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Recommendation: Cold Steel v. Ka-Bar Marine Knives?

Discussion in 'General Knife Discussion' started by Confederate, May 15, 2012.

  1. Confederate


    Sep 5, 2005
    I'm a big fan of both Cold Steel and Ka-Bar knives. And particularly, I very much like the Ka-Bar Large Heavy Bowie. Now I'm looking for a Marine combat knife and don't know who makes the best one. Cold Steel has excellent heat treat of its steels and Ka-Bar has a long-established reputation for these types of knives. So it comes down to who uses the best steel for its blades.

    Cold Steel has always been an enigma of sorts. It's Carbon V was a reasonably decent steel, but looking at eBay prices for knives like the Recon Tanto w/Carbon V border on the ridiculous. Carbon V wasn't a super-steel, right? I have four or five knives made with Carbon V and while I'd take them over their AUS8 counterparts, I can buy better knives for the prices they're selling for.

    So when it comes to Marine combat knives, how does the new CS Leathernecks compare with the Ka-Bar Black Fighting/Utility Knife? Both have Kydex sheaths and seem to have good reputations; however, the Leatherneck has not been around very long.

  2. res1cue


    Feb 2, 2010
    The NEW leathernecks? or the still-kind-of-new-but-discontinued leathernecks

    I have a buddy who has one of the "old" ones, seems like a very solid knife, and feels great in the hand. FFG + SK5 to me is much more attractive than 4116 saber ground.

    I assume as for the Kabar you are looking at the USMC (since it is comparable to the leatherneck in size)?
  3. Confederate


    Sep 5, 2005
    Yep. The Leatherneck is a new Cold Steel offering. My dad carried a Ka-Bar all over the South Pacific during the War. He inscribed all the places he visited and the year on the back of his leather sheath. Since I have no kids, I gave it to my brother so he could pass it down. Of course they were built like brick outhouses and had quite a bit of heft to them.

    The SK-5 would be the only version I would consider as I think 4116 stainless is pretty much junk. If you're going to dig latrines with a knife, 4116 would do the job. As I understand it, SK-5 took the place of Carbon V, but I don't know a whole lot about it.
  4. res1cue


    Feb 2, 2010
    Both are solid knives. Some people dislike CS and would go with the Kabar. Some people don't like that CS "borrowed" from the Kabar. To be dead honest, for me, between the two it would be a wash. See if you can handle a 2011 Leatherneck in a store to see which one feels better.

    But if you decide to go with the 2011 SK5 version, you better act quick. They are already discontinued.
  5. Grease


    May 10, 2012
    The Leatherneck has, IMO, one problem; the handle. They couldn't just copy the Kebar and print their logo on the blade. They had to go and imprint "Cold Steel" along the sides of the handle in a deep cut out groove. It's somewhat annoying to hold on to, but I suppose it wouldn't make a difference if you had gloves on.

    I personally find the end of the handle to be a bit heavy too, but some people might like that.
  6. Confederate


    Sep 5, 2005
    If CS stops making their carbon steel Leathernecks, then it'll make my choice easier. I'll go with the Ka-Bar.

    I don't mind CS "borrowing" the Marine combat knife look any more than I mind all those companies borrowing the 1911 design from Colt. The United States paid Ka-Bar millions of dollars for combat knives and U.S. citizens have all paid into those purchases. I'm not fond of the handles on many of the combat knives, but I love the blade configuration.

    I just bought a Buck Hoodlum and love it, but it's a bit pricey. Great knife, though. There are a lot of superb designs.
  7. res1cue


    Feb 2, 2010
    They just did a few months ago. You can still find them on ebay and such places, but not for much longer
  8. Confederate


    Sep 5, 2005
    I wonder why they did that? I'm not a steel snob by any means, but AUS8 is certainly better than 4116. What if they decide to make their Recon Tantos with 4116 blades? There's no end to where they could take it.

    Today I saw one of CS's Counter Tacs. It had a beautifully polished double edged blade, but when I asked to see it, I turned it over and it was flat on the other side! I told the sales guy I would never buy a knife like that because it had a chisel grind. Being right handed, I couldn't cut anything because the grind was in the wrong direction.

    "Look, that knife has one purpose," the sales guy said, "and that's to kill someone." Right, but who wants a knife that won't also cut?? You also have to sharpen the damn thing. Chisel grinds only work well if you're left handed (as most blades have the grind on the left side). If you hold the edge at an angle, it's the wrong angle. It's like my CRKT M16-14SFA. The grind is on the left side, making cutting extraordinarily difficult. And though I can now sharpen it okay, I'd rather have the grind on the right side so the edge would cut directly into what I'm cutting.

