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Bargain or Just Cheap? – Kershaw Emerson CQC-4K

Welcome to Bargain or Just Cheap? This series will review budget friendly knives in a short format. All of the knives will cost less than $50 (in most cases, much less) and will be purchased out of my own pocket. I’ll buy them, carry them, and use them in an attempt to determine if the knife is a bargain or just cheap.

I’ve been carrying and using a Kershaw Emerson CQC-4K mostly because I was able to purchase it for $15. The ultra-low price was my initial attraction to it. It is one of the lowest priced options in the already very budget friendly line of Emerson designed Kershaw produced knives.


Lock: Frame Lock

Pocket Clip: Reversible, Tip up only

Steel: 8Cr14MoV

Handle: Textured G-10 front, 410 steel back

Blade length: 3.25 in.

Closed length: 4.2 in.

Open length: 7.4 in.

Weight: 4.1 oz.

Observations from Use

There is a lot to like here. The size is great for EDC – plenty of blade for most EDC tasks, a long enough handle to support four fingers without crowding, and its very pocketable. The Emerson designed Wave Opening Feature works and is a great feature to have. The spear point blade has some belly, plenty of straight edge, and a useful point. The handle is comfortable in the hand. I find that it is also a good looking knife.

8Cr14MoV steel is a budget steel. It performs similarly to AUS-8. It is a stainless steel that sharpens easily. It lacks the edge holding ability of super steels but I find it completely acceptable. It is a solid, budget friendly steel and Kershaw seems to do well with it.

The lock on my example is very good. It locks up somewhat early so there is room for it to wear in and it does pass a spine whack test. The lock bar doesn’t stick and the detent is fairly strong and positive.

Unfortunately, there are some things about this knife that I don’t like. It is heavy for its size due to it’s thick 410 steel lock bar side and a full steel liner under the G-10 handle scale. The thumb disk doesn’t line up well with the relief cut in the handle making it difficult to access. Finally, the primary grind on this knife is a short, hollow grind that leaves the edge fairly thick. It cuts reasonably well but not as well as it could with a higher primary grind.

Bargain or Just Cheap?

If you like Emerson Wave Openers like me, you won’t find a cheaper one, especially with real G-10 handle scales. Unfortunately, the strange spacial relationship between the relief cut in the handle and the thumb disk strikes me as an avoidable design flaw with a very noticeable impact on how easy you can open the knife.

This knife might be a bargain when it can be found around $15-$18 but other than that I’ll say… Just Cheap. If you are going to spend over $20, I would pass unless you are drawn to its smaller size in relation to other Kershaw Emerson models. I think there are better, but larger, options in the Kershaw Emerson line like the CQC-6K which I will review at a later date.

All of the knives for this series will be purchased by me on Amazon: Kershaw Emerson CQC-4K

Do you have a favorite affordable knife? Let us know about it in the comments!

Hard Point Equipment MantiCuda Mountain Man

Hard Point Equipment has introduced a number of new variations of their MantiCuda knife including a new no-frills, budget version called the MantiCuda Mountain Man. This version has all the same dimensions and functionality of the MantiCuda SRT including the G-10 handle slabs and 80CrV2 steel but it lacks the coating. It comes with a more affordable parkerized finish instead.

You can check out the MantiCuda Mountain Man along with the other MantiCuda variants at FistKnife.com.

Bargain or Just Cheap? – Real Steel H6-S1

Welcome to Bargain or Just Cheap? This series will review budget friendly knives for a variety of uses in a short format. All of the knives will cost less than $50 (in most cases, much less) and will be purchased out of my own pocket. I’ll buy them, carry them, and use them in an attempt to determine if the knife is a bargain or just cheap.

I have always been very leery of Chinese knife manufacturers due to their historically poor quality and penchant for knock-off designs. A friend cautioned me about throwing the baby out with the bath water and introduced me to a several Chinese knife manufacturers that are worth a look. One such manufacturer is Real Steel and their H6-S1 is the subject of today’s edition of Bargain or Just Cheap?.

Real Steel offers several variants of the H6 but there is one that I believe really stands out – the H6-S1. This knife floored me with how good it is for the price.


Lock: Frame Lock

Pocket Clip: Right pocket, Tip up only

Steel: Sandvik 14C28N

Handle: Textured G-10 front, steel back

Blade length: 3.39 in.

