The Native "family" now encompasses three model numbers, the C41 and C78 Natives and the brand new C98 Poliwog. The C41, now sometimes referred to as the "original native" exists in FRN and all stainless normal production, and G10 limited production versions, plus a very small quantity of Carbon Fiber prototypes.   With the exception of the all stainless verison, which is manufactured for Spyderco in Japan, all are US made.  The C78 Native III, also known as the "3D", is manufactured in Japan and, to date, has been produced only in FRN.  The C98 Poliwog, released in late August, 2005, combines a shorter version of the distinctive Native blade shape and deep 50/50 choil with a very unconventional looking (and feeling) stainless steel handle and ball lock.
Below (top to bottom):  
C41 FRN in CPMS30V Plain Edge (current production version)
C41 FRN in CPM440V Plain Edge - the Boye dent marks this one as coming from one of the last batches of 440V Natives
C41 FRN in GIN-1 the earliest "true" Spyderco Native - thanks Chad!
The infamous BRK 1st Generation Native - in 440A - note the smaller, more numerous thumb notches in the spine
Below: The two Japan made Natives, on top -  a blue "Spyderco Forum" limited edition version of the C78 Native III in VG-10, below the all stainless Native II in AUS-10
Below: The new C98 Poliwog, shown between a C41 Native and C78 Native III

During the 440V period, two limited production variants with G10 handles were also offered.  The first, seen at the bottom in the picture below, was done as a special for BladeForum members and carries the name and logo on the blade.  All are also marked "1 of 300".  They have checkered blue G10 handles, no Boye dent, a plated or highly polished barrel bolt, and a "candy" blue painted clip.  They are also the only 440V Natives I have seen that do not have the "USA Earth" marking.  The second type were produced in both plain and spyder edge with unique "n of 500" engraving on the blade.  Both have black G10 handles, blued barrel bolts and clips, and Boye dents.  For some reason Spyderco saw fit to disfigure the functional elegance of these knives with garish pearl inserts. "blue pearl" on the plain edge, "root beer pearl" on the serrated.


Closeup of clip on BladeForums G10 Native



Note the identical pattern and markings of the FRN handles on the BRK (top), S30V (middle) and GIN-1 (bottom) versions of the Native in the picture below.  (The forward finger cutout on the BRK in this picture, and the S30V one at the right in the picture below were both modified by me to fully expose the thumb hole).



As can be seen by examining the three knives to the left in  picture below, the one mild annoyance with all Natives, but only a major issue with the all stainless version, is the partial occlusion of the thumb hole when the knife is closed.   I elected to modify the S30V one that I often carry on weekends by filing down the FRN handle to fully expose the thumb hole.  I also removed the clip completely as I really prefer to carry loose in the pocket.   Works great for me.   While I normally consider Boye dents both esthetically unpleasing and uncomfortable to use, the combination of a light lock spring and relatively small and shallow dent remove this second, more serious, objection from the one on the S30V Native.  Still, if I ever find an S30V PE one without the dent, you can bet your bippy that this one will be retired. 


The above shows the difference in thickness and shape of the handles on the C78 Native III (top) and the FRN version of the C41Native (bottom).  The handle of the C41 is noticeably thinner and, aside from the chamfered edge, perfectly flat.  The C78 Native III, on the other hand earns its "3D" nickname by virtue of its thick sculptured handle which incorporates palm swells, heel rests, and a thumb pad.


Latest addition to the Native "tribe", a part serrated FRN C41 in S30V with black blade and  lockbar




The C41 Native Lightweight is also referred to at times as "Original Native" or "Native I".  Three "legitimate" variations in blade steel exist. The earliest ones had blades of GIN-1, this was later upgraded to CPM440V, and finally to CPMS30V. The design of the FRN handle has remained a constant.  It features bi-directional texturing in a spider web pattern and is, to date, the only Spyderco model to use this pattern.   These three versions also share an identical blade shape, thickness, grind, and swedge, as well as six deeply cut thumb grooves and an unchamfered thumb hole. All that I have seen are marked "Golden Colorado, USA, Earth", although I am told that at least some exist in 440V without the "Earth" marking. Despite illustrations in the 2003 dealer and consumer catalogs showing S30V versions without the Boye dent (which would lead one to believe the change to that steel preceded the introduction of the dent) 440V knives with the dent do exist.   The C41 Lightweight has been produced, at various times, in plain, spyder and combo edge.

