Blades and Knives

The Cold Steel Code 4

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

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.

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 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.

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.

About the Author:

Bob Campbell

Bob Campbell’s primary qualification is a lifelong love of firearms, writing, and scholarship. He holds a degree in Criminal Justice but is an autodidact in matters important to his readers. Campbell considers unarmed skills the first line of defense and the handgun the last resort. (He gets it honest- his uncle Jerry Campbell is in the Boxer’s Hall of Fame.)

Campbell has authored well over 6,000 articles columns and reviews and fourteen books for major publishers including Gun Digest, Skyhorse and Paladin Press. Campbell served as a peace officer and security professional and has made hundreds of arrests and been injured on the job more than once.

He has written curriculum on the university level, served as a lead missionary, and is desperately in love with Joyce. He is training his grandchildren not to be snowflakes. At an age when many are thinking of retirement, Bob is working a 60-hour week and awaits being taken up in a whirlwind many years in the future.

Published in
Black Belt Magazine
Combat Handguns
Rifle Magazine
Gun Digest
Gun World
Tactical World
SWAT Magazine
American Gunsmith
Gun Tests Magazine
Women and Guns
The Journal Voice of American Law Enforcement
Police Magazine
Law Enforcement Technology
The Firearms Instructor
Tactical World
Concealed Carry Magazine
Concealed Carry Handguns

Books published

Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry
The 1911 Automatic Pistol
The Handgun in Personal Defense
The Illustrated Guide to Handgun Skills
The Hunter and the Hunted
The Gun Digest Book of Personal Defense
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911 second edition
Dealing with the Great Ammunition Shortage
Commando Gunsmithing
The Ultimate Book of Gunfighting
Preppers Guide to Rifles
Preppers Guide to Shotguns
The Accurate Handgun
The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (11)

  1. 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

  2. Cold Steel knives are a great value and are extremely durable. I have three knives by them and five years in, I am still using all in the field without fail.

  3. I have a Cold Steel Recon Tanto folding knife. It is the best knife I’ve ever owned. I will never buy another knife except Cold Steel. I do recommend looking up what kind you want on the Cold Steel website, then actually buy it on Amazon. You’ll save 30-60%

  4. I have been using Cold Steel knives for about the last 15 to 2o years. My first one was a Cold Steel Large Tanto Vaquero, with the five inch blade. They don’t make this one any more, I love it. Any Cold Steel knife you cannot in any way shape,fashion, or anything else go wrong. The Video where they cut the rope in half, it works. So you can imagine what it will do a Human arm. If you want the best buy for your money BUY IT.

  5. Used a Cold Steel tanto when I was in Iraq 2005. Great functioning knife and durable . Will hold an edge when others didn’t. Only one drawback, the tactical black color on the blade is not as durable as others. Will carry one during the next conflict our country gets into for sure.

  6. Cold Steel knives are a favorite of mine. Easy to sharpen, great blade designs, excellent metals used. Multiple models, give me options for what I carry and for what purpose.

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