I returned to SHOT Show in 2023 after a long hiatus. There were countless new products on display there, but I went with a focus on finding the most interesting knives from the perspectives of the knife manufacturers themselves. I spoke with sixteen different knife makers and asked each to identify their most interesting knife of 2023 and to tell me what makes it so.
A few manufacturers couldn’t limit themselves to just one knife, so I let them squeeze in another. This article is a written version of those interviews with purchase links to each knife (if the knives have been released). If you want to watch the video and hear from the designers themselves and see the knives in action, just hit play on the embedded YouTube video below.
Table of Contents
Bear & Son – Widow Butterfly Knives
Bear & Son is a mostly US-made company out of Alabama, in operation since 1991. They make different variations of traditional, butterflies, and automatic knives. The most interesting knife they identified is in their Widow series of butterfly/balisong knives. It has a spiderweb on a red blade, something different they came up with to draw attention.
Not yet available.
Their butterfly knives have always had a zinc handle, but this year they remodeled them to have stainless steel handles with bronze phosphorous washers, and they’re now screwed together instead of riveted.
Benchmade – Shootout, 290 Immunity, and Narrows
Benchmade is a US knife manufacturer located in Oregon. They identified a few interesting knives for 2023, expanding on a few old favorites. Those knives include an expansion on the Shootout franchise, one of their most popular category of knives. They also have a new knife called the Narrows, and they added another knife added to the Immunity family.
The Shootout was originally developed for the law enforcement community. It had a glass breaker with an out-the-front blade. What they recognized is that it’s a fantastic EDC knife. The out-the-front blade allows you to make a cut and then retract it without having to change your grip, allowing an economy of motion. They added a blue color option, offering all of the Shootout features without it looking overly tactical.
The 290 Immunity (manual) has been a very popular knife for them, featuring many of their higher-end materials. It’s a tough knife despite its diminutive size. It features CPM4 steel for the blade, super tough with high edge retention and cobalt black ceracote finish, full aluminum handles with a satin texture so that it carries well with slacks, not just jeans. It’s a small knife, but the lanyard acts as a handle extension for the fourth finger.
Buy the 290 Immunity at Blade HQ.
The blade allows you to choke up on it to get cutting performance out of the tip. It’s easy to carry in a non-permissive environment where you can’t carry a larger knife but you need something that can perform a variety of tasks.
The Narrows was inspired by ultralight backpackers. There’s a lot of titanium gear in that space, so the challenge Benchmade gave themselves was how to make the lightest knife possible without compromising strength or performance. The Narrows has a 3D-milled 6AL titanium handle. It’s not just decorative mill for grip and aesthetics, but they also cored out the internals.
I really liked this knife, but the price on it is tough to justify.
Buy the Narrows at Blade HQ.
Being titanium it retains its rigidity. The axis lock was upgraded for this model, able to eliminate the omega springs and thin out the knife, which also allowed them to cut weight without compromising performance. It also has bearings for the divots. It’s an extremely smooth, full-size knife, with M390 blade steel, but in a lightweight, compact product with a beautiful aesthetic.
Bestech – Mothus
Bestech highlighted the first release of 2023, a new variant of the Mothus line. A premium-line knife with droppoint blade, M390 steel, and titanium with a lot of details and milling work.
Not available yet, but shop Bestech knives at Blade HQ.
It also has reversible pocket clip for lefties. It’s fidget-friendly that has just hit the market with seven different finishes and colors.
BnB – Tac Hunter
BnB is a third generation knife company that started in the 1960 and is based in Pakistan. They have 60 forgers, and specialize in Damascus steel. The knife they highlighted was one that they brought out last year but is one of their top five sellers, the Tac Hunter.
This was one of my favorite knives from the show.
Buy the BnB Tac Hunter at Optics Planet.
The Tac Hunter is 4oz and 6.75″ in length with a 2.5″ blade made of D2 steel with a titanium wash. It has a G10 handle and a Kydex sheath that comes with it, which has a locking mechanism that appeals to many, allowing the user to move it from backpacks to belts, moving from vertical to scout to 45-degree carry. It’s a versatile knife that’s small enough to use as an EDC, great for skinning, and it’s also used by fishermen. It’s a great, compact, all-purpose knife.
Buck – Alpha Hunter, 838 Blackout, and Paradigm
Buck is a family-owned company that’s been running since 1902. The Buck family members still show up at the office to work side-by-side with employees to produce American-made products in Post Falls, Idaho.
