The Cold Steel Recon 1 is the quintessential badass knife: the type I most certainly would have lusted over when I was still in my teen years. Regretfully, I am now all grown up, but I was still curious to see if this brutish slab of steel was something more than its purely knockout style. I wasn’t let down. Though it may be killer in the looks department, it’s not lacking in substance either.
When it’s closed, the Cold Steel’s Recon 1 is almost normal in appearance (if a bit tactical). Its dimensions come in at 13.67 cm (5.38 inches), and the general proportions look to me very well engineered, especially taking into account how large in hand this knife really is. Though it’s certainly not a small knife, it’s definitely pocketable.
When opened, the Cold Steel Recon 1 isn’t exactly subtle. With its fully blacked out everything and aggressive styling, Cold Steel nailed the look damn well. I’ve gotta be honest – American Tantos have never been my go-to blades for tactical application, but have made a huge exception for this one, as Cold Steel has struck a serious home run with the Recon 1 in regards to styling. It’s also true that as far as tanto grinds go, the Recon 1 is pretty well executed, with serious toughness in mind.
The blade is coated in a very slick Teflon-like finish that Cold Steel calls “Tuff-Ex.” It seems relatively easy to scratch up, and I can’t say I like the way it reflects light. If it had the gorgeous coating that Benchmade used on the Adamas I would be far happier, but the price point is vastly different, and I get that compromises have to be made.
A common modification to the Recon 1 is to use paint thinner in order to remove the coating, as the blade happens to have a pretty gorgeous stonewash underneath. Bare that in mind if the coating is a deal breaker for you.
The first thing I did after unboxing the Cold Steel Recon 1 (and after being in awe of its ridiculous profile for a few moments) is to check its ability to function as a pocket knife. Prior to purchasing the Recon 1, I researched its pros and cons and found that many people complained about the pocket clip being too tight, and the G-10 being too aggressive. I will say that the G-10 is very aggressive, but the pocket clip latched on securely with relative ease. I think if you sanded the G-10 right under the pocket clip then all complaints would be resolved.
On that note, I will add that this is by far the most abrasive G-10 I have ever handled, and if you want something more pocket-friendly, all you need to do is sand it down to your preference with regular sandpaper. An easy fix for a “just right” level of texture.
The pocket clip is uniquely shaped to fit only one side of the handles, which would be problematic if Cold Steel hadn’t thought to include a second pocket clip for lefties. Be advised that the Recon 1 is a tip up only knife, which is not a problem for me, but I know some of you prefer tip down carry.
At 3.5 mm (0.137 inches) thick, the blade is quite heavy-duty, but still within the realm of reasonable thickness for a utility blade. The thumb stud protruds more on one side and will need to be reversed for lefties, but this is quite easy to do with a flat head screwdriver.
Interestingly, the jimping is almost aesthetic in nature. Its function is moot when taking into account the how grippy the G-10 scales are, and how the ergonomics lock your fingers in. Is the jimping nice to have? Sure. Is it necessary? I don’t think so.
The 10.16 cm (4 inch) long blade is hollow ground and an adequate slicer. I wouldn’t suggest it as a good box-cutter, or for any delicate tasks, but at the end of the day, look at the damn thing! I’d still use it as an EDC.
This is a tactical/heavy duty knife through and through, so I don’t think its lack of cutting performance is very relevant, as it’s not advertised to compete with knives like the Spyderco Endura, which has a similar length blade.
The steel used is AUS-8A, and once again, edge retention comes secondary to toughness with this particular folder. AUS-8A is definitely tough enough for light prying and throwing the knife around with abandon. The edge will roll before it chips, which for rough use is preferable. With that, I think Cold Steel made a good choice.
For those of you that really want a more premium steel, Cold Steel does offer a CTS-XHP version of the Recon 1 (you can find it here), but in my opinion, it’s pointless, as the blade is not suited for anything other than rough/utility use, and as such the extra $40 you would spend for a slightly better blade steel could be better spent on something else, like a new Spyderco Tenacious or a badass Condor E&E messenger bag.
