Photo Review of the Benchmade 556 Mini-Griptilian
A couple of weeks ago, I got a Spyderco Dragonfly 2 for the purposes of “EDC” (every day carry). Since then, I’ve been carrying it, and found it lacked in a couple of areas. Firstly, it’s not the quickest knife to deploy. There’s a lot of resistance built into the blade pivot – you can do it one handed with the patented “Spydy hole” but it’s not what I’d call lightning fast. I’ve also found the small size of the knife blade to be a little off-putting – it’s great as a light-weight utility blade, but not much else. Sure, any blade should theoretically be of some help (better than nothing) in a self-defense role, but the Dragonfly 2 just doesn’t inspire confidence in this regard. So I began looking at other options, and decided I’d expand my budget a bit from the less than $50.00 I paid for the Dragonfly 2. In my research, the Benchmade brand name is one which came up several times as a manufacturer of extremely high-quality, US made knives, with the “Mini-Griptilian” model rating high among knife enthusiasts for EDC duties. Once the decision was made, I did an eBay search for the 556, and determined the going rate was about $80.00 plus shipping. I found one one brand new in box for $70.00, which seemed to be a really good price based on my research. Here it is:
The Benchmade 556 is functionally quite different from my Dragonfly 2. Instead of a the classic lock blade design used by the Dragonfly 2, the 556 uses Benchmade’s AXIS® locking mechanism with dual thumb-stud opener – this is the best feature of the 556. This system overcomes one of my chief complaints with the Dragonfly 2 – ease and speed of deployment. There’s just enough resistance in the 556 to make sure the blade stays safely put when folded, but with a solid flick of the thumb-stud, you can easily and quickly open the blade one handed. And to be completely honest, this makes the knife much more fun to play with – a trivial, but not all-together unimportant consideration.
Here’s a photo of the back side of the knife:
Benchmade lists the weight of the knife at 2.56 ounces, about twice the 1.2 ounces the Dragonfly 2 weighs, but still virtually unnoticeable for me in my pocket. The 556 has a nice blacked out pocket clip, but I tend not to use them so I may remove it as this will make the knife even thinner in my pocket.
The handles of the Benchmade 556 are made from from Zytel fiberglass filled plastic handles. I’m not in love with them – they have a “plasticy” feel, and the texture is a tad rough. On the plus side, it seems very durable and resistant to staining or damage. So functionally, they’re absolutely adequate, but the fit, finish, and level of quality of the rest of the knife is so great, the handles just sort of feel “cheap” by comparison. No doubt though, they contribute the impressively low-weight of the knife. Both the handles and the blade itself have plenty of “jimping” which, along with the handle texture, ensure that the knife will stay in hand when used, and that you’re fingers are less likely to slide on to the blade.
The blade length of the Benchmade 556 is 2.91 inches – still smaller than what could be considered by most as “tactical” but a whole bunch better than the 1 and 7/8th inch blade on the Dragonly 2. The increase in the size of the blade as well as the handle make it a much more attractive option for me for an EDC, as I have more confidence in it as a potential defensive option. Here’s a photo for size comparison:
The blade of the Benchmade 556 is made from 154CM stainless steel – a grade which is well respected in the knife enthusiast community. In terms of out of the box sharpness, I was a bit let down by the 556. Take a look at this iPhone photo of the warning on the Benchmade box:
With a warning like this, I was expecting a scary sharp blade, instead it was just….sharp. Certainly less sharp than my Dragonfly 2. Was this because of the difference in the 154CM steel Benchmade uses in the 556 vs. the VG-10 steel Spyderco uses in the Dragonfly 2? That’s hard to say. What I will say is that I did sharpen the Benchmade 556 on Spyderco’s Sharpmaker at 30 degrees, after which the blade on the 556 was scary sharp – very much on par with the Dragonfly 2. Since I’m new to knife sharpening, I was pleased at the dramatic difference I was able to make in the knife blade. So I won’t necessarily knock the knife here too badly, because likely anyone who would be particular enough to be dissatisfied with how sharp the 556 is out of the box would also be able to sharpen the knife to their level of satisfaction.
I really like the Benchmade 556 Mini Griptilian – it comes much closer to meeting my EDC pocket knife requirements than does the Spyderco Dragonfly 2 – but I don’t think I’m quite there. I’d like a little higher quality steel, and I’d like handles which offer more comfort with a higher quality feel. So despite the fact that I like its blade steel properties a bit better, the Dragonfly 2 will likely be sold or given away as a gift. The Benchmade 556 is a much better knife for me, in both size and usability. Even if I find something I like a little better, the 556 is probably too good of a knife not to keep, and not terribly expensive as compared to other options – which has made it a perennial favorite knife enthusiasts for many years.
I’m still considering what I’d like to try next. The Benchmade 930 Osborne Design Kulgera looks like a nice option with an under $200.00 price point, but the blade might just be a tad long for EDC. The Benchmade manufactured Bradley Cutlery Alias 2 is also an attractive option at around the $200.00 price point. Truth be told, I’d love a Chris Reeve Sebenza. But that would be a roughly $400.00 proposition which I’m not sure I can justify. Stay tuned. 🙂
In addition to the photo review above, I’ve added a video segment as well:
Enjoy, and let me know your thoughts.
John B. Holbrook, II
John B. Holbrook, II is a freelance writer, photographer, and author of ThruMyLens.org, as well as LuxuryTyme.com and TheSeamasterReferencePage.com. *All text and images contained in this web site are the original work of the author, John B. Holbrook, II and are copyright protected. Use of any of the information or images without the permission of the author is prohibited.