Hopefully, most of you reading this blog right now are in the habit of carrying a first aid kit when you are shooting and, hopefully, you have at least some training on its use. If you do carry a first aid kit with some regularity, you are likely familiar with the ubiquitous medical shears that are a part of so many kits. These shears are, with few exceptions, cheaply made but passable for clearing obstructions like clothing and gear from a wound site. Those shears have been used for years, but, as with most pieces of gear, eventually someone gives us something better. The someone is Benchmade and the something is their Safety Cutters.
To really appreciate the Benchmade Safety Hooks, you have to first understand what they replace (or at least supplement). Shears, medical shears, EMT shears, or whatever else they might be called are both a blessing and curse. On one hand, their design allows them to cut through some incredibly durable materials. This is often demonstrated by cutting a penny in half. However, their cheap construction can render them useless in a matter of minutes. They often dull very quickly – even after cutting just one pair of pants. They can flex and bend. They aren’t comfortable to use for strenuous work and can fatigue your hand very quickly. They can also take quite a long time to cut through some material or to make long cuts like in the case of a pant leg. In spite of all of that, you will still find a pair in any serious first aid kit because they work, at least for a while.
A Better Way
Benchmade Safety Hooks represent a better way to do many of the tasks that you would traditionally complete with shears. They are easier to carry, easier to use, faster, and they last nearly indefinitely.
I own several of the 7 Hook/Safety Cutters and 1 of the 8 Hook/Safety Cutters. They weigh about the same as a set of shears but are much more compact and easy to carry. Benchmade Safety Hooks come with a sheath and in the case of the 7 and 8 Hooks, they come with a MOLLE compatible sheath. The sheath is simple and effective. It retains the Safety Cutter with a hook and loop secured flap and a secondary elastic band. In the event that the flap catches on something and is pulled loose, the elastic band can retain prevent the Safety Hook from being lost. The sheaths even come with the MALICE clip that is necessary to mount it.
Using a Benchmade Safety Hook is easy. “Grip it and rip it” has never been a more appropriate phrase. As soon as you have one in hand, you know how to use it. You hold the grip area in your hand and hook whatever you wish to cut with the hooked end of the cutter. Then it is simply a matter of pulling the hook through the material. The hooks are so sharp, that this takes very little strength and effort.
I stated above that the Safety Cutters are faster than shears and you may be wondering how much faster. I compared a brand new set of shears that had never cut anything with a brand new 7 Hook/Safety Cutter by using each to cut from cuff to waist on an old pair of BDU pants. The shears did the job in a respectable 46 seconds while the 7 Hook zipped through in less than 4 seconds. Not only was it faster, but it was considerably easier. 4 seconds is a lot faster than 46 seconds.
Benchmade has tested their Safety Hooks for hundreds of cuts and while they do eventually get harder to cut with due to dulling, they will last many more cuts than a pair of shears. The 440C Safety Cutters are hardened to 58-60 Rockwell and the edges are refined to a high polish. It is amazing how long the edge lasts. If it does start to dull, you can simply return it to Benchmade with a small fee to cover return shipping and they will bring it back to life for you. You can also maintain it yourself if you are handy with strop compound. I use compound loaded into a thin leather strap to keep the hooks sharp. Harsher abrasives like ceramics or diamonds should not be used.
What Will They Cut?
I have used the Safety Hooks to cut all of the mundane stuff like tubular webbing, first aid tape, pant legs, para-cord, and heavier rope. However, what is most impressive is how they cut more difficult items like multiple layers of 1000D nylon in a chest rig and even a leather work boot.
If you need to access a chest wound, the Safety Hook can be used to strip away clothing and even gear. It zipped through no less than 3 layers of 1000D nylon and a layer of MOLLE webbing in one pull when I tested it on an old chest rig that I had laying around. Searching for buckles is wasted time when you have a tool like the Benchmade Safety Cutters.
If you need to clear a boot, don’t waste time trying to untie the laces, loosen the boot, and then remove it. Simply pull the cutter straight down from ankle to sole and then forward toward the toe and the boot falls away (you don’t need to cut both sides). It only takes a few seconds and it is amazingly easy to pull the hook through multiple layers of leather and fabric.
Even thicker items like climbing rope can be cut with these Safety Cutters. You simply start the cut with a small rocking motion to get into the inner layers and then pull. It’s easy.
Both the 7 Hook and 8 Hook Safety Cutters are excellent. The 7 Hook is more compact and its foam rubber grip is more comfortable and easier to use with gloves. I think it is the better all around choice, but some users may prefer the more nimble feeling and slightly longer reach of the 8 Hook. There is also a newer version of the 8 Hook that integrates a carbide glass breaker which really adds to an already excellent tool.
These Benchmade Safety Cutters outclass every similar product that I have ever tried. They represent a huge improvement over shears for first aid tasks. They are so reasonably priced (especially considering the sheath and MALICE clip) that it makes sense to own at least two of them so you can be sure to have one even if the other is sent out for sharpening. They work so well and are so easy to carry that there is almost no excuse not to add one to your kit today. I consider them among my most important pieces of first aid gear.