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Picked up my first Bear & Sons pocket knife, a #354 1/2 Little Trapper in Yellow Delrin & CV blades, (3" closed). My local Ace Hardware franchise has semi-annual 20% off everything sales, and each time I try to pick up a good knife to "keep it local" so to speak. Last time I snagged a Case #6233 Pen Knife, but even with the discount the hardware store's prices are still too high compared to online for Case, so this time I opted for this B & S because with the discount it only cost $22, (selling for around $30 on Ebay currently). I also looked at a B & S small stockman w/ simulated bone handles, but that one was really gritty when opening, so I chose this one instead.

Now, what did I get? Well, as a US-made knife I was expecting a little more frankly, but I plan on this being a "user", so it should fill that role adequately. Fit & finish are average IMHO, with the only obvious flaw being the spring on the master blade being a little low when closed, (see photos). Everything else seems fine; tight sharp blades, not gritty when opening, decent half stop, no blade rub, and relatively well fitted handles, (no significant gaps at bolsters & well hafted, but not perfect like on Case knives). Not exactly thrilled with the shade of yellow on the handles either, but it isn't much different than others I have seen.

I did some research and there are quite a few negative opinions out there about B & S in general, especially concerning fit & finish. I read one post from a supposed "ex employee" who said that the only knives they check quality on closely are knives that they take to shows, but that regular production knives are often substandard. That same type of comment seems to be more frequent that good reviews, so obviously they have had some issues.

I only have this one example to compare, at the price I paid and the fact that it is US-made, I am comfortable owning it. I usually don't buy non-stainless knives, but decided to give this one a try despite the CV steel used in the blades, (already applied Frog Lube, so not too worried). I like the size, I like the hollow grind on the blades, and other than that slight spring gap I can find little to complain about. I admit that I have imported Rough Rider knives with better F & F, but that is a different story for another thread, so I am happy to have it.

So, what has your experience been with Bear & Sons? Please feel free to comment and add photos if you have them.

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imo

They are wonderful users.

I've been purchasing Bear's product from the "BEAR MGC" over "USA" days .. about 17 yrs now. I own 5 or 6 @ the moment .. have gifted 3 or 4 more.

I've found their "fit-n-finish" to be below that of Case ..but..  their blade steel better tempered. I buy them as users ..and.. have never been disappointed.

My first butterfly .. damascus balisong .. bears the older "BEAR MGC" stamping .. purchased 16~17 yrs ago. They do know how to make pattern welded steel (modern damascus) !!

The first knife I purchased for my wife .. before she was my wife .. is a Case 61154SS. It has since been replaced with a Bear & Sons peanut. She agrees .. better blade steel.

They currently make Remington's knives.

As a user .. I doubt you'll be disappointed.

Just an opinion .. specifically .. mine.

Dale

I have to admit, I like Ken Griffey a great deal.  A wonderful man and I take every opportunity to spend time at his table whenever our paths cross at a show.  90% of what I have seen of their knives have been seen right there.  I have also read the discussion where someone says that inspections are reserved for show knives.  Having heard the family and company story many times, I was pleased that they would be taking on the Remington production.

I sincerely have to agree with Dale, they make great users.  I do wish more attention were paid to the consistency of quality regarding fit and finish.  The 10% of their knives I have seen away from shows, were sporadic in F & F.  Some very sweet, some left me wondering if it had been seen before it left the factory.

Something else I wonder about the company.  As with Canal Street, we see very little promotion of the knives from the company.  I do believe if the fit and finish could be more consistent, at this price point, they could explode on the users market.  Marketing could bring out a lot for this company, they have such a varied design offering.

So I guess I would just like them to be consistent with F&F and market the products to the users more.

I have only one Bear & Son- A Bear MGC Executive MOP Lockback from 1995- I paid $20 for it as a find in an antique store. In this one case, I am very impressed with the quality, fit and finish.Despite my horrendous photo, a very fiery top quality MOP. Run your hand down it, and is as smooth as glass.Literally glides open,no blade rub, and ZERO blade wobble in the locked position. The  only negatives I've found- No half stop, Releasing the lock is a thumb buster sometimes, and the blade steel not marked (probably 440C).I've seen the exact same knife offered for $70 of late online.In short, although I own many a knife, I'm not ashamed to show this little gem to anyone. Although I have no personal experience  with their customer service or occasional lack of quality control, after 40 years in retail management,  I can state a bad reputation in these areas can sink an otherwise outstanding company very quickly.

Thanks for the replies.

This Little Trapper has great blades, nicely hollow ground, and it opens and close as it should and the blades are tight in the bolsters. It just has that one low spring. I looked at another of this model, but it had ill fitting handles with gaps, and I looked at a Stockman, but it had extremely gritty opening blades. That makes three out of three brand new knives with finishing issues, (all Fourth Generation), but then they are less expensive than other US-made knives, so I guess that is the trade off.

