The Spyderco Salsa is one of those oddball designs that just can’t get any respect. However, what many ‘presumed’ knife guys call a ‘weird design’ is often an attempt to create something new. That is no different with the Salsa. It probably was Spyderco’s first true lil’ big knives. A full sized folding knife that tried to hide in plain sight from non-knife people.
The Salsa was introduced in 2002. Looking back, it’s no surprise that it arrived when it did. Right after 9/11, many strict knife laws were introduced. Knives had to become smaller. This is a challenge for many knife makers. However, Spyderco has been working with the issue of public perception of (their) knives since the beginning. The Spyderco round hole allowed for one-hand opening as quick as any automatic. It was no accident that the blunt-tipped Mariner was introduced before the Police model. Many people thought these fast opening (and fiercely serrated) blades looked ‘scary’. The C09 Co-Pilot was introduced in 1990, and was intended to be a knife one could take anywhere, even on an airplane. Times have changed, but Spyderco never stood still. And I feel they were better prepared than most knife companies for the post 9/11 knife world.
Width for length
What makes the Salsa a little big knife to me at least, is the fact that it compensated a lack of length, with width. It sports a 2,5 inch long blade. But that blade is literally as wide as a Military. Why? Easy, it makes the knife cut better than a narrower blade. The same goes for the handle The Salsa is as substantial and easy to grip as a large folder. The Salsa actually looks remarkably similar to the famous Lil’ Temperance 1 and 2 (and 3).
The C71 was also one of the first Spydies with a wireclip. It wasn’t the fold-over type many prefer now. The Salsa doesn’t carry deep in a pocket, but that only makes it easier to draw. Also, the wireclip is much more ergonomic in the hand for use, adding to the ‘working- aspect’ of the design.
Looking back, the steels the Salsa was offered in, do not seem very spectacular. However, ATS 34 was considered a premium steel at the time. AUS-8 on the aluminum versions was understood to be a cost saving feature, but that still nothing to sneeze at – at the time the Salsa was introduced.
Another interesting feature of the Salsa is its friendly looks. The rounded tip, those friendly round curves, big opening hole and bright colors. The aluminum version could be had in bright blue, green or red (and grey). What else is small, round and has big eyes? Right, puppies and babies. I have no doubt the Salsa’s round shape and big opening hole were conscious design decisions. They’re functional and make the knife look like a very non-threatening tool to many non-knife people.
The Salsa truly performs like a much bigger knife, and its looks evoke a much smaller knife. The design, however, never really caught on. It enjoyed a fine 2 year production run, which is usual for many new designs in the Spyderco catalog. But it ain’t no ParaMilitary 2, in terms of popularity and sales. For the aficionado, the Salsa offers a few nice touches. The Titanium version was the second folder, after the ATR, to feature and integral compression lock, as well as a cobra hood. The profile, and feel of the handle, is almost the same as the venerable Lil’ Temperance. Another interesting first for the Salsa was its country of manufacture, Taiwan. The Salsa set up many things we enjoy today. The 2020 Spyderco catalog features many very refined smaller knives that perform like much bigger knives. Granted they aren’t as wide as the Salsa was, but the performance is there.
The Salsa is a very capable high performance tactical folder that happens to look like an unassuming pocket knife. If you get a chance to try one out, I highly recommend it.