The Havalon Piranta Original pocket knife is our top choice for hunting and angling. For dressing game, a fresh, factory-tuned blade is almost crucial. Dressing big game will require multiple iterations of freshly honed blades. You can accomplish this, in the heat of the moment, with time and sharpening hardware, but it takes expertise, and you rarely/never get the edge "as good as new." The Piranta allows you to carry and swap in brand new blades (it comes with 12 extra blades). Havalon's parent company makes surgical scalpels. Piranta replacement blades are tuned for everyday use and are as sharp as medical tools. No other knife we tested is as good for the dressing of wild game as the Havalon Piranta and still holds up well enough to general tasks around camp.Editor's Note: We updated this review for Havalon Piranta on August 25, 2022, with additional data from our in-depth testing process, a candid take on value and direct comparisons to other products that may better suit your needs or budget.
Havalon Piranta Original Review
Cons: Rattly blade, narrow handle
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|Pros||Interchangeable blades, clean, open design||Beautifully constructed, assisted open, good value||Serrated blade portion, carabiner carry option, lightweight, good blade steel||Small, portable, well-constructed||Inexpensive, functional, heavily featured|
|Cons||Rattly blade, narrow handle||Slender handle makes it hard to apply even pressure, thin blade is fragile||Rudimentary construction, primitive lockback||Not made for heavy-duty use||Unremarkable construction, low quality steel, bulky|
|Bottom Line||Your typical pocket knife design optimized with scalpel-like interchangeable blades, combining compact carry with always-new blade performance||A slender, svelte pocket knife with great materials and a reasonable value||The best knife we have tested for rock, ice, and alpine climbing||A tiny, multi-function pocket knife||A fully-featured tactical pocket knife at an unbeatable price, but it lacks high quality construction|
|Rating Categories||Havalon Piranta Ori...||Kershaw Leek||Petzl Spatha||Victorinox Classic...||Albatross EDC Tactical|
|Blade and Edge Integrity (30%)|
|Construction Quality (20%)|
|Other Features (10%)|
|Specs||Havalon Piranta Ori...||Kershaw Leek||Petzl Spatha||Victorinox Classic...||Albatross EDC Tactical|
|Weight||1.9 oz||3.1 oz||1.5 oz||0.8 oz||3.8 oz|
|Blade Length||2.3 in||2.9 in||2.7 in||1.4 in||2.5 in|
|Blade Material||S30V stainless steel||Sandvik 14C28N stainless steel||Sandvik 12C27 stainless steel||Proprietary Stainless (between 440A and 420)||440 stainless steel|
|Handle Material||Plastic||410 stainless steel||Nylon||Plastic||Stainless steel|
|Blade Style||Interchangeable scalpel style||Drop point, straight||Drop Point, hybrid straight/serrated||Drop point, straight||Drop point, straight|
|Blade locks closed?||No||Yes||No||No||No|
|Opening Style||Ambidextrous thumb stud||Assisted, ambidextrous thumb stud; back-of-knife finger tab||Ambidextrous thumb hole; ridged traction ring||Fingernail||Assisted, flipper|
|Lock Mechanism||Frame lock||Frame lock||Lock back||None||Liner lock|
|Carry Style||Pocket clip and lanyard hole||Pocket clip and lanyard hole||Carabiner hole||Keyring||Pocket clip|
|Closed Length||3.7 in||4.0 in||4.2 in||2.3 in||3.9 in|
|Overall Length||6.6 in||7.0 in||7.0 in||3.8 in||6.5 in|
|Thickness (w/o pocket clip)||0.4 in||0.3 in||0.5 in||0.4 in||0.4 in|
|Other Features or Functions||None||None||None||Scissors, nail file, small screwdriver, tweezers, toothpick, key ring||Seatbelt cutter, glass breaker|
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Havalon Pirantal is the only knife in our test with a user-replaceable blade. In fact, it is designed for frequent blade changes. The Piranta is designed to work with the Havalon 60a scalpel blade. A bunch of such blades is included with your initial purchase. To keep a fine, usable edge, users of the Piranta change the blade rather than resharpening it. When the edge has degraded below your standards or needs, you put in a brand new blade. This is clever and valuable in certain settings. Some tasks, especially those related to hunting and game preparation, will wear down a tuned edge or two within a single session. Some hunters carry sharpening equipment, some carry multiple knives, and now some can carry the Piranta. We recommend the Piranta for exactly this reason and purpose. Having a factory-tuned, low-angle, wicked-sharp edge through the dressing of an entire large mammal is incredibly valuable. Having that at a low weight with minimal hassle is possible with the Havalon Piranta.
Blade and Edge Integrity
Analysis of the blade of the Piranta is almost entirely different than analysis of other pocket knives. The unique edge performance of this Havalon knife is tied entirely to its fundamental design. Your typical pocket knife is meant to be resharpened. Resharpening works and has for millennia. However, it requires effort, time, specialized equipment, and a blade with material and structure different from what actual cutting might require. A blade built to be resharpened is thicker and softer than it would be if it were optimized for cutting alone.
The blade of the Piranta isn't meant to be resharpened. You swap it out with a brand new one when you need to. This makes it fast and convenient but also allows Havalon to make the blade much thinner, with a gentler front edge angle, than the blade on virtually any other pocket knife. The Piranta edge is very fine and cuts very, very precisely.
