A fixed blade that can only be carried in a scout carry style? Normally not my cup of tea, but maybe the Bradford Guardian 3 will change my mind. We’ll find out! This is Sam’s review of the Bradford Guardian 3.
Table of Contents
- Total Length: 6.75″
- Blade Length: 3.5″
- Handle Length: 3.25″
- Blade Material: AEB-L, M390 (plus a bunch of other options)
- Blade Shape: Drop Point (Flat Grind)
- Handle Material: Micarta or G-10
- Weight: 9.1 oz (With Sheath)
- Sheath: Leather
- Made In: USA
First Impressions of the Bradford Guardian 3
The Bradford Guardian 3 is a fixed-blade knife that’s lightweight and easy to hold. It works great as an EDC but also as a carving tool. I do a little whittling once in a while, and this is a handy knife to have in those respects.
The version I have comes with a Micarta handle (Micarta is a fiber-plastic composite) gives me a surprising amount of control over the blade, although the poor finger guard always makes me a bit nervous that one day I’ll cut myself on it, and the blade is so sharp (the factory edge on this thing is insane!) that it won’t be a little knick.
The Guardian 3 would probably make a decent little hiking or camping knife, too, but I would advise against carrying it as a survival or bushcraft knife. It’s sharp, but it just doesn’t have the weight or power behind it to do that kind of work.
It also can’t spark on a ferro rod. Maybe I just really suck at it, but with some knives, it’s incredibly easy and with the Guardian 3 it just isn’t. Reese had trouble, too, so I know it’s not just me.
Really, though, this is a hard knife to dislike. As a fixed-blade EDC it does change my mind about how good they can actually be.
The too-long-didn’t-read version of this article can be summed up like this:
- It’s nearly weightless on the belt and you might forget it’s there.
- The handle is insanely comfortable but beware of the lack of a good finger guard.
- The blade offers a lot of control, so great for carving.
- Horizontal carry only!
- Nearly impossible to spark off a ferro rod, so not great for survival.
- Leather sheath features a smallish belt loop.
Want to get into the nitty-gritty? Let’s break down this bad boy and see what he’s made of!
This blade is fantastic! It’s insanely sharp out of the box (no need to put my own edge on the Guardian 3) and I was able to get to carving out a little wooden gnome right away. It managed to stay sharp throughout the days spent cutting through basswood, so it’s particularly tough.
This could be because the knife uses Bohler N690 steel. This steel is around a 60 on the Rockwell hardness scale, so it’s mad hard. Now, I typically prefer softer steels because they don’t chip so easily, but the Bradford Guardian 3 has performed so well so far, I might have to make an exception for knives forged from N690 steel.
This knife also has a flat grind and drop-point shape. The flat grind, despite its reputation, isn’t so great for chopping with this knife. While it can chop, it takes quite a while to get through a large stick.
Before I move on, I should point out that there are a many, many variations on this knife. Not all blades will use this type of steel or this grind or this shape, but from what I’ve gathered, the quality really doesn’t vary too much across different versions.
Like with the blade, the handle varies depending on which version you buy. Mine is a Micarta, and it’s super comfortable. If you have very large hands, you might have trouble, but I think this handle will benefit most hand sizes. The scales are easy to hold the handle doesn’t slip around at all in my grip.
The only problem I had with it was the little ‘trigger’ or space where you can rest your index finger. It gives you a lot of control, but it’s very easy for your finger to slip out of and find its way to the blade. Be careful when using this knife for that reason.
This isn’t a heavy knife, and once it’s on your belt, you won’t even feel it. I feel the weight of a lot of SAKs in my pocket far more often than I’ll ever feel the Guardian 3 on my belt.
As for the knife itself, it sits lightly in the hand. Usually, Reese and I like our knives on the heavier side, but the Bradford Guardian 3 manages to offers a lot of control and cutting ability in this little knife.
The Bradford Guardian 3 can only be carried horizontally, or scout style. You can place it on the front of your belt or the back, but I generally prefer the front because the knife is easier to get at. Either way, it basically becomes part of the belt once it’s on. I’ve never had it snag on anything as I carry it and I hardly even notice it.
I would like to make a note about the sheath, though. It’s possible to buy a kydex sheath separately if you really dislike the leather sheath it comes with, and some people really don’t like the leather sheath. I don’t mind, even if the sharp edge manages to slice through some of the leather and leave little flakes all over.
I just don’t understand why, with all the variations on this knife that exist, Bradford would still make consumers who would rather have kydex pay for it separately.
So, so, so many variations. I’m not even going to track down and link to every last one, but if you click the link below and get taken to Amazon, you can easily search for your favorite version of the Guardian 3.
That being said, word on the grapevine is that the quality doesn’t vary too greatly with the different variations. Even though I can’t possibly purchase and review them all (at least not in this economy…) I’m confident that you won’t find one version fo the Guardian 3 to be that different from another. The steels are all very hard and G10 handles are still great handles.
That said, here are all the different steels you can get with a Bradford Guardian 3:
D2 (Not the Mighty Ducks)
Vanadis 4 Extra
You can check out some of these steels on our growing-to-be-the-definitive-steel-guide page.
If you like scout carry knives and fixed-blade EDCs, then I highly recommend the Bradford Guardian 3. It’s quite versatile, even if it won’t serve you in a bushcraft situation, and stays sharp for a long, long time. It disappears into your belt when you carry it, too.
Again, just be careful about the way your finger can slip onto the blade. That’s the only downside.