Mad Dod vs Cold Steel Round One

Mar 8, 1999
Just got my new Mad dog in from Earl and thought I would give some thoughts after a weekend with some cutting. This is my first Dog, an ATAK, and I got it toward the end of last week. Thought it would only be fair to test it against the closest competitor I had, a Cold Steel Bush Ranger.

I have had my CS for maybe a year and a half now, didn't use it very much in that time, really. I have always thought it was a good design and one of the best factory made large fixed blades out there. I am sure you are all familiar with the knife, and most would agree that for around $50-60 it's about the best deal going. Mine is the black coated Carbon V version. Leather sheath on this knife is moderate, at best, so I made a Kydex for it. Kraton hande is fairly comfortable and curvy.

Now for the MD intro. When I pulled it out of the box, I was pretty impressed. Very heavy knife, clearly meant to take a beating. I have been following Kevin's work for some time, but like I said, this was the first time I plopped down the funds to try one out. Due to the excellent opinions of his work on this site, I figured I would not be dissappionted. The handle feels real good in the hand, very solid with no sharp points. The edge got a few of my initial tests before cutting anything. Shaved hair good (did not pop it off, about the same as my CS), drug across my thumbnail without a lot of catching (not as aggressive as my CS sharpened by me with a diamond rod), and had a pretty good ring to it when you flicked a thumb across it, though you could tell by the sound it was a massive blade (trick shown to me by Larry Harley). Sheath is put together well, but too tight IMHO, no leg strap, either. Nice vanilla? smell.

On to the CUTTING:

I took them to the rope and as I expected, the MD did not cut as easily through manilla rope. This is dur to the slightly thicker edge coupled with the sharpening technique. If I put a lot of pressure on it, the MD would power through it, but that was more of a push cut than a slice. As far as edge thickness on the CS, if anything I had made it steeper. At least I added another bevel steeper than the factory one. I also have one place on the edge where it is slightly chipped due to some wire I hit once - The MD may not have chipped here, but that is a veeeery hard edge. Anyway, I did not count this "serration" in my comparos. Worthy of note is that my Black Cloud Sun (my design, I owe you a review on this one) with a 4" blade, did as well as either of the big boys - I'll show you this thing later.

On cardboard, the CS went through strips of it slightly easier, due again to the thinner blade (3/16"). When I chopped down very lightly on the side of a box, however, the MDs weight pushed it through a little better.

Stabbing into some vry thick cardboard I had, they would both sink up to the guard very easily. If I just pushed through, the CSs keen point got it through easier. If I snap cut, the MD buried up better. Again, nothing I did not predict.

Both would slice thick and thin paper in two when dropped from head height.

Taking them outside:

I went out in the woods a bit with both of the knives next. I did get a couple of surprises out here - read on. First thing I did was just chop very hard into an old tree the timber people were kind enough to kill and leave behind. It was some kind of oak (mosly just trunk - though it was still green) about 8" in diameter. Both knives buried up in this pretty good. I started to chop this thing down, but would have been there a bit, I guess. I tried to compare, but could not get accurate measurements. The cuts did look different, though. The MD was a wider opening and the CS was maybe a little deeper. The cuts were made on a slight downward stroke about shoulder height. I then cut a little v-groove fronm that initial chop. I could not really see any difference here. The handles started showing their differences here. I was holding them in a three finger grip pretty much, to get further back on the handle for leverage. The MD was very jarring, sort of like hitting the tree with an aluminum bat. Also on knives I design, I like more meat at the back. The MD is tapered to very thin back there and I felt it might slip away if I used it too long. The CS was softer, but the roughness of the grip tended to bite you hand. Different feels, bruises or blisters, your choice. Oh, and the CS seemed to get wedged more.

