The Cold Steel Code 4

By Bob Campbell published on in Blades and Knives, Reviews

For more years than I care to remember, I have been a fan of Cold Steel knives. The Cold Steel knife company offers good quality, sharp edges and positive function. During my time in police service, my impression was that I saw more Cold Steel knives used by peace officers than anything else. The reasons are quality and affordability.

Silver Cold Steel Code 4 knife with blade closed on a gray stone background.

The Code 4 is all Cold Steel in appearance, and that is a good thing.

My latest Cold Steel is perhaps my favorite of all the company’s folders I have used over the years. This is a very nice-handling folder, well balanced, with a very smooth operation. The knife is smooth on opening and closing, locks securely and offers a well-designed handle. The Code 4 is not a small knife, although it handles well enough and does not drag the pocket unduly. One of the best things about my personal Code 4 is that it has the optional Tanto blade.

I call the design the American Tanto because it is not strictly in keeping with the original concept of a Tanto blade. Derived from the Tantojutsu martial arts, the Japanese Tanto offers a reinforced blade and often appears very different from the American Tanto. There are at least a dozen different Japanese Tanto types; few bear a relation to what we call the Tanto today and, in essence, the Tanto is a reinforced point.

The Cold Steel Code 4 knife with the emphasis on the Tanto angled point on a mottled gray background.

The Tanto point of the Code 4 is an impressive design, well suited for all the work a knife this size is capable of performing.

The American Tanto is most often a blade with a high point and flat grind, something of a chisel with a very strong, durable point. The Tanto may not actually be capable of greater penetration than other types, but it survives difficult penetration more often. The point of the Tanto contains reinforced metal near the tip, which helps absorb impact and makes it the least likely of blade points to break.

The front and back edges of the Tanto point meet at an angle, whereas most other blade points curve. The Tanto’s lack of significant belly limits its ability to slice, a tradeoff for the stronger tip. If you need to pierce heavy materials, the Tanto point is the trick. The blade is AUS 8 stainless, a proven alloy with good properties, and the Code 4 is very sharp out of the box.

The Code 4’s blade is 3.5 inches long, while the handle is about 5 inches, giving you plenty of leverage for cutting chores. The balance and weight distribution are good, however, and at 4.4 ounces, the Tanto-tip Code 4 carries well. The knife is thin even though it is long and relatively heavy. Jimping is slim, with a little on the frame.

The knife offers good control when open, with a modest choil. The thumb stud is set up for right-hand use as delivered, although you can reverse it for left-hand use. The pocket clip allows the Code 4 to ride comfortably, and it comes with a spare clip. The geometry of the Code 4 offers excellent fast-opening properties; grasp the handle, roll the thumb, snap the wrist and the blade is open and locked.

The lock is sturdy enough. I perform a test of all knives I review and particularly those that, like this one, are destined for personal use as a backup to the handgun.

Silver Cold Steel Code 4 knife with blade open on a gray stone background.

The Code 4, when opened, is a formidable blade in appearance.

I open and lock the knife. Very carefully, with the knife held upside down and my hand on the handle and out of the way of the blade, I rap the back of the blade sharply on an object, such as a workbench top. The lock must hold. I do this a half dozen times or so.

If the blade lock does not fail, I then make sure the lock has not been driven in the blade and releases properly. All locks do not pass this test; the Cold Steel passed and remained functional.

The Cold Steel Code 4 is a good folder and among the favorites for all-around use. Affordable, durable and sharp with a good lock, the Code 4 is a good kit.


  • Blade length: 3.5 inches
  • Overall length: 8.5 inches
  • Width closed: 1.75 inches
  • Weight: 4.4 ounces
  • Steel: Japanese AUS-8A

Have you used any of the Cold Steel blades? What did you like or dislike? Share in the comments section.


Bob Campbell is a former peace officer and published author with over 40 years combined shooting and police and security experience. Bob holds a degree in Criminal Justice. Bob is the author of the books, The Handgun in Personal Defense, Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry, The 1911 Automatic Pistol, The Gun Digest Book of Personal Protection and Home Defense, The Shooter’s Guide to the 1911, The Hunter and the Hunted, and The Complete Illustrated Manual of Handgun Skills. His latest book is Dealing with the Great Ammo Shortage. He is also a regular contributor to Gun Tests, American Gunsmith, Small Arms Review, Gun Digest, Concealed Carry Magazine, Knife World, Women and Guns, Handloader and other publications. Bob is well-known for his firearm testing.

View all articles by Bob Campbell

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Comments (11)

  • bob


    My friends,

    thanks for your interest.

    There reason this one isnt in the catalog is that it was made on a very short run for Black Hills Ammunition.


    R KC


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