Cold Steel (CS) is known for producing extremely high-value, hard-use knives and other edged tools, like tomahawks, machetes, shovels and swords. They’re also known for an aggressive, in-your-face marketing style, and hands-down one of the best catalogs in the business. If you’re looking for some bathroom reading material, definitely sign-up for one of their free catalogs.
Over the years I’ve purchased quite a few Cold Steel products, and I’ve always been extremely impressed. I mean, everyone should own at least one Special Forces Shovel and Pendleton Light Hunter! Both are so inexpensive and versatile, you just can’t go wrong.
That said, I recently had a real-World experience with my Recon 1, AUS 8A variety, that left me wishing Lynn Thompson and Andrew Demko would pair the Tri-Ad lock with what many would consider a stronger blade grind – like Full Flat, Saber or Convex.
The Cold Steel Tri-Ad Lock – one of the BEST!
Part of Cold Steel’s ‘secret sauce’ is their Cold Steel Tri-Ad lock, designed by Andrew Demko. You can find out more about the Tri-Ad lock by clicking here, but it is arguably the STRONGEST lock in the business, an industry legendary. Having a folding knife with such a strong locking mechanism empowers the user to do things with a Cold Steel Tri-Ad folding knife that would literally destroy many, lesser quality folders, of any design.
There are videos all over the Internet (some good, some bad) including some great ones from Cold Steel proving the strength of the Tri-Ad lock over and over again. Now, while a folding knife will never be as strong as a similarly sized, well designed fixed blade knife, a folder with the Tri-Ad lock is about as close as you’re gonna get. This combination of strength and versatility, at a common-man affordable price point is what makes Cold Steel folders with the Tri-Ad lock highly desirable.
However, is the Hollow Ground Blade a good match for the Tri-Ad Lock? Is it time for FFG or Saber Grind versions of the Recon 1, AK-47, Lawman and Code-4?
Based on my own personal experience, I suggest a Hollow Ground Blade is NOT a good match for the Tri-Ad lock, and that a Full Flat, Saber or Convex ground blade would be a better match.
Ok, What makes me say this?
I found the Tri-Ad lock to be stronger than the blade itself. To me, that’s a weak point on otherwise TANK of a knife line-up. The first weekend of June 2015 I led the annual fishing derby for more than fifty people on a Cub Scout family campout, when a parent slipped on the wet morning grass, and broke her ankle.
Since the Boy Scouts of America frowns upon fixed blade knives, and since two is one, one is none, I paired my Swiss Army Knife with my Cold Steel Recon 1, which at the time I considered the strongest, most heavy-duty folder I owned. When the EMT mentioned a splint, I went to work.
My Cold Steel Recon 1 Wheels into Action
Where do you find a splint in the wilderness? You make one of course! The best candidate I found was a 2 ½ – 3 inch diameter piece of freshly fallen pine. I used my Cold Steel Recon 1 to quickly beaver cut my way through the branch into the appropriate length. I then batoned length-wise to split the branch down the middle, creating the flat surfaces necessary for a splint.
I normally never baton with a folding knife, something almost all knife manufacturers will, rightly, consider abuse. However, given the emergency situation, and countless videos and reviews I’ve seen, I didn’t think twice. …and let’s face it, in an emergency, you do what you need to do, with the tools you have available. The warranty was the last thing on my mind.
So, how’d my CS Recon 1 hold up to this hard-use? OK, but not great.
- Cosmetically, it doesn’t look abused at all. It doesn’t even look “hard-used.” In fact, I did more cosmetic damage to the blade coating using a Scotch-Brite pad to clean off the sap than I ever did actually using the knife.
- The Tri-Ad lock held up phenomenally well. Lock-up remains rock-solid. There is absolutely no play, in any direction. My CS Recon 1 still locks and unlocks easily with no hang-ups or failures. The Tri-Ad lock still functions flawlessly – good as new.
- The spine, or back of the blade, shows no wear from the event. It was fresh, soft pine after all.
- The cutting edge went through the pine like a hot knife through butter, without rolling or chipping. It did dull a bit, but can be brought back to hair popping sharp pretty easily.
Honestly, everything stated above is expected. After all, I did not baton a supply of firewood, not even a bunch of kindling. I didn’t chop down a tree. I sized and batoned one small piece of relatively soft, fresh pine.
What I did NOT expect, is that the blade bent. There is a wave behind the cutting edge.
Maybe it was a fluke. Maybe it was user error. My mind was focused on quickly, yet safely crafting a splint (no need for another emergency), with LOTS of wide-eyed Cub Scouts and parents watching. It’s possible I held the knife at just the wrong angle, or hit the spine funny on one of my whacks.
While I realize the Recon 1 is a tactical knife, as opposed to a bushcraft knife, I wonder if the blade bent as function of the grind. Hollow Grind blades are phenomenal slicers and food prep knives. However, as illustrated in the picture below, the blade gets almost razor thin as you move from the spine towards the cutting edge, sacrificing lateral rigidity and strength behind the cutting edge.
This was a great learning experience, and great test for my Cold Steel Recon 1. I never would have otherwise batoned that knife, but having done it gives me food for thought with regard to what folding knives I take as primary or backup blades, how I use them, and their limits.
Just to be clear, please don’t take any of this as bashing Cold Steel. The fact is, I used my Cold Steel Recon 1 for something it wasn’t designed for. While it got the job done, I had an unexpected, disappointing result that affects the blade, a key component of any knife. Like it or not, agree or disagree, that’s just the reality of my experience. Your mileage may vary…
I’m still a huge fan of Cold Steel’s high-value products, especially for the price-point. Similarly sized, well constructed, “hard-use” competitive options, with comparable blade locks, from companies like Benchmade and Spyderco are usually significantly more money.
The fact is, most average users wanting a large tactical blade, that will hopefully never be used in that role, will be very happy with the current design of the Cold Steel Recon 1, AK-47, Lawman and Code-4 series of knives. I know I sold a bunch of CS knives to many of the Scout parents who saw my Recon 1 that weekend. Hell, I even just bought the newest versions of the Recon 1 and AK-47, with U.S. produced Carpenter CTS-XHP blade steel. From everything I’ve read, CTS-XHP is a significant upgrade from AUS 8A, and I like that it’s made in the U.S.A.
But for those of us who flex our CS blades into hunting, camping or bushcraft roles, I’d like to see Lynn Thompson and Andrew Demko consider this potential product improvement, because as someone constantly looking to improve things, I think FFG, Saber or Convex versions would make already great products that much better. I’d sure be first in line to buy them, and I’m sure I wouldn’t be alone!
Be Aware! Be Prepared! Be Safe!
© 2015 Inside The X Ring.