Kershaw has a reputation for making solid, well-designed budget pocket knives, especially their “flippers.” The Swerve is one of their newer model flippers made with their Speed Speed safe assisted opening technology. They are fun to play with but also practical, as you can easily open these types of knives one-handed. So when I saw this new model Swerve 3850, I couldn’t resist, and ordered one from Amazon with our Prime account.
Price: About 17 bucks online
This is a “flipper” style EDC pocket knife. It’s a newer, budget speed safe assist model featuring their latest FRN (fiberglass reinforced nylon) textured handle with all the little K’s in it–clever. It’s made in China from the typical 8Cr13MoV steel and features a hollow ground, drop point blade with a big belly. It also sits at a very interesting price point.
Official Specs (From Amazon)
- Speed Safe assisted opening; Liner lock; Flipper and thumb stud; Reversible pocket clip; deep-carry
- Steel: 8Cr13MoV, stonewashed finish
- Handle: Glass-filled nylon, K-Texture grip
- Blade length: 3 Inch (7.6 cm); Closed length: 4 1/4 Inch (10.8 cm); Overall length: 7 1/4 Inch (18.4 cm)
- Weight: 4.8 ounces
The reviews said it was on the heavier/bulky side, but damn, this thing is a beast. Normally I weigh everything I review as just part of a normal review, but the first thing I did after unboxing this review sample was put it on the scale. I had to see what it weighed, and it comes in at 4.8 ounces! That’s heavier than two of my favorite knife, the Spyderco Delica. I tend to EDC light, so this knife is probably too heavy for every day carry. But there are definitely times I like to carry a beefier knife, like working in the garage or breaking down cardboard. This knife looks like it’s made to work.
The next thing I noticed is that the Swerve is not only beefy, it’s on the stylish side. There’s nothing wrong with looking good as long as you’re taking care of business. From the interesting clip design, to the squiggly jimping on the blade, to all the little textured K’s on the handle, this knife just looks good.
Pressing the flipper lever opens my review sample as smooth as silk. Smoother than any of my other assisted Kershaw flippers like the Brawler or the original Cryo, which I pretty much hated. Pushing the thumb stud a little has the same effect: the knife snaps open almost like a switchblade.
Kershaw Build Quality
Overall, excellent. The steel is decent, but everything else about the way the knife is built is above average. The handle is so rigid that the knife really only needs the steel liners for the liner lock. In fact, they probably could have omitted the liners and made it a back lock.
The machining is way above average and impressive for such a cheap knife. From the stone washed blade to the precision jimping to the perfectly shaped flipper lever, Kershaw clearly knows what it is doing.
Fit and Finish
Overall, good. The blade on my review sample is a quite bit off center to the left. It’s actually a little worse than what it looks in the photos. The funny thing is that it came centered, and after about 10 cycles on it, the blade started gradually leaning to the left and finally ended up just short of rubbing on the liner. Just a hair more and I would’ve had to return it. From what I can see, it looks like one of the washers is warped or maybe a little thinner than the other. I probably won’t take it apart as long as it doesn’t rub.
Like many things I review, it seems like I get a lot of review samples that are solid in every respect but one, and this is no different. There’s not much else that I can find to nit pick about this knife. I can see a couple imperfections in the handle but only magnified in the photos.
The rest of the knife is very good. The texturing on the handle and the lettering on the logos are very crisp, and there was no sign of scratches, nicks or tool marks often found on budget knifes. The swervy jimping is well executed and crisp. The tolerances on handle are pretty good, and the blade even came with a good edge on it. Though it’s plenty sharp, the edge is a little uneven. A couple good drags across a sharpening stone should fix that.
I’ve always been a big fan of the glass-filled-nylon handles on my Spyderco Delica and Dragonfly knives, so it’s nice to see this type of material on lower-end budget knives like this one. This FRN material is very light and very strong.
The texturing on the handle is made up of lots of little K’s. I’m not sure I’d want to buy Firestone tires that had F’s in place of actual tread, or a Stanley hammer with little S’s on the handle. But if a company is going to use such a bold vanity design and keep me happy as a customer, it better work.
And it does. I really like the feel of the grip with this model. Put all the K’s you want on it when it’s this good. However, the handle itself is a little small and awkward in my hand, which is ironic considering it’s a pretty big knife for what it is.
Despite the awkward grip for my over-sized man-hands, it is still acceptable for getting work done. I just wish the finger guard (which is the flipper lever) was about half an inch farther down since my index finger is smooshed up against it.
