Sunday, March 5, 2017

Knife Review: The Cold Steel G.I. Tanto

I've been somewhat of a fan of Cold Steel for a while now. They are a very unique knife company, not only selling the typical blades, but also swords, spears, tomahawks, axes, training swords, machetes, blowguns, sunglasses even, and quite a few other products definitely off of the beaten track for knife companies. To back up their products, Cold Steel also produces hundreds of videos putting them to the test, to show just what they are capable of. They also put out a free 100 page catalog of their products, which is very well done. I absolutely love looking through it. (don't take that too lightly either, I have quite the collection of knife and gun catalogs, and Cold Steel's is by far the best) As a result, I have a growing collection of Cold Steel products, of which the G.I. Tanto is one. This is my review of that knife.

First off, let's get into some specs:

It is a full 12" long, boasting an enormous 7" blade, with 5 3/4" actual cutting surface. The blade is about 1/8" thick (4mm). The handle length from the bottom of the guard to the end is about 4 1/2", and the scales are made of polypropylene with a slight texturing to them. It weighs 12 oz. The blade is covered with a black, baked on finish, which has held up fairly well over the two years I have owned it. It is only worn a little around the tip of the blade, and some marks from sliding in and out of the sheath.
The blade steel is 1055 high carbon, with a spring temper, making this knife excellent for throwing. The blade is of course, a Tanto blade, differing from the regular style by including a clip point with false edge extending a couple inches on the back. It is ground with a simple double bevel. The sheath is their standard Secure-Ex hard type, which is made of some sort of plastic/polymer, slightly different than kydex.


Ok, now that you know a bit about the knife, I can move on to what I think about it in more detail. First off, as the most important part of any knife, is the blade. The steel is, as said before, 1055 high carbon steel. It's not nearly as hard as some other blade steels, but for this kind of knife; the part throwing knife, part machete, part tactical/defense/utility, and complete destroyer knife; it truly fits the bill. 1055 is easy to sharpen, holds its edge, and simply won't break, no matter what you do to it. I wouldn't want it on all of my knives, but on this one, I think it was a good choice. Especially for a budget priced blade. The hardness of the steel leans more toward soft than hard, so it will dint rather than chip or roll the edge over. I prefer it so. 

The one problem with this steel, and high carbon steels in general, is rusting. The blade will rust if you don't keep it oiled. The rusting is minimized by the black coating on the knife, but it still oxidizes on the parts exposed. So, keep your knife oiled.

The grind is a simple double bevel, which is exactly what I would want on a big tactical knife like this. Simple and tough.

About the blade shape; I'm not crazy about Tanto blades. Never have been. IMHO, they are harder to sharpen, don't cut as well, and are not as useful as a simple curved blade with some belly. Just my opinion. However, despite being a Tanto blade, this knife performs great. It has enough weight behind it to chop through good sized branches and saplings, yet is balanced so well that it isn't tiring to do so. 

It's like a mini machete.


There is not a whole lot to say about the handle of this knife. It is very simple, with straight lines and not much grip. It does have a lanyard hole towards the bottom, if you are into putting lanyards on your knives. I never have, as I don't really like them on my knives, but it's there if you want to. The scales are attached by screws that can be taken off with a simple allen wrench, which is nice. Some people take off the scales and wrap the handle with paracord, which makes it into nice survival knife, that could be lashed to a stick or something and turned into a spear. The polypropylene scales are pretty much indestructible, and after banging it around for a couple years I can't discern the slightest dint or sign of wear on them. The finish on the tang is not great, as you can see, but for a knife this price that is not a problem for me.

One downside about the scales is the texturing is so slight that the handle could get pretty slick if it got wet. It could use some more texture. However, I must say that I absolutely love this handle. And what's funny is I don't even know why! It just feels right, if you know what I mean. The scales have this indentation, a large groove running along them, that just fits my hand perfectly. And because the scales are so smooth, there are really no hotspots that would create blisters after long usage. I have never gotten a blister from this knife. It is hard to explain with words what I like so much about this handle, but if you got it in your hand you would know what I am talking about.

The handle is pretty decently sized, as you can see in the picture. My hands aren't super large, of course, but they ain't small either. I wear a size large glove, and it fills my hand well.


There are some people who complain about this sheath. And really, Cold Steel sheaths in general. Not me. I want this sheath on all of my knives. It has excellent blade retention, the nylon belt loop is great, and it has a million holes and slots for multiple carry positions or strapping it to a backpack. It has a drain hole in the bottom as well, which is a nice feature. It is not kydex, but whatever plastic material they used, it is tough and not likely to break. Again, I have used this thing hard for two years, and it is has held up wonderfully. An interesting thing to note about this sheath is that it is the same as the sheaths that they put on their higher end knives, costing many time the price. Most of their cheaper knives have crappy sheaths, but not this one.

Belt Loop

To be honest, I really can't think of anything I want different on this sheath. It does everything I ask for in a knife sheath.


