You don’t have to be into knives to know about Kershaw. They’ve been making knives for the Everyman since 1974, and have become truly ubiquitous, their blades able to be found in just about every store in America that offers even the most scant selection of pocketknives — including Walmart. This presence in the marketplace is partially due to excellent branding, sure, but is more attributable to the fact that for years Kershaw has been producing a massive and diverse line of knives; there are currently over 100 models offered of folding knives alone, with a number of variations on many of those models. This wide range of choices coupled with their well earned reputation for quality manufacturing makes it easy to see why Kershaw has become so loved by so many, from the average Joe in need of a reliable pocketknife to the more involved knife nut.
Still, when a maker offers such a broad range of knives, it’s next to impossible for every one of them to be a home run. And it’s also likely that some of those less than stellar offerings might just be pretty bad. Sometimes truly awful. So there’s a point — especially when you’ve been into knives for a while and your knowledge and experience has come to span a host of truly incredible blades — at which a bit of cynicism starts to set in, and brands like Kershaw that once enthralled you and brought you into the fold, so to speak, now inspire less positive emotions. Eventually you dismiss them as irrelevant to your interests and needs, and move on.
Then, a few years later, you start a knife review blog and think it would be fun to buy some really cheap knives and verbally assault them on your site. One of those knives happens to be the Kershaw Injection 3.0, picked up for $9.99 from Blade HQ. And yet, when it arrives and you remove it from its packaging, you don’t find a piece of poorly thought out, mass produced crap. What you find instead is a solid little pocketknife that delivers a powerful blow to your myopic snobbishness and forces you to eat crow. So much crow.
The perfect folding knife for the extremely budget conscious. An all around winner that will get the job done admirably and keep coming back for more.
1. BLADE – 7/10
The blade on the Injection is a slender, three inch, full flat ground drop point that, while it doesn’t have much belly to speak of, does maintain a continuous curve down the edge. The steel is 8Cr13MoV and has a kind of pointless but not badly executed bead blast finish. 8Cr13MoV is one of the more passingly decent budget steels, and like all steels, is made or broken by the heat treat. Kershaw generally does a great job treating this particular steel, and this knife is no exception.
They made an excellent choice with the grind on this thing; as slender and relatively short as it is, anything but a full flat grind would have seriously hampered its cutting ability. And with a blade stock only .11″ at its widest point, this blade is great at slicing. Apples, tomatoes, even avocados didn’t stand a chance.
I’m not a fan of the beadblast finish. I’m sure the intention was to help hide use scratches and stains, and I’m sure plenty of people will appreciate that. For a knife of this kind, though, in this price point, it seems silly. Use marks give character to a blade, showing it’s done more than sit in a drawer or a pocket all its life. Instead we have this unattractive matte gray color that does still show scratches after a decent amount of use. Lame.
My Injection came razor sharp from the factory, and once it came to work with me for the first time I put it to test on a variety of materials, from cardboard to PVC. After about 3 days of moderate work use, the edge was dull as a butter knife. This was expected, and in my experience is typical of this rather soft steel, but I wanted to let it go and see how it performed before stropping or sharpening. And again, it performed as expected. However, when it came time to get the edge usable again halfway through the week, I had a disappointing realization. They had every opportunity to put a sharpening choil on this thing and neglected to do so. The surprisingly well done and attractive plunge grind, that easily could have thinned out and given way to a very subtle but highly convenient sharpening choil, instead bevels slowly into the back of the edge, meaning that if you’re using any sort of guided sharpening system you’re going to end up wearing away the back of the blade until you eventually turn the false choil into a real one. It also means that if you’re average Joe out in the field with a pull through sharpener, you’re going to end up with a perpetually dull bit at the back of the edge. With all of that said, once I took it to my Sharpmaker, it was scalpel sharp in no time at all. Which is the appeal of steels like this: moderately stainless and able to take a wickedly keen edge with very little work.
2. HANDLE – 10/10
This is one factor where the Injection 3.0 absolutely shines. And since the way you hold a knife is it’s most important aspect, this is a very good thing. I can find nothing wrong here.
The scales are sculpted G-10 on stainless steel liners. The G-10 is contoured and rounded off in all the right places, with not a single rough edge or hot spot to be found. The texture is excellent, which isn’t all that surprising; Kershaw G-10 is generally great stuff. It’s got enough to it to assist with grip but will never tear up any pockets. There are cut-outs on both scales that reveal the liners beneath, which makes for a cool aesthetic effect and likely reduces weight as well, even if only by a hair. Each scale is held onto the liners by two torx screws, which are about halfway recessed. I would have liked to see them completely recessed so as to be flush with the scales, but this is a terribly insignificant nitpick. They are perfectly acceptable as they are.
The ergonomics are outstanding on this knife. There’s an almost hilt-like wider portion directly behind the blade that serves very well to prevent your fingers slipping or jumping onto the blade during use. This width rapidly thins down to allow your index to nestle in comfortably behind the pivot, and then gradually flares back out to form a much more substantial butt, which is exactly what I like. Read into that as much as you want. The clip is machined and positioned very well and melts right into your palm without issue. The handle is only four inches long, but even my larger hands fit on it very comfortably with a four finger grip. In fact, there’s no reasonable way to hold this knife that isn’t comfortable. Due to my profession, I end up cutting things in very weird and uncomfortable situations and positions, and this handle was never remotely uncomfortable.