In a word, awesome. It’s an over-sized, stonewashed, drop point blade made from 8Cr13MoV steel typically found on budget knives made in China. It’s a decent steel that I think works great for pocket knives, though I do not prefer it for other tools due to it being a softer steel.
The blade features the typical hollow grind with what I would call a modified drop point. I think the geometry is phenomenal, and again, it reminds me of my beloved Spyderco knives, which feature leaf-shaped blades with a similar shape. I like a lot of belly on a pocket knife. Using the blade to pry isn’t something I normally do, but it does happen once in a great while, and I like to be prepared.
There are thumb studs on both sides of the blade. I almost wish these manufacturers would just sell left and right-handed versions of their products and be done with it. That extra thumb stud I don’t need probably weighs a gram, and this is a heavy knife for its size.
But wait, there’s more: The blade has some really weird “squiggly” jimping on the back. Kershaw claims this new style of jimping is not “so aggressive that your thumb complains.” Interesting choice of wording. It’s definitely less aggressive, and certainly cooler looking, but is it better? It’s hard to say. It seems to lose a little grip and gain a little comfort, so I’ll leave it for others to decide. It does seem a little gimmicky. My only issue with the jimping is that about half of it ends up inset, which defeats the whole purpose of having it. What’s left is about a good half inch for my thumb to press on, which is only barely acceptable.
Perfect. This is the smoothest opening flipper I own. What’s even more impressive is that the blade deploys equally well from the thumb stud, though my thumb seems to miss the edge by a hair every time. It’s safe, if a little unnerving. I’m just amazed by how smooth this thing deploys. My USA made Skyline isn’t assisted, but it is smooth, and this Swerve is smoother.
The Swerve features a standard liner lock. The lockup on my sample is solid, and perfectly acceptable. The liners do seem a little thin, but this thing is a beast, so they probably had to make the liners a little thinner than they wanted. The FRN handles are super rigid and contribute to the solidity of the lockup, so my guess is that the lock is plenty strong.
I’m sure someone will tell me that Kershaw copied this clip design from someone else, but I’ve never seen it before. It’s certainly innovative, with a screw in the butt of the handle securing the clip long-ways. The reason I like it is because the screw is fairly deeply inset, so it’s one less thing to rub in my pocket or on my hands.
Another thing I like about the clip is that it not only comes configured tip-up for enthusiasts like me, but they don’t muck up the design by making it configurable for tip-down. The front of the knife is pristine. And all those extra little drilled holes in a knife just collect dirt and pocket lint. Less is more! I’ve always complained that my Kershaws came configured tip-down which was odd considering most of their customers are cutlery enthusiasts. Looks like they finally listened to the community.
But like other Kershaws I own, the clip is way too tight out of the box. It does loosen a little over time, but ever so slowly. The first time I pulled this Swerve out of my shorts pocket, it just about took my shorts off, flashing a room full of people. Yes, the clip is that tight.
The clip is reversible for left or right-handed carry. And it goes all the way through the handle to where you can just see it on the other side. Stronger, or more weight?
This is a very usable knife. Being on the larger side works in the Swerve’s favor for heavy duty tasks like breaking down cardboard, which I’ve used it extensively for. The awkward grip even doesn’t seem like an issue when I’m actually putting some force on it. The grown up kids like it, too. My son in law owns a Clash, Brawler and Cryo and when I handed him this one, he said “hmmm yeeaaa it’s large hmmm”. I just have that feeling that he’ll be getting a Swerve and I’ll be getting the Clash. Collect the whole set, right?
A Torx T6 and T7 take apart the whole knife. The case screws and clip retention screw are T6, and the pivot screw is T7 on both sides. I use this set of Wiha Torx drivers since the Kershaw Cryo actually stripped a Craftsman Torx driver.
The Swerve is a bit heavy for me personally to carry every day, but I know a lot of dudes who prefer the larger, beefier knives like this, and those dudes will probably appreciate it more. For me, this is probably going to be the perfect beater knife for working in the yard or those times I just want to thrash on a knife without worrying about what it cost. At 17 bucks, this is a very decent knife.
Having said all that, I wish they would get their quality control house in order. Lately buying a Kershaw has seemed like a hit an miss experience. There are companies like Buck and Spyderco making perfectly good Chinese models with consistent quality, so it can be done. Just look at the Tenacious. Have you ever heard of anyone getting a bad one? Me neither.
My Swerve is a good knife, but it could be better. I love these Kershaw flippers too much to stop buying them over all their little quality problems, but I will continue to be vocal about it at least.
All things considered, I expect to get many years worth of use from this model, and I think the design is outstanding. I even like the new handles and the weird jimping.