Chad Los Banos is an exceptional guy who came to knife design through a reasonably familiar route: knife-based martial arts and a law enforcement (correctional) background. His original Subcom line of wide, stubby, sawed-off little numbers from Boker captured the imagination of a lot of folks who realized that their design allowed them to perform on a larger scale than their size might otherwise indicate. In other words, they were a huge success! So Boker did the logical thing: They created a Los Banos brand and asked Chad to keep the designs coming.
He hasn’t disappointed.
There are now over a dozen models in the Boker/Chad Los Banos line, and they are all easily recognized for their distinctive full width but short length handles and correspondingly dimensioned blades. Blade lengths in the product line range from 1-7/8 inches to 3-5/8 inches on a new, almost normally dimensioned model. We’ll look at the two newest members of the family on the following pages.
The Hyper Boker
The Los Banos Hyper is the newest addition to Chad’s compact series. Like most of his knives, it is constructed of a G-10 scale over a thin liner on one side of the open-back-construction handle, and a thicker steel composing the opposite handle. It is a frame-locking unit, with a generous pocket clip on the all-steel side. The slightly re-curved, upswept, spear-point blade is ground from 440C. There are symmetric thumb studs on each side of the blade. The distinctive Los Banos look is carried on through with the straight handle spine and straight rear bottom edge of the handle, with full finger cutouts on the front end of it. Jimping on the top front and bottom rear edges of the handle, and oval through-and-through handle cutouts round out the visual components of the Hyper. The handle, clip and stainless steel blade are all covered with a titanium coating. The carry clip allows for tip-up or tip-down carry, something made possible by the ball and detent mechanism that keeps the blade in the handle’s frame when the knife is closed. The Hyper, like all of Chad’s knives, has a thin but strong handle, which further adds to the outsize abilities of his designs.
The Hyper’s 2-3/4-inch blade length, a big knife for Chad, brings it into what most of us would call “compact” knife territory. A knife with this blade length should be able to handle virtually every work-related and utility chore that most people encounter, with the possible exception of self-defense. Not that a knife like the Hyper wouldn’t be welcome and effective in the hands if a defensive emergency was imminent, but rather that most of us would opt for something a little longer. For pure utility work though, the Hyper hits the sweet spot! Its primary grind is flat and high, and the edge comes smooth and sharp, easily slicing free-hanging paper and shaving arm hair.
At this point, let me interject a little side point. Factory knives these days from the good manufacturers have become so uniformly high quality that “A” performance from them is the norm, and it’s only when they fail to perform really well in some manner that their performance becomes noteworthy. That means, of course, that evaluating them can become almost boring at times, but the lack of surprises on our end means great knives on the consumer’s end. We’ve come a long way in the 14 years that this magazine has been published!
And so it was with the Hyper. With the factory edge, “A” performance on carpet, red oak and cardboard. Re-honed on gray ceramic rods, it took four passes to slice through 5/8-inch manila rope. This is exactly the performance you’d expect from 440C in this blade and handle length: excellent on materials not needing lots of edge force, and good on materials needing significant pressure on the edge (like manila rope), when you don’t have a full 5-inch handle to apply force with. Using the Hyper for a couple weeks around the lot and on the job, cutting random materials like tree branches and the walnuts that drop at this time of year, my verdict is that the Hyper is just what it’s marketed as: a compact-size, thin, strong, high-quality utility knife. What differentiates it from other compact-size utility knives is: a) the attractive Los Banos visuals, b) the recurved blade and nice utility blade shape, c) the overall high quality, and d) the fact that it’s so thin (5/16-inch by my measurement). The Hyper lists for $55.
The M-Type is Chad’s first collaboration with Boker on a full-size folding knife. While the 4-1/2 -inch handle length and 3-5/8-inch blade is no longer short and stubby, the blade is still a little wider than normal for its length and the handle is still distinctively a Los Banos design. It features the same steel/G-10 handle construction, titanium coating, wide pocket clip and 440C blade steel as the Hyper. Instead of through-and-through cutouts on the handle, there are cutouts on the steel side and milled grooves on the G-10 side. The result is quite a positive grip. The extra handle length has forced Chad to give up his trademark straight spine and provide a slight downward slope on the rear of the M-Type’s. The blade has the same slight recurve and upswept spear-point as the Hyper, but elongated. Despite the concessions to a more traditional length, the M-Type is still quite clearly a Los Banos knife to the eye. Like others of Chad’s design, it is thin (5/16-inch) and light (4.6 ounces), making for a comfortable package in which to tote full-size, folding knife cutting performance.
The model I had was the half-serrated, black-coated version, so I tested the straight edge and the serrated edge separately. The straight edge sliced free-hanging paper easily. The factory straight edge (I did not re-hone it) went through 5/8-inch manila rope in four short back-and-forth motions (which would be more like two passes with a full straight, re-honed edge) and sliced cardboard slickly. The serrated edge is unusual in that it is very aggressive, with very sharp and very narrow points. In fact, these serrations were too aggressive for manila rope in that they dragged the rope’s fibers in the direction of the blade motion rather than slicing them. It cut 3/8-inch poly rope better, but with a bit of the same dragging effect. The M-Type’s serrations have obviously been designed for materials that are more homogenous, density-wise, than twisted rope fibers.
The M-Type is of sufficient size that it is a preferable defensive knife, and it really is a good design for that purpose: It has an ample finger choil, positive grip, and intuitive point location. Plus, that wide, bellied point would inflict fearsome wounds. The design is also one very suitable for a stout utility tool, and in both cases I’d prefer the straight edge to take full advantage of the re-curve. The M-Type feels good in the hand, too. Its list price is $67.50.
Chad Los Banos has come from nowhere to now being a major brand in the industry on the originality of his designs and the high function they provide. No hype, no slick marketing campaign aimed at armchair commandos, no testosterone-drenched fantasy designs. Just a modest, knowledgeable guy with good ideas and a fresh approach.
It’s what keeps this industry interesting.
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by Tactical Knives / Mar 20, 2009