COLD STEEL XL FOLDERS
You’ve seen Cold Steel’s marketing approach. And if you’re like most, you probably take exception to the company’s unapologetic manufacturing and marketing of knives as weapon—but I’m not like most guys. Some bristle at seeing a pig carcass run through by an Italian broad sword. Not me. Some cringe at the site of Lynn Thompson hacking at a side of beef with a Bowie. Not this guy. Now you know who you’re dealing with. I’m a Cold Steel fan and proud of it.
“I ASK YOU TO … CONSIDER THE MANY REAL USES AN EXTREMELY STRONG, SHARP, LARGE, LIGHT FOLDING KNIFE HAS, BESIDES AS AN INSTRUMENT OF MAYHEM.”
Cold Steel got its hooks in me as an impressionable teen in the mid-1980s, when tales of its legendary Master Tanto made their way from Ventura, California, to the suburbs of Cleveland.
My best friend Mike told me of a belt knife that looked like a samurai sword, could cut anything, and was used by the CIA. “It can even punch through a car door,” he exclaimed, which is naturally a prerequisite for knives carried by CIA agents.
Fast forward 35 years later, and I’m awash in Cold Steel knives—fixed blades, machetes, swords, haft weapons, a swordcane, and even those plastic knives (that I have great difficulty defending). But by far the pride and joy of my sprawling Cold Steel collection is my sub-collection of XL Folders.
Cold Steel XL folders are characterized by their thinly ground blades of 5.5-7.5 inches, large versatile handles, and ethnographic designs. Most XL models sport the company’s ultra-strong Tri-Ad lock and have smaller companion models in the same line.
I have 15 XL Cold Steel folders. You may say, with a bit of sarcasm in your voice, “That’s money well spent.” But I ask you to suspend your judgement and disbelief for just a moment, put aside the imagery from the Cold Steel marketing videos, and consider the many real uses an extremely strong, sharp, large, light folding knife has, besides as an instrument of mayhem.
I submit that CSXLs are not only weapons, but great working tools and even excellent collectibles.
Why are Cold Steel XL Folders such Great Performers?
Before we get into those very real reasons for including CSXLs in your collection, let’s take a closer look at what makes them such stellar performers.
Blade Shape: These knives take their design cues from the world’s most infamous and proven bladed weapons and translate them into a contemporary format, using modern materials and manufacturing. So, if the blade shape worked for warriors of old, it’ll do just fine for you.
Each blade is ground to a stunningly sharp edge and most are thinly ground for the entire breadth of the blade. Adding full serrations to these large blades (an option on most) amplifies the cutting power and adds to the longevity of the edge, which is important if re-sharpening is not an option.
Handle: The handle designs of these massive folders are carefully considered to maximize grip options and optimize the physics of the users swing. Choils, grooves, and textures shape these Grivory or G10 handles, offering a strong and comfortable grip whether chokedup close to the blade, in a natural mid-handle grip, or hanging onto the end for maximum leverage.
Reach: The best illustration of reach can be seen in the gargantuan Espada XL (16.75 inches overall!). Two-thirds of the way down the grip is a protruding sub-hilt.
Gripping the final third of the handle with your trigger finger around the sub-hilt gives you an extremely sure grip for swinging, turning the Espada XL into a small machete, while giving the user an effective reach of 11 inches or so. Not too shabby for a “pocketknife.”
“FIGHTING AGGRESSIVE, VINEY VEGETATION AROUND HERE IS LIKE DOING BATTLE WITH THE GREAT HYDRA.”
Lock: So that you don’t accidentally guillotine your fingers, Cold Steel proudly and loudly adds its proprietary super-backlock, the Tri-Ad lock, to most of its XL folders.
By adding a stop pin between the blade tang and the back spring, the Tri-Ad lock can withstand incredible opposing force and self-adjusts over time, ideal for a large hard-use folder.
Relative Portability: Yes, these are very large for folding knives and are a challenge to carry daily, but if you reframe the portability question to of one of capability for the stored (folded) size, these knives nearly compare to fixed blades.
Of course, there are many abuses you wouldn’t want to put even the strongest folder through, but barring those, the light weight, blade length, and lock strength of the Cold Steel XLs offer amazing bang for the folded size.
As a Weapon…
When I first saw the Vaquero Grande 6 inch in the late 1990s, I couldn’t believe my eyes. That serrated blade deeply recurved like something from the Philippines, and that long horn-shaped handle so reminiscent of Spanish knives… it looked like a Talibong and a Navaja had a passionate night together and out came Vaquero Grande.
To me, it was beautiful, and all weapon. God forbid, I actually had to draw a knife in self-defense, it should be the biggest, gnarliest knife I can manage.
As a Tool…
Twelve years later, with a backyard and an excuse to use the larger knives I’d collected over the years, fighting aggressive, viney vegetation around here is like doing battle with the great Hydra. Cut one, and seven pop up in its place.
This backyard battle taught me that the same attributes that make the Vaquero Grande a devastating weapon also make it an outstanding tool for keeping the English ivy and Virginia creeper at bay.
“THE CUTTING POWER, VERSATILITY, PACKABILITY, LIGHT WEIGHT, AND LOCK STRENGTH OF THE XL FOLDERS CANNOT BE ARGUED AND SHOULD PIQUE THE INTEREST OF EVEN THE MOST SEASONED COLD STEEL SCEPTIC.”
Now seeing the value of the CSXLs on two dimensions, as weapons and essential agricultural tools, I began to consider a third justification for acquiring ever more XL folders… collectability.
As a Collectable…
I have many historical ethnographic weapons in my collection and recognize the ingenuity and utility of many exotic blade shapes. If you believe, as I do, that the average knife enthusiast can benefit greatly from exposure to blades from other cultures, then consider this: Cold Steel XL folders are all derived from knives found throughout history.
In addition to American Bowies and Tantos, you can have a modern, folding Nepalese Kukri, Italian Stiletto, Spanish Navaja, and even the Indonesian Kris in Voyager dress.
Plus, if you’re compelled by the blade shapes and utility of the Cold Steel XL folders but cannot bring yourself to buy a 6-inch pocketknife, Lynn Thompson has you covered with a 4-inch or smaller companion knife for most every model.
Anyone who collects anything is halfway to understanding my affinity for Cold Steel’s XL folding knives as well as my justifications for owning so many of them, but for knife collectors it should be a no-brainer.
The cutting power, versatility, packability, light weight, and lock strength of the XL folders cannot be argued and should pique the interest of even the most seasoned Cold Steel sceptic.
With some models starting as low as $50, it seems a moral imperative for the modern knife enthusiast to give Cold Steel XL folders a second look.
Cold Steel Knives
6060 Nicolle St.,
3801 East Roeser Rd.,
Suite 8, Phoenix, AZ