Emerson Knives
Production CQC-7A & CQC-7B folders

21 November 1999
By peteR

I have been a fan of Emerson knives for a number of years, and have carried the licensed copy of the CQC-7 (the 970SBT) from Benchmade for over three years daily; both at work in uniform, and on my own "free" time.

The release of the Emerson Production folders caught my attention instantly, but that chronic economic problem, "Bills Due" kept rearing its ugly head precluding purchase of a yet in the immortal words of Mrs. peteR "Another Knife!" That, and a lack of funding to join the waiting list for one of the magnificent Emerson custom built CQC-7's, have kept me with what I had in pocket, so to speak.

As stated my Benchmade CQC-7/970SBT has been used daily, and has served quite well for both regular daily usage, and in at least one memorable emergency (cutting an injured employee from a safety harness during an emergency extrication). I certainly appreciated the 50/50 serrated conventional blade's cutting ability pulling through the web safety harness straps with minimal effort. The job was done quickly and discretely, and before another first responder could get the EMT shears from the crash bag kept on the ambulance. And yes, normally, I would use the shears, but time was very critical in this particular situation.

Recently during a shift change at work, I noticed my designated relief officer carrying a knife with a pocket clip and asked him "Which Benchmade are you carrying?" He replied it was a new production Emerson, drew it, and handed me his CQC-7B with the bead blasted silver blade. As soon as I grasped it, I knew I had to have one! More on that in a moment............

The Production Emerson CQC-7B
The Production Emerson CQC-7B

I called Brownell's Inc the next day, as they had just begun stocking them, and ordered two Emersons, one of each variety, the Clip point blade CQC-7A and the Tanto type blade CQC-7B. I am not a Ninja knife fighter, don't wish to cleave flesh defensively (I carry a handgun especially for knife fights), but a good quality heavy-duty pocketknife is darned handy!

Well, onto why I am infatuated with the new Emerson line after using them for a brief while, first and foremost, is the improved ergonomics of the production models over the clone.

Scales: (also called handles)

My Benchmade CQC-7/970SBT has a number of sharp edges, specifically around the pivot point end of the blade and pommel. This I find totally unacceptable.

Some writer long ago quoted Colorado Gunsmith Ikey Starks as saying "A good combat handgun should feel like a bar of worn soap". I like that statement and concur with the belief it applies to all defensive carry weapons' handles.

My Benchmade CQC-7/970SBT has worn holes in a number of pairs of blue jeans and the pommel end is equally "pointy" being a pain when sitting with the knife is pocketed. This pissed me off enough that I got out the Dremel tool and ground the edges down with a rubberized abrasive wheel after the second pair of Levi jeans wore through.

Be forewarned that the Spauldite G-10 -773 fiberglass impregnated epoxy resin used for the scales is not designed to be filed, sanded, or ground, and produces some really nasty debris. You DO NOT want to get this stuff in either your eyes, or airways. I used a shop vacuum positioned with nozzle directly next to the handle and a Plexiglas shield over the handles to protect me from this material.

I'm sure it could have gone back to Benchmade for a rework under their warranty, but I used it daily and did not want "downtime". The bevels/chamfers along the length of the Benchmade scales are just 45 grinds or chamfers; they may even be pre-molded that way - an odd situation for a knife to be carried in a pocket with a clip.

The Emerson has a very smooth even radius along the entirety of the scales and exhibited no sharp edges or corners. Both knives have a number of small screws holding the scales in place. The Benchmade uses five very small Torx screws. The Emerson folders use four cross point (Phillips head type screws) which can be removed with a small electrician's screwdriver in a pinch.

Pocket Clip:

The pocket clip on the Benchmade can only be affixed on the pivot end of the knife. It is the same type clip as is found on my other Benchmades AFCK, et al. It is made from heavy gauge metal with an integral belt/pocket relief and held to the knife with three small Torx type screws in yet another size. ...

The Emerson can be swapped to either end at the user's preference. The most noticeable difference is that the attachment flange on the Emerson is wider and the top of the clip has additional surface area to "ride" a pocket a little more uniformly without movement.

This should be a standard feature on any semi-martial blade, and the cost to drill three more holes in the handle and titanium liner of the Benchmade CQC-7/970SBT (and solve this personal choice for carry problem) couldn't be more than a buck.

The Emersons fit my hand just like Ikey's proverbial "bar of worn soap", no sharp edges, and lacking the "Boxy" feel the Benchmade has, plus the pocket clip can be switched to either end. The use of slotted screws is a blessing for those wishing to exchange ends for differing draw styles to find which carry they prefer.

The head /hilt draw is what I am used to, but for the time being the Emerson will retain the pocket clip at the pommel end of the handle. Comparative pocket draws, done over 100 times with each have shown me the pommel carry seems to allow the knife to index into my palm a little faster and more comfortably.

The Emerson is fitted with conventional slotted screws throughout for ease of adjustment, blade release tuning, or cleaning. The Benchmade CQC-7/970SBT has pain in the ass Torx screws throughout, and the pamphlet provided states disassembly voids any factory warranty, a curious thought for a special purpose/defensive knife.

