Ever since I was a little kid I have carried a pocket knife. I got my first when I was 8yrs old. It was a small non locking folder with a picture of Disneys Goofy on the white plastic scales. I used to have hours of fun adventuring, making shelters, whittling sticks and generally being a boy. That was the 80s, health and safety wasn’t a “thing”. You learnt not to hurt yourself or others by using your common sense and callibrated moral compass. Fast forward 30 yrs and we find ourselves in a society dominated by rules and regulations designed to protect us. Knives in the UK and many parts of Europe and even the U.S. are controlled by law. In the U.K. you must have good reason to be carrying a knife. Self defence is not classed as a good reason. If your good reason was as a general use tool (which is the main reason I carry one other than work) then the knife in question must adhere to certain criteria. EDC blades would need to be non locking, sub 3″ folders. I carry locking or fixed blade knives for work or specific tasks (camping or bushcraft being examples) but in my leisure time the law says I can only carry the sub 3″ non locking folder.
This is where the Boker XS makes an entrance..It is one of the first “UK legal carry” blades I have ended up being seriously impressed with despite its regulated shortcomings..
The regulations really dictate many of the XS design features. The knife has to be “non locking” which leaves little choice regarding mechanism. Boker could have gone with a friction or slip joint design. Both have an inherent weakness – they do not lock! The XS is a slip joint which I prefer over a friction folder. The slip joint design is commonly seen in Swiss Army type folders. It keeps the blade out via spring tension in the spine. The stronger the spring the firmer the blade will be held open. Slip joints are not suitable for stabbing, digging or heavy chopping work. Slip joints tend to require two handed opening as they are quite stiff. The XS does have thumbstuds for one handed opening. I must be honest and say one handed opening is possible but not comfortable. The studs themselves are quite sharp edged which combined with a stiff opening is quite tough on the thumbs. It is better when wearing gloves but overall I found myself using two hands to open. The same goes for closing the blade. Slip joints snap shut so it feels safer to use two hands. There is no chance of the knife closing up on you in use due to the deep choil at the base of the blade. For those not familiar with knife tech, a choil is a recess for your forefinger which prevents closure and allows a strong, controlled grip.
The XS is very slim but weighs in at 113 grams which is about average for a knife of this size and price range. The G10 scales look good and are nicely textured to provide plenty of grip. The XS has a removable pocket clip which can be positioned for left or right sided carry.
The Boker Plus range of knives are generally more affordable than Bokers primary collection. Knife snobs may well ignore the XS based upon the affordable blade material – 440C stainless steel. 440C has been a popular blade steel for many years but tends to be found in the lower cost bracket. It has excellent rust resistance, good edge retention and is easy to sharpen and it has a proven and very long track record. 440C does receieve alot of criticism in forums and such, I will explain why I think this is. 440 series stainless steels have been around ages. There are a few big selling points with knives, one of those is blade steel. Companies are constantly marketing new “improved” steels which of course many buyers love. There is no perfect blade steel – they all represent trade offs of edge retention, sharpness, durability, rust resistance ect.. The marketing opportunities in old materials are limited so “new” and “improved” versions are always a better marketing proposition. The other reason I believe 440c gets a bad wrap is that it requires a lot of skill to process properly. Many low end manufacturers do not get the process/heat treatment right and turn out inferior products. Equally many companies may denigrate 440c in favour of other steels which are easier for them to process.
Boker have done the XS right. The drop point blade is fantastic. I have used it for months as an EDC and I have only stropped it twice. It has remained hair shavingly sharp throughout. The satin finish on the blade looks good and wears very well. The blade has a sub 3″ cutting surface which keeps it “legal”. The deep choil gives the XS the feel of a bigger blade and is certainly a sturdier cutter than your average slip joint pocket knife. The shape of the blade is angular and will no doubt be popular with those who prefer modern, “tactical” looking knives. Looks aside the angular drop point works very well and is supremely functional. The top of the blade has a long section of jimping which gives great traction without being too abrasive. I cannot give enough praise to the XS in terms of blade quality, it really is superb.
You may have noticed that whenever I refer to the XS being legal I have used quotation marks. I should really explain a little further. The legality of carrying a sub 3″ non locking folder for EDC in the U.K. is not clear cut. If you keep out of trouble and use some common sense then it will be fine. Consider some of these scenarios though.. You are at a nightclub drunk, you are at the Airport, you are arrested for something else, you are showing off and waving it around in the street.. In all those situation the presence of any knife is likely to get you arrested. Every time I carry a knife I ask myself what a judge or jury would think about what I was doing. If I am going somewhere that I consider is not suitable then I leave the knife at home. Think before you carry..
So I have been using the XS as my main EDC blade for urban tasks – box cutting, food prep, rope cutting ect. It has also been out as a secondary blade on a few hiking trips. It proved to be an ideal blade for food prep and sails through veg. The other area it excelled in was kindling and small wood prep. The ability to choke down on that sharp blade allowed some me to shave some fine slim curls of wood for fire lighting.
The only negative points I have about the XS are the difficulty with one handed opening and the sharp thumb studs. The thumb studs tend to catch on my trousers whenever I slip the knife back in my pocket. The opening issue is a result of the slip joint design and as such not much can be done about it.
Conclusion and Value.
The XS is a fantastic knife. It has limitations and will not replace your locking folder or fixed blade but it is about the best non locking folder I have used. For some of us the law dictates our choice of carry and for me the XS fulfils the “legal carry” role perfectly.
The Price point is seriously competitive at just £39.95 in the UK from Heinnie Haynes.
Heinnie Haynes – www.heinnie.com
Boker – www.boker.de