The many variants of the CRKT M16 have been a reference model for CRKT for quite some time now. I usually tend to avoid uber-tactical options when it comes to folders, with the exception of the CRKT Hissatsu (which I love), but I felt it was almost obligatory to pick up what is one of the most popular tactical folding options on the market and give it a fair shot as my EDC; at least to see what all the fuss is about.
I settled on the pocket friendly 3 inch (7.62 cm) blade version with full stainless steel handles because it was the first that grabbed my attention. There are a plethora of other options, both in terms of size and materials, so be aware that from this moment on I am reviewing in particular the CRKT M16-01KS and not any of the other M16s on the market (not the M16-01KZ either, which has auto-lawks and plastic scales), as they do differ quite drastically from one to the other.
The M16 I chose is the most EDC friendly option, in my opinion. Closed, it’s a mere 4 inches (10.16 cm) long, in a very compact package. I thought it was interesting to have a super tactical folder with an aggressive spear point blade – usually aggressive designs tend to be quite a great deal larger.
It should be noted that I describe the CRKT M16 as small and not lightweight because with its full steel handles, it’s definitely not designed as a gentleman’s knife, with a pocket-busting 2.6 ounces of weight!
Aesthetically, I will cautiously say that I am a fan. The CRKT M16 is very blacked out and stabby in appearance, which normally is a turn off for me, but I think Kit Carson has made it work here – he’s certainly designed quite a solid knife. The M16 is very much a viable tool as opposed to a show piece or some kind of mall ninja crap, so I don’t feel like the styling of this knife forced compromises on its capabilities as a cutting tool, and that’s an incredibly important consideration. Sometimes, for whatever reason, we buy something that calls to us purely through visual appeal without taking into consideration performance at all. The M16, however, wouldn’t be a bad option at all performance-wise if you were trying to satisfy that itch for a blatantly tactical EDC.
I settled on the spear point option partly because I own no other spear point blade and I was curious regarding its utility.
After using it for a while, I will say that it’s less than optimal for EDC tasks in comparison to drop points or other more stereotypical blade options, and its primary grind bias is to pierce as opposed to slice. This should come as no surprise to anyone, as it’s called a spear point for a reason, but if you really like this style of knife, its 8Cr13MoV blade will be able to cut what you need for most urban tasks that I can think of; wouldn’t be my first choice for prolonged cutting chores, though.
To put it blunty (heh), the M16 is not a slicer with its relatively thick hollow grind, but most definitely not a folding pry bar either.
The blade is 0.098 inches (2.5 mm) thick, but features such an aggressive swedge as a byproduct of its spear point design that it appears to be much thicker than one would imagine. Its tip is somewhat reinforced, but still very fine and clearly intended for above average penetration.
The lock up on the M16 is extremely positive, with a satisfying thwack that resonates when deployed. It is (as you can see below) a steel frame lock made of 2CR13 stainless steel. I haven’t noticed any lock travel since I have owned this knife, and I haven’t actually heard of any lock failures either.
All in all it’s a well implemented lock with no frills or extra mechanisms of any kind. Just a thick bar of steel that mates with the entirety of the tang of the blade. Realistically, I don’t see it failing – ever.
My only criticism is that unlocking the knife is a chore. The framelock is stiff which is usually a good thing, but unfortunately CRKT chose to not add a cut out in the scale of the non-locking side, so unlocking this knife single-handed is sometimes a bit of a pain, especially if your hands are wet or sweaty, as the steel frame offers very little traction. In future, I may mod this by adding a cut out, as that will drastically improve usability.
You can see below how the primary grind is quite thick behind the edge. Cutting apples or other materials that force wedging is not exactly fun, but the M16 is still viable in those cases. At the end of the day, the CRKT M16 was never designed for kitchen duty, so I don’t think its lack of cutting performance in that department is a fair criticism. Look at the damn thing and tell me you’re surprised!
The flipper is quite excellent with an above average design that facilitates deployment with very natural movement. I think this is pretty darn important taking into account the M16 is not assisted (again, I didn’t get the one with auto-lawks) and the flipper tab is very small. The flipper being so tiny would be an issue in terms of getting a good purchase on it, but thankfully, it’s drenched in pretty aggressive jimping, so getting a secure grip to flip it out is really not an issue.
