This was a knife I wanted to like. Right out of the box, the American Buffalo Knife and Tool Phantom Spector folding knife flipped right open in my hand to reveal a shaving sharp 4-inch 8cr13mov tanto blade attached to a silky smooth ball bearing pivot. Sure, the pocket clip was only drilled for right hand carry, but then a lot of folding knives are like that. And I was willing to look past the heavier than preferred 5.9-ounce weight if the edge kept up with testing and the tip didn’t bend or break after being repeatedly jammed into and pulled out of logs.

But alas, I would despise it as soon as I started using it.

When I began handling the knife, I felt something moving around inside the handle. At first I thought the screws were loose, but some shifting around revealed everything was keeping together. There was nothing loose in either the blade or pins. When I started experimenting with different grips, I discovered what was wrong: The liner lock was prone to failure. Because I was left handed, the way my fingers shifted against the textured protrusion of the liner lock, meant to make closure easier, was actually disengaging the lock during use, leaving the blade free to close on my unsuspecting fingers. This appeared during normal tasks as well as tough chores during testing. I can’t use or recommend a knife that I know will have an unsafe failure.

After seeing and feeling the safety issue with this bargain tactical folder, I tried to regain my confidence in the knife by enjoying the smooth and fast opening from both the flipper and ambidextrous thumb studs (which are unnecessary since you can’t carry the knife in your left pocket and be able to draw). But I then discovered an issue that would ultimately decide the knife needed to go back to the drawing board and be recut into a universally usable tool. The anodized aluminum handle scales had unnecessary texture that did nothing more than allow moisture and sweat to gather on an already smooth surface, letting the knife slip in my hand when quickly opening and closing.

I really did want to like the knife. The ABKT Phantom Spector’s blade didn’t bend or break in stabbing and prying, and the edge cut nice feather sticks from dry wood and didn’t seem to mind going through cardboard and quarter-inch PVC tubing. With such an easy opening from the flipper, I could open and close the knife for days without getting bored.

But before the knife can be used, it needs to be usable. A liner lock that fails in the hand and slippery grip will not do for a knife that comes in a box labeled “tactical weapons.” It has the potential to be a great knife with the solid blade and fast and easy opening.

Check out the ABKT Phantom Spector HERE and purchase it for $36.

Music from