When I opened the USPS Box containing my new Cold Steel Mackinac Hunter, I can’t say I was surprised at the weight of my new knife. Cold Steel has built their reputation on making some seriously burly knives and other blades. The Mackinac is no exception. Weighing in at 6.6 oz, the knife has the feel and heft of a fixed-blade rather than a folder.
If I haven’t made myself clear, this is one solidly built knife. The blade is held in place by one of the most robust Torx headed pivot pins I have ever seen. While this will allow the blade to be tightened if it ever becomes necessary, the knife has not developed any wobble throughout the course of testing and use.
The scales are faux stag, made from Delrin, a thermoplastic polymer which is also used in M-16 stocks. Some reviews I have read complain that the grip may become slippery when wet, but I have never had a problem with grip. The scales are removable/replaceable for those so inclined.
The knife is available in either a thumb-stud (the one I tested) or nail-nick style. One other minor detail is that the knife is made in Taiwan and not China. It doesn’t mean much, but seeing “China” emblazoned on a blade always leaves me with an empty feeling, whereas my feelings are more neutral towards Taiwan.
The Cold Steel “Tri-Ad” locking mechanism is extremely solid. If anything, it is such a positive lock that it errors on the side of tough to release and close. Not dangerously so, it just takes a deliberate effort.
There is a pocket clip (and a backup – thanks Cold Steel) that like everything else on this knife, is quite robust and clamps ones pocket extremely well. Strong enough in fact that if you have a thick seam on the top of your pocket, the clip may prove difficult to over come.
There is an available leather sheath that I tested. IMHO this knife does better on a belt as a sheathed folder than it does with pocket carry. Its weight is less noticeable on a belt, and does not get in the way when you sit down.
The blade is made from hollow ground AUS 8 Japanese stainless. It is 3 1/2″ long and 3.5mm thick. There is a substantial belly to the blade, which is well proportioned and aesthetically pleasing to look at.
Like all Cold Steel blades I have seen, the Mackinac comes arm-hair shaving sharp from the factory. It holds this edge very well, and was easy to touch up to an even sharper edge with the ceramic rods from a Spyderco Sharpmaker after hard use.
I have touched on it above, but this knife feels great in the hand, almost as good as a fixed blade knife. The knife balances nicely between the handle and the blade, and handles both camp chores and delicate kitchen tasks with ease.
The knife is stiff to open and close. It can be opened with an inertia flip, but as often as not it requires two flips to fully open the blade and engage the lock. Disengaging the lock and folding the knife is also difficult to do one handed. I could unlock and close it against my leg, but it would take practice for your average knife noob.
It also is a bit large in my opinion for EDC. Part of that is my bias towards smaller knives (my EDC is a Spyderco Native and I have not spent a considerable amount of time carrying a large folder). I did like carrying the knife on my belt in the leather sheath. Much more comfortable.
In a previous series of culinary tests, the Cold Steel Mackinac Hunter handily defeated the Mora Bushcraft at making pickles, salsa, and slicing watermelon. The blade’s sharpness and heft makes it an excellent tool for camp culinary use.
Rope, Cardboard, Etc:
I put the knife through the standard battery of TTAK tests as well. Cutting newsprint is an almost Zen-like experience. And the knife handled rough cuts masterfully as well. I was able to cut multiple strands of polyethylene rope with almost negligible effort. The 1/2″ static rappelling rope required cutting against a bench and applying a saw motion, but as you can see from the picture, the knife left an extremely clean edge.
The corrugated cardboard test demonstrated the Cold Steel’s edge retention ability. The balance and leverage of the full sized grip and large blade, coupled with a razor-sharp edge, made the Mackinac a joy to work with. It sliced strip after strip of cardboard. Fatigue did not set in until after the 50′ mark, and it was over 80 feet before I began to roll some of the cuts. I quit at 86′, though I imagine I would be well over 125′ before the blade becomes functionally unusable.
