Kershaw 1990 Brawler review

The Kershaw 1990 Brawler is a mid-sized everyday carry (EDC) knife. This knife is excellent for daily use opening boxes and slicing through ropes. This knife could potentially be used as a self-defense knife as it is properly shaped and the size would make it quite ideal for this purpose.

It is very lightweight and fits comfortably and securely in the palm of your hand when open, and in your pocket when closed.

The Kershaw Model 1990 Brawler blade

Now, before we dive into the pros and cons of this knife, we’ve created an interactive table below that allows you to compare the 1990 Brawler to other notable knives on the market:

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Ka-Bar Fighting KnifeKa-Bar Fighting Knife$$
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Spyderco Paramilitary 2Spyderco Paramilitary 2$$$

Dimensions of the Kershaw 1990 Brawler

The Brawler is a mid-sized knife at an overall (opened) length of 7.4 inches long, 3.25 of which is blade. It is not excessively large when it is folded either, at just over 4 inches and weighing less than 4 ounces. This size makes it convenient to carry in your pocket, bag, jacket, or your belt without it being in the way or drawing unnecessary negative attention.

The 3.25 inch blade is just the right length to pass legal restrictions in most areas but is just long enough should you require it for self-defense purposes. It is also ideal for using as a utility knife in tasks such as opening boxes.

Below, please take a moment to view some of the best-selling knives currently for sale on Amazon:

1) Cold Steel Survivalist
2) Ka-Bar USMC
3) Kershaw Cryo II
4) Mossy Oak
5) Kershaw Knockout

Blade Options

The Brawler sports a 3 inch modified tantō blade, which has been coated, so it is a sleek black color and does not reflect light. This design makes it ideal for tasks where piercing through objects is important. As it is quite a deep blade, there is quite a lot of metal behind the tip and edge, making it exceptionally sturdy with a solid edge.

The steel this blade is made of is known for having a few issues holding an edge after excessive use. However, it is very easy to sharpen and can take an extremely aggressive edge. And since this blade is very straight forward, the edge retention should not come into play.

To sharpen the blade, it’s suggested that you use a whetstone as you can move from coarse grit to very fine grit, giving the blade an amazingly sharp edge that can pass even the closest inspection.

To do this with the finer grits and better stones, you must remember to keep the stone wet. A quick field sharpening can be done with a very basic stone without moisture, yet it will not give that razor-quality edge that the finer grits do.

Remember to keep your blade on the same angle. If your angle keeps moving, you will end up with a very uneven edge and may cause your blade to be prone to chipping, which is very inconvenient. More information on sharpening using a whetstone can be found here.

If you do not feel up to the task of sharpening your own knife, there are professional knife sharpeners out there who will be happy to do the job for you. Some knife sharpeners even run knife sharpening classes, which will show you what materials you need to get started and give you instruction on the basics of knife sharpening, which is a skill everyone can use. If you are not able to attend classes, they may be able to suggest an illustrated knife sharpening guide to help you understand how to best sharpen your blade.


The handle of the Brawler is made up of glass-filled nylon scales, with a stainless steel locking liner that makes this handle very light, potentially too light depending on your preferences.

The blade fits securely within the scales when folded and barely exceeds 4 inches, making this convenient as an everyday carry knife. The clip can be attached to either the top or bottom, on or off side of the blade making this useful for people who are left handed.

Functionality as an Everyday Carry Knife


  • Convenient to fit in pockets, bags or on your belt
  • Designed to be ambidextrous friendly
  • Sharp, well balanced blade which is shaped appropriately for everyday usage
  • Convenient to open and lock, particularly with Kershaw’s SpeedSafe features
  • Very easy to sharpen
  • Reliable lock keeps the blade open and your fingers safe


  • Rather light for any hard usage
  • Fairly soft steel will not hold an edge with constant use


Overall, the Brawler exceeds expectations as an everyday carry knife and is well worth the asking price. It will handle most things you would want to throw at it and even should it lose its edge with continuous use, it sharpens easily back to a razor sharp edge.

Kershaw Brawler vs Kershaw Cryo

The Kershaw 1990 Brawler and the Kershaw Cryo are both folding everyday carry knives and are very similar in most aspects. The Cryo is slightly smaller, yet heavier at 6.5 inches overall opened length versus the 7.4 inches of the Brawler. The Cryo also has a smaller blade than the Brawler.

They both can be opened manually or by using the SpeedSafe. The Cryo uses a frame lock as opposed to a liner lock, which really does not make that much difference since the Cryo does not have liners but rather full metal scales as opposed to the Brawler’s glass-filled nylon scales over a steel liner.

The Cryo comes in 3 varieties: the original plain steel drop point, the blackwash drop point and the tantō blackwash as opposed to the Brawler’s one option of black oxide coating.

Neither of these knives are very heavy and therefore suit smaller tasks such as whittling, opening boxes or even opening the latest plastic sealed object.

The tantō variety of the Cryo and the standard Brawler are the most similar out of these knives. The Cryo has a lightly arched spine, as opposed to the Brawler’s straight spine. This blade option makes these ideal for personal defense as they are light, agile and fit snugly in one’s hand. The ease of opening also makes them a good candidate for being used in defense purposes.

With the ability to move the clips to either end and side of the knife, it makes it handy for people who are left handed as the clip can be moved to wherever your find it comfortable.

For the price of these knives, they are definitely well worth checking out the next time you are looking for a new utility knife or even an everyday carry knife.

We have previously written about Kershaw pocket knives, for those that may be interested in learning what else is on the market.

Kershaw Brawler vs Kershaw Clash

When comparing the Kershaw Brawler with the Kershaw Clash, there are quite a few things you will notice that they have in common. From the type of steel used, to their overall length they are exact. Therefore, even though their blade lengths and weights differ, they are quite similar.

They both come with the option of a manually opening knife or an assisted open via the SpeedSafe feature. Both have glass-filled nylon scales and have a clip that can be placed on either end or side of the handle to accommodate left or right handed owners.

Despite their similarities, these two knives do have a few key differences. The first thing you will notice when looking at these blades when they are closed is that the Brawler has a much more rigid design as opposed to the flowing design of the Clash. The Brawler’s handle is all straight angles which, while comfortable, lack the very obvious finger grooves of the Clash.

The next obvious difference is seen as soon as the knives are opened. The Brawler has a black coated, modified tantō blade, as opposed to the Clash’s deep-bellied blade which makes it more ideal for piercing through materials than the Clash.

These two knives, despite their similarities and differences, are both well-made blades and both would serve well as an everyday carry knife or a utility knife.

Quick Facts of the Kershaw 1990 Brawler

  • Blade Length: 3.25 inches
  • Overall Length (open): 7.4 inches
  • Overall Length (closed): 4.1 inches
  • Weight: 3.9 ounces
  • Blade material: 8Cr13MoV with black oxide coating
  • Handle material: glass filled nylon

Closing Thoughts

The Kershaw 1990 Brawler is a lightweight budget knife that has a strong, straight blade that’s perfect for piercing, cutting through rope, leather, boxes and other daily materials with ease. It also fits comfortably in your pocket. Many people enjoy this knife as their go-to EDC blade for obvious reasons, and the price being as low as it is does make this knife very appealing.

In all, as much as knives are about personal preference and individual needs, if you are looking for a new everyday carry or utility knife, the Brawler is definitely one you are going to want to investigate further. It may not be marked up with the Kershaw Skyline in what it is able to do, yet neither is the price.

At the end of the day, the Brawler is definitely a knife that holds its own in its price range as far as quality, utility and looks.

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