Skip to main content

Regarding The Fit & Finish of Emerson Knives-

I've never built the knives for looks or for a fancy finish or for “perfection.” You'll notice we never enter any of the “quality in manufacturing” categories at the Blade Show. We don't because we know we won't win.

We have however, won the top award, Overall Knife of the year and several other awards including American Made Knife of the Year, along with a long list of awards from many many shows. The thing about fit and finish is that, that is all it is, fit and finish. It has nothing to do with the function of the knife or the design of the knife.

Now, I'm going to tell you that Chris Reeves is a dear friend of mine. Sal Glesser is a friend of mine and Columbia River well, I really don't know them personally. Having said that, I will now say that those are the knives that I am most often compared to. All of them have fine fit and finish.

Now, with all due respect, I will also tell you this. None of those knives were present when (all) of the Somali pirates were taken down. None of those knives were present when Al Zarqawi was captured and killed.

None of those knives were present when Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was taken captive. And none of those knives were present when Osama Bin Laden was shot dead. Yet, there were knives that were present at all of those and hundreds more firefights, assaults and covert actions. Anyone care to guess what knives those were?

We make tens of thousands of knives a year. We get about 35-40 complaints a year about fit and finish, and it is less than a fraction of one percent of our total. The other tens of thousands seen to be just fine for our customers.

Now, before all the business majors come out and say “Ernest Emerson is not a good businessman. He isn't responding to the demands of his customers or evolving his business plan.” I will just say this, “Like Hell I'm not.” We haven't even had to advertise in almost 10 years. And yet our business continues to grow and prosper.

You can say what you want about me or my knives, but you can never say that I don't know my customers. Hell, I know several thousand of them on a first name basis, and many are my friends. I know what knives they need and I know what they want and expect in an Emerson Knife. There are no other major knife companies with that close a relationship to their customers.

Most of you know me. It's obvious that some of you do not. To me a knife is just like a good hammer. It is a tool. I just need it to work and work. People come to like Emerson Knives because that's what they do. And I'm happy that in that regard, I've done my job well.

A little more about me. I've dealt with this same type of issue both in regard to shooting and in combat skills. I've had people say things like “Your feet were not in the “right” position. Your punch didn't turn properly. You didn't squeeze your knees together on the arm bar. I usually respond by saying “come here, put your hands up.” And in a couple of seconds they are either on their ass or tapping out. I once had a guy tell me one time I don't know anything about weapon control in a knife attack. I had him come out and I said “I want you to “control” my knife.” I hit him about six times with the knife, and kicked his right leg so hard that he buckled. I told him, You're lucky I didn't throw my left cross. your guard was down the whole time you were chasing my knife. I didn't want to hurt you.” In a real fight you don't control the weapon. You control the man. The weapon will follow.” By the way, he is now a good friend of mine.

I can't tell you about all the different martial arts and the goofy names for all of their techniques. I couldn't tell you all the crazy “rules of fighting” that they all claimed you needed to know. I can tell you what it's like to get caught with a straight right and get knocked clean out. I can tell you what it feels like to knock someone out. I can tell you what it's like to break your knuckles on someones face (more than once). I can tell you what it feels like to feel your nose slowly snap as your face is being ground into the mat. I can tell you what it's like to see cross-eyed for a couple of hours after being hit so hard you see stars. I can tell you what it feels like when your jaws and teeth don't align for a couple of days after taking a good hook to the chin.

I can tell you what it's like to do roadwork in the snow in the dark at 0430 hrs before you start your morning workout in a freezing cold gym at 0500 hours for two hours, knowing that you are going to train for another two hours that evening.

Most of the guys who always knew all the details about fighting arts just couldn't tell you those things.

As to shooting skills, I know nothing about ballistics, wound cavities, foot pounds of energy, muzzle velocity, etc, etc. But I can hit a target. I can hit it under stress and I can hit it when someone is shooting back at me. And it doesn't matter if it is a pistol, a rifle, a subgun, or a shotgun.

We could track a white tail deer in the Northern woods in -12 degree weather, shoot it, dress it out and eat venison if you would like. I use a 50 year old Remington 30-06 that used to belong to my Dad, to do the job. I wouldn't even be able to tell you what brand of bullets I was using.

I have a friend who is a Navy SEAL Sniper who told me he was not interested in all the minutiae and details that revolve around shooters and their discussions of such. But, his Chief told him, son, you have to learn all that crap or you'll never be accepted into the “community” no matter how good you are. He was the top sniper in his class and has a long list of “accomplishments.” He knows his dope but he still doesn't' know all of the facts and figures the others guys argue about constantly. And everyone wants him for their deployment.

