December 10, 2022

Spotter Up

In Depth Tactical Solutions

Hands-On with the New Benchmade SOCP Tactical Folder

10 min read

Benchmade 391SBK SOCP Tactical Folder

Legendary W. E. Fairbairn demonstrating art of “Silent Killing” at Camp X, known officially as Special Training School (STS) 103, the top secret World War II covert operative training school in Canada, in July 1942. Photo courtesy Lynn Philip Hodgson, author of Inside Camp-X. Learn more about Camp X at Hodgson’s website,

In close-quarter fighting there is no more deadly weapon than the knife. In choosing a knife there are two important factors to bear in mind: balance and keenness.” W. E. Fairbairn, Get Tough! (1942).

I have always had an affinity for edged weapons, as I’m certain so do most readers. And “fighting knives” have always held a special appeal. Naturally, when Benchmade® Knife Company announced it was adding a new folding knife to its popular SOCP® family of Black Class (professional use) knives, I knew that I had to get my hands on one for review.

As with the other knives in the Benchmade SOCP family, the Benchmade SOCP Tactical Folder® was designed in conjunction with Greg Thompson, the creator of SOCP (Special Operations Combatives Program®) which became the first officially designated combatives program for all US Army Special Operations Forces.

Thompson, who has been training Special Operations Units since 1998, developed the original SOCP Dagger to bridge the gap between hand-to-knife and knife-to-gun rapid access and transition during hand-to-hand combat. It was designed to create space and distance.

The SOCP Tactical Folder is designed to complement the other fixed blade options in the SOCP line. According to Thompson, it’s designed to be a primary weapon, as well as a backup.

There’s a definite place fror an edged weapon when we can’t be or aren’t armed with a firearm. And in a close-quarters lethal-force encounter, we may not have the time or ability to deploy our firearm. Empty hand, knife and gun need to be (or become) an integrated skill set.

Benchmade SOCP Tactical Folder

The new SOCP Tactical Folder is actually a redesign of an earlier model that was introduced by Benchmade in 2018. The redesign is the result of input from users. It’s intended for both on and off-duty carry.

Like its predecessor, it’s an easily concealed defensive tool that can be employed for both lethal and less-lethal/non-lethal purposes. It’s designed to provide a single tool with multi-level force capability options on the escalation-of-force/use-of-force continuum. With the blade closed, the SOCP Tactical Folder can be used as a fist load, impact weapon, pressure-point pain-compliance tool and for joint manipulation. It’s also a capable folder for everyday utility tasks.

The SOCP Tactical Folder is a long, lean and mean knife that has been designed to carry discreetly. It has a slender 4.47-inch (11.35 cm) single-edge spear point blade with a swedge (false edge) that runs almost the length of the blade. It has the longest blade of any Benchmade folder currently in production. The blade is 0.121-inch (3.658 mm) thick. Overall length when open is 10.13 inches (25.73 cm). Closed length is 5.66 inches (14.38 cm). The knife weighs 4.10 ounces (116.23 g) and has an 0.508-inch (12.90 mm) thick handle.

SOCP Tactical Folder is largest folding knife currently in production by Benchmade. It has 4.47-inch D2 tool steel spear-point blade. The knife has a AXIS Lock and is manual opening with a thumb disk. It has excellent balance and ergonomics.

The spear point blade provides a good balance between piercing and slicing ability. The spear point concentrates 100% of the thrust force along the exact centerline of the knife. It combines the sharp point of a dagger with the strength of a drop point blade, while retaining some of the belly for slicing. The swedge enhances penetration while also reducing the weight and counter-balancing the handle.

The SOCP Tactical Folder is available with either a plain edge (391BK SOCP Tactical Folder) or serrated (391SBK SOCP Tactical Folder). Whatever your personal preference, Benchmade’s got you covered.

Benchmade provided me with the serrated version for evaluation. Although I prefer a plain edge for purely defensive work, a tactical folder will be tasked with performing a broad spectrum of tasks as a cutting tool.

The serrated version is actually partially serrated. It offers the advantages the plain edge for precise push cuts and the advantages of the serrated edge for slicing cuts, especially through tougher or fibrous materials, such as rope and seat belt webbing. Tough tasks can be handled by the serrated edge saving the plain edge of the blade. The serrated edge is a functionally longer cutting surface, so it will hold up longer without needing to be resharpened. Most of the edge on the serrated SOCP Tactical Folder is a plain edge allowing you to still make long clean cuts. The drawback to the serrations is that they aren’t as simple to resharpen, although with the proper sharpening tool and technique it’s not a daunting task.

