Review of the Benchmade 960 Osborne
Last week I posted my photo review of the Benchmade 556 – my first personal experience with Benchmade. I consider it something of an “experimental purchase” – I’m interested in some of Benchmade’s higher-end products, but wanted to an introduction to the brand first. I carried and used the 556 for a few days, and decided I liked it enough to consider other models from Benchmade which are a little easier on the eyes than the utilitarian 556 “Mini-Griptilian.”
In searching around on Benchmade’s website, I discovered a model which really seemed very attractive – the Benchmade 960 Osborne:
This knife first hit the market around the 2005 time frame, and is a collaboration between Benchmade and custom knife designer Warren Osborne. Essentially, the knife offers the Osborne design philosophy and influence with the Benchmade production quality and company backing. Benchmade released the knife under the “Blue” product class – just a notch below their top-of-the-line Gold class. And while the 556 is also a Blue class product, I’ve found the 960 to be a step above in quality – and of course price. The 960 retails for $200.00 – better than twice the asking price of the 556. Unfortunately, I discovered the 960 is a discontinued model. I pinged some online dealers, and found only 2 or 3 who still had the red version in stock – at full retail price. I then placed a couple of “Wanted To Buy” posts in some knife enthusiast forums and a couple of folks wrote to me with new in box (NIB) offers, and I purchased one for a decent discount below retail. Score! 🙂
The Benchmade 960 is, like the 556, an Axis lock folding knife. Right away, I fell in love with the Axis lock mechanism on the 556, and find it to be executed even better here on the 960. Blade deployment is buttery smooth on the 960, either using the thumb stud or just with an ever so slight flick of the wrist. It’s noticeably smoother than the blade deployment on the 556 – and it should be for the price difference.
Aesthetically, this knife is an absolute home run with me. There’s surprisingly few good choices among pocket knives in red, and the 960 looks fantastic with its red anodized aluminum alloy handles, and the black G10 inlay. For a pocket knife, it’s larger than average with an overall length of 7.28″ and a blade length of 3.12″. For comparison, here it is next the 556:
I like the extra blade length, but aesthetically wish it had a little bit more belly like the 556. The 960 is also extremely light at just 2.26 oz. – it all but disappears in your pocket. Here’s a photo of the back side of the knife, which shows off the attractive polished stainless steel pocket clip:
As you can see in the above photo, the modified drop point blade of the 960 is constructed from D2 steel. Out of the box, the 960 was reasonably sharp, but not “scary sharp” like every Spyderco knife I’ve owned has been. I don’t fault the grade of steel for this – I just don’t think Benchmade sharpens their knives to the same level which Spyderco does in most cases. I used my Spyderco Sharpmaker to sharpen the 960, and definitely improved the sharpness, but found the D2 steel blade more difficult to sharpen than 154CM stainless steel used in the 556.
Another aesthetic consideration on the 960 is the anodized blue titanium back spacer – when it catches the light just right it really looks fantastic.
I wish Benchmade would have gone the extra mile and given this knife anodized blue thumb studs as well.
From a tactile standpoint, but 960 isn’t the easiest knife to hold on to. The aluminum handles are fairly slick (the G10 inlays provides no texture whatsoever) and you’ll find no jimping on the blade. However, the handle does conform well to my hand, so I wouldn’t be afraid to put it to hard use if need be.
Due to the price point and it’s limited production, I think most knife enthusiast consider this knife a collector’s piece – aka a “safe queen.” However, this knife has gone into my immediate EDC rotation as I like it too much not use and enjoy. If you too like this knife, be prepared for a challenge to find one. You can always search on eBay as they do tend to pop up from time to time, but do check the usual suspect knife forum sales areas as well.
There are some great YouTube videos about the Benchmade 960 already, but I went ahead and recorded one myself to augment the written portion of this review, and the photos I took:
Please leave me some comments and let me know what you thought about both the written review and the video!
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.