Review of the Hinderer XM-18
In April of this year, I was able to acquire my first Rick Hinderer knife – the XM-24. It’s a fantastic knife, and I’ve been carrying it nearly every weekend since purchasing it. However, it is a bit too large for me to carry comfortably in dress slacks/suit pants during the week. So after getting my XM-24, I was immediately on the hunt for a 3.5″ XM-18.
The XM-18 comes in both 3″ and 3.5″ as well as both flipper and non-flipper configurations. My preference was for a 3.5″ flipper – ideally with a “custom” grind. I say “custom” because (and this is a confusing point with Hinderer knives) what most people consider as being “custom” isn’t truly custom. Standard configuration for a Hinderer XM-18 is usually a spanto or slicer tip, with a tumbled (stone wash) finish, and can be in either flipper or non-flipper versions. Note: Many thanks to Hinderer Forum Moderator “Rubicon” for educating my on Hinderer customs. Here’s an example of a “standard” flipper XM-18 3.5″ with a stone wash blade finish:
Regular production run XM-18 knives are flat ground, but a truly custom XM-18 (one which is shaped and sharpened by Rick Hinderer himself) exhibits a hollow grind and is often accompanied by a finish which is polished or brushed in some way. Some rare production XM-18′s also exhibit a bushed, polished, or even bead blasted finish and as such are erroneously called “customs” when in reality they’re simply production XM-18 knives which exhibit a rare finish. Here’s another flipper 3.5″ XM-18 I was able to pick up which has a two-tone (bushed and bead blasted) finish on the blade – rare, but not truly custom:
Neither of these XM-18 knives exhibit any markings which identify the type blade steel used. However, the vast majority of XM-18′s are made with Duratech 20CV blade steel. Created by Latrobe Specialty Steel, this tool steel is high on both wear and corrosion resistance. The blade on the orange G10 XM-18 I purchased on the secondary market was beyond dull when I received it, but I found it sharpened up quite nicely (perhaps even better than my S35VN knives) on my Spyderco Sharpmaker, and seems to be holding an edge very well.
Functionally speaking, the XM-18 has all the same qualities I love about the XM-24 – an uncommonly thick blade that flies out of the handle like rocket. I’m really liking the slicer grind too for every day cutting tasks. Again, the big difference between the two is the size. The XM-18 3.5″ model really strikes a great balance between tactical and utility considerations. It’s a perfect size for “every day carry.”
Both of the examples of the 3.5″ XM-18 which I own feature a bead blasted finish on the titanium back side of the knife:
Aesthetically speaking, I prefer the cleaner look of the bead blasted finish on these XM-18′s as compared to the stone wash finish on the titanium side of my XM-24. But it will show scratches far more readily than the stone washed finish which gives the surface an almost “pre-scratched” distressed look. If you want a knife that you can can actually use without fear of loosing all of the resale value, its hard to argue with the practicality and utility of the stone washed finish.
Like the other knives in the XM series, the XM-18 is very easy both disassemble and reassemble – particularly if you have one of Hinderer’s own “Armorer’s Tools.” The tool (pictured below) isn’t absolutely necessary in order to disassemble a Hinderer knife. But it certainly helps, and does minimize the possibility of surface scratching tool slippage given how well the tool is matted to the intended screw slots:
One of the joys of owning a Hinderer knife like the XM-18 are the interchangeable accessory scales. Much like dressing Barbie dolls, XM knives have a variety of accessory scales to choose from, made in a variety of colors and materials. Historically, the accessory scales have been made mostly from G10. More recently, Hinderer has experimented with making titanium scales in a variety of finishes – here’s a photo of my XM-18 wearing a bead blasted titanium scale:
Also pictured above is the Hinderer Extreme Duty Pen in titanium. Hinderer also offers other accessory items for the XM series of knives including anodized standoffs, pocket clips, and filler tabs.
Hinderer knives are, in general, very difficult to find in any size or configuration as Rick Hinderer’s small shop production capabilities just can’t keep up with demand. But the XM-18 is particularly sought after because it is more easily carried than the XM-24. The retail price of the production versions of the XM-18 is $385.00, with a custom grind version running $550.00. However, demand is so great that unless you’re a “first responder” (fire, EMS, or law enforcement) and have the luxury of dealing directly with Hinderer, you’re chances of finding an XM-18 at “retail price” are slim. XM-18′s can easily go for prices three times the “retail” price on the secondary market – not even Hinderer’s authorized dealers sell the knives at the suggested retail price. Admittedly, this can make being a Hinderer knife enthusiast an object lesson in frustration. But as they say, it’s often chase of the hunt, and not the capture which brings the most satisfaction. Good hunting to you.