Next I did some campfire wood cuttting - no fire, just cutting. This was done on some pines our friends left behind. I lopped off about a 3 ft section of a 2.5-3" pine that was propped up in the Y of another tree with each knife. No real noticable diffs here, just more of the same on the handles. At this point, I took the sections and got down on one knee. Putting one end of the wood on the ground and the other in my left hand, I timed each knife in making two pieces out of one. Both of the knives did this a couple of times at about 15 sec each. The CS could get more chops in due to weight, and this evened them out. I was a little surprised that the MDs weight did not get it through the wood a good bit better. Something about that edge geometry, eh?

Neither of my knives were shaving real well now, but the MD did hold it's edge a little better, I guess.

I also soked the handles with water and soapy water. In both cases, the CS held faster. I think both were better than average, though.

I will continue these tests, and post again.

For now I will say these are different knives. Need to go to hell and back? Pick the MD. Looking for a good cutter and the best deal in a fixed blade? Get the CS. CS has better edge geometry and weight, MD is more solid. Is the MD worth 6X the CS? You would certainly have to consider intangibles like it being hand made, I think. Of course, if your life depended on it.........

That's all for now. I would like to test a Busse Steel Heart II and Mission's new A2 MPK against these! Maybe eventually I willl come across those as well as designing my own - I would go back to Ernest Mayer for that one. Feel free to reply here or email me regarding thid. Thanks.

-Bart Hollingsworth
Bart :

CS has better edge geometry

Could you go into that a little more? What exactly do you see that is superior on the Bushranger.

Here are the pics :





Your comments about the MD handle jarring is not surprising given the way in which you were holding it. Its not designed to be held that way. The main feature for security is the deep finger cutout. If you don't use that the handle is a little slippery because of the taper you noted.

While I have not handled an ATAK, I have used a TUSK and it was very comfortable during chopping when I used a full grip on the handle (used the deep finger cutout) and powered the blade right into the wood. If you use the ATAK in this manner how is its performance compared to when you hold it further back on the handle?

The chopping results were very surprising. I would have bet that the lighter BR would not have fared well. The poor performance of the MD when slicing I would have expected, and you point out the detail exactly "its more of a push cut". Both MD's I have handled come with a very high polish that does not slice overly well. You might want to lower the grit a litte. Say go down to like 600 DMT and try that. While the BR should still out slice the ATAK becuase its thinner I would expect the ATAK to be close.

You comment :

Need to go to hell and back? Pick the MD.

Are you overlooking the CS blade here just because the MD is thicker, or have you tested the toughness of the CS and found it to be lacking in some respect?

Thanks for comparing the two knives and if you ever do get the MPK or Steel Heart I would like to see how you felt these compared against the ATAK and the Bushranger.

Bart, good initial review. I think that even though the CS can cut better, there is probably no doubt that the MD is tougher. Also, the extra weight of the MD should have made easier work of the chopping portion than the bush ranger. For the money the bush ranger is one hell of a deal. As for the ATAK. I think that a well made semi custom like the ATAK is probably worth the mid $300 tag and the extra security feeling you get from it.
Hey Bart, pretty good review. I just received my MPK in A2, my Busse Steel Heart II is on its way back from Scott Evans' Edge Works, and my ATAK should be here sometime in June/July (hopefully). I'll be doing a similar comparison along with my CR Project 1...all very close to size, weight and thickness. It'll be an interesting comparison.

Hope I answer the questions above adaquately.

I know that is not the best hold for security, but you can chop better using that grip. It allows you to get a faster swing. For long term use, the intended grip would be better for security. When I said the CS had better edge geometry, I mentioned two supporting facts within my article: It has a 3/16 blade compared to 1/4 MD and the edge is ground thinner (a shallower seconary angle). If you had a cross sectional view of eack knife it would be clear what I meant. About the hell and back comment, I had a few things in mind. The handle is no doubt more durable than the CS, and if you were in deep, you might not want to use a bush ranger with no Kraton! Also the thicker blade and edge. The only place my CS ever failed was metioned in my review also, chipping on the edge. I do tend to believe that 62 RC is probably too hard, even for a low alloy tool steel, and might have probs with chipping itself (see your own reviews), but not as bad I think. Thanks for the interesting questions.

