Today we are taking a trip to value town. It has been a long time since I reviewed a sub $25.00 pocket knife, and as of the day of publication, the Cold Steel Pro Lite Sport is closer to $20 than $25.
Ben reviewed the original Pro Lite back in 2016, and as usual he did a great job. But as an unabashed Cold Steel Fanboy, part of me wanted to sample this vintage for myself. So when Cold Steel introduced the “Sport” version of the knife with a thumb hole, I decided to buy one for review.
And I’m glad I bought one. For under $25 this may be the most solid utility folder I’ve ever owned. It’s another Andrew Demko design for Cold Steel, but it’s at a price point even non-knife people can appreciate.
General Dimensions and Blade Details
The Pro Lite Sport has an overall length of 8.00″, a 3.5″ blade, a weight of 3.2 ounces, and is made in Taiwan. As usual, Cold Steel has produced a larger knife, but the Pro Lite Sport feel smaller than some of their knives I’ve recently reviewed.
I think it’s a great size for those who can carry a larger utility knife. Personally, my day job is serving as a small town lawyer, so I’ve used mine as a “nights and weekends” carry. It has worked well in that regard. I’ve taken the knife fishing a number of times, and it’s worked well as a fishing knife. It’s robust and inexpensive, so I don’t mind exposing it to salt water, cut bait, etc. It’s a nice choice for dirty jobs.
Here is a shot of it next to my Medium Voyager, a smaller Cold Steel blade:
The Pro Lite Sport has a primitive looking drop point blade. The oval thumb hole and prominant “beak” to the blade reminds me of the profile of a prehistoric animal. The unique profile has been given a partial hollow grind, swedge, and stonewashed finish. The edge bevels on my knife are almost completely even, and the edge terminates in a stout tip. The only sign that this is a budget blade is some light machining marks on the spine and inside the thumb oval.
The steel chosen for the blade is Krup 4116. This is a stainless steel that I don’t have a ton of experience with. ZKnives offers his chemical composition and a nice description of the steel.
Krup 4116 is a carbon steel manufactured by German company thyssenkrupp, and is the same steel found in many Henckels and Wustof knives. I own a Wustof paring knife that I use daily, so maybe I have more experience with this steel then I realize.
In my experience Krup 4116 is one of those easy to sharpen steels that won’t hold an edge forever, but is forgiving and easy to maintain. Sort of like 440C or AUS-8, but according to Z-Knives this is a little closer to 420HC.
Whatever it is, Cold Steel has done a good job with the heat treat. It came shaving sharp out of the box, and I’ve put it to work breaking down boxes, opening mail, slicing fruit, and taken it fishing a few times.
I’ve gotten into espresso lately, which means I’ve ordered all sorts of crazy espresso making supplies, and have transformed a corner of our kitchen into a low grade food sciences laboratory. Lots of boxes in the mail, and I’ve been using the Pro-Lite to break them down. The edge slows down after a few boxes, but it only takes a few swipes on my Golden Stone to bring it back to sharp. This is the kind of steel that is so easy to sharpen you can feel it get sharper on the stone.
As usual for Cold Steel, it’s a superb knife to cut with. Handles well and cuts great. No rust or corrosion either. No complaints.
Handle, Ergonomics, and Pocket Clip
The handles of the Pro Lite Sport are made of linerless high density plastic. This is a lock back knife, but there is a small integral plastic backspacer on the last third of the handle. Construction is screw together. Fit and finish is excellent. All the parts line up and there are no sharp edges to the handle. The result is a lightweight and durable handle.
An obvious comparison would be with the Ka-Bar Dozier Folding Hunter, but there is no comparison. Compared with the Pro Lite, the Dozier Folding Hunter feels like a light duty toy that could break in half at any moment. Don’t get me wrong, the Folding Hunter is a fine light duty tool, but there is no comparison when it comes to the strength of these two knives. With the Pro Lite there is little flex when I try to squeeze the handles together. About as much flex as you would see on one of their linerless G-10 handled knives. The build quality is impressive.