Blade thickness: .12 in.

Open length: 7.76 in.

Weight: 3.8 oz.

Observations from Use

This knife is exceedingly likeable. It is at the upper end of our $50 price limit but it is dripping with great features, hallmarks of quality, and functional design.

The 14C28N is a step up from the blade steel found on many Chinese knives or any budget knife for that matter. This Sandvik steel is easy to sharpen, takes a polished edge VERY well, and holds it well enough for EDC tasks. I was very happy to see a Sandvik steel being used here. The drop point, slightly recurve blade has plenty of spine and features a full flat primary grind. It cuts and slices very well.

The handle is well contoured and comfortable with more than enough room for all your fingers. Both the G-10 and the steel lock side of the knife are thick and sturdy but overall the knife feels and carries very slim. Speaking of G-10, the thumb studs are actually machined G-10 that matches that handle color. They are large and easy to operate. The knife opens easily and smoothly with a flick of the thumb without even having to use your wrist.

The lock on my example is excellent. It looks up with about 60% engagement so it is very sturdy with room to wear in over time. The lock bar features a very unique and very cool feature. It has a disk that at first glance looks like any Hinderer style lock bar stabilizer (a small stop designed to prevent lock bar over travel). Closer inspection reveals the fact that it can be pushed forward into a second position that actually blocks the lock bar from moving completely! In this position, the knife can not close on your hand without some kind of catastrophic breakage. The disk locks in each position with strong detent action so it is extremely unlikely that you will accidentally activate or deactivate it.

This knife is impressively light for a knife of these dimensions. There is some milling on the inside of the steel handle scale to remove weight. A full height flat grind also reduces weight as does a liner-less G-10 handle scale. It is larger in every dimension than the previously reviewed Kershaw Emerson CQC-4K yet it weighs less!

The pocket clip isn’t a true deep carry clip but it does place the knife very low in the pocket which is nice for professional settings. It is very stout and holds the knife securely.

Bargain or Just Cheap?

The fit and finish of this knife is very good. It has better than average steel, better than average materials, clever features, and a very functional design. It also happens to look great! It gives the impression of quality. I’ve seen them as low as $40 but they usually average around $45 for most variants of the H6. Honestly, I would feel good about this knife at twice the price.

There is nothing cheap about this knife other than the price. The Real Steel H6-S1 is most certainly a Bargain.

I will be using Amazon as the price base line for this series. All knives were purchased by me from Amazon: Real Steel H6-S1


Note: There are a number of H6 variants and colors available. The features vary significantly from variant to variant. Be sure you are buying the H6-S1 if want the features shown in this review.

Our goal is to represent knives for a variety of uses from EDC, to outdoor, to tactical knives. Do you have a favorite affordable knife? Let us know about it in the comments!

VZ Daggers

You know VZ Grips but it’s time to get acquainted with VZ Daggers. These non-metallic daggers are made from your choice of G-10 and Carbon Fiber. These are designed to be piercing tools with a wedged point, a heavily textured grip, a flared pommel, and a thumb index divot that is reminiscent of the venerable OSS Thumb Daggers.

The VZ Daggers come in three sizes: small, medium, and large. They are called the Discrete, Don, and Executive respectively. All three sizes are available in Black G-10, Grey G-10, or Carbon Fiber. The Executive and Discrete share the same “argyle” grip pattern while the Don features a heavily grooved grip pattern. All three models are fullered and have lanyard holes.

Keep an eye on VZ’s Dagger product page for new additions coming soon: VZGrips.com

TOPS Knives to Sell Pre-Production Fieldcraft Folder

The Fieldcraft Folder is perhaps the most anticipated knife that TOPS Knives has ever dreamed up and the pro-production version is about to go on sale. On July 18th, TOPS will offer a special edition of the Fieldcraft Folder that is limited to 50 pieces – the first 50 knives made to production specs. These pre-production models were produced after TOPS spent years dialing the processes that it would take to produce their first in-house production folding knife.

Each of these 50 special editions will come with a serialized box to match the knife, a knife cleaning mat, a bottle of Breakthrough Clean knife oil, and of course a TOPS whistle.

The Pre-Production Fieldcraft Folders go on sale July 18th. Stay tuned for additional details.

