Customer Reviews: Cold Steel Special Forces Shovel with Hardwood Handle
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on November 30, 2010
The shovel is very stout and sturdy. The sides and leading edges all come roughly sharpened from the factory. Sharp enough to hurt yourself if you are not careful. Be careful. If you want to, it is possible to greatly polish/improve the sharpness of the edges. There is enough weight in the head of the shovel to imagine using it as a light hatchet. (I have not attempted this, but there are plenty of videos available on the internet of people doing so) Since there are three sharp edges on this shovel, you really cannot pack it anywhere without risking it cutting your gear. The sheath for this shovel is usually sold separately, but having a sheath is NOT AN OPTION unless you never intend to pack this shovel with your camping gear. The metal will rust if you do not take care of it. There are many lighter shovels available out there, most of them fold. I have used folding shovels throughout many years in the military, and all the lightweight folding shovels I have seen are nowhere near as tough as this shovel. This is indeed a rugged, tough shovel and well worth the $30 or so it will cost for the shovel and matching sheath. Cheap out and buy only the shovel at your peril.

This shovel has the "Jack seal of approval"


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on February 1, 2010
With this heavy duty version of the Spetsnaz E-tool (shovel) You have to ask yourself, "What will I actually be using it for?" Digging,chopping,throwing,@ camp site, in vehicle, improvised weapon - cant beat it. Hiking, on the move, its cumbersome and a slip and fall while wearing this in the sheath (that costs extra) has the potential to create an injury that could take you outta the game. (The sheath will save you from cuts-not breaks) Super well made and functional.
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on April 2, 2013
These shovels are excellent, high quality tools. I would recommend these for pretty much anyone who needs a nearly indestructible shovel (with a few modifications). My only complaint is that the handles do not stand up as well as the heads, I have broken three of them chopping. These handles can be quite easily replaced with a solid polyethylene rod from McMaster-Carr (part number 8701K46) It requires shaping one end into a cone to fit into the shovel socket, of course, but that is easily done with a belt sander or grinding wheel. After I had fitted the handle, I coated it with rubberized truck bed liner for a better grip, and that handle has not broken or even budged after very rigorous testing and years of use. Pictures can be provided if desired.
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on September 11, 2010
Excellent product, made of top-notch material. It works great for chopping and digging, works ok for slicing/cutting and bushwhacking. Basically an excellent camping tool, or shovel/hatchet replacement in any limited-weight situation (e.g. survival). The steel is remarkably durable, I usually dig in gravely areas, but the shovel hasn't lost it's edge yet. The handle can be a bit slippery, but nothing you can't fix with a tape and paracord handle-wrap or a lanyard (drill a hole through the back, loop some cord through, tie it off).
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on December 1, 2012
I need to clarify a few things.

First, with any throwing axe/shovel/knife, with a wooden handle, the handle will eventually break from the force of shock upon impact. That's a given. Wooden handles are meant to be replicable, it extends the usefulness of the tool. Instead of a heavy metal handle that will eventually bend or break, making your tool harder to repair and render your tool worthless, wood is a great alternative because of its abundance and ease to work with.

Second, with any carbon steel you will need to oil the blade. Use whatever oil suits you, but oil the darn thing so it won't rust.

All in all it's a great tool if you maintain the shovel. I like that the head is detachable, allowing you to affix it to a longer handle in the bush if you need it. It is also a good gardener's tool, taking the place of a larger spade and small garden axe. It's not made out of the best steel or wood, but it has got a good price tag for what you get.

I keep one in the car if I ever get in a pinch. It's definitely taking a place in my bug out bag. All in all it's a good tool. The original handle has lasted me for some time. I don't throw it at trees or target stumps because I wouldn't do that with my other tools. Why, you ask? Because that would break them!
Bottom line.

