I have carried some form of knife in my pocket for most of my life. They have ranged from large defensive folders to small utility knives. Big knives are awesome, but the reality is that their size is a problem for most mundane tasks. I carry a medium sized lock blade for utility and a backup self-defense weapon. However, often a blade just can’t solve the problem at hand. We learn early on as boys that using a knife as a screwdriver can quickly ruin the blade, the screw and possibly the hand nearby. Knives are also totally useless for tightening nuts or bolts. For many tasks a blade just can’t cut it.
I am no stranger to multi-tools. I have carried one brand or another constantly since my early days in the Marine Corps when I was humping an AN/PRC-77 radio. There were always screws to tighten or comm wire to cut. Building field expedient antennas required tools. Packing a toolbox just wasn’t feasible when you were already loaded with radio batteries and water.
Building antennas or working on Vietnam-era radios is no longer a concern for me. Now I have computers, long guns, holsters, mag pouches and the occasional kids toy to maintain. My role has changed, but the need for a compact tool has not.
After working with the Leatherman MUT for some time, I loved the assortment of tools. I didn’t love the weight. When strapped to a war belt or pack, it is easy to forget about it. When clipped to the pocket of your shorts, it is a bit much. The MUT also offers tools that were not needed in my daily routine. The pliers and screwdrivers were great. The carbon scraper and FCG punch are seldom used off the range or out of the shop.
What I needed was a multi-tool that had the features of the MUT I used the most, in a lighter weight package. This realization found me back on the Leatherman website, scrolling through their offerings. That is when I stumbled upon the Skeletool CX. The Skeletool line offers pliers, wire cutters, screw driver bits and a locking blade in a small package.
When the Leatherman Skeletool CX arrived, I anxiously opened the box. I was amazed at the compact size and the light 5 oz. weight. The fit and finish was very good. Something I have come to expect from Leatherman products. This is not necessarily one of their “tactical” tools. Unlike the MUT the blade and various components of the Skeletool are satin or highly polished steel. The body of the Skeletool CX is DLC finished steel with many lightening holes. The standard Skeletool does not offer the DLC coated frame.
One of the features that causes the Skeletool CX to stand out from the other Skeletool models is the real carbon fiber stiffening rib in the frame. This may or may not actually contribute to stiffening the tool, but it sure does look sharp.
The second feature unique to the CX is that the plain edge knife blade is made of 154CM steel. This is a high carbon, corrosion resistant stainless steel that is advertised to hold its edge three times longer than the 420 stainless on the standard Skeletool or Skeletool CS models. The knife blade is 2.6″ long and fairly unassuming looking. It utilizes a “liner lock” to keep the blade deployed. Unfortunately at this time, the lock disqualifies the Skeletool CX for carry-on airline use due to TSA Regulations. Make sure you drop it in your checked baggage.
The edge was razor sharp out of the package. The blade has a gentle curve to the edge and comes to a nice drop point. I found the blade shape worked well for most small tasks. The placement on the tool and the lightening hole on the blade makes one-handed deployment a breeze. With a little care and practice, one-handed closing is also simple. Since this is a liner-lock style blade, be very careful with one handed closing. We don’t want you removing the tip of your thumb in the process.
Initially I was that the pliers would not stand up to any hard use. I opened the Skeletool to expose the pliers and without anything in the jaws, I closed the grip as hard as I could manage. There was some initial flex as the folding mechanism fully locked out, then nothing. No side flexing, creaking or popping. This is far from a scientific test, but comparing the pressure I can apply with my right hand to my “Captains of Crush #2 Gripper” I was putting down about 190 lbs of force on the Skeletool without any bending. I was impressed.
While attempting to crush the little Skeletool CX, it was interesting to note that I did not feel any discomfort. One of my gripes with the original Leatherman tool was that when exerting considerable force, the frame cut into your hand. I did not experience any of this with the Skeletool. Leatherman took great care to contour the surfaces your hand would contact. Due to the curve of the tool it is actually more comfortable to use than similarly sized pliers in my toolbox.
The pliers serve the purpose of needle nose, standard pliers and wire cutters. During our evaluation we used all three sections and they worked very well. Leatherman even took care to notch the back of the wire cutter blades to give you a place to shear small diameter rod (like coat hangars) and save your wire cutting edge for fine electrical wires. The needle nose pliers are ground to a fine edge. This has assisted several times in removing splinters and thorns when tweezers were not available.
The pliers and knife blade are probably the most used tools in the Skeletool CX’s arsenal. However the “bit driver” should not be dismissed. The Skeletool CX comes with two reversible bits (1/4″ flat blade, 3/16″ flat blade, No.1 Phillips and No.2 Phillips). One is housed in the bit driver, ready for action. The second is stored securely in a recess in the carbon fiber spar on the frame. While only two bits are included, Leatherman has you covered with a very wide array of optional bits. The Skeletool CX can even use standard 1/4″ driver bits by purchasing an optional accessory.
The Skeletool CX comes equipped with two methods to attach the tool to your body. I found the standard pocket clip to be the most convenient. It carries the Skeletool in a “tip down” orientation. Drawing the tool and deploying the blade for a quick task was very fluid and comfortable.
The Skeletool CX can also be attached to your belt loops or gear with the carabiner portion of the body. It has a very high quality feeling wire gate that springs back into position nicely. The carabiner also has one other trick up its sleeve. It acts as a bottle opener to assist your entry into your favorite adult beverage. This feature alone makes it a hit at the family BBQ.
The Skeletool CX has made many trips to the range with me and usually ends up standing in for tasks while the MUT stays in its Velcro pouch on my Eberlestock Pack. I find myself constantly grabbing it to pull staples, cut cord, or other small tasks. When it comes to AR maintenance, the MUT is still the king, but the Skeletool CX is often what is riding in my pocket away from the range.
- Closed Length 4″
- Weight 5 oz.
- Blade Length 2.6″
- MSRP: $94.85
Recently the Skeletool CX was a great help on the family vacation. We took a trip to lovely Walt Disney World. WDW has a strict “no-weapons” policy. This apparently includes “tactical” knives. I spent some time researching the issue and found scores of stories of folks being required to check their medium to large sized lock blade knives when an undercover “Cast Member” spotted them. Not wanting to go through that hassle or spend my days without a tag remover and snack opener in my pocket, I decided to give the Skeletool CX a try. To my delight, the small blade did not seem to alarm anyone and I was not pounced upon when I used it to remove a tag from a new set of R2-D2 Mouse Ears.
At times it can be incredibly helpful to have a tool that looks more like a tool than a “scary” knife. It is also worth noting that a razor sharp 2.6″ blade can still be a very effective backup weapon in skilled hands.