Best Tactical Budget Blade? Hoffner Folding Knife — Review

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Introduction

Make sure to check out Hoffner Knives.

I was introduced to Brian Hoffner and his knives at SHOT 2016. He’s an extremely friendly guy with a great personality. Hoffner has an impressive 30+ year background training law enforcement agencies across the country specializing in weapons and tactics. I can assure you he is the “real-deal.” Through the years of training police officers and civilians at his personal training facility, he saw a need to create the most versatile knife for self -defense and I think he nailed it.

This is not my CQB, but this is the one we're giving away to one lucky GunsAmerica reader.  Click here for details.

This is not my CQB, but this is the one we’re giving away to one lucky GunsAmerica reader. Click here for details.

At first glance, the Hoffner folder appears to be nothing special. Design wise it’s rather plain looking but that’s also what I like about it. The knife isn’t flashy or gaudy nor was it meant to be. Hoffner himself will tell you this knife says “don’t prosecute me.”

Once you hold the Hoffner it becomes apparent this knife is more than just a tactical folder. There are subtle changes to the grip that are so simple yet effective, I can’t believe it hasn’t been done before (at least none that I know of). The folder is well made and feels great in the hand. The one thing I really like about its appearance is that I’m not afraid to pull it out at a family picnic and I wouldn’t hesitate to use it as a last ditch effort to stop an attacker. The Hoffner folder has been my go to EDC knife for the last 8 weeks and will continue to be a regular in my carry rotation.

Overview

Here's the Hoffner compared to my Spyderco Tenacious.

Here’s the Hoffner CQB compared to my Spyderco Tenacious.

The Hoffner folder comes in two different sizes, 2.8 and 3.5 in. blades. I picked up the 3.5 in. model at SHOT show featuring a traditional spear point blade profile with black finish. The knife is well made with full steel liners, hefty stainless frame pins and steel liner lock with detent ball allowing for smooth deployment. The liner lock activates with very positive engagement locking mid-blade giving me confidence the skin on my knuckles won’t get shaved from a faulty lock.

It sports 3.5 in. blade in a spear point profile making it ideal for everyday use and self-defense. Dual thumb studs allow for ambidextrous deployment and is composed of 440C stainless steel. 440C is a high-alloy steel with great corrosion resistance thanks to large amounts of Chromium. Everyone has their favorite knife steel and to each their own, but 440C offers a great balance of corrosion and wear resistance for the everyday user. It is relatively easy to sharpen and holds an edge well. I haven’t been able to get it razor sharp yet, but I’ll admit I am not a pro when it comes to knife sharpening.

SEE ALSO: GUNSAMERICA GIVEAWAY: TWO HOFFNER KNIVES!

The handle is equipped with olive G-10 handle scales with large round cutouts mid-handle. Handles are offered in two different styles, smooth and chiseled grips. Indexing cutouts make transitioning between forward and reverse grip easy. With a little practice, switching grips becomes second nature. The handle boasts aggressive jimping which I found useful in preventing any knife slip. Even when cutting up some vegetables with wet hands, it stayed in place. Hoffner designed the end of the knife for pressure point applications and the top of the knife as a blunt striking object. The pocket clip is reversible, low profile making it snag free and sits deep in the pocket, which I prefer, resting tip-down. And for those who like to decorate your knives, feel free to add a lanyard.

A look at the spear-point blade.

Traditional spear point design. The finish has held up well with hard use.

Specs

  • Overall Length: 8.38″
  • Blade Length: 3.5″
  • Blade Thickness: 0.11″
  • Blade Material: 440C
  • Blade Style: Spear Point
  • Blade Grind: Hollow
  • Finish: Black
  • Edge Type: Plain
  • Handle Length: 4.875″
  • Handle Thickness: 0.46″
  • Handle Material: G-10
  • Color: Olive
  • Frame/Liner: Steel
  • Weight: 4.54 oz.
  • User: Ambidextrous
  • Pocket Clip: Tip-Down
  • Knife Type: Manual folder
  • Lock Type: Liner Lock
  • Brand: Hoffner Knives
  • Model: Hoffner Folder CQB/CT
  • Price: $50 and up (depending on configuration)

Utility

The Hoffner folder was clearly designed with self-defense in mind but has served me well as an everyday carry knife. It’s proven to be a knife up to every task at hand and I don’t mind abusing it more than others given the price point.

The tip of the handle also functions as a pressure-point implement.

The butt of the knife is used for pressure point applications and the angled part with sharp points inflict lots of pain!

Folded up.

Folded and ready to go.

Hoffner sought out to create the ultimate self-defense tool with his folding knife. The modified handle shape makes the user to grip the knife in such a way that the butt of the knife rests in the palm of your hand. The resulting grip makes the knife feel like an extension of your arm rather than an object you’re holding. The amount of force you can put behind this knife is incredible, it feels solid in the hand. The grip and indexing holes give you 2 extra inches of slashing power without adding it to the blade itself allowing it to stay within legal limits. The indexing holes in the middle of the handle are actually quite useful when switching grip styles. It also provides extra grip strength when using the foil grip. The top of the grips have

The top of the grips have jimping to maximize pain when used as a striking object. This knife has some heft to it and I certainly wouldn’t want to be hit with this. Just for fun, I used the butt end of the knife on some pressure points and it doesn’t take much before it hurts. Hoffner recommends using the angled portion of the butt of the knife to drive up and into the base of an attacker’s nose. It sounded silly until I tried it- minimal pressure caused my eyes to well up. The whole knife is an effective self-defense tool and weapon.

