Cold Steel SRK Survival Knife-Beyond the Call of Duty

cold-steel-srk-cover-dIf you’re looking for a knife that can perform in just about any situation, whether surviving in the wilderness or in the backyard, the Cold Steel SRK survival knife might be the all-around knife for you.

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Cold Steel SRK Review…

I’ve been testing this knife for a few weeks and have found it to be quite a stout and capable tool…

We’ll look this knife from just about every angle and talk about who this knife is for and who should look for a different blade.

And before we’re all done, we’ll compare the Cold Steel SRK to a few other popular survival and tactical knives from Gerber, SOG and Schrade.

Okay, let’s get started…

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SRK stands for Survival Rescue Knife.  The photos of the knife online looked relatively unimpressive… but with a name like Survival Rescue Knife and a pretty high percentage of favorable owner comments online, my curiosity was piqued.

So when my SRK landed… I carefully took it out of the box and was immediately impressed by the elegant simplicity of its design, its solid, yet extremely comfortable feel in my hand and the sharpness of the blade.

As I often do when I touch a new knife, I somewhat recklessly wave it around to get a feel for the balance and comfort of the knife… well, this time I accidentally pierced through some packaging materials that were on my desk… and before I knew it, the SRK tip had traveled through them like a hot knife going though butter…

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As you might conclude, I’ve been a lot more careful with this knife since then… and you should be careful, too… this is one sharp knife out of the box!!!

As my Dear Momma used to say… “Do as I say, not as I do…”

Next, I CAREFULLY slid this knife into its Kydex-like sheath and the quality of this package was readily evident…

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Let’s dive in and talk about the overall construction.

Understated Construction

The total length of the Cold Steel SRK is a hair over 10 3/4 inches or 27.3 centimeters. I measured the blade length of my SRK, from handle to tip, at 6 1/16 inches or about 15.4 centimeters. So the handle is just shy of 4 3/4 inches.

And the knife weighs 8.2 ounces or 232 grams and with the sheath package weighs in at 11.65 ounces or around 330 grams.

It’s interesting that this blade is similar in size to the SOG Force which weighs in at around 10.3 ounces yet the SRK… is actually as light at the Bear Grylls Ultimate Survival Knife which weighs exactly the same as the SRK at 8.2 ounces.

One early observation that I have with this knife is how small and maneuverable it feels… It doesn’t feel like the serious 6-inch-bladed knife that it is… and that’s good… as long as quality is not sacrificed for keeping weight.

Here is a collection of great knives from SOG, Gerber, Schrade compared to the Cold Steel SRK (which is the 6th knife from the left)… so we have the SOG Seal Pup, the Bear Grylls Survival Knife, the Gerber Prodigy, the Gerber LMF II ASEK, the SOG Force, the Cold Steel SRK, the Schrade Extreme Survival Knife (SCHF3) and the SOG Seal Team Elite.

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Notice the design, blade, handle size and blade width differences between these knives…
(For more, you can check out my reviews of all of these knives at Ultimate Survival Tips on YouTube.)

Now let’s talk more about the blade.

The blade of the Cold Steel SRK is full tang construction which means the handle and blade steel are one solid piece of metal from tip to butt and is the strongest blade handle construction technique. Although you can’t see the knife steel in the handle of the SRK, I have verified that the knife is full tang with Cold Steel.

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The SRK is made of Japanese AUS 8A Stainless. Nice!

The SRK steel is made of Japanese AUS 8A stainless steel… which is regarded as a very nice steel for a general, all-purpose knife like the SRK because of the steel’s toughness and edge-holding ability. The Cold Steel SRK has a fine edge meaning no serrations – for the full length of the edge.

AUS 8A has middle-of-the-road hardness which makes it strong for the rigors of survival and rescue while being resistant to chipping and fracturing. AUS 8A is fairly easy to sharpen, has  very nice edge retention and can be sharpened to a VERY sharp edge.

And AUS 8 is also known for its good resistance to corrosion.

To add to the the corrosion resistance of this knife, Cold Steel coated this knife in what they call Black Tuff-Ex…. which is akin to Teflon.

