The Balisong Collector Reviews Benchmade Models 43 and 47
A little over a year ago, Benchmade introduced their new Bali-Song, the Model 42. The Model 42 features titanium handles and a classic Weehawk blade. At the recent Blade Show, Benchmade introduced two new additions to the Bali-Song line, the Model 43 and the Model 47. These two new Bali-Songs use the same titanium handles but have a Collver Clip-Point Bowie blade and a Drop-Point Tanto respectively. As always, I'm pleased to have some of the first pieces to review.
(Click on this or most any other picture in this article to see a larger view)
"So," you might ask, "just what in world is a 'Collver Clip-Point Bowie Blade?'"
Well, the Clip-Point Bowie is one of the classic Benchmade custom Bali-Song blade profiles. You can see a couple of very nice custom bowies by clicking here and here.
(no larger image is available)
You can see that the Model 43's blade resembles the classic Clip-Point Bowie. But, the classic Clip-Point Bowie has a straight swedge on the spine. The Collver Clip-Point Bowie has a curved, sweeping clip on the spine. It's hard to call this a swedge because while it is beveled, it really doesn't come close to being an edge. You'd have to remove a lot of material to sharpen this into a false edge.
In this picture, you can see the spine of both the Model 43 and the 47
"So," you might ask, "if it's not intended to be sharpened, then what is the purpose of this sweeping curve on the spine?" Well, this is a fighting knife. In a forward grip, that curve will deflect an opponents thrust upward away from your hand. That's nice. But, in a reverse grip, this curve is just perfect for trapping. Whoever designed this blade knew what they were doing.
"So," you might ask, "Who designed this blade?" Well, I suspect that that would be Vance Collver, one of Benchmade's master craftsmen and one of the key forces behind the Bali-Song line.
And so I give you the Collver Clip-Point Bowie, a great new blade profile.
I like the Collver Clip-Point Bowie not only because it's a great fighting knife, but because it really handles well. The balance of this profile on the Ti handles is just perfect. When you hold this knife in a forward grip, the center-of-gravity is right on your index finger. Yes, Vance knows what he's doing.
Handling aside, I think the Collver Clip-Point Bowie looks great too. That sweeping curve and the upswept tip just suggest motion. This blade looks like it's moving even when it's standing still.
"So," you might ask, "How does it manipulate?"
I think it's great. The balance of this blade is just wonderful. For me, it's faster than a 42. I'm really pleased.
In case you can't tell, I like the Model 43 a lot!
"So," you might ask, "What about the 47?"
Well, I'm not as big a fan of Tanto blades personally. They are heavy at the tip and that, in my opinion, is not the best weight distribution for a balisong. I also don't like the chunky, heavy look of a Tanto.
But, the 47's Tanto isn't quite as chunk as the old 44 used to be. Furthermore, with the Ti handles, you don't have to move the heavy blade and a heavy handle. So, it's not quite so bad. In this picture, you can see a Model 47 right next to its precursor, the Model 44.
The curious fact is that according to my scale, which only has a 1/4 ounce resolution, the 43 weighs 4.25 ounces, the 47 weighs 4.25 ounces, and a 42 weighs 4.25 ounces. The old 44 tips the scale at 6.25 ounces.
I still think that the 47's blade feels just a bit "top heavy", is just a little slower to manipulate, and takes just a bit more effort.
Now, let me also note that many balisong artists prefer the old Benchmade Tanto, the Model 44, to the old Weehawk, the Model 45. I never did. But, those artists who prefer a more "top heavy" blade, will probably prefer the 47 to the 42 or 43. In this respect, I'm glad that Benchmade is offering all three.
"So," you might ask, "You're not as excited about the way the 47 handles, but what about how that 'Drop-Point Tanto' looks?"
Good question. Again, I'm not a big fan of most Tantos. They just look chunky and heavy. But, this one actually looks pretty good. The multiple angles meeting that the tip give it a look of energy.
"So," you might ask, "How about sharpening the swedge on the 47?"
Again, it's not really a swedge. Yes, it's beveled a bit, but it remains very thick. Yes, you could sharpen it, but you'd have to remove a lot of material to do so.
Aside from improving the appearance, the real purpose of this clip at the tip it to improve stabbing penetration. I haven't made any tests, but my guess is that this profile is going to be a great stabbing knife.
The two make an interesting pair, don't they? The 47 is optimized for stabbing while the swept spine of the 43 is great for deflecting a stabbing thrust.
"Hey," you might ask, "Are those handles anodized?"
Yes, mine is a Model 47A with a very nice, mostly purple, anodized finish.
Let me say this: Benchmade sometimes gets criticized for quality problems, but, in the last week or so, I've purchased four new Benchmade Balisong Knives. All have been just perfect right out of the box. None has needed any adjustment. All have been plenty sharp. The anodized finish on the one is very even. None of the shows any significant casting problems. The grind lines on the blades are all nice. I just don't see the problems that certain people are constantly complaining about.
"So," you might ask, "Why is the base of the edge on both the 43 and the 47 so different?"
You would be referring to the "choil".
(no larger image is available)
A choil is a little indentation at the base of a blade that makes the blade easier to sharpen. Basically, it lets you sharpen right up the end of the edge. On a balisong, the choil right next to the kick makes for sort of a funny looking combination. Some may argue that adding a choil weakens a blade, and, technically speaking, it does. But, today's steels are so strong that it really doesn't matter. So, I'm glad to see that Benchmade had finally figured the choil out and added it to the 43 and 47. I hope they'll redesign the 42 to incorporate one and that they'll propagate this to their other knives as well.
"Hey, " you might ask, "Isn't there something different about the tang stamp in that picture?"
Yes, there's a little number 43 below the butterfly Bali-Song logo. That, of course, is the model number. Benchmade has started to incorporate that on all of their knives. It won't surprise me to see a little 42 show up on newer Model 42's in the near future. (This will save my successor hundreds of e-mails per year from people asking what model number their Bali-Song is.) Changing the tang stamp from model-to-model is possible because Benchmade now marks their knives with a laser etching machine.
In the old days, they either acid etched the mark or stamped it. Stamping requires a stamping tool. Remember, we're stamping into blade steel. The stamp has to be a very hard, very durable tool. Those stamp tools were very expensive to make. Acid etching requires a stencil. The stencils aren't as expensive, but you still have to prepare a new one for every change. The laser machine, on the other hand, is quite versatile. You can change the programming in seconds. So, it's quite practical for Benchmade to give each different model a different tang stamp.
Speaking of blade steel, the blades on the Model 43 and 47 are 440C stainless steel. The Model 42 will remain 12C27 for the immediate future. 440C is considered one of the best overall blade alloys. It takes and retains an excellent edge. And, it's very rust-resistant. In fact, as a collector, 440C is, I think, my favorite steel because I've never seen rust on a 440C blade given minimal basic care. So, I'm just delighted that Benchmade selected 440C for the new profiles.
The tang stamp on the back of the new blades even says 440C.
The sheath included with the 43 and the 47 is, unfortunately, the same one that has been accompanying the 42 since day one. But, as Benchmade has pointed out to me, those who do carry their Bali-Song have so many different opinions about sheaths (Kydex, nylon, or leather, horizontal or vertical, tang forward/up or back/down, velcro, snap, or open, belt, neck, shoulder, or something else?) that the best thing they can do is just keep the cost of the included sheath low and let you buy one that suits your needs and tastes elsewhere. And I guess that that is true. The good news is that any sheath you may have that fits a Model 42 will fit the 43 and 47 perfectly too.
With two new blade profiles, the proud Benchmade Bali-Song line is strong again!