Benchmade 42 – long term review and perspectives on butterfly knives as utility tools.


The Benchmade model 42 has not been in production for quite a long time. Yet in many respects, it is still the benchmark of butterfly knife design. Its spring loaded latch, titanium handles, “zen” front pin (opening up more usable blade space and removing uncomfortable cutouts around the front of the handle when open), all make this one of the most desirable butterfly knives ever made. Yet it is not without its shortcomings.

From a design perspective, it is easy to tell that this knife was primarily intended to be a flipper. Its slim handles are, individually, fairly round in profile and textured just enough for indexing and manipulation. The outsides of the slabs are fairly slick, as you would want for flipping as it requires combinations of grip and slip. The titanium handles are lighter, allowing faster manipulation. The spring loaded latch allows the knife to pop open with a squeeze, and keeps the latch out of the way during manipulation. All and all, it really is a beautiful and functional design for a flipper, and I maintain one of the best of the breed.

The flip side of this coin is the knife as a utility tool. From a safety perspective, this knife makes all the jabber about lock strength such a bit comical; butterfly knives are utterly safe when open and when closed. Latched, there is simply no way it will pop open in your pocket, and your blade is securely encompassed in 360 degrees of metal. Open, while undoubtedly not as strong as a fixed blade, I can imagine no more secure folding locking system. It also eats up any slop, resulting in a zero wobble blade. One hand opening and closing are trivial too, thanks in part to the spring loaded latch. Most of these things are inherent to the design of a butterfly knife.

The down sides though are mostly particular to this knife, starting with the fact that, for optimal manipulation, the blade is kept fairly shallow in depth. This geometry issues is further hindered by the fact that this blade specifically has a partial height grind and false edge. This makes its cutting geometry beefier than would be optimal. The knife, sadly, has been used, loved, and sharpened so the original thickness above the apex grind is no longer measurable. The blade was however ground to roughly 20 degrees inclusive, so the number you read reflects that plus some use.

Blade length: 91mm (sharpened length) 108mm (to handles)
Blade thickness: 3.15mm
Thickness above apex: .7mm
For original specs:–Benchmade-42C-Balisong-Knife–20650

All that said about the negatives, this knife has endured years of use. 440c is looked down on by today’s standards, but holds its edge reasonably well and there is not a spot of rust ANYWHERE on this knife. That is more than Spyderco can say for its Para2 lineup at the very least. To put it mildly, I’m very very pleased with the careful quality of how this knife has held up over the years.

So why are butterfly knives not more popular? Perhaps cost? Making a butterfly knife is, in some respects, the same amount of work/precision as making a normal knife with twice as many handles. No surprise, they’re therefore expensive. Maybe it is because they’re restricted in many areas, and not as many people can own/carry one. Maybe it is because they have a perception as being “gangster” knives, because they’re fun to play with. Maybe they are derided because most designs were intended more for flipping than as utility tools? That said, the odd balis which have had more utilitarian designs, such as the Benchmade 53 or Bradley Mayhem, have seen lackluster sales. Yet, somehow, in an industry obsessed with “tactical,” spine whacks, lock strength, ease of deployment, and all that goes with it, the butterfly knife trivially beats modern “hard use” folders by a large margin. Why no more attention? I have no idea. I’d certainly love to see that change though.


Allen Dexter Belga says:

im thinking to buy the bm 42 but i am worried that the screws will loosen up that it will fall apart. im from philippines how many years you’ve been using your bm 42? any problems?

Yehoshua D. Stone says:

I am a Balisong fanatic!

AirsoftTeamOSMD says:

what do you think of Eezox as a rust preventative? gun or tools that I put a thin film on never rust thanks to the stuff

Vin Ellis says:

I am a balisong purist. :-) The Benchmade 51 Morpho is my EDC but I love my 42 as well.

Bill22252 says:

I will never forgive myself for passing up a Benchmade 51 for $125. Meh, I like butterfly knives, there isn’t anything that prevents them from being a functional tool. Compared to something like an auto or a waved knife, any advantage in deployment speed is pretty minimal.

Spyderco’s warranty sucks too.

balisongbrain says:

I have the 42 in 154CM steel. Much better for actual use.

AirsoftTeamOSMD says:

Eezox forms a dry film that repels salt water incredibly well, while in liquid form cleans carbon fouling and firearm barrels

infainaitgunworks says:

“fun” fact: knife carry in Canadiastan is based completely off of intention. I can go buy a 5 foot long functional oversized greatsword, then stroll right onto public transit. however, if I get caught driving on my way to my non-existent job to attack my boss with a cutco bread ripper, it’s lights out.
addendum: contrary to public belief, there are no specific laws regarding size and format other than complete concealment. I can EDC said 5 foot long greatsword if I could somehow make a case for it, but could also be arrested and face jail time if my ZDP DF2 isn’t clipped to my pocket with the clip showing. leathermans are usually exempted by officers since they all had one growing up.

“fun” fact #2: butterfly knives and switchblades/auto knives are banned in the same paragraph as carrying/illegally possessing firearms. if I get caught with one, I’d be facing minimum 10 years prison time. OTF knives fall under the same category, but often end up in the hands of private security guards with no issues. active serving police officers are exempted, or just don’t give an F, because they have the best collections of said knives. strangely, active military personnel can order them across the border to base addresses, but aren’t allowed to actually possess them AFAIK.

“fun” fact #3: butterfly trainers are totally legal. any idiot with a grinder could put an edge on one (probably wouldn’t be a great edge, let’s face it) and ruin everybody’s day. also, I should probably get one for the giggles.

thinking about all this makes me want to make some more videos, but a camera takes away from the knife buying fund.

Dre Underscore says:

what? double edge balisong?

Michael K says:

Hey guys, if you wouldn’t mind checking this out if you have the time, that would be fantastic. It is an online petition I’ve started to try and get Benchmade to bring back their Model 42 balisong. Even if you couldn’t care less about the knife, your support in this effort would be greatly appreciated.

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