In this article, we’re going to review the Kizer Ki3404A3 knife. We’ll also compare its blade steel, grip, handle, and overall effectiveness to the Spyderco Delica 4.
Kizer’s catalogue is full of beautiful knives, but the 3404A3 is, in my opinion, the best knife in their current lineup. It offers wonderful fit and finish, great steel, and a savvy, winning design at an extraordinarily reasonable price.
Before we get started, feel free to take a look at the table below and compare the Kizer Ki3404A3 to other similar knives on the market:
$ = $1 – $30 | $$ = $31 – $60 | $$$ = $61 and above
|Kizer Ki3404A3||CPM-S35VN||3" blade||$$$|
|Kershaw Skyline||Sandvik 14C28N||3.1” blade||$$|
|Ontario RAT||AUS-8 steel||3.5" blade||$|
|Zero Tolerance Sinkevich||S35VN||3.25” (blade)||$$$|
|Boker Plus Urban Trapper||VG-10 steel||3.5” blade||$$|
History of the Kizer 3404A3
The 3404A3 was released in 2014. Beyond that, the 34043 is part of what I call the 404 series. This includes a few variations of this knife, as well as a larger counterpart. Here are the apparently available models:
- 34043A3: bead blasted titanium scales and 3” S35VN blade
- 34043A2: anodized titanium scales and 3” S35VN blade
- 34043A1: skull icon titanium scales and 3” S35VN blade
- 404B1: machined G10 show scale and titanium locking side, 3.5” VG-10 blade
- 404A2: G10 show scale and titanium locking side, 3.5” VG-10 blade
Clearly, Kizer’s strength isn’t in their product nomenclature. They have begun coming up with names more memorable than a string of numbers, but sadly this series released before those days. In fact, looking around the Internet you’ll find that the 3404A3 is sometimes known as the 3404-3.
Moreover, Kizer’s product line is still varied enough that the list above may not be complete; different variations of their knives come and go, with some only available through certain dealers, or currently out of production. It is can certainly be a bit cloudy or confusing sometimes. If you are interested in this knife or any of Kizer’s products, be doubly sure you’re ordering the model you think you are.
Below, please take a moment to view some of the best-selling pocket knives currently for sale on Amazon:
The 3404A3’s overall aesthetic seems to be one of cleanliness. In fact, this is manifest immediately from the handle design, which offers a straightforward, no-frills grip. It is just long enough to accommodate all four fingers comfortably, and the jimping on the spine of the blade and the handle scales is excellent: grippy without shredding your fingers.
The thumbstuds and flipper both work great for deploying the knife, and the flipper tab becomes a finger guard when the knife is open. The bead blasted titanium scales offer a surprising amount of traction. I wouldn’t say that the 3404A3 necessarily wows in the ergonomics department, but there is certainly nothing to complain about.
It is better in the hand than the Delica 4, which has a reputation as an ‘ergonomic’ knife, although I will say that the Sage 2, Spyderco’s titanium framelock knife, is roughly the same size as the 3404A3 and is much better in the hand. It is roomier and has a forward finger choil, which is just such a great, handy feature to have on an EDC blade. The 3404A3’s design puts your index finger close enough to the end of the blade that you can still get plenty of control, but a finger choil is always best.
I have never been a fan of swedges and probably never will be, but on the 3404A3 the swedge is inoffensive. Beyond that, there’s a lot to like about this blade shape: a nice, bold drop point, with a hollow grind that is beautifully done: the steel is really thinned out behind the cutting bevel, and the 3404A3 is a great slicer.
It outslices the Delica 4’s cumbersome sabre grind, and is about on par with the full flat ground Delica. It is, however, again outperformed by the Sage 2. The leaf shape blade, ground the way it is, just has outstanding cutting capability. I think a perfectly executed drop point would be better still, but the 3404A3’s drop point is merely good, and so it isn’t quite the slicer the Sage 2 is.
One of the most interesting aspects of the 3404A3 is that it is made from S35VN blade steel. This is an excellent, all-purpose super steel. It doesn’t have the crazy hardness of ZDP-189, nor is it as tough as 3V, but it is well-balanced, offering a near-perfect combination of edge-taking, edge retention, and ability to sharpen well. The only super steel that sharpens easier for me is CPM 154.
What is interesting about it, though, is the price that you pay for the 3404A3; for $120, S35VN is considerably above average; only recently have other makers released knives with steels of this caliber at something near this price.
The VG-10 of the Delica 4 is many rungs down on the performance ladder. It’s harder to sharpen, dulls quickly, and is just generally a not-very-good steel. The Sage 2 is made from S30V, the predecessor to S35VN. There are two major differences that make S35VN a huge improvement: first, it is tougher than S30V, a steel that is known for being a little chippy.
Second, it is much easier to sharpen. And, although I don’t want to harp on the price thing too much, the Sage 2 is $170. When it released, that was a competitive price for something with S30V, but now I think it is due for an upgrade, or a drop in price.
The 3404A3’s titanium handle scales are gentle on your pocket as you take the knife out or put it away. And, despite having a wide blade profile, it is narrower than both the Delica 4 and the Sage 2. It carries about as discreetly as a 3” knife can.
This is all good, but the one hiccup in this category is the pocket clip. I don’t know why it’s so hard for makers to make good pocket clips, but it is easily the most messed up aspect of pocket knife design, and that’s the case here with the 3404A3. It has a strange, short, wavy little clip that reminds me of one of my least favorite pocket clips of all time: the Kershaw Zing clip.
It has a little ‘foot’ at the end of the clip that scrapes cars, doors, upholstery, everything. In general I find it petty to complain about a pocket clip if it does its job of keeping the knife in place well, which this one does, but the issue is that these other, less appealing characteristics are so unnecessary, and could be avoided by simplifying the design; everything else about this knife is streamlined and clean, and I don’t see why the clip didn’t follow suit. The Delica 4’s spoon clip and the Sage 2’s wire clip are so much better-designed.
Unsurprisingly for a titanium pocket knife, the 3404A3 has a framelock. I think this is an overrated knife lock, but here it is executed so well I find it churlish to complain. It can come loose, especially if you flick the knife open a lot (which you will, because the 3404A3 is fun to play with), but a little Loctite will fix that problem, and because that’s an issue with framelocks in general and not just this one in particular, I was expecting it.
The Delica 4 has a lockback. I prefer lockbacks to framelocks, but because the 3404A3 is a flipper, a lockback is out of the question: it puts too much pressure on the blade tang during deployment, and has to meet the blade tang directly at the back of the knife where the flipper would go. The Sage 2, like the 3404A3, is a framelock. It too is executed quite well; if I had to pick a winner, it would be the Sage 2, but the difference in performance is so small between the two that it’s almost irrelevant.
The 3404A3 is a good knife. It is a very conservative design, but almost every aspect of it is so well-executed, and the price is so good, as to make it very exciting indeed. The old prejudices against country of origin, never worth holding to begin with, look more ridiculous than ever in light of a quality pocket knife like the 3404A3. It is a $120 knife that looks and performs like a $200 one, and is proof that Kizer is not only a legitimate knife maker, but in fact one of the most exciting around.
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