Cold Steel Hold Out II Review

Cold Steel has really been making a statement in 2011 with their new and improved lines of lightweight and ultra strong folders. Their updated series of Cold Steel Voyagers has really built up some buzz, and rightfully so. But keep in mind that the Cold Steel 2011 roster runs much deeper than that. Today I’d like to share another one of their light weight high value folders – the Holdout II.

General Dimensions and Blade Details

The Hold Out II sports a 4″ blade, has an overall length of 9″ and weighs 4.2 ounces. This folder could work as a large EDC or tactical folder. Cold Steel also makes a smaller version, the Hold Out III. This knife has a 3 inch blade and weighs a mere 2.5 ounces. This would make a really sturdy EDC option/emergency tactical.

Cold Steel Hold Out II

The blade on the Hold Out II is 3.5mm thick and tapers into a nice fine tip. It’s a simple drop point design and has been given a full flat grind. Thanks to the offset tip there is a good amount of belly on this knife and the Hold Out works well for a variety of tasks. The edge is beautifully ground and out of the box sharpness on my knife was excellent.

Cold Steel Hold Out II - Blade Detail

Cold Steel selected AUS 8A for the blade material, a mid range stainless steel that they use on a lot of their folders. I like AUS 8 alright as it is easy to sharpen and it helps keep the cost down. That said, I often wonder if Cold Steel would consider upgrading to something like 154CM. It would add some cost but I’d love to see the option of slightly better steel for improved edge retention.

Handle, Ergonomics and Pocket Clip

Modeled after Skean Dhu knives carried by ancient Scottish warriors, the Hold Out has a long and slender handle. The handle is a linerless design made of two thick pieces of G10 bolted into steel and aluminum backspacers. The G10 feels very solid and I can just barely flex the handles when pressing down hard on them. This is a strong and lightweight handle design that I can really appreciate – especially after lugging around some heavy folders.

Cold Steel Hold Out II Handle Detail

Ergonomics on the Hold Out II are good. It’s a big handle so you have plenty of room to position your fingers in a variety of grips. The G10 is very rough and provides a lot of traction. There is a small choil and the knife has neither a hilt nor a thumb ramp. Fairly sharp jimping has been applied to the bottom of the handle and less aggressive jimping has been applied to the top. Beterjimping could have been applied to the top of the knife and spine, but for such a large knife I don’t see it as a big downside.

At first, the lack of a thumb ramp or really aggressive choils was seen as something of a negative. But I noticed that when you consider Cold Steel’s entire lineup of knives (including the aforementioned Voyager series) there are a ton of blades in Cold Steel’s catalog that have much more aggressive and ergonomics. So instead of knocking the knife for this, I’m going to note that it’s simply different. I will say I love the look of this handle, and the overall look of the knife. It’s a real sleek design and crazy ergonomic features would definitely spoil the look.

Cold Steel Hold Out II Pocket Clip

The pocket clip on the Hold Out II is excellent. This is a simple polished clip but it allows for ambidextrous tip up carry. It rides deep and provides a good amount of retention. I like the clip a lot.

Deployment and Lockup

Deployment of the Hold Out is accomplished through a large thumb stud. This thumb stud is not 100% ambidextrous, but it is reversible with a flat head driver. I need to first mention here that the Tri-ad lock requires a good amount of force to overcome the spring tension and get the knife open. With that in mind, at first I found the thumb stud to be kind of slick and it took quite a bit of effort to flick the knife open quickly.

As the lock broke in (and I got some practice) it became easier to open the knife. Today I can flick the blade open pretty much every time. I still think some improvements could be made to the thumb stud to catch your thumb a little better, but I was happy with the way the lock broke in and the knife ended up deploying.

Cold Steel Hold Out II Deployment and Lockup

The Hold Out II uses Cold Steel’s Tri-Ad lock, which is just a beast of a lock (and I discussed it in many of my previous Cold Steel reviews). In a nutshell, this is an improved back lock that is able to withstand a ton of force. I regard this as the strongest locking mechanism on the market. So naturally lock-up on this knife was rock solid with no blade play at all.