I don't know much about knife throwing. I don't do it much, and when I do I'm not very good. I prefer Shurikens over knives for throwing, really. Its more fun when it sticks anytime, no matter how you throw it. (my laziness speaking) From the little I do know about knife throwing though, and simply from throwing this one; it's a very nice thrower. It has a lot of weight, and I can make it stick most every time. 

Wow, I just remembered I have a set of throwing knives. Haven't used them in months, and completely forgot I even owned any. Until a second ago, anyway. Ha ha, shows how often I throw knives. (and how many knives I have)

It is also a testimony to just how tough the handle scales are on this knife. Truly amazing that after slamming into trees and other wood so many times they have absolutely no damage. That polypropylene is incredible stuff.

I'm not sure what the best balance point on a throwing knife is, but this one is perfectly balanced over the guard. 

Things I don't like about this Knife:

To get right to it, there is a huge flaw in this knife's design. I'm sure you have noticed the large guard/quillon things protruding from either side of the handle. They really don't have much purpose, except to add the 'cool' look. Well, the one on the front of the knife is fine, useful even, and keeps your hand from sliding up onto the blade. The back one however, should have been left off. It is all in the way. Anyone who has ever used a knife for carving sticks or other simple bushcraft tasks knows that is important to be able to place your thumb on the back of the blade. It is for that reason many knives have jimping on the spine, to afford your thumb a better grip. You can't do that with this knife because of that stinking guard. It sticks into your thumb, and prevents you from moving your hand up closer to the blade for more controlled cuts.

See what I mean?

To put it simply, the way this knife is designed makes it very uncomfortable and even difficult to execute simple cutting tasks. Very unfortunate, and I don't see why Cold Steel doesn't just fix the problem by leaving the back guard off. The back guard is unnecessary anyway, as the front is enough to keep your hand in place and they are too short to make much pretence at protecting the hand in combat. Frustrating. Of course, all this can be remedied by five minutes and a grinder, although as of yet I haven't ground mine off. I will though. Just haven't ever brought myself to do it yet.

"But it can't be that bad, can it?" Some people might argue, "After all, this is supposed to be a fighting knife right? I mean, Ka-bar has had a back guard on their fighting knives since WWII."

"Yes," I would reply, "And Ka-bar should have taken it off in WWII."

Whatever. I'm sure its mainly personal preference. think it limits the usefulness of the knife. 

(Ka-bar actually recently released a new variant of their original design, called the the Dog's head, which they are marketing as a more utilitarian version of their classic fighting knife. Guess what, it has a much much smaller back guard. Win for Jake!!!)


One other thing; because of the false edge on the back of this knife, the tip of the blade is very thin and weak. The last 1/16th of an inch bends. That wasn't a huge deal for me, as I had read other reviews on the knife and was prepared for it. It's not that big of a deal to have a super fine tip on a large knife like this, but it is annoying. A false edge is near useless, but a strong tip is not. Another instance on this knife where Cold Steel sacrificed utility and strength for pure cosmetics.

Final Thoughts:

I received this knife for my birthday a couple of years ago, (I asked for it of course) and it it quickly became one of my favorite knives. It is the right size and weight, large enough to execute heavy chopping and batoning tasks, yet small and light enough that it is not tiring to swing and carry around all day. It sharpens easily, keeps its edge, and holds up to abuse. If it looks about as good today as it did when I got it two years ago, you know its tough. It is also a great throwing knife; and if it can stand being thrown at trees, you know there's not much out there that it won't hold up to. The handle feels great, and though it doesn't have much grip, I've never unintentionally thrown it, and the lack of grip makes for less blisters. It is a trade off, and it really depends on personal preference. I have a knife on my shelf right now that has such an aggressive grip that it's completely impossible for it to slip in your hand. However, it is so uncomfortable that most of the time I can't bring myself to use it. I would rather have no grip. 

This knife also comes with an awesome sheath, which is completely out of the ordinary for budget blades like this. I don't think I could name a single other knife in this price range that comes anywhere close in sheathery. (Yes, I just made up a word) As I mentioned before, the sheath on this knife is the same as the one Cold Steel puts on their 200+ dollar knives. Pure awesome.  

And when I tell you that this knife is available right now on for only 25$, it makes it a no brainer. 

You need to buy this knife.

Yes, it does have some flaws, but grinding down the back guard fixes most of them. There is no other knife on the market of this size that delivers this much value for the price. In fact, it's closest competitor is probably the Cold Steel bushman, which is 10$ more and doesn't come with a good sheath. (my brother has it) I have never regretted getting it, and I would definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a solid, affordable, and very tough beater knife. 

I give this knife 4 out of 5 awesome stars. If it wasn't for the too-thin tip, I'd give it 5 without a seconds hesitation. Its awesome.

For those who do end up purchasing this knife, I would heartily recommend you go on Google and make a search for the modifications people have done to this knife. There are some really great ideas on there to take this thing to a whole other level.


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wonderwoman said...

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Adam said...

Just my two cents: the back guard isn't useless, it's for using this knife to make a spear.