By Trampas Swanson

In the knife community, there is perhaps nothing more captivating than the “SWWWICK” sound of an automatic knife. Whether it’s the classic linage of the stiletto switchblade from our favorite gangster movies or if it’s the mystique of being banned in several states, the automatic knife remains on the top of every blade fan’s “must have list.” On top of this list is the crème de la crème of automatics in the form of the out the front opening (OTF) knife. These blades are often cloned by cheap Chinese companies that could never hold a candle to the craftsmanship and precision that goes into building a reliable OTF knife. One name in the industry seems to constantly rise to the top of this category with each high quality model made is Microtech.

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This Pennsylvania based company also has a second base of operations in North Carolina as well, which is a testament to its rapid growth since Microtech’s official start in Florida back in 1994. Almost right out the gate, Microtech seemed to have their sights set on the special warfare community who would benefit greatly from their products. In 2007, Microtech even established a sister company, Microtech Small Arms Research (MSAR), which engineered the original STG-5.56 rifle. The creation of this company would mark Microtech as becoming the first knife company to create its own firearms division. Year after year to date, new designs, color and blade options have rolled out of the Microtech factories to continue their hold on the top of the knife industry mountain. At the summit of this mountain lies the best of the best in the form of the Microtech Scarab. As with anything labeled “the best” in a given category, these blades are usually hard to come by and accompanied by a hefty price tag compared to other blades. This being said, of course, I had to find one for review!

Originally designed for the US Navy SEALs as an all-purpose duty knife that would be the first automatic knife to reliably open past the 30M mark underwater, the Scarab seemed to be rare due to very limited availability. Its connection to such an elite group and its limited production only added to its attraction to die hard blade collectors. Due to Microtech being as elusive to contact directly as their blades are to come by in stores for purchase, my quest to review one of these Tier 1 blades has taken almost a full year to complete. Ever since attending last year’s Blade Show in Atlanta, I attempted to email and call Microtech marketing numerous times only to deal with condescending and very skeptical white collar suits, who obviously aren’t the people who these blades are designed for. Not to be one who lets people influence my opinions on products, I pushed onward without the direct assistance of Microtech in order to bring our readers one of the best names in the industry to read about. With the help of a good friend, Preston Mishikaiwa and his awesome staff at Predator Ordnance in Orange Park, Florida, I was finally able to obtain a sample. Once Preston worked his magic, I had a Microtech QD Scarab in my hands in just a matter of a few short weeks.

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First Look

During my time researching the Microtech Scarab, I was amazed to discover just how many variations there were for this model. This particular knife seemed to offer every option in the book including color choice, blade finish, serrations, blade shape, and everything else you could imagine! The exact model I was able to obtain through Predator Ordnance is listed as the Microtech QD Scarab 178-11 AP S/E Apocalyptic Serrated Auto. This is one hell of a title for a pocket carry blade only 8.35” fully open. Aside from a slight grade of steel difference used for the blade, the only change from the original Navy version and the 178-11 version I had on hand was the lack of a tritium dot on each slide of the side mounted action button. Normally reserved for applications such as night sights on firearms, the addition of this tritium insert on the Navy version would be beneficial for finding the action button in the deep dark waters. Since I am not a deep sea diver, don’t like the thought of being eaten by sharks and too old to join the Navy, I will gladly settle for the lack of this feature on my test sample.

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So what makes this knife so special? To begin with, let’s look at the way the action operates. By being listed as dual action, this means, when you press the side mounted action button forward, the blade launches forward into place in the blink of an eye via a high tension spring. When you pull the action button rearward, the blade retracts equally as fast by a second spring. Due to its design, at no time is either spring remaining under full tension, which greatly increases reliability and the overall lifespan of the knife.

The tip down carry design is facilitated by a full hardened spring tempered stainless steel ambi-mounted pocket clip held in place by a carbide glass breaker on the end. Not only does this dull pointed device work well on glass, it could also work well for pressure point strikes in a self-defense situation. The sure grip machined 6061 T6 aircraft aluminum handle has a skateboard tape style traction that works great in controlling the knife even in the wettest environments.

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The most noticeable feature of the blade is the non-reflective, durable Apocalyptic finish built to endure the harshest hot, cold, dirt and water environments. Normally, along the left side of the blade, the Microtech logo and its unique serial number can be clearly found. On this particular sample, it was so blurry due to the heavy blade finish; it was nearly impossible to make out. I briefly even questioned if this could be a high quality knock off but ruled that out once I was able to confirm the valid number. If you were only interested in this knife as a safe queen or collectable, this would not be the best option available on the market for a “show pony.” Every aspect of the Scarab is built for extreme use and carry.

Specs

  • Overall Length open: 8.35”
  • Length Closed: 4.8”
  • Blade Length: 3.5”
  • Blade Material: S30V
  • Blade Grind: Flat
  • Blade Shape: Drop Point, Partially Serrated Edge
  • Handle Material: Machined 6061 T6 Aircraft Aluminum
  • Weight: 3.6 oz.
  • Carry: Tip down via a spring tempered stainless steel ambidextrous mounting clip.
  • Action: Dual Action, Quick Deployment, Thumb Slide Activated

Why Carry Daily?

