Emerson P-SARK?


March 4, 2003, 11:20 AM
Well, I can't hem and haw around the issue any more. I don't have a fighting folder for daily carry and feel rather naked. My only carry blade is a cute little Gerber money clip that happens to have a blade. It's really cool and in a tactical black finish, so I'm not a complete loser.

Aside from Strider, Emerson is the only folder maker that has a truly spectacular reputation and I'm drawn to their line of products. Unlike Benchmade, Emerson incorporates a Wave opener, which I like, and builds a positive stop into the handle design to prevent your hand from riding up onto the blade in the event of a thrust gone bad. Having skinned a few deer, I'm all too aware of how easy it is to slide up onto a blade and can't imagine the damage from a hard, fighting grip that slips a tad.

Anyhow, I'd like to get a Strider, but feel that the Emerson is more in keeping with my budget. Of all the knives featuring the Wave Opener, I think the P-SARK is the best choice because it is the least "mean" looking and that could come into play after a defensive use.

The Mach1 is beautiful. The Commander, a wonder of form and function, truly a warrior's blade. The Kerambit makes my heart stir. The Persian is a fantasy brought to life. However, if we were to judge the person based on the knife chosen, wouldn't we honestly have to wonder about the regular joe citizen that carried such wicked looking blades?

The P-SARK has the fast-action opening system that has become an Emerson trademark. It also has the deep-cutting curved blade similar to the kerambit and Commander. What it doesn't have is that name that might be misconstrued by a jury.

Maybe I'm wrong in my thinking and I look to you good folks for some clarity on the matter. I've found a P-SARK at www.bestknives.com for about $125 and think that's a good price. Another $50 would see it shipped to Emerson for a lefthand clip.

Any thoughts?

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Jim March
March 4, 2003, 12:08 PM

Here's the problems as I see 'em:

1) This is a linerlock. Not the best lock in the world. Made worse by the fact that the "mild hawksbill" blade of a P-SARK will put the stress right onto the lock, HARD, on a stab. Follow?

2) The Wave is pretty cool, but conventional thumbstuds are pretty fast too and the Wave chews the hell out of your pockets in a highly visible place. At a knife show you can spot the Emerson fans...they're the ones with the shredded right front pockets.

This is what I'd get in that size/price range:


The Axis is a FAR better lock, more reliable, stronger, you've got a longer and tougher blade (better steel), grip resists slip-up accidents, can be set up completely southpaw if desired. (Even right-handers may set up a knife southpaw - do you have a CCW permit with strongside gun carry? If so you should consider a knife as the "lefty" piece to counter a gun-grab of the non-Sarah-Brady type.)

March 4, 2003, 12:24 PM
Mr. March, thanks for the thoughts. Has there ever been an example of the liner lock failing?

My biggest concern with the Benchmade is that the thumbhole reduces the width of the blade about about 50%. Even if the steel used is supposed to be stronger, with that much metal removed to make an opening hole, it really evens out with the Emerson steel. I could be wrong.

As to the AXIS lock, I couldn't agree more. While a more complicated locking mechanism, using an Omega spring and all, it is far stronger than a liner could ever be. Physics is a wonderful thing! I wrote Emerson an email asking why they didn't offer their knifes with an ambidextrous clip and basically got the brushoff. Why they don't do this when the Wave and thumbdisk is ambidextrous is beyond me.

I have heard bad things about BM's quality control, especially in blade lockup. Any truth to this? BM offers a better locking system and a truly ambidextrous design....so I'm definitely interested.

March 4, 2003, 12:51 PM
I've done some testing on the linerlocks relative strength in stab tests over at www.folders-r-us.org over the last year.

Linerlocks may not be the best lock but when executed properly they withstand more abuse than one is likely to have to deliver in a defensive situation.

If the locks failed often enough due to design flaws we would probably not see so many offered in linerlock configurations. The public would not buy them if they were releasign the blade from lockup unintentional or if light use disengaged the linerlock prematurely.

Liners that fail have not been machined properly to the correct tolerance where the parts meet. That is not a design flaw but poor execution of the design.

Has there ever been a linerlock that failed?
Yes, one of my students in defensive knife tactics just bought an Emerson Commander and the lock will release unintentionally. He has contacted them and should have this taken care of in the next few weeks by Ernie. No fault of the design, just the execution of it in this case.


Jim March
March 4, 2003, 02:36 PM
There are three different ways a Linerlock can fail:

1) "Plain ol' bad lock" as on the Emerson Brownie mentioned. On higher-end knives this is uncommon. On low-grade stuff, not so.

2) "Spine whacks" - Joe Talmadge came up with the "spine whack test" years ago, which shows that a sharp yet relatively mild pop to the back of the blade can often "jar the lock loose". In a fight, this would correspond to getting the back of the blade hit by, say, a small club/koppo stick/flashlight/etc. NOT uncommon even on high-end linerlocks.

3) "Accidental release via white-knuckle grip by user" - in all too many linerlocks, it's possible to get the flesh of your forefinger down into the release point on a very hard squeeze. Combining this with a stab often makes it worse, ramming the forefinger flesh right into the release. A few makers, such as Steve Ryan and Boker seem to understand this and design the release point with this in mind.

Granted, once in a while you'll get a "lemon benchmade". If possible, go to a gun show and buy one you can fondle first; at least in Calif, gun show knife prices are very close to Internet prices. Their Axis-based pieces have been consistently their best stuff though, and the D2 blades are getting good reviews.

Jim March
March 4, 2003, 02:46 PM
I just realized you asked about ACTUAL failures. The answer is "hell yes". I've Joe at a "cutlery fan party" spine-whack people's knives and get 'em to fail. I think he can get more than 50% of all linerlocks to fail :(.

We had a report of a $500 custom Darrel Ralf fail and cause cuts needing stitches. This was an early 5.5" Mad Maxx. Now, the Maxx is an "integral lock" which is a close cousin of the linerlock; what this guy had done was to choke way back on the grip and chop wood (fairly lightly) with it; the "jar" shook the lock. Integral locks (such as the Sebenza) have an advantage over the regular linerlock in that as you grip them, they get stronger, and there's no "accidental unlock by user" problem possible. But in this case, there was no reinforcement at all so it was acting like a regular linerlock, and it failed.

I've read of many linerlock failures. I flat will not trust 'em, with very rare exceptions and Emerson locks aren't one of 'em.

(Sidenote: the "reinforcement effect" on a Darrel Ralf piece isn't as good as it should be, because Darrel...well, he likes tip-down carry, and insists on mounting the dang clip right where it interferes with gripping the lock. Which is why I recommend ditching the clip in that case and either re-mounting it custom at the other end, or get a belt sheath!)

March 4, 2003, 03:01 PM
Jim, I had the "bad lock" happen on a CRKT M16-13L and they were very kind in replacing the knife with an axis lock type. I didn't care for the DOG style and am, hence, knifeless.

I guess the only real option is to keep an open mind and handle as many designs as possible. Benchmade is in the lead b/c I can carry it in my left pocket. Emerson is in the lead b/c of the cool factor and a solid reputation. Reeves is in the lead b/c the Sebenza has aluminum handles and a nice blade design.

Man, a fella could get confused with all these possibilities. What I do know I want is:

Left-hand mountable. Stud or disk, not hole. Solid lock-up. Sturdy handles of aluminum or smooth G10. Black blade, probably straight-edged.

I'll think of more when I come to it. Thanks again for all your help, guys.

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