Kizer Cutlery makes great folding knives that are affordable.

This Quality Budget Brand is Making Great Custom Knives Affordable

Kizer been working their way into the mainstream with heavy hitting designs for a while. High priced knives like the Sheepdog and the Kane have a place in small sections of the knife-collecting community that aren’t completely against Chinese manufacturing. Kizer really hit a new stride when they started the premium Vanguard series a few years ago. It’s a simple concept where they mostly take high end knives, cut the size down a bit and use materials with a softer price point (mostly VG-10 steel and G-10 scales). A lot of those designs are actually adapted from their more upscale Blade Smith and Prime series, which is where many of their first collaborations with designers are introduced before they decide what to filter down to their low-cost lines. If there’s something here that you like, but would prefer in titanium or S30V steel, Kizer probably makes that version as well.

Most of the Vanguard line sits around the $50 – $80. I know even $80 can be steep for some people, so I’ve separated this list roughly into two categories: those below $75 and those above. But keep in mind these prices change all the time. A lot of vendors, particularly Amazon, run specials on Kizer knives quite a bit, so you might find one of these knives shifting categories every now and then.

Under $75

Over $75

 

Vanguards Below $75

Vanguard Mini Sheepdog

Black handled Kizer Vanguard Mini Sheepdog pocked knife.

  • Overall Length: 5.77”
  • Blade length: 2.63”
  • Blade Steel: VG-10
  • Style: Sheepsfoot
  • Grind: Flat
  • Handle Material: G-10
  • Weight: 3.17 oz
  • Lock Type: Liner lock
  • Designer: Chris Conway

This is a long overdue evolution of the regular Kizer Sheepdog designed by Chris Conway, which is significantly larger and heavier due to the titanium handle. It’s also significantly more expensive than this Mini version in the Vanguard series. The Mini Sheepsfoot becomes a really nice casual utility carry with a blade coming under the 3-inch mark, and a much more lightweight set of materials. This design is probably close to attaining classic status in the sheepsfoot blade category down the road, especially now that Kizer made it a much simpler carry with the smaller design. The Mini Sheepdog is a pretty neat cleaver to have. The whole thing fits pretty nicely into the hand so blade control comes easy, especially if you choke it up and rest a thumb a long the spine. The flat grind makes it pretty good for a lot of different things for camping like feathering or food prep. The extreme shape of the blade might make it hard to use for some jobs, but it’s a well built working knife that’s easy to pack around.

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Domin Mini

The Domin Mini folding knife is a great choice if you are looking for a durable folding knife with a blade under 3 inches.

  • Overall Length: 6.875”
  • Blade length: 2.875
  • Blade Steel: Bohler N690
  • Style: Drop point
  • Grind: Flat
  • Handle Material: G-10
  • Weight: 2.93 oz
  • Lock Type: Liner

This is one of the first of Kizer’s inspired run of mini versions of their more popular designs. The Domin comes off as an easy transition to an under-3-inch blade. It has the aesthetic of a borderline gentleman carry, so taking it into a more legal-friendly size opens it up to a lot more people wanting to pack this kind of thing around the office or city limits in general. It’s interesting that Kizer switched the steel on this from the VG-10 of the regular version to a Bohler N690, which is arguably a better (mostly harder) steel and a little more expensive. I don’t mind the change. The two steels are comparable, but it does keep the Mini Domin price pretty close to the regular sized version. But if you don’t mind paying about the same for a little less knife, I actually think this design is better as a small blade.

Vanguard Dukes

The Kizer Dukes Vanguard pocked knife with black handle.

 

  • Overall Length: 7.1”
  • Blade Length: 3.0”
  • Blade Steel: VG-10
  • Style: Drop point
  • Grind: Hollow
  • Handle Material: G-10
  • Weight: 2.7 oz
  • Lock Type: Liner
  • Designer: Matt Cucchiara

The Vanguard version of the Dukes is actually pretty close to the original version. There’s maybe an inch difference in length and about half the weight. In terms of flipping action, this is probably the best option. One of the Vanguard series’ faults is that opening can be a little too sloppy or tight on some of them because they use washers in the pivot system. The Dukes design is all about flipping though, so they keep the ball bearing system. I’m not sure if they’re ceramic in this version, but the action is still butter smooth. The profile of the knife reminds me a bit of the Begleiter (which you’ll see below), so if the style suits you but you don’t like flippers, you’ve got a pretty close alternative.

