A statement, a real tribute to an Italian classic automatic knife, the Stiletto – or as it is known in Italy, the “Molletta” knife, from Benchmade.
The 4170BK Auto Fact knife is not a simple remake, as every single detail has been engineered from the ground up to design an automatic that transcends the humble origins of the Italian Stiletto automatic side opener, rooted into the chaotic years of the late 19th century – but the basic design is a hundred years earlier, invented by the Frosolone blacksmith guild in the Italian region of Molise.
Built as a lightning quick deployment knife, the original Italian Stiletto automatic had a widespread popularity as both defensive and offensive weapon throughout Europe. It was a favorite of Italian immigrants, especially in the USA, and has been featured in a host of novels and movies since the early forties for its iconic, scenic appearance and its alleged and stereotypal use by Mafia associates.
It is due to the reputation of this very knife that in Italy and most of European countries automatics were restricted and in some cases, banned; and the same happened in America, especially in the 1950s, following a media outrage that promoted the “switchblade” as the weapon of choice of the young criminal – portrayed masterfully in James Dean’s “Rebel without a Cause”. After many years of dwindling popularity, automatics have regained momentum, also due to a general loosening of the laws that restricted them.
Benchmade’s 4170BK Auto Fact knife is a beautiful work of art, and even though is an industrially made blade, features a fantastic level of attention to detail and top-quality materials. The single edge, spear-tip style blade is almost exactly 10cm long and is built using DLC-coated CPM-S90V steel tempered to 59-61 HRC for ideal edge retention and strength and features a needle-sharp point that is able to penetrate most materials. The blade shape allows it to be easily used for cutting too, making the Auto Fact a knife that can be used for both purposes, a no easy feat for a spear type Stiletto blade.
Scales are built using 6061-T6 alloy with Carbon Fiber inlets, that offer great grip and are very distinctive. The steel liner houses the Auto Axis mechanism for effortless and lightning quick blade opening and lock.
The slide release and lock is accessible from both sides of the knife, and a safety bar lock in the spine both prevents unwanted opening of the blade and solidly locks the Axis mechanism with the blade in the open position. The 12.19 cm long handle features an asymmetric design, with a straight side that is complemented by a contoured opposite that offers great handling and grip. A swelling of the handle at the joint makes for an effective guard in pushing and stabbing actions.
The reversible pocket clip is very well designed and also guides the hand as it gives a completely instinctive reference for the thumb in changing grip, which feels extremely natural and fast. Handling is smooth and effortless, also due to how lightweight the knife is, just 88.17 grams. One hand operation in closing the blade is easy. Use in everyday tasks is good, menial things like slicing bread and cutting a ziplock are carried out just naturally. The blade is razor sharp from tip to choil and the point is stronger than it actually looks.
The grey and black color scheme is elegant and intimidating, and the appearance of the deployed knife is a sure deterrent.
Where allowed by the law to be carried, the Benchmade 4170BK Auto Fact knife is a fantastic automatic EDC and Gentleman’s knife, although I have one, single flaw to report: the price tag.
The MSRP of 400 US dollars is quite steep, and though I can see it is absolutely justified in the quality of workmanship, beautiful design and materials, the price together with the fragmented and spotty automatic knife legislation throughout Europe, will make the 4170BK Auto Fact a rare blade indeed in the Old Continent.