“Everything old is new again” a wise person once said. So it goes with Chris Reeve Knives (CRK) that a true pioneer in a field now cluttered with new and fancy products responds quietly but with the confidence of a chief in his own right. Chris Reeve’s Large Inkosi folder is the definitive evolution to a classic and beloved knife style that speaks for itself with true performance and subtlety that only Chris Reeve can muster to pull-off.
Trap in boys and girls, this is a long read, but a great product deserves a full-featured review. So for those who want the abridged version: The Large Inkosi is more than just a name change. It is wonderful and lives up to its predecessor, the Sebenza, but with a few added tricks up its sleeve.
- Blade length: 3.6″ (2.8″ small)
- Overall length: 8.4″ (6.5″ small)
- Closed length: 4.8″ (3.8″ small)
- Weight: 5.0 oz (3.0 oz small)
- Blade material: CPM-S35VN
- Handle material: 6Al4V Titanium
- Locking mechanism: Frame lock
- Deployment mechanism: Thumb Stud
- Country Of Origin: USA
- Price Range: About $445 ($375 small)
Chris Reeve launched the large Inkosi, which means “Chief” in Zulu back in June, 2016. The Large Inkosi is effectively the successor of the Sebenza 25 model, and joins it’s stablemate, the Small Inkosi which has been available for a couple of years now in the model line-up. The Sebenza 25 is now discontinued.
Confusion may be the inevitable side-effect for anyone looking at pictures of a large Sebenza 25 and the large Inkosi. They are remarkably similar in appearance, as they should be. This was less confusing when the initial small Inkosi was brought to market, as a small Sebenza 25 was never a CRK offering, and thus the small Inkosi was able to stand as its own product within its own unique product line. However, the large Inkosi is for lack of better terms the upgraded version of the Large Sebenza 25, which was in it of itself a progression from the 21 model line-up.
Confused yet? … Let’s make it simple. The Chris Reeve Inkosi is the successor of the large Sebenza. They look extremely similar, which is a good thing, but the large Inkosi boasts the following upgrades and enhancements:
- A more robust stop pin
- Additional stability to the locking mechanism
- Twin oversized phosphor bronze perforated bushings
- Pocket clip positioned to sit further away from the lock bar
- 8% thicker S35VN blade (compared to small Sebenza 21)
- New large hollow grind technology (not previously applied to pocket knives)
- Ceramic ball lock bar interface
- Standard double thumb lugs
Let’s face it, the Inkosi is certainly more ‘iteration’ than it is ‘innovation’, but it was never intended to be something completely new. There is something admirable about taking something great and making it even greater.
In true CRK fashion the Large Inkosi came beautifully packaged. The pristine white box contained some delicately printed paperwork (knife information, registration card, guarantee card and even a nice CR sticker), a tube of fluorinated grease and loctite, three ‘hex key’ wrenches and the knife itself wrapped in the traditional blue cloth. Full marks for presentation.
On removing the knife, for a moment we thought that a Sebenza 25 had been mistakenly shipped in place of the large Inkosi. Granted, we knew that it was going to look very similar, but not practically maternal twins of each other. But we took pause, and remembered that Chris Reeve does things with subtlety, and a high level of detail.
We studied the knife as we had never done with any other knife previously, noting the similarities and then starting to hone in on the differences. Like any other Chris Reeve knife, the product was flawless with regard to production and execution of every component whose sum of parts equaled the entirety of the knife. Like the 25, the large Inkosi is a robust titanium handled frame lock knife with beautiful drop point modified hollow grind and rounded spine.
Blasted titanium on the handles gives it a modern and industrial look, while also allowing for some tactile traction. The jimping was fantastic. Unlike Sebenzas of yesteryear, the large Inkosi understands the needs of the user, and provides a very usable and reliable jimping pattern. We will talk more on that in a bit, as it was a winner in all cutting tasks both will and without gloves.