C41 Native SS - also referred to as the "Native II". this is the stainless steel handled version of the Native. It is made in Seki City, Japan. Blade steel is AUS-10. The eleven thumb notches are smaller and shallower than any of the other Natives. Frankly, unless you really prefer a heavy knife to a light one, or want to try AUS-10, this version has nothing to recommend it.

C78 Native III (or 3D) - this latest addition to the Native family is made in Seki City, Japan. Blade steel is VG-10. Handle is FRN, but in a unique contoured design that is thicker in the center, and tapers slightly toward the front of the knife, and more dramatically toward the back with a final flare at the butt end. It uses a combination of "volcano" texturing (which works considerably better on this knife than most others due to the contoured handle) and a pair of textured finger and thumb "pads" on each side of the handle, as well as raised ridges on either side of the lockbar at the front of the knife to aid in thumb positioning. Instead of thumb notches cut into the blade, like the other Natives, this one has six raised thumb bumps that project slightly above it. Lock bar has the "Boye dent". The blade also has a different swedge from the other Natives, tapering all the way back rather than being truncated. Also unlike all the other Natives, this one has a wire clip. This is, without a doubt, the most comfortable folding knife I've ever handled. Action is not quite as light as the regular Native due to a stronger lock spring, but it is smooth as glass and possibly a bit safer to carry tip up. As with all other Natives, the clip is R/L reversible, tip up only.  Some users have reported the blue version, as shown here, to be smoother than the black.

No discussion of the Native family is complete without mention of its "red-headed stepchild", the infamous "BRK" Native. These sport a laser etched "1st Generation BRK" marking in black on the blade (which takes about two minutes work each with 200 and 400 grit to remove).  The more definitive methods of identifying them are the nine thumb grooves (as opposed to six on other US made Natives, and the 440A steel designation stamped below the Spyderco name on the left side of the blade tang.  Although the blades are stamped Spyderco Golden Colorado USA, they were actually manufactured for Spyderco by Camillus, in New York.  Another thing to look for, but somewhat harder to notice, is the chamfered edge on the thumb hole.   Finally, at least on the ones I have handled,  the blade also sits at a different angle in relation to the handle than on other Natives, as can be easily seen in the photos above and below. 

At the very least, the BRK Natives are the product of an extremely interesting series of decisions. Sal first conceived the Native as an inexpensive alternative to the Delica.  Thus the decision to use 440A, a steel generally considered inferior to those used in all other Spyderco knives. They contracted with Camillus to produce the handle molds and make the 440A blades and FRN handles, which were then to be sent to Golden for assembly and finish. For whatever reason, this arrangement did not work out, but Spyderco did receive a batch of the 440A blades, but for whatever reason elected to shelve them,  purchase the handle molds from Camillus, and build the entire knife themselves. Rather than making it a low end model, as originally planned, they upgraded the steel to GIN-1 and refined the design of the blade tang with a larger cam and deeper lock notch.  These changes resulted, IMHO, in the smoothest, strongest, most ergonomic FRN lockback of its size.

Sometime later, Blue Ridge Knives, a large knife distributor, purchased the Camillus made 440A blades, and handles for them, from Spyderco. I suspect they purchased the clips and barrel bolts from them as well. Blue Ridge then contracted with Camillus to supply the lockbars, lock springs, and other necessary parts, and to assemble the knives for them. Compared with the "real" Natives the kindest thing one can say is that, aside from the handle and clip, they are inferior in every way. The acronym "POS" is often used when describing them.   

Honorable dealers, both on the internet and off, make customers aware that despite all the things that make these knives appear to  be Spydercos, they are actually warranted by Camillus.   Less than honorable ones simply say nothing and let the fact that  these knives are marked "SPYDERCO: and "Golden Colorado" on their blades, are marked "SPYDERCO NATIVE" and carry the Spyderco "bug" logo on the handle, and carry the "bug" logo on their clip mislead customers.  Truly unscrupulous eBay sellers go so far as to put a picture of a Spyderco warranty in their listings.

On the other hand, I'm amused by the contention of some of my fellow collectors that the BRK Native does not deserve a place in a collection of Natives.   Consider this - the original catalog illustration for the Native shows a knife with a 440A blade with 9 thumb grooves.  Now granted, that picture could be nothing more than an "artists conception" but, if one ever turned up with solid provenance, they'd be fighting one another (and me) tooth and nail for it.