Interested in the Benchmade 140 Nimravus Survival Knife?
Want to know more about it before you buy?
Check out our review below.
Survival Knife Review: Benchmade 140 Nimravus Fixed Blade Knife
In previous articles, we discussed choosing a fixed blade survival knife. Check them out in the links below:
A knife is one of the more important pieces of equipment you can have with you in a survival situation. As such, a good, survival appropriate, fixed blade knife is your best choice for inclusion in a survival kit or BOB (Bug Out Bag) or equivalent, and/or to be strapped on when an emergency is likely. In this article, we will consider a contender for “Best Survival Knife”.
As mentioned in the general articles, there are two classes of fixed blade knife which can be appropriate for survival scenarios, the “bush” (medium) knife and the “field” (large) knife. This knife belongs to the bush class.
Why did I consider this knife?
I’ve always been a fan of Benchmade pocket knives since their start in 1988 with the Bali-song (butterfly knife). From that humble beginning, they have grown into one of the premier knife companies, and today, they make a couple of the best survival pocket knives I’ve found based on their Griptilian model. So I was happy they have some fixed blade models which look promising.
Of course, finding one in my price range was a bit of a challenge. Finally, I came across a Nimravus I could afford; unfortunately it is the serrated version, but that should not prevent a reasonable evaluation. Impressively, this model is one of their “Black” grade knives, made for the “professional”. This model is the 140; there is a 141 model with a Tanto style blade, which would be less optimal for survival usage.
In addition to a lifetime warranty, typical of many quality knife companies, Benchmade offers the “LifeSharp” service, where they will resharpen your knife to factory razor sharpness any time you want. Although only send a knife to Benchmade if you got it from an authorized dealer, as they can confiscate or destroy any knives determined to be “counterfeit”, without reimbursing you.
|Blade Length||4.5″||Overall Length||9.5″|
|Blade Width||1″||Weight (Knife Only)||5.5 oz|
|Blade Steel||154CM||Grip Material||Aluminum|
|Blade Shape||Drop Point||Guard Type||Half, Molded into the tang|
|Blade Grind||Saber||False Edge||No|
|Blade Thickness||0.115″||Spine “Jimping”||Yes|
|Choil||Yes (or equivalent)||Lanyard Hole||Yes|
Special Features: Available with or without serrations, Matte dark blade coating
This is a very impressive knife. The grips are fairly thin, but comfortable and secure in all grips, and the dark coating makes the knife less obtrusive than knives with thicker or lighter colored grips would be. The grips are ridged towards the rear, for optimal slip resistance forward, good for stabbing. Slip resistance is good with the hand wet or dry, and satisfactory with a bit of vegetable oil. Most of the guard is a cut out in the tang, but this is more comfortable than others of this style. The jimping is on a slight ramp, and is a very effective combination. Balance is a bit far behind the guard, which appears to be the case in about half of the bush knives I’ve tried, but it feels fine in the hand, and despite a relatively heavy handle, is very nimble.
The knife is scary sharp. My hairs tend to flatten out ahead of razors, and a “razor edge” usually only manages to cut off some of the hairs. This one got them all, easily.
From the pictures, the non-serrated version appears to have a standard choil. The serrated version does not have a choil, per se, but the straight edge runs into the serrations, which provides an equivalent advantage when sharpening. In the eBay market, serrated seems to be more often at the cheaper prices; it is not clear whether this because they make more of them, or that the non-serrated version tends to sell more easily.
The edges of the spine are not particularly sharp and have a smooth coating, so it is unlikely they will be useful
The lanyard hole is a bit small, but you can eventually work a length of paracord through it. The edges of the lanyard hole are not rounded, so check your lanyard for wear every now and again. The hole is through the tang, so it would not be practical to bevel the edges. .
The blade coating is smooth, so should not have any impact on cutting functions, and does not reflect light.
