Editor's Note: The following review was written by our colleague Rob Fortier. With more than 20 years of experience as an automotive journalist and photographer, Rob is no stranger to getting his hands dirty working on custom trucks, hot rods, and motorcycles. Whether it's in the garage, around the house, or on long road trips, he's developed an appreciation for trustworthy tools.
My mentality of “pay less, replace or repair as needed” all went out the cranial window a few years back following my first Benchmade purchases — a Saddle Mountain Skinner, still carried and used regularly to this day, followed by a now-discontinued Saddle Mountain Hunter.
Although I prefer maintaining blade edges myself, knowing that Benchmade’s LifeSharp program offers free sharpening has been quite reassuring. But even more reassuring was the consistent quality and precision manufacturing I saw in each knife I've owned, from the lightning-quick Axis spring-assisted Emissary to their latest collaboration with longtime design team member Mel Pardue: the 15400 Pardue Hunter.
Having created some sleek hunting and wilderness-survival-inspired fixed-blade knives over the last quarter-century, Pardue is dedicated to his craft. It’s therefore surprising this is Mel’s first offering in the Benchmade Hunt series, but this is a welcome addition to the line.
Picking up the Pardue Hunter for the first time, it fulfilled my expectations with its durable CPM S30V stainless drop-point blade and two-tone Micarta handle. The unique inner hex head rivet nut is a nice finishing touch. To make carrying this knife on a daily basis easier and safer, the 5.08-ounce and roughly-8-inch Hunter’s leather sheath features an additional hard Kydex liner.
Personally, I’m still on the fence as to whether or not the Pardue Hunter will ever replace the Saddle Mountain Hunter’s prominence as one of my most regularly-carried fixed blades. As far as weight goes, the Pardue’s additional ounce is definitely felt on the belt — but out of the sheath in hand, those 5 ounces are very well-balanced. The handle, however, is where the lighter of the two prevails. The flatter-profiled and wider linen Micarta doesn’t conform as well to my hand or feel quite as comfortable as the Saddle Mountain's dymondwood. Much of this is due to the Pardue Hunter’s lack of a more-pronounced forefinger guard.
Blade-wise, it’s hard to find fault in any of Benchmade's current offerings — other than personal shape preference, that is. The Pardue Hunter’s stubby S30V drop-point lives up to expectations when it comes to finish quality and grind accuracy. And while it wouldn’t necessarily be a point-of-purchase make or break factor, the sheath is not my preferred style of leather carrying apparatus (mainly when worn riding a motorcycle). But, I will admit that while it doesn’t offer the mental security of a handle strap, I do love the integrated Kydex liner's retention. Its built-in detent helps keep the knife firmly in place until it's needed.
Based on my time with Benchmade’s 15400 Pardue Hunter, I'd say it's certainly worth consideration by anyone in the market for a reliable outdoor-oriented fixed-blade.