Benchmade makes several exceptional folding and fixed blades that all function as strong EDC knife choices, but one particular model in their lineup, the Bugout, is regarded by many knife owners as one of the best EDC knives on the market. Introduced originally with a blue Grivory handle and a CPM-S30V blade, the line has expanded tremendously over the last few years. Famously known for its ease of function and surprisingly light design, the 535 Bugout has stood its ground as one of Benchmade’s best and brightest. The most recent addition to the line is the 535BK-4, and it is simply stunning.
The 535BK-4 Bugout pulls your focus immediately, a highly detailed milling pattern on the aluminum handle scales goes from every direction into the pivot screw, directing the eye to the center point between the blade and the handle when the knife is in the open position. Certainly a figure of power and grace, this knife visually evokes a sense of balance, opting for a black DLC coated blade instead of satin contrasting the polish of the elaborate aluminum handle. The knife almost appears like a sleeping metal swan or an exploding sun when closed depending on your point of reference. Dual maroon titanium thumb studs and spacers provide a necessary but subtle pop of color to round out the whole design.
The 535BK-4 is stunning, there are no two ways about it, and being a variation of the beloved 535 Bugout the model has a lot going for it already, but Benchmade has managed to improve this design on multiple fronts. The handle scales stand out as the first obvious difference between the 535 and the 535BK-4, opting for an aircraft-grade 6061-T6 aluminum handle built with nested steel liners, this knife is incredibly tough.
This design choice adds about 0.7 oz. to the design, but the additional weight provides a comfortable and secure feel in hand, adding to the overall balance and ease of use. The Bugout’s handles have always been ergonomic, fitting most hands comfortably at 4.22” and the Mini Deep-Carry clip stays out of the way, for the most part, doing its job discreetly. The second notable difference from the original 535 is the blade steel.
The choice to upgrade the CPM-S30V blade to M390 makes sense, as it offers a higher degree of edge retention and resistance to wear while keeping many of the same strengths, meaning you won’t have to get your knife sharpened as frequently. On top of the already upgraded blade steel, Benchmade has given this knife a black DLC coating, further improving the wear resistance and hardness, and providing a lower level of friction when cutting.
The Benchmade Designers
The designers at Benchmade certainly knew what they were doing when they crafted the 535BK-4 Bugout and the aspects of the original design that they kept further prove that. A drop point blade is probably the perfect blade for a daily carry, making slicing easy and providing an ample 3.24” cutting edge on the Bugout. Paired with the M390 blade and DLC coating, this drop point blade can provide a level of versatility and reliability that is needed for a knife to be used every day. This knife also boasts one of Benchmade’s best standard features, the AXIS Lock.
With one finger the lock can be pulled back to liberate the blade, and with an almost effortless flick of the wrist or the thumb studs, the blade can be deployed and locked into place by letting go of the AXIS lock. In terms of the functionality of an EDC, there are few features more sought after than near-instant deployability and the knife certainly can achieve that once the user is comfortable with the AXIS mechanism. Overall this knife sets the bar for what a daily use knife can be in terms of both functionality and design, at the price point it currently sits at, it is really only matched in quality by other Benchmade folding knives with similar features, but even among those, it stands out as having a great deal of care put into the design. The Benchmade Bugout 535BK-4 is a stylish workhorse and noteworthy choice for your next EDC knife.