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July 14, 2012 Comments (0) Blades & Tools

Lone Wolf Hunter Review

I have been fortunate to have owned a lot of very nice knives over the past several years, but each came with a price tag, which while fair, I would have considered ludicrous some years ago. Even as I have been in the position to enjoy some small extravagances, I have always tried to keep things in perspective. Not everything that is good is expensive and not everything that is expensive is good, so I keep my eyes peeled for value.

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The Lone Wolf Hunter came into my possession recently and it was not by accident. When I saw images of it on the ‘net, I recognized some very attractive design features and saw bits and pieces of knives I have sketched up while daydreaming of “the perfect knife.” I jumped at the opportunity to handle this knife where I would normally have stood back and waited to see what came my way.

While waiting for the Lone Wolf Hunter, I decided to research it a bit. OK, just I wanted to look at pictures until I could get the real thing in my hands, but I did learn something in the process. A quick general search lead me right to the Lone Wolf site, where I saw a number of very nice-looking knives but no Lone Wolf Hunter. I clicked on “new” and got redirected to the Benchmade site. Nothing against Benchmade – I have a few, but I was a bit miffed that they had hijacked me while I was looking for something else. Then, I learned something. Lone Wolf Knives is a line picked up by Benchmade. Quite an endorsement based on my experience with Benchmade.

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Then, I learned something else. The Lone Wolf Hunter retails for forty five bucks and we all know that nobody pays retail. That puts the Hunter into a very affordable class of knives. Back to the bit about value; there’s no reason that a good design cannot be executed reasonably well in a production knife. I have seen a lot of very inexpensive production knives which were very nicely finished but had cheap steal, poor heat treating and all the wrong features for a knife someone actually plans to take outside and use. Once in a while, someone who actually uses knives specifies the right details and the result is an affordable and useful knife. From what I can see so far, that looks like what Lone Wolf Knives is doing.

When the Lone Wolf Hunter arrived, I wasn’t sure they hadn’t mailed me a sheath and forgot the knife. There wasn’t much heft to the box so I opened it immediately and looked. The sheath was there as well as the knife. The Hunter weighs an even four ounces, the sheath one point three. I have whole knives that weigh more than that and I own mostly lightweight knives.

The hunter has a very natural feel in hand and its weight is slightly rearward. The blade is “stainless;” what kind of “stainless,” I don’t know. I don’t get too worked up about having the latest boutique steel, but I do like to know what I am getting. Full tang construction provides some peace of mind if you worry about breaking a knife or the handle material, but The Hunter seems very well put together and I wouldn’t fret a bit about breaking it or the scales cracking or falling off.

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Dimensions of the blade are about optimum – just over four inches counting the ricasso, an eighth of an inch thick and one inch tall. As boring as “optimum” sounds, optimum is as good as it gets as far as I am concerned. Not too short, not too long, not too thick or too thin. It’s just right. You could shorten it by a half to three quarters of an inch and I wouldn’t complain but any longer would throw the whole knife off. The slight drop point is optimum as well, or just right. Even the straightest part of the edge still has a very slight curve which is an aid to slicing. The faces are hollow ground, well finished and terminate at a very evenly ground edge, with the exception of one spot, which I will cover in more detail later. This is an excellent grind for what it was intended, but I had intended to misuse this knife.

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The handle is shapely, with, again, close to optimum dimensions and contours. The Hunter’s handle is relatively slender overall but is contoured such that it fills the inside of your grip very well. It could be a shade longer without detracting from comfort but it should definitely be no shorter. The Hunter’s handle is clad with very hard rubber-like scales which have a very slight tackiness. I am not fond of rubber-handled knives at all but the scales on the Hunter don’t seem to give and they don’t stick to your skin. I actually like these scales as they don’t have the spongy feel or texturing of others I have used. As a bonus, it looks as if they could be easily replaced if you have other preferences but they are quite serviceable as the come. The Hunter I have has OD green scales (my favorite color) and are adorned with contour lines like those on a map. I don’t like decoration, but this actually looks pretty cool. It is subdued and an appropriate design for an outdoor knife and I view it more as an appropriate and distinctive trade-mark than pure decoration.

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The shape of the handle on the Lone Wolf Hunter is excellent and deserves mention beyond the other details. It’s lack of girth is offset by some intuitive thinking on the actual shape – it fits the inside of my hand well. I don’t have large hands, so some may want some more girth, but it does not come off as a heavy wood-worker, rather more of a game processing tool, so the slightly slender handle seems very appropriate. I have tried to strike this balance in some compact knives I have designed or re-handled and have gotten close but not this close. When I grip the Hunter’s handle, I feel what I have imagined but have not realized in my own knife-tinkering efforts.

