Saturday, September 17, 2011

Cold Steel Recon 1 Review (50/50 Tanto point)

NOTE: Click on the photos to see larger versions
I was recently at a gun show and as most gun shows go, there were several knife vendors. While I'm admittedly not usually a big fan of Cold Steel's folding knives, the Cold Steel Recon 1 caught my eye at a vendors table. When I handled the knife and opened it up, I heard a "snap" like I've never heard before on a lock-back/Rocker lock knife (Cold Steel calls theirs the Tri Ad Lock). The smile I developed when I heard that snap immediately told my wife the wallet was coming out. To my chagrin however, the tanto point was the only one they had left. I've never been much of a fan of the tanto point but I had to try out this knife so it went home with me.


The scales of the Recon are made of a nice "grippy" laminated G-10. Inside the scales is a 6061 (hardened aluminum) heat treated spacer. The screws holding the scales together are nice torx head screws. Also visible are the pivot pins from the rocker lock and one the works in conjunction with their Tri Ad Lock. The blade is made of Aus 8A stainless steel. Aus 8A is in the same class of steels as 440c which is commonly found in mid to lower priced knives. RC hardness is usually around 57 to 58 depending on the treatment. From what I've read, Cold Steel treats their Aus 8A with freezing temps so I assume this puts its hardness at the harder end of the RC scale (58 or so). One good thing about Aus 8A and 440C is that it has good rust resistance. While it may not hold an edge as long as D2 or the carpenter steels, it is much easier to sharpen to a razor edge. One of my longest owned EDC knives is a Spyderco Native in Aus8 and I have had nothing but good things to say about it.

The blade is coated with a black teflon (commonly used as a lubricant) coat which in theory should make this knife cut through items smoother. The teflon coat may also aid in rust prevention but as I said earlier, AUS 8A should be fairly rust resistant. Lastly, the Recon comes with a removable/changeable thumb-stud.  As you can see in the below photo, the thumb-stud is threaded and workable with a slot screwdriver.


The blade on this particular model is a 50/50 (plain/serrated)  tanto point. Cold Steel also makes this model in a much nicer (in my opinion) clip point. Out of the box, this blade was hair splitting sharp. The serrations are particularly well done on this blade and I think for any sawing purpose, they would do very well:
As I stated before, I'm not big of a fan of tanto points because for utilitarian purposes, I just think other blade styles work better. For the mall ninja or killing out of control car doors, this is the blade style for you! I think if this was a clip point, I would REALLY like this blade. Cold Steel did a fine job on this blade.


I'm going to have to go along with the hype over this lock. I've owned allot of lock back / rocker lock knives over the years. My Spyderco Chinook 1 held the title for years for my strongest lock back knife. It snaps closed with an authority that leaves no doubt that it would hold under pressure. The Recon 1 snaps closed with the authority of a #15 steel trap. My first impression of their Tri Ad Lock literally made me say, "Wow!".
This is one serious lock! Unfortunately, you have to put a little more effort into disengaging the lock. While it's not bad, it definitely takes more effort to disengage than your standard lock back. In short, I like it! I think the you tube spine wackers will have their hands full with this one.


Fit and finish on the Recon 1 is very impressive. It opens smoothly, locks up as tight as a bank vault and has zero blade play. All screws were tight, it came out of the box very sharp and the contouring and scalloping on the G-10 is very nice. This knife feels good and solid in the hand. Well done Cold Steel!


In the hand, the Recon gives a sense of a hard use tool. You get the impression when holding this knife with it's super lock that it is indestructible. Cutting tasks with this knife were hindered somewhat with the Tanto blade. Again, if this one would have had a clip point, I think I would have rated the ergonomics a 9/10 for every day cutting tasks. With the Tanto point, I would rate it at 5/10. For stabbing to death angry car doors or slaughtering flesh eating zombies... a solid 10/10.


The pocket clip on the Recon 1 makes it sit a little higher in the pocket than I would have liked but that's a personal preference. It's also pretty tight against the G10 scales. While this holds it in the pocket nice and secure, it will also wreak havoc on pocket material over time. I think if the clip were bit longer, it would allow for a bit more flex so it would be easier to get in and out of the pocket without tearing up your pants over time.


