Knife Review: Cold Steel Hold Out

The different sizes of Hold Outs

The different sizes of Hold Outs

The Hold Out is one of Cold Steel’s new offerings, which our beloved Lynn Thompson says is quickly becoming one of his favorites. The Hold Out is based off of the classic Scottish Dirk design. It features AUS-8 steel, G-10 handles, a reversible thumbstud, tip up reversible pocket clip, and the Tri-Ad lock, which is supposed to be the strongest lock on the market.

Before I go into the review, I will tell you that this knife surprised me on how well is preformed, but it still has one major flaw that keeps it out of normal rotation. I’ll get to that.

History

One example of a Dirk

One example of a Scottish Dirk

 

As I said before, the Hold Out is based off of the old Scottish Dirk design. Dirks are a type of dagger and are meant for primarily stabbing. Other than that, designs can vary widely. Some have more pronounced hand guards than others. Blade shapes also vary, but the Scottish Dirks generally have a spear point style of blade, like the Hold Out.

Fit and Finish

Dirty blade

Dirty blade

The fit and finish are really good on this $55 Taiwan-produced knife. The only flaw that I can find is that it is slightly off-center, but it isn’t rubbing the liners. I’m perfectly fine with a cheap knife being a little off-center. If this was over $125, then I’d want it perfect. One thing I think they could have done is round off the edges on the spine of the blade. I like to put my index finger on the spine for more control, but this makes in uncomfortable. More on that when I get to ergonomics.

Features

Just slightly off-center

Just slightly off-center

The Tri-Ad lock is the most prominent feature of this knife. It has been touted to be one of the strongest locks on the market, and to get it at this price point is amazing. Both the Axis Lock from Benchmade and Spyderco’s Ball Bearing Lock and Compression Lock (the competition) are only available on knives that are at least $80 as a starting point.

The Tri-Ad is named that because there are three points of contact, rather than the usual two for lock backs. In this picture you can not only see the cutout on the blade and the latch that goes into the cutout, but also a stop pin. However there is a downside to this. At first, it is extremely difficult to disengage. In fact, it still hurts my thumb when I unlock it. Also there is a fair amount of tension on the spring, making it more difficult to deploy than, say, my Endura.

Top: the lock bar. Middle: stop pin. Bottom: blade with notch for lock bar

Top: the lock bar. Middle: stop pin. Bottom: blade with notch for lock bar

Another feature worth mentioning is the handle. It’s just black G-10, which is pretty standard nowadays, but I can tell that it was well thought-out. For one, it is extremely grippy. This is good, except that it is also extremely grippy under the pocket clip, which leads to ripped pockets.

Chris warned me about this before I got it. I put it in my pocket once, then took it out, sanded down the handle where the clip rides, then bent the clip ever so slightly. Now it is tolerable, but still not as I desired.

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The holes in the handle are not only visually appealing, but quite functional. When I am choking up on the blade (middle finger in the choil) my fingertips fall right into the holes, offering more grip. The jimping is hit and miss on this knife. The jimping on the spine does not offer much grip, but the jimping on the G-10 in front of the choil is quite functional.

Back Jimping

Back Jimping

Bottom jimping

Bottom jimping

That last intriguing feature is the pocket clip. They cut out a pocket in the G-10 for the clip to ride in, rather than just being screwed to the outside. It’s the little things that count.

Ergonomics

I already covered a lot about ergonomics earlier in the post. The handle is slightly tapered to fit the hand a little bit better than if it was just a rectangular block. The G-10 spine is nicely rounded off, but the blade spine is not. As I said before, this irks me because I use my index finger on the spine to guide my cuts a little better. I think they can do it without adding cost to it. I mean, the Kershaw Skyline has a rounded off spine and you can find those for $35. I honestly feel like I can nearly cut myself with the corners on the spine.

Standard grip with index finger in choil

Standard grip with index finger in choil

Choked up grip

Choked up grip

 

Reverse grip

Reverse grip

Carry

This is near the bottom of my least favorite knives to carry just because it is difficult to draw and put back in my pocket, even with my mods. I think I carried it a grand total of 5 times. While in the pocket, however, it was quite comfortable.

In the pocket

In the pocket

Blade Preformance and Cutting Tests

When it comes to sharpening their knives, Cold Steel gets a lot right. It cut through vegetables of all sorts, shaved my arm hair (a standard for me), cut printer paper, and even receipt paper (I don’t have a phonebook). Not only was it sharp, but I like how much bevel they put on it. Some knives, like my Benchmade Torrent, don’t have too much bevel and it is difficult to find the right angle while sharpening.

At the beginning

At the beginning

The blade performance surprised me. Being AUS-8 steel, I expected an average amount of cardboard to be cut. I did not expect me to be in danger of running out of cardboard. I started cutting cardboard, and kept cutting, and cutting, and cutting. I lost count at how many boxes I cut up. It was about seven or eight. I only stopped because it would no longer shave my arm hair. It was still cutting boxes nearly as good as when I began. A lot of people give Cold Steel a bad rep for using AUS-8, but this far surpasses any other AUS-8 I have used (SOG, Ontario). I am impressed.