Benchmade went with D2 tool steel (60-62 HRC) for the blade. D2 is a versatile high-carbon, high-chromium, air-hardened semi-stainless tool steel. It has high wear and abrasion resistant properties due to numerous chromium-rich carbides in the micro-structure. D2 holds an edge well. The sample knife came razor-sharp out of the box.

The blade has a matte-black Cerakote® non-reflective coating. Originally developed for use on automotive parts such as racing headers, Cerakote has become very popular as a firearms coating and with knifemakers. It’s a hard, durable baked-on thin-film ceramic coating with good corrosion resistance and high lubricity.

The SOCP Tactical Folder features a flat-sided-oval thumb disk for improved purchase and easy ambidextrous opening, black molded CF-Elite scales, double 410 stainless steel full-size liners that are drilled for weight reduction, center barrel space, a partially open back with a CF-Elite back-spacer, and Benchmade’s patented AXIS® Lock locking mechanism. Phosphor bronze washers provide smooth blade deployment. The earlier model was of liner lock design with checkered G10 scales and a circular thumb disk.

SOCP Tactical Folder features a tungsten carbide glass breaker in butt of handle. It also enhances its effectiveness as a pressure-point pain-compliance tool and impact weapon.

The AXIS Lock was introduced in 1988. It was originally made and patented by custom knifemakers Bill McHenry and Jason Williams, from whom Benchmade bought the rights. It was an immediate hit and has spurred a host of similar designs from other makers

The AXIS Lock has a number of advantages over conventional locks, such as the liner and lock back. It’s strong, smooth, completely ambidextrous and allows you to close the knife without ever placing your fingers in the path of the blade. It’s also somewhat less prone to torque failure. Another plus to the AXIS Lock is that it allows for very easy inertia opening.

The AXIS Lock works using a small hardened steel spring-loaded round cross-bar that moves in a machined groove in the liners and engages a notch in the tang of the blade when the knife is opened. The bar is held in place by the hardened steel liners, so it’s very secure. The stop pin positions the blade for additional strength and reliability. The AXiS Lock mechanism also serves as a detent to hold the blade in the closed position. It’s self-adjusting for wear.

The AXIS Lock utilizes two omega springs, which provide a degree of redundancy. For the lock to fail, both springs would have to fail at the same time. If a spring is about to fail, it will generally first manifest itself in the lock engaging or disengaging unevenly. Lockup is very secure. There’s no perceptible blade play in the sample knife that I received.

The new CF-Elite scales are impressive. CF-Elite is a new carbon-fiber reinforced nylon polymer from Benchmade that comes from the automotive and aerospace industries. The carbon fiber is integrated throughout the polymer, not as a single layer. It has a high strength-to-weight ratio. It provides a 50% increase in rigiity and is 17% lighter compared to Benchmade’s Grivory® (glass-fiber reinforced nylon co-polymer). They look great too.

The scales on the SOCP Tactical Folder are scalloped and feature deep grooves for a secure grip. Smooth dimples in the scales provide additional security and provide indexing reference to allow for rapid hand and grip transitions. Jimping along the handle edge in all the right places and on the blade spine behind the thumb disk gives additional purchase and control. A discreet but strong tungsten carbide glass breaker in the butt completes the package.

SOCP Tactical Folder comes with a unique deep-carry rapid-deployment mini-clip that’s designed for concealment. The low-profile clip is hidden under belt when knife is clipped inside the waistband. Rapid deployment ring in clip assists in draw.

The SOCP Tactical Folder is well-balanced and comfortable in the hand. The handle features a slim, neutral shape that’s been designed to be equally comfortable with a forward or reverse grip. There aren’t any hotspots other than, of course, the clip. It provides a precise grip that, coupled with the blade’s design, makes it well suited as a fighting knife.

The SOCP Tactical Folder lacks the finger/retention ring found on the SOCP fixed blades. The finger ring on SOCP fixed blades is designed to facilitate full use of the hand to perform tasks without having to let go of the knife and to facilitate knife-to-firearm transitions.

The new SOCP Tactical Folder comes with two pocket/clothing clips a conventional quasi-deep-carry clip and a unique deep–carry rapid-deployment mini clip. The clips are made of blackened stainless steel.

It’s important to have a knife that you can access with either hand. The SOCP Tactical Folder allows for tip-up/tip-down and left/right carry. When carried as a backup to a firearm, a knife will typically be carried on the offside where you can access it when you can’t access your firearm.

The knife comes out of the box with the conventional clip mounted for tip-up right-hand carry. A T6 Torx wrench and a tube of Blue Loctite® are included with the knife, should you wish to change the clips or position.

