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A Lovely Traditionally Styled Bowie
on June 23, 2011
I'm a big fan of bowie knives, especially Cold Steel's. The first CS bowie I acquired was a Trailmaster. I bought my TM back when CS was still making their knives in the US and using Carbon V steel. I'm not exactly an expert on types of steel, but the Carbon V TM was an outstanding knife with incredible strength and edge retention. After carrying it for about five years I decided to try another Cold Steel bowie knife. I'd heard nothing but good things about the Laredos and I really liked their more traditional styling, but when I saw that CS had switched to the new SK-5 steel and was manufacturing out of Taiwan, I was a bit skeptical. Still, I've never bought a CS product that I didn't like, and so decided to give it a go. I wasn't disappointed.
BLADE: SK-5 Steel - At 10&1/2 inches this is one big blade. It is elegantly shaped and flat ground with a beautiful satin finish. It comes out of the box quite sharp, passing both the paper slicing test and the arm shaving test with ease. The blade isn't quite as sharp as my Cold Steel Ti-Lite or Hatamoto, but that makes sense considering this is a large fixed blade meant for heavier work like chopping and batoning (two things it does very well), however a few minutes with a fine stone and this thing could be ready for surgery. One of my biggest questions when I acquired this knife was whether or not the new SK-5 steel could stand up to the same rigors as the old Carbon V. After carrying the Laredo for over a year now, I'd say that the new steel measures up. It doesn't *quite* have the same resilience and edge retention of the old Carbon V knives, but for all intents and purposes, at least my intents and purposes, the difference is negligible.
One of my favorite features of this blade is the long false edge. That thing can really do some damage on a back cut. Cold Steel advertises the false edge as sharpened, and it will definitely take a chunk out of whatever you decide to whack with it, be it flesh, wood, or otherwise, but isn't sharp enough for actual cutting. Still, if so inclined, one could easily put a fully functional cutting edge on it with minimal effort. In my opinion it's fine as is, but it's nice to have the option.
The spine of the blade is quite thick at 5/16", making for one hefty chunk of steel, however the main edge and the false edge meet to form a very sharp point, so despite its weight this knife is far from dull or clunky, with excellent piercing power. The considerable heft makes it a good chopper, and the thickness of the blade makes it strong enough for some rough batoning.
GUARD: The beautiful brass guard both adds to the traditional look and feel of the Laredo, and does a good job of keeping your fingers safe from the cutting edge. Unless you're willing to spend a good amount of time polishing it every week, it will eventually aqcuire a patina, but personally I find this aesthetically pleasing.
HANDLE: Here we find a place where aesthetics and practicality are somewhat at odds with each other. The Laredo's wooden handle is gorgeous, but its smooth finish makes it less than ideal in the grip department, especially when wet. This problem is easily solved with hockey tape or something similar, but such an addition would detract from the overall look of the knife. Fortunately, the brass guard provides a good measure of protection. I suppose one could carve out some grooves and re-finish the handle, but for my purposes it's fine the way it is.
SHEATH: The Laredo's sheath is the one aspect of the whole package that doesn't thrill me. Don't get me wrong, it's well made, and matches the knife's look and feel, but it's just so bulky. The thickness of the sheath is especially problematic considering that the Laredo is meant for IWB carry. You might find yourself having to loosen your belt a notch just to fit it in. I was fortunate enough have my Laredo fitted with a custom concealex sheath from an expert sheath maker (I'm not sure if I'm allowed to drop names in a review, but anyone who is interested please drop me a line and I'll point you in his direction). With the thin, light concealex sheath I'm able to slip the Laredo into my belt easily, making concealed carry a breeze.
The Cold Steel SK-5 Laredo Bowie is a 5-star knife, no doubt about it. The sheath system might be a little bulky for some, but the knife itself is a thing of beauty, and a great tool. Get it, you won't regret it.