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The fall of Emerson Knives

Discussion in 'General Knife Discussion' started by BloodyDonnie, May 30, 2020.

  1. BloodyDonnie

    BloodyDonnie Gold Member Gold Member

    Oct 14, 2017
    I remember around 2-3 years ago, when Emersons were all the hype and rage. The knife exchange was filled with Emersons and sold like hot cakes, while every other pic in the pics threads would be of emersons. Now there is hardly a whisper about them on any forum.

    Back then, 2-3 years ago, I absolutely fell in love with Emersons. It was more of an affair though; she was beautiful, but a little rough around the edges, but all the guys wanted her. At that time Emerson was at a prime; releasing new excellent attractive models every few months or so. Their customs were on fire in the secondary market, being bought for crazy markups. Everybody wanted them.

    They also had their signature series which was meant to be limited edition models and supposedly never to be produced again after the run is finished.

    The Emerson Knife brand had it all; beauty, novelty, exclusivity, and a large loyal community.

    What happened since then til now?

    From what I see, there were several factors combined together that led to the decline in popularity or Emersons.

    1. The start of re-releasing of select Signature Series models into production models, which were suppose to be limited edition. In doing so, yes they may have gotten lots of sales, but it significantly dilutes the brand's exclusivity aspect.

    2. Progressively less innovative or novel designs. These past 2 years Emerson progressively released less and less completely new designs, instead focusing on re releasing more signature series as production models, or mix and matching their handles and blades and calling it a new model.

    3. Because the prices for the more special or custom Emersons got so high at its peak 2-3 years ago, they became out of reach for many people, and thus many people navigated towards other brands.

    It's no secret that the fit and finish of Emerson knives is absolute mediocre. Featuring basic materials and outdated steels. For the same price you can get a ZT with better blade, fit and finish worlds better, a knife in your hand that looks and feels and performs like its price.

    What made people love emerson so much and kept coming back though was as I mentioned before, constant beautiful and novel designs, exclusivity, and a community following the brand, interacting with fellow emerson enthusiasts. That outweighed the crappy fit and finish, the un-uniform g10 scales, the basic materials and outdated blade.

    But in the 3 points I mentioned above, because those things occurred in the past 2 years, all those reasons that made an Emerson special and what made everyone want them and overlook all the negatives, disappeared.

    What was once an industry leader is now a shadow of what it once was.
    Agent Orange Peel and mdrgn79 like this.
  2. K.O.D.

    K.O.D. Sanity Not Included Platinum Member

    Aug 21, 2013
    They still have their followers, though I have noticed a sharp decline in discussion about them. They never were my thing. I've handled a few, but while I liked the ergonomics, other companies do it better, such as Southern Grind.

    I think the whole "tactical" thing is slowly, finally, subsiding. Emerson has probably made as much or more on the Kershaw/ZT collabs as on his own line. The in crowd wants ball bearings, flippers, and super/premium steel.

    Gotta keep up with the designs. I've noticed less chatter and sales on tactical type knives in general. I've been here almost 7 years, and I can't remember in recent history people discussing Emerson, DPx, and all the other mall ninja wannabe market knives.

    Look even at ZT. They have gone from tank like, tactical knives to a much more rounded product line.

    In a niche market, being unique will only get you so far, especially if you are a smaller company. Know the market, adapt. Keep making what you are known for, but upgrade and add some variety.

