What To Carry When You Can't Carry A Gun

The Benchmade 535BK-4 Bugout
and the Benchmade 1120 Longhand

I got a chance to look the Benchmade 535BK-4 Bugout knife and the Benchmade 1120 Longhand pen. I picked these out for you for the purpose of improving your readiness. You may also pull this article up on your tablet and hand it to your spouse when asked, “What do you want for Christmas?”

The other day I was getting ready to walk into a grocery store, when I noticed a sign outside of the store. It consisted red circle/red line covering the silhouette of a Beretta. Chuckling, I turned to my wife and said, “They must not like Berettas in this store. Good thing I am carrying a Kahr CW9.”

I do not like non permissive environments. Whether the argument is Warren v. District of Colombia (444 A2d. 1, D.C. Ct. of Ap. 1981), where it was held that police do not owe a specific duty to provide police services to specific citizens, or the statistical information that could be used for both “less safe” or “more safe” environments, with respect to gun laws, depending on how hot button topics are defined.

Regardless, there are places on this earth where gun carrying is not allowed. I generally avoid such places, but sometimes entering them is inevitable. If you need to enter these areas too, consider your plan in tiers. The first tier is carrying a handgun, the second is carrying a knife in the absence of a handgun, and the third is blunt instruments like pens and impact tools. Bear in mind that your best tool is the one that resides between your ears. I do not surrender a firearm readily. You should not either.

The 535BK-4 is not a “beginners” knife. Image courtesy of Benchmade.

Benchmade 535BK-4

The Benchmade Bugout design is one of the best EDC designs in the industry. When the original 535 was released, everyone took notice. No one had taken all of the most desirable features of an EDC knife and put them into a package small enough for gentlemen’s carry, yet strong enough to be called upon for more severe duties. Benchmade has since released a carbon fiber version (535-3) and this model (535BK-4), with 6061 T-6 scales.

The drop point design is what has made the Bugout iconic. It allows enough material for a reinforced tip, but allows the user the right taper for fine cutting. There is a little bit of thumb jimping on the top of the frame, which adds to the grip positioning. This a thumb stud opening knife, and the blade has a well-placed pivot point, which gets it out fast, but does not allow it to open in the pocket. The blade is 3.24” and .09” wide, which makes it easy to carry everywhere.

The 6061 T6 scales have a milled sunburst-like texture which gives it an intuitive index on the grip. The reversible clip is fairly low profile, but it rides high enough in the pocket for rapid deployment. I tried various grips (hammer, spear, reverse) and found the knife mated to the hand like a much larger model. In case the knife is ever employed as a real (food fetching, foraging) survival tool, it uses round studs for spacers, making it very easy to clean.

With all of the folding knives with locking blades out there, it is hard to sort through the “right one for me”. Foremost, the 535BK-4 uses M390 steel, and steel is the soul of the knife. M390 may be a little more expensive to manufacture, but the price is worth it for users who need a little extra edge retention. M390 allows for a thinner, stronger edge. This is a high carbon, high chromium material that is often purpose built for smaller blades.

I have several blades of M390 steel, treated to the same hardness (58-61 HRC). A couple of them would be damaged by now, had it not been M390.

With all of the advantages of M390, there are things that users need to know. The 535BK-4 is not a “beginners” knife. Considering the hardness and the steel, it takes forever to sharpen, and requires ceramic or diamond stones. Obviously, the good news is the fact that the act of sharpening takes very little material off of the blade. It is a stainless steel, and has moderate resistance to stains and rust. The incredibly hard matte-finish Cerakote finish is a complete protection against stains.

About half my working knives use the Axis lock. I could walk you through the advantages of this design, but it is better to tell you about my first Axis lock knife. It is an original Benchmade 710. It survived the wearing of 3 different uniforms, and I have used it to cut my way out of many a problem. The original Axis lock on it has never failed. I lost count at 100 lbs in the number of kilo bindles I cut with it when I did drug investigations. For the knife forum folks out there, it is the original Combo Edge, ATS34, model.

The 535BK-4 has the exact same lock, and it does not fail. MSRP is $275.

The Benchmade 1120 Longhand is an EDC pen made of stainless steel.
This pen has to be handled to be understood.

Benchmade 1120 Longhand

The Benchmade 1120 Longhand is an EDC pen made of stainless steel. At the time I wrote this, the product has not been released, but it looks like there will be a 6061 T6 aluminum version also. At 4.62 inches, it is only a little longer than the width of the palm of my hand. I don’t have the official specs on it, but the early release version I tested weighs a little shy of 2 ounces. If you do a little mental math here, you’ll find that a pen that long that weighs that much probably has some pretty thick walls. It does. The part where the pen tip comes out feels so reinforced that it could easily penetrate interior plywood without even a scratch.

The 1120 uses Fisher space pen refills. If you’re not familiar with these, they are nitrogen filled ball point cartridges that are waterproof, and designed to write at any angle.

The writing tip is exposed and retracted using a two-sided mechanism that they are calling an Axis bolt action. It looks like an Axis Lock, and it has few moving parts. The 1120 has milled checkering and finger grooves on the pen body, and milled lines near the writing tip. It is comfortable in the hand, and feels like a solid writing instrument. This is an easy product for me to test, simply because I’m taking notes all day long. Anyone who knows me knows that I generally carry at least a couple of my fountain pens, because I like certain characteristics of a writing instrument. This pen has displaced them.

I handed this pen to some of my martial arts friends to see what they thought of the balance and grip. Because of its length, the utility of this instrument can be deceptive. Good. The milled indentations on the body allow for precise finger placement for manipulations. Even the pocket clip, with a curved spoon, integrates in the grip indexing.

This pen has to be handled to be understood. Merely looking at a photograph does not convey the substantial weight and smooth writing ability. This is a working pen, and it will deliver a lifetime of service.