Ever since Kershaw announced their collaboration with Ernie Emerson, I have been waiting for a knife like the CQC-10K to arrive. The first Emerson collabs were in the same vein as the previously reviewed CQC-6K, a true-blue Emerson design, but in a smaller-than-Emerson package. I figured Ernie would want to keep the full size “proper” Emersons with his own company and instead offer a taste of the Emerson style and feel with Kershaw, but with the introduction of the CQC-10K, I have been happily proven wrong.
The CQC-10K is a legit Emerson in all the ways that matter. In the hand, it feels like a legitimate Emerson, whilst the CQC-6K merely felt like an proper Emerson knife that was stuck in the wash and shrunk down a few sizes. I know an extra half inch doesn’t sound like a lot, but trust me, it makes all the difference (I swear I am not doing the innuendo on purpose…).
Emerson knives have always been pretty unique. Their price point flies in the face of value when looking at the specs. Very average materials and construction for premium prices, and yet they sell like hotcakes and their fan base is one of the most vocal. I never understood this until I handled them, and I imagine this would be the case for most of you.
Kershaw, doing what Kershaw does, has made this version in the East using materials that are price point appropriate, and consequently, unlike a “true” Emerson, I don’t have to question its value. This is a 40 dollar knife with a unique style and feel. If all you want is an affordable Emerson, then you can stop reading the review and just buy it right now.
As expected the CQC-10K has all stainless steel construction outside of the single OD green G-10 scale (and even then, it has a stainless steel liner). Nothing wrong with that, but I should mention that it’s definitely on the hefty side coming in at 5 ounces. This isn’t a gentleman folder, but then again it never tries to masquerade as such.
It’s as subtle as a mossberg in your grill. Definitely not the sort of knife you whip out in “polite” company, if you catch my drift.
Blade length is 3.5 inches. As you expect, the steel used is 8cr13MoV, which is fine by me (relative to price) and whilst this isn’t a 4 inch folder, which is the standard for Emersons, it’s close enough that in real world use (or blindfolded) you wouldn’t find much to complain about. The construction is stereotypical of Emerson with a flat head screw pivot and standard Philips head screws everywhere else. At this point, torx screws are the knife standard, but it’s nice to see something different, and not in a microtech proprietary sorta way.
The flat head adjustment for the pivot makes tightening in the field pretty trivial and that’s something that those of you who use your knives in hostile environments might find appealing.
Clip point, super lean blade. Much nicer in my opinion than the Emerson-made blades, as the hollow grind is super, super lean. This is a legit to goodness slicer. It’s not a scalpel, but edge transition is superior for shallow cuts to standard utility blades like the Spyderco Sage series or the Paramilitary. I used to be a FFG snob, but super lean hollow grinds like this one have almost converted me.
I should mention that unlike the CQC-6K, this blade does not have the two-tone finish. It’s a shame, as I really loved the contrast, but I guess they had to work within a specific budget and I am sure having a mix of satin and stonewash does add quite a bit of work in the grand scheme of things. The thumb disc is also not coated black, unlike the previous Kershaw/Emerson I reviewed, so in a lot of ways this is a more uniform design, which some of you may like, but personally I always appreciate a bit of eclecticism in my blades.
On the topic of lean and stabby, the Kershaw Emerson CQC-10K ain’t a needlepoint – but it’s definitely not a pry bar either. From a tactical perspective, its tip is pure malice, but from my own perspective as an “average guy,” it’s pretty great for your everyday utility tasks. You guys know I love the needlepoint on my Kershaw Leek, but in all honestly, the CQC-10K is pointy enough to do 99% of what the Leek does. Unlike the Leek, I don’t feel like I have to baby this knife. The tip is just the right amount of sturdy for its intended application which to me is a “jack of all trades” with a slight bias towards having a more penetrative tip.
The only thing that really separates an Emerson knife from all others in my mind are the ergonomics. This knife is pretty damn wonderful. The CQC-6K was great for a 3 inch blade, but the extra half inch on this folder, as I’ve already mentioned, makes all the difference. The handle is large enough that my (glove size: L) hands fit perfectly, and the thumb ramp coupled with the aggressive choil and curves make this a knife that really feels like an extension of your hand.
It’s extremely hard to explain the “feel” of the CQC-10K, but it’s something you can only truly understand if you pick one up. The ergonomics just make sense, and whilst to the average person the handle does look quite chunky, it’s for good reason. If I absolutely had to slice cardboard all day, this would be one of the few folding knives that I feel wouldn’t destroy my hands in the process.
Obviously, this being an Emerson design, it’s very, very tactically inclined. Nothing much to add beyond stating the obvious; secure grip + lean, mean blade + pointy point = bad intent. If you want a tactical folder, this is one of the better choices in my opinion. I hope that one day Kershaw/Emerson bless us with an budget version of the Persian, which in my opinion is one of the most badass blades ever made.
Carrying option is left/right carry with tip up only. As we all know, tip up is the righteous way to carry a folder, so the lack of tip down is more of a feature than anything else.
Jokes aside, due to the wave feature, you need to EDC this knife tip up, so it’s a conscious design decision, not a cost saving measure. As for the clip, it’s a clip. It works – nothing special and it’s certainly not a deep carry option.
The wave works incredibly well. If you don’t know how it works, then in essence the lil’ hook on the blade catches on your pocket when you pull out of the knife, and the blade automatically deploys and locks up tight.
Sounds quirky, but trust me, it works perfectly. I absolutely love it for those times I want to freak out family members or friends (it’s probably the fastest way to deploy a knife, makes autos seem slow and redundant), but the aggressive nature of the wave mechanism means that the lip of your pockets will 100% die an early death. Something to think about and I would suggest, when time isn’t an issue, to simply use the thumb disc.
The only thing I would change would be to remove the steel liner on the G-10 side and change the steel frame lock to a sexy titanium one. While were at it, how about we add a bearing based pivot?
The issue when reviewing mid-tier or budget knives is that any improvement is dependent on price (for the most part). As it stands, the design is in my opinion, perfect. To make it better the price would have to increase by $50-100 at least. I think it would be worth it, but I know a lot of people look at price point first and materials/features second, and that’s just the way it is.
In conclusion, the Kershaw Emerson CQC-10K is a true Emerson design for 40 bucks with superior everyday performance to the more heavy duty blades of Emerson made Emersons.
If you like the design, wave mechanism or just want a folder that fills your hand like no other, then you don’t have much of a choice – this is it.
Obviously, I say this whilst acknowledging my own biases, as I have always loved Emerson knives, and this was always going to be a hit with me, but nonetheless, I objectively think this is a fantastic deal for a fantastic knife, and can’t wait for the day we get a 4.5 inch Kershaw made Emerson.