From their hunting line, they highlighted the Alpha Hunter, a fixed-blade knife with a sweeping blade made from S35VN steel with jimping in the right places and a thumb rest for processing game. It’s sold with an American-made leather sheath. It also has a little brother, the same knife in a smaller profile.
Buy the Buck Alpha Hunter at Blade HQ.
They also highlighted the new 838 Deploy Blackout, an auto knife that is completely blacked out. It has the S35VN steel for excellent edge retention, strong blade with an excellent safety.
Buy the Buck 838 Blackout at Blade HQ.
The most interesting is their Paradigm, which has an interesting locking mechanism. You have to slide the bolster over and then hit the button and a raindrop Damascus blade steel pops up, matched with a tuxedo look, white ivory G-10 handle. It’s a knife that gets a lot of compliments.
Buy the Buck Paradigm at Blade HQ.
Camillus – Swedge
Camillus is a maker of tools for camping, hunting, and around-the-house use. Their most interesting knife highlighted is the Swedge. They described it as “a fixed blade on steroids.”
The Camillus Swedge is available at Wal-Mart and Home Depot.
It has a wide spine, thick blade, aggressive jimping on the back, and a chisel tip. It’s an all-purpose knife for bushcraft, used for camping, or anything around the house or garage. The best feature of this knife? It’s under $20 dollars!
CRKT – Provoke
CRKT works with some of the best designers in the world, taking their designs and turning them into affordable knives that anyone can buy. The Provoke EDC is the knife they chose to highlight, one that was released a few years ago. It uses kinematic arms that pull the blade out the back and solves the shortcomings of the karambit.
- Unique Innovation: Kinematic deploys the blade with push of the thumb
- Superior Performance: D2 blade steel for excellent edge retention
They wanted to make something more conducive to carrying in the pocket, making it thinner and a blade more suitable for everyday cutting tasks, and a simpler locking mechanism. The pocket clip lays flush and the blade rises a lot deeper than the traditional karambit.
ESEE – Pinhoti Friction Folder
ESEE started as a training company in the early 1990s with Randall’s Adventure Training. The founders of the company couldn’t find tools they liked so they designed their own and backed into the industry that way. They conduct regular research and development through teaching classes and being in the field, and are proud to stand behind their knives.
- 1095 steel drop point blade with a tumbled black oxide finish.
- Friction folding mechanism for simple operation.
Their single most interesting knife at the show was the Pinhoti friction folder. Always enamored with friction folders, the designer set out to build a friction folder that would actually work and be comfortable in the hand. It’s a blade that you can work and use.
A lot of people are worried about it from a safety standpoint, but the designer feels you’d have to be doing something silly to injure yourself with it. It has a 90-degree spine so you can scrape a ferro rode or tinder with the knife closed. The sheath holds the knife in 4 different directions. They only made 300 of them in the first run.
Ka-Bar – Not Yet Named
Ka-Bar has been around for a long time. This is their 125th anniversary. They make all sorts of things, but are most famous for the USMC knife, the classic, American icon knife. Ka-Bar has a great, rich history.
The knife they highlighted doesn’t have a name yet. It was only the 2nd prototype, and it’s a knife that you might see in a few years. It’s an evolution of the Turok, a Ka-Bar bestseller. It’s a far more serious knife than the other Ka-Bar fusion knife, the Ka-Bar Tanto.
Not yet available.
It’s a military-style knife, just a big fighting knife that you don’t see much of these days. It has classic attributes like a comfy handle and a tapered tang, the latter being a feature that probably won’t in the production version. There will likely be others changes to it as it goes through development.
Mcusta – Sport Series
Mcusta is a Japanese knife-making company. All knives are made in Seki, Japan. “Mcusta” is a combination of “machine” and “custom.” They start out with the machine process and are then enhanced with custom work.
Not yet available, but shop Mcusta knives at Blade HQ.
Normally, Mcusta does folding knives and kitchen cutlery, but they’re branching out to the hunting sectors. The Sport 100, 200, and 300 are the most interesting knives featured at their SHOT Show 2023 booth. The designer wasn’t able to make them for a few years, so he’s happy to have Mcusta bring them back to the market. It has a BG10 Core Damascus blade with a hammered finish. The different versions have slight differences in design, but the same blade and finish.
Microtech – MSI
Microtech Knives has been around since 1994. They pride themselves on making high-end knives with US materials. Most of their products are made in-house. They highlighted their new Microtech MSI, which stands for Microtech Standard Issue. They had many requests for a manual folding knife, so that is how the MSI came into being.
