I've noticed a few posts lately about the Leatherman c300 & c301 - the now retired, entry level knives with PE and combo blade respectively. I think that many people (including myself) have acquired these knives as part of Leatherman promotional packs or in trades as opposed to intentionally purchasing them, but have actually been pleasantly surprised by them.
Obviously, by Leatherman standards the c300 & c301 were the bottom of the range, but it seems that I'm not the only one who thinks that they are great little knives. They perform very well (despite a couple of minor irritations) and at the price, you're not frightened to beat on them a bit either.
Now that they are discontinued, I thought it might be useful to do a quick comparison with the knife that has replaced them, the c33 (PE) and c33x (combo). Unfortunately I only have the combo bladed c301, and the plain-edged c33 so far, but that's more than sufficient to have a look at them, as it's only the blade shape that differs between the models.
The first difference that you'll notice is the handles. Although made from the same "glass filled nylon", the patterned (but very functional and grippy) handles on the c301 have been replaced by less rounded, lower profile handles on the c33. The c33 has a less glossy finish reminiscent of slate, which is both functional and aesthetically pleasing. Having fairly small hands, I find the c33 handles to be a slight improvement and I can grip the knife well and with confidence. There is a strategically placed cut out in the handle to allow your thumb to easily locate the thumb-stud on the blade. A simple but nice touch that will speed safe blade deployment
There are a few more significant changes too.
Firstly, the blade launcher ("flipper") on the c301 is gone, which is a shame as I have spent many an idle moment flipping the c301! You can still flick the blade out with your thumb though, so it's not a total disaster
Oh, well not on the Danish 2H version obviously
(Thanks again Allan
Secondly, the pocket clip has been replaced, and is much improved. The old style pocket clip was held by a single torx screw that fastened into a thread that formed part of the blade pivot. This was a poor design and on several of the old Leatherman knives, balancing the tightness of the pocket clip without tightening the blade pivot to the extent that it prevented the flipper from working was extremely difficult. This was a problem even on the higher end knives like the e306x, e307x and even my beloved K500x and is simply a consequence of poor design.
The looseness of the pocket clip v the tightness of the blade has been solved by using 3 small torx screws as seen on my Benchmade Mini Griptillian and several Byrd knives. Simple, but a vast improvement.
The third and final difference on the c33 is the inclusion of a folding caribiner style clip. This is hardly an essential item on a basic pocket knife, but they have managed to include it whilst keeping a sensible profile on the knife and without making it too bulky - so I say "why not"! It does provide an extra carry option without sacrificing any comfort, and of course you get a bottle opener in for the bargain! Never a bad thing in my experience.
Overall, I would say that the c33 brings a number of refinements and improvements over the c300/c301, and if you liked the old knife, you'll like this one too. The only real loss has been the flipper, but a couple of minutes practice and you'll be able to flip the blade with your thumb just as quickly anyway, and in return you get a much more solid clip and overall feeling of quality.
Hopefully some will find this useful, and maybe a few people will even give this often overlooked knife a try. It really ain't bad at all!