Blades and Knives

The Kershaw CQC-5K Knife—Score: 9 out of 10

Kershaw CQC knife pocket clip

I had the benefit of receiving the Kershaw CQC-5K knife a few months ago. Yes, I know this thing has been out some time, but that’s okay—there is nothing wrong with being late to the show.

I was hesitant to give it a whirl, because up until this point I had not been a fan of either Kershaw or Emerson, but at the price (free), I couldn’t say no. A good friend gave it to me, and you never turn down a gift.

When I say I have not been a fan of Emerson or Kershaw it was never due to a quality issue. It was just a matter that neither had ever made a product that fit my needs. Well, that train of thought ended and this is now my every day carry (EDC) knife. I feel naked without having it in my pocket.

Solid Construction

Note: What I am about to say is pretty much a no-go on blades, but what’s a good review without putting a product through its paces and seeing what it can handle? I immediately noticed the knife’s amazing construction—something you wouldn’t typically expect from a product in this price range. To be candid, I was expecting a cheap piece of junk with brittle steel that wouldn’t last a week in my hands—I can and will break everything. When I say it is built solid I mean it. I have banged this thing around, and it does not break.

In a pinch, I have used it in lieu of a screwdriver and didn’t break the blade. It has been used as a hammer to beat pins into place. After all the abuse, I have not had to tighten anything, and it barely has any scratching. Kershaw was not playing around with coatings on this blade.

Emerson Wave and Every Day Carry

The Emerson wave feature got me hooked on this knife. While it takes some time to get used to, once you have a handle on it, you will never want anything else.

The wave is a slight hook cut into the backside of the blade. When removing the knife from your pocket, you pull slightly to the rear, which causes the hook to catch. As it catches against the material, the blade will smoothly open.

Disclaimer: Do not practice using the wave design with your favorite clothes on, you will destroy them. Grab a pair of junk blue jeans until you are used to opening the knife with the wave, because you will most likely shred the pockets of your pants.

You may still be wondering why I love the wave feature so much. It’s simple—a quality blade is so much more than a day-to-day tool—it is also a self-defense device. There are places where (unfortunately) you cannot carry a firearm. What do you do? If you can’t find a different establishment, you need a knife on you. The wave feature rapidly deploys the knife blade when half seconds matter.

Sturdy Pocket Clip

I lost count of the number of pocket clips I have broken or bent. The Kershaw CQC-5K’s pocket clip has kept its form, without budging or bending. If that’s not enough, it is also reversible for those wrong-handed (left) people. My only complaint is that I wish it would seat deeper into my pocket.

Blade Steel

You can judge a lot about a knife by the quality of the steel. You will have to sharpen soft steel blades often, as the gentlest of tasks dulls them quickly. That is not the case with the CQC. Having owned this knife for months, I have only had to sharpen it five or six times. While that may seem like a lot, it is actually very impressive.

This blade has cut through close to 100 fish, scraped across gravel and concrete, ground into copper when stripping wires, and let’s not forget performing daily tasks such as opening the mail and preparing and eating lunch. Through all of this, the Kershaw CQC has yet to fail me.

If I ever do manage to break my CQC, I will not hesitate to buy another. If I had to give it a rating, it would be a solid 9 out of 10. If the knife sat deeper in my pocket, it would be the perfect blade. Kershaw, with the Emerson wave design, brought us one of the best knives I have yet to use at a price that makes it suitable for anyone.

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Have you found a budget EDC knife that has yet to fail you? Which one? Tell us about it in the comment section.

Kyle has been very active with firearms from a young age when his father gave him his first .22 and a brick of ammo. This led to deer hunting in southern Illinois and doves in west Texas. He is an Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran, and currently works as a product tech for Cheaper Than Dirt!

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 (15)

  1. I’ve been using Emerson knives since I enlisted in ’97. I am sorry that Emerson has let Kershaw use its name to make this knife in China. If you’re a soldier like me you probably can’t stand using equipment that has a China label on it. Do yourself a favor and spend the extra cash and buy an actual EMERSON knife that is Made in the USA. You will not regret it.

    1. We would all love to by things made in the USA but unfortunately a lot of us can’t afford it.. What is the price of an Emerson around 250 to 300? Even for an enlisted man that’s a lot of money for a pocket knife.

  2. I have one knife with the emerson wave feature. A DPX HEST. While it works fine I prefer a flipper or even thumb stud. Am an avid collector of both fixed & pocket knives I prefer pocket knives & while I have over 75 pocket knives (most of good quality) my personal preference that will be in my pocket 80% of the time is a Spyderco Caly 3.5. On my fourth in past 15 years since my sons & a grandson have all talked me out of my first 3. I believe that is a testament to this knife since they all could have asked for another & they probably would have received it even though I have more expensive ones. Try it, you won’t take it out of your pocket except to use.

  3. What are your needs? I have knives from a herd of manufacturers. While I have never tested this Kershaw — and while I own several and they all can be ranked — my favorite for concealabilty, Speedsafe action and blade length is the Blur. Not sure what they cost these days, but I carry one inside my waistband every day. I play with it. It’s a GREAT knife at the price point (around $75 more or less)

  4. The author notes that he would like the pocket clip to ride lower. That would give you better concealment, but I think that you would find that pocket knives draw easier and more fumble free if a little bit of handle is above the pocket. It a trade-off between to two attributes.