Coming soon at Blade HQ.
What’s most unique about is its patent-pending Ramlock locking mechanism. The beauty of the MSI is the MSRP. It will list for around $250, but it could go lower if they do an injection-molded handle.
Morakniv – Garberg
Mora Knives are all made in Morakniv, Sweden. They’ve been making knives since 1891, producing some of the highest quality knives on the market, everything from entry level knives to the one highlighted at the show, the Mora Garberg with survival kit.
- Full-Tang Knife: Constructed from high-quality, rugged materials, this fixed-blade knife is the most robust model we offer and makes an ideal bushcraft knife, backpacking knife, camping knife, and hiking knife
- Premium Blade: Stays sharp for a long time and features a semi-matte finish; 0.13 inch thick knife blade features a square-edged ground spine that can be used as a striker with fire steel
The Garberg has been out for a few years. It has a high-quality stainless steel blade and full tank with polymer grip. What makes this one different is that it comes with a ferro rod and knife sharpener on the polymer sheath with leather belt loop.
OCASO – Solstice
OCASO is out of Southern California, launched just 4 months ago. The idea behind the brand is to create an executive-style, light, slick-looking knives that you can carry in a suit or dress pant. They are working with some great knife designers.
Only available (so far) at OCASO.
The hero product in the owner’s view is the Solstice. It’s a slick, pen-like style knife made in collaboration with Andrew Dempko. They have some coming out of Taiwan and a version of coming out of Italy. It has a high-grade titanium framelock, Damascus steel, and their signature diamond-like pivot pin.
Spartan Blades was started in 2008 outside of Fort Bragg. The founders were in the Army together and liked working together so much that they started a company, Spartan Blades, as a combat knife company. They started with three models and over time the company continued to grow. In 2019, they teamed up with Ka-Bar knives.
Their most interesting knife is a new one for 2023, a collaboration between Spartan and designer William Harsey. He goes by the moniker “knife maker to the Green Berets.” They wanted to do something with Ka-Bar, so they wanted something iconically Ka-Bar but also easily recognized as something Spartan Blades has done in the past.
Not yet available.
They created a knife reminiscent of the Ka-Bar fighting knife but with a contoured handle. That became the Spartan Harsey Fighter.
Spartan was a company that made high-end, expensive knives and did very well with that, but when you’re making combat knives for soldiers, you have to make some that are affordable for younger infantry guys. It’s made out of 1099 Crovan and cost under $200. They’re as proud of the sheath as they are the knife. It’s form-fitted, quiet, has secondary retention, and has a removable strap on the back.
Spyderco is best known as the developer of the Clipit knives. If you go back to 1981, prior to that time there were no knives that had pocket clips. The company founder pioneered the concept.
- An Improved Classic - Undeniably one of Spyderco's most popular and in-demand designs, the Para Military 2 distills the world-class performance of our legendary Military Model into a more compact, Pocket-Friendly package.
- Superior Quality - We kept the same high-performance full flat-ground blade but we've also lengthened the blade's tip and added additional surface jimping to both the spine and finger coil.
The Para Military 2 is the 2nd generation model of their Military model. The original goes back to the mid-1990s. The second generation version has a number of significant changes. The new knife is a four-position clip with Spyderco’s compression lock. It has a much stronger lock that is placed on the spine of the handle so you can open it with one hand and close it without your fingers getting in the way of the edge. They also refined the ergonomics of the knife.
TOPS was founded in 1998 by a Vietnam veteran. He wanted to make knives that were overbuilt, strong, dependable, and durable. Ever since then they’ve kept the same mission, but now they do way more than just tactical knives.
Their most interesting knife in 2023 is the El Pionero, designed by Ed Calderon.
Coming soon at Blade HQ.
Calderon runs a training regiment, and is a former police officer in Mexico. After that he came to the US to train law enforcement, military, and government employees. The El Pionaro is a play on an old paring knife.
Missed Most Interesting Knives?
There were other knife manufacturers at SHOT Show who I’m sure had interesting knives, but there was limited time to hit them all, and not all wanted to be on camera for the video.
What’s missing? What’s your favorite or most interesting knife? Do you see any failures or oversights in the knives mentioned by these companies? Let me know in the comments section.
Lastly, there are far fewer legal restrictions on knives than there are firearms, but always know the knife laws in your state just in case.