We don’t care who you are, owning a Chris Reeve knife whether you like them or not is a special thing. It is hard to look at one and hold it without being captured by that special feeling. As an overall first impression, it was ultimately like most other Sebenza’s we have opened (but for the fact that it is an “Inkosi”), it is underwhelming and yet equally awesome – Simple and beautiful.
Usability is the name of the game when discussing the large Inkosi. In fact, the mere creation of the product is a representation of the fact that Chris Reeve refuses to rest on his laurels, as he continues to evolve the iconic design into the most usable and perfect EDC companion. Everything felt perfect on the Sebenza, whoops I meant to say large Inkosi. That I guess is the point, if you like the Sebenza and you are looking for about a 10 percent increase in everything, the Inkosi is the knife that brings that to the table.
The thumb studded double-lugs have never really been our favorite. We can still hear people discussing “Sebenza thumb” after a week of first owning a CRK Sebenza of any type. The Inkosi is no different. The slightly conical shape of the thumb studs take a few days for the uninitiated to get a feel for in most cases. But once you get that feel, it is almost like breathing.
We noted the larger stop pin, and that the tension on the classic style CRK spring pocket clip was looser than we recall on our Sebenza 25. It was a notable change that the orientation of the clip was different, which was obviously extremely similar to that of the Small Inkosi. As for pocket clip usability, we give it a solid “A” rating. It seemed to slide into the pocket a bit better as we first shoved it in and out of our jean pocket, but also was a bit lax on the grip in the pocket.
What can we say; the Sebenza and Inkosi no longer stand out as they used to now that we have so many flashy and well-built competitive offerings. But the subtle style and utilitarian beauty still shines bright. Just holding it in our hands gave us confidence. It feels more like an exquisite tool than so many of these quasi-tactical-art knives we have been seeing. It feels robust, overbuilt, and yet at just under 5 oz. offers a much more palatable size to weight ratio when compared too many other overbuilt type titanium frame lock folders out there.
When we deployed the knife for the first several times it was a little stiff – Still extremely smooth, but a bit tight. The lockup was about 75-80% which is generally where CRK likes to have it for both stability and safety reasons. With the big ceramic ball used for lockup, we feel very confident that it will stay right where it is. We should also mention that the bronze washers were visibly apparent in both the open and closed positions. It does not get in the way, and it is not overly obvious, but they are visible as they protrude slightly on each side of the inner tang of the knife. We actually though it was pretty cool… and we would wager that Chris Reeve did too.
Some people have stated that they prefer the straight handle style of the Sebenza 21 over the Sebenza 25, and as the large Inkosi is a souped-up 25, it has the same finger indentations on the handle scales. We also tend to prefer the straight style of the Sebenza 21 over the ergonomic styling of the Inkosi, but also appreciate the comfort it provides in standard grip positions. Those who perform unique cutting tasks, and who tend to use reverse grip hand positions may want to feel the Inkosi in hand before picking one up.
As for the lefties of the world, good news is that Chris Reeve tends to be much more lefty friendly when compared to most. He often offers lefty model variants of his models, though they can be a tough commodity to find at a reseller. Luckily, for those not in any hurry, Chris and his team also take direct orders if you can stomach the wait times. Even still, the standard version is rather lefty compliant, as it offers duel thumb studs for easy opening even for south-paws.
Real World Testing
Since we use a Sebenza 25 as one of our standard EDC knives commonly in our rotation, we were really excited to see if the large Inkosi brought a bit more to the table as an EDC. We carried the Inkosi for about 1 full week as our primary large folding EDC. We conducted rather standard tasks with the knife. We used it when a knife was needed, like any other EDC and did not baby the knife. We should note by the way that the Inkosi was extremely well sharpened out of the box. We can’t speak for all Inkosi products that may appear on the door step, but this was certainly one of the absolute sharpest knives we have every received from a production company. Out of box it was sharper than our Sebenza 25.
