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mantis knives, in review

Over the past few years, I have said a few things about Mantis Knives, but I have never actually fooled around with or owned one of their products. Well, this past weekend, an opportunity presented itself to put the rubber to the road – Jared West, the president of that particular company, was offering his MT-1 Silver for all of $20 (half price), and he would throw in a B-3 Necessikey and shipping for free. Half price and free? Well, hell, that has “me” written all over it.

Before we continue, I will point out that I have reviewed a few knives before, and I will go ahead and follow roughly the same pattern again (all measurements are mine, and some differ from those quoted on the Mantis webpages).

Cost:
– MT-1 Sliver: $40
– B-3 Necessikey: $16
Closed Length:
– MT-1 Sliver: 4.5″
– B-3 Necessikey: 1.5″
Open Length:
– MT-1 Sliver: 7.125″
– B-3 Necessikey: 4.125″
Edge Length:
– MT-1 Sliver: 2.625″
– B-3 Necessikey: 1.25″
Weight:
– MT-1 Sliver: 2.75 ounces
– B-3 Necessikey: 1.125 ounces
Blade Material:
– MT-1 Sliver: 420HC coated with something black.
– B-3 Necessikey: 420HC
Blade Profile:
– MT-1 Sliver: “The Dash” (effectively a recurve drop-point).
– B-3 Necessikey: Spear point.
Handle Material:
– MT-1 Sliver: 6061 Aluminum with clearcoat.
– B-3 Necessikey: Polymer
Assisted Opening:
– MT-1 Sliver: No.
– B-3 Necessikey: No.
Opening Method:
– MT-1 Sliver: Ambidexterous thumb studs.
– B-3 Necessikey: Thumbnail notch.
Locking Method:
– MT-1 Sliver: Liner lock.
– B-3 Necessikey: Slip joint.
Pocket Clip:
– MT-1 Sliver: None.
– B-3 Necessikey: Keychain ring.
Special Features:
– MT-1 Sliver: None.
– B-3 Necessikey: LED flashlight, bottle opener.
Warranty::
– MT-1 Sliver: Unconditional lifetime warranty, no limit on owners.
– B-3 Necessikey: Unconditional lifetime warranty, no limit on owners.
Awards::
– MT-1 Sliver: None.
– B-3 Necessikey: None.

Now that we have dispensed with the objective datapoints, what are my subjective opinions about these knives?

The Good: To the MT-1’s credit, it should fill the purpose I purchased it for quite nicely – a disposeable, 3″-or-less bladed knife that I can take overseas with me and not be terribly heartbroken over if I lose it. The knife laws in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland basically amount to “do not”, so it will be riding around in my luggage our entire time there, but while we are in Slovenia, I will, of course, be carrying it, given that country cares significantly less about law-abiding citizens carrying ancient tools. It is definitely a light knife, and while the handle is markedly longer than it needs to be (enough that even Better Half commented on it), that means its somewhat slim frame reaches all the way across my palm, ensuring that even my slightly oversize mitts can get a good grip on it – slipping while holding a knife is typically a bad thing. The silver of the aluminum is about as uniform and even as you can get it, the bead-blasted-emulating texture keeps the shine from being blinding, and the subdued red ring around the hinge bolt adds a nice accent to the overall piece. As usual, all of the nuts are Torx-based, and while I would very much prefer if knife companies were to get away from that stupid-assed screw design, it is, at least, the industry standard, meaning I already have the right tools. Finally, when open, the spine of the knife and its handle describe a continuous, smooth curve, which does make the engineer in me smile a little.

The B-3’s flashlight is definitely bright enough to help you find your car’s keyhole in the middle of the night, and being able to replace the battery for that light (rather than the entire unit) is definitely a benefit. The knife blade seems a bit too short for anything other than package opening and such, but the bottle opener would be a hit for the right kind of people, I guess.

