The James Brand Carter XL folding knife review – great design for a not so great price

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REVIEW – I’ve owned a lot of knives over the years so by now I know what I want in an everyday carry knife and which features are important to me. The James Brand Carter XL checks all the blocks for me specification wise so let’s see how it does in practice.

What is it?

The James Brand is a lifestyle company. They design items they think should be in our pockets. The James Brand Carter XL is their take on an everyday carry manual folding knife that has a 3.3” drop point blade with either G10 or micarta handles and a solid ambidextrous slide lock. You can open it using the slide lock or there’s a thumb disc as well. It weighs in at 3.3oz and with an overall length of 7.8” it’s not too big and not too small. It was designed in Portland, OR but made in Yangjiang, China.

What’s included?

  • The James Brand Carter XL in OD green micarta with plain VG10 blade
  • Storage sleeve
  • Stickers and product info cards
  • Lanyard insert (supposed to be included but was missing from mine)

Tech Specs

Click to expand Tech Specs
  • Blade Steel: VG-10
  • Printing Volume: 12.1 L/ 3.2gal
  • Blade Length: 3.3″ / 8.4 cm
  • Overall Length: 7.8″ / 19.8 cm
  • Weight: 3.3 oz. / 93 g
  • Lock Type: Ambidextrous slide lock
  • Blade Shape: Drop point
  • Edge Type: Straight Edge
  • Opening Style: Ambidextrous thumb disc
  • Scale Material: OD Green micarta
  • Main Pivot: Stainless Steel / Torx T8
  • Hardware: Stainless Steel / Torx T6
  • Carry Style: Tip up
  • Clip Material: Stainless Steel
  • Clip Hardware: Torx T6
  • Bearing Style: Phosphor bronze washers
  • Designed In: Portland, Oregon
  • Made In: Yangjiang, China

Design and features

The James Brand Carter XL is the epitome of an everyday carry knife. With a 3.3” drop point VG10 blade, a 4.25” G10 or micarta handle, and weighing in at 3.3oz it’s the perfect size and shape for most daily cutting tasks with every knife maker out there having something similar in their lineup. The James Brand Carter XL also sports a very smooth slide and a thumb disk for opening along with a reversible deep carry pocket clip so it is lefty friendly.


The James Brand Carter XL is made from mid range Japanese VG-10 steel which is the gold standard when it comes to kitchen knives. Since it was designed to handle the abuse of the culinary world VG10 steel is easy to sharpen and has good corrosion resistance but edge retention and toughness aren’t as good as some higher end steels. When it comes to knife steel there’s always a compromise between edge retention, toughness, corrosion resistance, and ease of sharpening where usually you only get three of the four characteristics.

The Carter XL is available with G10 scales or in natural micarta; the natural micarta feels very comfortable in the hand. It initially felt a little slippery but has worn in nicely and now has good grip.

The opening style uses a symmetrical thumb-disc on top of the blade making for easy, affirmative one-handed opening. I ended up liking the thumb disc more than I thought. Compared to thumb studs since the disc is placed at the very edge of the blade I found I didn’t have to bend my thumb as much as some other knives where the thumb stud ends up very close to the handle. It also offers a nice wider resting position for your thumb or forefinger when trying to make a cut where normally you might just have jimping on the back of the blade.

The slide lock design with the raised step feature provided great engagement on both sides. The lock felt super solid and smooth with no side play, likely due to its oval shape, where most are round. The deep-carry pocket clip is very deep, and the handle can not be seen when in the pocket. It’s easily reversible (using a Torx T6, not included). If a pocket clip isn’t your thing, you can replace the clip with a lanyard insert, which is supposed to be included but was missing from the box I was sent.

Below you can see my very old SOG Flash II that is no longer made, Benchmade 551 Griptilian, and the Vosteed Raccoon which are all very similar in form but in the case of the Vosteed Raccoon and even the new versions of the SOG Flash AT-XR they are also over $100 cheaper than the James Brand Carter XL. Even the Benchmade Griptilian is cheaper at $144 and is US made with better steel.

What I like about The James Brand Carter XL knife

  • Smooth slide lock
  • Very usable blade shape
  • I like the thumb disc

What needs to be improved?

  • Price

Final thoughts

The James Brand Carter XL knife is a very well-designed knife, and I really like it, but at $179, I think it’s priced way too high compared to other similar knives. A search on BladeHQ showed the Carter XL was the most expensive knife with a VG10 drop point blade between 3” and 3.49”. The James Brand is a lifestyle company so their products come with a premium price. The popular Benchmade Griptilian and Bugout are cheaper, sport higher end S30V steel, and are actually made in Portland, OR not just designed there. I have reviewed the Vosteed Raccoon and love it. It has a micarta handle, cross bar lock, and a little cheaper 14C28N steel but I can buy three Raccoons for the price of one Carter XL. The James Brand Carter XL is a great knife but unless you can get it at a steep discount I think there are some better and cheaper options out there.

Price: $179.00
Where to buy: The James Brand website.
Source: The sample for this review was provided by James Brand. James Brand did not have a final say on the review and did not preview the review before it was published.

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