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Cold Steel Spartan folding pocketknife review – classic Cold Steel quality in an aggressive design form makes an excellent foldable knife for self-defense.

Cold Steel Spartan knife

To say the Spartan folding pocketknife is unique would be an understatement. Words used to describe this knife include solid, unyielding, indestructible, beastly, and a tank. Of course, being manufactured by Cold Steel, you wouldn’t expect anything less.

About Cold Steel

Cold Steel Spartan foldable knife

Cold Steel is an American maker of knives, swords, machetes, tomahawks, kukris, and other edged weapons. They are based in Ventura, California but use a variety of manufacturers from around the world including manufacturers in United States, Japan, China, Taiwan, India, Italy, and South Africa. They describe their business like this:

“Cold Steel Inc. is a knife and tool company dedicated to creating the world’s strongest, sharpest knives, swords, tomahawks, machetes, cutlery, tools for everyday carry: EDC. Quickly adopted by Military, Law Enforcement Special units, Emergency Services Personnel, Self Defense professionals as well as members of the Martial Arts community, Cold Steel quickly became renowned for quality, strength, reliability and dependability in everyday carry (EDC). Our diverse and varied line-up quickly grew to include not only a massive selection of folding knives (from smaller “EDC” blades, to our iconic giant “mega-folders”) but fixed blades, swords, sabers, pole-arms and halberds, as well as hunting gear, spears, blowguns, axes, machetes, tomahawks and tools!”

A variety of high-quality steels used in Cold Steel knives

Cold Steel products often have an aggressive, unique look which is why so many Cold Steel knives have been used in Hollywood movies and TV shows. And the steel they use – a smorgasbord of quality blade materials including the following.

San Mai®

San Mai® comprises of three layers of expertly laminated stainless steel combined in one blade. Hard carbon steel is sandwiched between two layers of tough lower carbon spring steel, thus maximizing edge holding ability while still being able to withstand impact and lateral stresses. Produced in extremely small production runs, San Mai® is used Cold Steel’s most collectible high-end fixed blades.

VG-1 Stainless

Japanese VG-1 steel shows outstanding edge-holding ability and proven strength in point and edge durability tests. With good overall performance and proven durability, abrasion and corrosion resistance.

AUS 8A Stainless

This steel has tested amazingly well over the years and has proven to be an excellent steel for working knives – tough, corrosion resistant, with good edge holding and easy to re-sharpen.

AUS 10A Stainless
AUS 10A is equal in strength and toughness to AUS 8A but has the extraordinary advantage of an additional 20% in edge holding ability. This ability to retain a sharp edge for a longer period of time gives it wider performance advantages over other, more common stainless steels.

SK-5 High Carbon

Cold Steel Spartan pocketknife

Japanese high carbon SK-5 is traditionally used for making a variety of hand tools, including chisels and woodcutting saws. With good all-round toughness and excellent edge holding capabilities, as well as excellent abrasion resistance it has stood the test of time and seen use in many countries.

O-1 High Carbon

O-1 is a high carbon, oil hardening tool steel. Popular with custom knife makers it is used both for stock removal and forged knives around the world. With the proper heat treatment, it will take and hold a very fine edge while remaining very tough and durable. An ideal high carbon steel for tough edged weapons.


American CPM 3-V can take an extremely fine edge which is highly chip-resistant. In recent years, it has proved very popular with custom knife makers. Though costly, this modern tool steel is astonishingly tough and exceptionally wear resistant. It is a fine-grained powdered steel, with a very uniform microstructure giving it excellent impact resistance and fine edge holding performance, and making it perfectly suited for larger blades where extreme toughness is required.

1055 High Carbon

The carbon content and lean alloy of this shallow hardening steel make this a very sturdy material that avoids a lot of the brittleness commonly associated with higher carbon materials. Particularly suited to blades that require extreme impact resistance it is often seen in high durability large fixed blades and swords.

1090 High Carbon

1090 High Carbon Steel is an excellent choice for larger fixed blades. It takes and holds a good edge while remaining tough enough to withstand even our brutal stress tests. A good all-round performance high carbon steel that is very forgiving under shock.

52100 High Carbon

52100 High Carbon is a hard-wearing steel that’s an excellent choice for custom hunting and outdoor fixed blades. Often used by custom knife makers in forged blades that require toughness and wear resistance in unforgiving conditions.

4116 Stainless

4116 is a fine-grained stainless steel from Germany often used in the Pharmaceutical Industry and in high end Kitchen Cutlery. Its carbon and chromium content is balanced for excellent corrosion resistance and strength. Capable of taking a very fine, sharp edge, it makes an excellent choice for outdoor hunting applications.

German D2

A tough and hard-wearing air hardening tool steel that has good corrosion resistance, this German steel has been used for decades by both factories and custom makers to produce rugged knives for outdoor and hunting use.


An exceptional American super steel, CPM-S35VN is not only very tough and durable but it will take a fine razor-sharp edge that will last a long time. An incredibly fine-grained powdered steel with a uniform microstructure, it offers very consistent performance. Durable, reliable, highly corrosion resistant and tough even when honed to a very fine edge, it is a good well-rounded steel choice for high-end superior quality custom knives and tools.

Carpenter CTS®BD1

A performance stainless alloy steel from the USA that has seen extensive use in the Military and Defense Industry as well as in Surgical Cutlery and the custom knife industry. BD1 has earned an excellent reputation for edge retention and corrosion / stain resistance.

