Does the Guardian 3.5 Knife Stand Up to EDC?

On The Trail Or For EDC, Count On The Bradford USA Guardian 3.5

They say, “Seeing is believing,” but I’ve always found that experience is more convincing. That’s the case when I had a chance to use the Guardian 3.5 from Bradford USA. A while back, I reviewed the smaller Bradford Guardian 3 for our sister publication, Everyday Carry Essentials. Upon seeing that knife, a fixed blade with horizontal sheath intended for everyday carry, I instantly proclaimed it to be among my new-found favorites.

That knife is sized right to conceal easily yet has enough blade to give it the capability to handle most tasks. While I still see that knife as a very good choice, longer experience with it convinced me that, at times, a better one-knife option for me would be something with a bit longer handle. That’s where the Guardian 3.5 enters the picture.

The Bradford Guardian 3.5 blade
The Bradford Guardian 3.5 is a great, all-around fixed blade that would be a good choice as a trail knife or for everyday carry.

Taking Measure

The Guardian 3.5, as the name suggests, has a blade that’s listed at 3.5 inches, with a 3-inch cutting edge. That’s the same as the Guardian 3, although that model is configured a bit differently. When actually using these knives, a big benefit of the Guardian 3.5, however, is that it is ¾-inch longer— 7.25 inches overall, compared to 6.25 inches for the Guardian 3. That extra length is used entirely to give the knife a longer grip, providing a better, more secure hold. That’s important for certain uses, including long cutting sessions or employing the knife in a defensive situation.

Because I’m often choosing a fixed blade for everyday carry these days, I have a feeling this knife will see lots of use.

The Guardian 3.5 I put to the test had a drop-point blade of Bohler M390 steel with a stonewashed finish. Austrian Bohler M390 is a popular steel right now and for good reason. It’s used in the industrial world because of its good wear resistance, that translates to very good edge retention when used in knives. It offers good corrosion resistance, too. You might want a tougher steel for big choppers, but for small to mid-sized knives it’s very good.

The blade in its leather sheath.
The sheath that came with the Guardian 3.5 is leather with a plastic insert and it’s configured for horizontal carry. Kydex sheaths are also available for this model.

Good Lookin’ Blade

The handle scales on my test knife were green camo Micarta. Those scales were thick and rounded enough to provide a very comfortable grip. At the front, the handle scales come to a stop well before the blade begins, and the knife’s shape has an ample groove for the index finger to protect the hand during use. This is different than with Bradford’s larger Guardian 4, which makes use of an enlarged choil to incorporate a place for the index finger halfway beyond the plunge line.

At the butt end of the tang, the handle material is cut away for better access to the lanyard hole and to provide some exposed tang that could be used for light pounding purposes.

Like the Guardian 3, the Guardian 3.5 comes with a tan leather sheath with wrap-around belt loop designed for horizontal carry. A plastic insert helps to keep the leather safe from the knife edge. It also keeps the sheath from collapsing on itself, so reinserting the knife after use is easier.

…the Guardian 3.5 comes with a tan leather sheath with wrap-around belt loop designed for horizontal carry.

The belt loop on the sheath is very tight. You don’t want it to be loose as it keeps the sheath from flopping around. I expect it will stretch a bit over time to make it easier to run a belt through it. Belts up to 1 ½ inches wide should fit.

The Guardian 3.5 handle
The Guardian 3.5 that the author tested came with thick, nicely rounded Micarta handle scales.

To The Test

My Guardian 3.5 arrived very sharp, and I didn’t need to resharpen the blade during my time using it on various materials ranging from nylon rope and strapping, wood, canvas, cardboard and in the kitchen on carrots and celery.

The Guardian 3.5 is a candidate for times when you might be carrying just one knife with you. It’s the kind of blade you might ask to do a little of everything. So, while it’s not a dedicated kitchen knife, if I’m on the trail or in camp and it’s the knife that’s on my belt and easiest to access, I’m probably going to put it to use.

…the longer handle of the Guardian 3.5 makes it a better all-arounder in practical use.

What I found with the Guardian 3.5 is that it’s very comfortable in the hand and easy to control when making various types of cuts. Many knives are sharp. In my mind, what separates the good ones from the great ones is the degree to which the cuts are seemingly effortless. To achieve that, a knife must feel like it’s a natural extension of the hand.

Different options of Bradford Guardian knives.
Although shaped differently, the Bradford Guardian 3 (left) and Guardian 3.5 have about the same blade length. A big difference is the longer handle on the Guardian 3.5.

Best Uses

Sometimes you find the knife that, for you, is the Goldilocks: not too big and not too small, but just right. While the Guardian 4 is an excellent belt knife, it’s a bit large for everyday carry. And while the Guardian 3 is an excellent EDC knife that’s a bit easier to conceal, the longer handle of the Guardian 3.5 makes it a better all-arounder in practical use. Worn horizontally on the belt near the front of the waistline, the Guardian 3.5 can be concealed easily under a sweatshirt. I’ve made it work for pocket carry as well.

Let’s face it: There is no one knife that’s ideal for all situations and all purposes. The Bradford USA Guardian line offers a wide range of models to suit your purposes. I’m not getting rid of my Guardian 3 any time soon, and the Guardian 4 is an excellent choice when I need more blade. But the Guardian 3.5 overlaps both those models in its usefulness and capabilities. It is one I’ll reach for often as a trail or camp knife. Because I’m often choosing a fixed blade for everyday carry these days, I have a feeling this knife will see lots of use. My experience with it so far has me convinced.

The Guardian 3.5 is a well-balanced blade.
The author found the Guardian 3.5 to have sufficient blade length for most tasks and a more ample handle than many small fixed blades.

For The Guardian 3.5

There are many other models of various sizes available in the Bradford Knives Guardian series. Here, next to the Guardian 3.5, is the Guardian 4 (right), which is an excellent belt knife.

Bradford Knives offers the Guardian 3.5 in configurations other than the one I tested. In addition to the drop-point blade, you can have a Guardian 3.5 with either a tanto blade or the company’s new sheepsfoot blade. If you prefer a blade finish other than stonewashed, some models have blades with a Nimbus or black DLC finish that come with black leather sheaths. Kydex sheaths are available too.

You can choose among several handle options as well. Some have naturally textured Micarta or Richlite scales and some handles feature a very aggressive texturing of raised checkering. My Guardian 3 in Tiger Stripe has this texturing and it’s very good for use in wet or sloppy conditions. Bradford offers some carbon fiber and G10 scales too.

Bradford Knives/Guardian 3.5

Overall Length: 7.25 inches
Blade Length: 3.5 inches
Cutting Edge: 3 inches
Edge Type: Plain, drop point (sheepsfoot, tanto also available)
Blade Thickness: 0.15 inch
Steel: Bohler M390 (CPM-3V also available)
Grind: Sabre (full-flat also available)
Finish: Stonewashed (Nimbus or black DLC also available)
Weight: 6.3 ounces
Sheath: Leather with plastic insert, horizontal carry
Origin: USA
MSRP: $189 (as tested)


Bradford USA

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