Dear chaoticdefect65 and all:
Thank you very much for your post. Your knife is not defective.
After I read your post this morning, I spoke to our manufacturing manager and chief engineer. They confirmed that the machined "step" was a purposeful in-line change in the design; however, both versions of the Para 3 shown in this thread are correct and both are completely functional and reliable.
The first production of the Para 3 featured the full-width lock ramp that has traditionally been used on all our Compression Locks. Our testing of that lock in the Para 3 confirmed that it is robust, reliable, and provides outstanding lock strength--just like the many thousands of other Compression Locks currently in service.
When extreme lock testing videos became popular on the Internet several years ago, some testers began using an "overstrike" test. In this test, the knife is gripped by the end of the handle and the forward portion of the "slot" side of the handle is struck against a hard surface to try to get the blade to close. While this test doesn't simulate any logical use of a knife as a tool, since it was a concern of some of our customers, we began incorporating it into our testing protocols.
In its original full-width-ramp configuration, the Para 3 performed just as well as our other Compression Lock knives on the overstrike test. When the lock finally failed, it did so because the impact of the strike allowed the liner to slide completely off the ramp. This gave one of our engineers an idea. In the spirit of Constant Quality Improvement (C.Q.I.), he machined a small "safety step" at the low end of the ramp. In overstrike tests, this step is designed to act as a shelf or step to "catch" the liner and act as a failsafe against lock release. Extensive testing of the concept with the Para 3 showed that the idea had merit, so we decided to implement it as a desirable change in the Para 3 design.
Based on the engagement point of the liner and the ramp, the safety step does not affect lock strength or its ease of operation. Again, it is a purposeful C.Q.I. change that we believe is an enhancement to the design. We plan to do additional testing with prototypes of other models to see if it's something that we might consider implementing in other designs, but for now, it's limited to current production of the Para 3. First-run production of the Para 3 with the full-width ramp are perfectly serviceable, first-quality knives and have been very well received by our customers. If you have one, it will serve you well.
As always, if you have any concerns about the performance or operation of an individual Spyderco knife, your best course of action is to send it to our warranty repair department so we can examine it. And, as always, we welcome feedback on your experiences with our knives and your thoughts on our continued efforts to make them better.
Thank you for your continued passion for Spyderco knives.