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Old 04-23-2010, 06:03 PM   #1
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Default CS American Lawman review

{My house is a sodding mess with six contractors tearing down walls, I can't find my camera. Pics will be added ASAP!}





It’s been a while since I bored you guys with one of my little knife reviews, I’ve kept adding blades to my collection and found a couple that I thought could interest some FTF members.

I’ll start with Cold Steel’s American Lawman. I’m not a huge fan of the brand, their advertising is usually over the top, they don’t use my favourite steels and there are a couple of other reasons as well. However, I pride myself in keeping an open mind when it comes to knives, and try to judge each model on its own merits. I do believe that Cold Steel offers some very tough knives and that their middle range products is a great value.

The reason I bought this knife was that I wanted to give the Tri-Ad lock a try. Cold Steel claims that it’s the strongest lock in the market, but they’ve said that about every single lock design they’ve ever made. In this case I knew that there was some truth to those claims since a group of knife collectors I hang out with has been testing a Cold Steel Rajah II for over two years, doing all sorts of awful things to that poor folder from chopping cinder blocks to batoning through the hardest wood available in our country. We’ve tortured that Rajah and it still keeps going strong, sure the edge rolled and chipped a few times but the lock held admirably. Here’s a video of my friend Marcelo Di Marco batoning through knotty and seasoned “quebracho” wood (the hardest timber in Argentina):


He isn’t an outdoorsman and is using improper technique that puts even more stress on the pivot and lock. The whiny voice in the background telling them to stop doing stupid stuff with a folding knife is me.

Anyway, month after month Demko’s Tri-Ad lock showed its strength so I decided to purchase a CS knife that used it. The Rajah, Espada and Spartan didn’t seem too practical for my needs, they were just too large (I much rather carry a fixed blade knife), and I had almost resigned myself to waiting for the new Voyagers and Recons when I discovered the American Lawman, thanks to a customer who ordered one.

While it’s by no means a light weight knife (4.5oz according to CS), it’s got a lot of features that I like a lot in a daily use knife.

First of all, blade length and shape are great. A 3 ½” drop point blade can handle anything I might need a knife for, especially a folding knife (even most of my fixed blades are in the 3 ½ or 4” blade length range). The blade’s thick enough to be stout, but not so much that it’s useless for cutting. The grind is quite high, something I like as well. I also like the generous choil which allows to choke up on the blade for fine work and also offers an extra security feature: if the lock were to fail and the knife closed on the user’s hand, the part that would contact the fingers would be the unsharpened choil. The reversible thumb stud is comfortable to use and well out of the way when the blade is open (I hate thumb studs that are located too far forwards). The one thing I don’t like about the blade is the black coating, useless to me. It just adds drag when slicing. Luckily, it’ll take me all of three minutes to strip it.

The handle is very comfortable for my large hands. Because of the Tri-Ad lock’s extra stop pin, the blade’s tang is longer than on other folders, so the handle to blade length ratio might seem a little off. Using a different lock, a longer blade could be housed in a handle of the same length. It doesn’t bother me one bit. I like the full size handle a lot; I’ve got some great pocket knives that I don’t use too often because the handles are too small (like my Spyderco Caly 3). Full steel liners and G-10 scales guarantee toughness. The texture on the G-10 is very grippy and it affords excellent purchase on the knife. The downside to this highly texture handle slabs being that they will damage your pant pockets after a while. I can live with that.

Cold Steel markets this knife as a tool designed for law enforcement officers, I’m not one so I wouldn’t know what they need in a knife and can’t comment on whether the American Lawman could work for them. I see it as a utility knife, a fairly heavy duty one at that. It fulfils that role admirably. Like any knife design, it’s a study in compromise; you just can’t have it all in one blade. It’s tough, but it could be considered hefty by some people. The lock is strong, but because of the really strong backspring opening is not as smooth as other knives. The clip has very good retention and the G-10 texture is aggressive, so it’ll cause some wear on pockets and won’t be as easy to draw quickly as knives with smoother handles or weaker clips. I’m happy with those tradeoffs.