I have found this coating to have a good resistance to wear, but honestly, like just about every knife coating… it’s not going to last forever, especially if you use this capable knife for bushcraft, which you should… So just take general care of this blade and it could last you for a lifetime. I recommend simply wiping your knife down occasionally with a little bit of mineral oil on a soft rag paying particular attention to wiping down the edge.

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Wipe down your blades with a little dab of Mineral Oil.

Point Design

The SRK has a clip point. A clip point has the spine side of the blade “clipped” off to form a tip that is sharper and more suitable for piercing and tasks like skinning or carving that require more blade point accuracy.

Here’s the Cold Steel SRK compared to a classic drop point blade. See the difference in the point angle?

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Because the SRK has nearly a straight clip point and not a pronounced concave clip – like on the SOG Seal Team Elite… the Cold Steel SRK point is going to be inherently less likely to snap off under more demanding activities that put lateral stress on the tip.

The Cold Steel’s choice in point design is a nice solution for a knife designed for rescue and survival situations requiring point strength, piercing ability and acute cutting.

Oh, one last thing about the point… Knives with clip points are often easier to put back in their sheaths because of the reduced size and sharper angle of a clip point.

Blade Width

The width of the Cold Steel SRK’s blade steel is .20 inches or about 5.1mm which is thinner than the SOG Force survival knife at .24 inches – 6 mm and is thicker than the Gerber LMF II ASEK at .18inches or about 4.6 mm.

So this steel thickness is pretty beefy, although not the thickest that we’ve seen in this class of survival knives.

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The Handle.

Now let’s talk a bit about the handle.

The handle is a nice size for those with large and smaller hands like mine… and is over-molded in a seamless rubberized and VERY comfortable grip that is made of what Cool Steel calls, Kray-Ex…

So… Just for fun, I’m gonna call it Grip-Ex because it’s extra grippy and honestly the grippiest handle of any of the survival knives that we’ve reviewed to date.

On the sides of the handle we have this raised dimple pattern of rubberized nodules that provide great grip in all directions and channel water in wet conditions.

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On the top and bottom we have rubberized raised lateral grooves that are especially designed to help prevent your hand from sliding forward onto the blade and prevent the knife from sliding out of your hand.

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Here’s the quillon…

At the front of the handle toward the blade we have a nice sized quillon (pronounced “KEY – OWN”), which is designed to prevent your fingers from sliding forward onto the blade and cutting edge.

The back of the handle is about straight and the bottom has almost imperceptible cutouts to add to the ergonomics of this fine, yet very simple handle.

Hands of all sizes should find this handle very comfortable even when being use for extended periods.

All of this makes this knife a joy to use even in wet situations or with gloves.

At the butt end of the handle there is a slight widening taper to the handle. See this?

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This tapered end helps keeps the knife in your hand also makes it pretty easy to keep this knife from flying away when chopping.

About a half inch from the butt of the knife there is this lanyard hole formed from a snappy, brass-looking grommet that goes the whole way through the handle to the other side.

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No pommel… So sad. I guess you can’t have everything.

Now, you’ve probably already noticed that this knife does not have a butt-end pommel or hammer, as there’s no steel protruding from the base of this knife like many other survival / rescue and tactical knives. The butt of this knife is just covered in grippy material…

The Sheath

My knife came with a Kydex-type sheath that Cold Steel calls a Secure-Ex sheath.

The sheath seems to be made of a very rigid, durable, precision-molded polymer that appears to be two pieces held firmly together with 12 solid metal grommets strategically placed at major stress points around the sheath.

The knife locks in the sheath through a simple friction lock that does hold the knife securely in the sheath. There is a handle strap with metal snap to hold the knife securely against the sheath.

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However, in our tests, this knife stayed securely in the sheath without the use of the handle strap.

The Cold Steel SRK sheath can be set up for left or right hand carry through this simple, durable and removable belt strap system.

This strap system is easily removed and repositioned by removing these two standard cross head screws.

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Now this sheath with the strap system is primarily set up for belt carry.

It’s got this nice Velcro and snap, system that allows you to attach the sheath to just about any belt without removing it.

A leg lanyard or strap can easily be added to keep this sheath tight against your leg using either the bottom grommet holes or one of the long strap cutouts.

This sheath does not appear to be MOLLE compatible. However, the belt carry strap system can easily be removed and through some creativity and the addition of a strap or two could be attached to a MOLLE vest or pack.

