CS Trailmaster San Mai III or Busse Basic #9

I read a comparative review on these two, not sure where.... In the end the Basic #9 came out on top. Better edge holding and strength.

In my opinion, go with the Basic #9, in my opinion it is a far better knife. One idea... it you can afford the San Mai III, maybe you can afford the Battle Mistress, which is definetly superior to the Trail Master.


The beast we are, lest the beast we become.
These two knives were evaluated in a head to head comparison in the first and only issue of "To The Point", the Bladeforums magazine.

To see the article just hit the button on the right labled "magazine".

From a utility perspective :

The Busse will be more durable, slice better, have greater edge retention and ease of sharpening. It also has a more durable, ergonomic and secure grip, a better sheath and a much stronger warrenty.

The Trailmaster has better point penetration and stronger corrosion resistance. It also has a nicer handle for throwing.

I was fortunate enough to win a Cold Steel Trailmaster in San Mai III and receive a Busse Basic 7 for my birthday. Here are a few pictures of the Trailmaster showing the lamination of the two types of steel. I believe the test that was done in the "To The Point" article was with the Carbon V version.

Cliff, have you ever done any testing with the San Mai III version of the Trailmaster?

James, on what do you base your claim that the "Battle Mistress, is definetly superior to the Trail Master"?

Kevin Miller
My Personal Interests Page
Look to the Lord and His strength, seek His face always.

[This message has been edited by KevinMillerCan (edited 06-09-2000).]
Knife World, June 2000, has an article on a field trial of the San Mai. Pretty impressive.
Both are excellent hard workin knives..
I prefer the handle on the Busse # 9 which makes for a better fit and feel..
Kevin, no I have not used a SM Trailmaster only the Carbon V one which is mainly what the above is based on, I should have clarifed that. However I don't think that the SM version is supposed to be an improvement over the Carbon V one in anything other than in regards to corrosion resistance. It certainly could be but I don't know the specifics of the two steels used and how they are heat treated.

Kevin - Thanks for the e-mail reminder, i probably would not have seen this thread again otherwise.

As to why i consider the Battle Mistress better than the Trail Master. Let me begin this by statin that it is only my opinion, and that others probably will disagree.


I have read several tests on each knife, and at least one comparison. The Battle Mistress had nothing but glowing reviews. The trail master had several admirable reviews, but seemed to be beaten by the Battle Mistress.

In the comparison i read, it mentioned that the Trail Master was probably a better fighter due to it's thinner tip for penetration and less weight at the end. Other than this, the Battle Mistress came out on top.

Having looked at the tests shown on the busse website, seen photos of busses being tested from other sources, and watching cold steel's PROOF, I have come to belive that the battle mistress is far stronger than the trail master. I could be mistaken, however, I don't think i am.

Busse Combat knives have a lifetime guarantee, and quite simply, you cannot beat it. From memory, Cold steel has a five year warranty. It seems obvious which knife wins here.

I think Busse combat is a fine, upstanding, honest company, that is doing the absolute best they can. I enjoy dealing with them, and i enjoy owning their knives. I have not heard enough about cold steel to comment here.

Please do not write me off as another cold steel hater. I had an SRK, one of my faviourite knives of all time, and it was stolen. That disapointed me hugely, as it had been a faithful, dependable knife. I still miss it. I just think that Busses are a superior knife.

I hope this does not impair relations between us.


The beast we are, lest the beast we become.
Cliff - I have tried to find out more definite information about the San Mai III steel but have been mostly unsuccessful. I think that it is supposed to be an improvement in more than just corrosion resistance. The harder inner steel which I think is AUS 8 is laminated between two layers of lower carbon (softer) 420 steel. This is supposed to make it stronger, less prone to breakage. From the lack of information that I have been able to find, I wonder if it is a "gimmick" or a marketing ploy to sell more knives.

James - Our "relations" are not impaired but improved. I respect your opinion and largely agree with it. However I tend to "give more weight" the opinions of those who have actually tested the knives first hand as opposed to those who have formed opinions from what they have read.

