In the long list of economical knives on the market, Cold Steel provides many offerings. One that fits into this category is the Cold Steel Outdoorsman Lite. This light, fixed, medium-sized blade comes with a simple black nylon belt sheath. MSRP is $39.99, but a quick web search will present a price in the low- to mid-$20 range.
The 5 inch handle features two materials – Polypropylene and Kray-Ex™. The Kray-Ex is used for the main part of the handle that is gripped by the hand. It has small, circular bumps that provide an excellent grip. The polypropylene makes up the part of the handle that encapsulates the knife’s full tang. The full tang tapers once it disappears into the handle, and when it emerges at the other end, it is about one half the width of the blade. The two materials combine to make an oval handle that fills the hand and provides a very solid-feeling handle. In addition, the handle has a small guard that helps prevent the hand from accidentally slipping forward onto the blade during use.
Measuring from handle to blade tip, the 6 inch blade has just about 5.5 inches of usable edge. Per Cold Steel’s website, this particular model uses 4116 Krupp Stainless steel. The majority of the knives I own and use are made of 154CM, S30V, D2, and M390. The 4116 Krupp steel will not match these higher end steels, but it should provide reasonable edge retention and good corrosion resistance. In this price range, you can’t reasonably expect to get the higher quality steels. The whole point of the Outdoorsman Lite is to offer an affordable field knife and bumping up to one of those steels would easily add at least $100 to the price. The edge as it came from the factory was able to shave, and the grind was quite even along the entire length of the blade.
The spine of the blade has some non-aggressive jimping right where my thumb sat when holding the knife. Also on the spine, towards the middle, Cold Steel has included a steeply ground false edge. I suspect it can be used for prying or chopping objects instead of using the sharpened side of the blade.
During each test I performed, the handle consistently filled my hand, and I felt it was comfortable. The small, circular bumps provided a nice grip free from any slippage. In addition, the handle is big enough that wearing gloves would not be a problem. The small guard did help prevent my hand from sliding onto the blade, but it could be slightly larger and still not adversely affect the function of the knife. I did run a few tests with a wet handle, and the grip remained relatively secure.
Before I ran any cutting tests, I put a nice edge on the knife with my Edge Pro Apex sharpener. I sharpened it up to the 1000 grit stone, and then ran it across my leather strop with green compound. This produced a close to mirror finish, and the knife took a fine edge after the stropping. After the sharpening, the knife shaved hair easily.
During my cutting tests, the hollow-ground blade performed well. I ran some tests with rolled newspaper where I stabbed the blade into the roll several times and did some slash tests with the rolls. The knife did not penetrate the rolled newspaper very well, but the slash tests produced many slivers of shredded newspaper. After the tests, the knife was still able to shave. I would not recommend this knife for stabbing tasks due to the slight upsweep towards the tip of the blade.
I also ran some simple kitchen duty tests, such as cutting apples, peaches, carrots, tomatoes. The knife performed very well in the kitchen, and I would recommend it for any camping food prep duties.
I did not find a use for the false edge on the spine of the blade while running my tests. The knife was too light for chopping, but maybe some of you will find it useful. The false edge did not impede me in any way when using the knife.
I also ran some tests whittling and cutting wood sticks. This is where the shortcomings of the steel are noticeable. After only short periods of whittling dry maple, the edge was no longer shaving sharp, and it was no longer able to easily cut other softer items the same way it did earlier. However, with the 6 inch blade, there is plenty of usable edge available, and even though it was no longer shaving sharp, a working edge remained. The upside is that it does sharpen easily.
The sheath that comes with the knife is described by Cold Steel as Cor-Ex. I would describe it as a simple nylon-coated plastic sheath. While it does provide protection, it relies on friction to keep the blade stowed. It would be nicer to have a strap to keep the knife secured in the sheath, but once again, for the price, it is reasonable.
I find the Outdoorsman Lite to be a competent, useful, lightweight knife. Its best uses would be for light camping duties, general food prep chores, and simple cutting tasks. Its 5.7 oz weight makes the knife easy to carry on your belt or in any type of shoulder bag or backpack. The main weakness of this knife is the edge retention of the steel, but for the price, the edge remained useful throughout my tests. Overall, I feel the knife is a valuable product.
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