I’m not the type of person that buys something without cause or need. There was a time when I just had to get the latest gun, knife or holster being introduced, but thankfully (my wife is especially thankful) that phase of my life is long past. If I purchase a piece of gear these days, it is because it fills a need in either my security plan or enhances a required skill. I think about the perceived need, identify the tool that will best fill it and then I go looking for that implement. When I buy a knife, it goes through this process just like any other piece of kit. Whether I choose a folder or fixed blade is usually dependant on how low-profile the knife needs to be when carried. If I don’t need to be at least somewhat discreet (as in many of our country’s urban areas), then it makes a lot more sense to use a fixed blade in a sheath.

If I choose a folder, then the lock mechanism becomes important. If the knife blade folds in my hand, I am going to have a real bad day, and I want to avoid that if at all possible. My normal test for lock strength is to open the knife, place it between my thumb and index finger and strike the top of the blade sharply against a solid object. Over the years, I admit to being surprised by the number of high-end, expensive, knives that have failed this simple test. Simultaneously, I have seen any number of low-cost knives that have done quite well. One lock system I have never seen fail is Benchmade’s AXIS Lock System.

Solid Design

The AXIS Lock’s central component is a small, hardened steel bar which rides forward and back in a slot machined into the knife’s steel liners. The bar extends to both sides of the knife, spans the liners, and is positioned over the rear of the blade. It engages a ramped tang portion of the blade when it is deployed. Two wire springs, one on each liner, give the locking bar its inertia to engage the knife tang. As a result, the tang is wedged solidly between a sizable stop pin and the AXIS bar itself. While it sounds complex, it really isn’t. The best thing to say about the AXIS Lock is it is easy to open and close with one hand, and when it is locked, the folding blade is as close to a fixed blade as possible without actually being one.

Being a fan of this system, I was even more encouraged when I got the opportunity to test the new Benchmade Contego folder. Known as the “810” in the Benchmade catalogue, the Osborne-designed Contego is a tough, durable tactical-grade folder designed for a wide variety of uses. Latin for “protect” or “shield,” the Contego features the AXIS locking mechanism. With a plain or serrated edge CPM-M4 steel blade sporting either a clear or black Cerakote finish, the Contego also has G10 textured and contoured grip scales with a stainless steel back spacer. At the base of the handle there is a carbide glass breaker, which is a nice feature. Think of this as the knife to have if your vehicle ever ends up underwater. The Contego also comes with a reversible, deep carry, tip-up pocket clip, the mode of carry I happen to prefer.

At 9.25 inches overall, the Contego is a big knife; however, it is a large tactical folder that rides well in the pocket. Unlike folders that, even though clipped to the pocket opening, still feel like a rock bouncing around, the Contego rides in the pocket like a smaller knife. I continual get teased about my preference for small knives (“Real men carry big knives, Dave!”), but my preference for them is the way they ride in the pocket. The Contego might be the knife that changes my mind. The one downside to how the 810 carries might be the aggressive grip. I would expect the Contego to chew up pocket material over time, but that is the price one pays for a knife that can be held solidly under a wide variety of environments and weather conditions.

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  • I love my Plain edge 810 Contego . It is my favorite blade I own . I just wanted to say that the way the glass breaker is it wont bother you at in reverse grip, you barely notice it . I originally thought it would be a problem but its not at all. I guess I would rather have it for a emergency then not . I think the 810 is one of Benchmades best designs ever . I bought the heavy duty Adamas d2 275 black limited edition which is a heavy knife but a great design as well . but I just love the Contego and I trust my life to it as part of my EDC kit . I know of a similar designed uber expensive Microtech knife has a glass breaker on the bottom in a similar place but its very pointy and it does affect your hand in reverse grip but at 3 x the price then the Contego, I would much rather have the 810 knife in my pocket then any other high priced folder on the market including Spydercos . I find the lock up quality , finish , g10 grip , and edge retention, blade thickness, and tip strength to be outstanding . I was going to buy the Spyderco Military when i came across this knife and i think this knife is superior in every way . I have read stories and saw many spyderco tips break in my day and feel the are more a slicing knife then a high end Military LE Benchmade Black class knife that will go to hell and back with you and look forward to the return trip . I have been carrying the 810 daily for 6 months or so and I love it . Good solid review….