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Last Updated: August 10, 2019
Emerson is one of the most American knife companies I can think of. Their blades are 100% made in the USA with American made materials, and when you thumb through one of their catalogs (or the pages of their website) you really get the feeling that these knives are distinctly American. There are plenty of references to the US Military, MMA, and hard rock – to the point where you can practically feel the bald eagles whooshing over your head.
So when you take a company like Emerson Knives and combine it with the iconic American bowie you get what is arguably the most patriotic production knife on the planet: the Emerson CQC-13 Combat Bowie.
General Dimensions and Blade Details
The CQC-13 has an overall length of 9″, a 3.85″ blade, and it weighs 5 ounces. Like most of Emerson’s offerings this is a pretty big knife. Designed for military, police, and anyone else seeking a large and rugged tool, this is a no-nonsense tactical folder. Personally I tend to pair it with a smaller utility knife.
The blade is what really drew me to the CQC-13, which makes sense because Emerson’s knives all follow a similar formula. Besides different blade and handle shapes, they are all built pretty much the same. Here we have a mean clip point cut from thick stock with a needle sharp tip, a good amount of belly, and a partial flat grind. My preference is for the stonewashed version, but Emerson also makes them in a black coated and matte finished (shown here) versions as well. Like many Emersons this knife is V ground, but the edge features a chisel grind (ground on one side instead of both like most normal knives). According to Emerson this is done for ease of sharpening in the field.
Like every other Emerson knife on the market the CQC-13’s blade comes in 154CM stainless steel. The steel is heat treated to 57-59 HRC, which makes the knife easy to sharpen yet capable of holding a nice edge. 154 won’t retain an edge as long as some of the more exotic steels on the market, but it is a proven steel and remains an all-around good choice.
Handle, Ergonomics, and Pocket Clip
In the handle department the CQC-13 continues to follow the typical Emerson format: roughly textured black G10 scales, a partial G10 backspacer, a steel liner, and a titanium locking liner. There is a lanyard hole and all the screws are phillips head (except for the flat head pivot screw). Emerson isn’t known for making the prettiest knives, but I am actually quite impressed with how well this knife has been finished. The blade is beautifully ground, everything lines up, and the liners are attractively finished.
The CQC-13 really starts to shine once you start handling it. The spacious handle is extremely comfortable. There is plenty of room for forward or reverse grips and the handle features a deeply scalloped finger choil, and a nice run of jimping on the spine. This is a capable work knife and it is a pleasure to use. Ernest has a strong martial arts background and it shows time and time again in his handle designs. Simply put the ergonomics rock.
The pocket clip is once again classic Emerson. It’s a simple matte black parkerized clip, discrete and functional. My only gripe (per usual) is that the handle is only drilled and tapped for right side carry. I know they apparently make lefty versions of the knife and that you can send knife in to be drilled and tapped for left side carry (for $20) but honestly this is one of those cases where they should have just done that at the factory. Not just for lefties but also for right handed people wanting to carry on their weak side. When you consider the intended use and near $200 price tag, the 3 extra holes should come standard.
As for actual carry, the CQC-13 carries well for a larger knife. The pocket clip is discrete but not ultra-deep, so the knife is easy to get at but stays out of the way. At 5 ounces this larger knife feels lightweight for its size.
Deployment and Lockup
Naturally, one of the big selling points for an Emerson is the classic wave opening feature, which allows you to open the knife as you remove it from your pocket. If you don’t feel like waving open the CQC-13, you can always make use of the ambidextrous thumb disk, something I’ve always found slightly more cumbersome than a thumb stud or opening hole, but with a little practice it can certainly get the job done. Opening the knife is fairly smooth, Emerson uses nylatron washers in all his knives. They get the job done, especially if you opt to wave the knife open.
For lockup we have a titanium liner lock. I am generally not a huge fan of titanium for a locking liner, as it is not nearly as hard as steel of a blade tang, but Emerson has been making them this way for decades. In practice my knife still locks up fairly early, and there is little to no blade play. As an added bonus the titanium helps lighten the knife up – always a plus. It is also worth mentioning that the pivot screw is of the flathead variety, so it is easy to adjust with pretty much anything handy.
Emerson CQC-13 Review – Final Thoughts
Ernest’s Combat Bowie is exactly as advertised; a rugged folding tactical knife making great use of an iconic American blade shape. I have no doubt that fans of Emerson’s other offerings will also find much to love about the CQC-13. But lets be real for a moment, clearly, this is not a knife for everyone. Those preferring something a little more subtle will likely pass this one up. And like the rest of Emerson’s offerings, the Combat Bowie has it’s share of quirks unique to the brand (including the chisel ground edge, non-ambidextrous pocket clip, titanium liner lock, nylatron washers, etc). Finally, it’s not a cheap knife – not at all. All of these things tend to polarize people, and I can appreciate the opinions on both sides. However, if this is a knife that interests you I can attest that it is comfortable and well made. In conclusion the CQC-13 is another well thought out tactical folder that compliments the Emerson line nicely.