharp. There’s also the lock. Once engaged, its proven design inspires all the confidence you need to put that cutting power to use. And, as mentioned above, the knife carries exceptionally well.
Unfortunately, there are several issues here. First and foremost is the action. This is the grittiest, toughest opener that I’ve experienced in a while. Or, at least it was out of the box. A careful disassembly and application of Nano Oil helped things, and the knife has begun to break in. But the tolerances on the pivot tension are so, so delicate that all that stands between a solid structure and noticeable side-to-side blade play is less than an eighth of a turn. This becomes especially problematic upon closure. While the thumb stud helps deal with the stiffness of deployment, it takes a lot of effort to shake the blade past its lockup once the button is depressed. And remember that odd finger choil? It’s just barely long enough to keep your finger from impacting the blade. So, one-handed closure requires a little practice.
Once the knife is closed, you’ll have a good view of the back of the blade. This reveals an odd stripe down its curvature. What is it? Well, according to a few other reviews I’ve read, it’s a groove left by the lockbar as it drags across the tang. Given my difficulty with closing the blade, I have little doubt that this is in fact the case. I’m concerned that this could be a long term weakness.
What we’re left with is a knife that’s a pleasure to carry and use, but only once it’s open. I’m not alone in this, either; there are several other reviews out there citing the same issue. If Boker could dial in the action, this would be a flawlessly function knife. As it is, the grittiness carves a sizeable chunk from its score.
3.5 stars out of 5
Here’s where things get pretty bad.
First and foremost, the Patriot is a joy to take apart. Boker has chosen to use the same size torx screws for the pivot, spacers, and pocket clip, allowing you to take the knife down with a single bit. Too bad that, per their website, “Disassembly of any nature voids all Boker warranties.” Ouch. The next point on the company’s warranty page takes things a step further, stating that “Missing, Lost, or Tampered with Stripped screws are NOT covered under warranty, this is a maintenance issue. Feel free to call service and we can try and help but no guarantees or promises are hereby made.”
This gets even harder to swallow once you realize that Boker charges a $14.95 shipping and handling fee for each returned item. And even then, if they decide your problems stem from a failed disassembly, you’ll be out of luck. This really doesn’t sound like much of a warranty. Compare it with companies like Spyderco, Kershaw, or other brands in the same price range, and it looks even worse. A knife that’s made in the USA is going to cost more to get serviced than items assembled in China or Japan? That doesn’t sit right with me.
While their service coda gets a failing grade, I’m hesitant to call this a total bust. 154CM steel is pretty nice, and the knife’s other materials should hold up for a good long while. So, if you’re willing to forgo the company coverage and perform your own maintenance, the Boker Plus Patriot could be a reliable companion.
But, boy, does that warranty sting.
2 stars out of 5
The comparison here should be obvious. From its GFN handle to its lockback design, the Patriot represents a shot fired straight across the bow of the Spyderco Delica. Though I don’t have one in my collection at the moment, a look at the above photo alongside the Dragonfly2 and Native5 should drive the point home.
Believe it or not, Boker does score a few victories here. It’s got better steel, a more attractive blade shape, and an American-made pedigree. I’d also argue that it’s just as ergonomic as the Delica4, at least for my medium sized hands. But when it comes down to it, Spyderco still makes the better knife. Their quality control, proven action, and company coverage far outpace the Patriot.
Still, there’s enough good here to make for an interesting decision. If you’re not a fan of the Delica4 (and you’re willing to put up with the Patriot’s nagging flaws and lackluster warranty), this could be a decent option at the $70 price point.
3 stars out of 5
All things considered, I still like this knife. But that kinda stinks, because I really, really wanted to love it. It looks and feels like a truly excellent blade, until you dive into the details. And I’m pretty heartbroken by the pitfalls of Boker’s warranty.
Would I still recommend it? That depends on what you’re looking for. Its excellent ergonomics and respectable steel make it a great backup knife for your pocket or pack. But as a primary blade, I just can’t see it. And that’s not so much a fault of the design as it is of Boker’s backing. How am I supposed to trust this as my EDC if I’m not allowed to maintain it? Again, heartbreaking.
But in the end, this is still a really cool design. If you’re willing to look past the coverage issues and spend some time wearing in the action, you’ll have a good slicer with strong ergonomics and an eye-catching appearance. Boker seems to be headed in a good direction in many of these aspects. If their warranty can catch up, they could be a force to be reckoned with.
Where to Buy
Amazon (rated 4.4 out of 5 stars over 3 customer reviews as of 6/12/17)
Blade HQ (rated 3 out of 5 stars over 3 customer reviews as of 6/12/17)