Aesthetically, this is a very good looking knife. The handle ergonomics feel great in the fingers, and the blade shape lends itself well to heavier cutting tasks.
I personally like D2 steel for its durability. People say it’s hard to sharpen but I guess I’ve gotten used it carrying a Civivi Elementum for a year. I can’t say I’ve ever felt frustrated sharpening either D2 knife.
Admittedly when I first saw the hybrid G10 and steel sides of the handle I found myself wishing it were entirely G10 for a symmetrical appearance. However, I will say that a steel handle slides in and out of a pocket quite smoothly.
The pocket clip is pretty solid and easy to adjust tension-wise. It’s billed as a deep carry clip, though, and the whole lanyard hole still sticks up above the pocket. Compared to other deep carry knives I have I don’t know that I’d really call this that deep, but it’s also not bothersome.
The Pilar III seems to hold a decent edge for quite a lot of hard cutting tasks, from repeated cardboard slices to rope, plastic twine, and even carving sticks. As the edge started to lose a step, much like my experience with the Elementum, a few strops on leather were enough to keep it going awhile further.
The action is great. It’s not difficult to open with the thumb, but is truly at its smoothest using your middle finger in what people often call “Spydy Style” like you would with a Spyderco.
The weight is average for a mid-sized folding knife. At 3.6 oz, it feels reasonably substantial in the hand but isn’t a burden in the pocket. It is heavier than the Elementum when compared directly, with the Elementum being a slim 2.8 oz.
The frame lock feels sturdy, but is also harder to close than most of the liner lock knives I’ve used. It’s harder to close one-handed, whereas my Civivi Elementum is effortless to open and close entirely with my right hand and slide smoothly right into my pocket.
There’s a sticking point just as the lock releases the blade where you have to push harder to get it to swing the rest of the way shut. Trouble with that is, if your thumb is still near the frame the blade can hit your thumb if you’re not careful, so you end up having to remember to move your thumb off the frame lock after it opens each time.
I know that frame locks are said to be stronger than liner locks, but I’ve never personally had a liner lock fail. To me, the advantage of the frame lock is less important, and it being tougher to close is a ding against the knife.
Comparatively, knives like the Elementum are very easy to disengage the liner lock with one finger and close the blade smoothly with no worries about the thumb.
While the handle feels great in the hand for holding the knife in general, I found a couple times that during hard cutting tasks where I was bearing down on the handle hard that the steel side did dig into my palm a bit — in a way that some of my other pocket knives don’t.
Regarding the hybrid liner, I’ll say this about the G10 side. I know G10 is said to be very strong and probably makes a fine enough handle on its own for a lot of lighter tasks. Personally, though, I feel better about a folding knife that has a steel liner on both sides underneath the G10.
When done well it doesn’t add a ton of weight, evidenced by the Civivi Elementum being 0.8 oz lighter than the Pilar III while being symmetrically lined.
This is perhaps a bit of a nitpick since other people have had great experiences with knives with G10-only handles, but having a metallic liner is my preference.
The ultimate takeaway: The CRKT Pilar III provides a good value for the money for a $50 price range knife. It combines a strong lock with a good blade steel, and is a nice entry point for anyone shopping in this price point for a solid all-around pocket knife.
There are a few less-than-ideal aspects of it, but in this price range it does a variety of things well.