If you're looking for a vintage 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.
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
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... 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...
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.
The SRK steel is made of Japanese AUS 8A stainless s Regarded as a very nice steel for a general, all-purpose knife like the SRK is made of AUS-8 SS. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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. 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.
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? 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.