The Bad: Speaking of slipping, while that aluminum on the MT-1 is rather attractive, and the clearcoat should keep it preserved for a while, it is also slick as snot, and rather difficult to hold onto even with dry hands. Likewise, without a pocket clip, this knife will just be riding around loose in those pockets, with naught but gravity holding it in place – with no rubber or other grippy material, there is scant little stopping it from popping out at an inopportune time. The black material on the blade seems to be nothing more than paint, with all of the durability thereof (in fact, the folded paper I was cutting was able to put a substantial scratch in it), and the black paint on the inside frame and liner lock of the knife is already starting to fade/chip (three days after I received it, mind you). And speaking of the liner lock… if they had made the jimping on it any smaller, it would be completely unuseable. Last but not least, the choil intended to make accessing the thumbstud easier is not terribly well lined up with the protrusion in question, leaving one to catch the thumbstud on an edge… an edge that, if my thumb is any indication, actually has an edge – the inside of my thumb where it caught the stud looks like it was used as a scratching post by a somewhat rabid gerbil.

Last but not least, the stamping process for the knife is horribly deficient – rather than radiusing the first of the double bevels, such that the edge maintains a constant thickness from point to the belly, that grind was simply cut straight down from the spine of the knife, all the way from stem to stern. This is kind of hard to explain in text, but the end result is an absurdly thick, and borderline blunt, tip, as pictured. This probably means the tip is stronger than most others, but it also means that, with the from-the-factory edge on it, it was unable to effectively punch through the B-3’s clamshell packaging in a controlled manner. That seems bad.

As for the B-3 itself, it seems like an overdone advertising tool than anything else, what with its unnecessarily large size, the massive logo printed on its back, and the somewhat diminutive tools contained in it. The one thing their webpage conveniently leaves out is the thickness of this keyfob, which measures in, near as I can tell without calipers, at somewhere around 0.438″, which makes this thing larger in every dimension than even my car clicker. Throw in the fact that the replaceable battery cover looks and feels like it would fall off it you looked at it funny (which is bad for something that is supposed to ride around in a pocket with keys), and you start to wonder if this was some leftover trade show hand-out.

Also, of interesting note regarding both of them, their packaging/presentation was rather shoddy. The MT-1 had no box, bag, or anything (it came wrapped in that plastic foam fabric I photographed it on), and while the B-3 did have a plastic clamshell, neither had any documentation, warranty paperwork, or much of anything. Likewise, I am fairly, if not entirely, certain that Mantis products are produced overseas, even though the company itself is housed here in the States. My understanding of America’s country of origin laws is that any products produced overseas have to be marked as “Made in [insertcountrynamehere]” and I wonder why this was not the case for either of these knives.

And for heaven’s sake, does no one at that company have a gorramed ruler? Nearly everything I measured did not match up to the website’s claims.

The Ugly: The MT-1 and B-3 are worth about exactly what I paid for them – I figure around $15 for the former, and $5 for the latter, indicating that their “list” prices are inflated, in my opinion, by between 100% and 300%. In comparison to the MT-1’s $40 pricetag, you can procure a Kershaw R.A.M. (my current EDC knife) for all of $53, and I can guarantee you it is at least 30% better than the Mantis knife – its blade is properly formed, its materials are demonstrably better, it has a grip like a mechanical gecko, its locking system, while strange, is easily deployed, and its flipper beats the MT-1s studs all to hell.

As for the B-3… really, it is probably worth less. Your money would be infinitely better spent on a Swiss Tech Transformer, which lacks a knife, but can therefore be gotten on planes easier, and packs a hell of a lot more tools into a package just barely larger; any of Tool Logic‘s numerous (and significantly smaller) tool kits; or even a CRKT Cicada, which costs just barely more, but at least has a solid company behind it… and scissors.

The elemental truth is that making attractive (for certain definitions of the word “attractive” – some of those Mantis knives are… well…) blades, and talking up a storm about them, is simply insufficient to make up for Mantis knives being scant more than overpriced, underquality, Taiwan-stamped toys. Harsh? Yeah, a little. But, honestly, I am very disappointed – for a company that makes a big deal about “breaking the mold”, “leading the charge”, and all the rest of that gos-se, and produces a product I might have been genuinely interested in, this was a hell of a let-down. Anyone have any good leads on any other relatively affordable karambits?

Are these decent products? Sure – at the price I paid for them, not at the price Mantis is asking for them. Are they the products that the forced, overhyped craze about them, and their “list” prices, would lead you to believe. Not so much. Would I recommend these knives to my readers? So long as you understand what you are purchasing, I can give them a qualified ‘maybe’, but I genuinely think your money would be better spent elsewhere.