A look at how it fills up the hand.

Unique grip shape makes the knife 1.5″ longer.

I prefer the spear point smooth blade, but Hoffner also offers a serrated combo edge. The blade has dual thumb studs which is nice not having to worry about how the blade is oriented to operate the knife. The adjustable tension screw and indexing hole make it easy to quick deploy the knife by flicking the wrist. Repeated quick deployment of the knife causes the tension screw to come loose over time, you just have to make sure you tighten it so you don’t lose it one day. I’ve had to tighten mine once so far.

Everyday Use

The cardboard started to bind and get pushed rather than cut towards the end of the test.

The cardboard started to bind and get pushed rather than cut towards the end of the test.

The Hoffner folder has been a great performer over the last two months given my lifestyle. Granted I live in the heart of Houston and don’t get every opportunity to put it through rigorous workouts as other might, but I did give it a good run.

First off, this knife is a joy to carry because the pocket clip is well made. One of my biggest pet peeves on knives are dinky, weak pocket clips that bend after a week- not the clip on the Hoffner folder. It may look small, but it’s stout. Plus it’s reversible, key for us lefties, and slim making it nearly invisible to others. The clip is sturdy and sits deep in the pocket hidden from door frames and countertops that seem to be knife magnets. The clip is not flush with the handle, but it hasn’t come loose. The knife takes up more real estate in my pocket than I’d like, but it’s also a bigger blade than I normally carry. I noticed the olive G-10 scales start to turn slightly blue from being in my jeans- not a big deal and might come off if I cared to clean it.

When I first got the knife it was never incredibly sharp, but still cut very well. I used the knife for various cutting and tasks throughout the last couple months and the edge has held up well. When I replaced the brakes on my truck, I used the knife to separate pads from the calipers. The clip got scraped a bit crawling under the truck, but it didn’t gouge the metal too bad. I’m impressed with how the blade finish held up as well.

The pocket clip makes the knife invisible to others. I prefer my knives stay out of sight.

The pocket clip makes the knife invisible to others. I prefer my knives stay out of sight.

I’ve used the tip to tighten screws and dig rocks out of my boots. The tip has held up surprisingly well thanks to the full length swedge and broad spear point design. It stripped CAT-6 cable easy when wiring up a new modem. It can slice steak just fine and obliterates all sorts of packing tape. After 8 weeks of use, I tested the edge retention and performed 83 cuts on cardboard boxes before the blade was extremely dull and started to bind. I chose cardboard because it is known to be very hard on an edge and dulls quickly. After spending 20 minutes on the Spyderco Sharpmaker, I was able to get the blade back to popping hairs off my arm. I could see this knife doing well under hard use situations. Of course you’re not going to be able to hack through a 2’ x 4’ but it will serve well in most realistic scenarios. I had no problems shaving bark off fallen tree limbs. So far I have no complaints about the knife, it has been reliable and solid in every situation. The only thing I can say is the knife is on the heavy side. I would like to see better machining tolerances and quality but it is still above average for other knives in this category.

Drawbacks

There are only a few drawbacks I found over the weeks. Because of the unique handle shape, it can be awkward for everyday cutting tasks. Sometimes I prefer a grip closer to the blade where I can get my thumb on the spine for more precise cuts. At times the knife also felt heavy for me to carry. Coming in a 4.54 ounces doesn’t sound like much, but that’s how much an iPhone 6 weighs.

The only other noticeable drawback is the tension screw. While not a deal-breaker, I don’t want to deploy my knife one day and have the blade sticking out of my shoe. Nothing a little Loctite can’t fix.

Warranty

Hoffner offers a 1 year warranty on all knives guaranteed to be free of manufacturer’s defects. This is about what I expected from a knife in this price range. I also don’t see the knife failing any time in the near future.

Hoffner Knife

Nice and Simple

Conclusion

After owning the Hoffner folder I would recommend it to my friends as an affordable tactical folder. To me, the knife would be great to throw in my truck or tackle box. It’s beefy enough to handle any job and for the price, why not get a couple.

The Hoffner folder is a unique balance of practical-tactical. It tackles everyday tasks while instilling me with confidence should I need to use it in a fight. I enjoy the unique indexing holes and added blade length in a self-defense situation. Hoffner did a good job maximizing the potential of this simple folder and will remain in my weekly rotation.

{ 16 comments… add one }
  • Robert Brooks March 29, 2016, 2:25 am

    Just got my Kershaw Thermite (3880) yesterday! Heavy, looks good, had to sharpen it. A little bigger than I expected. What do y’all think?
    please be gentle……..

