The home of Shooting Times and Sporting Gun

CRKT Pilar

A wise airgun shooter keeps a pocket knife to hand, and Mike Morton takes a look at the CRKT Pilar to see whether this little folder is a suitable candidate

CRKT Pilar

Some people are really into knives, having a vast collection of blades from certain manufacturers, or even certain knifemakers, sometimes using them in the real world, but often keeping them in a drawer to be pulled out and admired on occasion. Most of the airgun shooters that I know, however, are not ‘knife guys’ as such, they just need something that’s capable of completing the task at hand.

But what is such a task? Why does an airgun shooter need a knife in the first place? Well, if you’re a hunter, several reasons spring to mind, from building a makeshift hide and dressing it, right through to hocking and paunching a rabbit, or even completely butchering an animal in the field.

It’s not all about hunting though. I once had a leather sling break on me and made an improvised sling by cutting up some paracord, a task that would have been very difficult without a knife. I’ve also carried out seemingly menial, but important, tasks at my club, such as opening a box of targets and cutting a length from a roll of nylon cable to fashion a homemade safety line so I could prove the bore of my rifle was clear.


CRKT Pilar – key specifications

Manufacturer: CRKT
Model: Pilar (
Model number: CRKT-5311CU
Knife supplied by: Edgar Brothers (
Price: £79.99
Blade length: 2.38in (60.50mm)
Blade edge: Plain
Blade steel: 8Cr13MoV
Blade finish: Satin
Blade thickness: 0.15in (3.73mm)
Overall length: 5.85in (148.59mm)
Closed length: 3.51in (89.20mm)
Weight: 4.00oz (113.40g)
Handle: Copper and stainless steel
Style: Folding knife with frame lock 


CRKT Pilar – overview

Having established a need to have a knife, let’s look at the subject of this review, the Pilar, which is a folding lock knife made by US firm Columbia River Knife & Tool, more commonly known as CRKT. The Pilar has a blade measuring 2.38in in length, but is relatively thick at 0.15in. The overall length is 5.85in with the blade extended, while the knife is only 3.51in long when closed, and weighs 4oz. This makes the Pilar small and unobtrusive, so you won’t notice you’re carrying it until you need it. 

Conversely, the stubby, thick blade gives the Pilar an overbuilt quality, meaning it’s more than capable of shrugging off any sensible job asked of it. The knife has a pocket clip which sits inside a nicely milled recess, and the clip can be reversed, depending on whether you like the tip pointing down or up when it’s in a pocket.

The Pilar you see here has a two-piece handle consisting of a stainless steel scale on the right-hand side and a copper scale on the presentation side. It’s a question of personal taste of course, but I think this strikes just the right balance between elegance and gaudiness. Having said that, the copper-scaled Pilar is just one of several models in the range, the other Pilars having a choice of handle material including stainless steel on both sides, or a mix of stainless steel and black G10, which is a resin-based composite.

While the Pilar can be opened and closed with one hand, it’s best to use two hands to deploy and collapse this sturdy little knife more safely and efficiently

Prices range from £54.99 for the all-stainless Pilar to £79.99 for the stainless and copper model I’m reviewing. If I was to buy a Pilar purely for the field, I think I’d choose the stainless/black G10 model at £59.99. The copper handle does have one benefit for the field though, as it really stands out against grass, snow and leaf litter, so you’re less likely to lose it. 

The scale will develop a patina over time. Some people love this look, in which case the knife can be left well alone, but if that’s not your cup of tea then a mint factory-fresh look can be restored in a few seconds with some metal polish.


What’s in a name?

While it’s made by CRKT, knifemaker Jesper Voxnaes created the Pilar in his shop in Denmark. This arrangement is good for the consumer, and is fairly common in the knife world in general, as it means we can have a blade designed by a custom knifemaker, but because it’s mass-produced by CRKT we are not having to pay custom knifemaker prices. 

The Pilar is named after Ernest Hemingway’s boat, which was his pet name for his wife Pauline. Hemingway lived in Cuba after the Spanish Civil War, and sailed the waters of the Caribbean in the Pilar searching for German U-boats, giving the fishing boat, and indirectly the knife, a true sense of adventure.


CRKT Pilar in operation

CRKT has equipped the Pilar with a cutout in the blade into which the flesh of your thumb can be pressed for one-handed opening. This method does work, and being able to open a knife with one hand is advantageous when you’re holding onto something with your other hand, but it’s not ideal with this knife. The blade pivots on Teflon washers – more on those later – and due to these it’s arguably easier and quicker to hold the handle with one hand while pinching the cutout and opening the blade with the thumb and forefinger of the other.

Folding knives usually have washers made of Teflon or phosphor bronze, or run on stainless or ceramic ball bearings. Knives with Teflon washers are pitched at the lower end of the fiscal scale, but there are pros and cons for each type, with bearings being slick to open, but quicker to gum up with grit, while Teflon is slower to open but cleaner, with phosphor bronze sitting in between.

True to form, the Pilar, with its Teflon washers, is fairly slow to open, but it enjoys the one additional benefit of this material, which is the fact that it can be run dry. 

If you do want to lubricate the pivot, then less is more, and my favourite oil for this job is Daiwa Reel Oil, which has a very precise needle-like applicator. A very thin application of Reel Oil did make the opening a little smoother, but again the benefit of these washers is the fact that this knife will still function even if it’s been neglected on the maintenance front, not to turn them into fast-opening flippers.