Besides the positives of the flipper design, the deployment is not perfect. The lack of IKBS/bearing system and/or a spring assist means that you need to loosen the pivot just a touch too much to consistently get a reliable full deployment. After lubricating the washers and spending a solid 30 minutes tinkering with the pivot to get the optimum level of tightness for a speedy deployment whilst keeping blade play to a minimum, I do however think I have reached a good compromise.
This is of course less than ideal, as I don’t think a compromise should be required in the first place. Check out the excellent CRKT Ripple for an example of a non-assisted flipper done right!
It should be mentioned that with the M16, you do also get two over-sized, heavily textured thumbstuds as well, but in practice, they are all but useless. They function purely (in my opinion) as an aesthetic flourish; a blade stop and little else.
The pocket clip is tip down only and that’s definitely not my side of choice. I much prefer tip up, and whilst the pocket clip is perfectly functional with decent in-pocket retention, I just can’t bring myself to like it for that reason alone.
If your a tip down only kinda guy (lefties are welcome with this folder!), then this wont be a deal breaker for you, but for me, the M16’s disappointing lack of options is a bit frustrating. I wonder how much more work/cost it would require to add a 4 way clip…
The balance of the M16 isn’t optimal. CRKT should be applauded for actually trying to reduce the weight by peppering the scales full of holes, but it’s still too handle-biased. This is a direct consequence of having full stainless steel scales. Without switching to aluminum or titanium, I don’t see how this could be fixed.
As with many things in life, it comes down to economics. That’s something we unfortunately have to accept. Sure, they could have used superior materials or contoured the scales whilst pocketing the inside, but by how much would this jack up the cost? I think if you want a heavy duty folder (in theory anyway) without going for the plastic option, this is a compromise that you have to accept.
Comfort is pretty decent. The scales of the CRKT M16 are very neutral, and whilst pretty thin, I can definitely say that in-hand retention is very high. No need for texturing or jimping – this folder ain’t going nowhere once your hands lock in.
I think that whilst the ergonomics of the M16 are biased towards a traditional saber grip, it’s very close to a neutral handle, and thus can be held in more or less any grip you want.
Choking up on the CRKT M16 is not advisable. I did it for the sake of demonstrating everything (this is a review after all!), but it’s definitely not designed for this, and your pointing finger will rest on exposed edge. Not safe at all.
Reverse grip, however, is fine. Very comfortable as well. If I had to sneak behind any lines in a stereotypical Hollywood fashion, I think that this particular M16 (the 01KS) would be a perfectly viable choice to dispatch enemy sentries. That spear point is definitely the textbook definition of stabby!
The centering on the CKRT M16 is piss poor, and thats due to having to loosen the pivot so that deployment would be predictable. Once again a consequence of the design and price point as opposed to CRKT messing up.
Those blacked out oxide scales with black hardware are really quite stunning. It’s a shame the blade has an ugly semi-reflective painted finish, as a matte coating would have completed the look. I think CRKT should use the same blade coating they use on the Hissatsu, which aesthetically is pretty much my ideal knife.
This has proved to be a very difficult knife to review because everything I dislike about it was evident to me prior to my purchasing it. At no point did CRKT advertise this M16 as a lightweight EDC with excellent cutting capabilities, and as such it would be disingenuous for me to complain about the weight and lack of cutting performance.
This puts me in a conundrum. Taking into account the price, materials, and intended purpose, the CRKT M16 is actually quite a good deal and definitely lives up to its purpose. But would I recommend it? Not really, no.
It’s super heavy, has annoying deployment quirks, and a lack of utility; which is fine because as mentioned – it doesn’t pretend otherwise. However, the issue is that you can buy a CRKT folding stabber that’s just as small, has superior utility with far better deployment (IKBS!), and is just as effective tactically in terms of penetration, and slicing. It’s called the CRKT Ripple and I think it’s by leaps and bounds a superior option to the M16.