Cold Steel Recon 1 Review

TL;DR: If Chris Reeve’s Sebenza is a classic Ferrari, then the Recon 1 is an armored H1 Humvee. Big, brutish, and tough as nails.

The Recon 1 will chop, slash, and handle things you probably shouldn’t do with a knife — all without chipping or breaking its legendary Tri-Ad Lock. It’s front-heavy, and isn’t made for delicate cutting.

I carried this Recon 1 Tanto for a decade. See how it’s fared.

Blade Specs

  • Cutting Edge: 5.05″
  • Blade Width: 1.42″
  • Blade Length: 5.22”
  • Edge Thickness: 0.032″
  • Spine Thickness: 0.14″
  • Blade Shape: Varies, Tanto reviewed
  • Blade Steel: S35VN w/ DLC Coating (reviewed), AUS 10A, AUS 8A, 4034 SS
  • Edge Grind: High Hollow Grind, High Flat Grind, Serrations Available

Additional Specs

  • Scales: G10 (reviewed), Injection-Molded Polymer (“Griv-Ex”)
  • Handle Length: 6.94″
  • Overall Length: 12.05″
  • Overall Width, Folded: 1.98″
  • Handle Width: 1.04″ – 1.16″ (finger grooves) to 1.73″
  • Handle Thickness: 0.52″
  • Weight: Varies, 5.2 Oz reviewed
  • Lock: Tri-Ad Lock
  • Opener: Ambidextrous Thumb Studs
  • Clip: Steel, tip-up, ambidextrous
  • Country of Origin: Taiwan
  • Model: CS-27BT

Recon 1 Variants: Full, Mini, Micro

The Recon Micro handles are made of polymer. Mini and Full-Size Recon handles are made of G10.

The Recon 1 isn’t just one knife model. Cold Steel produced variants that share the same handles, locks, finishes, and steel types. In addition to the full-sized Tanto (with or without a serrated edge), you can grab the Recon 1 “Spear Point”, which is just a regular drop point, or Clip Point.

The Recon 1 is also available in smaller sizes.

The Micro Recon 1 blades measure about 2″, with handles measuring about 2.38″. The Mini Recon 1 blades measure approximately 3″, with handles measuring around 4″. The Mini and Micro blades are stonewashed. Only the full-size Recons have black DLC coatings.

Obviously, the “desert-tan-mesh-Duracoat” paint job on my Recon isn’t factory.

The Cold Steel Recon 1 Tanto Review

My Tanto has a high flat grind; the high hollow grind is also available.

The Tanto is one of the toughest blade shapes. The Recon 1’s take on this Japanese combat knife is no different. It’s a beast. I’ve batoned endless amounts of firewood and whacked kindling off trees with it.

Much of this blade’s strength is owed to its edge and spine thickness.

One time, I sliced the rubber lug off a punctured U.S. Army Stryker tire out of boredom. I used it as a (wildly inappropriate) throwing knife, and used the spine and tip as makeshift pry tools more than I care to admit. I’ve stabbed the tip into rubber and wood, dropped it on concrete, but it never broke.

The Edge

This edge has never chipped or rolled. The Recon Tanto always sharpens back up without fuss, and its edge retention is excellent. The S35V steel this blade is forged from tends to have a pretty high Rockwell Hardness Rating (~60 HRC). It takes a fair bit of abuse to really squash the apex and dull this knife.

The edge is also incredibly wide, measuring about 0.030″ at the base of the bevel. Small EDC blades and pocket knives’ edges measure between 50% and 66% thinner — and they’re less durable for it. This edge thickness lends some pretty great durability to the Recon 1.

Out of the box, the edge was ground wide. I measured it at about 26 degrees. It cut well, but it couldn’t slice easily. So, I narrowed it down to 22 degrees. At this angle, the S35V holds a sharp edge and glides through paper and cardboard. Coupled with a thick apex, I haven’t had any issues with damage from heavy strikes.

Edge Retention Test

Ironwood is one of the hardest woods available.

I recently took my Wicked Edge Sharpener to this blade and tested it on my Edge-On-Up Sharpness Tester. I put the Recon 1 Tanto through the same edge retention test that I do with other knives:

  • Sharpen the blade.
  • Measure sharpness.
  • Run the edge across a piece of Ironwood.
  • Repeat 100 times under a 5-pound load.
  • Re-measure sharpness to calculate edge retention.

Recon 1 Test Results

The test media is certified for accuracy.

Before the test, I cleaned up the Tanto with my 3000-grit diamond stones. The edge tested 172g and 181g. That averages out to 177g. Anything below 150g is literally “razor sharp,” so this blade is certainly capable of making some fine cuts in its current state.

Average sharpness after the test was 215g.

After testing, the edge averaged 215g. That converts to 82.3% edge retention, which is excellent. The Cold Steel AD-10 (also made from S35VN) measures similarly and beats the Recon by 8 percent.

