Pros: Pocket Clip, Handle Feel, Weight, Lock Ease of Use, None
Cons: Ease of Opening, Handle Material, Overall Quality
Great knife with some extra work.
The vantage series is an example of a great design in an inexpensive package. This knife, the vantage select, has many great features, but needs a little extra work on the end users part to really be special.I'm partial towards the small (2 5/8), though the larger version is essentially the same. My review is based on the small vantage.PROS:I'll start by saying that most importantly, the price is RIGHT. As of this review (07/2014), it's $23. Price isn't everything, because garbage is garbage, but this knife gets it right for an excellent price that's hard to argue.The first feature that comes to mind is the excellent blade shape with a classic drop point design. I generally prefer spyderco's leaf blade for the constant curving belly that's apt to slicing, but the vantage has a large belly that slices well. It's a useful blade that doesn't intimidate many people, unless you employed it to do so. Not a premium steel, but the heat treatment is well done and effective. The steel is, in my experience, very rust resistant. I tried to force a patina using strong vinegars, pickle juice, stabbing a lemon, and using mustard - all failed attempts to even make a stain. Oh well?The handles are not super grippy, but the ergonomic shape of the handle contours my smaller hands well using various grips. Very comfortable though not a lot of traction. Ergo grip makes up for it.I have and carry lighter knives, but at 2.3 oz this knife can be carried comfortably even in lighter weight fabric shorts. I would like to see them lighten it by milling out the liners, but for the price, I'm not complaining.The deep carry pocket clip is my favorite of all knives I've owned, including several spyderco's, SOG, and cold steel to name a few brands. SOG has a deep carry clip, but I think they look a little tacky and it buries deeper than what I prefer. Just my opinion, but I have my reasons.The overall dimensions when closed are sleek, narrow, and just about perfect. My favorite thing about the size of the small vantage is that it fits perfectly in the 5th pocket of most my pants. The deep carry usually fits at the perfect depth of my Levis jeans, and the narrow profile leaves enough room for a small lighter or even a multitool (leatherman squirt ps4, or s2 juice) all in the 5th pocket. The weight takes a little getting used to, but once you do it sure is a good feeling having tools that you can forget you're carrying.CONSIt's not all good news with the vantage, and there are quite a few things I didn't like, so I made some modifications listed below.First con, and boy does it piss me off: quality control. I've had 4 vantage selects in both sizes, and yeah, their QC doesn't impress me. "Made in America" is a bit of a joke when they come out of the factory like this. Blade centering was on point out of box only on ONE of the four I had. The others were off, the tension was different on all, and eventually all of them started loosening to the point of blade rubbing on the side. I've had rattling spacers, and sticky pivots. I've just decided whenever I use a new one, I'll break down the whole thing, degrease it, relube it, and put it together using blue loctite and properly tighten the screws. C'mon, Spyderco has got their QC on point even on their Chinese made Byrd and tenacious series at competitive prices. Buck - you get a C- for QC. Barely passing.I have not had one accidentally unlock on me with normal use, but the lock does feel a little weak and flimsy. This is a liner lock design, but the thickness of the lock and lack of a stop pin does not inspire much confidence in me. There is a bit of play in all directions when open, but only a bit.The deployment methods include a thumb hole and flipper tang. Unfortunately the thumb hole is too receded to be of much use, and the flipper tang is also small. Before a zip tie modification, I'd push out the blade slightly using the flipper, and flick my wrist. No biggie I guess, but after using other knives it left me wanting more.MODIFICATIONSThe shape is very sleek, and while there is a small forefinger groove, there isn't much of a place for the thumb to lock to. So I added the smallest zip tie to the deployment hole, and it's pretty much awesome now. The square profile around the hole gives the zip tie a perfect bite. Cut it down, melt the extra, and super glue it in place. Yup, thumb deployable, perfectly locks the thumb in use, AND it's waveable. It's not a suggested mod, it's mandatory. Just make sure that the knob sticks up on the correct side for your thumb.Last thing, I painted the clip black. The satin finish is a bit too conspicuous, and considering I'm often wearing dark pants, I like it to blend. Just a quick sand, paint, and clear coat. It's worn off a bit, but whatever, it's not nearly as noticeable tucked in. I wish they would come black standard on the vantage select, because the force series is not worth paying twice as much for the same knife.CONCLUSIONThe knife is worth buying, hands down. Heck, buy a few spares. I no longer edc this knife often anymore because of the cons mentioned, but I happily carried it daily for several months and will continue to do so. They're perfect for traveling because I wouldn't feel terrible about losing it or giving it away as a personal gift with character.Competitive options - look at Spyderco's byrd line. I would say the direct competitor to this knife price and sizewise is the byrd Robin (very similar to the outstanding Dragonfly). If I had to say, I would pick the vantage over the Robin FRN, but the Robin G10 over this. Put a zip tie on this vantage and you'll love it.