    Unless it's an automatic, 154cm for more than $120 is a no go.
    danbot, Padron26, jkwithawave and 3 others like this.
  3. Ben Dover

    Ben Dover Gold Member Gold Member

    Aug 2, 2006
    Tacti-Kewl jes aint kewl no mo!!!:thumbsdown::(:thumbsdown:
  4. Planterz

    Planterz Gold Member Gold Member

    Mar 26, 2004
    I've kinda been predicting this sort of trend for a few years now. People are realizing that they don't need a tank of a knife they can pry open a car door with, just like they don't need a lifted Ford F-250 to get groceries. On the other side of things, there's been an increased interest in traditional knives, allowing a company like GEC to thrive and grow. When you scroll through the "EDC" photo threads you see more and more people not only carrying their beefy tanks or titanium handle flippers, but also a smaller traditional so they don't feel ridiculous whipping out a CQC-7 or ZT 0350 or Spyderco Manix XL to trim a loose thread or open an envelope or package.
  5. Ron Sabbagh

    Ron Sabbagh Platinum Member Platinum Member

    Sep 15, 1999
    Ernie made a fortune on the gullible.

    what happened? People finally realized they were :poop:
    Razor, VernonRemington, rio and 16 others like this.
  6. Alberta Ed

    Alberta Ed

    Jun 29, 1999
    Emerson knives have their own unique qualities and are good practical tools, although the tactical aspect seems exaggerated to me, anyway. They are high ergonomic, albeit a bit heavy, you can adjust them with a coin or screwdriver, and the chisel grind is pretty easily sharpened, though not my preference. I figure they fall into the "use it and abuse it" category, kind of like Mack Trucks (motto: Drive it like you stole it). Or maybe an F-150.
    Heirphoto, woodysone and JDRanger like this.
  7. Rykjeklut

    Rykjeklut Gold Member Gold Member Basic Member

    May 23, 2018
    I think he's doing okay still, I hope so anyway.
    W. Anderson, 115Italian and JDRanger like this.
  8. craytab

    craytab Gold Member Gold Member

    Jan 26, 2012
    I don't remember 2-3 years ago being like that.

    I never got into the emerson thing. First an foremost, there's really only a few designs I liked and I'm not into chisel grinds. Then throw in the just okay materials, high prices, and reports of issues and it has always been an easy pass. And there's the silly "the man, the myth, the legend" type of self promotion....
  9. Therom


    Nov 13, 2013
    They have a community that till follows the brand , but for sure they are not fitting the present trend for more gentleman knives

    actually I am on the Emerson hype at the moment.

    i shared you mind on the quality-fit and finish something like 3/4 years ago as I had a couple of serious disappointment with their knives.

    I gave them a new try this year and I have been very surprised

    i sold most of my ZT now.
    I really prefer the construction of the EKI over ZT

    don’t get me wrong, ZT makes better knives than EKI when it comes to tolerances and materials. That is clear.
    But the pivot, stop pins, handle thickness, etc. On the EKI just dit the purpose of the knife better.

    Nowadays my recent CQC-7B has bump my 0640 on my PM2 out of my pocket

    I would have never bet on that 2 years ago

    but as you said, on the marketing side, they are completely out of the trends of super steels, frame lock , etc.
    Heirphoto likes this.
  10. stabman

    stabman Gold Member Gold Member

    Sep 17, 2007
    Emerson is still doing fine.
    New knives keep being released...and bought.

    As for "Tactical" being a "fad that's going away", guess y'all don't remember the Tiger Knife from the 1980s, eh? ;)
    Hell, Bowie knives were the original "fad" of people buying uber-cool knives to be an action hero fighting off hordes of non-existent bad guys, and they are still going strong!

    Saying "tactical" knives will fade away is like saying slip-joint tradition patterns are on the way out.
  11. Yo Mama

    Yo Mama

    Sep 25, 2011
    They are doing fine:


    1. When was Emerson ever an industry leader? Their numbers have always been lower, never that of the bigger companies.

    2. Materials - its not always about super this or super that. The steel is good at what it does, and you get a slab of titanium, some models now bearings, v grinds instead of chisel, flipper tabs, and other steels if desired. Value is defined individually, but both models i have are "worth" it.

    3. Custom market is totally different vs production world. Few people are in the custom game, and Ernie doesn't get stuck with any surplus in the lotteries from what I've seen.

