Browning Black Label Integrity and Submission Knives

   02.07.14

To some knife critics, a gun company making knives is about as ludicrous as a knife company making guns. I don’t belong to that crowd, but the only experience I have had so far with “gunny” knives is the Remington F.A.S.T. folder. I still keep the F.A.S.T. around to this day, despite it being bulky and lacking many of the features common in other modern-day folding knives. The reason? It cost me about $10 and lasted like a $200 knife. Sure, it may not know what sharp meant if it looked up the word in a dictionary, but I treated the F.A.S.T. like a workhorse and it provided. So when Browning announced their Black Label line, I was suitably intrigued.

Browning has an edge over other brands of gunny knives because the company actually has a history of working with notable knifemakers, like Gil Hibben and Russ Kommer. The Black Label knives, however, are relatively new and still a mystery to me.

Browning touts these knives as tactical blades designed with direct feedback from military and law enforcement experts. There is a wide range of prices and the knives do look no-nonsense, a trait not that common in the tactical knife world. So I decided to give two of the more economical Browning Black Label knives a try. Unfortunately, the side of my brain that says things like “tanto blades are shiny!” got the better part of me and I ordered the Black Label Integrity ($33) and Submission ($30). Both in tanto form, of course.

Here are the specs:

Integrity

  • Linerlock
  • Blade Length: 3.75 inches
  • Blade Material: 440
  • Handle: G-10 laminate
  • Overall length: 8.63 inches

Submission

  • Linerlock
  • Blade Length: 3.13 inches
  • Blade Material: 440
  • Handle: G-10 laminate
  • Closed length: 7.13 inches

Blade

The Integrity definitely has the more aggressive blade of the two.
The Integrity definitely has the more aggressive blade of the two.

I knew both Black Label knives came in 440, a steel that gives me an unsettling feeling in the bottom of my stomach. Steel in knife construction is always a point of contention. Knife critics debate steel material with the same gusto that shooting enthusiasts would debate calibers. 440 stainless steel, however, is generally not regarded well by my contemporaries. But it’s cheap and easy to replace. The Integrity comes with a titanium nitride finish, while the Submission sports black oxide.

Out-of-box impressions—at least going on the blades alone—left me in high spirits. Both blades were as sharp as an oiled fox and were keen to do some cutting. Despite their mediocre pedigree, I was impressed with the geometry of both knives. The Integrity had the look of a predator and the Submission was about as sleek as a $30 folder had the right to be.

On subsequent testing, both blades proved to be worth their ticket price. As I expected, the Black Label knives proved to be middle-of-the-road on sharpness, edge retention, and durability. While they did dull predictably after rough use, they did not shred like the wet toilet paper I feared them to be. The Integrity is the real standout here, with a robust blade that can more than meet the everyday challenges a folder is destined for. The Integrity’s broad tanto tip makes it surprisingly good for penetration and it has enough heft for deep cuts.

It’s fat, but I like it.

Handle

With knives, not all handles are made equally.
With knives, not all handles are made equally.

Both knives come in G-10 laminate scales.

The handle for the Submission is smallish, but comfortable. It is not the grippiest, but it will not bite into your fingers like knives many times its price tag will. It is a pet peeve of mine how expensive knives overlook ergonomics. It may be struck from a shard of Excalibur, but if it’s not comfortable I won’t use it. Unlike certain guns, knives should not need grip tape.

Users may find that the thumb stud is recessed a little too deeply and too snugly into the handle, but I found that repeat use—as well as loosening the blade pivot—helped greatly.

The Integrity’s handle feels like it still belongs on the drawing board. Underdeveloped is the operative word here, and the G10 scales look and feel unpolished. The handle is thin and offers little cushioning for your fingers, while the scales themselves are rough and inadequate. The gimmick here are the four-way clip slots, which you can change for hinge-up or hinge-down carry on either side. It works about as well as advertised. Unfortunately, they leave sharp recesses in the handle that look about as pretty as a hat full of holes. The Integrity’s handle is not comfortable.

Practicality

There are better ways of opening a can of delicious chub mackerel, but the Integrity proves it can handle the chisel method.
There are better ways of opening a can of delicious chub mackerel, but the Integrity proves it can handle the chisel method.

Despite the Integrity’s abrasive nature, I can’t help but feel nostalgia for my old F.A.S.T. Like the F.A.S.T., the Integrity is a heavy-duty folder that has plenty of beef to go with its sharp. Unlike the F.A.S.T., the Integrity will slice tomatoes instead of bludgeoning them.

The Submission is better suited for everyday carry, being smaller and smoother on the pockets. Both knives don’t deviate much from the tried-and-true patterns they were based off of, and excel at small tasks.

But of course, since they are branded as part of the Black Label tactical line, they must have attributes that make them good self-defense knives. The short answer is that they do.

The long answer is that other knives do the tactical thing better. Knife designers agonize over all the details that make a good fighting knife, but the simple points always matter the most. This means deployment speed, ergonomics, blade length, sharp points, and a balance just behind the guard. Because of all these factors, most folders make poor fighting knives when compared to the bigger and badder fixed blades which are seemingly always demonized by Hollywood.

Knives like Bowies, full-length tantos and the traditional dagger are devastating weapons. Folders are backups. Of course, since we can hardly carry around knives with eight-inch blades, folders make for good substitutes.

Conclusion

I had my trusty old F.A.S.T. in mind when I first saw the Black Label knives, and it the end it was what I got. At roughly 30 bucks each, I am pretty pleased with how they ended out. Is there anything new and innovative, something that blows the collective minds of the cutlery industry? Probably not, but these knives are reliable, sharp, and a good buy.

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