Hogue EX-01 - G-10 Handle with Tanto Blade
If you are like me when you hear the name Hogue, you immediately think of their handgun grips or maybe even their rifles stocks; however, a few years back Hogue got together with well known custom knives maker Allen Elishewitz and began producing high end knives.
Hogue Extreme EX-01
The EX-01 is a line of Hogue folding knives that now consists of 16 different variations with most models currently ranging in price from around $150 -$175. The blade can be had in either 3.5" or 4" lengths, and each blade length is available with either a drop point or tanto style blade. Furthermore, each option is also offered with the choice of an aluminum or G-10 handle configuration, and each of those handle materials are available in either black or green. Finally, all knives in the EX-01 line feature a 154CM stainless steel blade that has been cryogenically treated and stone tumble finished.
G-10 4" Tanto
The model I have been using in a the model EX-01 #34149 which is the 4" tanto blade version with a black G-10 handle. The listed specifications state this knife is 4.875" closed and has and overall length of 8.875" opened. Just a reminder to checked you local laws as this is longer than allowed to carry in some states. The listed weight of this knife is 5.1oz, although my scaled showed a slightly heavier weight of 5.35oz.
The first thing that popped out at me about this knife was its size, which with nearly 9" overall length was as long a the fixed blade Mora Craftline I was also testing. The next thing that caught my attention was the push button blade release and unique locking system if this knife. Next, the balance of this EX-01 knife came to my attention as there is no steel in the handle to add heft to the back end of the handle; this makes the balance point a little different than most folding knives. Finally, I immediately noticed that there was a sense of quality about this folder; the fit and finish were good and the blade deployed easily and closed smoothly.
The push button and locking system of the Hogue EX-01 was something new to me as most of the folding knives I own use a liner lock. The Hogue's locking system has a large round button which releases the blade when you are ready to close it. Next to the release button is a little sliding lock button that can be pushed forward to lock the release button to prevent accidentally depressing it and unintentionally unlocking the blade. Once engaged the sliding button then has to be slid reward before the round release button can be depressed and the knife closed. One of the coolest features of this knife is the sliding lock button can be set in a middle position when closed and will automatically lock the release button when the blade is opened.
Those familiar with G-10 from other knives or even handgun grip panels know that is it a lightweight and durable material made of fiberglass and epoxy resin that can be made into thin pieces or panels with aggressive gripping surfaces. While some knives feature external G-10 grip panels; the handle of the Hogue EX-01 is made entirely of two pieces of G-10 held together by the main pivot hex screw and three smaller hex screws along the edge of the handle. This makes for a very lightweight knife that has a balance point further forward than most other folding knives that generally have either a metal handle, linear lock, or both providing weight in the handle of the knife.
These Hogue EX-01 knives feature kind of a spoon shaped carry clip for pocket carry; this clip is reversible allowing for either tip up or tip down carry. While neither the thickness or the length of the knife caused any problems for carrying; I found that the "height" of the closed knife took up more room in my pocket than most knives and made it difficult to access anything else I wanted to carry in that pocket, usually requiring me to remove the knife to reach the other items. I choose to carry the knife tip up and despite its size the knife itself was easy to carry and caused no issues as far as comfort was concerned.
The Tanto blade was new for me, as most of the knives I own feature either a drop point or clip point style blade. The blade itself was sharp and the edge was easy to maintain with a quick run through a portable "v" style pocket sharpener, which I found was the quickest and fastest way to keep this knife sharp. The pocket sharpener allowed me to sharpen the blade like two separate blades, and I never got the blade dull enough to need a more complete re-sharpening. After, some use the blade did begin to get some side to side play in it; however, this was quickly resolved by the tightening of the pivot screw and a drop of Loctite would probably solve this issue.
The EX-01 has a lot going for it, starting with its push button release and sliding locking system which is both unique and useful. Next, the quality of the materials and workmanship make it an easy knife to like as it both feels and functions like a high end knife. Also, the small well thought out little details of this knife can't be overlooked like the scaling on the handle that provide a positive grip for your fingers or the generous and well integrated recessed area by the thumb stud allowing for easy opening of the blade.
The model tested is currently selling for about $165 online, which is out of the price range of a lot of people. Next, the tanto blade in my limited use seems best suited for self defense applications, and doesn't seem as versatile as a drop point blade; however, the EX-01 series has drop point versions as well. Finally, while it didn't bother me I could see how some people might find the G-10 models like this a little top heavy with its forward balance point, so if that was a concern an aluminum handled model might be the way to go.
Originally, I thought this would be a sweet knife in a drop point configuration, but ultimately this knife was designed to be a high end self defense knife and not a general duty folding knife. Those looking for an affordable general use knife probably aren't going to gravitate to the Hogue EX-01 series anyway because of the cost; and would probably be better served by a different brand for that application. However, I feel that if you are looking for a dedicated self defense knife, you would be hard pressed to find a better option than a tanto blade version of the Hogue EX-01.