CRKT M16 Review & Blade Testing

TL;DR: This review disagrees with others who zealously applaud the M16: The action is tight. The flipper needs oil and adjustment to work well. The tang is ground poorly, so frame lock-up isn’t ideal. The chisel grind on this blade is bad. It’s not sharp, it cuts poorly, and it doesn’t hold an edge. The skinny handle rolls easily and digs into the palm.

CRKT M16 Blade Specs

  • Edge Length: 2.80″ (0.70″ serrated)
  • Blade Width: 0.76″
  • Blade Length: 2.93″
  • Edge Thickness: 0.032″
  • Spine Thickness: 0.094″
  • Blade Shape: Tanto
  • Blade Steel: 8Cr14MoV, Powdercoat
  • Edge Grind: Two-Bevel Chisel Grind

Additional Specifications

  • Scales: Stainless Steel, Black Oxide
  • Handle Length: 4.01″
  • Handle Width: 0.69″
  • Overall Length: 6.94″
  • Overall Width, Folded: 0.85″
  • Handle Thickness: 0.34″
  • Weight: 2.79 oz. / 79g
  • Lock: Frame Lock
  • Opener: Flipper
  • Clip: Stainless Steel, Black Oxide
  • Country of Origin: China
  • Model: M16-10KS

CRKT M16 Review

I want to preface this review by clarifying that the design of this knife — courtesy of the late Kit Carson, an Army veteran and knifemaker who rightfully earned his spot in BLADE Magazine’s Cutlery Hall of Fame — is thought out well. Unfortunately, CRKT’s execution of Kit’s design leaves stuff to be desired.

I bought the most popular version of the M16, the -10KS. CRKT also offers the M16-10KZ, which has a 1.4116 stainless blade and nylon scales, and the M16-10KSF, which is identical to this knife, save for its crossguard.

First impression: The M16 isn’t entirely a bad knife. It feels fine in the hand (at first). The Tanto blade is ground well. The powdercoat looks great. The fasteners are quality button-head Torx screws. The belt clip works fine. Solid knurling on the tang pin and thumb studs. The black oxide on the handle is uniform.

The M16 has a nice look to it when folded and stowed. The belt clip seems a little anemic, though. It has enough spring and clamping power to stay put when stowed. But I would like to see a wider clip that at least tries to match the rest of the handle’s curvy aesthetic.

The clip can be swapped from one side of the frame to the other. But, sadly, tip-down carry is your only choice — there are no threaded holes to swap the clip to the other end of the frame.

The Action

Out of the box, the flipper and bearings are very tight. CRKT greases their knives at the factory, but the M16 couldn’t fully open with one finger out of the box.

I had to fidget with the flathead screw on the tang pin — and drop some oil into the bearings — to get the action to consistently open and lock the blade with one pull.

The biggest problem I have with the M16 — besides its edge — is the tang and frame lock. The lock itself is fine, but the tang’s fitment to the lock is pretty poor.

Somehow, CRKT ground the bottom of the tang so it forms a concave curve where the frame lock makes contact. This isn’t good for blade stability and long-term wear. If you use this knife to pry, chop, and pick at stuff — that’s what this thing is designed for — you’re going to create some lock wobble pretty quickly.

Here, we can see how rough the contact face of the tang is. This can be fixed with some flat diamond files, but no one should have to tidy up a knife lock’s fitment on a brand-new blade. This is the sort of work you should only have to do years down the road after hard, daily use.

Both thumb studs provide some extra stability. But the jimping along the back of the blade is too shallow and rounded. It provides virtually no grip if you press your index finger — gloved or not — into it.

The Blade

The M16-10KS’s blade is hit-and-miss. On one hand, it looks great and it’s strong. The Tanto profile sports clean lines and angles. The powdercoat’s applied well, and the grinds on the spine, flats, and tip are symmetrical.

The apex has a consistent edge, and the serrated teeth toward the rear of the blade are quite sharp (as my bloodied thumb found out through clumsiness). This is a thick blade for such a small knife, too:

And that makes sense. The Tanto is arguably the strongest blade shape. I love my Cold Steel Recon Tanto, which survived years of abuse in the military. I’m certain this sort of ruggedness is what Kit Carson wanted in the CRKT M16.

But the chisel grind isn’t sharp out of the box. And a one-sided edge isn’t suitable for delicate cutting and slicing. The blade wants to pull in one direction, which is a pain for box cutting. The edge is so stout and wide that you can’t simply re-profile it, either.

That’s because a proper chisel grind should have one long, flat bevel acting as the cutting edge (or a tiny second bevel). But this blade has a massive secondary bevel. That makes the apex itself incredibly wide and less capable of cutting. CRKT, why?