    I'm glad I didn't order the Counter Tac. In fact, I have pretty much all the Cold Steel knives I'll probably ever need. It never made any sense to me that a VG-1 blade would need 420 slabs in their San Mai knives when many other knives were made entirely out of VG-1. Their video tests showed them abusing VG-1 blades in other knives, so why would VG-1 need protection?

    Anyway, I still like CS. I just think they're making some strange decisions. I don't know how SR-K steel compares with Carbon V or the various other carbon steels used by other manufacturers. But I'm not going to pay for a knife with 4116 stainless unless they offer them at much cheaper prices!
  9. James0723


    Mar 25, 2009
    You do realize that the knives actual Marines use are Ka-Bar's right?

    If you want a "Marine combat knife" it seems a no-brainer to get the standard Ka-Bar USMC knife that has actually been issued to Marines since WW2. I don't know about the Ka-Bar "Heavy Bowie" but the standard Ka-Bar USMC Ka-Bar knives are still made in the USA.

    I have spent thousands of dollars on knives over the years (including knives made by both Cold Steel and Ka-Bar), and a USA made USMC Ka-Bar design that's made in Olean, New York and that you can find for about $60 online, was the sharpest knife I have ever gotten out of the box, and overall the best value for my money of any of the other knives I own (some of which I paid so much for I am ashamed to tell). I have two ka-bar USMC knives: the leather handled Tanto and the D2 version, and they were both came sharper than anything else I've gotten, and I have been happier with them than any other knife I've ever gotten.
  10. berzerker


    Jan 27, 2002
    Actually, many companies had government contracts to produce that pattern combat knife...W.R. Case, for example. CS may have copied the design, but no more so than others.

    Ka-Bar, Kleenex, Xerox...all trademarked names that became synonymous with a particular kind of product.

    I have one of the next generation Ka-Bars in 440A, and it's solid and very well made. That being said, I've never had a problem with anything from CS.
  11. OrdnanceBubbaUSMC


    May 23, 2004
    Cold Steel says it is because of a large contract/contracts for Leatherneck knives in stainless.

    How can the Counter-Tac chisel grind be on the wrong side when it is a double-edged knife?
  12. shortwinger


    Apr 7, 2010
    I was in the Marines for almost 9 years and I have yet to be issued any knife! The only thing I ever got was a rusty old bayonet that I had to keep clean, and even then I never saw it outside the armory.

    The fact of the matter is that Marines carry whatever they want. That being said they do carry a lot of Ka-Bars, mostly the USMC version for obvious reasons. But you do also see a lot of Cold Steel knives on hips as well, with the SRK, Recon Tanto and Recon Scout being among the favorites. With the Leatherneck being so new only time will tell if it stands up to real field duty but, my guess is that it will do well. Both companies make great blades that I would not hesitate to carry in the field, I don't think you can go wrong either way.

    The really good thing is that both companies offer similar blades in a few different sizes and configurations so it is easy to pick one that fits you. I am on the smaller side so I lean in the SRK or USMC direction but they have bigger and smaller models to fit everyone.
  13. DaxMan


    Mar 26, 2012
    I own several Cold Steel knives and have been really satisfied. I love my old Carbon V Master Hunter and think some of their 4116 stuff is a bargain (i.e. Pendleton Hunter Lite, Roach Belly, Finn Bear, etc.). That being said, I think this is a no brainer, get a Kabar USMC knife. With Cold Steel changing to a lower quality steel on a brand new knife model that really hasn't been tried and tested vs. a Kabar made in the USA with 1095 Cro Van steel. You can get krayton and a plastic sheath or go old school and get leather handle and sheath. This knife design has been around for many decades and seen some heavy use in extreme conditions. If you don't like the USMC knife I would look at the Kabar Beckers. For a large combat knife check out the BK-2, BK-7 or BK-9 made by Kabar, awesome USA made blades and you can find them for great prices all over the net. The beckers give lots of options for end-user upgrades and customization as well. Check out the Becker forum to learn more.

    Good luck whatever you decide to do. Buying a new knife is never a bad thing.

  14. Ankerson

    Ankerson Gold Member Gold Member

    Nov 2, 2002
    Don't know about now, but back in the early to mid 80's were I was stationed they did have Ka-Bars in the Armory and the Officers were issued Ka-Bars.

    That said a lot of us carried them and we also saw knives from other companies as well.
  15. morfield


    May 12, 2012
    I carry an old Camillus fighter. It's incredibly stout and will hold a razor edge like crazy. I love it and wouldn't let it go for anything. Seeing as how the Ka-bar has always been made to the EXACT SAME standards of the Camillus, it's no contest for me. Besides, Ka-bar has a longstanding reputation as a fighter that Cold Steel can't touch...even though I like CS and own several of their knives and hawks. I'd choose Ka-bar any day of the week.
  16. jonesywales


    Nov 6, 2011

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