The word bedlam, according to various Internet dictionaries, originated as an AKA for the Bethlehem Royal Hospital in early England, which is believed to have been the first insane asylum. Bedlam is now considered an “obsolete” word, but is still sometimes used to describe abnormal mental conditions and/or a condition of chaos (which is occasionally exemplified by the police acronym, Command Has Arrived On Scene). Benchmade’s new aptly named Bedlam knife is somewhat a paradox to its moniker--it may be the solution to prevailing over life-threatening chaos.
The Bedlam is based on the highly respected, and as far as I know unequaled, Auto-Axis opening mechanism. A slight pull backward with either thumb on the small, machined steel bar that protrudes out of both sides of the knife releases the blade. This makes the design truly ambidextrous and a potential lifesaver when you can’t use your dominant hand. A black, skeletonized, reversible pocket clip augments this feature for left-handers like myself and those who wish to carry on their non-dominant side. Driven open by twin, omega-style springs, the blade opens with undeniable authority that ensures a dependable opening and locking.
Like all of its Auto-Axis-based knives, the Benchmade Bedlam is equipped with a thumb-operated, sliding safety that rides on the back of the knife frame. It can stop the knife from opening, as well as act as a double lock when the blade is open. With just a few minutes practice, the thumb transition from the opening to the double lock feels very natural and quickly becomes second nature. The Auto-Axis design, IMHO, is nothing less than genius. Its simplicity, ambidextrous capability, combined with extraordinary reliability, gives all the Auto-Axis knives a definite advantage over ordinary auto openers.
The Bedlam is definitely a handful of knife. With an overall length of 9.75" open, weighing in at 7.3 oz., and sporting a full 4" blade, it’s larger than most other auto openers I’ve seen. Its upswept modified Bowie blade is a formidable cutting instrument and is available with a plain edge or a partial serrated. To call it “sharp” would be an understatement. Once locked open, there’s no detectable play between the handle and blade. It feels like a fixed-blade knife. The blade is precision-crafted of American-made, premium grade 154CM steel that was originally formulated for rugged industrial uses.
I’m not a metallurgist, and I don’t play one on TV. When I look for information about anything, I always look for multiple opinions from those who have a vested and long-lived interest in the topic at hand. In visiting numerous knife-oriented websites while researching this article, I found that all held 154CM steel in very high esteem. It was an undeniable consensus that 154CM steel is a superior choice for tactical knives. It’s very strong, highly corrosion resistant, and it can take and maintain a razor sharp edge. Although 154CM steel has a solid reputation for corrosion resistance, Benchmade went the extra mile and made two versions of the Bedlam available, one with a matte black, BK1 blade coating. Industry known for excellent corrosion protection, BK1 is also recognized for high levels of scratch resistance, which can provide additional protection for the blade for years to come.
The Bedlam’s handle is covered with a high quality G10 composite. Its finger grooves and texturing are ergonomically designed to maximize grip performance under the worst possible conditions. You must always consider that when a knife is used in defense against a deadly threat, the handle is going to get slippery. Thus, the requirement of a well-textured and ergonomically designed handle should always supersede a visually appealing one. However, the Bedlam’s handle, which has an appearance of hand-carved wood, is fully functional and just as stylish as any other practical knife I’ve ever seen. The rear spine of the open blade has a machine serrated thumb groove, which augments a “saber” grip to near perfection. The end of the handle features a protruding, lanyard-hole-drilled, flat pommel that could be used as a very effective striking weapon.
It seems to me, as a consumer, that there are perpetually shrinking numbers of those who can be called “true craftsmen.” Craftsmen (regardless of gender) by my definition are people who are passionate about their wares and satisfied only when they are manufacturing the premiere products of their chosen field. They are individuals who use the finest materials and the most advanced technology to painstakingly enhance their products, so they can proudly place their company name upon them. And they are people who earn and maintain a time-tested reputation for building the best and nothing less.
To the craftsmen at Benchmade, I salute you. The Bedlam is truly another example of why Benchmade remains the leader in producing preeminent auto openers. Having owned Benchmade products for more than two decades, I expected the Bedlam to be a top-notch performer. It certainly met or exceeded my expectations in every aspect. The Bedlam is a deadly serious implement built for law enforcement and military personnel, who are serious about their personal safety. For more information, visit www.benchmade.com.