11 comments to mantis knives, in review

  • weambulance

    Interesting reading, especially your previous posts on the matter. The whole Mantis Knives craze has been somewhat mystifying to me, but I guess I won’t be considering a karambit from them in the future after all, should I become temporarily crazy and want to buy one.

    Most of their designs leave me cold. Glancing over their website, I don’t really see a single knife I’d want to buy. Maybe the Mako dive knife, that looks kind of neat. It’s also about their only knife I’d actually want 420 stainless in (for toughness). But it’s pretty expensive for what it is, and I don’t dive anyway. Wait a second, their sheath design seems pretty nutty on that one. Pretty sure I don’t need my knife “firing” into my hand at all, I’d rather just take a positive grip on the handle and remove it, thanks, especially in the frickin’ ocean. Pass.

    Besides, that whole “Mantis Militia” thing strikes me as kinda creepy.

    In the time I’ve been writing this, I’ve been doing a lot of knife viewing online, and so you have reminded me that I’ve been wanting an orange griptilian 551H2O instead of my current EDC black griptilian, to find the thing easier in the woods. Thanks, pal, there goes $100.

  • Sorry ’bout that… I seem to have found all kinds of other shiny stuff over the past few days as well – I would be more than willing to share, if you like ;).

    As for the craze around the knives, I kind of understand wanting to build publicity and excitement over your brand-spanking-new product, and engaging in some… potentially questionable… activities to do so. But much like the whole deal with the C.O. Arms folks, I find the methodology leaves me somewhat cold. Fanboys for established, proven, and demonstrably good products are one thing. Fanboys for something that has barely had a chance to be tested? Not so much.

    The styling on the Sliver is probably one of their most underdone ones out there, and, like I said, once I found out the Evis was available in other paracord colors, I was possibly willing to snag one of those as well. However, if these little toys (which are, admittedly, at the bottom of the Matis product line) are indicative of their overall quality, you can count me out.

    Either you make good products all the time, or you count me out. And if you make up for semi-sketchy products by driving your vocal fanbase into something akin to blind hysteria… well, that just says something, now, don’t it?

  • weambulance

    Huh, didn’t know about the C.O. Arms thing at all. I was on hiatus from blog reading when that happened. Sort of off topic here, but an officer length slide on a full size frame seems idiotic to me. The grip is what’s hard to conceal, and you lose velocity fast as the barrel gets shorter in the 45 ACP. My 4″ guns run about 100 feet per second slower than my 5″ guns. So you’re getting a gun that’s just as hard to conceal as a regular government model, with more muzzle rise and blast, the ammo sensitivity of an officer model, and a large enough velocity drop that hollowpoint expansion is questionable in standard pressure loads, which are all you want to use with the aluminum frame. Brilliant! They took all the worst features of the 1911 variations and rolled them into one craptastic symphony. All it needs to be the worst 1911 idea ever (or really, to secure that spot for all time) is GI sights and a spur hammer. But that’s just one man’s opinion.

    I also sort of understand why people would act that way, but it just doesn’t seem… I don’t know how to explain it. I don’t like to toot my own horn, I suppose, and when others do so either directly or indirectly, justified or not, it makes me very suspicious of their claims.

    No, no, don’t tempt me. I might end up rationalizing my way into eating ramen noodles all next month.

    Maybe I can tempt you. I’ve decided I have one too many commander length 1911s, and one too few full size guns. I need to sell one. I’m emotionally attached to my Kimber SIS Pro, so I think the S&W 1911PD (alloy frame) commander needs to go. It’s nice and all, but it just doesn’t fit into my TO&E, being the odd gun out with an external extractor. Parts commonality and all that. I don’t know if you’re still in the market for a new pistol, but drop me a line if you’d like. I assume you can see my e-mail, but it’s dstocum at dstocum dot info in any case.

  • CO Arms just irked me with their advertising methods… “ZOMG, BEST IN THE WORLDZ!!!11!!” is all good and well for firearm magazines, but not exactly meaningful in the grand scheme of things when you compare a brand-spanking-new company against established firms that have been doing this for… well… a while. Throw in the somewhat misleading nature of their chosen advertising company, and my sympathies plummeted. Not being a 1911 guy, I cannot speak to the overall design of the pistol, but a lot of people had a lot to say about the slide release lever being overlarge as well…

    If you have a proven product, that has been tried, tested, and torn apart, then you can trumpet your awesomeness to the world and beyond, and I will not care – you earned it, what with the effort necessary to produce such a thing. But if your product is right off the assembly line, and, worse, does not even live up to the standards set by your competitors, and you still proclaim it to be the best thing since sliced bread? Yeah. Bite me.

