Have you ever wished your pocket knife was as heavy as a fixed blade? Have you ever wanted a folding knife that you could possibly hold with 2 hands? Do you ever desire to perform the act of chopping small tree branches with your folder? Or, if you’re just looking for one of the biggest, heaviest knives around, with a price tag that’s just over $100, the Cold Steel 4Max Scout just might be a contender for your next knife purchase. Not all knives that are big and heavy are created equal, so let’s talk about what makes this knife worth it’s weight in dollars, and why it may or may not be something you’d consider carrying in your pocket as a daily use tool.
Key Specs: Cold Steel 4Max Scout
With 4” of AUS-10A steel, and a blade stock thickness of .18”, you have an idea of what a monster this blade is. It’s a drop point shape, with a high saber grind, and a respectable stonewash finish. It’s touting large thumb studs on either side of the blade, and carries Cold Steels typical style of large font branding and model name on the blade. There seems to be a desire to be loud and proud in the Cold Steel knife naming department when it comes to printing the model on the blade, and it gives the feel of a glorified gas station knife in my eyes. There are some small changes Cold Steel could make to their knives to give them less of a cheap or budget knife feel, and this is one of those aspects.
Carrying the blade stock thickness almost all the way to the very tip of the blade, the 4-Max Scout sports one extremely tough blade. It’s thick behind the edge, which can be viewed as a negative by many users with cutting performance in mind, but with a steel like AUS-10A (which is quite tough in the budget realm of steels, and has better-than-average edge retention), on a knife with this kind of build, it feels in line with the rest of the design to keep a thick edge for durability in cutting. A good portion of the blade near the heel, about ½”, is reserved for the sharpening choil, which is big enough (for careful hands) to use as a choked up position for the index finger. The aforementioned stonewash on the blade is very smooth, which gives the blade a frictionless feel in passing through material, as well as a smoothed out spine for a comfortable feel in hand.
Deployment / Lockup
With the Andrew Demko designing many of Cold Steel’s knives in the past years, but recently retiring to focus on his own manufacturing, the Triad lock was designed by Mr. Demko along with the 4-Max Scout. The lockup on the 4-Max is, as expected, absolutely solid. The Triad lock, for brevity’s sake, is a lock back with a stop pin added to it. The blade effectively rests on the stop pin (which is enormous in this knife), and the back lock bar rests under the stop pin. This gives the blade and lock bar a place to stop, justifying the “tri” portion of the lock’s name. There’s almost nothing that can make this lock fail, even in extreme testing, as Andrew has done in numerous YouTube videos in the past. In a real life scenario, though, the lock is almost guaranteed to never fail, and has an extremely smooth action to boot.
With large thumb studs to match the rest of the knife, the 4-Max Scout is quite easy to deploy in terms of efficacy. But, one problem many average-to-large sized hands may have (but not Andre the Giant sized hands) is that with a knife this large, the blade studs move so far away from the handle while deploying, it can be a challenge to hold onto the knife with only one hand. Now, if one is as talented as yours truly (sarcasm intended), flicking the blade open in one swift motion is quite pleasing, and eliminates the issue of having to adjust your hand as the blade opens, or having to use two hands. I’ll admit this takes some practice, and some careful handling, as you don’t want a nearly 11 ounce knife falling toward your feet or anything else for that matter.
Using Cold Steel’s pivot system of phosphor bronze washers along with paper thin teflon washers, the blade deployment is somehow incredibly smooth. They use this pivot style in many of their knives, and I’m always pleasantly surprised how well they work. Additionally, back locks can be quite stiff and gritty, but Cold Steel does a good job with keeping the smoothness fluid even in a knife with this kind of heft. Unlocking the blade is quite easy too, which is again a little surprising, with the lock bar being the same thickness as the blade tang. Here’s where you’re really want to be careful; one handed unlocking.
A 2-handed unlocking sequence would be the safest choice here, but again, with some practice and careful hand positioning, one handed unlocking is possible. The weight of the blade on this knife will fall extremely fast down toward the index finger, as that’s the only way to unlock the knife with one hand. With the index finger positioned close to the blade, the unsharpened portion of the blade will land on the index finger, then comes the repositioning of the hand to clear the blade path, at which time the blade can be pushed closed in which ever manner you see fit. Really, though, be careful with this blade. It’s very heavy, and moves very fast once it passes past the mid way point of closing.
Features, Fit and Finish
So how does a roughly $100 knife fair in the fit and finish department? Quite well, actually. With materials being used like “Griv-Ex” handle scales, “stainless steel” liners, and AUS-10A blade steel, this Taiwan made folder could have a better list of components. But, does the sum of materials make up the knife as a whole? I say no, because the heat treat of the steel is well done, the finishing on the scales, while a little over-textured is nice and grippy, and a super solid lock and comfortable handle make up more of the knife as a whole than just the list of materials used.
Small screws on an extremely large knife always feels like way to save money in a small way in manufacturing, but it’s still used on many knives. And the 4-Max Scout is no different. The liners are left with rough machining edges, and could use a de-burring in the manufacturing process. The pocket clip has plenty of retention to keep the knife in place while moving throughout the day, but the overly grippy scales make it very difficult to get in and out of the pocket. But aside from these nitpicks, which are admittedly found on much more expensive folders as well, the 4-Max Scout is quite well put together, considering it’s price point.