CRKT has used Teflon washers on the Pilar, but these can benefit from a little oil – Mike uses Daiwa Reel Oil for precise applications such as this

When the blade is fully open there’s an audible click as it engages positively with the frame lock. This type of lock uses a portion of the frame to hold the blade open. A similar style of lock is the liner lock, but the frame lock is typically stronger due to the thickness of the frame material. 

A small ball bearing set into the inner surface of the raceway helps to smooth the motion of the blade. The knife can be closed one-handed by applying outward pressure to the inner surface of the lock, freeing the blade. I find it safer to release the lock this way, but then to use two hands to control the closure of the blade, as there’s a risk of snagging a finger if you try to close it with just one hand.

When closed, the Pilar’s blade does not sit perfectly centred between the scales. This is something that would really upset a true knife guy, but while it can affect the opening and closing of a knife, which it doesn’t in this case, an off-centred blade is really only an aesthetic annoyance. 

What’s far more important is blade play, or rather lack of, when the knife has been opened, with the Pilar’s blade exhibiting no sideways or lengthways movement when ready for use. It really is a very solid, competent little knife.


In the hand

Despite its small size, it’s easy to get a good grip on the Pilar. Voxnaes designed this knife with a large cutout behind the cutting edge of the blade. This is called a finger choil, and the forefinger grips the knife here, while the middle and index fingers wrap round the scales, with the pinky sitting towards the back of the knife, or even behind it depending on the user’s hand size. There is no jimping on the spine, but because the blade is so thick, I never felt my thumb was in danger of slipping. All in all, the Pilar is a very easy knife to control for general cutting tasks, although I found myself adopting a pinch grip for more delicate slicing.


Real steel

CRKT is an American company, but while some of its knives are made in the United States, others are made in China, and consequently this blade is made of a type of stainless steel called 8Cr13MoV. Some high-grade knives use so-called super steels such as Maxamet, while 8Cr13MoV is a more budget steel. Having said that, it’s excellent value for money, offering a fair degree of edge retention without being brittle, while also being easy to sharpen.

A good-quality knife deserves to be properly sharpened, either with traditional stones or a guided rod system such as this one from KME

The worker who put the edge on this Pilar did a reasonable job of getting a decent grind from heel to tip, which Mike has accentuated with the KME

Note that while this is a stainless steel, it’s not a stainproof steel, and although 8Cr13MoV is not as finicky as a carbon steel, the knife should still be stored with a light coating of oil over the blade. For general cutting tasks, any light oil will do, but if you intend to use the Pilar for food prep, including field dressing a rabbit or squirrel, then a food-safe oil is a better bet, with my preference being Japanese camellia oil.


How sharp is sharp?

The Pilar has a sheep’s foot-style blade with a gentle belly, and I was impressed by how even the edge had been ground on both sides from heel to tip. The knife was very sharp straight out of the box. You might expect this to be the case with all knives, but there’s no guarantee that any new knife you buy will be sharp, so kudos to CRKT for delivering a decent knife with a decent edge.

You might think any knife review should focus on how sharp the edge is and how well it cuts, but that’s only part of the story as any knife can be made sharp. There’s even a YouTuber who posts videos of knives he’s made from seemingly ridiculous materials such as cardboard and pasta! 

In my mind, a better test was to find out what type of an edge could be put on the Pilar and then to see how well it would cut.

To this end I used a sharpening set from a US firm called KME. This is a guided rod system that lets me sharpen at a predetermined angle of my choosing. 

I wanted to refine the factory edge rather than create a new one, so had to match the angle I sharpened at to the angle the factory had given the edge, which was 20 degrees on each side. I used a set of diamond stones and worked my way through several grits, always checking for a burr before moving on to a finer stone.

The copper will eventually take on a patina which many people love, but if you want to keep the scale shiny then a little polish will do the job nicely

As you can hopefully see from the accompanying photos, the Pilar took a mirror’s edge very well, and it was extremely sharp too. My sharpness tests at home involved cutting paper and shaving hairs from my arm, while in the field I subjected the Pilar to cutting more paracord and vegetation for a hide. 

I’ve now been using the knife for several weeks and have not needed to sharpen it again, just stropping it periodically on some kangaroo leather to maintain the edge.

Due to the blade thickness and geometry, the Pilar has not really been designed for slicing, but it still fared pretty well anyway when I used it to prepare meat, vegetables and fruit, although its natural role is for more rugged use, which is helped by the beefy thickness of the blade. Hemingway would be proud of this versatile little knife. 


UK Knife Law

People are often confused about the type of knife they can own and when and where they can carry it, however the law is reasonably clear. The maximum penalty for an adult carrying a knife illegally is either four years in prison, an unlimited fine or both. You’ll get a prison sentence if you’re convicted of carrying a knife illegally more than once.

It’s illegal to use any knife in a threatening way, but it’s also illegal to carry most knives in public without a ‘good reason’. The exception is a folding pocket knife that has a cutting edge no longer than 3in and is not a lock knife, meaning it does not have a button, spring or catch that you have to use to fold the knife.

On the strength of this, the Pilar would pass the test on blade length, it being only 2.38in, but would fail the test due to the fact that it has a frame lock. But do remember that it is still lawful to carry a knife like this as long as you have a good reason to do so.

If you want specific advice on what counts as a ‘good reason’, contact your local police or get legal advice, but this basically means you can own a locking knife and use it at home or on one of your shooting permissions. What you can’t do is take it into a shop or a pub on the way home. Just exercise some common sense.


Take away romantic notions of grizzled adventurers chasing U-boats, and you’re still left with a chunky little knife that’s tough but handsome, functions well and represents great value for mone