Usefulness: A

Style: B

Construction: B+
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on April 21, 2013
I want to love this shovel, but it simply didn't live up to its advertisements. I purchased mine years ago from Cold Steel's catalog. (I was and still am disappointed at the extra cost of the sheath, and did not purchase one). The shovel held up to testing, throwing, sharpening, and digging field latrines just fine. Twice I used it to chip into ice under stuck tires to place branches for traction. The second time, the blade cracked vertically alongside the socket. The hard steel is too brittle for a working shovel. I found the US military E-tool to be MUCH tougher. The hardwood handle, on the other hand, is superb. I had ordered a spare, expecting the shovel head to outlast the handle. After this proved untrue, I attached the original handle to a regular garden spade. The result is an extremely portable shovel with a broad blade that has withstood all of the hacking and chipping I have thrown at it (including a solid twenty minutes or so of hacking at the ground to put out a grass fire someone's cigarette had started along the freeway). My spare handle is still in pristine condition, waiting for the original to break on the garden spade. I love Cold Steel, but this one's a miss. Buy just the handle if Cold Steel is still offering replacements, and put it on a regular shovel blade.
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on January 11, 2015
Outstanding and incredibly practical is what this tool is. I bought this for my son as a filler Christmas present as I figured he could use this on our many adventures into the woods. He's 11 and loves anything to do with hiking, survival skills, bush crafting, etc. Little did I know this tool would be so wonderful and useful, we would practically argue over who was going to use it next on our outings. I have been kicking myself in the butt ever since for not buying several of these when they were 15.55 each a few weeks before Christmas. They now seem to be running mid 20's to 30 bucks each. I'll be closely watching for the price to drop so I can get a couple more.

I wont bore you with the specs as they can easily be found online, I'll just let you know how it arrived and how it is holding up so far. So the steel is pretty heavy gauge and the coating on it is incredibly tough. We are doing tons of digging, chopping, and some trail clearing as we encounter things in the way on our paths. Our shovel arrived extremely sharp. So much so that I had to caution my son about taking it from the sheath inside the house for fear of damaging floors. It was this sharp on all four angles of the shovel. Grind was sharp and even on both sides and all the way around. The handle fits tightly inside the socket head and secures with two large Phillips head wood screws that seemed to be finished in the same tough coating as the shovel head. It is slightly heavy, but this aids greatly in chopping, digging, using as a hoe/rake, and pounding stakes into the ground like a hammer. It is also curved over on the back edge like a regular shovel so you can stomp your boot against it if you need to drive it into the ground more firmly.


While this is not a substitute for a machete, errant vines, bushes, and thorn bushes were no match for this very sharp edge. Also goes right through palmetto stems which are common in the area we travel.


This is not a machete or an axe.......but you damn sure wouldn't know it by the way it cuts!!!! I really wanted to overuse this thing to see if it would fail from harsh use. I figured at this low price, I'll bend it up a bit and really loosen up the handle in the socket (I bought an extra handle) and scrape off every bit of the finish on it. Haaaa!!!! Cold steel had the last laugh!!! I am not recommending this as an axe, but I can tell you I chopped completely through a 6" diameter tree just to see if I could.....and it was no worse for wear. Also cut down tons of saplings of the same type. Outcome was zero bend in the blade, zero loosening of the handle in the socket, virtually no finish damage, and still sharp as new. I was completely blown away at the abuse this shovel took. I used it for things that I really didn't think it was fair to ask it to do and it passed with flying colors. I also used this for lots of delimbing and it jut became easier to stick with this than to keep swapping out for my Ontario sp-8 for lighter chopping.


Small like a fox hole shovel, but far more effective than any other military type shovel I have ever used. Chopped tons of roots as I was digging, and it went through all of them just like a hatchet would. A damn fine digging tool as well.


Hammered large diameter saplings into the ground dozens of times for building various things and not so much a pinch of deformation. Used it to tend to the campfire several times with no issues. Came home and hosed the mud and clay off then a wipe down with a little wd-40 to keep the sharpened edges from rusting and wow!!!!! Thing still looks hardly ever used. Although it's not a big deal, I really have to comment how well the finish is holding up. I did not expect this. I was also downright shocked that I have yet to loosen the handle in the socket no matter how many times I have used this as a hammer and hatchet.

The negatives.

There really aren't any. Just a few things you need to be aware of that I don't even consider negatives. You need the sheath! (I'll review it elsewhere). It's very sharp on all four edges and it will destroy your pack if you put it in there without it. Unless you carry it loose while walking, in the pack or strapped to it is the best way. It is just a little heavy if every ounce is a consideration. But for what it can do, it's worth the weight if that is not an issue. I don't throw it to stick it in things, but I have read if you do that a lot, the handles can be prone to breakage. But cutting the trees and saplings down did not phase it.