Another very noticeable little trait was that my Benchmade seemed to "drag" upon opening unless I loosened the pivot screw to what I consider an extreme with lateral blade play existing.

Careful visual examination of the two knives, side by side, revealed the Benchmade only had one synthetic washer on the bevel side of the blade. Conversely the Emerson has one on each side and opened with a casual flip of the wrist right from the package! That pissed me off to no end as the Benchmade had actually cost me more money!

The Emerson could be opened either with a sharp flick of the wrist, or by just nudging the thumbwheel with the tip of my thumb during presentation. It did not matter if I was using a "conventional" thumb and forefinger draw, underhand flip, icepick (blade down), or saber hold, the Emerson opened reliably when I did my part. The Benchmade however required a deliberate effort to open using the thumbwheel, probably a result of the "missing" washer. Baaaaaad Ju-Ju for the Bwana.

Locking mechanism:

Both knives make use of the Greg Walker Linerlock™ mechanism in titanium sheet, which is simple, strong, and quite ingenious. With a little practice, it is very easy to manipulate either knife either open, or closed with a single hand. The liner on the Benchmade butts up against the flat side of the blade shank. It is very secure, and releases easily even when cranked open under power. The Emerson locks in the exact center of the blade shank.


All of the blades feature a variant of ATS-34 stainless steel, and the optional corrosion resistant and subdued finish. The subdued finish was chosen over a "white blade" for both of these reasons. The Benchmade using a proprietary finish called "BT-2" and the Emerson using Walter Birdsong's "Black-T" finish. The BT-2 has held up very well so far, and the "Black T" has established a reputation for durability, right up there with Glock's Tennifer finish, for long term field usage.

Some slight visual /structural design differences existed on the blade as well. The Benchmade has a more abrupt angular top grind on the chisel point and distinctly visible machine marks under the finish, with the blade ending with a lump of unground steel behind the last tooth of the cutting edge, but it was DAMN SHARP and it still is!

The Emerson blades have smoothly ground angles and edges without any grind marks all the way to the end of the blade. It too is razor sharp and the tear sheet specifies the "how to" (stoning angles) for re-sharpening the knife.

Also immediately noticeable is the difference in the serration pattern for the combo edge blade configuration. The Benchmade has wide dished stepped toothing. The Emerson is narrower and deeper in profile with the small teeth creating a little more depth of cut from my tests. The Emerson also has a thicker, beefier spine profile towards the chisel tip of the blade, whereas the Benchmade just follows the central grind line to tip. I feel this very well may sacrifice some tip strength, which is a critical factor with a Chisel/Tanto blade format for penetration.

I actually lost the very teeny tiny tip of the Benchmade CQC-7/970SBT removing a common office desk staple from a stack of five pieces of 20 pound weight paper in a daily activity security report. To make matters worse, I was being quite gentle as I "did" this daily, carefully folding up each prong of the staple using the thick edge of the blade basically as a press wedge.

Thumbwheel and ramp:

The Benchmade CQC-7/970SBT has a coined edge thumbwheel and the now classic "ribbed" thumb ramp at the top of the blade. The Emerson features a knurled edge wheel and the ramp has slightly smaller rounded top ribs on it. The knurling tends to grip the ridges of the fingerprints a little more aggressively, and this locks the thumb on the wheel during a presentation regardless of sweat, or skin oils. Removal of the Emerson thumbwheel can be done with a small screwdriver, while the Benchmade requires the use of yet another very small Allen key. Again someone is paying careful attention to the small details on the Emerson.

Emerson CQC-7A:

The CQC-7A comes with the conventional Spear point type double ground blade, which gives the owner the exact same handling ergonomics, but with a more "Americanized" style. The version I obtained would for most intents and purposes, and "Un-Operator" owners present a little more practical blade design for daily use. It has enough "belly" and blade sweep to work well for a host of purposes from utilitarian stuff like removing staples, to those of a graver defensive nature.

My father in law ended up with the CQC-7A, as a surprise Birthday gift, and he knows enough about carry knives to appreciate the daily use of such a fine tool.

Comparison: Emerson (Top), Benchmade (Bottom)
Comparison: Emerson (Top), Benchmade (Bottom)

The Benchmade was only evaluated after three + years of serious daily use and is an "OK" utility knife, but when comparison is made with the new Emerson production version, it pales like a two day old corpse. Benchmade has apparently discontinued the Emerson clone model, to make "trendier" production blades with more exotic, rakish lines, and names. This is a very good thing.

Me, I'll stick with the more exotic Emerson Tanto/Chisel Emerson blade design, and it sits very comfortably in my untorn Levi's pocket as I bring this article to a close, as it will for many years to come.

Or at least until an Emerson Spec War series Commander, like the one I saw Rod Ryan and his son Jake "working" with at the Carlos N. Hathcock II Sniper match this past October, makes it past Mrs. peteR and into my excited little hands for a review.......

CQC-7B Specifications

Blade Length :
Blade Thickness :
Handle Length :
Handle Thickness :
0.618" (w/pocket clip 0.702")

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