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Vanguard Begleiter

The Kizer Vanguard Series Begleiter pocket knife with blue handle.

 

 

  • Overall Length: 8.17”
  • Blade Length: 3.58”
  • Blade Steel: VG-10
  • Style: Drop point
  • Grind: Flat
  • Handle Material: G-10
  • Weight: 3.7 oz
  • Lock Type: Liner
  • Designer: Azo

The Begleiter seems to be one of the few Kizer Vanguard knives that wasn’t ported from an original custom design (which might account for its general lack of personality), but it’s also one of the most reasonably priced, and the one I have the most personal experience with. Kizer made a solid gentleman EDC with this. It has a slim-looking profile that belies its actual length and width, and it’s a fantastic slicer with nice handle ergonomics. The whole thing is nice, which I guess makes sense since the name is supposedly German for “Companion”. It’s a good friend to have around, even if it is a little boring sometimes.

If you’d like to know a little more about how it does in the field, check out my review.

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V3 Vigor

Green Kizer Vanguard Vigor pocket knife.

 

  • Overall Length: 6.9”
  • Blade Length: 3.0”
  • Blade Steel: VG-10
  • Blade Style: Drop point
  • Grind: Hollow
  • Handle Material: G-10
  • Weight: 4.11 oz
  • Lock type: Liner lock
  • Designer: Kim Ning

I see the Vigor as an alternative to the Gemini for people who aren’t into flippers or just want a decent EDC around $50. The Vigor isn’t sporting any specific features to make it stand out. It’s not even based on a custom design as far as I know. It’s just a simple design with a good fit and finish and a nice edge that can be right or left-handed carry. And usually this will be one of the cheapest Kizer Vanguards you can find. One thing that might be a plus or minus depending on who you are is the slight recurve in the blade. It’s hard to see in most pictures, but it’s there. In situations where you’re slicing with the full blade it might help with a bit of extra grip, and then it might annoy you later when you’re trying to sharpen it. It’s not a huge deal, but be aware of that.

I’ve been seeing the ripples of a discontinuation for this knife, but as of the last time I updated this blog it was still very much available from a few different vendors. I half suspect Kizer is phasing it out for the Hunter which is pretty similar in design.

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Vanguard Bolt

The Kizer Vanguard Bolt folding knife with red and black handle.

 

  • Overall Length: 8.0”
  • Blade Length: 3.5”
  • Blade Steel: VG-10
  • Style: Drop point
  • Grind: Hollow
  • Handle Material: G-10
  • Weight: 4.5 oz
  • Lock type: Liner lock
  • Designer: Azo

This blade shape is interesting. Specifications say drop point, but the way the spine juts out like that seems like it should be called a reverse clip point, if “reverse clip point” was a thing. This is one of the hefty knives of the Vanguard population. The Bolt spreads out to a full 8 inches with a wide blade. In fact, it looks like a close, slightly smaller, thumb-stud cousin to the Laconico Intrepid, except the Bolt is typically $20 to $30 cheaper. The handle has some light contouring for fingers, which I actually have mixed feelings about. I think it’s better to just texture the handle because everybody’s hands are different, but the ripples are small enough that if they rest on your fingers at an angle you won’t feel them that much. They’ve also set holes for the pocket clip in both the top and bottom of the handle so you can carry this tip up and tip down, making this a fairly tough, versatile carry for those with (literal) deep pockets.

Pretty sure the Bolt will be leaving shelves entirely pretty soon, so if you like the design you should definitely pick it up quick.

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Vanguards Above $75

Degnan Roach

The Kizer Vanguard Degnin Roach is a practical folding pock knife under $75.

  • Overall Length: 8.25”
  • Blade length: 3.5”
  • Blade Steel: Bohler N690
  • Style: Drop point
  • Grind: Flat
  • Handle Material: G-10
  • Weight: 6.47 oz
  • Lock Type: Liner
  • Designer: Matt Degnan

The Degnan Roach has some echoes of the Megatherium in terms of its angular design but comes into its own with a vicious point and ergonomics that let you choke up on the blade. I think this design was originally in the Prime series of Kizer before they switched in the G-10 scales and slightly less premium steel. Now with a price under $100, the Degnan Roach has real potential as a camping tool. It might get a little trickier as an urban EDC since the blade is pretty wide, hits 3.5 inches, and generally looks aggressive, but at least it’s aggressive in a very comfortable way.

