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The Emerson CQC line of folding tactical knives are downright legendary. Mr. Emerson’s knives were the first folding tactical knives and are common to see among the armed forces, with police, and of course average Joes like me. CQC stands for ‘close quarters combat,’ and these knives are designed to be used as weapons as well as useful EDC tools. This particular model is the Mini CQC-15.
Buy the Mini CQC-15 at BladeHQ
The Mini CQC-15 is a compact option that retains the legendary quality and reliability of Emerson’s knives. The CQC series is quite expansive these days, and the knives come in various sizes, colors, and configuration. The Mini CQC 15 is a hybrid of the two most popular knives in the CQC line, the Commander and the CQC-7.
General Dimensions and Blade Details
The Mini CQC-15 is smaller than the CQC 15, but it isn’t a small knife by any means. It’s an average size EDC knife with a 3.5-inch blade. The overall length with the blade deployed is 7.9 inches, and total weight is light 4 ounces. The blade is .125 inches thick and is made from 154 CM.
The Mini CQC 15 sports the piercing tanto point of the famed CQC-7B and the recurve blade of the Commander. This odd combination does give you a versatile knife blade that stabs and slices easily. The belly isn’t as prominent as the Commander, but it’s still enough to make it a good choice for skinning deer. You also get that extra cutting edge in a shorter profile. The tanto blade is, of course, a great piercer. If used as a weapon in a military scenario it will make quick work of clothing, web gear, or uniform shirts.
The blade is made from a durable and corrosion resistant 154 CM steel. Its Emerson’s steel of choice for these knives and is a good steel for these knives in particular. It’s tough, but not hard to sharpen. The blade is a chisel grind which has some strengths, but also weaknesses. It’s very strong, easy to sharpen and the edge lasts a good while. A chisel grind is a rough cutter and feels like it catches and jumps when you are trying to do precise cuts.
In my time as a Marine, I carried an Emerson CQC-7BW. At that time I knew nothing about knives, but I knew the CQC-7BW was ‘the’ tactical knife. Over time I grew to appreciate 154CM steel and the chisel grind as something that was easy and quick to sharpen in the field. Often I had nothing more than the sharpening rod on my bayonet sheath.
Getting the Mini CQC-15 ready can be done quickly with minimal tools, time, or effort. In the tactical world, you might not have the tools and time to get a nice sharpening in. Your day patrol may turn into a three-day mission, and all you have is what’s on your back and in your pockets. You also want the edge to last and the blade to be strong. If it breaks in country, you can’t exactly go online and order another
Handle, Ergonomics, and Pocket Clip
The Mini CQC-15 is a fat bottom girl, and I love it. The handle is wide and fills my paws well. The knife has a palm swell, and a decent jimping for the thumb. The handle fills my hand very nicely, and I have no complaints about its design or shape. The grip design reminds me of a more subtle version of the ancient Greek kopis handle. It’s designed to aid in retention when cutting or stabbing.
The G-10 grips panels are aggressively textured, and some people might find it uncomfortable. You should bear in mind that by order gloves are part of the personal protective equipment of the uniformed services. Gloves can challenge grip, so this aggressive texturing is a must have for a knife like this.
The clip is nice and straightforward. It’s robust and has never bent or accidentally grabbed my chair as I go to sit. It’s tight, so the knife stays planted in the pocket. As the mini variant, it’s a bit more pocket-friendly. I never noticed any discomfort when carrying the knife. I never notice its even there until I need it. Unfortunately, it’s for righties only, but left-handed models of these knives are available. Seems a little ridiculous not to tap the knife for lefties
Deployment and Lockup
The Mini CQC-15 has a titanium liner lock that’s strong, but the knife seems to lock-up at different points. This is especially true if you use the wave method of opening these knives. Sometimes it goes extremely far and other times barely at all. However, I have never had the lock fail me in any way. I will admit I find myself subconsciously checking to make sure the blade is locked before getting the work.
Deployment can be done through a top thumb disk that’s ambidextrous, well textured and feels strong. It’s a slow deployment method, but a functional one. If you want to go a little faster, you have the wave method. The wave is based on that little hook on the thumb rest that is supposed to catch on your pants and open the knife as you draw it.
It’s a neat feature, but it doesn’t always work. It seems to work better in some pants than others. Pulling the knife like that is not dependable enough to trust in a self-defense scenario. I will say it works way better in jeans than in the typical material uniform pants is made of, which is odd seeing as who these knives are designed for. I may also be bad at opening a knife this way. The utility is there, but I can’t seem to master the wave.
Emerson Mini-CQC 15 Review – Final Thoughts
The lens you view this knife through is likely going to significantly affect your opinion on it. It’s not a graceful tool, and for the cost, you can get a knife that cuts smoother, features an ambidextrous pocket clip, and a more natural method of deploying the blade.
The Mini CQC-15, as well as the rest of the CQC series, is designed for folks in uniform. They have a broad set of features that make them an excellent knife for those in uniform. I still love it, and my CQC-7BW, but I am aware of my own bias and nostalgia. That being said its an objectively good knife, and one I would suggest if strength and simplicity are your main desire.
If you are thinking of buying an Emerson Mini CQC-15, please consider purchasing it at Amazon or BladeHQ. Thanks for reading.
Thanks for the informative review, Travis. As a member of the US Armed Forces, I appreciate the military perspective. Field use in a deployed environment definitely produces a unique set of requirements, and Emersons were designed with those requirements in mind. Having said that, I can’t help but feel that they are priced too high. Because of that, I usually only buy them when I can get them at a discount.
Thanks for your service,
I like Emerson knives, but I have one major issue with them; they do not make any accommodation for left handed users. It is possible to have holes for the clip screws drilled on the opposite side of a knife ordered from Emerson directly, or you can send them one you already have, but they charge (last time I checked) around $40 to make this modification. I feel that for the price of these knives, that extra money for two of three little holes is absurd. I actually have a Mini CQC 15 I bought years ago, but I never carry it because it impossible to properly use the knife’s wave feature when drawing from the wrong side. I also refuse to pay forty bucks to have the clip reversed. What really strikes me as odd is that un every other way, Emerson knives are pretty ambidextrous. I’d love to add a few more to my collection, if Emerson ever catches up to the vast majority of high end and budget manufactures by including a option to move the pocket clip to either side of the knife at no additional cost.
Gary Gleck says
I just got mine and absolutely love it. Buttery smooth right out of the box and man what a perfect blade design. I have a very large collection of all the big names spyderco benchmade zt etc but this 1 has quickly become my favorite. It is in my rotation but more and more I’m using it everyday. I can’t find any thing I don’t like about it. Semper Fi.
Gary Gleck says
I have this ot is a favorite. Semper Fi