Clay’s Budget Blades Ep. 4: The Wharncliffe Minimalist from CRKT

The Minimalist from CRKT.  Comes with sheath and neck lanyard.

Sometimes the situation calls for a monstrous knife, preferably with Crocodile Dundee DNA on board. It is a safe bet that if any one of us had to choose an edged weapon for a defensive tool, and then immediately use it, Bowies would be among the first selected. But an excessive amount of steel isn’t exactly fun to carry and is often frowned upon by polite society. Much like guns, for discreet carry purposes, smaller is better.

In searching for carry-friendly fixed blades, I stumbled upon the Columbia River Knife & Tool (CRKT) Minimalist line. Rules vary by state, and often by county, but I am fortunate enough to live in a place where a fixed blade is legal to carry concealed. Hold tight while Idaho high fives Florida and all the colonial states turn green with envy. If you can do it, I much prefer fixed blades for EDC. In my experience, they are faster to deploy and more reliable in a pinch.

The Minimalist line has a variety of blade options. For testing, I chose the “Wharncliffe.” I am new to this blade design, and therefore absolutely fascinated with it. Other options include the “Drop Point,” “Bowie,” and “Tanto.”

Nest to a 5.56 round for reference.

Pictures often don’t do knives justice, in terms of getting a feel for dimensions. To be fair, I was specifically looking for small in this case.  When I first opened the box, though, the knife inside looked like it belonged to a G.I. Joe doll. Sometimes “small” can be too small… Hesitantly, I picked it up.

But first impressions can be deceiving. Because I can happily report that the Minimalist has really grown on me. While the knife is tiny, it is absolutely functional.

I’m not a proponent of carrying a blade around the neck.  I much prefer the belt.

My Minimalist test model has a 2-inch blade, with a 3-inch handle. That doesn’t sound particularly small until you also consider how narrow the handle is. In living up to the Minimalist name, CRKT shaved off every bit of unnecessary steel on this bad boy.

The Wharncliffe blade shape excelled at fine, utility tasks.

Functionally, however, you see some excellent design at work. While the handle is narrow top to bottom, it packs just enough girth to give one a firm grip. The finger grooves look small, but in practice, they actually fit just fine, even with my large hands. The overall result is a surprisingly solid grip on a knife that would almost fit in your wallet.

Sheath with belt loop attachment.

The sheath has some nice qualities. CRKT bills this as a neck knife, and it comes out of the box with a neck lanyard ready to go. I don’t care much for neck knives, so I was prepared to make a paracord belt slide. On this front, CRKT did me one better. Included is a belt loop, and the hardware to attach it. Excellent initiative with one minor drawback.

The belt loop was obviously designed for belts you get from the slacks section of J.C. Penney. If you wear a real boy gun belt, like mine from CrossBreed Holsters, it doesn’t fit. Thick leather just won’t work on the included attachment. Knife retention is adequate if a little on the light side. I give the sheath an overall rating of “C+.”

Minor design flaw with belt loop. It wasn’t constructed for gun belts.

As a defensive tool, there is a lot to like about the Minimalist. Its tiny size makes it easy to conceal, even on frames that wouldn’t support anything else. While the 2-inch blade lacks enough reach to hit anything vital, it is an excellent slasher. It isn’t exactly a Rambo knife with a compass in the hilt, but it does the job well. Would I prefer it to just my fists and a chain belt in a Kung Fu fight? Absolutely.

Overall, I give the Minimalist a “B+.” It is well designed, functional, and really easy on the wallet — a true “budget” blade. With an MSRP of $39.99 and with a street price of $23, I recommend you get one in every blade design.  LOL.

For more information visit CRKT.com.

Specs

  • Blade Length: 2″ (50.8 mm)
  • Blade Edge: Plain
  • Blade Steel: 5Cr15MoV, 55-57 HRC
  • Blade Finish: Bead Blast
  • Blade Thickness: 0.1″ (2.54 mm)
  • Weight: 1.1 oz
  • Handle: Polished Resin Infused Fiber
  • Style: Fixed Blade Knife w/Sheath
  • Overall Length: 5″ (127.0 mm)

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About the author: Clay Martin is a former Marine and Green Beret, retiring out of 3rd Special Forces Group. He is a multi-decade and -service sniper, as well as 3-Gun competitor and Master ranked shooter in USPSA Production. In addition to writing about guns, he is the author of “Last Son of The War God,” a novel about shooting people that deserve it. You can also follow him on twitter, @offthe_res or his website, Off-The-Reservation.com

{ 7 comments… add one }
  • James Gordon July 30, 2019, 8:56 pm

    As always,a great review Clay.Had a Minimalist since CRKT introduced it.I have all of the knives in the minimalist group.My problem is keeping the knife once I show it to someone.I am on my 4th wharncliffe.My sister-in-law has CCP but cant carry at work and she got my first minimalist,she showed it to a girlfriend who ended up with that knife.Sister in law got my replacement.Long story short,show no-one your CRKT or do as I now do and keep a few extras in your goody drawer.

  • jesse March 26, 2019, 11:18 pm

    i carry the crkt minimalist bowie. works great. versatile with a strong grip

  • Meatball January 19, 2019, 4:44 am

    Gen u INE huh???….lol yeah right scooter…

  • Matt January 18, 2019, 9:27 pm

    Added a “pull the dot” belt loop for appendix carry to the left of my mag pouch. It’s my get the f&%# off me knife. been carrying a little over a year now. high value.

  • Mike in a Truck January 18, 2019, 9:38 am

    I have to get me one of these.As a lifelong “gen-u-ine knifefighter” Ive come to realize that deploying a folder while under attack, especially by multiple assailants leaves a little bit much to go wrong at the worst time. Ive recently restarted carring my Gerber Guardian-an old friend going back more than 35 years. As compact as it is, its still a mite big for EDC in warm weather attire.And being double bladed its frowned upon in some jurisdictions. Id like a Minimalist with a tanto point which Ive come to favor.

  • johnnyraygun January 18, 2019, 8:04 am

    It is a nice looking blade, but the quality of the steel makes this a no go. Clay is correct this is a budget knife, but a survival blade does need better steel. If you took this knife and cut 6″ of corrugated cardboard it would be time to sharpen the blade. Fine for a steak knife, because you probably have a sharpener of some type in your kitchen, but in a survival situation, a dull knife is of little use. Save you money and buy once, you will not be sorry.

  • ScottM January 18, 2019, 6:58 am

    I have been carry a Minimalist at 12:00 by my belt buckle for several years now. It is a great little knife. While it may not fit your old fashioned leather belt, it has no problem fitting on the rigger’s belt I wear daily

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