Last fall, I reviewed a small, under-the-radar folding knife from CIVIVI. Dubbed the P87, this compact flipper was among the first mass-market offerings by custom knifemaker and reality TV star Kaila Cumings.
I was so impressed at the time that I closed the piece with these words: “In short, the P87 is another win for CIVIVI. And if Cumings has any new blueprints on the horizon, you can bet we’ll be paying attention.”
Well, she did, and we were. Only this time, the designer has paired with the American-made division of Columbia River Knife & Tool (CRKT) to bring us a tiny slice of fixed-blade heaven: the new CRKT Bugsy.
In addition to its curved 1095 carbon steel edge, sculpted Micarta handles, and intriguing forward swedge, there’s an emerging design language here that’s as visually appealing as it is practical.
But $200 is a long way from the $70 of the P87, USA-made or not. Could Cumings’ first mass-market fixed blade match the accessibility and success of her initial folder? On behalf of GearJunkie (and thanks to a press sample from CRKT), the new Bugsy and I spent a week trying to answer this question.
In short: The CRKT Bugsy ($200) is an exciting new offering from designer Kaila Cumings. Its excellent construction and long-bellied shape make it one of the most versatile small fixed blades I’ve tested. True, you won’t be able to strike a fire steel, and the cost of American manufacturing takes its toll. But from its natural hand-feel to its grippy handle and sheath, the Bugsy is a comfortable, capable companion that makes a solid case for its price tag.
3.78″ (96.06 mm)
7.44″ (188.93 mm)
0.15″ (3.81 mm)
1095 carbon steel
Stonewash (Cerakote on serrated version)
4.3 oz. (121.9 g)
Leather (Kydex on serrated version)
Versatile blade shape
Near-perfect leather sheath
Won’t strike a fire steel
Jimping a bit aggressive with wet hands
Sheath can slide on thin belts
CRKT Bugsy Fixed-Blade Knife Review
For a tool with less than 7.5 inches of total length, the Bugsy feels remarkably solid in hand. This owes, in large part, to the thickness of its 0.15-inch blade stock and the wide slabs of the Micarta handle. The finger grooves and wide spine provide a natural landing place for your digits, locking all of these curved surfaces into your grip.
And once it comes time to cut, the Bugsy is an absolute champ. Sure, it’s a bit wide for fine slices of onions, but the tallness of the blade goes a long way to smoothing the overall performance. Through multiple food-prep sessions, this knife was a solid companion.
CRKT states that the Bugsy’s 1095 steel blade is perfect for hunting. This may be true, but the only butchery I put it through was a 4-pound beef chuck roast, which I can assure you was already dead.
Yet, given the knife’s outstanding grip and the gradual curve of its belly, I feel as though the Bugsy would make an excellent gutting and field-dressing companion.
Before I got to the woods, I figured the Bugsy would be an adequate woodworker. But I didn’t realize just how eagerly its flat grind would bite into timber.
Carving, light batoning, and even an ugly attempt at a feather stick went surprisingly well, cementing the knife’s role as a quality overall tool. And with that generous sharpening choil and toughness of its steel, its edge (once dulled) should spring back to life with ease.
A Premium Sheath for a Premium Knife
There’s an unsung hero here that deserves several words of credit: the sheath. I don’t have a lot of experience with CRKT’s leather, but this low-hanging sheath is one of my new mass-market favorites.
The full-grain material is thick, and the stitching is precise and outstanding. I particularly enjoy the solid retention, which approaches the squeeze of most formed polymers (such as the formed Kydex found on the serrated version).
Yet somehow, the knife is easy to stow and draw with a single hand. If there’s a possible downside here, it may be the generous space of the loop, which allows the knife to slide just a bit on the belt.
But overall, I’m a big fan of this sheath. It’s everything that, for instance, the ESEE JG3’s holster wishes it could be.
Nitpicks and (a Lack of) Rough Edges
Getting back to the knife itself, there’s one thing the JG3 does that the Bugsy won’t: draw sparks from a fire steel.
You’d think this would be almost a given considering the high-carbon content of its blade. But nope, the rounded upper edges are a bit too gentle for striking. Even if you’re not into lighting campfires this way, it also makes the spine less suited for tasks like bark scraping.
I consider this a somewhat minor complaint, as its smoothness is generally easy on the pad of your thumb.
I say “generally,” because there is an exception. While making my way through a stew’s worth of vegetables, I found the Bugsy’s jimping to be just slightly aggressive. This only becomes apparent with the rinsing and handwashing of food prep, once the skin on your hand starts to soften.
Still, by choking further down, I was able to find an effective and comfortable grip.
Lastly, this knife is expensive; $200 is a lot of cash for less than 4 inches of 1095 steel, even if it is made in the U.S.
Yet there’s nothing I can point to that says, “This knife doesn’t live up to its price point.” It is, in fact, a well-executed example of a carefully considered design.
Conclusion: CRKT Bugsy Fixed-Blade Knife
Reading back over this review, I realized that something noteworthy has taken place. A knife from CRKT, once the butt of prejudicial industry jokes, has compared favorably with a fan-favorite like ESEE.
Much of this is due to Cumings’ thoughtful design, with the curves and measured thickness of the handle, spine, and edge. But the company’s manufacturing could have messed this up, U.S.-based or not. Instead, the brand pulled off one of the best small fixed blades I’ve seen this year.
That doesn’t mean there’s nothing to shoot for, however. I’d like to see future iterations of this knife take advantage of the forward swedge, perhaps by sharpening it a bit. That way, users would have a sharp stretch to scrape across tree bark and fire steels.
But overall, the CRKT Bugsy is an outstanding, easy riding, and versatile (if slightly pricey) success.