When it was presented to the public in 1999, the M16 folding knife by Columbia River Knife & Tool (CRKT) almost risked going unnoticed, as often happens in a sector where new products follow one another with an almost spasmodic rhythm.
Well, as had happened in 1997 for the K.I.S.S. model – which was a huge success difficult for the company to manage – the M16 model was received very well by the public and became an instant classic.
Among the innovations that designer Kit Carson, a US Army veteran, had incorporated into this spartanly styled folding knife, we find for the first time a flipper that makes opening easier.
Attention, the flipper is not an invention of Kit Carson's, just as the liner lock was not invented by Mike Walker. But like Walker, Kit Carson salvaged the idea, cleaned it up and made it fully functional and effective.
More than thirty variations for a successful model
The success of the M16 model was overwhelming, and it's unfortunate that Kit Carson, who passed away prematurely in 2014, didn't get a chance to fully enjoy it. Today, twenty-two years after its introduction, not only is the M16 still one of CRKT flagship models, but in the company's catalog we find as many as thirty-one different variants, including different blade lengths and profiles, handle materials, types of flipper, locking systems and other details. Another peculiarity of this knife is that some models feature the LAWKS automatic safety system (designed by Ron Lake and Michael Walker) that adds a further level of safety to the liner lock mechanism, later evolved into the Automated liner safety system.
When you open the blade of a knife equipped with this safety, a small lever is automatically inserted that locks the liner in the open position: to close the blade you must first pull back the lever in the front of the handle, then operate the lock. The variants of the M16 are many and such that it could represent a collection theme by itself. For our review we chose a version without many frills, as I like it.
CRKT M16 Bronze: back to basics
The model that we introduce marks a return to the origins, with a steel handle and a spear blade profile, whose exact name is M16-03BS Bronze W. Basically, the abbreviation indicates that the knife has a steel handle with bronze-colored titanium nitride finish and a stainless blade "in white". In this version, the blade – which measures 3.55”/90 mm in length with a thickness of 0.12”/3 mm – is made of 12C27 Sandvik steel, characterized by excellent edge retention.
The overall workmanship of the blade is excellent, as you would expect on a knife that has now been produced continuously for over twenty years and therefore does not reserve any surprises. Surfaces are clear and perfectly made, the edge is flawless, as well as the shot-peened finish that gives the surface a pleasant hue of matte light gray.
The blade has both an ambidextrous stud and a flipper, but for opening it it's much more advisable to use the latter. Although there are no ball bearings, operating the flipper the blade opens in a flash and is locked with a clearly audible "click". For those who prefer a knife with a more nocturnal look, we point out that as an option the knife is available with a blade featuring a semi-gloss black finish.
The handle of this model is made of stainless steel and this, together with the frame lock system, makes this version of the M16 extremely robust, so as to make unnecessary the additional safety, a choice that we fully agree with. The design of the grip is the now classic one, with four large lightening holes on each side, alternating with pairs of smaller holes. The steel nitrided finish is excellent, magnifying-glass proof.
The stainless steel clip, also shot peened, is standard mounted on the right side of the handle and allows a tip down carry, but it is fully reversible, in the sense that it can not only be moved from one side to another, but also from one end to the other, allowing a tip up carry if desired. The assembly of the knife is beyond reproach, a sign that the quality control by the US company on the production plant in China works well.
CRKT M16 Bronze: wrapping up
If you've never owned a CRKT M16 you might want to consider this interesting bronze version. It is a beautifully designed and very well made knife, rugged but not very heavy (3.8 oz/110 g) and versatile enough for a hike in the woods or a hunting trip. The retail price of about 55 euros is absolutely affordable when compared to the quality of materials and workmanship.
CRKT M16 Bronze specs and price
|M16-03BS Bronze W
|3.8 oz/110 grams
|About 55 euro