I was a pretty good athlete, a serious athlete. I played college football and pro baseball. In my high school we had a serious badminton competition every year and many of the competitors went out and purchased $150.00 aluminum rackets to compete with. They were very nice, very light, very tight and had a lot of spring. My Junior year I went down to our local hardware store and bought a cheap backyard badminton set for $29.95 with four wooden rackets. I took one of those loose wooden rackets, painted it red, white and blue, wrote the words “U.S. Bomber,” on the handle and whipped everyone in the tournament of over 100 players. I did it to prove it was not about the equipment, it was about the player. You may want to read an article I wrote for human events on the problem with weapons dependency for more insight into that mindset.

When I played ball, I couldn't tell you all the stats of the major league players or who was in first place. I didn't buy a new mitt or cleats every year. But I can tell you what it feels like to catch a line drive hit so hard that it hisses in the air and your hand swells up for days after the catch. I could tell you how you can't sleep on either side at night because of the open strawberries on your hips from stealing bases. I could tell you the difference in the feel of a bat due to its grain and density when it contacts the ball. And I could tell you what it feels like to hit one “out of the park”, and I never, ever, wore batting gloves. I still have and use the same mitt I bought in 1971. After re-lacing it dozens of times, it still catches as good as it ever did.

The guys who always knew all the stats never got the chance to play against those major leaguers. I did.

People are always trying to put me in a box, a conventional box along with all the other conventional knife companies. I get that. Problem is, we're not conventional. Never have been and never will be. I don't fit into a box – any box for that matter, and I never will.


Some have even bragged, “I've got the balls to tell Ernest Emerson what's wrong with his knives. I'm not a fan boy.” All I can say is if that's your definition of having balls then you've not had a very hard life.

You might ask why is Emerson going on about all this stuff? It has nothing to do with knives or fit and finish.

Well, it has everything to do with my knives because it is about me and who I am. My knives reflect the way I see them and the way I use them. The point being made is that some of you do not know me or even know about me. If you did know me then you would know that I am about performance and performance only. Either something works or it does not. Either you can do something or you cannot. It does not matter to me how much you “know” about the subject or the fanciness of your gear. And whether or not the handles or liners line up perfectly or not on the ass end of a knife does not affect the performance of the knife in one single way.


And in the end those other, highly finished knives don't get to go on all those crazy adventures that mine do. And selfishly, I'm damned proud of it. Maybe I'm doing something right.


Maybe some of you know me just a little better now. And maybe some of you will now know why my knives are the way they are.



My Best Regards,


Ernest R. Emerson


  • fjfjjj says:

    I don’t need the $150 racket, when I can win with an $8 racket. I get that. So I’ll just buy the $8 racket… except I’m still not sure why I should spend $500 on it. Is it because the $500 version of the $8 racket says “USA Bomber” on it?

  • alternator says:

    “Fit and finish” aren’t expected on cheap knives. I don’t need to buy a knife to impress anyone but myself. I don’t need to buy a knife because of the reputation of any person or company–I already have a reputation of my own. If I want crude but functional, I’ll carry a heavy-duty box cutter. If I spend hundreds of dollars, I demand considerably more than mere functionality. Sometimes less is more, but sometimes you just pay more and get less.

  • Howard Chai says:

    I’ve owned several Emerson Knives of varying styles, and none have ever failed to perform their function, even in the worse possible scenarios. The other brands pride themselves on quality or what have you, but fail under normal use, whereas Emersons just won’t quit, no matter what I subject them to. Heck, I have a 11yr old CQC-7 that’s been beat all to hell, from combat in Iraq and daily use at sea, yet it still slices and dices better than any pretty knife on the market today. The only other knife I have, that might be slightly comparable, would be my Winkler Belt knife, which isn’t pretty by any means, but follows in Emerson’s philosophy of performance.

  • Alan Graham says:

    Mr. Emerson, I am a SWAT commander and I also work as a private contractor for high risk security. Your knives won my heart years ago, I have several and you will never find me out without at least two on me. Your knives represent the community that carries them. They are tough and reliable, they are a warriors friend. Their are alot of good knives on the market today but your Emerson knives stand alone. Congratulations Sir, your making the finest hard use knife on the market today. Heck, I’m going to order another one, just because nothing else comes close.