Kevin - I'm glad to hear that. I agree about testing. I would put fart more weight behind the opinion of someone wo had tested both knives - however, in the absence of someone who has, second hand information is almost as good.

The beast we are, lest the beast we become.
A search of this forum should turn up old reviews of Cold Steel's "San Mai" (I put it in quotes because it's not at all like san mai). Just from memory, it's a soft steel sandwiched between layers of even softer steel, and the center layer is seldom centered. Like Cliff said, corrosion resistance should be good....

-Cougar :{)
Cougar - San Mai blade is made up of a center piece that is hard high carbon sandwitched between two low carbon, tough side panel.With the low carbon, that's the reason for the "Anti-corrosion" effect. The Hight carbon in the center made the blade ver strong. With the length of TrailMaster, indeed you can feel the toughness when you hold it.

James - I respect you opinion on the two blades. I never held the Battle Mistress before but I can imagine the goodness in it. My opinion is that I trust the Japanese blade making technique a lot, San Mai laminating method is been used by the Japanese. There bound to be a good reason why they used this technique.So it's like I closed both my eyes and grab the blade, knowing that it will serve me well. I bet others who had owned them before will think likewise.

One thing for sure, San Mai III blades are "25% stronger the the incredibly tough AUS 8A Stainless"

I have already purchased it. Simply the best so far in my collection. But I will be opening up to more opinion. Maybe the Battle Mistress will be my next blade,I've got to check with my retailer.
Kevin, I don't think the core steel in the SM Trailmaster is AUS-8 or Carbon V. Cobalt discussed this awhile ago with a CS rep and the impression I got from talking to him was that the steels used were different than what was in the main line.

As for the ability, the outer shell of soft steel does not increase strength, it actually lowers it. It should however increase impact toughness.

I respect Cold Steel knives, and if i could afford it i would own several. However, i also respect Busse combat. Have a look at the Battle Mistress testing scores at www.bussecombat.com I would be interested to see a trail master in those same tests. I'm not saying it would fail, i'd just like to be there to either have my beleif in a good knife reinforced, or those nagging doubts shown in reality.

One other thing to be noted. A while back busse were putting ads in magazines claiming that the Battle Mistress was better than "The leading competition". Cold steel got in a tizz because they had already staked that claim. They put a website up on the net claiming that they would pay double the retail price for a battle mistress so they could test it. There was a note down the bottom when i saw it saying they had one and would be releasing the test results soon. That never happened. From this is ccan only ocnclude that the results were not in Cold Steel's favour.

I also have great respect for the Japanese forging process. I have seen how strong it can make blades. However, remember that the japanese used hundreds of folded layers, clay tempered, etc. Cold Steel has three. I see the inevitable comparison, but just remember, they are not the same style of making at all.

That's all from me for now

The beast we are, lest the beast we become.
Cliff - It seems like the composition of the steels in San Mai III is still a mystery!

James - I would also be interested in what Cold Steel has to say about the BM. In fact I would like to see more communication from C.S. regarding their whole line. Why do they not have a forum. When I called the 1-800 number on the catalogue the person on the other end seemed clueless when it came to knives, go figure. Their website seems out of date with not much content.

[This message has been edited by KevinMillerCan (edited 06-13-2000).]
Japanese san mai swords and knives are made by folding high carbon steel over a soft low carbon core and hammer-welding it together. The low-carbon core doesn't extend all the way to the edge. More at www.swordforum.com

There are knives made in Scandinavia with a high-carbon layer sandwiched between two layers of lower carbon softer steel.

Cold Steel's "san mai" is made of a layer of soft stainless steel sandwiched between two layers of even softer stainless steel. Run a search for performance reviews.

-Cougar :{)
I want to know how I can see these tests people are talking about. When I went to the magazine To The Point I could not find the article. I want to own the best, so please let me know how to get to the test.
From what I read, the San Mai was indeed 420 over AUS 8. There is absolutely NO way I would pay nearly as much for this knife as I would their excellent Carbon V steel in the same knife.