TOPS Knives

Outdoor Adventure Supply Recon Survival Tool

I am a sucker for sharpened shovels, especially when they don’t cost an arm and a leg. The Recon Survival Tool came to my attention via EJ Snyder who, according to his Facebook page, has been using one for about a year and it has been performing well.

This tool looks like a real outdoor multitasker with design elements meant to stand in as a shovel, brush hook, hatchet, saw, hammer, and knife. The handle seems to be relatively well designed with a guard and the ability to change where your grip depending on your task.

Outdoor Adventure Supply who markets the Recon Survival Tool states that it is designed and patented in the USA (likely made over seas somewhere). It is made from some non-specific stainless steel with G10 handle slabs and weighs less than 2 pounds. The Recon Survival Tool comes with a sheath and ferro rod.

Check out the Recon Survival Tool at Outdoor Adventure Supply

Big Changes at Survive! Knives

Survive! Knives has been hinting toward big changes for a while now and their upcoming SK series of knives hasn’t exactly been a secret though details were sparse. That all changed yesterday when Survive! rolled out new details on the future of the SK and GSO series.

The Survive! GSO series of knives have been in high demand and that is an understatement. The demand has easily outstripped the pace at which the semi-custom line can be produced and the knives are back ordered out more than a year in most cases. Enter the SK series. The SK series of knives will be more of a high end production line produced by Millet Knives, a well established OEM producer with a great track record of quality, and delivered to Survive! for finishing. The hope is that the SK series would be able to be kept in stock to meet the demand of most users and the GSO series can continue to be Survive! Knives’ more premium, hand finished line.

The SK series consists initially of 3 different models: SK 3.5, SK 6, and SK 12. Pre-orders are already open on the SK 6 and SK 12. You can read details on all the SK models on their product page: SK product page at SurviveKnives.com

You can read what Survive! Knives has to say about the transition on their blog and view the video below for more details.

JRS Knives Tanto

Every knife guy has heard the oft repeated mantras about “tanto” blade tips being made extra durable to penetrate things like armor. I guess that is probably true in some cases but if you look at many tanto blade designs, especially so-called American Tantos, they often have tips that come to an extreme point and are as fragile as any other knife. The legendary tip strength of the tanto seems to be a case of saying something often enough that it becomes true.

JRS Knives grinds their 007 Tanto in a unique way – a way that may actually lead to the kind of fabled tip strength often associated with the Tanto design. The primary bevel is full height flat ground and then a thick cutting edge is applied leading edge of the knife. The 007 Tanto has a straight edge near the grip where the user can exert the maximum leverage and control in the cut and a more robust cutting edge near the tip where knives are often damaged during abuse. The result is knife that looks ready for just about any chore you can throw it.

Check out JRS Knives at their website and on Instagram.

Hard Point Equipment Releases Manticuda Trainer

Hard Point Equipment is now offering training drones for their Manicuda knives. These trainers are machined from steel to replicate the full weight of the Manticuda and are designed to fit your existing Manticuda sheath.

Check out FistKnife.com for more details.

TOPS Sling is Now Available

TOPS Knives just released their TOPS Sling and, if you are being honest with yourself, you want one as bad as I do.

From TOPS Knives:

Feel like a kid again with the TOPS Sling

If you were fortunate enough to grow up in a small town before every household in America had multiple TVs and several touch screen gadgets, then you likely knew the joy of playing with a slingshot as a kid. While these tools have their place in hunting some small game and/or birds, the vast majority of slingshots out there are for fun, not survival. The TOPS version honors that. Leo Espinoza, President of TOPS Knives said, “Childhood memories. That’s why I designed it. I was just thinking back to when I was a kid and I used to make my own and wanted to do that again.” So the next time you’re looking for ways to get your kid away from his smart phone, grab your TOPS Sling, head out of town, and make some memories.

Pick yours up today from an authorized TOPS Knives Dealer or at www.topsknives.com/tops-sling


  • Overall Length: 6.25”
  • Fork Length: 3.5”
  • Fork Gap: 2.13”
  • Thickness: 0.19”
  • Steel: 1095
  • Finish: Tumble Finish
  • Handle Material: Black Canvas Micarta
  • Weight: 6.7oz
  • Weight w/ Sheath: 9oz
  • Sheath Material: Brown Leather
  • Sheath Clip: Belt Loop
  • Designer: Leo Espinoza
  • MSRP: $130

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