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Intrepid Flipper

The Kizer Vanguard Intrepid, black handled folding knife.

 

  • Overall Length: 8.25”
  • Blade Length: 3.6”
  • Blade Steel: VG-10
  • Style: Clip point
  • Grind: Hollow
  • Handle Material: G-10
  • Weight: 5.18 oz
  • Lock Type: Liner lock
  • Designer: Ray Laconico

One of many big damn flippers in the Vanguard series (especially from designer Laconico), the Intrepid is an EDC with some precise action. It’s on a ball bearing pivot system (like only a few others on this list) and it locks up pretty snug when you deploy it. They’ve done a nice job on the handle with this one. There’s just enough texture and finger choil to actually fit a big hand comfortably instead of getting in the way with a lot contouring. I will say that, while the spacer between the scales is a nice touch for durability on most of the Vanguard knives, I think it detracts from the overall look of the knife. The Intrepid doesn’t exactly come off as a knife wanting to be the prettiest at the party, though, so maybe that’s part of the appeal. I’d say this is a decent casual EDC and camping knife.

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Vanguard Gemini

Green handled Kizer Gemini Vanguard pocked knife.

 

  • Overall Length: 7.25”
  • Blade Length: 3.1”
  • Blade Steel: VG-10
  • Blade Style: Drop point
  • Grind: Flat
  • Handle Material: G-10
  • Weight: 3.28 oz
  • Lock type: Liner lock
  • Designer: Ray Laconico

Almost an exact copy of the original Kizer Gemini by Ray Laconico (which was a light modification from his custom Jasmine design), except with the standard Vanguard G-10 scales and VG-10 steel routine. Otherwise it’s the same length, grind, and lock. It’s also one of the few cases where I think the Vanguard version looks worse than the original. This particular style really shines in titanium, but you can’t really complain with the $100 price drop that comes with the G-10 scales. The blade itself is worth the price to me. It’s an incredibly thin drop point with a clean look that should handle just fine with the more economic materials.

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Vanguard Kane

Silver and black handled Kizer Vanguard Model A1 Kane folding knife.

 

  • Overall Length: 8.5”
  • Blade Length: 3.5”
  • Blade Steel: VG-10
  • Style: Clip point
  • Grind: Hollow
  • Handle Material: G-10 w/ stainless steel bolsters
  • Weight: 6.84 oz
  • Lock Type: Liner lock
  • Designer: Matt Degnan

A translation from Matt Degnan’s Degnan XL Flipper, the Kane is one of the heaviest knives in the Vanguard series. That’s thanks in large part to the steel bolsters in the handle (most other designs are just G-10 across the board), and a pretty significant width to the blade even with the general reduction in size from the titanium version. This is a great pick for anyone who wants a flipper with some heft. Even though this is the longest knife on this list, it actually loses out in blade length to the Begleiter by a little under half an inch, so that extra size is in the handle. Definitely a good EDC for the large-handed population, but someone of smaller size might find it a little awkward.

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Vanguard Vagnino Velox 2

The Kizer Vanguard Velox 2 folding knife with green handle.

 

  • Overall Length: 7.75”
  • Blade Length: 3.38”
  • Blade Steel: VG-10
  • Style: Drop point
  • Grind: Flat
  • Handle Material: G-10
  • Weight: 4.18 oz
  • Lock type: Frame lock
  • Designer: Mike Vagnino

Where looks are concerned, the Velox 2 is definitely a lead runner. It was designed by Mike Vagnino to be a discreet flipper, so you’ll find a small nub on the back with a sort of jimping that disappears completely into the handle when it’s fully deployed. It actually took me a minute to see it the first time I came across this knife. The shape of the handle itself looks fantastic, but it might feel a little odd because it puts the finger dent a little farther away from the blade than I would like. I suspect it will make the handling awkward if you’re trying to do any detailed work like carving or wittling. But as a general EDC slicer, this a sweet gentleman folder to pick up.

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