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Last Updated: July 15, 2019
I love it when knife companies refine their existing designs. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for new and exciting models, but I’m almost more excited when a “good” knife turns into a “great” one. Cold Steel did just that with their latest version of the Cold Steel Recon 1. The new version (released in 2010) of the Recon 1 is lighter, has a stronger lock and a smarter design. What that leaves us with is a refined hard-use folding knife at a price almost anyone can afford.
Buy the Cold Steel Recon 1 at BladeHQ
The Recon 1 is a large folding tactical knife or utility knife. Many people will not want to EDC the Recon 1, but I’ll say for a larger knife it is an extremely strong and relatively light EDC option. This could also be a decent trail knife/backup knife – I’ve seen people actually baton wood with this thing. Obviously these weren’t huge logs, but it’s still pretty incredible for a folder.
General Dimensions and Blade Details
The Recon 1 has an overall length of 9.75″, a 4″ blade, weighs 5.3 ounces, and is made in Taiwan. This is a large folding knife geared towards hard use and self defense applications. Certainly this could be used for every day carry (EDC) if you can swing carrying a knife of this size.
As far as the blade is concerned you have the option of either a clip point (bowie) blade shape, American tanto, or spear point blade shape (not shown here). All blade configurations come hollow ground and have the option of plain or partially serrated edges.
My personal preference is for the clip point or spear point blade shape, as I find the belly is useful for EDC. Regardless, the blades are all ground thin and cut nicely. If you need the additional tip strength of a tanto, or just like the look, then this is a great model to pick up with a tanto blade.
Cold Steel originally chose Aus 8A for the blade steel here. The Aus 8 version of the knives are shown here, and these are what I used for my review. Cold Steel upgraded the blade steel to CTS-XHP around 2016. Although I haven’t reviewed the CTS-XHP version of the Recon 1, I have tested the Ultimate Hunter and Code 4 and the Broken Skull in CTS-XHP. It’s a great upgrade. CTS-XHP is still easy to sharpen like AUS-8, but the edge holding is much better. It’s a great stainless steel and an excellent upgrade for these knives.
Also, the Recon 1 used to come with a teflon coated blade. These coatings chipped off easily and were long considered a downside to the Recon 1. When Cold Steel upgraded the blade steel to CTS-XHP they also started DLC coating their blades. This is a much tougher blade coating, and resists wear far better than teflon. This new coating holds up far better and I’ve had a chance to test it out on my Broken Skull.
Handle, Ergonomics and Pocket Clip
Cold Steel did an excellent job updating the Recon 1’s handle. They went with a linerless design and used two thick slabs of G10 for the handle. Some might find the lack of steel liners troubling on a hard use folding knife, but let me tell you – there is nothing to worry about. This is a very strong handle design (more on that below) and it has a 6061 aluminum backspacer. Everything is bolted together and there is a good size lanyard hole for added security.
The Recon 1 has great ergonomics. A major feature is the deep double choil. This fits my hand like a glove. The handle is thick enough so that it fills the hand adequately and the edges have been rounded for comfort. The roughly textured handle helps to ensure a firm grip under a variety of conditions. Note that there is no jimping on the thumb ramp. In this case, I don’t think the Recon 1 needs jimping, your hand is not going anywhere with this handle design. That said, it certainly wouldn’t hurt.
Due to the curvature of this handle design Cold Steel sells this knife with 2 pocket clips. This is so both left and right handed users can carry this knife comfortably. As a leftie, this sort of thing brings a tear to my eye (almost). I suspect some manufacturers don’t make clips reversible to keep costs down, but to see CS go so far as to make a second clip – well, that is really a statement and doesn’t go unnoticed here. Note that the clips allow for tip up carry only (fine by me) and that the clips has been given the same teflon coating as the blade so expect it to show wear.
Deployment and Lockup
The Recon 1 is deployed with a single thumb stud. The thumb stud is easily reversed with a screw driver, but in a perfect world I’d rather see ambidextrous thumb studs right out of the box. The Recon 1 has a powerful backspring, so it isn’t the easiest knife to deploy, but with a little wrist action I have no problems at all snapping this blade out. And it does snap out, with a loud and authoritative crack. This is a knife that deploys with confidence thanks to a smart design and phosphor bronze washers.
The Recon 1 has the Andrew Demko designed Tri-ad Lock. This lock is phenomenal and is the strongest lock currently on the market. It’s a beefed up backlock with the inclusion of a stop pin. The stop pin takes all the force of heavy duty tasks rather than the locking mechanism. What this means is that this lock will take more stress and punishment than anything else on the market. I’ve tested these locks extensively myself and my results match everyone else’s conclusions – that the Tri-ad lock is nearly bullet-proof.