    And thanks for the offer, but, unfortunately or fortunately, my resistance to temptation is rather strong at the moment, between a new optic for my DSLR, and the money we are about to spend going overseas… Sadly, between the house purchase, the renovations, and the trip, it is probably going to work out that my firearm-related expenditures for this year are going to be pretty darned near negligible, with no actual additions to the armory.

  • weambulance

    WRT the SW1911PD, I’ll just leave it as an open offer. I’m not going to try too hard to sell it (that was about the extent of my effort, actually), I have barely used the thing after all.

    I have half a dozen pistols–which never get used–that I’m going to put up for sale to fund various projects, and the S&W is actually the most appropriate one to keep; it just doesn’t quite fit my long term needs. I’m impressed by it so far, and I’ll be curious to see how it holds up in the long run.

    I do feel better about keeping it since I made a quarter-ass effort to sell it.

  • Fair ’nuff ;). If/when the time comes for me to have a little disposeable income, I might end up sending some of it your way.

  • Hey Fellas,

    My name is Jared West, i’m with the Mantis Knife Co. I was just forwarded a link to your site and thought i’d take a look around. I’ve read up on what was said and what can i say except: If you’ve only sampled our keychain and one of our mildest, earliest folders, then you haven’t really gotten to the meat and potatoes of our brand, and i really wish you would.

    Because you post your findings on a website (and by the way, the format and photographs in the review are sensational and shows lots of effort) shouldn’t enable you to receive free knives though. This is just my opinion of course :)

    I would like to extend a hand of friendship to the folks at this site and would like to offer Linoge the opportunity to purchase an MK-Fs “Evis-1″ for our lowest dealer price. If i were to simply give it to you, it would almost be as if i was ‘buying the review’. so if you give a li’l, so will I :) What have you got to lose? It’s got a LIFETIME GUARANTEE on it :)

    Thanks for taking the time to read, i hope you take me up on my offer so that you too can get in on the ‘mantis craze’ and realize first-hand that the experience of owning and using their knife is not even closely matched by any other knife company out there. ANY.

    My best to you guys.

    Jared West
    Mantis Knives Inc.

  • @Jared West – First, let me thank you for actually commenting here. It is distressingly rare that corporations actually bother to respond to online feedback, and more is definitely better.

    That said, if the quality, craftsmanship, and substance of your brand is not represented in the smallest of the products you create, what is it represented in? There is a difference between “basic” and “cheap” – if I cannot trust you to put your best effort into the simplest of products you create (and you seem to be indicating that you do not), how can I trust you to do so with the more complex, and more expensive… and why should I trust you?

    Speaking of trust, I find myself somewhat amused that you would say that writing a blog post is not an act worthy of free knives after convincing Matis fans to write advertising posts on forums and blogs, enticed by the promise of free knives. But, then again, I guess that was a while ago…

    That “craze” you speak of is exactly what concerns me about your company – being a firearm enthusiast, I can tell you, first hand, how “crazes” can overwhelm whether or not a company’s products are actually any good or not. For example, are you honestly going to try to say that your MT-1 is comparable to the Kershaw Chive line – a knife of similar prices, but also possessing a point that is not nearly blunt?

    Regarding your offer, what price are we talking about? Feel free to email me (linoge (at) wallsofthecity (dot) net) if you do not want to discuss it in public. Because, honestly, it is going to have to be a pretty impressive price – all products are representative of the company that manufactured them, and in the MT-1’s case, you might want to work on that.

  • @Linoge

    Hey Linoge,

    Regarding the reply, no problem at all. This isn’t Mantis’ first rodeo, we’ve spoken to harsh critics before and in the end, we’re always able to show valid reasons for why our products are growing in popularity domestically and abroad and why you should own a few more yourself.

    Your opinion, just as the opinion of some of our more positive-feeling fans deserves to be heard, and in some cases, responded to. Some guys out there who have loyalties to other brands just don’t like the vibe that Mantis puts out, and that’s okay… admittedly our designs are not for everyone, but the quality ALWAYS represents a great value, and we put that in writing.