I noticed some reviews on Amazon where people were saying it was very hard to disengage the lock. It will take a little force, but as the lock breaks in it becomes much easier. Compared to my Cold Steel Spartan, this lock was a piece of cake.

Cold Steel Hold Out II – Final Thoughts

There is a lot to like about the Hold Out II. First of all, it’s a really sweet looking knife. The gently sloping shape of the blade and handle has timeless appeal. I like the overall size and proportions and have no complaints with the strength of construction or the materials themselves. That said, I did find deployment to be somewhat difficult with the shape of the thumb studs and the powerful spring on the Tri-Ad lock. A version with upgraded blade steel would be really cool too (and I think it would sell well).

List Price: $127.50
Current Price: $44.70
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Price Disclaimer

All in all, this is a very solid offering from Cold Steel. For folks wanting something a little smaller I think the Hold Out III will be a very attractive option too. If you like rock solid folders, the Hold Out II is very deserving of your consideration.

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  1. says

    I can see the Scottish influence for sure but I can also see this being popular as a folding “bushcrafter”. It has a very bushcrafty profile.

    Nice review Dan!

    • says

      Hey Matt that is very interesting. Never really thought of it like that but it makes sense to me. This thing is going to hold up really well so beating on it shouldn’t be a problem.

  2. Greg says

    Great knife. The handle ergonomics are much better than I figured they would be from just looking at the Cold Steel website pictures.

    It does take some time to “break-in” the Tri-Ad Lock. It gets smoother with more use.

    Great review! Keep up the good work!

    • says

      Thanks Greg! Glad you found the video helpful. The Tri-Ad lock does take some breaking in. It’s well worth the effort however as this thing locks up like a bear trap!

      • Jack says

        I was wondering if the Tri-ad lock is better than SOG‘s Arc-Lock. SOG’s lock is rated to a thousand pounds of pressure….

        • says

          Hi Jack,

          Hard for me to say whether one lock is “better” than the other. Both have their place. As for brute strength I would guess that the tri-ad lock would out perform the arc lock, but that’s just based on the knives I have handled. Cheers.


          • Jack says

            Thanks so much,
            I’m looking at getting a HoldOut II and I was just thinking about the locks because every company says their lock is the strongest. lol


  3. DannySees says

    Great review, love the design and Cold Steel‘s fit and finish on their $40-$70 folders has been matching or exceeding a lot of companies $100+++ folders.

    Most other companies would charge you 2-3x the price for a similar knife with a less robust build, an iffy lock mechanism, and a few ounces of “premium” Crucible steel that cost them at the very most $2 more per blade and is much more likely to chip or let it’s tip go.

    • says

      Hey Danny, thanks for stoppin by. I have to agree that Cold Steel‘s fit and finish has been excellent on all of the mid range knives from them that I’ve handled. This is an example where you do get a lot of knife for your money – and not only that, but the knife is very well built and the materials are good too. I would be very curious to learn exactly how much the steel in a knife affects the price. I have heard it can be fairly substantial – especially when you consider certain knife steel is made in certain parts of the world so you would need to ship the steel around depending on where the knife is manufactured – but without having access to any real numbers this is nothing but speculation. I do think that for most stuff AUS 8 is acceptable. Glad you enjoyed the review man – many more on the horizon.

  4. ONCBOY says

    This knife has become my regular everyday tactical carry. Very light and thin, sits comfortably in pocket. Makes an efficient Kobutan, too (top of handle from closed-blade provides a good thumb rest for this). I like how well balanced it is (balance point is right where finger indent is) and how fast it is in the hand. It seems like the very base of the blade edge was designed to a tapered flat point, so you won’t cut yourself if you go to reverse grip and let your pinky accidentally travel to far past the grip. And lastly, such a flat/thin blade seems sharper than my new Voyager and the point is a needle. Really provides ease of thrusting and a wide gash.

