ESEE PR4 - Full Review
You may have read my initial 'out of the box' review of this knife a few months ago. It was very positive, built on a lot of expectation and having heard very good things from people who's opinions I value.
It looked and felt good, the handle was reassuring as was the guard. The shape of the blade was what I imagine a bushcraft knife blade to be, it's what kids would draw if you asked them!
Aesthetics aside and without blindly believing the hype, I had to give this thing a proper go myself, see what I found out.
I've had this thing out in all environments, urban, coast, country you name it.
It isn't a military knife, it won't saw through wood or be good in a fight to the death (well perhaps maybe) but what this knife does have is poise and finesse when performing the tasks it was made for!
In a proper bushcraft environment it thrives. It is perfectly balanced and there is no give in the handle, allowing pressure to be constant and measured. The black Oxide finish is solid as a rock and the unfinished spine throws a spark as good as any I've ever seen due to its high carbon 1095 steel.
It started life with me without a lanyard, I'm not a lanyard guy but very soon I had one on, allowing for a little more purpose when drawing it from the very snug sheath.
One observation at this point is the sheath. Now I know bushcrafters love this type of sheath, like dropping a sausage into a sock, it just sits there only just poking out and most, if not all, fish it out with a lanyard. This doesn't work for me. I'm a safety first guy and whilst out in the bush I found myself drawing one handed with my 2 smallest fingers against the cheek of my palm, never entirely in control of the knife, without a lanyard it would and quite often could be trouble! I was always told "Knives and firearms, retain 100% control of them at all times or people get hurt, most likely yourself!"
This is nothing to do with the knife in fairness, it's a sheath thing which, in fairness is very well made for the money! It just needed a slight improvement. A good buddy of mine, Simon from Davidson Leather (see links page), put that right and shaved some off the neck, allowing a more purposeful grab of the handle when drawing one handed. I won't dwell on this, it's a minor point, something easily rectified but perhaps worthy of mention as with this modification I believe the whole package has improved. Hey, he even put my badge on it!
Anyway, moving on, we spent a good few days in the bush, me and my buddy Joe from Midlands Bushcraft (Well worth a follow), both of us had PR4's amongst other blades. We had a hoot and we hammered this thing!
The point of this knife begs to be used to make notches in a fire board for a bow drill, it's perfect symmetry makes carving them out effortless. The thick spine, as well as throwing a spark due to its 90degree allows real purchase for your thumb when pressing on for carving and the more mundane tasks, real purpose to it though, you never feel like it's going to get away from you.
That purpose gives you 100% confidence when batoning too, which we did a lot of. You can hammer down on that spine all day without any concern, partly because of how it feels but also (and let's not overlook this point) because of the no questions asked warranty that ESEE offer on all their blades. Whack away!
Hey, I'm no primitive skills master, I'm just some guy who likes proper camping and being out in the wilds. There is no surprise that some of the people out there who are widely regarded as 'knowing their stuff' use this knife to great effect. Patrick Rollins designed this for good reason, he'll talk all day about why it ended up like it did and everything about this knife has a meaning, no gimmicks here, no bottle-opener in the handle!
I'd go as far as to say that if you are just about to get into this bushcraft game, sat looking round for what kit to buy then you need one of these. Take advantage of some real experience that has gone into this knife, cut a few corners we won't tell! But trust me on one thing, this knife will make that journey a whole deal easier!
He'll curse me for mentioning him but I've enjoyed the journey that Caleb Olander has been on with this knife! He's a modest guy but I sit and watch the level of skill he possesses and just how deeply he immerses himself into the craft and I can only admire what he does. He's been with this knife from day one and has used it extensively. A really interesting journey for both of them. He's on the 'social medias' and is easy enough to find (Go follow him!) but part of what makes this knife special is knowing that people of all abilities can use it well, it's a proper leveller!
Oh and whilst I'm giving mentions out, big thanks to Zed from ZedbeadZ for the custom lanyards and beads for this and the CR2.5! Brown paracord and orange micarta, I think you'll agree he knocked it out of the park!
Having loathed them in the past, seeing them as gimmicks, I've recently become a big fan of coloured handles, especially in blades I'm going to use in the woods! This is in no small part down to the recent limited edition ESEE CR2.5 with orange handles. The handles on this PR4 look great but their brown colour looks just like the floor, I put it down once or twice and had to remind myself to keep track of it. Hey, they are a great handle, the 'compressed' feeling micarta is solid, almost metalic in its feel, I really dig em but the colour is begging to be lost in the bush. I've got some orange handles being made up for this very reason, a simple enough fix for a knife that's worth the effort.
On the subject of worth, let's not forget that no matter how hard I want to be on this knife I'm limited by the leveller that is the price! I sell these in the UK and I am acutely aware of how good they are when it comes to value for money! I know the market, I know the competition, heck I've owned most of them and what is abundantly clear is that there is NOTHING out there on the market of this quality with the guarantees it has for the money. Full stop.
All in all I think this knife is great, I'd go as far as saying that ESEE may have made themselves a 'game-changer'! I mean why would you spend 200 or 300 pounds, dollars or euros on a bushcraft knife (which MANY people do) when this is available for half the price and will undoubtedly run-rings around the expensive alternatives.
My buddy Greg from Scablands Bushcraft (Give them a follow too!) asked me what my 5 knife set would be. For me it was always going to be a mix based on the 2 sides of my life, Work/Range and the Bush, it was no surprise however that it was the PR4 I picked up first!
Deep breath but I think it's the best value blade I've ever bought! Yeah I've bought cheaper and yeah I've bought more expensive but if you want something that does everything you expect of a bushcraft knife that will NEVER let you down for as little as possible then this is it! I tell you what, my parents own a Skoda Yeti, a car that changed the face of affordable, reliable, capable 4x4's (certainly in the UK) for the average man. Some may see this as a lazy analogy but that's what this knife is .......and that car has won more awards than David Beckham!
This knife is fantastic, if you buy it and intend to use it for what it was intended then it will serve you well and I guarantee you will never sell it! If you like to sit and look at knives in a drawer then don't bother as it's talents will be wasted on you!
Bang for the buck, 10 out of 10!