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Cold Steel SRK
Survival Rescue Knife Review

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Cold Steel SRK

Before I bought this knife, which was quite some time ago, in 1999 that is, I've posted a question in the rec.knives asking about this knife experience - all responses I got were very positive. In short, Cold Steel SRK is, or to be exact, it was a pretty good knife, holding edge well, durable and somewhat indestructible (although, if you try hard enough, you can destroy SRK and any other knives you have). At that time, I was rather new to knife world and Cold Steel knives with their overhyped marketing did look very attractive. Although, honestly, this was and is one of the best knives they've ever made. And I am glad I got it back then. Sadly, later on they've dropped Carbon-V steel version and went for AUS-8A steel instead, which is significantly worse in terms of toughness and edge holding ability, however is a lot more stain resistant. Later feature isn't so important to me, even most of my Kitchen Knives are non stainless steel. Oh well, I got much better knives later anyway.

Blade

- Cold Steel SRK features 161.80mm(6.37"), Carbon V, clip point blade with false edge. Blade covered with black epoxy powder, this provides some protection from natural elements, nevertheless the sharpened edge still can rust easily, if you don't take proper care of your knife. Obviously, I am referring to the Carbon V steel SRK-s, those made of AUS-8A steel will fare much better in terms of rust resistance, but that's not to say it is ok to neglect them either. All steels will rust eventually. The blade is good pretty much for all sorts of cutting applications. Now, I wouldn't expect 6 inch blade knife to be a good chopper anyways, and for the rest, it is just fine ;) The point is thick & strong. The edge is highly polished, as all Cold Steel knives I have ever seen. And the edge is sharpened to the same 40° angle I see on most factory knives. If you want this knife to perform, thin down the edge to at least 30° included angle. if you expect rougher works, then make it double bevel edge, 30°/40°. Finally, the sheath. Cold Steel SRK comes with black leather sheath, it is Ok to me, here in CA, but in any tougher environment like jungles for example or some swampy place the leather is not a good choice. Later, Cold steel did switch to Kydex Secure-Ex sheaths.

Carbon V

- In the beginning, Carbon V was believed to be Cold Steel's proprietary steel and it was a closely guarded secret :) Speculations were different, short summary is in the Knife Steel FAQ: Carbon V is similar to O-1, but more like 1095. For the curious minds, here is the 1095 vs. O-1 steel composition comparison graph. One really important element present in O-1 steel is Vanadium, which even in small amounts does make significant difference in terms of wear resistance, although 1095 is also really good knife steel when heat treated properly. Well, if heat treated properly, both steels can give very good results. Seems like Cold Steel was doing a fairly good job with the heat treatment, as the blade performs quite well. Later Wayne Goddard had the Carbon V steel analyzed in the laboratory, and published the results in his book. Obviously those results found their way to the knife related forums. Here is the Carbon V steel composition. In the end Carbon V was neither O-1, nor 1095, it was Camillus' 0170-6C steel. However, Carbon V was quite close to O-1. For better understanding, take a look at the Carbon V vs. O-1 vs. 1095 steel composition comparison graph. To summarize, the original steel - 0170-6C was made for Camillus knives company, and then part of it went to Cold Steel, rebranded as Carbon V. That pretty much concludes the Carbon V story, especially that it was discontinued, which was rather unfortunate. Having a solid carbon steel as an option versus stainless steel was not a luxury in my opinion.

AUS-8A

- And finally, as I mentioned above, Cold Steel switched to AUS-8A steel in their SRK knives. AUS-8A is pretty good stainless steel from Japanese maker - Aichi. At some point there was a long debate whether or not AUS-8A was the same steel as AUS-8, different makers and dealers list it in both name variations. To make matters more complicated, several knife steel charts list it as different steels and even provide quite dramatically different compositions for them. That was a reason I myself believed AUS-8A wasn't the same steel as AUS-8. When I was compiling my own Interactive knife steel composition chart, I've spent few weeks researching the subject, and finally Japanese custom knife maker, Shinichi Watanabe did clear up the question for me, when Aichi representative visited his shop, conversation revealed that AUS-8A was just Aichi code for the Annealed AUS-8 steel shipped to makers. That's it :) Another mystery solved. As for AUS-8A performance, it is good for light cutting knives, when the steel is heat treated properly, around 61-62HRC on Rockwell Hardness Scale. Making large stainless steel choppers from softer 56-58HRC steel isn't the best idea, but hey, it sells... To conclude this section, you can take a look at Carbon V vs. AUS-8A steel composition comparison.

Handle

- Kraton rubber handle - provides secure grip, while many people have strong opinion against Kraton, personally I feel Ok with it. The grip is secure even when your hands are oily or wet, ergonomics simple and pretty good. One of the valid criticisms of Kraton™ is the fact that it can take sever damage when exposed to solvents, petroleum based or not. I have not experienced that, but I've seen reports on that matter. So, if that's the possibility for your designed use, take the fact into consideration.

Usage

- I haven't had to go through real survival rescue situation, so theoretically I have never used this knife for its designated purpose ;) However, I did cut quite a bit with it. Overall, I've owned it of several years, sold in 2004 or 2005, don't really remember. Due to the ample number of superior and new fixed blade knives in my collection SRK saw less and less use in time. On the other hand, I didn't really have any complaints about its performance, especially after thinning down the original, rather thick edge from 40° included angle to ~30°. Cutting tasks for Cold Steel SRK included various types of rope, wood whittling and some chopping as well. I've also used it on one occasion prepare the pig. Not much of a kitchen knife, but still fared well for a combat knife. On one occasion, I did chop through the frozen ribs with the Col Steel SRK. The initial factory edge was sharp, to be more exact shaving sharp, after I was done with chopping, I examined the edge, unfortunately in couple places the cutting edge was rolled, while I was chopping the bones, no chipping though :) It was fairly easy to restore the edge using a diamond sharpening stone. Few strokes on each side with fine stone then few more with extra fine & the edge was back to razor sharp. Considering that chopping bones is not an easy & usual task, the knife performed very well :) SRK can be used as a throwing knife. I tried ;) Not bad. It is sturdy enough to withstand all the banging and throwing around without any harm, although I still wouldn't recommend using Cold Steel SRK as your regular throwing knife, unless you are very experienced in knife throwing. The point is, when you're outdoors, it can always hit the stone, or some metallic object or glass, whatever. All that stuff is harder than the steel and if the point of the impact is on the edge, it will get damaged. Considering, the primary designation of this knife is cutting, not throwing it, better to keep it sharp ;)

Conclusions

- Overall, Cold Steel SRK is a very good price/performance value if you can find Carbon V version of it. I am not that sure about AUS-8A steel version of the same knife though. My Carbon V SRK was with me on several camping/hiking trips and beach parties. Not much of a work for it on those occasions either, but whatever I had to do, it did well and in the end, it's pretty versatile medium knife. Not too heavy, not too thick for its size, which is one of the reasons I liked it.

Specifications:

  • Blade - 161.80mm(6")
  • Thickness - 4.76mm
  • OAL - 273.05mm(10.75")
  • Steel - Carbon-V 59HRC
  • Handle - Kraton®
  • Acquired - 07/1999 Price - 100.00$

Last updated - 09/01/11