Sunday, April 24, 2011

Cold Steel Recon Scout Knife Review

I finally received my Recon Scout (carbon sk-5) in the mail.

My first impressions:

This is a very solid knife, wow, incredibly thick blade. It looks like an excellent wood-splitting and chopping knife which is no surprise, I've seen many videos on it already. I find the handle to be very comfortable - unlike some, I actually prefer the grippy kraton style. It's a good size for my hands but I have small hands, I can see why some people may not like it. The knife feels surprisingly light and well balanced for such an enormous, thick blade.

The only real negative about the knife is that I absolutely hate the guard. Makes sense for a tactical/combat knife I suppose but detracts significantly from its usefulness as a survival blade. There is a small finger choil on the blade (too small for big fingers) that can't be used because of the large guard on the back of the knife. I can see why some people choose to cut off the back of the guard, only the front part needed for safety/combat and it makes the blade more functional. Even though the handle is adequately long, having that guard blocking my thumb makes it feel short and at in some grips, a little awkward in my hands.

I do wish that it had a bigger/more visible tang underneath, the same style as the Fallkniven A1 and others. I'm assuming the way Cold Steel did it is cheaper, I wonder how much tang is actually there. Hopefully that handle covering will be sufficient to keep water of the disadvantages of not having removable handle scales.

The secure-ex sheath I give a mixed review on. I do like having a plastic sheath, it's pretty much a must for a carbon steel blade to reduce rust damage. The sheath has a quick detach belt loop, with a snap and velcro, and the belt loop can be put on either side of the knife which is great. However, it's not as sturdy or solid as a kydex sheath would be. Retention is good, you could propbably wear this upside down with just the sheath retention but I wouldn't trust it too much without added retention. If the guard was reduced in size you could have a sheath that is a lot more low-profile.

Overall I think this is a pretty great knife for the price. I like it so much that I bought two more. For someone that was getting a little down on carbon steel blades, I seem to be acquiring quite a few of them....

A quick comparison vs. the other knife I favorably reviewed, the Ka-Bar Heavy Bowie.

Ka-Bar $50
CS - $110

Blade length:
Ka-Bar - 9"
CS - 7.5"

Blade thickness:
Ka-Bar - .236"
CS - 5/16"

Ka-Bar - leather cordura, right hand side, dual snap retention, belt loop
CS - secure-ex, ambidextrous, sheath and snap retention, quick detach belt loop

The Ka-Bar Heavy Bowie is a longer blade but not as thick as the Cold Steel Recon Scout. I like the gaurd/handle better on the Ka-Bar for chopping and outdoor survival - the disadvantage is that I suspect that the Ka-Bar handle could be brittle if it takes a lot of impacts (I don't know this, it's just a suspicion) and I'm not sure if it could be easily replaced with something homemade. It's also an incredibly thick, bulky handle. I do like the thinner profile of the CS knife and I think it would be easier to replace the handle. The guard on the CS knife is awkward for my use and I may attempt to cut it smaller - there goes the warranty! :)

The CS knife has a better sheath but I would probably still replace it with a custom Kydex.

The CS knife is a good price but still twice as much as the Ka-Bar. Hard to say if it could be considered twice as much knife....there is also a San Mai version of the Recon Scout available at a higher cost, around $200.

I now own three large survival blades that I quite like (yes, that's too much money, I couldn't help myself): The Ka-Bar Heavy Bowie, the Cold Steel Recon Scout and the Fallkniven A1.

They all have a similar blade shape (bowie style) and similar functions - with vastly different prices. I would consider the A1, the smallest (6.3" blade) and most expensive of the three to be the best survival knife. The Ka-Bar is the best value and gives you an enormous blade. Where the Recon Scout seems to stand out is as an all-around blade. I can see it as an excellent choice for someone in the military, for woods use, for self defense (heavy to carry though) - knife begs to be used and abused. I wouldn't call it an inexpensive knife but it's not so pricey that you would hesitate to use it. If that guard was different I would probably rate it the highest as a survival knife, while keeping in mind that it doesn't have the A1's rust resistance and incredible edge.

Actually a 3-way comparison of those knives would make a good video. Might have to try that. Oh and for anyone that likes Fallkniven knives but wants a bigger blade, more in line with the other two, take a look at the beautiful - and EXPENSIVE - Fallkniven A2, with the 8" blade. If money was no object, that would be my knife of choice.

Note: I did some follow up comments here

Note 2 (added July 28, 2011): Finally made that comparison video - Large Survival Knife Comparison youtube video


  1. "Good Review"; well done, I use the San Mai 3 version and ( although i have large hands), I don't find the guard a problem. I also enjoy the fact under colder climates; harvesting smaller branches and twigs, as well as cutting meat; the Cold Steel Recon scout is heads above other more expensive and fashionable knives. It is a true "Northern" style blade that you can trust to get you through hard times. I do not recommend batoning through wood as this is what a 2.5 Lbs axe is for....Bearspirit

  2. Thanks, I appreciate the comments. I've been tempted to get the San Mai 3 version, I'm feeling a little poor right now.....someday I'll grab one. Have you used the carbon steel version? Just curious what your thoughts are on a comparison. You obviously decided it was worth the extra money, what made you decide on the San Mai?

    I use an axe for splitting wood when I have one but I don't carry one when hiking. It's nice to have a knife that can do the job if needed and the Recon Scout sure can :)