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ESEE and Randall's Adventure & Training
ESEE Knives has an extensive history and proven track of creating some of the highest-quality knives the market has to offer, at an affordable price. They are not ‘show’ pieces that you’ll pull out at a campfire to talk about how it was used to signal an airplane. Nor will you show off the shiny blade, and that’s because these are working knives.
ESEE Knives and Randall’s Adventure & Training (RAT) are part of the same company that designs, uses, and tests these knives in survival scenarios based in reality. RAT trains everyone from homesteaders and home-grown survivalists to military and special forces units in advanced survival skills. So, it’s easy to see that when ESEE designs a knife they know what they are looking for in material, durability, performance, and function.
Out With The Old, In With The Relatively New
In steps the ESEE Knives 4HM. This is the newest addition to their 4″ blade series. It is based on the original ESEE4 and both share the same blade design. Taking the successful and popular design, ESEE transformed the ESEE4 into an ergonomic and aesthetically pleasing ESEE4HM.
What I love about this knife are the changes they made to the handle itself. Using a micarta material, they slowly tapered the handle into a smaller diameter closer to the blade. The grip is also in a more ‘hand friendly’ rounded shape.
While this doesn’t seem like much it allows a wider variety of users with differing hand sizes to be able to comfortably use the 4HM. The tapered design also firmly plants the knife into position and avoids slipping out of the hand, because of the larger butt-end. Not so great to have a large butt end as a fashion model; perfect style for a knife.
This new handle design does add some extra girth and length. Your standard ESEE4 sheath is not going to hold this new design, despite the blades being near identical. We attempted fitting the knife into a Hedgehog Leatherworks Sheath and ran into an issue of handle length and girth. It’s as if the ESEE4HM is compensating for something the ESEE4 lacked. With enough effort, water, and time, you can make nearly any ESEE4 sheath fit the new 4HM.
ESEE also made two other major changes to the overall feeling of the 4HM, compared to its predecessor. The finger guard or front quillion was removed from the 4HM. Also, at the top of the blade, a small serration on the spine of the ESEE4 was removed on the updated 4HM. This all equates to a comfortable knife in the hands of any user, large or small.
In The Field:
It’s always nice to hear how the knife will hold up, but also completely different to be seen in action. We took the 4HM into the field with us over a course of 4 weeks and tried to really put it through its paces. The goal was to test blade durability and effectiveness and comfort of the new handle design. Since the blade is similar to its predecessor, we knew the minor changes would make an impact.
Pulling the knife out of its ‘arts and crafts’ style sheath my camp days came back. The large, stamped E S E E on the sheath had a cheesiness factor that made it hard to take the knife seriously, at first. Honestly, it wasn’t bad, just not what I expected from a quality manufacturer like ESEE.
With a quick tug, the knife was loosed and ready to move. The handle sat well in the crease of my hand and seemed to glide through the air. After having just used a Stainless-steel knife, the 1095 HC steel weight really made a statement. The focal point was not on the blade or choil any longer but was set strictly on the feel when holding it.
This also was the perfect blade thickness at .188″ and just felt great in the hand. There was no feeling of a balancing act just to maintain the blade’s horizontal position. That balance could be in part to the longer, thicker handle that added some additional weight in the hand. That being said, the knife itself (no scales) weighs less than the original ESEE4.
I personally, love the new handle. I don’t have the largest hands for a guy my height and have a hard time finding a comfortable knife. The handle on this knife allowed me to comfortably hold and wield the blade with as much force as felt necessary.
What this meant for me was that I didn’t need to strangle the handle to ensure it was not going to fall out of my hand. Don’t think of it as a downside, for those with bigger palms.
In fact, the tapering on the handle means it comfortably fits into the crease of a user’s hand. Holding this blade is not dependent on finger placement, but rather the fold of the hand will comfortably secure the knife in place.
The edge itself comes sharp, as do all ESEE knives. The angle of the grind felt a little shallow when making feather sticks, but is something that can easily be fixed if needed. Even with the somewhat shallow edge grind it performed flawlessly and took very little time to get used to. The coating on the blade, while thick did not inhibit or produce any obstacle to the use.
That coating did find its way off of the blade and onto my lap several times. It especially flaked when using the spine for fire steel. I’ll say that the coating coming off was due to my using the fire steel. This same coating remained adhered and durable when placed over an open flame. If anything needed to change on this knife the finish would be my only recommendation.
Originally, I was worried the blade would be too short to be comfortable. I was mistaken. After having to utilize it for a few days the blade just became an extra appendage and lent itself to hard use with little complaint. No matter what kind of abuse I put it through the blade held strong, looked good, and continued to perform flawlessly.
I jumped back into using some of my standard knives after a few weeks with the ESEE 4HM. It didn’t take long for me to jump right back to the 4HM and replace my woods knife with this beauty. The biggest reason was the handle.
Something about this shape is ingenious and not found in many designs. It was comfortable, created little to no hot spots, and can easily be accommodated by any user regardless of hand size.
The first thing I got rid of when using the 4HM was the sheath. Something about it felt childish and almost camp-like. I’m not talking about camp with your grandfather, but camp with a bunch of kids who all made the same sheath in a craft class. While usable it’s darn ugly.
While the coating found its way onto the ground, my tinder, and lap it still holds up against some strong usage, batoning, and mystery uses. I say mystery use because I did lend the knife to a few people during a camping trip at Mt. Rainier, who returned it in less than stellar condition. A quick brush off, dunk in the lake, and rub on the pants and the blade looked nearly as good as new. If ESEE ever decides to make the finish the same as what they have currently put on their PR4 it’ll be a huge upgrade.
Despite this setback, the handle more than makes up for any aesthetic impurities because what a knife truly comes down to, is the function. The handle design on the 4HM has improved upon an already great performer, the ESEE4. This has been, in my opinion, one of the easiest knives to get accustomed to.
The biggest benefit to ESEE knives, besides the stellar quality, is their warranty. The last thing someone wants is a knife breaking on them during a trip or expedition. Even the best-made blades can find their breaking points under the best possible scenarios. Being a US Made knife lends itself to the concept of superior quality already. However, if something does happen to one of their edged products, they will replace the knife.
This may not seem like a big deal considering the quality of the blade. Regardless, this pretty much guarantees that the $180 spent on any ESEE knife will last a lifetime. Just to oversell the warranty, it’s also transferable to a new owner if you decide to upgrade to a different style.