    Think about what you paid for what you received. That promotion was designed around the needs of our less privileged Militia Members. Returning members who enjoy the spoils of our forum and like to have something new to throw in their jeans every now and then…That was an all-in price tag that included 2-3 day shipping (which is why it was mailed in an envelope sans gift box). For that price; that knife came backed by a lifetime warranty. If that knife should ever fail you, Mantis will fix it or replace it for free, with no questions asked. That means that you’ve bought a knife-4-life for $20 bucks. That ain’t bad! Those are the facts that also need to be spoken of.

    You asked “Why should I trust you?” Fact is: You don’t have to trust me, you can trust the opinions of the ever-growing Mantis Militia membership spread across 6 continents. Trust the reviews given by the dozens of pleased MANTIS enthusiasts on Youtube, trust the Daytona Beach SWAT officer who said that the Mantis CHAOS II Fixed blade was the ‘best knife he has ever owned.’ Trust Eli Roth– acclaimed movie director who calls Mantis’ head designer ‘one of the most prolific artists of our time’. Or the Federal Flight Deck Officers Association who exclusively buys the Mantis MT-8 series for their F.D.O’s. Or perhaps the 7 DEA agencies, 31 Police Departments, and 3 I.C.E Agencies spread across our fine nation who carry Mantis products made especially to suit their needs. If those aren’t enough for you, then hey…I guess I’ve written all I can, right?

    Regarding ‘the craze’ i used that word to poke fun at the reference to it earlier in the thread. I got a smirk off of that the first time i read it. With due respect, I don’t feel like a ‘craze’ (in your chosen context) would be capable of bringing any company this far, through the toughest economic downturn of our lifetime.
    The only thing capable of doing that is good ideas, good execution and above all, good customer service. It’s a tough industry and there’s a lot of talented competition… but we continue to thrive for those core reasons.

    By the way, If you’re displeased with the MT-1 that you wrote about in your review, you’re welcome to send it back to us for a replacement :)

    That’s enough for now, I suppose.
    Thanks for taking the time to read.

    Jared West
    Mantis Knives Inc.

  • Well, see, this is part of the problem right here… you speak of “valid reasons”, and yet you treat the valid reasons I have regarding the MT-1 as if it were a defect with this specific instance of the product, rather than a defect in the design. It is my understanding that Mantis products are mass-produced in non-American facilities, probably with all of the associated QA and QC one might consider to be part of that process. Thus, barring a relatively improbable circumstance, the knive I have is probably a fair representation of the product line as a whole, especially given that it matches up neigh perfectly to the pictures you all have on your webpage.

    All that said, I am not a knife manufacturer or fabricator, but I dare say that the reason the MT-1 is so encumbered with the blunt tip I keep referring to (a tip, I would point out, that made it difficult to open the B-3’s clamshell in a safe/controlled manner) is precisely because of the way it is manufactured, rather than in spite of it. Like I said, if the first level of bevelling were properly radiused, this would not be a problem, but in order to keep things simple, it would seem as though those making your knives went with the “straight line” approach, and created a knife with an awkward point.

    At any rate, as I mentioned in my review, the knives were worth exactly what I paid for them. But in light of the products one can procure from other outlets at the same MSRP as your MT-1 is generally listed at, I really have to wonder. The Kershaw I mentioned earlier, the cheaper versions of CRKT’s M-16 line, and countless other models offered by those companies and others can be purchased at the same pricepoint… and yet they generally lack the straight-cut bevelling, and possess a functioning point. Increase that pricepoint by 25%, and you can procure things with honest-to-god DLC on the blade, rather than surprisingly scratchable black paint. And both those companies I mentioned offer full lifetime warranties, though they expire if the first owner sells the knife, so I suppose you have that.

    Your current bevy of movers and shakers is, indeed, rather impressive… but I have to wonder – is there any particular reason I cannot find them listed on your webpage? Of course, in some cases, listing specific agencies and branches is inadviseable, but even the details you mention here are nowhere to be seen.

    *shrug* As I said, a company is represented by all products it sells, and one of my friends, upon seeing the B-3, literally asked, right off the bat, if I had picked it up at a trade show or convention as a giveaway goody – and he does not read or know about this weblog. I hate to ask the awkward question, but is that really the image you want your people-give-you-money-for-them products to put across?

    At any rate, I look forward to your email. I might have a solution for how to decide, but we will see :).