Scale material and ergonomics on the Injection come together to provide an absolutely perfect grip. As I just mentioned, I often have to cut things in some truly bizarre and difficult situations and positions. And even a comfortable handle shape can be hard to hold onto if the material isn’t conducive to keeping in your hands. But this is perfect execution in every way, and at no time — even when my hands were freezing and soaking wet — did I ever question my ability to safely and effectively maintain my grip. And for a work or outdoor knife, or any knife that is intended or anticipated to encounter hard use, there’s arguably no more important feature.
3. LOCK – 8/10
There’s not a whole lot to say here. It’s your traditional liner lock, and lock-up is solid, secure, and reliable, with no blade play and no lock-stick. This thing isn’t opening unless you want it to, and the same goes for closing. I’m not sure of the detent material, nor can I find any specific material references anywhere, but it appears to just be a stainless steel stud, and it works, which is the point.
I’ve deducted a couple points due to the lock-bar being a little stiff and lock-up being around 90%. I agree with the great Nick Shabazz about early lock-up being absurd and certainly don’t have any problems with a lock swinging a little further in toward the opposite scale, but 90% + is a little much. If the lock-bar were more comfortable to manipulate then this would be more forgivable, but due to the combination of smaller issues it’s certainly a less-than-ideal aspect of which you might like to be aware.
4. CLIP – 8/10
I like spring clips. Pocket clips are one of the most entertainingly divisive pieces of the modern pocket knife, and there is a large portion of the pocket knife carrying world that will sneer at any clip not sculpted out of titanium or some even pricier material. Well, those people are just silly. The purpose of a clip is to securely hold a knife in your pocket. That’s it. All other details are secondary and entirely preferential, but sculpted clips are in no way better at holding a knife in your pocket than spring clips, and in many cases are much, much worse.
Anyway, this is a good, if unremarkable spring clip. It holds the knife in the pocket very well, with no fear of it slipping out. All the edges are nicely rounded off so as to prevent any hotspots, and the positioning is great in the hand and for holding the knife in pocket comfortably. It can be switched for right or left hand carry, but mounts only in tip-up. That’s not a bad thing, because tip-down is just…just…the worst. My only gripes are that the end isn’t flared up quite enough — thicker pants materials can be kind of difficult to overcome — they etched the Kershaw logo on it, which is already wearing off, and the finish on the clip is the same lame bead blasting as the blade. I also would’ve liked to see a deep carry clip, but this particular clip doesn’t cause the knife to sit ridiculously high in the pocket or anything, so no points have been deducted for that.
5. DESIGN – 10/10
A very important aspect of this knife that I’ve so far failed to mention is that it was designed by legendary knife-maker Todd Rexford, and is a close copy of his popular custom Injection model. And since his books are currently closed and his knives regularly go for $3,000 – $8,000, and sometimes more, this is an excellent opportunity to own this particular Rexford design without shelling out enormous amounts of cash and/or waiting years to get a custom directly from him.
And the touches of a highly skilled, time tested custom maker and designer definitely show in this Kershaw production iteration. The pivot screws on both the presentation and lock/clip side are decorative and sort of resemble the cylinder of a revolver. The back-spacers are chamfered well and are simple but attractive. The thumb-studs are machined with a countersunk pattern around the top edges, which not only adds to the aggressive aesthetic, but adds a little purchase when it’s time to deploy the blade. And the overall lines of the knife are just sexy. It’s one of those inanimate objects that has such nice, sleek, aggressive lines that it looks like it’s going fast when it’s sitting still.
All in all it’s obvious that a lot of thought went into the original, custom Injection design and that much of that thoughtfulness was imported into this budget production version. Any time a production knife company collaborates with a custom maker it’s a cool thing, but when it turns out this well and is offered at such a widely affordable price point it’s nothing short of impressive.
6. DEPLOYMENT – 10/10
The Injection’s blade deploys via the aforementioned decorative, ambidextrous thumb-studs. It rides smoothly on dual phosphor bronze and plastic washers and the detent is dialed in well; as a result, the blade rockets open with a good solid flick of a thumb-stud, and while it’s not going to win any prizes with the “drop shut” fanatics, it does close easily and smoothly enough.
One of the things about this knife that I find most surprising and refreshing is the presence of phosphor bronze washers. It would’ve made sense to put teflon in such a budget knife. Teflon washers are found in knives that cost 2, 5, 10, 20 times as much (which is really ridiculous, but that’s a rant for another day), and I fully expected to find them upon disassembly of the Injection, but once again I was forced to reevaluate my assumptions about this piece. It’s clear that far more thought and care went into the creation and execution of this design than most in its price range.
