Comparison: The Umnumzaan vs. The SnG vs. The XM-18
Everyone loves a good fight right? Well, right here for your viewing pleasure I bring you the ultimate cage match! The Chris Reeve Umnumzaan vs. the Strider SnG vs. the Hinderer XM-18!! Each of these models were previously reviewed by me, but I’ve received many requests to do a comparitive review with these three knives. So without further adieu, que in the UFC theme music….
OK, perhaps this comparative review won’t be quite that dramatic. But it will attempt to take an honest look at the relative strengths and weaknesses of these three fantastic knives in an attempt to determine which one is the superior knife. A few ground rules: Many of the conclusions I draw will be based on certain values which I will define. You may or may not subscribe to these same values and as such your mileage may vary. So if, for example, I state that X knife is better than Y knife based on the defensive advantages that X knife brings, don’t send me death threats because you have no use for a knife in a defensive role and as such knife Y is actually better for you in your value system. Make sense?
In terms of establishing a winner, I’ll be attempting to rank each of the knives relative to one another in the following categories:
Defensive rating: If pressed into a self-defense role, how would the knife perform?
EDC rating: Is the knife easily carried daily? Is it suitable for most EDC tasks? How will it handle wear?
Blade steel rating: Who uses the best blade steel? Does it hold an edge? Hard to resharpen?
Ease of maintenance rating: Is the knife easy to self-service? Can it be taken apart and reassembled easily? Are special tools required?
After sale support rating: How does the manufacturer treat their customers? How’s the warranty? Will the manufacturer refurbish the knife and at what cost?
Each knife will get a ranking from 1-3 (first, second, third place) in each category and at the conclusion of the comparison, I’ll tally all the scores to arrive at a winner – low score wins. Again, you may not entirely agree with my rankings but I’ll at least provide a rationale with how I arrive at the rankings. Again, your mileage may vary.
With the ground rules out of the way, let’s continue with the comparison!
The Chris Reeve Umnumzaan
Defensive rating: 2
The Umnumzaan is a fantastic tactical folder that deploys amazingly fast and smooth for a a non-flipper. It’s just not quite as fast or as easy to hold on to as the XM-18.
EDC rating: 1
For a larger tactical folder, this knife light and disappears in the pocket – it’s a joy to carry. The built in glass breaker is also a comforting feature on an EDC tool. It has a stonewashed blade which won’t easily show scratches, but the Ti handle scales scratch rather easily. Fortunately CRK has a great refurbishing service. Of the three, this knife is the best from an EDC perspective.
Blade steel rating: 2
The Umnumzaan uses S35VN – on paper it’s better than S30V, but I don’t notice a significant difference between it and S30V when it comes to sharpening and edge retention. On paper though, S35VN is improved over S30V so I’ll give the Umnumzaan the #2 spot here.
Ease of maintenance rating: 2
It was tough for me giving the XM-18 the #1 spot here over the Umnumzaan, but here’s why: In most cases, you can get by without buying the Hinderer Armorer’s Tool to disassemble the XM-18 – just use standard tools you likely already own. But you pretty much HAVE to purchase the $15.00 tool kit to disassemble the Umnumzaan. If CRK would simply have included the specialized pivot tool with the knife, I might have rated them differently. That said, if you have the tool, it’s a breeze to disassemble, clean, and lubricate.
After sale support rating: 1
Chris Reeve has been in business longer than the other manufacturers on this list and it shows – product guarantee, warranty, and after sales support are all top notch. CRK seems to have the infrastructure to support the demand for their product and their customers better than the other two manufacturers in this comparison. For a modest fee, CRK will refurbish any of their knives – so hard use them with confidence.
The Rick Hinderer XM-18
Defensive rating: 1
The “flipper” XM-18 deploys faster than any of the other knives in this comparison and is easier to hang on to in a fight. The XM-18 also has the thickest blade stock of any knife in this comparison and would be the least likely of the three to snap or break. God forbid I’m reduced to defending myself with my knife but if I had to do so, of the three knives in this comparison the XM-18 would be my choice.
EDC rating: 2 (tie with SnG)
The XM-18 is the heaviest and thickest knife in this comparison, so it looses a bit relative to the other two in this category. But thanks to the stone washed finish on the blade, it will hold up to most EDC tasks and never show any wear on the blade.
Blade steel rating: 1
Tough call here, but in my experience the Duratech 20CV used in the XM-18 sharpens up better and more easily than the blades on the other two knives in this comparison. Other factors than simply the blade steel might possibly account for this.
Ease of maintenance rating: 1
If you pony up the $75.00 asking price for the tool needed, then the XM-18 is the easiest of the three to disassemble and reassemble. Do you HAVE to have the tool? In many cases, no. But I have owned a few XM-18′s and one in particular would have been impossible to disassemble without the Hinderer Armorer’s Tool.
