Review: Coast FX350, HX5, and FX228 – Part 1, by The Novice

The State where I live does not allow concealed carry of a sheath knife unless you are hunting. Since even a simple thing like putting on a jacket may inadvertently “conceal” your knife, it is usually the better part of wisdom if not valor to avoid carrying a sheath knife at all unless you are involved in outdoor pursuits.

Since the laws involving folding knives are much less stringent, and since knives are such handy tools, I usually carry a folder. For several decades, a Victorinox MiniChamp has been my constant companion.

A couple of years ago, a friend complicated things by giving me an inexpensive TG Raptor knife. I carried it for a while to express my appreciation, and discovered that it often came in handy. In many instances the larger blade of the Raptor was more useful than the smaller blade of the MiniChamp.

One problem with the TG Raptor is that it looks aggressive enough to attract some attention. I started receiving questions about it. In the interests of lowering my profile, I decided to look for something a little less conspicuous.

I eventually settled on the Outdoor Edge Onyx EDC. It has replaceable blades, is easy to keep sharp, and did not attract any attention. I has been my primary every day carry (EDC) knife for about a year. But the thinness of replaceable blade made me a little uneasy. I was concerned that it might fail under heavy use. So I kept my eye out for something more substantial.

I recently ran across the Coast FX350. It definitely looked more durable than the Onyx. I asked Coast if I could borrow one for testing and evaluation. They were kind enough to send me one, and threw in their 100 Year Anniversary Gift Box as well. I had a great time testing these items.  Here is what I found out.

[JWR Adds: Coast brand products are designed in Portland, Oregon, but are now mostly produced in mainland China.]

Opening the First Box

The shipping box contained two plastic wrapped product boxes.

The first product box contained the Coast FX350 folding knife. The FX in the name indicates that it is a frame lock knife, and the 350 model number indicates that the blade is 3.5 inches long. Along with the knife, the sturdy foam lined box contained a card with information about Coast’s lifetime warranty, and a couple of silica gel packs.

The first thing that struck me about the knife is that it is heavier than I was expecting. It is a real beast. The metal parts have a very attractive silver-gray titanium-nitride finish. The frame lock looks very substantial. The unusual frame features a composite material (G10 in a honeycomb pattern) on one side and metal on the other. The wide blade has a full face flat grind, and is usefully sharp right out of the box. The combination of thumb studs and a frame lock allows for easy one-handed opening and closing.

I immediately assigned the FX350 to duty as my EDC during the testing period.

OWB versus IWB

Back when I was still wet behind the ears, an older outdoorsman observed me carrying a sheath knife attached to my belt in the appendix position. He pointed out that if I sat down, the knife would poke me in both the abdomen and the leg. Since the human body folds forward rather than backward, he advised me to attach it to my belt over the right rear pocket instead. I tried it and found it to be a much more comfortable way in which to carry a sheath knife. Ever since, whenever I have carried a sheath knife, I have followed his advice.

When my friend gave me the Raptor, it was too large to fit comfortably in a pocket. It had a clip, so I clipped it to my belt instead over my right rear pocket in the same place I would have attached a sheath knife. That worked kinda-sorta-okay most of the time, but under certain conditions the knife had a tendency to slip off my belt. Eventually, I found that if I clipped it on my belt between the belt and the waistband of my pants, with the clip facing out over the belt, the knife stayed attached much better. When I bought the Onyx, I carried it in the same way.

The clip on the FX350 is attached more closely to the end of the knife than is the case for the Raptor or Onyx. This made less of the knife stick up over the top of the belt, and more of it hang down under the belt. It felt too low.

I next tried clipping it between the belt and waistband with the clip facing inward over the waistband. This made the knife ride higher, which was more comfortable, but it was harder to get the clip to catch on the waistband than it was on the belt.

Finally I tried slipping the knife inside the waistband with the clip facing out. This works extremely well. It is easy to pull the clip slightly out while sliding the knife down inside the waistband, making it simple to ease it into place. It makes the knife much less conspicuous, since all that can be seen from the outside is the clip, and even most of that is hidden by the belt. It helps keep the knife from wearing the finish off my chair while I am eating dinner, and helps keep the chair from wearing the finish off the knife. I am sure that many SurvivalBlog readers already had this figured out, but I must admit that it was an aha moment for me.

I used the knife daily for more than a month for such tasks as opening boxes, cutting cardboard to make custom boxes, cutting broken ends off rubber garden hoses, cutting rope, twine, and paracord, carving wood, and a host of other tasks. It performed reliably at each task.

The Baton Test

The best tool for splitting firewood when you are out in the woods is probably a good axe. Since we don’t live in an ideal world, sometimes we find ourselves with the need to split wood, but have only a knife. For example, what if it is raining, and you need to start a fire? You can gather wood under a sheltered area like a poncho strung between two trees. If you can split the wood, then you can use the drier inner wood to start your fire. In that case, a technique called “batoning” can be used to split wood by tapping a knife through it. This is usually best done with a heavy, fixed blade knife with a full tang.

But as I said, we don’t life in an ideal world.   What if the only knife you have available is a folding knife? It still may be possible to split wood by batoning.

My Outdoor Edge Onyx EDC has such a fragile blade that I don’t think it would be possible to baton with it even if my life depended upon it. It would certainly ruin the knife, even in the unlikely event that it worked. But the Coast FX350 has an extremely sturdy blade. So I decided to subject it to the baton test.

First, I selected a round to be split that is about as thick as the distance between the thumb stud and the tip of the blade on the knife (in this case about three inches). I also selected a baton (in this case another round about 16 inches long and about two inches thick). I also selected a shorter round, also about two inches thick, which I carved into a wedge, with the narrow end of the wedge about the same thickness as the back of the blade of the knife.

I then opened the knife about halfway and placed the blade over the end of the round to be split, with the handle of the knife parallel to the round. Tapping the blade with the knife fully open might put too much stress on the blade lock and damage it. I held the sides of the knife handle with the tips of the fingers of my left hand while using the baton in my right hand to tap the blade into the end of the round until the back of the blade was even with the top of the round. I then took the wooden wedge, placed the narrow edge of the wedge along the back of the knife blade, and began to tap it into the round. When the wedge had widened the split enough to enable the knife to be withdrawn, I did so. I then continued to tap the wooden wedge into the round until it split. I repeated this process two more times until the round was split into quarters.

This process resulted in some minor scuffing of the titanium-nitride finish on the blade, but no other apparent wear and tear. If I was ever in a situation where I needed to split wood using a folding knife, the FX350 would be a good choice.

(To be concluded tomorrow, in Part 2.)

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