    4. Only thing that diluted the brand was getting the Kershaw colabs, big mistake imo, sub par China knives with the Emerson logo, bad move.

    5. Fit and finish on mine are top notch in every way. I always hear they suck, but lots of good examples are out there that Emerson can have good tolerances.

    6. How many models a company makes is how they run the company. How many Chris Reeve models are there, they just finally got to the 31, how long did that take? Some companies don't want to blow out the amount of new models that say Spyderco does.

    Overall, Emerson looks to still be Emerson, still evolving slowly, and looks like they are staying the course just fine.
    Last edited: May 30, 2020
  12. Hivoltage

    Hivoltage Gold Member Gold Member

    Sep 19, 2018
    My CQC7 is a great piece of hardware. They aren’t on the decline and that’s for damn sure. Ya they got plenty of haters but it’s fine.

  13. BellaBlades


    Jul 12, 2013
    They get the job done. Nothing fancy. Pretty crappy hardware, good enough steel and awesome ergos.

    Cool t shirts and merch too. Plus Ermie is a trip.
  14. Hivoltage

    Hivoltage Gold Member Gold Member

    Sep 19, 2018
    Ya for sure the hardware doesn’t look that great but dang I hate torx screws but I deal with it on my 40 or so bench and Spyders. He’s sellin overpriced coffee now too!
  15. tltt


    May 1, 2008
    Design wise, I think they're doing fine. They work almost always off Emerson's own designs, and that is their boutique image, so it's somewhat unfair to judge them against Benchmade, Cold Steel, Spyderco, who constantly have newer designers they can pick from or the traditional makers that have 200+ years of patterns to copy from.

    When you are more or less based on one person's designs, you're going to have good years and slow years, that's how it is.
    Heirphoto, bigsurbob and Kaizen1 like this.
  16. Silent H

    Silent H

    Feb 1, 2018
    I would disagree with you on that one. I think getting his designs into more people's hands helped sales on the EKI side. Several people I know (myself included) never considered buying an Emerson until owning and handling the Kershaw versions. Also I love the Hollow grinds on the Kershaw/Emerson knives I have, I've never seen am Emerson cut like those do.
  17. Boxer .45

    Boxer .45

    Jan 11, 2015
    I think people primarily buy Emerson's as a hard use tool, and a last ditch self defense option. The reason theres not much conversation here is, because people slam people for talking about practical self defense with knives. Probably a lot of that has to do with a lot of people here involved in the "knife hobby" first and foremost. Its still discussed on self defense focused forums just like bushcraft is primarily talked about on bushcraft focused forums, because people here don't get it or don't want to. And thats fine I guess. A lot of knives with a morw "tactical" focus (to use the popular term) aren't discussed here or on collector type forums either.

    I know a hand full of first responders personally that carry Emersons. As well as several other similar brands/designs.

    I agree Emerson isn't as popular as it once was, but most of that is because there are so many options. Not much different in the gun world, lots of options and peoples choices are more spread out.

    I think another reason is stock of certain Emersons is inconsistent. I tried forever to find a new Mini A100 to go with the full size, and never did...for instance. Not everybody wants a CQC7.

    I don't own any currently, but I would again.
    broadscotch, W. Anderson and Kaizen1 like this.
  18. dcycleman

    dcycleman Gold Member Gold Member

    Feb 16, 2009
    I always wanted a Cqc-15
  19. not2sharp

    not2sharp Gold Member Gold Member

    Jun 29, 1999
    Emerson is probably suffering from a changing marketplace. Who needs to worry about catching the edge of the blade on their trousers when fully automatic knives are now becoming more available? Protec, Benchmade, Microtech, and recently even Spyderco and Buck are making autos.

    woodysone and MayHemAndHaw like this.
  20. Eli Chaps

    Eli Chaps Gold Member Gold Member Basic Member

    Apr 20, 2018
    I never understood why they got popular to begin with.

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