Friday, March 30, 2012

Cold Steel Leatherneck SK-5 - Get It Before It's Gone

I was super excited when Cold Steel announced the Leatherneck SF back in 2011.  I thought to myself that this is the USMC KA-BAR fighting knife that I could finally get myself into.  I like the KA-BAR, but I don't care so much for the blade on it.  I may get one someday, but it's not a priority right now.  When I laid eyes on this beauty, however, I had to have one.  With an MSRP of $89, I had to wait.  I needed to get a few other things squared away before spending money on another survival knife.

My attitude changed quickly when I discovered that Cold Steel was moving away from the SK-5 high carbon steel and going instead with 4116 Krupp stainless steel.  My first thought was, "What is Cold Steel thinking?"  My next thought was, "Oh S***! I need to get a high carbon one before it disappears for good!"  So I did.

Now, I'm not an expert in metallurgy, but my research has shown me that 4116 is generally used in cheaper knives and kitchen cutlery.  The steel itself sharpens okay, but the edge can roll over more than high carbon steel.  It's my conclusion, and again this is only my opinion (YMMV), that 4116 has no place as a survival knife that is going to get pounded on relentlessly in the field.  Of course, there are others that would say "Don't abuse your knife and you won't have a problem."  To them I'd say, "C'mon and show me how you use it."  I always find it hilarious when my buddy's roll into camp with a $100+ knife and won't baton a single log with it because they are afraid it will scratch the purty finish on their blade.  About the only thing I have seen these guys use it for is cutting 550 cord or slicing SPAM.  Heck, I can use my swiss army knife for that stuff.  When you're talking about a 6-7" long fixed blade knife, you're talking about more serious work than that.

SK-5 steel is a spring steel.  It is very commonly used in cutting tools like chisels and saw blades, and makes for good knife steel.  It's tough, has good abrasion resistance, and takes/holds an edge well.  This is one of the things that attracted me to the Leatherneck to begin with,  Plus, the flat grind on the blade itself makes for a very simple and sexy profile.  The blade isn't busy at all, and the unsharpened false edge on top of the clip makes for a good penetrator.  The very tip is precise and will allow for unusually detailed work with this medium sized blade.

With Cold Steel now selling the 4116 Tanto version of this knife, it won't be long before the older SK-5 version is gone.  The new Bowie 4116 is on the website right now and is saber ground - not flat ground, but as of March 30, 2012, it shows as unavailable.  So, if you want the SK-5 steel flat ground version, GET ON IT!

Now, the knife porn.

As it came.  Good thing Amazon.com used a big box.
The sheath is awesome.  It is their Secure-Ex sheath and in addition to looking good, it is secure and has plenty of mounting options.
Secured in its sheath. The belt loop has velcro on it with the addition of a metal snap to keep it secure on your belt.  This nice thing is that you do not have to remove your belt to put this on.  Nice!  The snap around the handle adds extra security, should you decided you want to run this knife upside down on your LBE.  The belt loop is also removable.  As you can see in the photo above, there are two screws that attach it to the sheath.  Nice touch.
The handle is checkered Kray-Ex, which feels stiff, but flexible, like hard rubber.  It fully encloses over the substantial tang, giving an immense amount of control over the weapon.
Check out the flat grind on that sum-bitch.  I like how it starts off on the spine of the blade and slowly works down to the edge.  You can see the false edge on the top of the clip.  It makes for solid penetration and gives a nod to the original KA-BAR.  Well done Cold Steel.
The only real downside to this great knife is the country of origin.  Made in Taiwan.   I've owned a few Cold Steel knives that are made in Taiwan.  I would trust my life with them any day.  At least they aren't made in China.
Check this out!  The pommel is machined (not cast) and the tang on the back of this knife is huge!  It's much bigger than the KA-BAR.  As a result, the knife seems to balance a little toward the rear, but that's okay.  When I hold this knife with the handle across my flat palm, it sits right there.  As a result, it feels naturally balanced when handling.  
Okay, now that the knife porn is over, here are the specs:  Hint, I pulled these right off Cold Steel's Website.

Weight: 10.4 oz
Blade Thickness: 4.75mm (that's roughly 3/16" if you speak American)
Blade length: 6 3/4"
Handle: 5" Long
Overall Length: 11 3/4"
Steel: SK-5 High Carbon (subject to change - get yours before it's gone)

Overall, as a fighting knife, outdoor knife, or an emergency 72-hour "kit" knife, the Cold Steel Leatherneck would make a great addition to any knife collection.

-James

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