2017 Preview–Cold Steel
Tony Sculimbrene 01.17.17
Cold Steel, oh Cold Steel–ever the source of LARP-made-real weapons, Lynn Thompson killing people with his Force ability (Boop! Your Dead), and quality cutlery hidden in a massive mountain of machismo and controversy. It seems like a full 90% of what they do is antagonizing the rest of the Gear World. Which is unfortunate because that other 10%, which is focused on making good knives, does, in fact, produce some truly great blades (Espada XL not included).
2016 was the fourth year of the new wave of Cold Steel products. They imported Andrew Demko’s brilliant lock the Tri-Ad lock, then they upgraded the steel across their entire line, and finally, last year, they re-entered the high end production market with the 4Max that has come out in dribs and drabs. Overall, it was a good showing. 2017 has more stuff than the previous year, but nothing as eye catching as the 4Max.
First up is the Golden Eye series of knives. The innovation, if it can be called that, is the brass ring around the opening hole Cold Steel is calling the HTR system. The ring has a series of steps, kind of like the thumb studs on the Kershaw Blur, and in theory they give you more purchase. It is an idea that is hard to judge from pictures alone, but it strikes me as a solution looking for a problem. Fortunately the rest of the knife is solid–a 3.5 inch blade of XHP in a few blade shapes (drop point and tanto have been shown, though it seems like a foregone conclusion that more will come if the knife is a good seller). The Golden Eyes will MSPR for $189.95 and probably street around $100-120
The Khan and the Grik are two other knives with the stepped ring opener. The Khan looks quite promising with a 3 inch blade and blue G10 handles. It runs MSRP $69.95 and will likely street at or under $50. There is an Elite Golden Eye with G10/carbon fiber handles and S35VN steel. It will MSRP for $359.95. I expect a street price of around $250-$280.
They have a new knife in the ProLite series, their budget offering, and it looks good. Of course it runs the Tri-Ad lock, which is, unlike Benchmade’s proprietary lock, actually good. It has a 3.5 inch blade of 1.4116 steel, which is a high corrosion resistant steel found in Victorinox Swiss army designs. The change here is the deployment method–instead of thumb studs the new ProLite runs a thumb hole. The neat trick here is that the whole folder comes in at 3 ounces exactly, very good number given the knife’s size. The ProLite will MSRP for $49.95. The current ProLite with the same MSRP streets for around $30.
In a bit of product line overlap, they are releasing the Workingman, a knife in the Steve Austin series of knives (how appropriate that Steve Austin would pair with Cold Steel, the most celebrity obsessed brand in the knife world). This follows last year’s offering and is a 3.5 inch blade of 1.4116 steel that weighs 3.1 ounces. It is a thumb stud clip point knife, but the similarities between it and the ProLite are too great for me. This knife, like the ProLite has thermoplastic handles. They handles are three different loud colors. The Workman runs $59.95 MSRP. I imagine you will find them at retailers for $40.
The Charm is a crazy blade for Cold Steel to produce–it is a small (wha?), traditional knife that runs a 1.5 inch blade of S35VN.
The knife is a slip joint (what was the point of the CRKT litigation if, less than two years later, you release a slipjoint?), which I think is a great addition to their line up. The entire knife weighs two feathers–.6 ounces. The handle had double bolsters, a bail, and polished micarta. This is a knife I’d expect to see in the Al Mar line up, but it is exciting to see Cold Steel to move out of their comfort zone of ginormous blades. The Charm’s MSRP is $77.95, which means you’ll pay around $50.
Adding to their Compensation Series (which includes the Espada XL, the Hold Out XL, and a variety of other 5 plus inch blades) they have the Frenzy II (and Frenzy I, which is too small to qualify for the Compensation Series). This is an aggressive wharncliffe blade of 5.5 inches XHP steel. It, like all of the Compensation Series, runs the Tri-Ad lock. Nothing worse than a limp blade lock, right? Especially when the blade is so, um, huge. The Frenzy IIs MSRP is $239.95 and that means a retail price around $175.
Finally, there is the Night Force, another stepped ring deployment knife, but this time with a host of high end features.
This is their second high end production knife after the 4Max. This knife has a G10/carbon fiber laminate handle and Damascus steel for a blade (which I think is a first for Cold Steel). Unlike the 4Max, this is not a USA Made blade, coming to Cold Steel from an Italian OEM (all Cold Steel products are made by OEMs by the way. They, like a few companies, make nothing). The Night Force will MSRP for $429.95. Retailers have held the line on the 4Max, pricing it right at or no more than 10% below MSRP, so I imagine they will try the same thing here.
There are new arrowheads (which I know nothing about), a line of commercial knives (for restaurant kitchens), and a wide variety of old knives in new colors (oranges, blues, forest greens, and dark earth browns).
Overall, the line up has a ton of new and interesting stuff. I am not sure how many will be classics. A lot is riding on the success of the HTR system. If it is good, there are some gems here. If not, they will be relegated to that bin of knife oddities that include things like the Edgie from CRKT and the T-Mag from Spyderco. For me there are two blades that stand out: the new ProLite and the Khan. If you like bigger knives, there are probably more eye catchers. And if you need to pair your red sports car with another compensation device, the Frenzy II is just for you.
Overall Grade: Incomplete (if the HTR system rocks–A; if it stinks–C)