  • anthony clark says:

    Very good article and I suppose it is what it is when special ops carry a tactical knife / weapon it is more times than not going to be a Emerson I carry my Emerson everywhere everyday at work I carry a mini commander and off work edc. is a jungle cqc7 w/serrated blade I have 9 Emerson’s 2 jungle cqc7s mini commander a stone wash cqc7 a spec war.and a bulldog as well as a sofck and 2 jungle commanders and a bench made cqc7 I also have about 10 Emerson brand shirts and belt buckle love my Emerson equipment must have items in today’s world Lol well maybe not so many just can’t help myself Thanks Ernie n employees

  • Peter says:

    I got two Fox Karmabits, and one Fox trainer. A couple of days ago I got my first Emerson, The Combat Karambit. I live in Sweden and managed do get one from Dave’s knives. You can’t buy them in anywhere in Sweden. Well, when I first took it out of the box I thought The Emerson was inferior to the Fox. The Fox was som much smoother and finer built. But… it didn’t take long for me to change my mind and now the Emerson is my favorite among all my knives. Why? Well, first it’s the ergonomics, the double frame are wonderful when you like me want to do flips with the knives. It just stays there, while the fox very easy slips away from you. The Combat Karambit with the double frame are more secure than the thin ring on the Fox. The other reason is that it just feels so right. It’s hard to explain but it just a really nice object. The linerlock is a bit sticky on the Emerson, not on the Fox. Of course I don’t like that. But even with that I like the Emerson best. Strange things happen when you get an object that talks to your senses and not only to your brain. I just can’t keep my hands of it. And THAT must be the highest praise for any product. /Best Regards, Peter, Sweden.

  • ADAM HENSON says:

    I agree with Emerson with everything he said, it’s performance not the fancy stuff. Kind of reminds me of when I was 9 years old, I began shooting pool at a local pool hall when I got out of school, I watched, listenend, practice and played, by the time I was 11 only one in that came into the place could beat me, no matter how fancy there stick was, I would stand proud by my house cue which was taller than me with a grin from ear to ear. I wish I could’ve found a emerson knife earlier..
    Thanks and keep up the good work Emerson….

    • Mystro says:

      Its a shame you can’t run for political office….. “It either works or it doesn’t” is a mentality lost in society today. Shades of gray, compromising and pandering to save face have given us a lazy undisaplined government. How refreshing would it be for a politician to apply this logic. I share many view points with Mr.Emerson and have been successful in my endevers. It works,….the only catch is it requires personal and professional disapline.

  • Martin Garrison says:

    I carry an Emerson on duty and off every day, never leave home without it. The first one I had I bent the handle trying to open a window to get into an observation post for a drug case, that was my fault so I got another one. I really like how it can be carried on either side and the tension on the blade can be adjusted for opening speed. On duty, non gun side, off duty gun side (pepper spray is on non gun side)

  • Jack Shen says:

    I agree there Mr. Emerson, From what I have seen, the complaints come from people, that are either too hyper critical about “looks” or bought a particular knife without understanding it’s purpose.

    One can’t expect to make feather sticks with a fully chisel ground cqc-7. if one wants to do that with a emerson folder get a cqc-8 or something that is more V ground. it’s just the way things

  • Don Best says:

    Mr. Emerson,

    I have read your Bio and it’s impressive. This piece is equally impressive. I had the distinct honor & privilege of meeting you at 2011 SHOT (REALLY bummed that you weren’t at ’13 SHOT, but you made the right call). I don’t know how many of your knives I own. I don’t. There are LOTS. There’s a mini Commander in my left pocket right now. My duty pants have a Super Karambit and a Commander Karambit in the front pockets. The dresser top is lined up with CQCs 7, 13, 15, more Karambits, 100s, LaGriffe and so on. The nay-sayers can just sit behind their monitors, pretending. Your knives fit the hand. Your knives work. Your knives, sir, are meat and ‘taters. Keep it up.

  • William L. Jones says:

    A dear friend from the Navy gave me a CQC-7BW for my birthday and I am proud to own the “Navy SEAL” of knives. I am an Armed Security Specialist and an Extradition Agent, I carry this knife religiously, it is simply, THE BEST!!! I own many other knives, but this one is in my right front pocket every time I leave my house. Thanks for making the best knife I own. Ever since I read “The Protector” by David Morrell I wanted the CQC7, also, when Richard Marcinko stated that you make the finest knives, I knew I wanted one. My Navy brother,( I was a MARINE, OORAH) carried one while deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan. He lost his CQC7 while in Afghanistan and has felt lost without it. I hope to one day buy him another when my hours pick up. You might say he is the brother I never had. His name is Jeff Brantley and he lives at 4004 Queensbury Circle Memphis, Tennessee 38122, I believe. Just wanted you to know about him, Thanks………. Wm. L. Jones

  • Nathan P. says:

    I can say that I am a knife guy. I have collected several quality knives throughout my life. Stuff from Chris Reeve, Laci Szabo, Fred Perrin, Benchmades, and some others. However, the crown jewel of my collection is without a doubt my 2009 Commander Jungle Edition. I love that knife more than all of those others. It is my baby. My newly acquired Roadhouse might give it a run for its money, because let’s be honest the Roadhouse is just a sexy knife all together. I appreciate the quality and warranty that you put on your products, and it is those reasons alone why I think you make the best knife on the market. That and because one of my closest friends has an old Emerson CQ-7 Benchmade that has been to 12 different countries, 2.5 tours, and 3 different continents. It has been sharpened and cleaned so many times that the character on it is just too cool. To me if that doesn’t scream quality then I do not know what does. I have tried to buy it from him so many times, but like all great things, that knife is a part of him. Thanks for a quality knife sir.

  • WOLFIE1953 says:

    Mr. Emerson,

    Not sure what you were responding to, so did some research and saw a youtube video discussing unacceptable fit and finish on a knife. Not sure if this is it or not, but as a Quality Manager for many years, the following comments are provided:

    1. Have owned two CQC knifes for many years and have found them acceptable in every way, and just ordered a karambit based on the the excellent service and quality of the CQC knives.

    2. At this price level, certain expectations are inherent in the experience. The knife must show manufacturing excellence. No, not fraction of a milimeter fit, nor hand made finish, but evidence that your manufacturing processes are in control should be evident when the box is opened.

    3. Product that is nonconforming should not be shipped. The owners comments were objective and supported by the video. It is doubtful that the knife met your manufacturing drawing requirements and therefore should have been sent for internal rework.

    4. Your design is excellent, and an excellent design should be respected by excellence in manufacturing.

    Thanks for listening.

  • David Swingle says:


    Mr. Emerson, My first knife from you was a CQC8. I’ll be real. When I got it I thought it might be a fake. The blade had a line on the black finish and the sticky lock took two hands to close it. I sent it in to be checked out by your staff. A lady who works for you called me on phone to confirm she was rehabbing it. I don’t know what she did but when I received the knife back, knowing it wasn’t a fake , it looked great and its like it broke in by magic! It is as smooth as butter and now I LOVE it. So I just bought a CQC13. I was expecting it to need a break-in period and looking forward to the dating phase prior to the marriage. But this CQC13 is buttery smooth right out of the box. Are you kidding me? I lOVE this knife totally. BUT, it has fucked up my EDC rotation. How can I choose anything else in the morning to put in my pocket? My admiration to you, your company, and what you do, David Swingle

  • filmar says:

    Thanks for the story sir, wherever I go I never leave home without my cqc7 I really love the wave features, coz you never know.. when this knife is in my hand its feels like you specially built it for me.I don’t care about the super perfectly fit Finnish, just like richard marcinko said (just keep it simple stupid) (K.I.S.S) I bought your knive because I know it will do the job. Thank you sir and god bless you and your family. MAHALO.

  • says:

    I have much respect for you and your work. Fit and finish are not usually my main concern when I buy a knife. I have knives that are near perfect in that category but they are mostly safe queens, and I have my users that I don’t worry about “getting dirty”. That is what I love about Emerson productions. It has been my experience that they will work as hard as I do and get the job done without fail. If I wanted an Emerson with perfect fit and finish I would buy a custom, and hopefully one day I will. Thanks, Mr. Emerson, for making knives that perform the way they should and look just fine in my opinion.

  • Bess the Engineer says:

    Thanks for your story. Enjoyed reading it. One of the best purchases I’ve made is my CQC 12 Comrade. I can’t tell you how many offers I’ve had to sell it. But it’s not fr sale at any price. It’s been carried on my Coast Guard patrols, and then later in other uniformed service. I meticulously care for it and hope one day to give it to our son. And by the way, I love the wave feature. For my money, I haven’t found a better knife! Keep up the great work. I’m also honored to below n now to the OBS and look forward to fellowship there.

  • Chris P says:

    This mentality is why you Rock, period.
    I’m a proud owner of a CQC-14 snubby. I have loads of other knives, but when I walk out the door for a new adventure and am uncertain what awaits, I grab my Emerson.
    Keep it Real, Sir.

    Nil Carborundum Illegitimo – Don’t Let the Bastards Keep you Down

  • Jerry Sturgill says:

    I stand behind you and your company 100%! I have been using your knives for almost 20 years and never leave home without one of seven of my CQC-7’s or one of four Commanders. I like the classics, they work… period.

    Customer for life,

Leave a Reply