I’ve always been a value (read: cheap) knife buyer. Not crappy knives, just good knives that don’t cost all that much. I don’t think I’ve ever spent more than about $35 or $40 for any blade in my collection. My Kershaw Blur was a Christmas gift. Fortunately for me, there are plenty of very good performers in that category, as long as you don’t mind buying imports. But at the recent NRA Annual Meeting, RF, Nick and I were at the Cold Steel booth as one of their reps gave us a look at some of their newest offerings. That’s when I picked up their new Code 4 knives and fell in love . . .
What grabbed me was the combination of its silky smooth feel on opening and the thin, aluminum-gripped profile. While the Code 4 is about as large a knife as I’d every want to carry as an EDC blade, I broke Commandment X in a big way and coveted the hell out of it. So when RF bought one for both Nick and me, I was pretty jazzed.
The Code 4 is no shrinking violet. Again, this is a large knife. While the blade length is about the same as my Kershaw Blur and Spyderco Tenacious, the Code 4’s hollow ground, lockback 3.5″ spear point is housed in a significantly larger 5″ handle. Combine that with the fact that it’s a beefy 1.75″ across the beam when closed, and you have yourself a good sized chunk of metal riding in your pocket.
How big is that? Big enough so that it juuuust barely squeezes into one of the side knife pockets in a pair of Tru-Spec 24-7 pants.
For me, it carries better in the back pocket of a pair of 5.11s.
On the plus side, though, the Code 4 is surprisingly light for its size. The big blade only weighs 4.3 oz. and feels like less. That’s probably due to its very thin profile. And it carries low enough to hide its impressive size. But you can pretty much forget about toting it in a front jeans pocket. Although, if you do, you just may be the most popular guy at the bar.
The Code 4 has some rudimentary jimping in the form of four shallow slots molded into the aluminum frame. It also has a nice choil, so you’ll be able to get a solid, comfortable hold on things.
Hope you’re a ‘tip up’ carrier (I am), cause that’s your only option. The frame’s drilled for either righties or lefties. The thumb stud comes weighted for righties, too. But not to worry, southpaws. It’s reversible.
One more note on carrying this baby. The Code 4 has only one real flaw – the clip. First, it looks too small for the length of the knife and it probably is a little too short. Over time, its lack of length may lead to marginally more torquing and eventual failure. But that’s just a guess. Then again, maybe that’s why Cold Steel includes an extra in the box. It’s made of stainless steel and seems to hold the knife in place just fine, but it just doesn’t look right, as short as it is.
The bigger problem, though, is the clip’s basic design. The front scoop – that upsweep that’s meant to slide over the edge of your pocket – just isn’t high enough.
So unless you’ll be slipping the clip over some thin material, you’ll have to pull the front edge up with your fingernail to get it started. I know, it sounds minor. And stupid. But it gets annoying. And it’s so unnecessary. Check this out:
The Code 4 is on top. The middle one is the Kershaw Blur and the Spyderco Tenacious is on the bottom. You can see how much lower the front edge of the Code 4’s clip is, which makes it difficult for it to easily ride up and over the edge of all but the thinnest materials.
Because I don’t want to have to lift it each time I slide the knife into my pocket, I’m going to take the damned thing off and bend it myself to a more upward slope. Ridiculously anal and picky? Probably. But it’s a pain in the ass the way it is. And I haven’t had to do that with any other knife I own. It’s a silly unforced error on Cold Steel’s part.
But let’s really get down to business — that blade. Here’s where the Code 4 shines. Out of the box, the knife was plenty sharp. After just a few passes on a ceramic sharpening steel, it left my forearm smooth as a baby’s butt.
Cold Steel selected Japanese AUS-8A steel for the Taiwan-made knife. And though AUS-8 can be relatively soft, the Code 4 passed the cardboard shredding test with flying colors. Yes, it needed a couple of passes to bring the edge back to where it was before, but it made quick work of a stack of the brown stuff without failing or tearing.
And solid? The Code 4, with Cold Steel’s Tri-Ad Lock, is built tougher than Kate Upton’s glass. There’s zero give in the blade, either back and forth or up and down. That rock-solid Tri-Ad lockback holds things in place beautifully. In fact, it was so solid at first that I initially had some trouble releasing the blade. But after a little use and some break-in, it’s now exactly where it should be.
All in all, the Code 4 gives you a helluva lot of knife for its $99 MSRP. Expect a street price when they hit retailers to be somewhere around $75. Again, it’s s a lot of knife to schlep. But when what you carry is as well executed as the Code 4, you’ll happily make room.
Blade length: 3.5″
Overall length: 8.5”
Width closed: 1.75”
Weight: 4.3 oz
Steel: Japanese AUS-8A
Ratings (out of five stars):
Design: * * * *
Dead seksi. Its large size fits even my small mitts beautifully, feeling very natural in the hand. The thumbstud is right where it ought to be with plenty of clearance so you can get at it easily. And that blade opens sooooo elegantly. The only negative: that damned clip.
Ergonomics (use): * * * * *
Dead solid perfect. I literally can’t think of anything I’d change when it comes to using it as intended.
Ergonomics (carry): * * * *
It’s a big knife. But you know that when you buy it. If carrying a folder this big is a problem, you probably should have bought something else in the first place. Again, though, the clip. Too small and too low.
Overall: * * * * 1/2
A mostly great knife with one relatively minor flaw. If it were perfect, though, you probably couldn’t afford it.