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Overall Performance

This knife performed very well in our bushcraft tests and was a joy to use for batonning.

We beat this knife up pretty good and even threw it (which always beats up a knife)… but the edge remained sharp and the knife showed surprisingly little wear.

Oh, and I know you’re probably not going to throw your SRK, but you could. Because of the nearly straight handle, the center of gravity being slightly more toward the tip and the clip point blade, this knife threw really well compared to most of the other knives we have dared to toss at our target.

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Owner Comments

Owners comment on this knife’s ability to take serious punishment and perform a variety of utility tasks well and generally rate this knife at over 4 out of 5 stars. Owners seem to run the gamut from military, campers, hunters, survival dudes, weekend warriors and women who just wanted a tough knife that was comfortable to hold and could perform a wide range of household tasks.

We found a few comments about issues with the sheath and mentions about it not having a butt end pommel.

Owners usually rave about the toughness of the steel, edge holding, the versatile sheath and its value for the money.

Our Rating

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We rate the Cold Steel SRK at 4.5 out of 5 stars for its versatility as a utility survival, tactical and rescue knife. We appreciate the no frills rugged design, attention to detail. Fit and finish, steel choice, excellent sheath design, grip and the fact that this knife can be had for around $79 online.

We took off a half of a star because, for a rescue knife, it would have been nice for this knife to have a butt-end pommel… and for tactical and military use, we think Cold Steel could have pretty easily made this sheath a lot closer to MOLLE compatible.

So who is this Knife for?

The Cold Steel Survival Rescue Knife is wel- designed for its name… survival and rescue…  and would make a great all-around tool for camping, hunting, backpacking, military and tactical professionals, extreme adventures, bug out bags, emergency preparedness kits, or for those who want a nearly indestructible knife around the house or shop that can survive just about anything you can throw at it.

But if you want a more tactical or survival knife that comes with a MOLLE compatible sheath, take a look at my reviews of the SOG Seal Team Elite, the Gerber LMF II, Gerber LHR or the SOG Seal Pup.

If you want a kick-butt, all-around utility, fixed-blade knife that is built to last, and an online price of around $79 sounds good to you, we highly recommend the Cold Steel SRK Survival and Rescue Knife.



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22 Responses to “Cold Steel SRK Survival Knife-Beyond the Call of Duty”

  • Hey Dave, I’m just asking about the SRK in comparison to the LMF II. I enjoy camping and I’m prepping at the moment, so I need a tough knife that will survive for a while, cover bush craft basics and it’s come down to these two. Price is not an issue, and if possible could you help me out. How do these knives stack up against together, Cheers Daniel.

    • Carin

      Hi Daniel – The Cold Steel would definitely be the one to choose if bushcrafting is a priority. The serrated edge of the LMFII just tends to get caught up on things. Enjoy prepping! Carin for David

      • Thanks Carin, I now I have an SRK and I am extremely happy with it. Keep up the good work with the reviews guys.
        Regards, Daniel

  • Fabiansoderson

    Great review but i am a bit disepointed on my srk. That is why i wonder if you have any intrest to make a review on the fallkniven a1 and the a2.

    • Carin

      David answers: I’m sorry you don’t like the SRK. Knives are like shoes, everyone has a preference. And for the price difference between a several hundred dollar Falkniven, the SRK is a steel. The SRK is a very good knife – IMO – but not my favorite either. I am interested in reviewing any great knife on the planet, however I am reconciled to the fact that I only have the time to review about 15 to 20 a year (and I’ve got about 50 knives in here for review already… haa, haa) … so, one day a Falkniven A1 or A2… but I will have to overcome the price point of over $200 first. Not saying it’s not worth it… but most of our followers have lesser budgets. Thank you for your suggestion!!! I will see if I can get a Falkniven in here for 2014.

  • Ulises

    Great Review! Iam from Argentina and I make biking adventure. I regularly travel 300/400 kilometers per routes,and gravel alone and do I need to know your recommendation between the Gerber Prodigy, Cold Steel SRK or Gerber Ultimate Knife for survival faced type that could be 3 days or so. Because I need to buy one and I need to be prepared. Thanks!