The end of the tang extends a bit, but it is somewhat rounded and off center, and the grip is quite short, so it is not universally useful either as a glass breaker or a “skull cracker”.
The sheath is kind of unusual, but appears to be useful and versatile in ways to attach it. Retention is pretty good.
Benchmade claims this is their “all-time best-selling combat fixed blade“, which I initially found to be a bit odd. Of course, it is better for combat than many bush knives, but it is not optimal for that purpose. But then, checking through their line, I found that Benchmade doesn’t have a fixed blade model which appears to be a better combat knife, and there is that Tanto blade version, which would be even a bit better for combat. But I digress. The important thing is whether this is a good SURVIVAL knife, and although it is an excellent knife, I’m not sure how well it will do at some survival tasks.
This is made of 154CM, a high grade, American made, stainless steel, one of the most commonly used in moderately high end knives these days. It is similar to the previous “champ”, ATS-34. The steelmaker uses a particle metallurgy process which produces a product with a more uniform microstructure, resulting in a more reliable steel with a finer edge less prone to chipping.
The knife came with an exceptional edge, so I did not try sharpening it. After fifty slices through cardboard it did not suffer any significant razor sharpness. As expected, the sharpness sliced the cardboard easier than other knives I’ve tested.
To summarize, it appears that the steel has good rust resistance, high strength, superior edge capability, fair or better ease of sharpening, moderate resistance to chipping and good edge holding capability.
- Cutting cord – This is often necessary during construction of shelter, fishing, sewing and making snares and traps, as well as other times. As the most commonly available to survivalists, I tried fish line and paracord, as well as 3/8″ Manila and 3/4″ Sisal, just because fish line and paracord would seem to be trivial for any knife worth having. Cutting the fish line was no problem, as was cutting paracord both under tension and laying on a flat surface. It went right through the Manila and Sisal, and I didn’t even “cheat” and use the serrations.
- Making notches in branches – This could be required for shelter construction and making snares or traps, as well as other times. This did rather well at this. It seemed to cut with the grain nicely, and was sharp enough to make the perpendicular stop cut adequately. It is so sharp, that it was important to keep the stop cut current, otherwise it would just keep going past where I wanted it to stop.
- Trimming/Sharpening/smoothing branches – This would be for shelter construction, as well as making arrows, spears, stakes, walking sticks and even bows. The knife did a very good job of this, even considering I used the forward part of the blade, since the rear part was serrated.
- Pounding in stakes – This could be required for making shelters, snares and traps. This knife is not set up to perform this function.
- Use with a magnesium bar or ferrocerium rod is just barely possible using the edge of the spine; it not only does not shave or spark well, but it marks up the blade coating on the side of the blade, and removes it entirely from the edge of the spine. Use the edge; it does not cause any visible damage.
- Making a “featherstick” with this knife is fairly easy; it can make your choice of big or small curls, just be careful because without sufficient control, those curls will be hitting the ground rather than staying attached to the base stick.
- Drilling a hole (for a fire drill) was fairly easy, although the result was a smaller and less smooth hole than previous knives. The tip is a bit thin and is stainless steel, so try to avoid extreme stress on the tip.
- Batoning for access to tinder or making kindling from logs worked pretty well. The shortness of the blade limited the width that could be handled, but the serrations did not seem to have any negative effect. There were minor marks, more smudges than scratches, in the blade coating after this test.
– Use as a throwing knife – A word to the wise, don’t. If you throw your knife, you may not get it back, or it can be damaged, particularly if it is made of stainless steel which is a bit brittle. I did not try throwing this, as the cost was too high to dare risking chipping or breaking it.
– Use as a spear – Turning your knife into a spear gives you additional reach, but throwing a spear made of a stainless steel knife is more susceptible to damage than is acceptable. Besides, the grip panels appear to be unable to be removed, so this will need to be lashed “to” the shaft, meaning it will be fairly off center and not throw well any way.