Carpenter CTS®XHP

Carpenter American CTS® XHP is a high carbon, high chromium powdered alloy steel with very impressive edge holding abilities. With an extra fine, uniform grain structure it outperforms its ingot-steel equivalents by a large margin. This high-performance steel has been used in everything from superior custom kitchen cutlery to surgical tools. It can also be polished to a beautiful satin finish, making it an excellent choice for high end every day carry knives, especially those that require a very fine cutting edge.


Cold Steel Spartan foldable pocketknife

This finely grained, powdered American tool steel combines very forgiving hard use durability with vastly superior corrosion and wear resistance. A popular choice for high end custom makers, its edge holding abilities are frankly outstanding. An excellent choice for hard wearing knives that require a very sharp, long lasting edge.


Possessing very similar properties to AUS 8A, 8Cr13MoV is a reliable steel for working knives. This high carbon stainless steel has proven itself to be tough and corrosion-resistant in our tests. Like AUS 8A, it boasts good edge holding and is easy to re-sharpen.

A-2 Steel

A-2 is an air hardening tool steel with excellent toughness and high wear resistance, these attributes make it an ideal choice for hard use fixed blades from hunting knives to combat and camp knives. A-2 has uses in industry such as blanking dies, wear inserts, and shear blades, plus many other applications. A-2 is considered a substantial upgrade in both toughness and wear resistance over O-1 and other carbon steels.

Cold Steel Spartan folding knife review

There’s no beating around the bush here, the Cold Steel Spartan knife is near indestructible. You’ll find videos across the Internet of people abusing the knife with no signs of wear (the video of a man ramming the knife through the hood of a car is especially memorable). This knife can be used for chopping, cutting, slicing, prying, and of course, self-defense.

An aggressive look

It has an aggressive look. Combined with its size, you won’t want to pull it out in public. It’s large and menacing.

Substantial weight

As an every-day-carry (EDC) knife, the weight may cause it to not work for some. It’s large and heavy which of course, is what makes it such a formidable self defense weapon. The added weight makes it great for chopping things too. In an outdoor setting, it will perform every task asked of it.

Wave opening feature

Cold Steel Spartan foldable pocketknife

One of the most fascinating aspects of this knife is its “wave” opening feature made possible by a thick, well-placed thumb plate. When carried in the pocket tip up, the thumb plate can be drug across the pocket edge when pulled to cause the blade to automatically open as it exits the pocket. I tried it in the leg pocket of Tru-Spec pants and indeed, with no skill whatsoever, the knife snapped right open and locked. Once you try it, be prepared for 30 more minutes of awe-inspiring action before you lose interest.

The edge

The new AUS-10A steel provides much better edge retention that the original AUS-8A steel. This knife is difficult to dull. And even when it does eventually dull, a few strops across leather and the micro bevel edge will be restored as good as new.

Cold Steel Spartan pocketknife construction

The Cold Steel Spartan comes with a 4 ½-inch blade – one of the largest you’ll find on a folding knive. It’s 4mm wide (thick!) and 10 1/2 -inches long when opened. The blade is Japanese AUS10A steel and shaped much like a Kukri blade. It has a drop-point blade with a very large recurve. The shape combined with a high hollow grind beginning make it excellent for slicing (and slashing). This blade will cut through wood, leather, fur, skin, and bone with ease.

The Demko thumb plate allows easy one-hand opening. The thumb plate is large, thick, and textured. The wave-opening feature is awesome. The thumb plate snags the pocket as you draw the knife allowing you to extract the knife from the pocket and have it open in one fluid motion.

The 4 ½-inch blade is housed in a 6-inch long GRIV-EX handle. The handle material is injection-molded high-impact plastic similar to Zytel but harder. It features exaggerated large finger depressions that provide a rock-solid grip. In fact, the large depressions and curved handle make it wrap around your hand providing not just a secure grip, but protection for the hand and fingers during a fight. The handle’s striped texture adds to the increased grip effect.

Liners are heat-treated steel. They are solid, not milled, which adds to the weight but creates a very solid fixed blade feel when the blade is locked. There is no twist or wiggle with the Spartan’s liners.

Cold Steel’s Tri-Ad lock is legendary. The blade is shouldered around a stop-pin to provide resistance to wear. The full surface of the lock and blade tang mate flush together for an incredible solid feeling. It’s no wonder the Tri-Ad lock is considered one of the strongest on the market. The Tri-Ad design lets the blade lock like a vault.


The Cold Steel Spartan weights a hefty 9 oz and with a 4mm thick, 4 ½-inch blade, may be too large for some to carry. I carried it fine in the leg pockets of Tru-Spec pants but in a normal pocket, might get in the way. If you can carry it, it will become the knife you take when you want protection or just to show off to your friends.

It comes with 2 pocket clips, one for right-hand carry and the other for lefty carry. With the aid of the clips, you might just make it work for carrying in any outfit.


Cold Steel Spartan foldable pocketknife

Comes razor sharp from the factory

Maintains a razor-sharp edge

Is incredibly solid

Has a unique look that is aggressive and menacing

Weight makes it great for outdoor work and self defense

Blade locks like a fixed-blade knife


Size and weight would be a EDC con for some

Blade shape makes it more difficult to sharpen

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