I am beginning to retire my older collectible Bucks, so this knife is meant as a user so I can preserve my collectibles. The hardware store also carries Rough Rider & various  Frost products including Steel Warrior, and though I am sure they all had better F & F than this B & S, (they usually have superb F & F in my experience). I am trying to keep my knife purchases "onshore" these days, so I opted for this lesser-expensive-than-Case B &S hoping it would be good enough to use on a daily basis.

Having worked in an industrial plant before, I understand cost per unit, and how an extra 30 seconds per unit can eat at profit and increase unit cost, but the only thing US knife makers have going for them nowadays is a perception of increased quality over imports, so I am a little baffled that B & S doesn't pay more attention to QC. Of course, I guess they might be a bit more expensive if they did,

I checked B & S's website, and registered the knife with their online form. They are warranted for life and have a warranty repair process. I wonder what they would do if I sent this knife back to them for repair? Probably won't go to all that trouble, I'll most likely just keep it as is and use it

Syd- There in lies the problem, IMHO-Now I am just talking retail in general- Generally only one in ten customers will apply for a rebate (gives the illusion of a lower price, without losing  a major price drop overall.) Warranties can be a sticking point,too. Many retailers ask for the original sales receipt for a rebate, then ask you for the same original sales receipt for warranty service after you have sent it for the rebate.Once again, I am only speaking in generalities, but retailers are counting on the fact the consumer won't bother with a warranty, and sometimes their customer service in these matters reflects that. Cherish the customer friendly ones like Case, because they are harder and harder to find.

Yeah, I know. I have even had spotty service from Buck regards warranties.

When I drive to Atlanta next month I'll be driving right through Alabama, and will be visiting friends in Mobile along the way. I wonder if I should go to the factory, knock on the door, show my knife and see what happens?

Syd

I would see if they'd do a "factory tour".

I don't know if they do .. but ..............................................
.

I used to camp in the UP .. upper peninsula of MI. I stopped in Gladstone, MI while biking through  ..&..  got a MARBLE'S "factory tour" ..  mid '90's. They were finishing off the handles of their straight knives (blades were outsourced by this time) & finishing axe castings. It was pretty cool !!!

.

...........................................................anyway .. just sayen'.

That thought had occurred to me actually, figured if I were driving through anyway why not? I read somewhere that they have a local "factory sale" every year, that would be a cool thing to attend.

Going out on errands, the Little Trapper is in my left pocket, so it's EDC life will now begin. Only issue I can imagine is if the low spring causes it to snag threads or something like that, if not I'll just use it like it is.

Syd,

I can answer that for you.  You would be welcomed by the Griffey family.  Your thoughts on the knife would also be welcome.  If you have the time...yes stop by.  Any interest in damascus, right down the road is Alabama Damascus

I think the only time they do tours is during the Thanksgiving weekend sale.  With some companies it is a matter of insurance company rulings.

I had a hunch about that Jan, I have found out that "southern hospitality" is a very real thing. I'll tell 'em "Jan sent me"! My only interest in damascus is how it is made, I would enjoy watching the process. If I have the time I'll enter both places in my GPS and just drop in.

Just used the Little Trapper to break down some boxes. I like the angle of the master blade when open, it points slightly downward, and that puts it at just the right angle for cutting in my opinion; so far so good.

Jan Carter said:

Syd,

I can answer that for you.  You would be welcomed by the Griffey family.  Your thoughts on the knife would also be welcome.  If you have the time...yes stop by.  Any interest in damascus, right down the road is Alabama Damascus

I think the only time they do tours is during the Thanksgiving weekend sale.  With some companies it is a matter of insurance company rulings.

NOTE:

BEAR & SON offers very price competitive USA made product. Advertising is EXPENSIVE. There may exist a relationship between those two stated facts.

Just a WAG.

At the same time .. your point is well taken, Jan.

Dale


Jan Carter said:

Something else I wonder about the company.  As with Canal Street, we see very little promotion of the knives from the company.  I do believe if the fit and finish could be more consistent, at this price point, they could explode on the users market.  Marketing could bring out a lot for this company, they have such a varied design offering.

Well, I decided to return that Little Trapper that I got at the local hardware store due to the low spring, just couldn't learn to live with that small defect. I took it back and exchanged it straight across for this B & S #533, 3' closed, Genuine India Stag Bone Stockman. The Little Trapper will be returned by the store to B & S as a warranty repair, and I got a far better knife in the bargain, (IMHO).

This one has 440 stainless blades, and meets every standard of quality I can think of, and has no defects that I can identify. Great walk & talk, beautiful handles...doesn't get much better in my book. It wasn't what I would call "razor sharp", but a pass or two on a steel and a bit of stropping produced three very sharp blades. This will be a daily carry for quite a while I expect.

I think this little knife is a fine piece of pocket cutlery, so if you ask me if Bear & Sons can make high quality knives I would have to say "yes"!

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