A Tanto blade like this can — and should always — make use of a saber grind. That’s how my Cold Steel’s ground, and I could practically use it as a hammer. That sort of apex can pick, pry, chop, slice, and whittle all day without suffering any glints or chips. Why CRKT went with a fat, stubby chisel here is, frankly, beyond me.

The Frame and Grip

The 10KS variant of the M16 combines the frame and handle into one, with a black oxide finish meant to mimic the blade’s powdercoat. The holes drilled into the frame provide balance (the center of gravity is just behind the tang) and, supposedly, a little extra grip.

I found the latter claim unfounded: When this knife’s handle gets wet — say, from oil or sweat — it gets slippery. I’ve used other steel-handled knives (like the Kershaw Leek) that provided ample grip and comfort.

But the M16’s handle is thin and skinny, which allows it to roll easily in your palm. The fix is easy: Grip it tighter. Except that introduces another issue.

At the back of the handle, these flats and points dig into your palm. It gets uncomfortable, and fast. Normally, I wouldn’t complain — this is a 3″ EDC knife, which means it’s supposed to be reserved for relatively light to modest cutting duties.

But this thick blade, with its frame lock, acute serrations, and chisel grind, is made for heavier duty tasks. That means applying more force with a tighter grip. The result is an uncomfortable handle that’ll leave a bruise if you spend the day using your M16 to cut up a bunch of rubber, cable, or cardboard.

Speaking of cutting, let’s see just how poorly the odd franken-grind on this blade performed.

Out-of-The-Box Sharpness & Edge Testing

As usual, I tested the edge for its sharpness out of the box on my Edge-On-Up Tester. It walked away with some pretty mediocre — but consistent — numbers:

227 grams and 228 grams. We’ll round up to 228g. That places it 17th out of 22 knives at the time of this review. Not good for an 8Cr14MoV blade. I’d expect this steel, at this price, to at least manage 175g — again, this chisel edge is just a bit dumb.

But it’s so thick that it should at least provide good edge retention, right? Let’s take a look:

One hundred back-and-forth passes through the ironwood under five pounds of weight, as always. I also tested the serrated edge. It did well. It sawed into the hardwood with relative ease, and it didn’t bind or jump.

Pictured right is the blade’s indentation; pictured left is the nice gouge the serrations left. So, at least those teeth do what they’re supposed to. But edge retention…

The CRKT M16 managed a measly 331 grams and 337 grams after the test, averaging 334g. Terrible. Any blade that measures over 300 grams requires sharpening.

Edge Performance vs. Other Knives

Knife / ModelFactory SharpnessSharpness After TestEdge Retention
Spyderco Para 3 12026545%
Benchmade 940 EDC17529060%
SOG TWI8-CP Twitch II12520063%
S&W Extreme Ops SWA24S16526063%
Buck Knives 110 Folding Hunter14522066%
Spyderco Tenacious15022567%
Ontario Knife OKC Rat II SP18527069%
CIVIVI Elementum20127972%
Opinel No. 1228037073%
CIVIVI Praxis18323080%
Zero Tolerance 0450CF24029083%
KA-BAR Dozier Folder27532585%
Cold Steel AD-1018520590%
CRKT Endorser23025092%
CJRB Feldspar21522596%
Cold Steel Recon 1 Tanto17721582%
Kershaw Link CPM 20CV23226289%
CJRB Ria Folder (12C27)19628369%
Gerber Paraframe 1 (ATS-314)18622085%
CRKT CEO18320490%
Kershaw Leek13319269%
CRKT M16-10KS22833468%
CRKT Squid21537557%
Vosteed Corsair16317494%

The CRKT M16 retained 68% of its edge after testing. That ranks it in the bottom third. On actual sharpness (334g), it’s ranked second to last. Shameful. It only beats the “bargain bin” Opinel No. 12, which is basically a $25 novelty pocket knife.

The only silver lining is that the edge still looks fine. No damage. The serrations are immaculate, while the edge lost of a bit of shine.

The CRKT M16: I Don’t Recommend It (Here’s Why)

CRKT can fix the problems with this knife quite easily: Get rid of that stupid chiseled edge and replace it with a saber grind. Take the wider, thicker nylon scales off the M16-10KZ, and slap ’em on this frame with some stippling for extra grip. Then you’ve got a great knife that’ll feel comfortable and cut well, without slipping or digging into your palm.

Do I recommend the M16-10KS?

No. I say this because the Mini Recon 1 Tanto from Cold Steel exists. I would buy it instead. It’s the same knife in spirit, but it has a proper saber-ground edge made from AUS 10 stainless. No serrations, but that’s a sacrifice I’d be willing to make with a small knife.

The Mini Recon’s got a way better handle thanks to molded G-10 scales, and it’s priced about the same: $43 for the Recon compared to $46 for the M16-10KS.