In the knife world, no name has greater respect than R.W. Loveless. Today, an original Loveless drop point hunter is spendy – prices start at about $1,000. And good luck trying to find one for sale!
These Loveless Zytel knives by Beretta let people on a budget get a user model of a classic design.
by Leon Pantenburg
Disclaimer: Beretta USA is a Survivalcommonsense.com affiliate and supplied the product in this review. Nobody had any input in this post, and the opinions expressed are my own. All I ever promise is a fair shake.
There is a place in the knife world for those of us who want quality gear, but have limited funds.
I get it. During my most active years of back country deer and elk hunting, my wife and kids ranked much higher on the family budget than my hunting gear. I looked for inexpensive – not cheap – gear that could do the job.
In some cases – such as boots and sleeping bags – I had to save up for quality gear. I used a Cold Steel SRK as my only hunting/survival knife for some 20 years. It served me well.
Except for minor variations in the blade design, the Loveless Zytel Skinner and Zytel Hunter are essentially the same knife.
Field and Stream magazine included the Loveless drop point in its list of the 25 Best Knives Ever Made. During the peak of R.W. Loveless’ popularity, if you wanted an original, you had to wait three years or pay thousands. Demand outstripped supply for three decades.
Before his passing, Beretta teamed up with the master to create the first line of series-manufactured Loveless-style knives. This Loveless Zytel Skinner and Hunter feature a hollow ground blade with reinforced spine for extra strength and durability.
According to the Beretta website, here is the design’s background:
“In the late 1960s, R.W. Loveless had the knife world standing on its ear. Loveless, one of the best custom knife makers at the time, had been making knives for money since the 1950s, and developed the drop-point hunter. This small knife (the blade was under four inches) with a small hilt and subtle lines revolutionized the craft.
“The point was lowered, or dropped, below the spine, which made it easier to gut an animal without puncturing the innards. Up until then, knife makers used unsophisticated steels. Loveless selected a steel called 154CM, which was developed for use in jet-engine exhausts. Tough and almost rustproof, it took a fearsome edge that held forever. Within a few years Loveless supplanted Randall as the main force in custom knife making.
Here are the specs of both knives:
Overall length: 8 inches
Blade length: 3.38 inches
Blade thickness: 3/16 inch
Grind: Flat with micro bevel.
Here is how the knives have worked out so far:
Here’s my disclaimer: The true test of a hunting knife is using it for what it was designed. It will be several months before deer season opens and I can test knives in actual field conditions. These knives got used in the kitchen, and for various whittling and wood carving activities. They will be used on fish as soon as I catch some. I’m going camping much of the summer and so will the knives.
Steel: I have not used much AUS-8. My research revealed that the steel is Japanese made, very similar to 440 steel but with vanadium added to provide more hardness. The Japanese-made AUS-8 steel is often considered an upper-range steel, according to Bladeops blog, comparable to steels such as 440C, CM-154, and D2.
Given a proper heat treatment and hardened to the right level, which is usually around 58 to 59 HRC, Bladeops claims, it will perform well and meet the standards of a true quality stainless steel. This steel is favored by many knife makers and designers for its cost-effectiveness as well as its corrosion resistance. (Learn more about AUS-8 steel here.)
Grind: The Beretta website call these blade grinds “hollow ground.” To me, they look like, and perform like, a flat grind with a micro bevel. A flat grind is a good slicer, and these knives work OK for that. The too-thick blades affect the slicing efficiency.
Handle: Zytel is one of the toughest handle materials available. It is a thermoplastic made by combining fiberglass and nylon and then being heated to nearly 600 degrees Fahrenheit. It is injected into a mold to get the wanted form. Zytel has the nylon fibers arranged randomly and haphazardly, which allegedly makes it stronger than G-10, Carbon Fiber, and Micarta because those fibers are arranged in the same direction.
Zytel is a very cheap material to make, so this helps keep the knife’s price down. On its own, Zytel is pretty smooth, but a better grip was added to it during the molding process. It doesn’t get slippery when wet.
The design and checkering design aid in a solid grip. I can get a four-finger hammer grip on the handle (my palm measures four-inches across).
Sheath: Leather, and made in the USA. It fits a fairly wide belt, and secures the knife well. The vegetable-tanned leather sheaths, stamped with the Beretta Trident Logo, are designed for the knife. The deep pockets and rollover belt loops provide great knife security.
Spine: The flat-ground blade has a re-enforced spine for extra strength and durability. That seems like a moot point if the spine is already 3/16-inch thick. The spine is ground to a 90-degree angle, much like an ice skate, and that makes it useful for shredding tinder or scraping a ferrocerium rod to make sparks for a fire.
Blade thickness: The 3/16-inch thick blade on both models is overkill as far as I’m concerned. A quality steel doesn’t need that thickness to be sturdy. All it does on a short blade is make the blade unnecessarily heavy, and it affects the slicing ability. If you intend to baton firewood with this knife, get the right tool for the job – carry a hatchet.
Point: The Beretta Loveless knives have a drop point. This is an excellent choice for a hunting knife that will be used for gutting a big game animal.
Then there is this.
You can read advertising on the Beretta website. But you read this far to get the whole picture, and here is some nit-picky stuff I noticed.
- The knives are made in Japan. I wish they were made in the USA!
- The blades are too thick. My most-used hunting knives have thin blades, and I decided on that many hunting seasons ago. I have yet to break a blade in the field. If the Beretta Loveless knife blades were .10-inches thick they would slice like a laser and be a lot more useful for meat cutting.
- A re-enforced spine is un-necessary on a knife of this design and I’m not sure what purpose it serves.
Do you need a Beretta Loveless hunting knife?
The knives retail for $79, and that is a steal for a Loveless design. They should work very well as knives for deer hunting. These are inexpensive – not cheap – high quality hunting tools that can do the job.
Order your Beretta Loveless knife here.
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