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So, the Lone Wolf Hunter looks great and feels great, but is it just another “cool-looking” knife – “all show and no go?” My intentions were to use the Hunter as more of a “bush craft” type tool, but the deep hollow grind is much better suited to processing game than carving wood. Believe me, I tried. Using the tension-cut method of bending a sapling and cutting into the outside of the bend to collect poles worked fairly well, but the blade wanted to veer toward the waste and I had to reposition the edge several times until I got through a one-inch sapling. While the Hunter was very sharp, the geometry is just not meant for this type of work. Holding the spine against one knee to point tent stakes was even less productive so, still determined, I tried a thumb-cut and chest lever, neither of which improved upon the tendency of the edge to work its way toward the chip instead of where I was directing it.

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While this may be an unfair test for a hunting knife, hunting season is several weeks off and to leverage the completion of this article on whether or not I filled a deer tag this year might leave you waiting a long time to hear about the Lone Wolf Hunter. Still, if I were to carry the Hunter hunting, I would make it a point to also have an axe or at least a knife more inclined toward wood-work. With the Hunter weighing less than six ounces in its sheath, it would be no burden at all and the convenience of a dedicated game processing knife would be great.

As for the undefined “stainless” material used for the blade, I found that it responded well to a 600 grit diamond plate for the initial edge preparation and my two-grit strop regimen used on my wood working tools worked just fine. I had to concentrate to maintain the original high angle of the edge grind as it was different than my other edges but appropriate for the hollow grind. Not having a deer or two to process, I was at a loss for testing edge retention in an objective context. I had mutilated countess vegetables with it (and ate them) but that says more about handling and blade geometry than edge retention. Incidentally, the vegetable massacres confirmed that the handle shape is very adept.

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To be unfair, yet again, to the Hunter, I put it to a material I would cringe to even think of putting a keen edge to – MDF (medium density fiberboard). MDF is essentially glue and sawdust, and much more of the former than the latter by my own estimation. It is tough on sharpened edges and does not cut well at all without a very sharp edge. The irony is that a very sharp edge does not stay that way very long when used on MDF. Using some three quarter square sticks of cut-off stock, I proceeded to fabricate a completely useless tent stake of MDF using the Lone Wolf Hunter. The first few light cuts left smooth and shiny concave facets which is a real testament to the sharpness of the edge. I made the same shallow cuts, over and over until I got tired of doing it, which translated to about four inches of three quarter stock reduced to fine shavings – not dust, and the Hunter’s edge had not degraded to a perceptible degree. That’s impressive. It may have had as much to do with the high angle of the edge grind as the steel/heat-treat combination but in any case, the steel/heat-treat in combination with that angle is very good.

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The one real production faux pas on this knife might well have been isolated to the example I have. The choil was placed half its diameter too far back, making the problem it is supposed to solve even more acute. The interface between the face grinds and the ricasso leave a tricky spot to sharpen and a choil takes a little bite out of the part that is neither fine edge nor thick tang, making it easy to sharpen the knife’s edge all the way back. With the choil misplaced, it created a three faceted pyramid that held the edge off of the stone during initial sharpening and left a one-inch dead spot along the cutting edge. After struggling with this a while, I employed the Dremel, a small cut-off wheel and a light touch to push the choil forward a bit and sharpening was smooth sailing from there.

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I would love to see the Lone Wolf Hunter followed up with a Lone Wolf “Bushcraft.” A flat, full height convex or high Scandi grind would be the berries. I would lose the ricasso and just make the handle three eighths longer or the blade three eights shorter (or half, or three quarters) and save a few cents on steel. Save the time spent on grinding the thumb serrations and make the lanyard hole big enough for at least 550 cord. I feel that the proportions and dimensions on the Lone Wolf Hunter are about optimum and the blade and handle shapes could draw in yet another group of folks who know and use their knives. As-is, I will get to use this knife to its potential a few times a year. A more “bushy” variation thereof could be used very often. If Lone Wolf Knives saw fit to throw the Bushcraft crowd a bone, I think they could make-do with it for processing game as well because the design is very good. Then again, at the price, it would be very easy to own both!

To get a look at other Lone Wolf Knives, check out their site: http://www.lonewolfknives.com/default.aspx

To see the Lone Wolf Hunter, you will get forwarded to Benchmade’s site:

http://www.benchmade.com/products/40036

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