After sale support rating: 3
I’ve had several interactions with Hinderer and his crew, and they for sure go out of their way to provide good customer service. Their guarantee and warranty are top notch as well. But where Hinderer looses out here is that due to their current work load, they’re not refurbishing any of their own knives. From the Hinderer FAQ:
07/07/12 – Due to our current workload we are not accepting refurb work at this time. I will update this thread when that changes.
This is refurbs only, our sharpening and warranty services are is not affected.
While I understand that Rick runs a small shop and is experiencing unprecedented demand, I also understand that for the price I paid for my XM-18, I think it’s reasonable to expect that Rick maintain the resources necessary to refurbish the products he sells.
The Strider SnG
Defensive rating: 3
The SnG deploys smoothly, but not as fast or as easily as the other two in this comparison primarily due to the lack of true thumb studs (this knife has blade stops which look like thumb studs but aren’t particularly useful for blade deployment) and thumb holes which are oval instead of round. The “concealed carry” G10 also is a bit slick.
EDC rating: 2 (tie with XM-18)
The SnG Concealed Carry version I own is thin, light and easy to carry. However, the finish on the ghost striped blade while attractive will tend to show wear and scratches much more readily than the other competitors. It was difficult for me make a definitive call here between the XM-18 and SnG in this category, thus the tie.
Blade steel rating: 3
This particular example of the SnG uses S30V. Since on paper S35VN is superior, I gave the SnG the #3 slot in this category, though I was tempted to give it a tie with the Umnumzaan since I don’t notice a huge difference in edge retention and ease of sharpening between the two.
Ease of maintenance rating: 3
Strider recommends you do not disassemble their knives. Having some experience maintaining knives, I did so…much to my chagrin. Like the other two knives I’m comparing, the SnG requires a specialized tool (which must be sourced from a 3rd party) to disassemble the knife. The pivot must have some form of “Loc-Tite” applied as I was unable to get the pivot screw to “break free.” Even after dipping the knife in boiling water, the pivot was extremely difficult to get to release – I scratched up the PVD coating pretty good in the process. The knife also does not easily go back together – my previously perfectly centered knife blade was off-center on reassembly. In short, the SnG isn’t particularly easy to work on relative to the other two knives in this comparison.
After sale support rating: 2
The Strider web page has essentially had a “coming soon” minimal presence up for several months now, with only an email address listed for contact. So I can’t get any information from them on processes and procedures for after sale support. However, I did get a same day response from my email inquiry, and it’s clear they have an exceptionally good warranty/guarantee. So there’s some room for improvement here that may be addressed if and when they sort out their website.
Based on the tallies, the Umnumzaan and the XM-18 tied for first place, with the SnG in a relatively distant third. No one likes a tie, so I had to come up with some additional categories which are perhaps less objectives that the previous five categories on which the knives were compared.
PRICE: In theory, the XM-18 in standard (non-custom) configurations has a retail price of about $385.00. But that retail price really only applies to military/law enforcement/first responder personnel for whom Rick Hinderer will deal directly in order fulfillment. I don’t know of any Hinderer dealer however that will sell an XM-18 for its actual retail price – you’re looking at about twice that number on average. Compare that to Chris Reeve Knives which controls the retail price a dealer can offer an Umnumzaan. The Umnumzaan retails for $425.00 – You’ll pay the same price for it no matter what dealer you buy it from, or even if you order it from CRK directly. If you’re not in the category of individuals Hinderer will deal with directly, you have few options open to you for actually acquiring an XM-18. You can travel to a knife show attended by Hinderer (not cheap), haunt Hinderer dealers until one actually gets an XM-18 in stock (not cheap), or try to get one on the secondary market where prices are in many cases even stiffer than what dealers charge.
Clearly for most consumers, the Umnumzaan wins from a cost perspective relative to the (true) cost of acquiring an XM-18. But recall what I’ve already discussed with Hinderer’s after sales support – at least as of this writing you can’t get your approximately one thousand dollar knife refurbished by its manufacturer. I don’t know about you, but this notion certainly gives me pause as I consider using my XM-18 for anything other than cutting toilet paper.
When the tie breaker category of price is considered, the Chris Reeve Umnumzaan comes out on top – congratulations to Chris Reeve!
Please keep in mind that I bought all three knives in this comparison and found each to be worthy of my hard earned dollars. I’m not saying that CRK and the Umnumzaan is the greatest knife ever, nor am I saying that Strider and the SnG are bad. Again these scores are relative to the other knives in the comparison, and in most cases the difference between 1st and 3rd place in any of these categories was quite subtle. That said, I hope you enjoyed the comparison!