Yes it’s true, the Salsa gets no respect, not even from me, because I have had this page on the backburner for several months. The knife isn’t sexy, no good looks and no special purpose like MBC or SAS. Nope, it’s a plain utility knife with a design parameter that must have been something like: make it of ultra legal size and as least threatening as possible, but also, don’t compromise function. The main attraction is in that last part of the design parameters. This knife is small and dare I say ugly? But it sure is well built and designed!
This knife was built like a full size Temperance folder, but shorter … rather than smaller. You get a full handed grip. Not only is this nice for utility cutting, but also for MBC (I prefer the Ti version for that). You don’t have to worry about slipping up the blade with these knives. Especially the Ti model, which surface is rougher than the Aluminum models. But the finger cutouts, cobra hood and the butt resting in your palm, is what makes this knife only come out of your hand when you want it to. Although current versions are right hand only, the access to the compression lock is good enough for lefthanded operation. The handle is a bit uncomfortable when worn left-side IWB. The handle design is my favorite aspect of a tactical folder, and like the Li’l Temperance , the Salsa draws very quickly AND safely. It virtually pops in my hand on it’s own accord.
Most on-line criticism is focussed on the lack of point on this knife, and I sort of agree. Sure I would prefer a little more point, both for utility and MBC. At the same time I also realize that that it would take away from it’s intended looks. I have not encountered anyone that felt this was a weapon. Big? Sure! But a dangerous weapon, no sir! The whole knife takes it’s cue from nature. If I remember my Discovery channel specials correctly, baby animals have evolved to have large rounded features. It’s these big round eyes that make them look cute, and entice the parents to take care of them. The Salsa too, has a big round eye (easy deployment), and large round features. These all combine in a big but harmless looking knife. Although this knife is not my main EDC, it is my first and foremost tactical folder abroad. The Pride is for utility, but the Ti Salsa is for rescue type stuff. Although the point isn’t ‘calypso-sharp’ it is functional for cutting out articles for example. The edge cuts like crazy, which is to be expected from the high(!) flat grind and Spyderco’s usual attention to thin edges.
There are a few changes I would like to suggest though. The clip, now that it is no longer reversible, could be mounted a bit higher, not so much for concealment but more for added carry-comfort (left-side IWB). More importantly, there is one sharp edge left on the handle that should be rounded. The upper corner of the handle (over the pivot) is too sharp, especially for this type of folder. As soon as I get a Dremel tool, this would be one of my first modifications. The clip is a bit too tight as well, especially on my Ti Salsa. The detent on the Ti version is also on the loose side. Although I have NEVER experienced an unintentional opening either when carried in the pocket or IWB, a stronger detent would make me more comfortable. Please note that all these druthers are found on my ti Salsa. I bought the Ti Salsa as soon as they came out, so I probably have a first or second production run knife. Subsequent production runs are likely to have solved these things. The Cranberry Salsa, was purchased during christmas 2003, and it has a souple clip and better detent.
Despite these druthers, let’s summarize the Ti Salsa. Ti handle, integral lock, ATS-34 steel. Mmmm…sounds familiar…Sebenza anyone? in addition to these Sebenza features, you also get improved edge geometry, the opening hole, a more refined lock (more resistant to unaccidental closing) and waaayyy better ergonomics. Sure, the finishing isn’t on par with Chris Reeve’s ground-breaking model, but it is just a wee bit cheaper than the Sebenza 😉
Lest ye not forget, this is a pretty high-level knife. No standard FRN/VG10 here. The Aluminum version does have a few cheaper options; handle material and blade, but the coating is very durable. Normal carry does not wear the coating on the handle. The Salsa is also a welcome guest to people who are a bit afraid of knives. And I could not think of a better travel tactical than my Ti Salsa. The Salsa is really a nice option for us knife-afficionados: whether you just want a friendly utility or high-tech tactical, the Salsa has something for everyone. Sure, I don’t carry it daily, I want more point and blade length for that. But when the holidays come around, first thing I do is dig up my trusty Ti Salsa. That thing probably has more airmiles than I do!