The edge wears at about an average rate. Edge wear is a function, mainly of the material hardness and edge angle. A steeper edge angle and harder blade material contribute to longer-lasting edge integrity. Harder materials are harder to sharpen at home. Your typical pocket knife is built with a steel of moderate hardness and moderate edge angle, attempting to strike a balance of cutting acuity, edge integrity, and ease of resharpening.
Since the Piranta blades aren't meant to be sharpened at home, the steel can be harder than typical pocket knife blade steel. Factory sharpening and honing equipment and techniques are more effective and tolerant of hard steel than home techniques. We did not test hardness, but we have good reason to believe that the Piranta blades are much harder than typical pocket blades. We deduce this because the edge holds up as expected of typical pocket knives, but the edge angle is very, very low. The blade starts thin and takes a long, slow taper to a razor edge. If they were made of typical home-sharpenable steel, we would expect the Havalon blades to wear rapidly.
The Havalon Piranta knife is built to work with their "60a" scalpel-style blades. Havalon's parent company, "Havel's Inc," is exclusively a scalpel company. Surgical-grade scalpels come in a variety of styles. Interchangeable blades are pretty common in that setting. The blade change interface is fairly standardized but not perfectly universal. Surgical #60 scalpel blades are built to work on #4 handles. As best we can tell, the Havalon 60a blades are the same as #60 but a little thicker. If this deduction is true (and we've done a fair amount of digging), only Havalon #60a blades will work on the Piranta. This shouldn't be a problem. It is a good blade shape, works well, and is widely available.
In use, the Piranta is familiar and comfortable. Havalon's intent seems to have been to make a knife with all the advantages of a surgical scalpel but with the usability and familiarity of a pocket knife.
The Piranta is about the same length as other compact full-size pocket knives. 3.7 inches is about perfect for us when looking for an optimum balance of dexterity and carriage. Because the blade is so thin and compact, the handle can be narrow too. The handle is a little too narrow if you ask us. A slightly bulkier handle is better for most adult hands for heavy and extended use, which the Piranta is designed for. The textures and contours are good but don't make up for the narrow handle.
Swapping blades in and out is also an ergonomic consideration. You can do it with your bare hands, but this is sketchy. You're likely to cut yourself if you try to remove or replace a blade with bare hands. Pliers work too, but that also takes some risk. It is best to use the included plastic tool. The clamshell-like orange tool Havalon ships with this knife is slick and clever for removing and installing new blades. Mind your fingertips as you manipulate and unwrap new and old blades.
1.9 ounces is very light for such an effective and purpose-built tool. We like that. We also like the tight pocket clip. Other online reviewers cite issues with the pocket clip losing its spring, but we haven't experienced that and have a hard time imagining it. There's also a pair of holes in the handle for installing a lanyard cord, should you choose.
We don't usually expect knives of this stature to include a belt sheath. The Piranta comes with this. At first, it seems far from necessary. The knife is small enough to disappear in any pocket, and pocket-clipped carry is faster and easier to deploy than from a sheath. However, when you realize that you need to carry extra blades most of the time and that the Havalon sheath holds some of these, the sheath makes more sense. The sheath is compact enough that you could carry it just as a vessel for your extra blades while the Piranta itself lives in your pocket.
Aside from the blade, Havalon's Piranta employs familiar construction cues and materials. The handle is two pieces of steel bolted together. The inside of this frame is wide open for ready cleaning.
Piranta pivots and joints are tight and smooth. The frame lock yields no play and disengages readily. Unlike any other knife we tested, the blade itself is temporarily affixed to the knife. This interface is secure but rattles a little bit. You will notice this, but we cannot envision a situation in which it would matter. The blade interface relies on fairly close tolerances and small grooves. Real messy tasks (like game dressing, for which the Piranta is optimized) can fill the grooves with gunk during blade changes. We got it messy this way and found that all but the most stubborn detritus in the way could be removed from the important interfaces by some sharp taps to a firm surface.
Aside from the interchangeable blades, there are no other features on the Havalon Piranta.
Havalon makes other knives that include multiple interchangeable blades or a traditional blade in conjunction with the interchangeable blade. They also make a multi-tool that we review elsewhere. These other products from Havalon can employ the same blade as the Piranta.
Should You Buy the Havalon Piranta?
The Havalon Piranta is unique and brings performance attributes that should appeal to hunters and anglers. For dressing game of all sizes, the opportunity to always have a brand-new knife blade is quite appealing. The Piranta is solidly mid-range in terms of price. But considering the innovative design and modularity, it is a good value. There are some minor drawbacks that some will not like for everyday carry, but backcountry hunters can't do any better than this knife.
What Other Pocket Knives Should You Consider?
If you need a knife for hunting and angling, the Havalon Piranta presents a great value. But for everyday carry knives, better options exist. At this price point, models like the Ontario Knife Company RAT II or CRKT Drifter are better for everyday tasks. But a high-quality pocket knife can last for decades if properly sharpened and maintained. So we maintain that it is well worth investing in a top-end knife, like the award-winning Benchmade Mini-Barrage 585.
— Jediah Porter
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