6 months ago, it came time for me to replace the veteran Becker BK11 I carried and abused regularly for 6 years before losing it in the Verde River in Arizona during a naked river crossing in January, 2014 (don’t ask). I’ve always believed that defining the intended use for any tool is vital to choosing the right tool for the job and after defining the intended use for my next EDC beater knife, I settled on the ESEE 3 from Randall’s Adventure and Training.
My Intended Use For The ESEE 3
My intended use for the ESEE 3 was as a durable EDC tool that would be comfortable and easy to carry, very sharp and easy to keep sharp, be easily concealed, have a short enough blade that it would be legal to conceal carry through the many jurisdictions I travel through, and be quick to access.
Probably the most defining part of my intended use for this specific purchase was that I needed a knife that could be concealed easily inside the waistband of board shorts. I know, sounds stupid. Lately, I spend 8 to 9 months of my year in board shorts so it’s either that or a neck knife for me when it comes to EDC.
The ESEE 3 perfectly fit my intended use along with the odd specific need regarding my board shorts.
Specifically, I chose the ESEE-3P-KO-DT, which is the ESEE 3 with the plain edge (versus clip point), desert tan blade, and no sheath. Why no sheath? Not because I had a problem with the ESEE sheaths but because I make my own kydex holsters and figured I’d try to make my own
sheath for the knife and save $30 on the purchase. I watched plenty of videos and read plenty of reviews before purchasing the knife and I’m sure the ESEE 3 sheath is quite adequate and it sounds like it’s well made so please, don’t discount the sheath due to this review. I do think that the ESEE sheath would have created more of an outline under my board shorts and made it more obvious that I was carrying something under there than the flat Kydex sheath I ended up making.
The knife by itself ran me $73.90 total from Knifeworks.com. A very fair price for a knife that typically goes for over $100.
The ESEE 3 came in fairly spartan packaging. In my opinion, the more spartan the better. I’d rather that the money I am spending on a knife go into the quality and production aspects than a fancy cardboard box. If I could order knives with a cardboard slip over the blade and a shipping label stuck to the handle, I would.
The down and dirty details from Randall’s Adventure and Training:
Overall Length – 8.31″
Cutting Edge Length – 3.38″
Overall Blade Length – 3.88″
Maximum Thickness – .125″
Steel – 1095 Carbon Steel, 55-57 HRC
Weight – 5.2 Ounces (Knife Only)
The ESEE 3 immediately felt great in my hand and having carried a Becker BK11 for over 6 years as an EDC knife, I couldn’t help but compare the two when I finally received the ESEE 3. Regarding the pros and cons of each, the BK11 has a stronger tip for sure and is unlikely to be subjected to forces that may cause damage because simply speaking, the handle just isn’t long enough to easily apply forces that may cause damage. In my opinion, physics is definitely something to consider in regards to a knife’s intended use, tip strength, etc. The BK11 is built stout with Ethan Becker’s intent, I’m sure, that it would not be broken by even those that put the knife through a fair amount of abuse. The ESEE 3 has it’s own distinct advantages. Being thinner than the BK11, it’s a better slicer. The additional length on the handle gives you just that much more leverage than you get with the BK11. Also, the drop point on the ESEE 3 is pointier where as the BK11 is more of a broad tip. This obviously lends strength to the BK11 but takes away effectiveness for fine tasks that require a sharp tip where the ESEE 3 can take advantage of its sharper drop point in these instances but possesses a tip that would probably be more prone to breakage.
I have to mention that the ESEE 3 also came shaving sharp right out of the box. Those that know me have heard me bitch about poor fit and finish on knives you’d expect would be sharp out of the box but were anything but. The ESEE immediately began to impress with it’s arm shaving sharpness.
When my comparison was complete, I whipped out a sheath for the ESEE 3 and put it on. I imagine that my homemade Kydex sheath probably cost me about $3 to make and the only tools I used were a Dremel and a heat gun.
The ESEE 3 performs just like you’d probably guess. Outstandingly.
The small blade is easy to manipulate and it has a ton of belly on it for a small knife so it’s very slicey. The thin stock (.125″) and flat grind really slice well and only assist in making it easy to conceal. Also, the coating is excellent. It’s durable but not too gritty so it’s lasted quite well but not seriously affected the performance of the knife. The full size handle gives you great purchase and as much leverage as you’d ever want or need on a small working knife like this one. The linen micarta handles are awesome. I’ve gotten everything on them from motor oil to fish guts and they never seem to get very slick. They almost have a sort of sticky feeling to them when they get sweaty or wet. The tip is a lot stronger than I expected and I did test it in ways that even made me cringe at times.