Do you ever get the urge to use your knife outside of commonly agreed upon rules of folding knife use? I know I do. And with some knives, I’ll put them through more rigorous testing than most others. So for the Scout, I wanted to make sure I didn’t cut some copy paper and hold the knife in front of a camera for a 10 minute online “review”. Starting with the staple of knife use in our common EDC based lives; cardboard. Yes it’s boring, mostly predictable, and can be done by just about any knife you can pick up around the house. But this folder is so huge, so thick behind the edge, and so “novelty knife” feeling, I wasn’t sure what to expect when breaking down some boxes in the garage to fit into the trash. Initiating the cut was not as easy as with many other folders, since the edge is quite thick on the 4-Max Scout. And the blade, while tall in nature, still has a very thick stock to try and pass through long draw cuts. But without too much thought or excess effort, I was able to break down some double walled cardboard without much resistance. And, the ergos of the giant handle were able to shine through, with promise for heavier use to come.
So, moving to cutting some 3/8” thick sisal rope. This particular test is very dependent on the thickness of the edge on the blade. You can have a .10” thick stock, but still have a hard time cutting this rope on a wood bench with a thick edge. And the 4-max Scout did struggle a little here. The cutting on this test was comparable to an XM-18, requiring some back and forth sawing motion to get the rope to cut. Many knives with a thinner edge are able to push cut through the rope, but that’s not going to be a possibility with this knife, at least until a significant edge reprofiling is done in sharpening. With one strong chop, the rope cut easily, though. So, there’s that. It’s fun to use like this, and has virtually no effect on the edge, since it’s so thick and durable.
Grabbing a spare 2×4 piece of wood from the scrap pile, I choked up on the handle to test out the grip and ergonomics. Either in the standard position or the choked up position, I couldn’t find a bad way to hold this knife. I had no hot spots, no rough edges (save for the sharp-ish liners), and the clip melted away in the hand. The thicker edge on this blade wasn’t much of a problem shaving down a good section of the 2×4, either. So far, so good. Now, what about some chopping? Well, it’s a big, heavy knife, with plenty of handle to spare. So, gripping the handle down near the bottom of the grip area, and putting full faith into the Triad lock, I went all in with some chopping.
There won’t ever be a folding knife that compares directly with a fixed blade, but this sure comes close. With the wood in a large vice, I was able to chop through the wood without too much time. Secure in hand, and once again, no real edge deformation to speak of. I took another piece of wood, lightly hammered the knife into the side, and pried with it until I was able to separate the wood into two pieces. This tests out the lock and blade strength in side to side nature, and shows if the heat treat and handle build quality are strong enough to get through the testing without any warping or breaking. And of course, there were no issues to speak of. Not that I expected any, and this is maybe not the hardest use test there is, but I wanted to try something that someone would actually do in a pinch on maybe a camping trip or bonfire.
All these knives available at BladeHQ.In typical fashion, Cold Steel uses many of their production knives in the shadow of it’s original predecessor, in this case, the Cold Steel 4 Max. Yes, you read that correctly. They have 2 variants of this knife. The original, Italian made 4 Max uses S35VN blade steel, Titanium handle liners, and G10 handle scales. The titanium liners drop the weight about one full ounce, but the price goes from $110 up to $425. Yes, a Cold Steel that rivals the price of the biggest production made makers there are. Never having handled the Italian made version, I can’t give a real “in hand” comparison, but most knife guys I talk to say that the Italian variant isn’t worth $315 more than the Taiwanese model.
And if you’re dead set on a 4” folder, my first choice would be the Spyderco Police 4 in K390 and G10. But that model is unfortunately discontinued. So, the Spyderco Police 4 Lightweight FRN in VG10 will have to do. It’s got the same blade length as the 4 Max Scout, comes in at only $10 more than the Cold Steel, and is made in Japan. It cuts the weight down from the Scout’s 10.2 ounces down to a measly 4.2 on the Spyderco, so using your folder as a chopper will have to go out the window on this alternative. And, if you’re willing to step up the price, the Police 4 Lightweight does come in the K390 steel variant, which is a huge upgrade from VG10, coming in at $165.
Toning down the hugely oversized folder, to just a normal oversized folder, the Cold Steel AD10 is a great choice. It uses the slightly more desirable S35VN blade steel, touts a “lightweight” nature of just 6.8 ounces, and a blade length of 3.6”. This is still a very large folder, but moves out of the novelty feeling range that the 4-Max Scout lives in. The AD10 is also designed by Andrew Demko, made by Cold Steel in Taiwan, and uses the same, ultra strong Triad lock as the Scout. It’s buttery smooth, and very comfortable. We’ve got a review of that as well, if you’d like to read more. It does drive up the price quite a bit over the Scout, at about $190, but does use G10 handle scales over the Scout’s Griv-Ex material.
When you look to buy a knife for it’s overbuilt, oversized, overly heavy folder, there’s no better choice than the Cold Steel 4-Max Scout. It’s heavy, strong, and can take a real beating. It’ll suffice for most daily cutting tasks, and cross over into potential bushcraft use or in a pinch on a job site. It’s not easy to get in and out of the pocket, but it’ll be sure to stay put in various “hard use” conditions. It has practicality built in to it’s big, bad style, and will hold up to long term carry and use for just about any conditions. Just don’t plan on cutting up apples without smashing them into applesauce, or passing it over to an innocent bystander to open a box without hearing comments on how obnoxious this beast is.
- Budget price with quality build, good heat treat for budget steel, comfortable for various use.
- Very heavy, larger than life size, thick blade grind, difficult one hand operation