Recon1 vs. the AK-47 or the American Lawman?
Chances are, if you are interested in the Recon 1, you may also be interested in the AK-47 or the American Lawman. If that is the case, I recorded a video where I do a detailed comparison of these 3 models that you may find useful.
If you still have any questions or are interested in another comparison feel free to leave a comment or contact me.
Cold Steel Recon 1: Final Thoughts
The Recon 1 is an absolute beast of a knife. If you are looking for an inexpensive hard use folder, you really can’t do better than this Recon 1 folder with the Triad lock. The Recon 1 is very similar to the Cold Steel Ak-47 and American Lawman, 2 knives I have previously reviewed. If you are having trouble deciding between the three it really comes down to which knife you like the look of the most. They have minor functional differences but they are all tough as nails and ready for any task.
Also, well after the initial publication date of this review Cold Steel made major upgrades. They upgraded the blade to a DLC coated CTS-XHP blade from a teflon coated AUS-8 blde. The upgrades Cold Steel made to the blade steel and blade coating addressed the 2 biggest complaints I previously had with the knife: soft Aus-8 steel that was serviceable, but didn’t hold an amazing edge, and a teflon blade coating that quickly chipped and looked bad. Granted, these upgrades have raised the Recon 1 from a $50 knife, to more like a $75 knife, but I think you are getting more knife for your money. The Recon 1 has been elevated from a good bargain knife, to an impressive cutting tool.
At the end of the day, if you can carry a larger knife like the Recon 1 you are going to have a hard time finding a tougher pound for pound folding knife. It remains an excellent choice to this day. Personally, I prefer the slightly smaller and more utilitarian looking American Lawman, but if you like the dimensions of the Recon 1 then you won’t be disappointed with this knife.
- The Cold Steel Recon is a strong, durable, and effective mainstay in the world of tactical pocket knives.
- The steel blade features DLC coating for long-wearing use. The coating is black, rough to the touch, and super strong against scratches and wear.
- Cold Steel's innovation is the safest folding knife locking system on the market, holding 800 lbs of hanging weight.
- Folding knife with ambidextrous pocket and belt clip for both right- and left-handed draws. Thin construction does not imprint in the pocket for a stealthy carry. Perfect for battle gear.
- A great everyday carry option for self-defense, battooning, stabbing, etc. The scales on the handle around the finger grooves provide excellent grip and ergonomic comfort.
If you are interested in purchasing a Cold Steel Recon 1, then I recommend purchasing it at Amazon or BladeHQ. Purchasing things through any of the links on this website helps support BladeReviews.com and will help to keep the reviews coming. Any support is greatly appreciated. Thank you very much.
Nice review of a nice knife. I recently got one myself and have been using it as an edc. It is large for that purpose but the light weight makes is very easy. You are correct, not a knife you can snap open but smooth enough that the thumb stud is easy to use. Nice photos.
Hey man, thanks for the comment. Glad we see eye to eye on this one, it is a nice knife.
Great review. I love this knife, I just wish they would use a better coating! Keep up the good work. 🙂
Thanks man! Glad you enjoyed the review. I’m totally with ya on the coating – I wish they would upgrade the steel too. Many more where that came from, thanks for stopping by. 🙂
Edge Observer says
I’d like to see this without that teflon coating. I’m going to have to get one and get rid of it. Good knife otherwise for the price. Thanks for the review!
Apparently it’s pretty easy to strip this coating off – I might actually do it with the Clip Point version. Wold be sweet if they stonewashed it like the Voyagers! Well worth the 50 bones though – very solid offering from Cold Steel.
If you go to amazon and check out the clip point version on the pics they have someone who polished the blade and it looks sweet. Im adding a thin line of skateboard tape to act as gimping covering the clip with the tape and poloshing out the blade : ) just ordered mine for 57 bucks
Hey Jay, I have seen a couple where people have polished up the blade and I agree – it looks really really sweet. A little grip tape is a great way to add some traction without marring up your thumb ramp! Enjoy your new knife dude, feel free to let me know what you think once you get your hands on it!
hey, would you recommend this OVER the Kershaw ZT 0350? I’m looking to use it for survival course, edc, cutting boxes and cardboard, ropes, and self defense.
Hi Nate, given a choice between the two, I would take the ZT 0350 over the Recon 1. However, it is important to keep in mind there are a lot of differences between the two knives. First of all, the ZT costs twice as much. However, there are important differences in the blade shape, materials, origin of manufacturer, method of deployment, lock, etc etc. They are both solid knives and represent good values for their price points – but beyond that I very much view it as an apples to oranges comparison.