The size of the Recon 1 is pretty close to my Spyderco Endura 4 but is slightly heavier. The Recon 1's blade is a big 4 inches in length while the overall length is a substantial 9 3/8 inches. The Endura 4 however does not feel nearly as tough or solid as the Recon 1 by any stretch of the imagination. I don't think the weight of the Recon 1 (5.3 ounces) would be an issue for me for EDC. For reference,  my ZT 0301 was too heavy to carry and I ended up selling it. At the time of this wirting, I only carried the Recon 1 for a week and it carried well.


While the Recon 1 opened very smoothly, I wouldn't call it buttery smooth. I'm a big fan of the spyderco holes in knives for one handed opening but I also have many knives with thumb studs that I like just as well. Thumb studs for me have to be done perfectly to be able to flick blades open as fast as I like. The first thing that goes through my head when playing with a new tactical knife is, "would I be able to snap this blade open easily in a life or death situation?" For this knife unfortunately, my answer was no. It's a big blade and while the position of the thumb stud works fine for one handed opening, it doesn't lend itself to snapping open with authority. For under handed wrist flicks, it works great.


One of the drawbacks of Tanto points in my opinion is they they limit the uses of the knife. This knife was clearly designed for hard military, police, or self defense use. This is one of those knives that if you ever HAD to end up in a knife fight, this one would only be bested by a fixed blade. If you can learn to snap this one open instinctively, it would fit it's intended purpose well.


This is one tough knife; I don't think that point can be argued. The Tri Ad Lock on this knife is probably the strongest lock back style knife I have ever used. The blade steel is very good in my opinion and in a clip point style blade, I would really like it. When open, this knife is SOLID with zero blade play and definitely gives the feeling that is was designed for hard use. For a knife this size, it feels very good in the hand. Unfortunately for me, the short, tight clip, the difficulty snapping it open quickly with the thumb stud and the tanto point are deal killers. If you like the Tanto point style blades in a big, solid, zombie slaughtering, car door killing knife, then you will love this knife.
A word of caution; every non-knife person that I opened this knife around pretty much gasped with, "Whoa!, that thing is evil looking" While I kinda laugh at reactions like these, one must be cognizant of his/her audience when deploying a knife like this. Sheeple will run in fear of this knife. Overall, I think Cold Steel has a winner with the Recon 1 . At a street price of $60 to $70, I think this is probably one of the toughest folders in it's price range. For me, this Tanto point version is going up for sale. I may try one with a clip point later.

Ergonomics: 8/10
Looks: 9/10 (Very tough looking knife)
Materials: 7/10 (nothing fancy but the materials are excellent for what this knife was designed for)
Fit and Finish: 8/10 (very good for a production knife)
Camp Use: 8/10 (Clip point would be better)
EDC Use: 7/10 (a little big and it stands out; sheeple will cower in the fetal position just looking at this knife)
Food Prep: 8/10 (a little big for delicate stuff but a great slicer, more suited for killing food)
Skinning/Game Prep: 6/10 (probably not enough belly for skinning, but good for killing food)
Warranty: 7/10 (Cold Steel seems to have a good reputation but not the top of the heap)
Zombie Usefulness: 9/10 (Zombie's won't have a chance if you can catch them after they see this beast)
Angry Car Doors/Hoods:  10/10 (The ultimate in car door slaughtering design)

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  1. Hey, would you rate this better for a self defense, survival(woods), and edc then the kershaw zt 0350?

  2. The ZT350 is a smaller knife, much easier to carry, built with typical ZT (great) quality and opens faster with their speedsafe. The recon is much larger, doesn't deploy as fast but is built like a tank. Personally, I'd go with the ZT350 but that's just personal preference. The Recon is still a great knife. It just depends on what you're looking for in a knife.

  3. The Cold Steel Tanto would be perfect for my EDC. Found this review really good. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Great write-up and photos, thanks!