While most knife manufacturers frown on the practice, the Mackinac is auditioning for the role of “Go-to Camp Knife”, and thus needs to be able to handle this common form of abuse.
The Mackinac handled both the pine and oak firewood hunks I tested with ease. The 3.5″ blade wedged its way through easily with each strike. (And I could still cut newsprint afterwards).
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly:
- Burly as Hell
- Really nice looking
- Takes and holds a tremendously good edge
- The “Tri-Ad” lock mechanism is as solid as I have ever seen on a locking folder. I have absolute confidence that it will never accidentally close on my fingers.
- A little too heavy for comfortable EDC.
- The stiffness of the spring has a bit too much closure bias, making it difficult to open with one-handed inertia techniques. It can be done, but often takes me more than one attempt.
I won’t beat around the bush: I ran into a corrosion issue that simply shouldn’t occur with AUS 8 stainless.
After conducting my culinary shootout, I rinsed the knife and wiped it until I thought it was dry, and then put it away in its full-grain leather sheath. I left it out in my shop for a couple of days, before I grabbed it to conduct the cutting tests in 100 degree heat and pretty wicked humidity. When I opened it, the blade was spotted with rust.
I wasn’t trying to abuse the knife, I just inadvertently “put it up wet”. My Combat Ready L-1 is also AUS 8 and has never had an issue with corrosion, despite its being carried next to my skin on a daily basis, dunked in the river, sweated on, rained on, and put up with the paracord wrap frequently still wet and still in its Kydex sheath. So I didn’t give it a second thought when I obviously should have.
The good news is that cutting 86 feet of cardboard polished the knife back to its original shine, and I have not run into the problem again. I am guessing that there was still water that was trapped in handle after I washed it.
When I put it away folded under extremely hot and humid conditions, with no air circulation, it proved to be too much for the blade to handle. So when I use the knife now, I leave it open on the bench for a day before folding and putting it away. I am beginning to think of the incident as a one-off.
The Mackinac was my first foray into the world of larger folders. Most knives I have used that were 3.5″ in blade length or larger were fixed blades. But the Mackinac bridges this divide nicely. It is designed as a folder that is meant to go head to head with woodcraft fixed blades, and acquits itself nicely in the process.
In the end I am left with needing to find a role for this knife in my personal rotation. It is looking like this knife is going to be my go-to “truck knife”. It is under the 4″ legal limit for an everyday knife, which is nice. I can carry my 4.5″ Mora as part of my fishing gear, but I need to be somewhere in the general vicinity of ‘headed to the river’ to fit in that loophole. The Cold Steel Mackinac Hunter is a knife that I can do pretty much anything with, and it will be a valuable addition to my vehicle’s EDC kit.
Price: $79.99 MSRP (as low as $40, street)
Ratings (out of five stars):
Styling: * * * * *
The Mackinac Hunter conjured up images of flannel shirts, the smell of campfire bacon, and time spent camping with my Great-Uncle. He would have loved the look of this knife. I certainly do.
Blade: * * * *
I love the strength and sharpness of the blade. I am a bit perturbed about the rust issue I ran into. As I said, I positively abuse my AUS-8 neck knife and have never had a problem.
Ergonomics: * * * *
The hand feel of this knife is extraordinary. It was a pleasure to use through a whole range of tasks. My only criticism of the knife is that the opening mechanism and lock are too stiff for easy one-handed use. This can be explained as a design choice by Cold Steel: this knife is over-engineered on purpose.
Ruggedness/Durability * * * * *
If you are looking for a folder that is as burly as many fixed blade knives, you will not be disappointed with the Mackinac Hunter. It withstood batoning both pine and oak, and remained sharp enough to slice newsprint.
Overall Rating: * * * * 1/2
The Cold Steel Mackinac Hunter is a great woodcraft folder that is equally adept at rugged camp chores and delicate culinary tasks.