  5. Living in Oregon, I have long been a fan of Kershaw. I own several and like them all, including but not limited to a truly excellent machete which I use to assault the pernicious blackberries that seek to take over our property, along with several folders. For a reasonably priced blade they have all been good value. Of course, again now living in Oregon, I also have several excellent Leatherman products and several Gerber products and one Wayne Goddard design made by Spyderco. One Leatherman product, purchased in Idaho by the way, is a fixed blade knife that spins on its bolster and reveals a saw of the same length as the blade — just over 5 inches. The blade vanishes into the grip when the saw is out and vice versa.
    As a member of the Oregon Knife Collectors Association, I also see a variety of knives and few represent the “bang for the buck” of the Kershaw. Of course, there are extraordinarily excellent custom knives of exotic steels or those of tried and true steels but of excellent custom craftsmanship. However, for daily carry, it is hard to beat Kershaw.
    About the Emerson wave device/tactic, as a child I was bused to an inner city school back east to achieve racial balance. One friend showed us how to device a system where any pocket knife could come to hand with the blade extended. You could either dull the very tip, or reinforce the pocket corner with a piece of leather. Then, you put a short piece of broken match stick under the tip of the jack knife main blade which prevented the knife from fully closing. You put the partially open knife into your pocket, the knife bolster down and tip up in your pocket. When you retrieved the knife, you held the scales on the side of the jack knife, keeping your hand clear of the blade. As you withdrew the knife from your pocket, you pulled it so the tip of the blade caught the corner of the pocket and the reinforcing leather. Once the tip made contact, you with draw the rest of the knife and the tip being caught on the pocket, it came out in your hand with the blade fully extended. It was my first experience with one hand operating knives and with a bit of practice was very fast. It did not require any modification to the knife, just a bit of soft match stick to hold the blade slightly open. It worked with any folding knife, regardless of size, as long as it fit inside your pocket. My preference in those days was a Case stockman’s two bladed knife with a 4 inch main blade. The fake stag grips allowed sufficient purchase to reliably extract the knife and have the blade extended, ready to for use.
    We also found that the leather in the tongue of a shoe or boot was the perfect material for reinforcing the corner of your pocket — flexible and easily folded in half to stitch into the top corner of your pocket, leaving the bottom edge exposed to capture the tip of the knife.

    You see, I know in spades (no pun intended) that it can happen to you regardless of what you may be doing and it will likely come as a complete surprise. You had better learn to react quickly and be situationally aware at all times. Further, unlike a knife, the .45 ACP allows a bark over here and a bite over there and the grips do not get slippery with blood, either yours or someone elses, as a knife may.

  6. The Kershaw CQC-5K sounds like it’s worth a look.

    The article asked us to share our favorite EDC, so here goes.

    As far as folders go, my go-to, never failed me is my CRKT C/K PM that I bought at the PX at Camp Victory, Iraq in 2005 for around $50. This knife is rock solid and built to last. It’s a bit heavy because it is all steel, including the handle, but it is up to any task. It doesn’t have a gee-whiz spring assist or fancy opening, but a simple flick of my thumb against the knob on the blade as I draw it and it’s open. Right now.

    I also like that it is a straight edge instead of serrated, so it cuts smooth and clean. It stays sharp forever and it has the CRKT Autolawkes to ensure the blade will never close unless I want it to.

    Through a lot of years of hard use in the USA, as well as Iraq and Afghanistan, this knife has never failed me, and I have never needed to tighten anything from the belt clip to the frame.

    The only time I came close to losing this knife, was when I was transiting out of the airport in Kabul, and one of the Afghan security guys who was searching my checked luggage before I could turn it in to baggage tried to steal it. I looked him in the eye, took my CRKT out of his hand, and closed my suitcase. He gave me a dirty look, but I got through the security point.

    Since it’s a old model, the closest CRKT has to it now is the M21 G10 Folder. A great knife for the money.

  7. Great article. However, you devote a whole section to “blade steel”, yet there is no mention of specifically which steel is used in the blade! Why is this? I love Kershaws, generally, though I am not very fond of the Emerson “wave” feature. Everything I can do with the wave feature, I can do with a “flipper” feature. Oh, that is, except tear up my pants.

    1. Al, Thanks for bringing that up. Once in a while things will slip through the cracks. I had fully intended to put that in there, but it slipped my mind. The steel type is 8Cr14MoV.

  8. I have several Kershaw knives…they are great little tools. I give one to each of my sons-in-law as stocking stuffers. (It helps that I get them at wholesale.)

  9. I relate again, the story of the gunsmith who was an avid outdoorsman all of his life. Once in the woods, he left his expensive hunting knife stuck in a log when he was building afire to stay warm, cuz the weather was turning bad.
    They broke camp and started back out and he forgot the knife in the log. When he got out to the road and realized what he had done, he turned around to retrieve the knife and got trapped in a blizzard, which almost cost him his life! He then told me about Mora knives, which he then used the rest of his life. Inexpensive, great blades, universal applications, and if you forget one — so what? GET ANOTHER !

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