    • Carin

      From David: You can’t go wrong with any of the knives that you mentioned… the BG knives have fire steel, a sharpener, whistle and the pocket guide… so this makes them a better all around package than the other two…

      I would however recommend the new Bear Grylls Ultimate Pro over the Original… if you can get one in Argentina. Here is a link to my review of the Pro knife and how it compares to the Original Ultimate Knife: http://youtu.be/Kw8JxaDQ9ZY

      Keep moving forward bro!!!

      • Ulises

        Thank you so much David! Later I comment what I buy, thanks again from the south, from ARGENTINA!

  • El SRk es un excelente producto costo beneficio, el Falkniven es un cuchillo que se cuece aparte, pero hay que asumir el costo, y al final de cuentas para lo que yo lo necesito…, me da el mismo servicio.

  • Malmhuvud

    The but end on my srk broke when i did some betoning and it hit in the ground.

    • Carin

      David: Bummer! Make sure you call up Cold Steel and see if they’ll honor your warranty on that!

  • Tom Black

    I have owned my SRK for close to 20 years. I used to work for a Christian camp & conference center in Grass Valley, CA as Guest Services Director, but being a knife lover & collector, I used to purchase knives for the counselor s & staff. I have long admired the Cold Steel knives & currently own 8 – 10 of their products. My point of this comment is that, in all of my camping & backpacking experience over the years, I have continually come back to the SRK for my traveling companion. Though it is a heavier knife than some, I appreciate the weight & heft for some of the fire prep tasks due to its weighty cutting ability. It has remained a solid, undamaged blade (other than the coating). I did not get the Secure-Ex sheath with it at the time of purchase (my only regret). Love the knife & will let you know if it ever fails me. Keep up the good reviews, honesty & integrity of your reviews.

  • Chris

    I think you should do a review on the Ka-Bar Fighting Utility Knife(USMC) I haven’t seen any good destruction/durability tests like you do. Please do a review on it 🙂

    • Carin

      David: Thanks for the suggestion. We’ll definitely do some more Ka-Bar reviews in the future!

  • Luke

    Hey David, just wondering whether or not I should get the Coldsteel SRK or the SOG Force. Looking for a good survival knife and those are my two choices. Any input would help. Thanks!!!

  • Kevin

    People place too much importance on the pommel/butt cap. Look back into your heritage, Daniel Boone, Jim Bowie, the trappers and Mountain men. No steel pommel/butt cap and Managed to survive and thrive. A knife is not a hammer.

  • Seth pacifico

    I have had the SRK since 2004 when I bought it in Iraq. It held up at that point and still holds up to whatever I throw at it.

  • Lauren Neher

    i have the SRK in carbon 5 steel that Cold Steel quit offering when Camillus went out of business. I got it for about $40 at a gun show, and it’s been my go to hunting knife since then. If I want a knife with a hammer for a butt I have my Catteragus Quartermaster knife, but the SRK feels perfect in my hand and has replaced that knife in the woods. It also throws well, and I’ve not spared it much there, and it’s held up well to everything I’ve thrown at it, or thrown it at. It fit’s my big hands well and is a joy to look at as well as handle.

    One interesting thing about this knife; I stopped by a knife store in Coronado years ago, as they were belt sharpening a bunch of knives for the Seals/Buds guys over at Coronado. So it might not be as “tactical” as some of the other knives out there, but our seals know and appreciate a good blade, just like we do.

  • Jeremy miller

    I’ve owned my SRK for over 20 years. Ex-GF paid around $70 back then. It has done everything that I have ever asked of it. It takes and holds an edge. Handles light chopping and splits kindling with ease. I’ve used it to field dress game and build numerous shelters. Although my SRK does have the older generation handle (same rubber but with a diamond pattern) and sheath (cordura covers) I would be lost without it. I absolutely love this knife. I came across this review while searching for a new sheath for it, as this reviews states even the new sheath lacks MOLLE attachment capabilities. I would like to find a quality leather rig with a place for fire steel and perhaps a small whetstone.

  • Gary

    Check your math on the knife handle length. You said 3 3/4 inches when it is in fact 4 3/4 inches. Nice review. Nice knife.

    • Carin

      David: Thanks! We’ll check on that!

  • Very informative post. I loved especially how you covered the honest review of Cold Steel SRK survival knife. Looking to buy one for me this week. 😀

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