The ergonomics are excellent. This generous handle is simple and will accommodate a wide range of hand sizes. It takes to my paw like a duck to water. The handles are lightly textured, and there is a run of wide jimping along the back of the handle. This offers good traction and tactile feedback without being overly obnoxious. The handle is comfortable in forward and reverse grips. No complaints.
The pocket clip is a stout stainless steel spring clip. The handles are drilled and tapped for ambidextrous tip up carry, and there are recesses in the handle for the pocket clip to slot into. The clip isn’t going anywhere, and it offers good spring retention.
The Pro Lite Sport performs admirably in the pocket. The clip is pretty deep, burying 90% of the knife in your pocket. The knife is lightweight and the handle is relatively thin. It’s thicker than my Code 4, but much thinner than the chunky Voyager. At just over 3 ounces it carries wonderfully.
Here is your pocket clip shot:
Deployment and Lockup
The biggest difference between the original Pro Lite and this Pro Lite Sport is the use of a thumb hole instead of the thumb stud that appears on the original model. Cold Steel does a good job with their thumb studs, and Ben seemed to like the ones included on his Pro Lite, but there is a certain elegance and practicality to the thumb hole that is hard to ignore. The thumb hole is readily accessible, and it’s easy to open this knife with your thumb.
Here is another size comparison with the Medium Voyager to show how relatively thin the handles are on the Pro Lite Sport:
The action is relatively fluid and smooth. The washers are made of teflon. I prefer phosphor bronze washers, as they are smoother and more durable, but for a sub $25 knife you are going to get some compromises. This is one of those compromises. Personally I think the action is good enough for government work, although in a perfect world we would have phosphor bronze washers here.
For lockup we of course have a Tri-Ad lock. That almost goes without saying as the lock appears on almost all of Cold Steel’s folding knives. And once again that Tri-Ad lock performs admirably. For the uninitiated, the Tri-Ad lock is an improved back lock. It’s a proven lock design, and is arguably the toughest lock on the market today.
Even though this is a plastic handled knife, I cannot muscle out any blade play. It’s rock solid. As usual, the lock bar is strong. So if you aren’t used to Tri-Ad lock knives you are going to want to include a grip strength tool with your order to bulk up the muscles in your hand. But for those familiar with this style of lock it offers a level of security that only a Tri-Ad lock can bring. Granted, I’m not doing anything crazy with any of my folding knives, but I wouldn’t hesitate to use this knife for any difficult task.
While something like the Dozier Folding Hunter is a decidedly “light duty” blade, this Pro Lite will handle chores like hard carving, and crunch cutting thick rope without protest. On that note, I wish I had my Dozier Folding Hunter handy for a size comparison, but couldn’t find it for this review.
Instead, here is a parting shot with my recently reviewed Cold Steel Golden Eye:
Blade centering is perfect on my knife. Lovely to see on a sub $25 folder.
Cold Steel Pro Lite Sport Review – Final Thoughts
I think the Pro Lite Sport is my favorite sub $25 folder. It’s a rock solid performer and it packs a ton of value. I think Cold Steel allocated their limited budget appropriately. The design is great, and they selected appropriate materials. I would prefer to see the teflon washers replaced with phosphor bronze. It may raise the price slightly, but I think it would be worthwhile. Beyond that, I find it hard to complain about this knife.
If you are looking for a lightweight, tough, and inexpensive knife, then look no further. I haven’t reviewed a knife that has provided this much bang for your buck in a while. My favorite sub $40 folder is the ESEE Zancudo, and that continues to be an excellent knife. It is a better choice for urban EDC thanks to it’s smaller profile. It’s also ~$10 more.
But if you want a no-nonsense work knife, then the Pro Lite Sport gets the nod. If offers an amazing bang for your buck. At this price they make nice gifts, and are cheap enough to keep as a dedicated tackle box knife, or a truck knife, etc. I think the Pro Lite Sport is a great inexpensive folding knife and I highly recommend it.
I recommend purchasing the Cold Steel Pro Lite Sport at Amazon or BladeHQ. Please consider that by purchasing things through any of the links on this website you support BladeReviews.com, and help produce future reviews. Thank you very much.