Gear Review: Benchmade 748 Narrows Folder

Let’s get this part out of the way right now. The Benchmade 748 Narrows is an extremely expensive production knife. Not a little expensive. Not pretty expensive. It’s very expensive. It has an MSRP of $580 and a street price of around $520. That is a lot of dinero to spend on a production knife — let alone a custom blade — no matter how cool the design, how well it’s made, and how great the materials used are.

Most of you can now jump directly to the comment section and bang away at your phones declaring your shock, outrage, and righteous indignation at that price and proclaiming that the Milwaukee folder you picked up on sale for $17.99 at Home Depot is plenty good enough and has has done everything you need an everyday carry knife to do for the last six years.

There. Are we OK now? Have the vapors dissipated? Did everyone get that out of their systems? Good. With that behind us, let’s talk about this knife.

The Benchmade Narrows seems to be as much an engineering exercise as it is a first-rate, incredibly light and beautifully made folding knife.

I own many knives. They range in price from the high teens up to, well, this one. This is unquestionably the most expensive knife I own. The Narrows is a truly impressive design, made in America of (mostly) American materials, and it is (mostly) flawless.

Whether all of that makes it worth the eye-popping price will, as always, be up to each individual buyer, their needs and the amount of disposable income. Let’s take a look at what makes this thing unusual and what went into it that makes Benchmade think they can get that much for an EDC folder.

We first got our hands on one of these when Benchmade showed it off at the SHOT Show. The first thing you will notice when you see one is how shockingly thin it is.

What you see here are two very similarly sized knives, the Narrows and a Hinderer-designed Zero Tolerance 550 titanium frame lock. They have very similar drop point blades (even down to the top swedges) and virtually the same overall lengths.

What you see here is a comparison of the thickness of the two knives. The Narrows is just a smidge over one-quarter inch wide, officially .28″ tough my caliper says .27. The 550 is .57″ or just over twice the width. Both are US-made titanium with premium Austrian steel blades.

These are both very capable knives. The Narrows, however, is engineered in every way to make it as thin, light, and easy to carry as humanly possible. If you’re going to be heading into the back country and looking to shave every ounce you can, you can see the attraction of the Narrows.

Benchmade didn’t just use thin slabs of Titanium for the Narrows’ scales. That alone would certainly have kept the weight down. But then they milled the scales out, not only on the outside for looks and grip, but also on the inside. The effect is sort of an I-beam design.

The motivation here was obviously to shave literally every fraction of an ounce they possibly could while maintaining strength. Those ultra-thin titanium scales are still exceptionally rigid. Trying to pinch them together as hard as you can, even with both hands, barely budges them.

As for the 3.43-inch blade, Benchmade chose M390 steel for the Narrows, a premium powdered metal steel that’s known for its high hardness and superior edge retention. One of the ongoing battles in the knife knut world (think GLOCK vs. 1911 or AR vs. AK) is M390 vs Magnacut.

Both are premium steels. The slight compromise you arguably make with M390 in terms of toughness and ease of sharpening compared to Magnacut is balanced out by better corrosion resistance and edge retention. M390 in general and the Narrows in particular is one hell of a slicer.

Like those never-ending gun debates, there are zealots on both sizes, but you can’t criticize Benchmade’s choice here. Well, you can and some definitely will, but short of repeatedly batoning the hell out of it — the blade is .08″ thick — very few people will be disappointed by the performance of M390.

Over the last three months, I’ve cut cardboard, wood, rope, food and a lot more with it and the Narrows does hasn’t perceptibly dulled at all. That’s a good thing, because sharpening M390 takes time and patience (Benchmade offers free sharpening if you don’t mind shipping it back to the mothership in Oregon).

Yes, that’s an AXIS crossbar lock that Benchmade is so well known for (and so many other knife makers use now that its patent has expired). No, that isn’t your father’s AXIS lock.

Benchmade’s engineers had to redesign it to minimize the width. The old design required a thicker handle. They’ve replaced the original’s steel liners with stepped titanium handles that do the same thing in less space and the omega spring is gone. Expect to see this re-thought AXIS design in other knives down the road.

The pivot is almost magically smooth. The blade glides open effortlessly with the flick of the thumbstud. Benchmade used thrust bearings rather than the usual washers to minimize width and reduce friction.

And you might think that, as thin as it is, it wouldn’t be comfortable in the hand, especially when you’re really bearing down on it with a firm grip. I’m happy to report that just isn’t the case. With its nicely radiused edges all around it feels good in the hand with no hot spots or abrasions.

As you’re probably noticed, the Narrows has Benchmade blue hardware including the pivot, thumbstud, screws, standoffs and clip. Ahh…that clip.

Benchmade has used a tried and true stamped steel deep carry clip here, one that they’ve used with other models. They’ve even drilled the scales with three holes if you prefer their standard clip instead. This clip, of course, has that nice Benchmade blue PVD coating. It’s a good, sturdy clip that doesn’t chew up your pants. I prefer sprung clips to sculpted clips eight days a week.

It’s just that this one isn’t…perfect.

While the PVD coating is very even and nicely applied, you can see stamp marks.

Especially on the edges.

Is that a ridiculously picky and stupid thing to notice, let alone comment on? Of course it is…if we’re talking about a Mini Bugout (which uses the same clip). But we’re not.

We’re talking about a knife that will run you over $500. It seems reasonable to expect an otherwise wonderful knife — and make no mistake, the Narrows is a truly wonderful knife — to have cleaned that up.

That’s literally the only gripe I can find here (we dealt with the price at the top, remember?). The Narrows is a wonder of engineering. It’s jaw-droppingly light, deploys smoothly and almost telepathically, and carries incredibly comfortably, especially for a medium-size knife.

I absolutely love this thing and carry it now more than any other blade I own. It’s bigger than knives I usually like to carry on a regular basis, but it’s amazing slimness and ultra-light weight offset its larger size. If you get one, you’ll no doubt love it, too. Assuming you’re willing and able to clear that price hurdle. Here’s hoping you can.

Specifications: Benchmade 748 Narrows Folding Knife

Blade Length: 3.43 in.
Overall Length: 8.02 in.
Closed Length: 4.58 in.
Weight: 2.41 oz.
Width: .28 in.
Blade Steel: Bohler M390
Handle: 6Al-4V Titanium
MSRP: $580 (about $520 retail)

Rating: (out of five stars):

Overall * * * * ¾
As much as I love everything about this knife from its materials to its engineering and ergonomics, I have to knock a little off for the finish on the clip. Just a smidge. But that doesn’t change the fact that this is an extraordinarily good knife.


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