By Luke C.
I got my first Ruger 10/22 when I was 9 years old. Seriously, what on earth was my Dad thinking? I wouldn’t have trusted a 9 year old version of myself with a pointy stick. But now, over 25 years later, that plucky little rifle is ticking along like a Swiss watch. Ruger just doesn’t get involved in the junk products game, and their new knife line is nothing different. They have recently teamed up with the folks at Columbia River Knife and Tool (CRKT) to bring a fantastic line of knives to market. The fixed blade Powder Keg and the folding Follow-Through will be reviewed here.
Let’s start off with the fixed blade Powder Keg. The Powder Keg is Ruger’s drop point, full tang, survival knife. They call it a ‘Pro-Point,’ but let’s be honest with ourselves, we know a drop point when we see it. The steel is 8Cr13MoV steel, a stainless with pretty good wear resistance at a decent price. The stock comes in at 3/16 inch thick, and is nicely finished with a black stonewash finish. I have no clue what the finish is, but it’s not the thick epoxy like coatings you sometimes see. This doesn’t seem to negatively affect cutting performance at all. It’s very similar to an anodizing on aluminum, but try as I might, I couldn’t nail it down.
The blade is 4 ½ inches in length, hollow ground, and came nearly shaving sharp. A couple of minutes on a charged leather strop and it was popping hair off my arm. The handles are rubber slabs bolted through the tang with large hardware. This is somewhere a potential buyer might get confused. Ruger calls it “Overmold.” While it might be one type of polymer overmolded on another, they are not overmolded to the tang of the knife. The tang is fully exposed on the edge and spine sides through the knife’s entire length. At the front end of the handle is a small bump for a finger guard. In use, the small guard proved comfortable and unobtrusive. Seeing as how the Powder Keg was designed by the guys from RMJ Tactical, the home of the coolest tactical tomahawks, the resemblance to their 37 Sale Creek knife is unsurprising. At just a tick under $70, the Powder Keg is more than $300 less than the 37 Sale Creek. It is a great value.
The sheath is fantastic. I am fond of well built leather, and this one is built exceptionally well for anything anywhere near this price point. It is a deep pocket, pancake style, built of quality leather. The stitching is saddle stitched and the rivets are perfectly done. You can carry this and look sharp with no fear of the knife coming loose. The rivets will let you tie it onto any kit you so desire. The welt is made of what seems like a heavily wax impregnated leather. It would fool you to thinking it was plastic, but it isn’t. The leather came pretty light, unstained in any way. I hit it with several coats of SnoSeal and it turned the perfect medium brown.
At the mouth of the sheath, there are two tabs, wings sort of, that protrude just a bit. I really like this, it really sets off the shape and helps hold the knife vertical. I carried this in a M4 magazine pouch on my chest rig during some training for work, and the knife never moved. While out in the field on time off I carried this knife almost exclusively in my back pocket. Trust me when I say this, this knife is perfect for this. It feels like a normal wallet, and the tabs hold it upright and ready. The belt loop fits a belt up to 1 ½ inches and keeps the knife snug to the body. The spine of the Powder Keg threw good sparks from my Swedish fire steel, so I have no doubt it would handle things in poor conditions. The full tang, sweeping edge, and thick stock batoned through dry and wet Aspen without an issue. The Powder Keg is heavy enough to get the job done, but comfortable enough to carry so that it will actually be there when you need it.
I recently came into, thanks to a kitchen remodel, a city block sized pile of cardboard. Ok, I’m exaggerating a bit, but honestly not by much. The Powder Keg went to work. I broke down flat packed, and tore apart enough cardboard to fill a 5’x12′ enclosed trailer. Add in all the packaging, plastic, shrink wrap, old flooring, and sheetrock, and the Powder Keg took apart enough medium to fill that trailer twice. Good grief is right. While the 8Cr13MoV isn’t a wonder steel, it got the job done. I sharpened it 4 to 5 times during that process, all done with a ceramic rod. Every time it popped back to sharp. Once it was all done, I started on a fine stone, moved to the ceramic rod, and finished with charged leather. It got back shaving without any nicks or dings to notice.
For a sub $70 knife, designed by a crew that makes ‘hawks for serious operators and brought to market by guys in the business of Ruger quality guns and well built CRKT knives, it’d be a perfect companion on our next outing.
Let’s move on to the Follow-Through. No, not the famous corner on the coolest race track ever, the Ruger Follow-Through folder. This is a liner lock folder that deploys via the flipper on the back. No thumb studs, no opening holes, just the flipper. Pretty simple, really. The Follow-Through is made from the same 8Cr13MoV steel as the Powder Keg, and nearly as long. The blade comes in at 3 ¾ inches and is satin stone washed smooth. The shape is what Ruger describes as a drop point with a flat back. I think that’s spot on.
The Follow-Through is a liner lock and mine centers up perfectly in the handle. The flipper is easy to operate and I was even able to deploy the knife and unlock it with light mechanic style gloves on. It will also inertia open with a flick of the wrist. Pretty cool party trick, but not something I’d do around fine art or new wood floors. This is possible because the blade rotates on something called an IKBS ball bearing. I’m impressed with it. Like Fletch says, “It’s all ball bearings these days.” Go look that one up, bucko. You’ll thank me.
The scales are polymer and checkered ala 1911 scales. Two large diamonds where the screw holes are and fine checkering everywhere else. The shape is very comfortable and what’s awesome is the sort of jimping on the skinny sides of the handles. They’re not quite jimping actually, more scallops, but smooth and deep. They really serve to lock the knife in the hand. The Follow-Through was designed by Matthew Lerch, and a quick search of his site revealed a strikingly similar knife. If it works for the high end world of custom knives, it’ll work for you. And for under $50, it’ll work well.
The clip is tip up only, and reversible for left or right hand carry. It holds extremely strong. So strong, that if I carried it in pants with a reinforced pocket lip, it was hard to get out. After two weeks of carry that broke in fine. After using it normally for a few weeks, I got to thinking. I wondered if the holes in the blade would lend themselves to working with the zip tie trick. This is where you tighten a small zip tie extremely tight through an opening hold on a folder. If you put the ‘lock’ of the zip tie to the outward side while carrying, you create a sort of poor man’s Emerson Wave type feature. Off to the garage I went, and sure enough, it works perfectly. Cinch a zip tie down on the Follow-Through and you’ve got a one hand opener that snaps open when you draw it from your pocket. It takes a little practice, but with a slight twist on the draw, it pops the blade open. When I discovered that, the Follow-Through stayed with me for over a month.
The Follow-Through is a great knife for those looking for something that won’t break the bank. The steel is pretty good, tempered well, and the knife is put together for traction in slippery conditions. If you’re looking for a knife that comes in on the larger side, take a look at the Ruger Follow-Through. The in hand comfort and ease of opening might just fit the bill.
You can find the Ruger Powder Keg and Follow Through at CRKT Knives.