My cardboard was not uniform. I had to use what I could get

My cardboard was not uniform. I had to use what I could get

My final test for knives is how they sharpen. I use an Edge Pro Apex that I got used from someone on Bladeforums, and it works quite well. More on that some other time. When I sharpen knives, I mark the bevel with sharpie so I can see where the stone is hitting. (Honestly, before I started doing this I couldn’t get my knives sharp). Because there was plenty bevel, I was able to find the right angle after two tries. I used my 320, 600, and 1000 grit stones, and by the end it was able to shave my arm hair and cut through paper again.

These guys have good coffee and great packaging

These guys have good coffee and great packaging

Overall, the blade performance was much better than I anticipated. I’d give it a straight A. Unfortunately I don’t have any decent rope to test that aspect, but I’d suspect that it’d do about average.

Quite a bit of cardboard

Quite a bit of cardboard, and I could have done more

Durability

I have no reason to believe that this knife will fail under normal or even slightly-above-normal usage. The Tri-Ad lock is nearly bombproof. G-10, even without liners, has been shown to be extremely tough. Not too long ago, Cold Steel took the liners out of their knives because they could not prove that they helped at all. For a company that touts their knives to be the toughest out there, this says a lot. Or they did it as a cost-saving measure and flubbed the truth a little, but I doubt it.

Conclusion

Despite the ergonomic hit and the horrible carry conditions, this knife preforms admirably and hits above its weight class. If you can get past the few flaws, then I would definitely recommend this knife.

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Specifications

Blade Length: 3 inches
Blade thickness: 3mm
Blade Style: Spear Point
Overall Length: 6  7/8″
Weight: 2.5oz
Blade Steel: AUS-8A
Handle Material: G-10
Lock type: Tri-Ad back lock
Carry method: Tip-up ambidextrous
Price: MSRP – $89.99. Street – $50-$60

Ratings (out of 5)

Style: 4.5/5. I feel like William Wallace.

Blade: 4.5/5. The steel outperformed my expectations. The blade shape is great for slicing and stabbing. The only hit is on the sharp spine.

Ergonomics: 1/5. While it is fairly comfortable to hold and use in a normal grip, I can’t get over the damn pocket clip situation.

Durability: 5/5. The Tri-Ad lock is one of the best in the market and G-10 is stronger than ‘just plastic.’

Overall: 3.5/5. It is a good knife as long as you can move past the two flaws that I pointed out.

comments

  1. Robert says:

    Sgian dubh, not dirk. The dirk was a long knife carried on the belt. The sgian dubh was carried in the Highlander’s sock or boot.

    1. Nathan says:

      Thanks for the correction

  2. Mark Davis says:

    Thanks for the review. I’ve looked closely at the Holdout, but eventually dropped it from consideration due to the Tri-Ad lock. I have an CS American Lawman, and although the Tri-Ad is strong, deployment is TOUGH. And one handed inertia opening is out of the question.

  3. Charlie Johnson says:

    My only Triad Lock knife so far is a Recon 1, and I have to say, after a little practice, I can inertia open it several ways. That said, I don’t know if I want a Hold-Out. A Tuff-Lite, yes, a Talwar, yes, a Mini Recon 1, yes, and an XL Talwar, yes, but a Hold-Out? I’m not sure. If they made one with a 5.5″ blade, definitely.

    1. Nathan says:

      They have a 4 and 6 inch blade. I just tested the 3 inch blade

    2. Roger says:

      Get a tuff-lite. They’re cheap enough you can save up for another one.

  4. MOG says:

    Nit picking I know. Muscle memory is a funny thing, I saw the “standard” hold photo on the blade. I had to flip my blade out to check, no studs for assist, my thumb falls along side the blade, fingers in the grip grooves. A right handed back slash uses the tip, or rotate wrist to engage with blade, the blade is horizontal to the ground, stabbing action is followed immediately with twist and slash. I have carried a tacky old Imperial for years, 2 1/2 inch blade, about 4 inches folded. A knife should felt, not seen.

  5. Clay Spencer says:

    The street price ($50 – $60) seems okay for a Taiwanese-made knife, but that’s really my main objection to Cold Steel knives–the country of origin. As far I can ascertain, Cold Steel does not produce any knives in the U.S., and instead has them built in China, Taiwan, and many other substandard manufacturing venues. Of course, this doesn’t prevent them from charging very high prices for many of their higher end knives, but what the customer is buying is just another cheap-ass product from the Orient. Since there are still plenty of good American-made knives to select from–which can be bought for Cold Steel’s prices–I’ll stick with them.

    1. Roger says:

      Just about every company uses overseas production for some of it’s products and almost all of their base materials. It’s all about materials and QC.

  6. ChrisCP says:

    Sgian Dubhs and dirks have been featured nicely in the Starz series Outlander. The difference between the two is quite clear once you’ve seen them. Claire told Jamie his dirk was too big and heavy for her to carry (yes, one of the men made a dirty joke out of it) and it was decided she needed a sgian dubh instead.

    1. I have actually been thinking of doing a “Know Your Knives” post on the Sgain Dubh

      1. ChrisCP says:

        Sounds like a good idea. There seems to be a bit of confusion surrounding this particular blade, even among knife fans.

        1. I understand how this has similar lines to a sgain dubh, but a folding sgain dubh is a strange concept seeing as to how kilts don’t have pockets.

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Knife Review: Cold Steel Hold Out

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