Is the Schrade SCH303/304 The Best Budget Folding Knife for Off-Grid Living? Maybe… For Some…
Depending on the type of person you are, the Schrade SCH304 is either the deal of the century or way more knife than you need – or want – in a small package.
It’s a beastly and versatile blade meant to take a beating, which is exactly why it’s not right for everyone. Keep reading to find out if this cheap folder is the pocket knife of your dreams or a purchase that’ll leave you feeling like you got more than you bargained for…
Before we get this review started, let me get two things out of the way: #1. This is very heavy knife. Very. Very. Heavy. #2. Mine arrived damaged. The index flipper was broken clean off, which admittedly put a damper on this whole review. I may have rated it more positively otherwise.
To be fair, I’m 99 percent certain it was the eBay seller’s fault, not Schrade. I think the seller knowingly sold me a damaged knife, hoping I wouldn’t notice. Either way, it proves the Schrade SCH304 is not the indestructible tank everyone claims it is, even if it is much more durable than the average folding knife.
OK, now that we’ve gotten the bad stuff out of the way, let’s move on to the actual review…
The Schrade SCH303 and SCH304
The SCH303 and SCH304 are two knives that have been around a long time. They are actually the same knife, the only difference being the SCH304 has a fluted handle.
The main reason I’m focusing on the SCH304 for this review is because the SCH303 has been discontinued and is darn near impossible to find these days; although at the time of writing this, there are still some serrated versions – SCH303S – floating around online.
The SCH304, however, can still be found in abundance, both the plain edge and serrated versions. I’m not sure if it was also discontinued – probably – but either way, there appears to be no shortage of them at the moment.
Again, this knife is nothing new, but it’s still worth talking about all these years later because there haven’t been many – if any – folding knives like it since.
Why The Schrade SCH304 Is Unique
The Schrade SCH304 is unique for a few reasons: it’s made entirely out of solid steel; it’s unbelievably heavy for a folder, or really any knife at all; and it looks like something a cyborg assassin from the future would use to open his radioactive letter bombs.
If none of those reasons are good enough for you, at the very least, you could say this knife is unusual for nothing other than the fact that it is simultaneously a very plain yet weird knife. It’s not very often you can essentially describe something as both boring and interesting, but that’s exactly how think this knife is best described.
What the SCH304 is For
Unless you’re simply buying this knife to add to your collection, it’s important to understand what the SCH304 is meant for before you purchase it. This knife is not really intended to be an EDC. At least not in the way most people think of EDCs; it’s far too heavy and cumbersome for that. The SCH304 is intended for heavy-duty work. More than anything else, it is a work knife.
Some have argued Schrade put form over function when designing this knife, due to the fact it is an impractical EDC, but I think those reviewers might be missing the point.
The SCH304 is a $20 knife that basically looks like a giant box cutter with a drop point blade glued on the end of the handle, and the commercial for it essentially shows dudes doing construction work with it. It’s the kind of folder you bring to a job site because you know you’re gonna be cutting PVC all day and you don’t want to ruin your good knives.
So to say this knife is more about style than what it can do seems odd to me.
I bought this knife for working around the house and the yard, and for camping. I was hoping I could get used to the heft and the bulk of it, and make it my EDC, but it’s not just the weight and the size that’s a problem; the knife also lacks the elegance you expect from a good EDC. Let’s call it a certain je ne sais quoi. Regardless, it still works well for the main purposes I wanted it for.
The blade and handle are made out of titanium-coated 9crMov stainless steel. The hardware is also coated in titanium, giving the knife a uniform grey metallic color that actually looks quite nice in person despite it’s plainness.
It has a thick frame lock, a drop point blade with a fat spine, and it weighs in just over a whopping 9 oz.
The belt clip is tip-down, non-reversible, much to the chagrin of many customers; as well as the nylon washers, which should have been metal. But hey, it’s a $20 knife.
Right out of the box the sharpness was good for a factory edge, but it wasn’t mind-blowing. It was sharp enough to cut paper and barely shave some hairs off my arm, which is pretty good for what it is. On the other hand, I’ve had budget Cold Steel blades that came so sharp you could cut your fingers off just trying to get them out of the box if you weren’t careful. Overall, I would rate the sharpness as decent.
For such an inexpensive knife, the SCH304 is well built. The construction is definitely solid, and you wouldn’t have any problem using it as a glass breaker or a makeshift hammer in a pinch.
As you would expect, the blade is not perfectly centered or straight. It’s actually pretty far off. But again, this is a cheap knife and mine arrived badly damaged, so all things considered, it’s actually pretty well aligned and symetrical.
The SCH304 feels great in my hands. I was a little bit concerned that I wouldn’t like the feel of it because it was hard to gage from the pictures alone, but I love holding this knife.
A lot of reviewers have said the flutes on the 304 model are just for show, but I actually find them helpful. I have long, skinning fingers that slide right into those grooves and they give me a slightly better grip on the handle. I also like that the handle is thick and I can really wrap my hand around it; but maybe that’s just also due to the fact I have long fingers. I can imagine someone with smaller hands might find the handle cumbersome.
The one thing you can beat on the SCH304 is the price. You can easily find this knife for as little as $20 if you shop around, and the SCH304S serrated version can be found online for as little as $14 plus free shipping.
I won’t lie, I was a bit disappointed when this knife arrived, and I was thinking of returning it; however, it quickly grew on me, and before I knew it, I found myself not wanting to send it back. Sure, the flipper is broken, but I don’t use those things anyways, and it still works just fine without it.
All in all, I give it a 3.5 out of 5. It’s a really good knife for the price but it’s probably not going to blow your socks off. If you’re looking for a cheap beast you can use around the yard, job site, or hiking trail, the Schrade SCH304 is a good economical choice. On the other hand, if you’re looking for an affordable EDC that’s comfortable to carry in your pocket and whip out for occasional use, this probably isn’t the knife you’re looking for.