I like to review the newest and best from Benchmade. These are often automatic knifes, since Benchmade autos are widely used in the armed forces and LE. However, this time I decided to do something different, at least partially out of nostalgia.
Benchmade’s Mangus Bali-Song brought back memories of my first Bali- Song, which was also a Benchmade. Quite a few years ago, a buddy who was an FBI agent on the St. Louis bank robbery squad and I were at a gun show and made a deal with a knife vendor for a better price if we purchased two Bali- Songs.
We practiced with them over the next month, picking up some cuts along the way. He got better than I did, but I gained some facility with the knife. I think our greatest entertainment was speculating what the “Suits” in DC would say if they knew he was carrying the “Butterfly Knife.” For an FBI agent, my friend was always a little innovative about weapons choice.
My friend had a fatal heart attack while on his treadmill about a year ago, and I thought doing a review of Benchmade’s latest Bali-Song would be a good way to remember the good times we had.
First, if you are going to purchase a Bali-Song knife, check your local laws, as in some jurisdictions they are treated as switchblades. Second, you need to purchase two additional items with your Bali-Song—a Bali-Song training knife and a large box of band-aids. The training knife should lessen the need for the band-aids. Hopefully, a couple of hints I’ll offer later will as well. Benchmade seems to have discontinued their Bali-Song trainers, but they are available from other sources on the Internet.
The Mangus has a lot of appealing features. First, the blade is a 3.15-inch drop point, which puts it at legal carry length in most areas that do not prohibit Bali-Songs. For the techniques I learned using the Bali-Song, I prefer that blade configuration. The blade is D2 tool steel, flat ground with a hardness of 60-62 HRC. That offers a good compromise between hardness and sharpening capability.
The green G10 handles are contoured and feel good in the hand. A ball-bearing pivot allows the blade to swing out smoothly and quickly. A reversible pocket clip allows the Mangus to be carried where it’s most convenient for each user. Closed, the Mangus is only 4.7 inches overall and weight is 3.5 ounces, so it carries easily.
So I think the Mangus is a good blade and recommend it. However, I want to emphasize that Bali-Song knives take practice to use and are unforgiving, hence the talk about band-aids and cuts. I’ve been using Bali-Songs for many years but don’t claim to be an expert. I’ve seen them in the hands of experts, and it is very impressive.
I will offer a few basic tips for using a Bali-Song. Always grip the “safe handle,” which is the one without the locking bar. If held in this way, should the blade come back against your fingers, it will be the back of the blade rather than the cutting edge that hits them.
Unless you’re a martial artist who wants to really work at mastering the Bali-Song, I recommend learning a couple of techniques for employing the knife and practicing them until muscle memory kicks in.
I’ve found the most important technique is a “combat opening,” which deploys the knife in such a manner that it is ready for use. I’ve learned two: one that positions the knife for use in Tanto Jitsu-style slashes and strikes, and another that positions the knife for use in the fencing grip.
Here is the technique I use to deploy into the fencing grip:
As I draw the Bali-Song, I grip the “safe handle” and flick off the locking bar. Then, with a good grip on the safe handle, I swing the knife in a high arc that would be at face level for an opponent. The back of the blade will be swinging toward his face, but he is still likely to duck, as the Mangus’ point can deal a wicked cut regardless.
When the moving handle has completed its arc and the blade is deployed, I grab the second handle and pull it into position, rolling the knife slightly into a fencing grip. With practice, it’s an easy, safe (for me) technique that brings the knife into position for a follow-up slash. I found the contour of the Mangus’ handles actually works better for this technique than the traditional straight Bali-Song handles.
If you want more instruction than that, don’t call me! Look in your local phone book or online for an Eskrima instructor in your area.
MSRP of the Mangus is $180. That’s not bad for a quality Bali-Song—and Benchmade has a reputation for quality Bali-Songs.