When you think about tough knives, a few brands routinely rise to the top. If you couple that with the requirement that they have to be affordable, only a few brands are still in the game. The Cold Steel Recon 1 folding knife gives you plenty of tough, does it affordably, all the while maintaining a useful and practical design. After two months of use, Woods Monkey reports on the drop point, plain edge, Recon 1.
When I first opened the package for the Recon 1 I think I actually said out loud, “Whoa, that thing is big.” And it is. Big and tough. To get the spec out of the way, the drop point Recon 1 comes in with a blade length of an even 4”. So, if you’re one of those ultra-light backpackers that carry a razor blade taped to a piece of cardboard as your cutting tool (and they’re nuts for it), then this knife isn’t for you. But, if you’re the kind of person that requires your knife to work and earn its keep, then the Recon 1 may be the best money you’ll spend all year.
Cold Steel sent the Recon 1 in a plain edge version of the newest blade shape for review, the drop point. The drop point style blade is, in my opinion, the most utilitarian shape. It is just as comfortable building your camp fire and cleaning game as it is slicing food and breaking down cardboard boxes. The drop point Recon 1 features a slow curve through the belly of the knife, up to the point, which lies directly even with the centerline of the handle. The blade is made of one of my favorite stainless steels, AUS-8. Without getting too fancy about it, AUS-8 is spot on with what you want in a working blade. Some stainless steels are so hard you need a pile of river-rocks and a jet-turbine-powered belt sander to keep them up to snuff. The Recon 1’s AUS-8 holds an edge very well, and when it’s time to touch it up, you only need a ceramic rod and a few minutes of time. The Recon 1’s blade came out of the box exactly as it should, evenly ground and shaving sharp.
The blade is coated in what Cold Steel calls “Tuff-Ex”. Cold Steel used to call this Teflon, and it seems to be, but I think a desire to get away from that brand name has resulted in the Tuff-Ex name. Overall I like the coating. While I don’t see much need for a coating on stainless steel, this one is done well. The Tuff-Ex finish is evenly applied to all the parts of the knife, including the pocket clip and lock. It does scratch, however, if that bothers you. I put a few good scratches in the blade coating on mine while turning a beer can into a tin cup to collect some hot bacon grease. The blade opens via the use of the ambidextrous thumb stud, and doing take some effort to accomplish. This isn’t a lot of effort, but you have to want to open it. It is a little slower than a few of my other knives, but it more than makes up for that in the stoutness of the build.
Holding the knife together are the two large handle scales made of G10 laminate. G10 has been around for a while, and has become known for its strength and durability. G10 even shrugs off solvents and oils that wreak havoc on other materials like wood and bone. Over the test period, I got carburetor cleaner, gun oil, WD-40, and even some used motor oil on the Recon 1. A quick wash in warm soapy water cleaned it right up with no ill effects. The knife is held together with torx screws, and the knife lacks any sort of steel liner. While this lack of steel liners concerned me at first, I came to understand just how strong the G10 is. After a lot of use over the last two months, I have noticed zero play in the tightness of the knife. Also, even while bearing down hard during cutting chores, the knife had no flex or blade play.
Molded into the handles are two finger grooves near the front of the knife. A small portion of the G10 projects out near the pivot of the knife, acting like a small guard. The back of the knife is mostly smooth, with four cross grooves molded into the G10 on the thumb ramp. Being nit-picky, I’d like to see these more pronounced. The spine of the blade, and the top of the lock is smooth, and the cross grooves just don’t ‘stick’ the thumb quite enough for me. That’s a small complaint, but in use, I found I would appreciate a little more aggressive texturing. I was, however, pleasantly surprised when I discovered how easily the knife operated while wearing glove. Using everything from Oakley assault gloves, to plain leather work gloves, I could open, and close, the Recon 1 without any additional fuss.
Speaking of the lock, that sucker is strong! I mean, real strong. Cold Steel calls this the Triad Lock, and most folks will recognize it as a variation of the lock back knife folks are so familiar with. Cold Steel has placed a cross pin between the back of the blade, and the end of the lock, when the knife’s locked open. This cross pin, along with the strong lock spring and angled design of the lock engagement surface, keeps the knife locked open with authority. I could not squeeze the knife hard enough in a normal grip to get the lock even thinking about disengaging. And when you do press down on the lock lever to release the lock, you have press quite firmly, for a good ways. I had to get used to this feature, as this easily requires the most effort to disengage of any locking knife I own. Long story short on the lock, when the knife is open, it’s gonna stay that way until you tell it to do otherwise.
Holding the knife into your pocket is a pocket clip set up for tip-up carry. The clip is a unique design, and actually has some curve to it to match the profile of the knife. This curve, and the shortness of the clip itself, makes the clip completely unobtrusive when using the knife. I gripped the knife as hard as I could, and even in use like that, the clip didn’t bother me at all. Being curved though, means the clip only works on one side of the knife. So, to keep the lefties in the game, Cold Steel includes a second clip curved to fit the left side of the knife so the southpaws can be just as happy. A nice touch is that Cold Steel has filled the holes on the clip-less side of the knife with three extra screws. This not only gives you spares, but fills the screw holes themselves preventing them from accumulating dirt and grime. But, if I have any real complaint about the Recon 1 is that the clip itself will hold onto your pocket like a three year old gripping a candy cane. It’s serious business, and while I like a knife held securely to my pocket, I found the Recon 1’s clip was so strong I couldn’t clip it into my pockets very well at all! It refused to get clipped to my heavy Carhartt’s, and my multi-cam BDU’s were an absolute no-go. I had to remove the clip and bend it out slightly with two pair of needle nose pliers to get it adjusted right. After that, it is still very secure, but will go into any pockets I have.
Using the Recon 1 around my shop really got me likin’ it. It’s a very useful design, and the blade shape lends it to all sorts of chores nicely. It did everything from breaking down cardboard boxes, to cutting webbing, parachute cord, burlap, and all sorts of plastics. At the rage, I used the Recon 1 to scrape carbon fouling off an AR bolt, and clean out the “grabby-part” of a .22 extractor (as a friend calls it). In general use, I enjoyed the 4” blade on the knife. It gives me plenty of edge for those simple cutting chores, and the point design penetrates easily into whatever I need to cut apart.
While up on the Bureau of Land Management land on an afternoon exploring trip, I tested the Recon 1’s ability to cut and work the various woods around me. I started with juniper, and found the Recon 1 ‘bit’ extremely well into the wood. Making fuzz sticks, and peeling off kindling-sized chunks were an easy task. On Lodgepole pine, the Recon 1 did just as well. Some of the Lodgepole I was testing with was fairly green, and still has some moisture in it. The blade coating seemed to gather the sap moisture pretty quickly, and cleaning it off had to be done after it dried. All together though, the Recon 1 is big and strong enough to be the only knife needed around camp. I even batoned it though some dried Lodgepole with zero problems. The lock held well, and the knife developed no blade play.
Overall, the Recon 1 is a great knife for those of you looking for a big folder. It’s built like a tank, and can easily serve the role as your ‘only knife’ for your next outing. At 5.3 in weight, you’ll definitely know you’re carrying it, but it isn’t so heavy as to be bothersome. I’ve carried it daily at work during 10 and 12 hour shifts and haven’t found it uncomfortable. A quick web search turned up prices under $65, with a few vendors coming in under $60! If you’re looking for a strong folder that will earn its keep, give the Recon 1 a look. It won’t let you down.
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