Cold Steel Outdoorsman Knife Review


Cold Steel, Inc. was founded in 1980 as a company dedicated to making the strongest, sharpest, knives in the world. Over the last three decades, Cold Steel has been at the forefront of the many innovations that have helped to define the knife industry as a whole.

Progressive accomplishments, including the introduction of the checkered Kraton handles and the American Tanto point blade styles have gone from curiously interesting features to industry-wide hallmarks of quality and sophistication.

New ground was also broken with the introduction of unique new blade steels like San Mai III as well as the “Tri-Ad Lock” locking mechanism for folding knives. In fact, the Tri-Ad Lock in Cold Steel’s folding knives has never been equaled by any of Cold Steel’s competitors and nothing they have produced yet has been proven to outperform it.

Therefore, Cold Steel has remained true to their core philosophy of constantly striving to make the world’s strongest, sharpest, knives.

Consequently, the Cold Steel Outdoorsman San Mai III is a large, heavy-duty, knife that is reminiscent of their “Americanized” tanto knives. However, instead of a curved spine and a tanto point, the Outdoorsman’s blade features a straight spine and a sweep with a rounded belly.

It measures 11” overall and has a 6”, saber ground, blade with “jimping” on the spine just in front of the bolster for greater control and a chopping or “bone breaker” edge incorporated into the spine for heavy chopping jobs.

This knife’s blade is made from VG-1 stainless steel with the San Mai III construction and it features a full tang design with a checkered Kray-Ex handle with a stainless steel bolster and it comes with a heavy-duty leather sheath fitted with a brush proof retaining strap.

There’s also a newer model, the Cold Steel Outdoorsman VG10 San Mai (pictured above), which is manufactured in Taiwan instead of Japan as the original model used to be, and comes without a leather sheath. In fact, the newer sheath is a major put-off as it seems to be a standard tanto blade sheath repurposed to fit this beautiful knife. I strongly suggest investing in a new sheath as well if you buy the newer model.

When I first viewed this knife, I found the combination of a tanto grip combined with a straight spine to be little odd since my mind kept wanting to picture a tanto blade that just isn’t there. However, once I looked at the knife a bit, I got used to the unusual lines and then I started to notice some of its other features.

For instance, the straight spine enabled Cold Steel to incorporate a separate, saber ground, chopping edge or “bone breaker” into the spine for chopping jobs that might chip a finer edge. Also, the tanto grip shape is very universal in that it feels the same in the hand regardless of whether the knife is held with the edge down or up.

Related Read: How to Sharpen a Pocket Knife Properly: Hunting & Survival Blade Sharpening Tips

In addition, the saber grind on the main edge has a fairly wide bevel with leads to a fairly fine edge which can be honed sharp enough to easily remove the skin from harvested game animals and yet, will still hold up well when carving or performing light chopping jobs.

Plus, the Kray-Ex handle with its deep checkering provides the user with a very positive grip even when it’s wet and it also provides the user’s hand with a certain amount of cushion when chopping with the knife.

Furthermore, the blade of the Cold Steel Outdoorsman is made using Cold Steel’s San Mai III construction which laminates two layers of tougher stainless steel to a core of VG-1 stainless steel in order to produce a knife blade that hold an edge exceptionally well and yet, is virtually unbreakable.

In fact, with a Carbon (C) content between 0.95-1.05, a Chromium (Cr) content between 13.0-15.0, a Molybdenum (Mo) content between 0.2-0.4 and less than 0.25 of Nickel (Ni), Cold Steel claims that VG-1 has better aggregate characteristics in the areas of sharpness, edge retention, point strength, shock and strength characteristics than 440C, VG-10, or ATS 34 stainless steels, though any of those alloys may be better than VG-1 in individual categories.

Also, during forging, Mo and Cr forms hard double carbide bonds which help improve the abrasion and corrosion resistance of the steel. In addition, it is usually heat treated to reach hardness of 58-61 (please note: Cold Steel’s web site does not state the hardness of the steel used in the Outdoorsman).

However, be aware that there have been reports that VG-1/420J used for the construction of this knife might be more chip-prone than other comparable stainless steels but these reports have been disputed and the laminated San Mai III construction likely eliminates any possibility of this happening.

To Wrap It Up

Consequently, in my opinion, the Cold Steel Outdoorsman is an excellent compromise between a dedicated outdoor survival knife and a dedicated hunting knife such as the Cold Steel Pendleton Hunter. In addition to that, the six inch blade is, in my experience, the maximum comfortable length for a hunting knife and yet, it is minimum comfortable length to serve as an effective light chopping tool.

Therefore, although it did appear a little odd to my eyes at first, once I got to know the Cold Steel Outdoorsman a bit better, I began to look beyond its superficial appearance. And once I did, I found it to be a dedicated, hard working, outdoor knife that is actually very well designed for its intended purpose.

Also, now that I am used to its unusual appearance, I believe that it can even be said that it is a pretty knife. However, any hunting/outdoor survival knife must first and foremost be functional and this knife is certainly that.

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