I’m not sure jimping is really necessary on a knife and although I use it at times, I’m not convinced it enhances performance enough to be worth the costs of manufacturing so it wouldn’t hurt to lose the jimping. I love choils on larger knives and although I do use find myself sticking my finger in the ESEE 3 choil at times, I don’t really think it’s necessary on a knife this sized. I’d say lose the choil too in exchange for more cutting edge.
If that’s enough information for you, please skip down to the Conclusion. If you want more specifics regarding what I covered in the paragraph above, please keep reading…
Regarding the general blade geometry of the ESEE 3 versus its ergonomics in the handle department, I love it. The belly of the edge can be put to serious work with the massive amount of leverage you can get from the full sized handle. I wear a large sized glove so realistically speaking, I have large hands. Now I don’t have those giant-ass sausage fingers. You know, the ones you are looking for on your doctor when you get that first prostate examination. “Awwwww, crap. This dude has huge sausage fingers and he’s going to stick one up my butt.” That said, my hand fits the ESEE 3 handle perfectly. I have plenty of leverage for a blade that is only 3.88″. Any more handle would be too much. Any less would be understandable for a small knife but would affect the performance. Again, to compare to the BK11, there’s much more leverage on the ESEE 3. The smaller handles on the BK11 made it more convenient to carry but affected the performance of the knife somewhat. I do consider the ESEE 3 to be a little too heavy and long to be comfortably used as a neck knife but the BK11 fitted that role very well.
In regards to the jimping on the ESEE 3, I’m not sure that textured jimping is actually worth the manufacturing expense. When exactly is it that I need jimping? Can’t I just put my damn thumb on the spine and if I’m not a total soft-handed, wuss of an armchair warrior, might it be possible that I can still be effective with a knife if there was no jimping? Yep. Some of you might feel differently but I’m just not convinced that it’s enough of a performance enhancer to put any value in it. I have a file and if I really need some jimping, I can make it myself.
For the cost of the knife, I’m digging the linen micarta handles on the ESEE. Yeah, they’re flat. Yeah, they could be designed better and more pimp and have a palm swell on them. Sure, they could be more effective and I hear that there are some aftermarket scales available for ESEE’s that eclipse the effectiveness of the stock scales. Have I had any kind of problem with the factory scales? Absolutely not and honestly, I don’t think there’s any reason to replace the factory scales, especially on a small knife like the ESEE 3. There’s only so much work you can do and so many forces you can inflict on yourself with a small blade. Anything beyond the factory scales would be wasteful not to mention that they keep the profile of the knife low. Something to consider on a knife you can put in a front pants pocket and make it disappear.
The 1095 of the ESEE seems like good 1095 to me. It does seem to rust fast than Ka-Bar’s 1095 CV so I’d have to give it to Ka-Bar on the steel. That said, I had no issues or concerns with the steel that you wouldn’t have with any other 1095 knife.
So who exactly would I recommend this knife for?
- Anyone who wears board shorts almost all year and wants an EDC larger than a neck knife.
- Day and even overnight hikers than make short trips into wilderness areas.
- Anyone that prefers to EDC a solid fixed blade over a folder.
- This blade could be an excellent companion blade to any serious Outdoorsmen that carry a tomahawk or large knife and need something smaller for finer tasks.
Although the ESEE 3 is a small knife, it’s too large to be worn as a neck knife unless you are the size of Hulk Hogan but I highly recommend it for carry in a front jeans pocket or carry inside or outside of the waistband.
In the short time that I’ve owned the ESEE 3 I’ve batonned with it, butchered more chickens than I can count, cleaned tons of fish (thanks to my 5 year old son, Darius, who takes fishing EXTREMELY serious), cleaned close to 20 geese, used it to open a ridiculous number of boxes, picked my nails, dug washers out of an old teak platform on our bowsprit, forced it to play “screwdriver”, cut up tons of cardboard, used it as a make-shift steak knife a million times, pounded nails in with it, and etc., etc., etc., since it is an EDC knife. As anyone that carries a hard use EDC knows, there are far too many things this knife has been used for than could be listed in a simple review such as this one. It’s performed flawlessly through it all and I am very happy with this purchase. For the money, I think this knife is VERY hard to beat.