The tip of the Cold Steel Recon 1 is quite robust thanks to its American Tanto grind. I usually prefer a more aggressive, lean tip in my tactical knives, but I am sure this would penetrate just about anything with ease, so my personal preference is just that – a preference.
The lock is Cold Steel’s Tri-Ad lock. Designed by Andrew Demko, this lock-type has been tried and tested – in the real world, not in a “marketing gimmick” sort of way – and has been deemed one of the toughest locks in the business. The best way I can describe it is that it’s like a mid-lock on steroids, with the stress being placed on a stop pin as opposed to the tang of the blade. It’s a very innovative design, and I would trust it unreservedly with the safety of my fingers. No way in hell is this lock failing, and after using it for some time, it inspires more confidence in me that any other lock I have tried thus far: and that’s no small feat. It’s amazing.
For a more technical overview check out this handy explanation straight from Cold Steel.
The only downside to the Tri-Ad lock is the sheer amount of travel one has to exert on the lock bar for the knife to disengage. I can close the knife single-handed, but it took a solid 20 minutes of practice to do so, and it’s definitely is much easier to do with two hands. I think it’s a necessary downside to having such a tough lock, however, so no real complaints.
Centering on the Cold Steel Recon 1 is dead center. the general fit and finish of the knife is of a very high standard, especially taking into account the price point. Good job, Cold Steel.
The Recon 1 is impressively light at only 5.3 ounces, and a lot of that stems from its liner-less construction, like that of the Spyderco Urban.
As some of you know, I have long waged a personal war against liners, as I find them superfluous to requirement (with the exception of FRN knives, in which they are needed). This Cold Steel demonstrates that fact perfectly. The Recon 1 is as tough as a tank and is completely without liners. Take note from Cold Steel here, manufacturers.
The lack of choil is irrelevant, as the lock will not fail, (honestly, this is one of if not the toughest knife I own), but out of pure habit, I included a shot of what it would look like if the lock did (it won’t) fail.
Trust me, this is a picture of things that will never happen. The Tri-Ad lock is absurdly tough.
The ergonomics are implemented in such a way that the knife is both very comfortable and yet its grip feels very forced. As you grasp it, all the scallops and curves in the blade push your hand in a position that Cold Steel thinks you should use, not what you may have intended, so this definitely doesn’t fall under a neutral handle design. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as the saber grip is extremely comfortable with no hot spots. That being said, I know some people like to have choices, and this knife has a “my way or the highway” approach to grips.
With that being said, in a high stress situation (like a tactical one), I would think having a consistent grip position would be an advantage. That way, you will instinctively always know where your hand is relative to the blade. So considering this is a tactical knife, the lack of neutrality can be a good thing, in my opinion.
Choking up is sorta possible, but with a horrifically large hot spot, not advised for any prolonged use, as I am pretty sure it will cause carpal tunnel.
In reverse grip, the Cold Steel Recon 1 is fantastic, and the tanto point is angled in such a way that stabbing would be almost natural in terms of organic motion. If I had to pick a knife to stab something with, this would be it.
Pinch gripping the Recon 1 is absurd and not even close to viable for real use. Not an intended application, though, so enough said.
The shape, proportion and sheer toughness of the Cold Steel Recon 1 is simply awesome. I love how obnoxious its presence is when opened. It’s good to own something a little bit unorthodox, and this Cold Steel definitely fits the bill.
I think “unrestrained aggression, with a fantastically overbuilt lock, at a reasonable price point” basically sums up this knife. If you want a really cool folder for 60 bucks that is quite literally bomb-proof but still light enough to be EDC’d then this is the end all be all.
Cold Steel does make an extra large version too, but in my opinion this knife is already pushing the limits with regards to how big an EDC folder really should be, so I’d stick to the regular (still quite large) version!