I would like to think I’m a knife guy; I own a bunch of pocket knives, I use an EDC knife almost everyday, and I am always looking for another good knife. I have my favorites that I always carry and I have been severely disappointed with some knife purchases.
I’ve cut myself flicking my knife open and I have tried to cut through numerous water bottles while my kids video it with a cell phone. I’ve gifted knives, helped people buy their first knife, and I all around love knives! I own well over 200 pocket knives. For all practical purposes, I think I qualify as a “knife guy.”
It’s Not A Bad Knife, It’s Just Not A Good Knife
Yet sometimes I wonder about my knife guy status, especially when I have a contrasting opinion about a knife than seemingly the rest of the knife guys out there. Such is the case with my review of the CIVIVI Brazen Tanto. If you watch any of the YouTube reviews of this knife, they all rave about it. In fact, it seems everyone raves about CIVIVI in general. So here I am wondering who is right, because while the CIVIVI Brazen is decent, it’s certainly not worthy of writing a letter home to Mom about.
I have a very different take on this knife than many people on the internet seem to have.
When I first sat down to write this review I started thinking I was being too harsh on the knife. It’s easy to rant and rave that you don’t like something with no repercussions on the internet. So I decided to give it some more time and made a concerted effort to reach for the Brazen at every chance to make sure I was being fair. I think this is why my real world opinion will differ from someone who just unboxes knives and fawns all over them. I cut, sliced, stabbed, and carried the Brazen for an extended period of time. It’s not a bad knife at all, it’s just not a great knife.
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Some Size Comparisons
The Brazen is not a horrible knife, but it’s far from “knife of the year”.
I picked up the CIVIVI Brazen Tanto with red G10 scales a few weeks ago. I was immediately underwhelmed when I opened it and, unfortunately, my feelings haven’t changed much after using it and carrying it for a while. It’s just an OK knife. The Brazen is not a horrible knife, by any stretch, but it’s far from a “knife of the year,” which it appears that a few folks seem to imply. I’ve given it a fair shake, but there are better options out there.
First lets cover the basics, then get into the details so you can see if you agree or disagree with me.
The CIVIVI Brazen is a pocket knife that is designed for everyday carry. It is made with a stainless steel D2 blade and a G-10 handle. The knife has a liner lock mechanism and both a thumb stud and flipper for easy opening. The CIVIVI Brazen also has a lanyard hole and a reversible, deep carry pocket clip.
The Brazen looks pretty cool with its black, stone-washed, Tanto blade. I’m a pushover for a Tanto and I am sure that’s what made me buy it in the first place. I have moved away from assisted opening knives but I definitely like a slick ball bearing system to flick open the blade. The Brazen blade is listed at 3.5″ but it has an actual cutting edge of 3.25″. Either way, it’s a bunch of steel to flick out with the flipper and it doesn’t have a very snappy feel to it.
The blade lumbers out on deployment more than snaps out
The CIVIVI Brazen is one of those folders that you have to make a concerted effort to open fully each time you use the flipper. If you are not fully committed and add only a little flick to it, the blade will only open half way. The blade lumbers out on deployment more than snaps out (it reminds me of a Milwaukee Fastback, if you have ever used one). You can open the knife with thumb studs or a rear flipper tab.
The handle is made from G10 and my knife came in Red or what CIVIVI calls burgundy. The knife comes in 7 different handle colors. The deep carry clip is nice and holds the knife very securely. It’s also reversible for left and right tip-up carry.
Along with the black clip, CIVIVI includes a color matched lanyard hole/backspacer. The lanyard hole is on the small side and you’re not getting any paracord through it. I never really add a lanyard loop to my EDC knives, but if you do, it will be tough. I will note here that under hard use the backspacer/lanyard clip really digs into the palm of your hand and creates a big hot spot.
If this was going to be my daily EDC knife, I would file it down immediately. CIVIVI should have made the backspacer flush and put a larger lanyard hole through the handle that could actually fit regular paracord.
CIVIVI does a nice job on packaging and each knife comes with a zipper case, a polishing cloth, and even a CIVIVI sticker. But really, who cares about those things? It’s a pocket knife and I will never use the case; after pictures it went right in the trash. Same for the polishing cloth….what in the world? Why would you include that?
However, the sticker was pretty cool. I imagine this is to give the whole experience an upmarket feel. And perhaps for gifting those might be good additions, but I would have preferred them to knock $10 off the price.
The price is what gets me here. Usually I would wait until the end to talk about value, but it’s really the intersection of this whole review, so let’s cover it now.
The CIVIVI Brazen retails for $49, and at around the $50 mark, there is an insane amount of competition out there. My whole attitude toward the knife would change if it was $35 to $40 (it might even get a thumbs up from me), but for $50 it doesn’t perform well enough to warrant all the glowing reviews. Understandably, value is in the eye (and wallet) of the beholder, but this is my humble opinion.
Perhaps I am being too harsh about the CIVIVI Brazen, as it certainly is not a complete junker. But I don’t understand all the rave reviews. Maybe this is the issue when the manufacturer sends you the knife for a review and it’s tough to be brutally honest. I spent my own cash on this guy, so I don’t feel beholden to anyone.
On the overall value, the knife misses the mark. It doesn’t feel high quality in the hand. It cuts and slices and isn’t a full-on mess to use, but it has that Big Box or Gas Station feel to it. You know you have a budget knife in hand when you carry the Brazen.
I own three other CIVIVI knives: an Elementum, a Baby Banter, and a Riffle. I don’t quite have the same opinion about them as I do the Brazen. the Elementum is a great knife and it has a more interesting design and look. The Riffle is OK, it suffers a little from feeling cheap too, but it has a few redeeming qualities. You can’t say I don’t have enough brand experience to judge the Brazen.
The Brazen comes in D2 steel which I happen to really love. It’s not a super steel or fancy, but it can really be sharpened easily to a wicked edge and has solid cutting performance. Now blade steel can really vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, even when it’s the same steel type. It all depends on their heat treating and processing.
The Brazen comes very sharp out of the box and handles most cutting tasks with ease. The shortcomings of the steel show up here with the blade losing its super edge rather quickly. For lightweight tasks it’s great, but when you start to really throw some harder stuff at it like carpet and cord, it dulls quickly.
The knife didn’t make it through a normal Saturday morning of chores without needing to be sharpened again. After cleaning the garage, breaking down a bunch of boxes, cutting out old carpet from my son’s truck and cutting it so it would fit in the trash, then cutting twine for tomato plants, the blade was very dull. I have other D2 blades that have shown better performance, most notably my OKC Rat2.
If you’re looking for a cheap knife, the CIVIVI Brazen is a good option.
So for what it is, the CIVIVI Brazen is a decent knife. It’s not going to turn heads, it’s not going to amaze you with its performance, but it will do the job and it won’t let you down as long as you keep it sharp.
If you’re looking for a cheap knife that you can rely on, the CIVIVI Brazen is a good option, but there are others that are less expensive that are certainly equal in the performance category. However, if you’re looking for something more special, you’ll have to look elsewhere.
Blair Witkowski is an avid watch nut, loves pocket knives and flashlights and when he is not trying to be a good dad to his nine kids, you will find him running or posting pics on Instagram. Besides writing articles for Tech Writer EDC he is also the founder of Lowcountry Style & Living. In addition to writing, he is focused on improving his clients websites for his other passion, Search Engine Optimization. His wife Jennifer and he live in coastal South Carolina.