    • says

      Hey Oncboy, glad to hear you have been enjoying your HOII. I think for a purpose built defensive tool this one has a lot to offer, so I am glad it’s doing just that for you! Thanks for stopping by and providing some thoughts.


  5. Scott says

    I appreciate the review! I bought the Voyager & Hold Out II based on your reviews (and because I couldn’t decide which one!); I’m thrilled with the both of them, but I will be focusing on training with the HO for my MBC work. Thanks and keep up the great work…

    • says

      Thank you Scott! So glad to hear the reviews were helpful and that ultimately you liked the knives – that is what it is all about. Absolutely, I have much more to come. Thanks again!


  6. jimmy johnson says

    I’m retired from law enforcement and can’t imagine why every cop in America isn’t carrying one of the Cold Steel knives on (and off) duty. They are AMAZING and the price is super considering lesser blades cost much more.

    jimmy johnson

    • says

      Thank you, Jimmy. I’m not in law enforcement, but I’ve used a number of CS folders and they are very reliable tools. Glad you enjoy yours.


  7. John Roberts says

    I’ve never understood why Cold Steel hyped its VG-1 steel to the extent it did, then pulled it out from under everyone’s feet just as it was attaining a degree of respectability. Whether it’s in the same league as 154CM I don’t know. But I do know Cold Steel’s VG-1 is not so brittle as to need slabs of 420 stainless steel to reinforce it (_a la_ San Mai 3). In fact, Cold Steel won’t answer any inquiries regarding it, except as it relates to San Mai 3. If you ask why they stopped using it for their Voyagers and other knives as a stand alone blade steel, I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for a reply!

    I have a Spyderco Endura with a 154CM blade, but I don’t consider it a great knife. It has excellent serrations, but doesn’t have a hollow grind blade. I like flat grind okay, but hollow grind is my favorite; but the Endura has a long, thick spine that just crudely descends in a V-shape. It can be sharpened, but you won’t give one the fine edge or beauty of a fine hollow grind blade.

    • John Roberts says

      *Correction:* The Endura has VG-10, not 154cm. I have several CRKT S-2s that have the 154cm equivalent (ATS-34, I believe). They are exceptional knives with titanium handles. They’re called “the poor man’s Sebenza, but I like them better than Sebbies because they’re larger. Got them for $25 each, including shipping. I bought seven, but I should have bought 20 or more! Needless to say, they sold out pretty quickly. Great knives.

      • says

        Thanks, John. I thought they may have released a run in 154 CM or something that I wasn’t aware of.

        I have heard really nice things about the CRKT S-2. For $25 I’d say that is a very good deal!


  8. R.D. says

    As the review suggests, this is a quirky CS offering that adds up to a little bit more than the sum of its parts.

    I like the smaller Hold Out III, which I think best fits the niche as a well-made hideout or stash knife. I prefer to use it without the pocket clip, to maximize its flatness. You get a tough Tri-Ad lock folder in a really slim package. It’s lower profile than a Heath bar.

    The ergos are unusual. No one would confuse these knives with a Large Voyager, but even on the small version the grip works somewhat better than one would think. As Dan’s review notes, the little jimped G10 “choil” area for the index finger helps pull it all together.

    The Hold Out line is being switched to CTS-XHP blade steel for 2015. While I’m generally thrilled about CS’s steel upgrades, I don’t know if these particular knives will make as much sense when they have street prices in the $90 range.

    Just now, retailers are trying to get rid of their old AUS-8 inventory before the new XHP stuff arrives. This means really killer deals can be had on the familiar CS offerings. I found the Hold-Out III for under $30 shipped! For a well-made, G-10 handled, Tri-Ad lock knife that is super thin and stashable, that price was impossible to resist.

    • says

      RD, Thanks for the comment. I appreciate insights, as well as the heads up on retailers marking down the AUS-8 versions – I agree, under $30 shipped is a phenomenal deal on this knife.


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