My quest for the perfect EDC pocket knife has taken me down many roads over the years, but I keep coming back to Spyderco Native 5 . They make really good pocket knives–products made for work, not for looks. But over the years I’ve grown to love the looks as well, because to me the function is the form for this brand.
So, it was only natural that I ordered this new Native, which came out with the lightweight FRN version recently in S110V steel. I got this one from Knifecenter a few weeks ago as a birthday present to myself, and they are just starting to appear at discount retailers like Amazon and others.
Spyderco Native 5 Description
This is the Native 5, the fifth incarnation of a classic knife. Through their “CQI” constant quality improvements, they don’t rest on their laurels. Even this generation of Native has seen many changes, like the exotic CPM-S110V high speed, powder metallurgy tool steel found on this model.
Made in Golden, Colorado, this is their lightweight fiberglass reinforced nylon (FRN) model of the Native. It features a lockback design with a deep carry clip that this model is famous for. It’s their USA only version of the back lock not found in the Japanese FRN versions.
This Native has been one I’ve really been waiting for, so my throat did a little sound like Golem from Lord of the Rings, as said “we has the precious!” to myself. I like the navy blue color, the stainless clip–everything. It’s also my lightest Native, just a teeny bit heavier than a Delica.
One thing I did notice is that the jimping on the ramp of the blade is a little bit irregular. It feels fine to my thumb, but it looks funny to my eyes. It was also a little tight out of the box, so I put a drop of food safe mineral oil on the pivot and worked it in.
So, while not flawless out of the box, it was pretty close.
Quality is the main reason you would pay over $100 for a pocket knife. The exotic powder metallurgy steel with the refined Native design make for a combination that puts this knife in a league of its own for the price range. There’s an old saying in the business world: give the people what they want. That’s exactly what is happening with this model.
Fit and Finish
Nearly perfect. The irregular cut jimping on the blade’s thumb ramp is barely noticeable. Other than that, I can’t find a single thing about the finish to pick on, even after carrying it a month. The rest of the machining is perfect and so are the blue FRN scales, which are beautiful.
I suppose I could pick on the screws. I can’t remember the last time that I looked at any knife and didn’t think the case/clip screws looked a little cheap, and I won’t stop now. Maybe it could’ve left the factory with an extra dab of oil.
The machining on the back lock goes above and beyond the call of duty. Blade centering is perfect. It deploys smoothly and closes smoothly. Clearly I’m a Spyderco fanboy at this point, but I do take pride in finding more fault than I can find with this specimen. It’s almost perfect, and I rarely see that, even with Spyderco Native 5 .
Spyderco Native 5 Blade
The blade on this new for 2016 Native is made of CPM-S110V high speed tool steel, which is a stainless steel with a high cobalt content, giving it extreme performance in edge retention and abrasion resistance. If you’re not buying this model for one of those two reasons, or at least the deep blue color, then the slightly cheaper CPM-S35VN version might be a better fit.
It’s easy to get caught up on the hype about these power metallurgy “super steels” but the bottom line is that these steels were made for a reason. The longer you can use your knife without sharpening it, the more useful it is. It’s also nice not to have it pick up scratches and scuffs like lesser steels.
The blade itself is the current Native 5 full flat ground (FFG) leaf shaped blade with the signature choil that people either love or hate about the Native. The jimping on the thumb ramp is a little irregular as I pointed out already, but other than that, the blade is beautiful and they did a fine job on this new model variation.
Spyderco Native 5 Handle
The deep, almost navy blue FRN scales are nicely done. Their signature bi-directional texturing makes it very grippy, and the generous choil gives it a good feel in your hand regardless of how big or small your hands are. And they just keep refining their FRN.
This model has no liners, so the handle is it. The FRN is very rigid, but it’s still not a good idea to try to squeeze the scales together or put too much of that type of force on the handle.
Newer versions of the Native 5 have jimping on the butt of the handle. I thought it looked a little cheap on the 2015 forum knife, but I like it better with the blue. But it’s not for looks of course, and makes the already perfect ergonomics of the Native even better, if that’s even possible.
Spyderco Native 5 is legendary for their deep carry clips, and the Native has one of the better ones within their lineup in my opinion. I wasn’t sure if I liked the plain stainless clip, but it’s grown on me and I absolutely like it. The design and execution are flawless. Clips don’t get much better than this.
Spyderco’s USA made lockback knives feature a proprietary lock not found on any of their Japanese models. Anyone who has ever opened a Native will know the “thwack” that they are famous for. You can hear that it’s solid. You can feel that it’s solid. There’s no doubt that it’s solid.
Mine was a little tight out of the box and needed a drop of mineral oil worked into the pivot. After a month of use it’s still a tiny bit tighter than I would like, but I’m sure it will wear in like a pair of new boots. It’s not enough of an issue to take a Torx driver to the pivot.
Spyderco Native 5 Usability
The Native has long been one of my favorite EDC knives, along with the Delica and Dragonfly. Some people think these FRN models look ugly, and some uninformed folks say they look cheap, but nobody who carries one of these models for any length of time questions its usability. It’s why I bought this brand and this model.
One of the selling points of the S110V steel is edge retention, which simply put is the ability of a knife to keep its edge with regular use. I did notice after a few days that the edge wasn’t quite as good as I wanted, so a couple of drags across the fine rods of my Sharpmaker fixed that.
Day to day the Native 5 is a great form factor for EDC, no matter what variation. It carries well, the blade deploys with an authoritative thwack and the blade geometry is perfect for most EDC tasks. I’ve seen a few people complain that the Native doesn’t have enough blade surface because of the choil, but I tell those people that they are describing a Delica.
There are “steel snobs” who rejoice at every new exotic steel like S110V. Exotic is nice, but what I’ve done is try to figure out what the difference in steels means to the way I use an EDC knife, and there’s really not that much difference day to day. Being a little lighter is nice. Edge retention used to be more important before I got a Sharpmaker and spent time with it. But it’s still a feature I appreciate.
As time goes by, some of the older models like the Native just get more and more refined through Spyderco Native 5 “CQI” which is constant quality improvement. Their process is iterative and incremental, just the same way we build software. Years of refinements to this specific model put it high up on many people’s ultimate EDC list.
I specifically waited until the honeymoon wore off with this new Native before doing the review. It’s still my precious, but I still sometimes leave it behind for the Manix 2 LW or trusty Delica. But most of the time I carry this one, and I don’t see that changing for a while. The Mantra didn’t really do it for me, so I don’t really see myself abandoning it any time soon.