Absolutely impressed in every sense of the word!!! Cold steel has an outstanding and useful product here that anyone would be glad to own. The replacement handles are cheap (9.00 and some change) although I'm starting to think I may never have to change it out. Slices, chops, digs, pounds, all without any issues. I absolutely will be getting more of these to have around when they drop back in price again. Get a spare handle too as they are quite the bargain as well. Lastly, have no fear that this thing is made overseas as it has surpassed my expectations in every way imaginable. get one of these and enjoy it on your next outing. You might be shocked at how versatile it is and how many tools it can do the same job for.
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on May 4, 2011
So far this shovel has proven to be a good buy. A lot of these reviews talk about how sharp cold steel products are right out of the box. Well that has not been the case for me. I bought this shovel which had what I would consider to be a dull utility edge on it, and a Kukri Machete which had a deformed edge that had to be run on a grinder to get it to cut anything. The shovel sharpens easily though so that is not a big issue. I loved the handle on this shovel, but I already broke it. I don't suggest you try throwing it like you see in some of the you tube videos. I've read multiple reviews where the reviewer stated that the handle broke while throwing. Once sharped mine shovel worked great as a hatchet and pretty awesome as a shovel as well. This is a great garden tool for digging up flower bulbs, even with a broken handle. If you are looking for a great multi-purpose camping tool, you can't do much better than this shovel. It also makes a great self defense weapon to keep near a door in your home or in the back of a vehicle.
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on May 23, 2016
Looks like someone forgot QC / QA. Problem with outsourcing things to China is that there is no pride in workmanship. The screws were put in at an odd angle so that the heads stuck up and cut into your hands when using it. Had to remove the screws, replace the handle and do the job right myself. The shovel itself came with the paint scratched and gouged, but I can live with that... it's a shovel! Cold Steel and others really messed up when they sent their business over seas... I'd pay more for a quality tool: You only cry once when paying for quality.
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on July 27, 2016
I have had this for a long time and decided that i can give an honest review now that I've used it as frequently as I have. I was skeptical about this shovel at first but decided to take a chance after reading numerous reviews and watching YouTube reviews. I'm glad I did because it is all that it is advertised to be. The edge is sharp enough to make fuzz sticks and tough enough to limb small trees and peel bark from them too. The edge retention is great and the shovel itself quite functional although it is a bit short. The handle length is not a huge issue though because if you really want a longer handle you can make one and easily install it by using just one screw. Added bonus? can use the shovel head to make the handle if need be. The only fault is the dependency on that stupid screw which may be a challenge to remove if needed not to mention finding a replacement in the middle of the woods or at a campground. I recommend carrying a spare and am considering drilling the handle to allow a screw driver to be inserted into the end where the stress is at a minimum.
Back to functionality: My decision to write the review was clinched after a family camping trip that lasted for a week and required minimal woodcraft except the times I was teaching the grandkids. What did it for me after all the use I've had over the last year and a half was being able to show my granddaughter and grandsons how to make a bow and an arrow from scratch using only the shovel. My point to them was that one needn't have a work shop and a ton of supplies to take care of yourself in an emergency if you are resourceful. The bow was a success and shot the 18" arrow (with a one feather fletch and a fire hardened tip) a total of 145 feet. The bow was barely 3 feet long and
was a reflex/deflex profile because that was what the branch looked like, and had a 5 inch 'grip' area. The kids were skeptical to say the least and I would have been happy just to get a bow that didn't break. Grandpa had a point to prove and the heat was on. After an hour and a half of carving and tillering using only the shovel head I made my point to the kids. If I had to choose between this shovel and a machete, hatchet, or large knife I doubt if I could choose anything except the Cold Steel shovel. I just can't think of another tool that can make a bow and arrow as well as dig a fire hole, cut down a small tree and limb it, or entrench a shelter against the rain.
A final word for safety sake. This shovel comes very sharp and it is dangerous. I strongly recommend that a buyer purchase the cover for it unless you are handy enough to put together your own from kydex or heavy leather or even reinforced canvass. This thing can injure you if you are careless or just have an accident so please.....get the cover it is well worth it.
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