One to Watch: Cold Steel 4Max
Tony Sculimbrene 04.27.15
I am not a fan of big folders (I do, on the other hand, have a thing for big fixed blades). My favorite knife has a blade length of 2.25 inches, not exactly a behemoth. My largest folder, the Spyderco Paramilitary 2 in Elmax is a modest 3.44 inches. Big folders just aren’t my thing.
But damn if the Cold Steel 4Max isn’t tempting.
The knife is a high end production folder, a market that has grown leaps and bounds in the past two years. Production knives more expensive than the Sebenza used to be a rarity. Now virtually everyone makes a blade that costs more. Cold Steel tried this a few years ago, and it failed miserably. Their $500 folders had the polish that price tag brings, but not the design or the materials. You can’t sell a production knife that costs what a custom does and offer it in AUS-8 steel no matter how good your ad copy is (and Cold Steel is the best in the business at hype talk).
But the 4Max avoids all the mistakes that those previews designs made. This is a relatively straightforward design by a known custom maker, using high end materials and made in the US. They checked all the boxes.
The 4Max is a production version of the Andrew Demko AD-10. Demko’s claim to fame is that he invented the Tri-Ad lock, a modified version of the lockback. In my experience the lock is simply brilliant. It’s much more robust than a lock back with improved action, but the engagement and disengagement remain identical. Demko’s custom, the AD-10, is one the hottest knives on the market right now. A friend of mine got one from Demko and then was surprised when I told him that I saw an identical model at a recent knife show sell for three times the maker’s price. Any hotter and the AD-10 could be used as a fuel rod in a nuclear power plant, and frankly given the build, it could probably do that too.
Normally, specs are pretty boring so I avoid repeating them, but the 4Max’s stats are insane. The knife has a 4 inch blade, 6 inch handle, and weighs 9.2 ounces. The knife also has the exact same lines as the AD-10, the same handle shape, same jimping, and the same exposed rear tang. Even the pocket clip is uncannily similar. The blade steel is one of my favorites–20CV, a steel very similar in composition to M390 and CTS-204P. This is among the best steels on the market. And unlike many of Cold Steel’s knives, the 4Max is being made right here in the US.
The drawbacks are pretty clear–size, of course, and the price. The MSRP is $599.95. My guess is that the street is around $400 (the Code 4 XHP’s MSRP is $135 and streets for $80). $400 is a lot to pay for a production knife, especially from a company like Cold Steel that doesn’t have a reputation for making spectacular production knives. People don’t balk at Lion Steel’s offerings in this range because they have a history of hitting home runs, but Cold Steel’s history in the price range is full of fouls that got caught for outs. But history alone is not reason enough to pass on the 4Max. If Cold Steel can truly deliver on the promise of a production AD-10, the price is not outlandish in this age of uber-premium production blades.