Holy Order of Cosmonauts
Join Date: Jan 2004
Cold Steel Tanto
I'm not a "knife as a weapon" guy, more of a knife as a tool type. I have never had any knife combat training so truth is I don't know Jack Shit about knife fighting. I have never planned to take a knife to a gunfight but I realize that a situation could arise where I didn't have a firearm and a good knife would be a hell of a lot better than nothing. I have packed knives of one kind or another since I was a young kid and have owned several brands and styles; pocket knives, larger folding knives worn on a belt, and fixed blade knives. I have literally worn out several, mostly pocket knives, blades worn down to toothpicks from sharpening, springs and catches worn out, handle scales coming off (usually fixable).
I have owned a Tanto from Cold Steel for over 25 years now and have a few thoughts about it. I bought it from a sporting goods type store in the town of North Pole, Alaska, just south of Fairbanks, somewhere around 1990 or '91. I was working as a wildland fire fighter on the Midnight Suns hotshot crew and also the Chena Hotshots at the time when I bought the knife. It mostly lived in my fire pack but I also carried it on my belt at times, depending on what we were doing. The knife cost around a hundred bucks if I remember correctly, which would be $183 in today's currency. It got quite a bit of use in Alaska. At the time it was a rather unorthodox style of blade and got a lot of attention. The Indian and Eskimo crews we sometimes worked with were fascinated by it. Most of them lived in little villages and did a lot of subsistence hunting and ran trap lines in the winter months so knives were rather important to them. Most of them loved the Tanto.
Mine is one of the first generation style of Tanto. It has the brass guard and pommel, they changed to stainless furniture in the early-mid '90s. The pommel is an interesting feature, it is shaped down to a cone shape with a flat surface on each side and has a hole drilled through it for a cord if one desires, which I don't. Cold Steel referred to it as a "skull crusher" and I think it could perform well at doing that. The handle is a some what sticky synthetic hard rubber type material, with checkering, long and a bit too slender for some people's taste but I grew to really like it, and it has held up well, it feels good in my hand. The handle measures around 5 3/4" from front surface of guard to tip of pommel.
The blade is, according to some collectors and knife nuts, made of 400 series stainless steel, which may or may not be the same as AUS8A, depending on who you believe. It is not one of the San Mei laminated blades. The balance point is just ahead of the guard. It holds an edge really well. Sharpening it is complicated at first because of the two angles but one soon figures it out. The blade measures 5 3/4" in length. It has a slight curve to it, both spine and belly. It is fairly thick, .190" according to my calipers. It has held up well, no chips in cutting edges. The blade was made in Japan, to Cold Steel's specs. I think the rest of it was made in the USA and assembled here but I could be wrong on that point
It came with a leather sheath. The sheath is another feature I really like. It has the belt loop fairly low which causes the knife to ride high with most of the handle above the belt. This makes it comfortable to carry. I have worn out several sheaths and it is about due for another. I used to get them straight from Cold Steel but I don't know if they still have them, they seem to have discontinued that model of Tanto. The sheath uses a velcro strap to retain the knife, I keep it just tight enough that the knife won't fall out but I can still pull it out with a good tug. I can pull it free with one hand and do so "right now" without fumbling with straps and snaps.
So anyway, how well does it work? I packed it full time, every day while in West Virginia. And used it about every day. Those here who knew me back in the National Alliance in the 1990s-early 2000s will probably remember seeing the knife on me. I did a lot of construction work at NA headquarters and found the Tanto handy for that. I used it to cut with, used it as a chisel, used it as a hammer at times (flat of the blade), used it as an axe, it was used and sometimes abused almost every day. For me it feels comfortable in my hand, almost alive, like an extension of my arm. The blade length is just right, short enough to be comfortable, long enough to get the job done, with plenty of heft and strength, weight just far enough forward to make it very slightly blade heavy, which I like.
I have used it to gut a hog for a friend. It did well opening the abdominal cavity without getting into a gut. The blade shape rules it out as a skinner, although I suppose it could be made to work for that if one had to. If I was packing a knife for hunting I wouldn't choose a Tanto, there are much better designs, although it is versatile enough that it would work for that. As a camp knife I would prefer something a bit bigger and heavier. Again, it is a very versatile tool and could earn its keep around camp, doing most jobs very well. For back packing and camping where weight is an issue the Tanto is about ideal.
As I already said, I'm not a knife fighter and have no intentions of becoming one. But I think this knife would be formidable as a weapon, able to cut and slice quickly, and deadly at thrusting or stabbing, and the pointed "skull crusher" pommel adds another dimension to its capabilities. A quick backhand blow to an opponent's face or arm with that pointy pommel should get his attention.
Bottom line; I love this knife. This is the knife that got Lynn Thompson and his Cold Steel company off and running. I am not sure what year they started, I remember seeing their advertisements throughout the 1980s in publications like Shotgun News. I thought they looked gimmicky and never gave them much thought until I finally had a chance to look one over and hold it. I was impressed so I bought it. The price is high on them, but the quality is also high. I like stuff you can buy once during your lifetime and don't have to replace. This knife fits into that category. Knives are kind of like women, a personal thing. What one guy likes may not appeal to someone else. I like my women to be capable of changing the oil in my vehicles, chopping firewood, patching a roof, cooking and cleaning, mowing the lawn, and still looking nice while fetching me a beer. So I don't recommend anyone just buy this blade because I like it, but I also don't recommend you not buy it.
Originally Posted by For Understanding
I even agree with some of your points, Fred. God did regret making mankind (Genesis 6). You just kicked both God's and my ass. Congratulations.