What kind of survival knife would you suggest for a soldier where the weather is hot and dusty. price range is 80 to 100 bucks.
Becker Knife and Tool makes a number of nice models that would probably do well in that sort of role. I happen to like the BK7 but the smaller BK16 and BK17 might be better for your needs (they are smaller and more lightweight – haven’t handled them yet myself).
All of their knives are made in high carbon 1095, which would do well in a hot and dusty environment.
Check out the SOG Seal Pup Elite, And the Seal Team… (Im a SOG fanboy) One thing i agree with Mr Dan is you are going to want a fixed blade. 🙂
And i’m pretty sure that there is a review of the Seal Pup Elite on here….. Right Mr Dan?
Yup Jack, there is a SEAL Pup review floating around here. Should be under the “SOG” section. 🙂
Michael Zelick says
Hi greetings from Vancouver Canada.I bought the mini Recon1 and I love it,very tough andbas you mentioned that is one tough lock up nice review.
Very cool Michael! Glad you are enjoying your Mini Recon 1. I like that smaller size and glad to hear the lockup is just as robust as the first one.
Looking forward to a Recon 1 review with their new CTS steel, which to me seems VERY enticing . A Triad lock with better steel around $100- I’m in! Finding almost no reviews with this version.
I plan on at least acquiring a new Code 4 in CTS-XHP, which is basically a Recon 1 with aluminum scales. I’ll try to order one this week.
Ray Stephens says
I’ve decided to pass on the Recon 1 only because it doesn’t open easily. I carried a different knife (can’t remember the name – “Gerber” maybe,) but it pulled my cookies out of the fire when I was accosted by two individuals at 3 a.m. in Rochester NY.
I moved quickly (didn’t run) to the center of the empty street as they approached. One followed me into the street while the other kept a parallel pace on the sidewalk. The one behind me said “Hey man. Give me some money.”
I said “I don’t have any money” but I had covertly retrieved my old knife from my pocket. I easily flipped it open with my thumb with a very clean and authoritative “snap.” I held the knife in a traditional fighting grip with the blade parallel to my wrist . I’m not sure if the apparent assailant even saw the knife, but he and his “associate” immediately backed off with the intimidating “snap.”
I love “Cold Steel”products but I suspect that the outcome could have been quite different if I stood there fumbling with a knife that doesn’t open easily. Can you recommend a Cold Steel multipurpose folder that will open as easily and authoritatively as my old one?
Yes the lock on these can be a little difficult to overcome – especially in a high stress situation like the one you described. Frankly, that story is incredible. I am glad to hear you are OK.
To try and answer your question, my Cold Steel Rajah III is very easy to open, either with my thumb or by using the wave. The blade shape may be a bit ridiculous, but the knife has no problem opening up, and makes a nice snap. I am not sure what else I would recommend in the CS lineup.
Ray Stephens says
I wasn’t aware of the Rajah III. I’ll check it out but I want a folder for general use and only incidentally for self-defense. I’d want my Tanto San Mai III in a threat situation.
The story is true. I guess I looked like an easy mark, but they apparently decided to disengage when they realized that I was armed, prepared to fight, and didn’t freak out.
I should acknowledge that conventional wisdom would be to hand over what an assailant demands. If they had firearms or otherwise chose to fight, my actions could have gotten me killed.
when you read the Cold Steel Ricon 1 description you get : Now With U.S. Made Carpenter CTS
This knife is not made in the USA…it is made in Taiwan…you need to zoom really big to see on the knife blade..Made in Taiwan…I contacted Cold Steel to see if they would stand behind their product and take back their knife and reimburse me…not happening…you can tell alot about a compagny when they do not want to take back their made in Taywan knife…buyer beware…please encourage real 100% made in the USA knife makers and not one that is emetating it.
Agree wholeheartedly ! I love this knife! I don’t usually go for anything but ‘flippers’, in this case I’m thankful I kept an open mind. Just a little shot of lube and a snap of the wrist, you will never miss it. Wondering if they again made another improvement and went to S35v ? Any idea? (*it doesn’t really matter, this knife imho is a tank. Would trust my life with it 🙂 )
Dan Jackson says
Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. They now offer these in S35VN steel, which is a small upgrade over S30V and a considerable upgrade from the original AUS-8 knives. It takes the classic Recon 1 design and makes it that much better. That said, if you have the AUS-8 version it’s still perfectly serviceable, and it was significantly less expensive then the new S35VN version. I still carry and use my American Lawman in AUS-8. I hope your Recon 1 provides many years of service.