The rapid-deployment mini clip that’s also included with the SOCP Tactical Folder is one of the most ingenious clip designs that I’ve seen. It doesn’t look like a typical knife clip. It features an integral “rapid-deployment ring” that provides finger purchase to allow the knife to be quickly deployed from concealment. It works extremely well.

The rapid-deployment mini clip is purpose designed for concealment. Due to its short length, It will fit completely behind your belt (including men’s dress belts) so it can’t be seen when the knife is clipped inside your waistband. The knife rides deep so it too isn’t exposed. The rapid-deployment mini clip also allows the you to clip the knife inside your shirt placket when a tie is worn, with the clip concealed by your tie.

Thompson recommends mounting the rapid-deployment mini clip for tip-down carry. Although I normally prefer tip-up carry, utilizing the tip-down position in conjunction with the rapid-deployment ring allows the knife to be drawn already referenced for deployment so no hand adjustments need to be made. It should be noted that when the rapid-deployment mini clip is mounted for tip-down carry on the new model, the rapid-deployment ring will partially cover the AXIS Lock bar on the side that the clip is mounted. But being ambidextrous, the AXIS Lock mechanism can still be easily operated.

The SOCP Tactical Folder is MOLLE compatible, with a caveat. I had no issues slipping it into ta PALS standard 1.5-inch (3.8 cm) wide webbing channel in the tip-down carry position, firmly securing the knife but allowing it to be quickly drawn. However, Thompson advises that while the SOCP Tactical Folder fits most standard fabric MOLLE systems, it may not fit in the newer, ultralight systems.

A Trainer version of the  SOCP Tactical Folder is available. Photo courtesy Benchmade.

Benchmade SOCP Tactical Folder Trainer

Benchmade also offers a Trainer version (391T SOCP Tactical Folder). The blade on the Trainer is completely unsharpened and has a blunt tip, with drilled holes in the blade to mimic the balance of the live blade.The blade on the Trainer is 440C (59-60 HRC) stainless steel. The Trainer has a red blade, clip and spacer to designate it as a trainer at a glance. It’s identical to the live-blade SOCP Tactical Folder in all other respects.

To Sum Up

To sum it alll up, the new SOCP Tactical Folder is a worthy succesor to the original. It’s an exceptionally well-thought out and well-made tactical folder that meets all of its intended design parameters. It’s an outstanding knife. Fit and finish on the sample provided to me is excellent.

The SOCP Tactical Folder is made in the USA. It comes with Benchmade’s Limited Lifetime Warranty and LifeSharp® sharpening service. The LifeSharp service doesn’t apply to any serrated portion of the blade.

MSRP for either the plain-edge (391BK SOCP Tactical Folder) or serrated version (391SBK SOCP Tactical Folder) is $190. The Trainer (391T SOCP Tactical Folder) has a MSRP of $175. Personalized custom lasermarking is available at a very reasonable additional cost.


Manufacturer: Benchmade Knife Company
Model: SOCP Tactical Folder
Designer: Greg Thompson
Class: Benchmade Black Class (Professional Use)
Type: Folder
Mechanism: AXIS Lock
Action: Manual Opening, Thumb Disk
Blade Length: 4.47″ (11.35 cm)
Blade Thickness: 0.121″ (3.658 mm)
Overall Length: 10.13″ (25.73 cm)
Closed Length: 5.66” (14.38 cm)
Blade Steel: D2 Tool Steel (60-62 HRC)
Handle Thickness: 0.508” (12.90 mm
Weight: 4.10 oz. (116.23 g)
Blade Edge: Plain or Serrated. Trainer available.
Blade Style: Spear Point
Blade Finish: Black Cerakote
Clip Type: Standard Quasi Deep-Carry Clip; Deep-Carry Rapid-Deployment Mini Clip w/ Rapid-Deployment Ring
Clip Position: Reversible, Tip-Up/Tip-Down
Glass Breaker: Yes
Lanyard Hole: Yes
Handle Material: Black CF-Elite
Liners: 410 Stainless Steel
SheathType: N/A
MOLLE Compatible: Yes (Most fabric MOLLE systems. May not fit newer, ultralight systems)
Origin: USA
Use: Tactical, Rescue
Warranty: Limited Lifetime
Suggested Retail: $190.00 (Trainer $175.00)

Material Disclosure

I received this product as a courtesy from the manufacturer via Spotter Up so I could test it and give my honest feedback. I am not bound by any written, verbal, or implied contract to give this product a good review. All opinions are my own and are based off my personal experience with the product.

*The views and opinions expressed on this website are solely those of the original authors and contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of Spotter Up Magazine, the administrative staff, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

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