The Spyderco Paramilitary 3 folder is aligned with the Spyderco Military family. This makes it close to the original Military, Para 3, and the iconic Para 2 folding pocket knives.
The knife is 100% made in USA by Spyderco. It has received a lot of popularity from EDC enthusiasts all over. Reduced overall weight and lower price point are the key selling points of Spyderco Para 3 lightweight knife that puts it on the map.
This post breaks down this knife into a comprehensive review that gives you everything you need to know about Para 3 Lightweight to help you decide if it's the perfect knife for you.
Para 3 lightweight overview and specs:
It all started with the Spyderco Para 3 knife, which was designed to offer you all the legendary Spyderco Paramilitary 2 EDC knife features but in a more compact and carry-friendly format.
Further, Spyderco made changes to Para 3 by incorporating FRN (fiberglass-reinforced-nylon) scales on top of the streamlined version of their Compression Lock mechanism—birthing the Para 3 lightweight knife.
This Para 3 Lightweight EDC knife is 30% lighter than the G-10 handled Spydercos. It comes in a completely linerless, open-backed construction. And it features high-traction bi-directional texturing for the ultimate grip.
Para 3 handle interior accommodates a stainless steel lock bar that forms the foundation of its sturdy lock mechanism while keeping the folder's overall weight to the minimum.
Its full-flat ground blade is made from CTS-BD1N steel—a nitrogen-enriched high carbon chromium steel with a good balance of hardness, corrosion resistance, and edge retention.
Key specifications of this knife are listed below:
Ambidextrous-tip up carry
The handle is one of the crucial parts you must consider when picking an EDC knife. And this Lightweight doesn't disappoint you.
It comes armed with a handle made from fiberglass-reinforced nylon (FRN) material. This is a high-density plastic material and a deviation from the G-10 used in other Spydercos.
For those asking whether Para 3 Lightweight has any liners, it has none! No single steel liner is housed in this knife. It features just two substantial FRN standoffs near the handle tail, and the compression is just a tiny steel strip.
A lanyard hole is part of this handle. It makes it easy for you to attach a lanyard to your knife as an alternative carrying method.
As we mentioned earlier, this knife has a blade made from Carpenter's Cts-bd1n stainless steel. While this is classified as lower steel compared to high-end ones like S30V in Para 3, it helps keep the price tag of Para 3 lightweight in check.
It is the same steel you find in other popular EDC knives like Spyderco Manix 2 Lightweight knife.
You'll appreciate how easily this steel sharpens with simple sharpening tools like the golden stone. Not only that, it easily sharpens into a razor-sharp edge with just a few passes on a sharpening stone. It also holds an edge pretty well compared to other cheaper steels.
With the excellent steel corrosion resistance properties, you don't have to worry about your knife getting rust. Also, you don't have to keep cleaning and oiling your blade after every use.
Blade length is 3.0-Inch, a perfect size for states that prohibit carrying larger pocket knives. It comes in a clip point shape which simply means a straight spine and a curved cutting edge—forming a slightly upward-facing tip that's almost perfectly lined up with the blade pivot point.
The blade comes in a full-flat grind, making it an excellent slicer. It also handles daily tasks like opening packages, opening mail, dicing fruits, etc.
The baled carries on the legacy of Spyderco by being sharp as heck straight out of the box. And don't forget it comes in varying blade options—plain edge or fully serrated edge.
The ergonomics in this knife were slightly affected due to sacrificing this knife's overall size to achieve a lightweight feel.
One way they're affected is that this knife comes with a shorter handle (more than half in inch size difference compared to the Para 2).
Despite this, most users still find this knife comfortable to handle as it still allows for the natural 4-finger grip. It is well contoured to fit naturally in your hand and offer a more comfortable feel.
A boost to this knife's ergonomics is the heavily bi-directional contoured FRN handle. This provides you with loads of traction and ensures you enjoy slip-free handling in normal and wet conditions.
We also can't fail to mention the finger choil and thumb ramp jimping to enable you to comfortably and safely pinch grip your knife for hard cutting tasks requiring you to exert more effort.
You'll also notice that the clip attachment point has been moved toward the tail of the handle and swapped places with the lanyard hole. This is a significant change that helps greatly minimize the possibility of hotspots associated with the original para 3.
Despite lacking stainless steel liners, this handle still feels solid in your hands and has no room for flex.
Deployment and lockup
The action on this knife is also amazing. New users are skeptical that it has only one washer, but the thumb flicking is smooth and fun to do.
While it might not be as quick as what you get with knives with double washers/bearings, the FRN setup and single washer still work well. It doesn't fire out, but it rolls out easily and smoothly.
As expected, it comes with an oversized 13mm thumbhole (the same size as the PM2) that plays a huge role in smooth deployment of the blade.
Regarding the locking mechanism, this Para 3 lightweight is armed with a compression lock. This works just as good as the Paramilitary 2.
It offers a compression lockup's true strength and convenience, with zero blade play and wiggle. It is pretty easy to disengage and has no lock stick.
However, keep in mind that this lockup may be stiff when the knife is new, but it eases up after a few first uses.
Lightweight comes with a wire clip that lets you mount it for ambidextrous tip-up carry, so it favors both right-handed and left-handed users.
This pocket clip is also a deep carry and completely disappears in your pocket, so it will meet your needs if you want to discreetly carry your knife.
Despite this clip featuring a simplistic design, it looks elegant and feels pretty solid.
Note that this clip is an upgrade compared to the standard spoon design model you get in standard Para 3 and PM2 models. It's super-deep carry and super-discrete. They should probably consider implementing it in all the knives in the military lineup.
Additional benefits you get with this wire clip over the spoon clip are that it's no paint scraper and doesn't cause any hotspots.
This EDC folder weighs 2.4 ounces only, taking its portability a notch higher than competing models. It is the kind of knife you put in your pocket and forget it's in there until you need it again.
Fit and finish
The fit and finish are good for this knife and haven't been met with any serious complaints. Blade centering is on point, and the blade comes razor-sharp out of the box. The FRN handle is well-made and almost flawless. The knife has that sturdy feel to it. And the way it carries and feels when using it is phenomenal!
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The Paramilitary 3 Lightweight is just a great knife for everyday carry. It is ultra-lightweight, compact, and highly pocket-friendly. But it is also highly functional and will do pretty much everything a typical pocket knife is expected to do. The action is excellent, the lockup is great, and its ergonomics are fantastic.
This knife is 100% made in the USA, which speaks volumes on its overall quality and fit and finish aspects. The affordable price point and the "Made in USA" tag give you confidence when purchasing this moderately priced knife because you know you're not getting ripped off.
If you have been dreaming that you get a Paramilitary 2 in a slimmer and lightweight design and at a more affordable price, then this Para 3 just granted your wish!