  • roger brett March 28, 2016, 2:11 pm

    Trouble with this knife is the DIRECTION on the clip. It’s UPSIDE DOWN when you pull it out. Trying to turn it around would const you precious seconds if you need them, and the possiblility of dropping it while turning it around. I’ve got the Spyderco Tenacious and when you pull it out, it’s thumb on the hole and ready to flick open.

    • DaveGinOly March 28, 2016, 8:42 pm

      Not sure what you mean by “upside down.” The clip is at the pivot/blade end of the knife, where it belongs. Maybe you mean the clip is on the “wrong” side? That would depend on what side of your body you’re carrying it on, and it does appear to be reversible.

    • Mike Sisson March 29, 2016, 4:58 pm

      roger – I agree with you. I have a CRKT Heiho and I’ve tried to figure out how it would work if I could carry it with the clip on the pivot end and I can’t see it. Clip works for me on the handle end so my thumb is on the thumb stud when I pull it out of my pocket.

  • BRASS March 28, 2016, 12:29 pm

    My problem with most folding knives is they are slow to open for me. I don’t know if I have unusually thick skin or what but most with studs don’t open easily as my thumb just seems to slide over the stud. I have a tango point tactical folder made by Solingen that I like very much, except the ledge type thumb piece is hard for me to pick up with my thumb, despite being longer than most.
    As a result I like assisted opening knives with a flipper protrusion on the backside when folded. They are fast to open and use when needed.

  • Sgt. Pop March 28, 2016, 11:20 am

    Discount Cutlery lists the Hoffner ATA02 as made in China, not about to say the Chinese don’t make good steel when it’s called for.

  • Rob Thomason March 28, 2016, 10:04 am

    I have read this review of Hoffner knives several times. No where does it mention where these knives are manufactured, nor does his website. Just another import? Are they ashamed of where they are manufactured? This deliberate “slight of hand” is disgraceful. And a one year warranty? If you can’t offer a better warranty than that on a quality knife then you should get out of the knife business & flip burgers at McDonald’s! BUY AMERICAN! Sincerely, Rob Thomason

  • GJ March 28, 2016, 7:18 am

    Take it easy , if your Buddy Hoffner has an ” impressive 30+ year background training law enforcement agencies ” it doesn’t makes him a Good knives manufacturer /designer . but nice try ………

    • Jim Russle March 28, 2016, 9:32 am

      Just taking a wild guess, but I bet he has more experience using a knife in an actual self-defense situation through his years being active military or LEO. And that experience is what makes him more qualified to design a more practical folding knife than you or I.

      Your comment adds nothing to the conversation.

    • Rob Thomason March 28, 2016, 10:15 am

      GJ, I would be willing to bet my life that neither Mr. Russle nor Mr, Hoffner have ever used a blade in a real life threatening “self defense” situation. Possibly in their imagination or their dreams. I am disheartened that Mr. Hoffner does not disclose where his knives are manufactured. This “slight of hand” is a disgraceful “oversight”. Quality? A one year warranty? Buy American & get a lifetime warranty! Sincerely, Rob Thomason

      • JC December 6, 2016, 5:51 pm

        Rob, don’t know if Brian has ever been in a knife fight or a gun fight, but his classes are as good as they get. By the way, his knives are made in America, Just as all his products.

  • Hank Bischoff March 28, 2016, 7:14 am

    I purchased the 3.5 inch folder. The feel is great, the look is awesome. However, the liner lock is way too tight requiring TWO HANDS to disengage the blade. I’ve called the manufacturer twice, sent a message via their website and posted to their Facebook page. I’ve received one phone call over a week ago from a very nice woman that couldn’t help me and said she’d have someone else call me. Still waiting and I’ve had the knife over 2 weeks now. The knife might be a good option for everyday carry, but this one won’t be helping me out much sitting in the safe. And due to really poor customer service that I’ve experienced, I won’t be purchasing another nor recommending this knife. Sorry for the negative comment, but I call them like I see them.

  • mathew March 28, 2016, 7:08 am

    Sorry but I don’t consider any knife that uses a liner lock safe or an everyday carry.
    To weak a design for heavy use light duty at best.

    • Chris Laube March 28, 2016, 10:41 am

      Matthew,
      I agree with your comment. Liner lock? No thank you. My EDC is a Zero Tolerance. Yes large and heavy but then so am I. I think the reviewer’s last comment about putting it in a tool box sums up his true feelings about this knife. But since they are supporting the site by offering freebies he can’t just come out and say that the knife is crap.
      Read between the lines on this review and I think he says it all.
      Thanks
      C. Laube

    • Steve Lindos March 28, 2016, 11:35 am

      What do you use your knife for that would cause the liner to fail?

    • rabrooks March 29, 2016, 2:35 am

      The liner on the Kershaw Thermite is hard to operate. Hope it gets easier with time. Compared to SOG’s cam-lock deal on the Vulcan, which is smooth as silk, easy to operate and faster. That is until I develop the “super thumb”! Then the Thermite will rule the world!!!
      But please, do share your “liner-lock” thoughts…

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