Although it is primarily a tool, the American Lawman could be pressed into service as an emergency SD knife. It has some good and bad points. The good ones are its size (it’s got decent reach and when closed it can be used as an impact weapon), lock strength and grip design (aggressively textured G-10 handle scales and a half guard help with retention and safety when stabbing). The bad ones are that it isn’t very fast to draw from the pocket (this can be easily fixed, either sanding the G-10 under the clip or bending the clip a bit) and opening the blade is not as quick and smooth as with other folding knives (this might be just me nitpicking).

I’d recommend this knife to anybody looking for a tough working folder that can take some punishment but is still designed to cut properly (it’s not one of those useless sharpened pry bars). I’ve been using it a lot around the farm as well as at a couple of construction sites (my home and my office are being remodelled) and I’m really happy with it.

Edge retention is OK, while AUS8A is certainly not the best stainless steel in the world it performs well enough and is very easy to sharpen. If you polish the edge properly and strop it every now and then, you don’t need to break out the stones for quite a while. I’m used to better steels and at first I felt like I was downgrading when I got the Lawman, but in real world usage it’s good enough. Better steel would make this knife a lot more expensive. Right now you can get it for $65.-, a great deal for what you get.
CS has uploaded their Lawman and Mini-Lawman tests to YouTube, just search for csknives.
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Last edited by Franciscomv; 04-23-2010 at 06:27 PM.
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Old 04-28-2010, 04:15 AM   #2
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*BUMP*

Because this is one hell of a review by an industry professional.

Thank you for taking the time to put this together Francisco. That is a lot of work that is for the good of the forum and somehow no one noticed.

For $65, it's not a perfect knife, but then again, very few are.

I look forward to your review of your new Spyderco Knives, My Friend.

JD

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Old 04-28-2010, 04:26 AM   #3
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great review. If I had the money to throw around on a knife like that i would, however i seem to lose knives working on heavy equipment.

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Old 04-28-2010, 05:29 AM   #4
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Gah, sorry I missed this. I've got four coding projects and a research paper due this week, and three finals next, so very little time to spare.

I snagged a sweet internship this summer, so I've resolved to pick up a nice EDC knife this summer, along with a carry gun, and the mini Lawman is on my short list, so this is quite useful, thanks much.

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Old 04-28-2010, 06:58 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dillinger View Post
For $65, it's not a perfect knife, but then again, very few are.

I look forward to your review of your new Spyderco Knives, My Friend.

JD
Thanks for the kind words, JD. Sure, it's not perfect, but for my needs the pros outweigh the cons.

I'm working on a review of those new Spydies. I haven't had a chance to sit at my computer all day, but I'll have it ready as soon as possible.

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Originally Posted by doctherock View Post
great review. If I had the money to throw around on a knife like that i would, however i seem to lose knives working on heavy equipment.
Maybe you need something with a bright handle, highly visible. If you like traditional pocket knives, Case offers several models with yellow handles (I find the CV blade/yellow synthetic handle to be a great combo for a working knife) if you want something more modern (one hand opening, pocket clip) maybe Spyderco's H1 line might work for you. Some models come with yellow FRN handles that are easy to spot (and have a hole for a lineyard!).

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Originally Posted by Mr. Bluesky View Post
I snagged a sweet internship this summer, so I've resolved to pick up a nice EDC knife this summer, along with a carry gun, and the mini Lawman is on my short list, so this is quite useful, thanks much.
Even if you're going to order it on-line, try to stop by a shop and handle it. The Mini-Lawman is quite small, and the finger grooves are not comfortable for everybody. It is every bit as stout as the full size one, though. And the swedge on the blade looks great, IMHO.
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Old 04-28-2010, 08:20 PM   #6
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Great review Francisco and thanks.

JD, thanks for the bump. I missed this as I was on retreat.

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