For this section, I’d like to address the elephant in the room usually caused when discussing this next subject. I often get asked why I even carry a knife every day. Two reasons which make picking the right knife absolutely imperative immediately come to mind without writing my first book. The first is the fact I was born and raised in the south, where I was taught by my Grandpa and my Dad: “If a man has his pants on, he should at the very least have a good knife in his pocket.”

The usefulness of a quality knife has come into play almost every day since I was 7 years old and started carrying one. With peeling apples, cutting out tangles in fishing line, cutting price tags off the wife’s new purchases and slicing open packages, the tasks seem to never end when carrying a knife. I often give grown men a cross look when someone has to ask me to borrow a knife because I am perplexed as to why they don’t have one of their own. Recently, Grandpa passed away, but the lessons he taught about me about life and the responsibilities as a man in today’s world will last the rest of my life.

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Secondly, for a good chunk of my adult life, I served as a Deputy Sheriff in my former home state of North Carolina. Every day I would notice civilian’s eyes drift to my right side where my firearm rode religiously yet never paid a second look at the large folding knife clipped to my left pocket. Through hours and hours of training, I studied the mistakes made by my brothers and sisters in blue who were sadly killed in the line of duty. Often, it was due to being over powered and having their firearm stripped from their holster with only the ability to grapple for everything they had in them to attempt to stop this from happening. As I attended various training, I learned the importance of having a reliable, razor sharp knife accessible via the opposite had from my gun side to be able to deploy and use to cut away any attempt at gaining access to my firearm. Several times in real world situations, brief attempts were quickly resolved when they heard the “SWWWICK” sound of my left hand deploying a blade headed straight for a vital part of their anatomy. Thankfully, no serious blood had to be shed and I always made it home in one piece. Lessons learned on duty strongly carried over into my civilian life after the badge just as the one’s learned from my time prior to LE service.

Daily Carry Observations

For the past three months, I have carried the Microtech Scarab as part of my daily carry knife. For the abundance of folks I have seen posting in online forums lately, this consists of carefully carrying the knife around clipped inside an empty pocket and only deploying it for adult “show and tell” with friends. Sadly for my test sample, this had no chance of being the case. This Scarab shared duty being carried in a front left pocket opposite of my concealed carry pistol on my right side. It battled space with my wallet (thanks to the insistence of my chiropractor) and various loose coins.

The only major complaint about this handy auto-blade is the tension in which must be applied to the action button in order to deploy and especially retract the blade. Set to be stiff by the factory in order to “lawyer proof” its product, the amount of pressure required is a bit more than it should be for deployment and absolutely stupid hard in order to retract the blade. Out of every 10 people who wanted to try the Scarab and experience the classic “SWWWICK” sound of the super-fast blade deployment, 9 of those folks needed to either use two hands to pull the action button back in order to close the knife, or could not do so at all!! I find this absolutely ridiculous. I contacted Microtech about this issue with a resounding “oh well, that’s how they all are” type attitude. Upon further research concerning this issue and Microtech’s less than stellar customer service (minus the lady who answers the phone at the front desk, she’s super friendly and polite), it seems the poor attitude and rough action button are both common factors. Over the testing period, I cannot say the button got any easier mechanically, but my thumbs did get functionally strong enough to open and close the blade quickly with either hand in a matter of weeks. This is a failure in knife economics but a strange positive in functional strength training. Once this was worked out, it ceased to be a second thought from then on and nice to know someone else couldn’t easily use my own knife against me.

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With this issue brought to light, what makes this blade so great? First, unlike most OTF blades I have tried in the past, the Scarab locked up super tight and had zero “wiggle” to the blade when deployed. Everything about this knife’s design is credit to the precision and quality materials that went into building it. The balance and control over the Scarab is incredibly comfortable and gives the user the confidence to really bear down on a cut. The razor sharp edge made quick work of daily tasks such as slicing cardboard backers while teaching at the range, cutting 550 paracord for tie downs and other random chores. I found myself using the knife more and more as time went on. Over the months carrying it, I have cut several materials that normally quickly dull the edges of my past carry blades. While putting together my thoughts for the article, I was still able to shave the hair off my arm with the Scarab’s edge.

Final Thoughts

To spare an extra 2000 words on the T&E process, I will go ahead and boil it down to the end results. With a retail price ranging from $570-$603, finding the model perfect for you at the price you are comfortable paying seems to be a lot like buying a car. This feature will cost “X” while this feature will run “Y” on top of the base $500+ price. This comes extremely close to the cost of the HK VP9 pistol I also carry daily! I will again state if you are just a knife collector that wants a pretty “safe queen,” this is NOT your knife. For those of us that train hard and care dearly about what we carry for use with everyday tasks and realize those tools may be the very items needed to defend our life and the lives of our loved ones, this blade is a rock solid choice.

When it comes to my tools, it is far less of a concern about price as it is what will work every time and work well. This should always be the case. If you can’t afford a top quality tool, save up and make it a priority to obtain them at some point. Does someone need to spend $600 on an OFT auto-blade? No, but if having this particular style knife is important to you, it is more than worth it to carry a simple, high quality pocket knife until you can afford a Microtech Scarab. Once the Microtech and I had time to “mesh,” I found it to be a boost of confidence in my pocket each day knowing I had one of the best options available on the market. As for their customer service and executive staff, I hope that others have better luck than I did and can enjoy owning a high quality knife.