The Inkosi performed extremely well for an EDC, putting up with our holiday decorating needs, and constant box cutting. We even used it for cutting wrapping paper with excellent results. As for the pocket clip, it was a breeze to get in and out of the pocket. Surprisingly it held in the pocket really well also. After taking a cat-nap on the sofa we hurriedly checked our pocket in fear that the knife had fallen out. But it was exactly where it was supposed to be, sitting nicely and relatively snug in a tip-up position inside right side pocket.
As for gratuitous testing, yeah we did that… well, a little. We had to take the opportunity to compare the Sebenza 25 with the large Inkosi. So we devised some relatively simple tasks for them. We cut some 550 paracord with each knife. Actually, we cut lots of it – About 12 feet for each knife worth of cutting to be exact. Our Sebenza 25 had a nice sharpening on our Edge Pro Apex Pro, while initially the Inkosi sported the factory bevel finish. The results might just surprise you. Keep in mind the steel on these knives are both the excellent CPM-S35VN steel, the same stuff Chris Reeve helped Crucible develop. Though it may not be considered the super steel it once was dubbed several years ago, it is some fine stuff and offers a wonderful balance of performance and maintainability. Read more about it on our knife steels page. Anyway, to the results we go.
Both knives performed very well up until about 8 feet of cutting, as they both managed to pop the paracord neatly and clean. But at about 8 feet they both started to struggle a tad with getting those tight cuts with a clean result. More downforce and back and forth motion was needed for each knife. However, an interesting observation was made at about 10 feet of rope cutting for the Inkosi, and it related to ease of cutting in hand. You see, it is not just about performance for the tool, but also the user of that tool. Having first gone ahead and cut with the Sebenza 25, the Inkosi was at 10 feet that we realized it was really not as hard to cut with it as the 25 was at the same point.
The pocket clip portion actually felt better in our hand. Perhaps others would have noticed this sooner, but we had gloves on, and it took about that long until it was apparent. Both knives finished with about the same cutting performance, and about the same wear on the blade, however we were less tired and worn after cutting with the Inkosi (even though it was the second knife to go in this test). It is not an exact science, and test results of this type can’t really be quantified, but I know that I would prefer to use the Inkosi for long cutting tasks if I had a choice between the two. It was subtle, but it was still apparent to us.
As for all other tests, we can tell you that we did use it in the kitchen, and it was a pretty good wannabe-chef’s companion. The large Inkosi managed to assist us when cutting veggies for our pasta primavera dinner, and assist in peeling about 10 small apples for a pie we were making. Don’t expect it to perform like a well weighted chef’s knife, but it will get the job done.
We cleaned off the knife, and gave it another sharpening. The great thing about the Sebenza and now the large Inkosi is they cleanup well. Looked like almost new again. At about 445 dollars new, the large Inkosi is far from a cheap knife. It is good to know you can give it a workout and it can still look and feel like new. As for blade play, lockup, and knife blade centering after a week of serious use, it was still as perfect as the day we received it.
The Sebenza 21 and 25 have stood on hallowed ground when it came to knives. They have long been the benchmark for other knives to be tested against, and judged. But what can we make of this; A Sebenza 25 judged against a the upgraded 25, also known now as the large Inkosi is some twist on the benchmark. Which is the benchmark knife… is it the 21, 25, or the Large Inkosi? For those shopping for a Sebenza, we would imagine that this would be a real question for you. Perhaps our competitive offerings will help answer this question as well as reveal a few other brand options worthy of consideration.
Chris Reeve Sebenza 21 (Large) – For those into CRK knives of a more vintage variety, the Sebenza 21 provides similar aspects of the large Inkosi, but with a straight handle scale, and slightly less money at ~410 bucks if you opt for only a single thumb lug. However, the 445 dollar Inkosi brings new advancements that are not seen on the 21, and that may be enough to consider the large Inkosi first. Either way you win, they are both awesome CRK knives.