7. FIT & FINISH – 10/10
I know, I know. 10/10 fit and finish on a $10 Kershaw? Nooooooooooo, not possible! And I would be saying the same thing if this were someone else’s review that I were reading. While I definitely question and/or disagree with a few of the design choices, I would be wrong not to acknowledge that they executed the entire design — good, great, and less great features — incredibly well. There’s not a rough edge or unfinished corner to be found on this thing. The stainless liners and G-10 scales line up perfectly, all hardware is finished well, even the edges at the spine of the blade were ground well, with no roughness or sharpness of any kind. I have knives that cost 50x this much that haven’t been finished as well. I can think of three or four big, higher end brands that regularly produce knives with so many fit and finish issues it’s become a trope of those brands. And to be fair, I could’ve just gotten lucky with my review sample. But Kershaw does generally nail fit and finish, so I’m not inclined to believe this is a fluke. I’m just surprised that I can’t find a single thing wrong.
8. CARRY – 10/10
As mentioned in the “Clip” section, the clip on this thing is pretty darn good, so there are no carry issues that stem from the clip design. Frankly, I have no real gripes with carrying the Kershaw Injection beyond the worn brand name that runs the length of the clip. Again, I would’ve preferred a deep carry clip, but the lack of one doesn’t significantly impact real world carry of the knife.
There is one thing that confuses me slightly: the knife is pretty lightweight (3.3 oz), but is noticeably heavier in the pocket than quite a few other smaller knives, for example the Spyderco Para 3 (3 oz even). This is mostly due to the very substantial stainless steel liners present in the Injection, which I appreciate as they add strength to the frame of the knife. What I don’t understand is why there were no cuts made in the liners to reduce the weight. It seems like it would’ve been a relatively easy things to do, could’ve cut the weight down to below the 3 oz mark, and wouldn’t have decreased the strength of the build in any meaningful way. That would’ve made me happy. With that said, while the Injection carries heavier than some knives, it’s certainly not a burden to carry and would never present a problem unless you’re trying to clip it to your boxers.
9. VERSATILITY – 9/10
The aesthetic of the Injection 3.0 is one that could translate well from work to business-casual to barbecue and back again, although the branding on the clip might give some pause. Said branding — and I suspect the weight as well, for many — will definitely prevent this one from dressing up.
Otherwise, there aren’t many tasks that one can reasonably expect a folding knife to perform that can’t be handled by the Injection 3.0. It’s a very practical design with a versatile shape and grind to the blade, and the handle is easy to hold onto in number of situations, environments, and scenarios. It’s not a tactical knife, but would flex into that role fairly well if it needed to. The blade stock is on the thinner side and may not handle super hard use as well as a knife designed for that, but the steel is soft enough that chipping or snapping won’t be likely unless you put the blade through things that no knife should be. As the blade isn’t truly stainless, I would forget about using it for fishing or anything that’s going to frequently be in close proximity to salt water.
All in all, I would say that this knife has a lot to offer people of various professions, pastimes, and walks of life, and you wouldn’t be in a bad position if this were your only folding pocket knife.
10. MAINTENANCE – 8/10
Maintaining the Injection is a pretty straightforward affair. A T6 torx bit/driver will disassemble the entire thing, the screws are of decent quality, and it came from the factory without any Loctite on it, which was nice.
Any time I carry a knife with stainless liners, I disassemble it before taking it to work and wipe the liners down with Tuf-Cloth. I would advise that on any knife with liners because “stainless” usually translates to “stain-resistant,” not “stain-proof,” and rust/corrosion causing elements can easily get trapped between handle scales and liners, breaking down that stain resistance pretty quickly. I wiped the Injection’s liners down before carrying it the first time and didn’t take it apart again until it’s review period was ending, and the liners had still developed a few small rust spots. Disassembling, cleaning , and wiping down the blade and scales with some kind of anti-corrosion agent every couple weeks would definitely not be a bad idea if you’re planning to put the knife through its paces on a regular basis.
As mentioned earlier, sharpening is easy but will need to be done frequently if the knife is used for much more than opening the occasional package.
A major point to be aware of: putting this back together is more challenging than you might first expect. If you tighten up the body screws even to hand tight, it can make it difficult to get the blade centered while simultaneously leaving the blade loose enough to flick it open. Every time I reassemble it I have to tweak the tightness of various body screws a few times relative to the pivot screws to get the blade centered and deployable at the same time. That might be a tolerance issue specific to my particular knife, but I doubt it. Just keep that in mind when you take it apart; it’s not that difficult to get it back together properly, but it can definitely be frustrating at times.
FINAL SCORE – 90/100
The Kershaw Injection 3.0 really took me by surprise. Where I was expecting yet another garbage knife marketed towards the less informed knife buyers out there, I found a surprisingly well executed, budget friendly, versatile folder that just makes a lot of sense. It also happens to be an affordable iteration of a very high end custom design, for what it’s worth.
This is a good knife. Really damn good. It’s nothing earth-shattering, but it is a shining example of budget conscious quality in a sea of horribly produced low end knives. And the average price on all major knife retail sites at the moment is $12. It’s just a no-brainer. If you’re shopping for a budget folder — hands down, no debate — this is the knife I recommend.
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