– This chops veggies pretty well and the blade shape should be decent for skinning and butchering, although possibly a bit narrow. It is likely to be decent for filleting as well.
– Digging for grubs and bait. It is hard to imagine anything which can dull or damage a knife quicker than digging with it, and stainless is at risk of chipping if it hits a rock, so I don’t recommend using this knife for digging.
– Sticks or fronds – For shelter and other construction, splints and firewood. This knife is just too light and wrongly balanced to chop well; taking many strokes to get through a half inch branch. This is not unacceptable in a bush knife, but does make also having a good field knife a useful choice.
– The grip and point are not the best possible for combat, but they are quite decent. The balance and relative narrowness of the blade make it more appropriate for combat than many bush knives. The blade length is too short to be exceptional, but is adequate in many cases. There is, of course, little protection from your opponents blade, but it is better at preventing your hand from sliding onto your own blade than many knives of this design. I would say this knife could actually be considered a “combat” knife.
The sheath, as mentioned, is a bit unusual. Made of nylon, it appears to be quite high quality. It is a “dangler” style; that is, has a belt loop portion, a ring, then the sheath itself. The advantage of this is that it rides low, and flexes with body movement. The down side is that it flops around unless you use a leg tie, which is included. The belt loop is closed with Velcro, so you can add or remove it from your belt without disturbing anything else on the belt, or even detach the belt loop from the sheath if you don’t need it.
On the back is something called a “Malice” clip which should allow you to fasten it to a Molle panel or other military style attachment methodologies. Above that is a Velcro closed loop, which I presume is for belt carry in the “high” position more common for bush knives. There is a piece of Velcro INSIDE this loop, which may be to prevent movement on the belt, assuming it has the matching Velcro.
The front of the sheath has two nylon straps across it, so perhaps a small Molle pouch could be attached. Retention is by a rugged, snap closed grip strap. The blade liner appears to be thick enough, but there is nothing to keep you from inserting the knife between the nylon and the liner, which probably would be disastrous in the long run.
The liner does not appear to be fitted, but there is a bit of friction, so there is no rattle. The knife can be inserted “backwards” without difficulty, so could be carried in a left hand position.
From Benchmade, you can get replacement sheaths in black or coyote brown, or a Kydex sheath with thumb break. It does not appear to have caught on with the custom sheath makers.
Price and Availability
The list price of the Nimvarus at this point in time is $185.00. You can usually find them new on eBay for $130 or so; occasionally used or even new ones can be had for $100 or even less.
It is listed as being in stock at the company, and there are a bunch of people selling it new and used on eBay, as auctions (perhaps cheaper) and Buy It Now (quicker). Amazon seems to have a higher price, and it is on the Prime program, plus, tax will be added.
Oddly enough, by the end of testing, I noted that streaks of aluminum were showing through the black of the grips. This was a major surprise, as I did not do anything (such as trying to throw the knife) which could reasonably be expected to cause this.
The included sheath is very nice, and does well for carrying and drawing the knife. As mentioned, it has a problem when sheathing the knife; you have to be careful to get it IN the proper slot, not with that sharp edge against thin nylon. Why is such care suggested? It is possible that while inserting, carrying, or drawing it with the knife outside the blade protector, that it could slit the sheath down the side, with a potential of loss of the knife or injury to the user. If I were going to use this knife for survival, I would look into the accessory Kydex sheath, or, at the very least, try squirting in some really tough glue between the blade protector and the front layer of the sheath, making sure to have a really good bead across that top edge.
Would I use this knife for survival? My initial take was probably not, but as I progressed through the tests, I was impressed. I still would not rely on it by itself because of its poor chopping ability, but as the bush knife in a bush/field knife set, it has potential. Particularly if the field knife was inappropriate for combat usage. Also, I have been considering stainless steel as a second choice for survival usage, but this knife and others tested during the same time cause me to accept that stainless steel can be a valid alternative to carbon steel.