Yes, like I said in my article, I do believe the MD is much tougher. The CS is a good deal, though. I think that may be their "best" knife. Recon Scout and Trailmaster are huge thick and Recon Tanto and SRK don't have near the edge geometry. Whether the MD is worth the money depends on who you are, I guess. If you depend on it for your life or need one forever, it probably is.

Good knives! What do you think of the Mission? I have had many long discussions with Rick, but never held (or seen) one. Where did you get yours?

Thanks to all of you for taking the time to read my review and for the feedback.


Bart, thanks for the clarification. By the way on the CS handles I have heard that comment often about them coming off. Have you ever seen that happen? Does the Kraton break down or does it just come unbonded to the handle?

In regards to the Mission knives. To those that have them what are the handles like? If you have both the MPK and an ATAK a comparsion of the handles would be much appreciated.

Cliff and Bart,

The MPK handle is a little "rough" can see where the mold joins are, both on the handle and where the blade is molded to the handle; overall I would rate the aesthetic appearance a C+, maybe a B (compared to my CR Project 1 and Busse Steel Heart II with B+/A-). I haven't received my PATAK (due now?!) yet, and my ATAK isn't due until June/July, so I can't give a fair comparison. The handle does feel bigger than it looks, and I would assume that Mad Dog's handles would have a better finish/feel. As you know the designs are very similar...I do like the MPK's choil, it really creates a nice purchase for your finger when choking up.

Bart: I received an MPF-1 a while back from Mission and Rick put me on his "update" email list, so he gave us all a "first" pick for purchasing the A2 MPK. I just received it, and haven't had time to really evaluate it yet (maybe in Kosovo???); I'm waiting to get my Steel Heart II back and waiting to get my ATAK to do a full "amateur" review.


Cliff and dp-

Never saw a CS handle come off, but it could. The Kraton might come unglued or it might rip pieces off if you used it as a hammer ;-) I do think they have a full aluminum handle under there, though. Chipped a big hunk of the blade coating off of my SRK once. Kinda dissappointed to hear about the hanles on the MPK. Thanks again for the replies.
Hey Bart, please don't misunderstand me about the MPK handle...first off, it's an excellent design and feels great (just bigger than I expected); second, according to Mission, their handles have "reverse" taper on the tangs. Evidently, it is wider at the butt to counteract the handle from "slipping" off.

I was just a little disappointed with the finish of the handle. I guess you just have to remember the difference between hand-finished and manufactured...regardless of price. Just don't take me wrong, how the handle looks aesthetically has no effect on how it performs!

I own and use many Maddogs and Mission Knives so I think I can offer an opinion on the handle.

Maddog handles look great, stronger than hell, but slippery when wet. When skinning elk Maddog knives tend to slip off if the handle is cover in blood. Also, if your hand is greasy or oily the handle can twist off your hand.

Mission MPK handle looks OK, not as strong as a Maddog, but it is a better design. Through numerous prying, chopping, cutting, and twisting of the blade I have never lost my grip. The thicker and softer grip aids in absorbing impacting shocks (as in chopping or hammering). The sheath and the handle material is also more quiet if you tend to rub into things alot. The MPT has a smaller handle than the MPK and is one hell of a fighter.

Thanks for the info Namviet. So the Mission handle is actually wider than the MD handle on the ATAK? That I would like a lot. You comment that it is a better design. I have never held one and the pictures don't show it in detail. Is it the same basic shape as the MD or are there significant geometrical differences? When you say its not as strong do you mean that it is damaged easier (less cut and impact resistant) or that the bonding to the tang is less secure?

The Maddog handle is tapered toward the rear and this in my own experience is not as secure as the Mission's constant width. The Mission Knives handle is less cut and impact resistant than the Maddog, but I doubt that you nor I could damage it without hurting ourselves in the process.

I still believe that Maddog's steel knives are the best on dry land and Mission's titanium knives are the best every where else. Although, Mission's steel knives are making a present and time will tell. I should know more about Mission's steel knives in about a year from now. I, more than likely will be in Kosovo supporting our troops, if and when the S..t hits the fan.