Chris Reeve Sebenza 25 (Large) – Though the 25 is the maternal twin of the Inkosi 25, the 25 has indeed been discontinued. The change of the guard is almost complete, but for any remaining stock from resellers looking to unload them. If you can find a good deal on a 25, perhaps it would be a good idea to pick one up. However it is more likely that they will still be selling for ~445 dollars, the same price as the Large Inkosi. With the minor changes and incremental advancements, we would suggest just going for the large Inkosi at this point. At some point we just need to get over the fact that the “Sebenza 25” is now “Inkosi”. After all, a knife by any other name would still … yeah, you get the point.
Hinderer XM-18 3.5 – Almost everyone who has had an interest in a Sebenza, and now Inkosi have cross-shopped the XM-18 line-up. If you are more into a flipper opening, and want a slightly smaller blade with a finger choil, the XM-18 may be right for you. Both great knives, the large Inkosi offers a bit of name credibility that the Hinderer tends to not provide unless geeking out with real knife-nuts, military or law enforcement. On the other hand, if you are in law enforcement, and are looking for a strong side secondary carry, the XM-18 is worthy of a serious look. They also offer discounts to servicemen and law-enforcement as an added bonus. For everyone else, the XM-18 tends to be around 465 dollars as authorized resellers, when they are in stock. Word of Caution: Like CRK products, Hinderer knives, especially the XM-18 are often cloned by disreputable folk. Avoid this by buying smart, and purchasing from an authorized reseller like BladeHQ.
Reate Epoch – For those out there that have not been taken in by the allure and charm of the Sebenzas and Inkosis of the world, some newer companies out there are also vying for your hard earned coin. The Reate Epoch is a 3.7 inch titanium frame lock flipper that offers a Mokuti inlay on the show side. Standard with CTS-204P steel, this is a knife to consider for both collectability and serious use. A standard price of about 425 smackers is the price of admission; however resellers have been recently offering them for around 370 bucks as of late. It is not a great savings, but is a bit less than the large Inkosi. However, if you fancy the ‘made in America’ thing, and want the pedigree of a CRK, the Inkosi makes more sense. To others, the Epoch is a nice product to compare with the large Inkosi.
Zero Tolerance 0562CF – The ZT 0562CF is the bargain pick of the competitive offerings provided here. At about 240 dollars street price, the 3.5 inch drop point CTS-204p blade holds its own and is user approved. Also a frame lock, the flipper style deployment appeals to those who are more “quick-draw opener”, and less “deliberate sharp shooter”. A Carbon Fiber scale on the show side makes for a nice contrast to the other sides titanium scale. At about 5.45 oz. it is not a light carry, but feels somewhat compact in the closed position. For the budget conscience, this may be the great knife people want for less than 250 bucks. But even still, it is not a Chris Reeve knife… if that matters to you.
It is very hard to be objective about a Chris Reeve knife. We do not claim to be completely objective in our review as the case may be. Reviews, for better or worse are in large part opinion-based. It is in our opinion that Chris Reeve Knives, especially the Sebenza line, and now the Inkosi line-up, are still the benchmark all other knives of this type should be judged against.
Execution and overall production results continue to offer extremely high levels of repeatable quality. The law of diminishing returns suggests that at a certain point the perceived return versus the amount of money needed to increase that output becomes increasingly unbalanced. This is a fact of life. The large Inkosi is not exempt from that fact, however by our math the Chris Reeve Large Inkosi provides about an 8% increase in overall product over the Sebenza 25, however actually continues to charge the same amount. In this case, new buyers of the large Inkosi win when compared to the Sebenza 25. Better product, same cost.
Even still, regardless of dollars and cents, the Chris Reeve Large Inkosi is a wonderful knife that makes for a fantastic EDC at any price. It is amazing that Chris and team continue to strive for perfection, and keep tweaking designs and production efforts to make better product. “Everything old is new again” and using the Chris Reeve Inkosi as our EDC made us realize with a smile that we have a new Chris Reeve knife worthy of the name “Chief”. The Sebenza 25 is no more, long live the large Inkosi.
The Good: Outstanding quality and performance, iconic design, US made and built to last
The Bad: Thumb studded double lugs can feel awkward at first, somewhat pricey
Bottom Line: One of the finest US-made production knives you’ll ever own