You won’t find too many hunting knife reviews on this website. The reason is because I am not much of a hunter. But despite being advertised as a hunting knife, there was something intriguing about the Cold Steel Ultimate Hunter that made me buy the knife.
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Designed by Andrew Demko, this is one of the new Cold Steel offerings to feature CTS-XHP steel. Andrew has made a name for himself by bucking the trend of dialed in titanium frame lock flippers, and instead designing simple robust folding knives featuring his tri-ad lock, which is a modified back lock. Back locks (or lock backs) rank among the oldest types of locks for a folding knife. This is another utilitarian pattern from Andrew, but the inclusion of contoured G-10 handle scales the Ultimate Hunter make it one of Cold Steel’s most refined releases to date.
General Dimensions and Blade Details
The Ultimate Hunter has an overall length of 8.5″, a 3.5″ blade, weighs 4.9 ounces, and is made in Taiwan. This is a larger knife, but feels lightweight for its size. I have shied away from larger knives for every day carry (EDC) as of late, but the Ultimate Hunter has found a way to win me over and has been getting a lot of pocket time – especially on the weekends when I can get away with carrying a bigger blade. Some might scoff at the blade to handle ratio. I never bothered to measure, as the blade to handle ratio has never struck me as a useful metric for evaluating a knife, but for those who do care I will note that the blade is noticeably smaller than the handle. This is a working knife, and in my opinion a generous handle is welcome on a knife that you are going to be using seriously. Although I don’t hunt I have caught my fair share of fish and do a lot of cooking. Based on my experiences using knives while fishing and cooking I can at least speculate to the benefit of a larger handle when processing game.
The blade of the Ultimate Hunter is a simple drop point. It isn’t the sexiest blade shape, but it certainly works. The generous piece of CTS XHP steel has been given a high flat grind with a two-tone satin finish. It’s a lovely blade finish and is a great upgrade over a coated or bead blasted finish. The tip is capable, but not overly aggressive. It would probably serve well skinning and breaking down game without a huge risk of puncturing organs, but that is just conjecture on my part. It slices well and has done a tremendous job breaking down a number of commercial grade cardboard boxes, and I have used the knife to de-bone several chickens for roasting.
Arguably the biggest allure to the Ultimate Hunter is the inclusion of CTS-XHP stainless steel for the blade. It is almost impossible to read or watch a review of a Cold Steel folding knife in AUS-8 where the reviewer doesn’t bemoan the AUS-8 blade steel at some point in the review. I have become comfortable with AUS-8 over the years, and actually like it in inexpensive (sub ~$50) knives. That said I think CTS-XHP is a great choice, and an upgrade of the steel on Cold Steel’s folders is long overdue. I am very excited to see CTS-XHP on this knife.
Out of the box the Ultimate Hunter was screaming sharp. It annihilated cardboard. There is a strand of bamboo along the back fence in my yard, and after a South Florida storm 6 foot tall bamboo shoots will seemingly pop up overnight. Without judicious pruning the bamboo overtakes the entire yard. The Ultimate Hunter has proven itself to be very capable on “bamboo patrol” – gliding through 1″ thick shoots – and allows me to channel my inner Lynn Thompson. Edge retention has been good, but like any steel CTS-XHP will need touch ups and the occasional sharpening. So far I have just stropped and touched up the knife with the fine rods of my Sharpmaker. It is very easy to sharpen. This is a good upgrade over AUS-8, and I have been pleased with the performance of this blade.
Handle, Ergonomics, and Pocket Clip
The Ultimate Hunter features a linerless G10 handle with a stainless steel lock bar, black aluminum backspacer, and stainless steel fasteners. The G10 is 3-D contoured, nicely finished, and has an attractive “grain” to it. Despite the absence of metal liners, handle construction is very strong. The G10 is thick and there is absolutely no flex in the handle. All of the pieces line up nicely and the fit and finish is very good.
The Ultimate Hunter feels great in hand. The handle shape is very simple and easy to grasp. There is a small forward finger choil, and 2 “finger divots” towards the pivot. This divot catches your index or middle finger naturally when using the knife (it depends on whether you are choking up or not). The G10 appears to have been bead blasted, so it’s smooth, but not slippery. It still has a nice texture to it, but is nothing like the peel ply G10 on my American Lawman. There is some very wide jimping on the spine of the handle. It provides some traction if you are choking back on the handle, but is basically not-present if you are using the knife for regular work. That’s fine by me. The pommel has a small “dish” for your thumb in reverse grip. I don’t use my knives in reverse grip very much, but it does seem to be comfortable in reverse grip.
The handle of the Ultimate Hunter is drilled and tapped for ambidextrous tip up carry, and comes with 2 shiny stainless steel pocket clips. This isn’t an ultra-deep carry set up, but allows for relatively deep carry while still affording easy access. The clip is very sturdy and retention is secure. Because the handle is smooth G10 you don’t have to worry about this knife shredding your pockets like the American Lawman, or Recon 1.
Deployment and Lockup
The Ultimate Hunter has the same “lopsided” thumb stud found on models like the American Lawman and Voyager. The thumb stud is swappable for ambidextrous use. This is a proven thumb stud design and it definitely works. The lock has a very strong spring, and this is not a knife that I can flick open – even with wrist action. It definitely requires you to purposefully roll it open. Not a huge problem for me, but if you like being able to flick open your knives then this is worth noting. Inside there appears to be phosphor bronze washers. The action is nice and smooth.
For our locking mechanism, Cold Steel has equipped the Ultimate Hunter with the tried and true Tri-Ad lock. This beefed up lockback has proven itself to me time and time again to be a very robust and reliable lock. Here it is no different. The sound this thing makes when you snap the blade open is impressive, and is sure to annoy the heck out of your significant other if you obsessively open and close your knives like I do. Like all the other Tri-Ad lock knives I have owned, there is no blade play at all. It is very secure. The caveat to this is that the knife can be tough to disengage sometimes. I can disengage the lock with one hand, but this is really a 2-hand knife.
Cold Steel Ultimate Hunter – Final Thoughts
Labeling your product as the “Ultimate” anything is a bold claim – especially in an age of false advertising litigation. Cold Steel is known for being a over the top, but here I think the moniker may actually be deserved. The Ultimate Hunter is the nicest and most refined Cold Steel folder I have reviewed to date. Cold Steel has taken all of the things I like about their knives (the slick Andrew Demko designs, good ergonomics, excellent fit and finish, and tough build), and are finally mating these qualities to superior materials. And the manufacturing has been kicked up a notch too. The 3-D machined handle is beautiful and the blade is substantial.
That said, you are going to pay a premium for all of this. The Ultimate Hunter retails for a little over $100, a little more than a what new Recon 1 or American Lawman (in CTS-XHP) goes for. For the extra money you get a stouter knife with contoured handles. I think the Ultimate Hunter represents a good value.
Of course the irony to this review is that the Ultimate Hunter is marketed as a hunting knife, and I have never been on a hunt in my life. But I have plenty of experience with hard use folding knives, and the Ultimate Hunter is an excellent rough and tumble EDC. Regardless of the nomenclature, this is the high end Cold Steel Folder we have all been waiting for. Highly recommended if you are looking for a premium large folding utility knife and can get past Cold Steel’s aggressive marketing practices.
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I recommend purchasing the Ultimate Hunter at Amazon or BladeHQ. Purchasing anything through any of the links on this website helps support BladeReviews, and keeps the site going. As always, any and all support is greatly appreciated – thank you very much!
*Note – I have no idea why the picture is of a SOG product.