The case for backlocks

Does any knife ‘aficionado’ still consider backlocks when buying a new folding knife? There doesn’t seem to be much interest in them, on social media at least. Sure, I understand it. The old venerable backlock can’t compete with the current wide variety of newer and stronger locks. Many modern lock offer more strength, comfortable unlocking, wow-factor and more. However, most cannot easily be unlocked one-handed, with gloves. The backlock might not be the newest, strongest or easiest to operate, but it’s still the ticket for when you work a knife with gloves on.

Personally, I don’t care much which lock is on my folder. I’ve been using so many over the years that my muscle memory can easily transition between linerlock, backlock, and compression lock etc. Strength is not my main consideration for a lock either. After all, I know how to use a knife and my experience using knives hasn’t shown any need for extreme lock strength. My main concern for locks is that they’re reliable, i.e. not defeated by pocket lint and lock up easily each and every time. Another feature I look for in locks is that they’re ambidextrous, since I’m mostly left-handed. So for me, backlocks work just fine.

Another feature of the backlock to consider, is its history. Many quality knifemakers have been making backlocks for a long time. Much longer than most other locks on the market. What’s my point? A backlock from a quality maker is remarkably consistently made. I can still see different levels of lock engagement in linerlocks, integral locks and compression locks. Backlock? Every single one, from Spyderco at least, locks up great the same way straight from the box.

I realize the backlock isn’t the newest or strongest lock on the market today. However, they are very reliable, very lefty friendly and … the best lock to operate when wearing gloves.

4 Responses to The case for backlocks

  1. Brian says:

    My favorite Eric Glesser designs have always been the Manix series. I got to handle Werner’s Manix 2 lockback, and I have to say it is my favorite iteration of Manix. There’s just something about the solid back and the way they’ve really improved the way they conceal the H where the blade meets the lockbar using jimping. I liked it so much that I picked up one of my own.

    Lockbacks are definitely underappreciated, especially Spyderco lockbacks; too many people think lockbacks are necessarily 2 handed closers which is the main reason they don’t likely them, but every Spyderco lockback I’ve seen is designed smartly as a fully 1 hand operation knife, opening and closing. Can’t go wrong with a Spyderco lockback.

  2. H.C. says:

    I don’t mind lock backs as I never really abuse my knives, and I never had a lock back fail when using them.

    One thing I like about lock backs is when the knife is closed, the blade will tend to have a bias towards the closed position. Open the blade a little bit and the lock bar spring will keep the blade safely tucked in.

  3. My first locking folder was a Buck Ranger bought in the early 1970s. I still have it. Locks securely every time. I too consider Spyderco’s lock backs the best available. As Brian pointed out, they easily open and close with one hand and I appreciate the bias to stay closed. Recently I reached the point where I don’t care about locks at all. I have replaced nearly all of my Spydercos with a few Great Eastern Cutlery slip joint, multi-blade pocket knives. No locks, no clips. Bone or wood scale covers. Knives actually made by hand on old machinery from American patterns 100 years old and more. The quality is first rate. When I see (thank you YouTube) local people turning out these little masterpieces in about 200 separate operations the one I hold in my hand has more meaning than a Para 3 Ora Chaparral.
    Things change.

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