Keep in mind that we are comparing a decade-old, reground knife to a brand new cutter. Still impressive, overall.

The chart below compares the Recon 1 with other knives.

Knife / ModelFactory SharpnessSharpness After TestEdge Retention
Spyderco Para 3 12026545%
Benchmade 940 EDC17529060%
SOG TWI8-CP Twitch II12520063%
S&W Extreme Ops SWA24S16526063%
Buck Knives 110 Folding Hunter14522066%
Spyderco Tenacious15022567%
Ontario Knife OKC Rat II SP18527069%
CIVIVI Elementum20127972%
Opinel No. 1228037073%
CIVIVI Praxis18323080%
Zero Tolerance 0450CF24029083%
KA-BAR Dozier Folder27532585%
Cold Steel AD-1018520590%
CRKT Endorser23025092%
CJRB Feldspar21522596%
Cold Steel Recon 1 Tanto17721582%
Kershaw Link CPM 20CV23226289%
CJRB Ria Folder (12C27)19628369%
Gerber Paraframe 1 (ATS-314)18622085%
CRKT CEO18320490%
Kershaw Leek13319269%
CRKT M16-10KS22833468%
CRKT Squid21537557%
Vosteed Corsair16317494%

The term “Factory Sharpness” doesn’t apply to this Tanto. But this test still accurately measures its ability to hold an edge against other knives.

The Tri-Ad Lock

The Tri-Ad Lock has held up well over the years. This Tanto has yet to suffer any evidence of a loose blade. There’s no wobble, lock rock, or slip to speak of. That’s because the Tri-Ad is self-adjusting.

As the steel along the back of the tang wears down from rubbing against the lock, the lock itself pushes further against the tang, aided by the spring and an oversized pin hole.

The hardened steel stop pin redistributes force into the tang and lock.

The lock is reinforced by a large stop pin, too. This pin reduces stress that would otherwise be concentrated at the tang and lock. It’s largely responsible for having prevented all the abuse I’ve put this knife through from damaging the lock itself.

Cold Steel provides a decent illustration of how the Tri-Ad Lock works inside the handle.

The lock bar itself is massive, running along most of the length of the handle. It’s also wider than the spine of the blade. The spring inside is under a fair bit of tension. The lever action provided by the sheer length of the lock makes overcoming the spring easy with a thumb press.

The Action

I’m pleased with how smooth the action is. You’d think with such a big lock, it’d take some effort to swing this blade open. But the machining and tolerances of the fasteners, plus the weight of the blade, mean it’ll fall open on its own once you release the lock bar.

I’ve had no issues flicking the Recon 1 open with one hand free. The oversized thumb studs present on either side of the ricasso help, too.

As a fidget knife, the Recon 1 is a joy. The lock and stop pin produce one of the loudest, snappiest clicks I’ve heard on any folder.

The Handle

The finger grooves are comfortable, and the grip is solid.

The handle on the Recon 1 is comfortable, but long. I get the need for the length. When folded, the blade needs that extra room. But since the handle’s made from G10 and measures about half an inch wide, it’s very light.

That makes this variant of the Recon 1 a bit front-heavy. It’s not a deal breaker. This is a glorified chopper, so having the center of gravity somewhere near the tip of the blade is a good thing when you’re hacking away.

But I wish Cold Steel would have added a bit of weight at the back of this handle to balance out the center of gravity. Bulking up the scales would’ve made the handle more comfortable and solved that problem.

The scales have withstood plenty of hard hits without cracking. The lanyard loop is nothing special. It’s just a holed drilled straight through the G10. Boring out the hole and inserting a steel lanyard ring would’ve added some weight for balance. But it gets the job done.

The Clip

The clip on the Recon 1 is excellent. It’s wide, springy, and hasn’t fatigued on me. I’m happy the clip is ambidextrous. It certainly ain’t ever coming loose, no matter how much you yank on it: It’s bolted down by three relatively large Torx bolts. It’s overkill, and I like that.

Final Thoughts (Carry Time: ~10 years)

The Recon 1 Tanto is my go-to-Hell knife. This is one of very few folding knives that I consider to be as reliable as a fixed combat blade.

My only gripe is that its handle is very light, and springy. It can send some shock into your hand if you’re really striking something hard. But this little quirk pales in comparison to its performance and toughness.

If I’m camping, hiking, traveling, or doing anything that requires a reliable beat stick of a knife that doesn’t take up weight or space, then this Tanto is coming with me.

It’s accompanied me through mountains, blizzards and deserts, and everywhere in between. It’s been put through as much abuse as a knife should withstand, and has taken zero damage.

For its size, the Recon is comfortable for pocket-carry. It’s slim enough for jeans, and light enough to be forgotten amongst all the other gear you’re lugging around.