Blade of Choice

I’ve been asked many times, “what knife do you carry?”  The answer to that question is the Emerson Wave Commander.
The patented Wave hook on the spine of the blade.
I first came across the Wave Commander in 2001 when a friend of mine challenged me to a knife drawing contest.  He was confident he could deploy his folder faster than I could and wanted to show me why.  I accepted the challenge and promptly lost the race.  My friend is named Joe Hawes, a former Navy Seal and a helluva great guy.  Joe was right, the Emerson Wave Commander was lightening fast to deploy, I had never seen anything like it.  The lightning fast opening is a design feature that back in the early 2000′s wasn’t found on any competing folding knife , it was truly revolutionary.  Joe told me, and Emerson confirmed at the NRA show in 2012, that the Wave Commander was developed for the Navy SEALs and quick one handed operation.

The Wave Commander gets its name from the bottle opener looking hook on the spine of its blade.  This patented hook allows the operator to quickly pull the knife from a pocket or a sheath and flick the knife blade open with an authoritative snap.  The hook grabs the inside of your pocket as it’s being drawn and as you complete the draw stroke it unfolds the blade.  When I first witnessed this in action I couldn’t see what was happening because it happened so quickly.  Even at 1/2 speed it’s nearly impossible to detect what is going on.  Once you try it a few times and get the hang of it though, the deployment becomes instinctual and darn near fool proof.  It’s also addicting which can lead to worn out stitching on your pockets.  If you don’t wish to deploy the blade with the wave, the knife features a small thumb wheel recessed into the blade just in front of the hook which is held in place by a small screw.
Given the MSRP of $249 you would hope there’s more to this knife than the little hook on the back of the blade — and there is.   Let’s talk about the dimensions before I move on to the additional features.
The knife has an overall length of 8.75″.  The blade is 3.75″ in length and .125″ in thickness.  The blade is made from 154 CM with a hardness of 57-59 RC.  Closed, the knife has an OAL of 5″.  The handle is about .5″ thick and the knife tips my postal scale at 5oz.
When you first look at the Wave Commander you will notice the sexy lines of the recurved blade.  For a utility knife such a feature is typically considered to be undesirable but in a fighting knife it can produce some vicious wounds.  Since I carry my Commander for personal defense I find the recurve blade to be not only visually appealing but also practical.
The blade features a chisel ground edge which some in the knife community frown upon.  The chisel grind is popular among chiefs but in pocket knives it’s a bit of a rarity.  Emerson claims that extensive testing by the U.S. government/military has proven the chisel grind to be effective for cutting and the simplicity is something Emerson prefers.  What is a chisel grind you may ask?  In essence the blade is sharpened from only one side, in this case the left hand side.  When looking at the blade from the right hand side it looks as though the knife has no edge on it at all.  Emerson chose the left hand side for the grind so that the operator would have a visual cue, which works great for right handed users — it’s not so great for lefties.  My knife also features serrations on the blade but the Commander can be had with or without them.
The spine of the blade features a serrated thumb rest which offers additional control over the knife when used.  The serrations can also be found on the grip liner and extend out about 3/4″ from the rear of the blade in the extended position.  The blade is finished in a black teflon which has held up very well over the years as you can see from the photos.
The locking mechanism is an industry standard liner lock that has a thickness of .05″.  I’ve read comments from others saying that the .05″ thickness is less than desirable and they prefer a thicker lock.  Having carried the knife now for 12 years I can honestly say I’ve never found the lock to be lacking in any way.  I believe Emerson purposely walked a fine line between thickness and weight, choosing the best compromise they could to keep the weight down.  It’s never failed me so I’m content with the thickness and the overall design.The handle has black G-10 grips and a belt clip on the right side which favors right handed users.  Unfortunately there aren’t any provisions on the left side of the knife for a clip.  The G-10 grips offer modest traction after 12 years of use.  When the knife was new the grips were a little more “grippy” but father time has smoothed the grips out.  The G-10 grips ride on a Titanium frame to help reduce the weight of the knife and are secured by (3) small philips head screws on each grip panel.  The grip has a deep recess toward the front which allows your index finger to comfortably fall into it.  The back of the grip has a tear drop shape that fits perfectly in the palm of my hand.  I really like the overal ergonomics of the grip design and have yet to find a knife that fits my hand better.
The one thing that I don’t like about my knife is the large flat head screw that holds the blade to the handle.  Emerson designed the knife so that the operator could quickly and easily “field strip” it should the need arise.  What I’ve found is that I must tighten this screw fairly frequently to maintain the proper tension.  I’ve never had the screw back completely out but it does loosen over time which then allows the blade to wobble from side to side in the grip.  One solution is to use Loctite but I prefer not to.  I’ve become accustom to checking the screw regularly and adjusting the tension with a thumb nail.  I hear Emerson has since corrected this issue on more recently manufactured knives.
I’ve been so impressed with this knife that I’ve happily carried it for over a decade.  I’ve tried other knives but for me the Wave Commander is the perfect knife and it’s not something I’m willing to give up.  This is one of the major reasons why I don’t do regular knife reviews.  To do an honest review I would have to carry a knife for months and use it frequently to get a feel for it.  I don’t want to leave the house without my Emerson!


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