If you’ve ever owned a good pocket knife, you know there’s a difference between a $10 model and a $200 one. Most of it comes from material choices and the deployment system. Sure, most knives are quite capable of shaving a little arm hair right out of the box, but what happens after days, weeks, or months of use? It’s in that post-honeymoon stage where a quality knife begins to separate itself from the others. We want to know where the Milwaukee Hardline Smooth Blade Pocket Knife fits in this very popular category.
Let’s go ahead and get something straight right off the bat – the Milwaukee Hardline is not some cheap $10 knife. So I’m going to eliminate any comparisons to that level and jump straight in with an evaluation based on the quality knives I carry from names like Kershaw, Zero Tolerance, and CRKT.
Milwaukee Hardline Blade
The Milwaukee 48-22-1999 features a classic drop point blade. That gives it a large belly excellent for slicing duties that is also reasonable for piercing but isn’t as sharp an angle as a clip point or spear point. Most of the conversation surrounding the Milwaukee Hardline has focused on the 3.5-inch blade thanks to the selection of D2 steel.
D2 steel moves you from the mid range blends into the higher blends but short of the super steels. Typically, a good midrange steel would be something like the very popular 8Cr13MoV or AUS-8. With a good heat treatment process, these steels offers excellent sharpening and and edge retention characteristics along with value. Moving to premium blends, you see steel like S30V and S35VN that feature incredible edge retention, ease of sharpening, and stain resistance while commanding a premium price.
D2 sits in between these two categories and is an incredibly tough blend that will hold an edge very well. The downside of that toughness is that it can be challenging to put a very fine edge on and falls just short of the 13% chromium required to be a true stainless steel, though the black oxide coating will help.
Milwaukee Hardline Handle
The material Milwaukee chose for the handle is glass-filled nylon – another popular choice – at least for one side. Textured squares help improve grip and the material helps keep the weight down a little bit. The opposite side of the handle is stainless steel. A gentle curve along the spine offers a natural grip that is assisted with some light jimping at the top of the handle and base of the blade.
While the majority of the knife features stonewashed finish, Milwaukee red shows up in the spine stabilizing the two sides of the handle. There’s a lanyard hole precut into the back of the handle next to the reversible tip up belt clip. Some knife makers design the belt clip as an artistic extension of the knife’s look. Milwaukee’s is pretty plain and quite functional. The deep carry style is solid, though you can bend it out if you are prone to hitting wall corners and workbenches like I am.
Milwaukee Hardline Deployment and Locking
Milwaukee made an intelligent move in going with a bearing system that makes deployment very easy with the finger flipper. There are smoother bearings out there, but it’s unlikely you’ll be disappointed with this one.
Milwaukee also chose to go with a frame lock rather than a liner lock on the Hardline. In my opinion, this is a very good move. The frame lock offers a more secure deployed blade and Milwaukee takes theirs a step further than most. The frame is cut nearly 3/4 the length of the handle and delivers the most secure lock of any of the knives I own. The trade-off with that is the lock is also the toughest to move aside so you can release the blade. I don’t mind how tough the lock is, but I would like some jimping on the thumb release point to make it a little easier to close up.
The Bottom Line
You’re looking at about $85 for this model, though there are several in the line with various sizes and price points. The material selection is good at this price and there’s a little room for improvement in the design. Keep in mind the characteristics of the D2 steel and I think you’ll be pleased with the Hardline as a knife you’re not afraid to take with you on any jobsite.
The Milwaukee Hardline Smooth Blade Pocket Knife lives up to the company’s Nothing But Heavy Duty reputation, selecting toughness and function over the visually appealing design that many knife makers go for. If you’re looking for a knife that’s ready to work as hard as you do, the Milwaukee Hardline is ready to go. Save your pretty knives for when you’re off the clock.
Milwaukee Hardline Smooth Blade Pocket Knife Key Features
- 3-1/2″ D2 steel blade
- Recurve drop point smooth blade
- Flipper with bearing system
- Opening steel frame lock
- Glass-filled nylon handle with stainless steel back
- Stone washed black oxide finish
- Reversible tip-up belt clip
- Lanyard hole
Milwaukee Hardline Smooth Blade Pocket Knife Specifications
- Model: Milwaukee 48-22-1999
- Blade Length: 3-1/2″
- Blade Material: D2 Steel
- Blade Type: Smooth
- Sharpenable: Yes
- Lockable Blade: Yes
- Retractable Blade: No
- Color / Finish: Black
- Handle Length: 4.7″
- Handle Material: Glass-filled Nylon
- Handle Type: Straight
- Overall Length: 8.2″
- Assembled Weight: 0.4 lbs.
- Warranty: Limited Lifetime
- Price: $85