Cold Steel Torture Test: Recon Tanto VS Brinks Safe

I wanted to post a story and some pics of a recent impromptu “knife durability test” I conducted. The whole “right tool for the job” thing was not going my way and I ended up using my Cold Steel Recon Tanto to get into a safe. This was not an easy thing to do and the knife was subjected to abuse FAR past anything I have ever done to a knife before.

So a few years back at an old mans garage sale I bought this Brinks Safe for $15. It was in perfect shape. He said $5 when I went to pay him but the tag said $15, I pointed that out as it was obvious his sight was pretty far gone. He thanked me and said you’re right, $15. Still a great deal. I recently lost the only key that went to the thing and needed to get out my buddies cash for a car that I had sold for him. After a few weeks of looking for the key I gave up and decided to break in. I figured the key would surface 12 minutes after I had destroyed the thing but it hasn’t yet.

I thought this would be easy, I planned to cut the hinges and just lift out the door from the hinge side. Wrong answer! I never really paid attention to the design but the deadbolt thing latched on both sides. So with the hinges cut the door was still there to stay. At this time a crow bar would have been nice but mine was too big to get it in there so after snapping off one screwdriver within 20 seconds I went to the Carbon V Recon Tanto from Cold Steel. In case you were wondering a cutting wheel or torch was not an option. The safe also contained a first year Ruger Mk 1 in mint condition in its original box, a sweet 1964 Colt Govt. Model and an early 70’s  Colt Combat Commander in 38 Super, plus the Commander was loaded. For those reasons I didn’t want wheels cutting inside the safe walls or heat.

Now I spent the next hour and a half grunting, cursing and busting a sweat. I bent that knife blade over probably pushing 30 degree’s so many times I can’t count them. It returned to perfectly strait every time, VERY impressive. One would be hard pressed to find a knife in most any price range that would do that.

Once I opened up a bit of room from all that prying I could have switched to the crowbar but by now I was wondering if I could do it entirely with the Tanto. I braced the backside of the blade against the door and just started cutting/tearing my way through the layers of steel and the fire retardant stuff. I forced that knife through several layers of steel, twisted it, bent it over time and time again and still it wasn’t damaged.

After a long while I heard a tiny little “snap” sound and felt something. I looked at the blade and I had snapped off just the very tiniest bit of the tip. It in no way put the knife out of commission but I have to note that it did break off. In all fairness though I don’t think out of 200 knives in my collection that I have a single one that would have lasted up to this point. I have all kinds of knives, Gerber, SOG, Randall and other Cold Steel knives. Military bayonets from 150 years ago till today’s, Buck’s, Khukri’s, Schrade’s, Henry’s…NONE of them do I think would have survived this. Not even close. This Recon Tanto is just one bad ass knife.

Eventually I managed to get the steel cut back far enough that I scraped one of the dead bolts by out of its hole and the door was off 🙂 Finally…I wrenched on that thing so hard for so long I was getting tired and tired of it too.

So in the end how is the knife?? After all that unreasonable abuse it is fine. The tip will be easily fixed by my knife sharpener guy and the blade despite all that bending is perfectly strait. The finish shows a few scuffs, so what after all that. The edge is a bit dulled but not butter knife dull and it has NO chips or dings in the edge which is mind-boggling to me. This is by far the most I have ever asked of a knife and the Cold Steel Recon Tanto passed with flying colors. This was a safe! While I didn’t break into it in record safe cracking time the point is I managed to claw, cut, pry and rip my way into a name brand safe without any permanent damage to the knife. That says a lot for this knife.

This thing is tough folks!! It always has been my first choice in a field knife and this is why. The thing is nearly indestructible and at a fraction of the cost of a lot of knives that won’t take this amount of abuse. This is the best bang for any buck field knife I have ever used or ever will use. I can’t see myself personally using anything but a Cold Steel Carbon V Recon Tanto.

As always thanks for reading and train often.

By: Cary Kieffer


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Cary Kieffer

USMC Infantry/Combat Veteran - Med Retired LEO/8yrs.

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10 Responses to Cold Steel Torture Test: Recon Tanto VS Brinks Safe

  1. John Roberts says:

    My like new Carbon V Recon Tanto is tucked away with my Ruger 10/22 break down stainless steel rifle. I just like knowing it’s there, and now, that it can take just about anything I throw at it. It’s always been one of my favorite bug-out knives, though Cold Steel has some amazing knives out there, and some are folders.

    A real sleeper, in my view, is the Smith & Wesson Homeland Security fixed-blade tanto knife. At $29 shipped, it would have easily held up against your safe. It’s now been years. Has the key showed up?

    You should send your story to COLD STEEL. Who knows? They may give you a new knife.

    • Cary Kieffer says:

      Yeah, I’ve got several of those Smith knives, the tip isn’t as tough but overall they are hard to beat for the $$. Very solid hunk of steel.

      I did send this to them years back when I wrote it, asked them for a free sharpening that at the time they charged 10$ for. Never heard from them….subsequently I haven’t bought another Cold Steel knife. They could have at least said “no”, I thought this was good free press worth a sharpening, apparently it’s not even worth a response from them. Thanks for stopping by TGR. Cary

      • John Roberts says:

        They’re known for not responding to customers. The only way to get things done with Cold Steel is to call them, then get their names. Back when they were producing the 440A knives (Pro-Lite, Night Force, Recon 1), I called them on another matter, then asked about these knives. I was really surprised when the guy I was talking to suddenly went kind of dark. He clearly did not like the 440A steel and he was not approving of the company buying it, even if they did get it at a good deal.

        I’m not a big fan of 440A. In fact, I despise it. But when I bought the above knives, these were the only knives I’d ever bought that nicked me even when I thought I was being careful. Several reviewers made the same statement, but I also noticed the edge holding wasn’t bad at all. Like the company or not, their heat treat is generally right on the mark. I still carry my Night Force and the Pro-Lite was one of their finest tanto knives. Beautiful, strong and just felt great in the hand. I still love them and was a bit surprised by the almost open hostility. It’s like the guy was perfectly happy talking about other knives, but when it came to the 440A knives, it was like conversation over. Didn’t want to talk about it.

        So if you need something from Cold Steel, never write them. They don’t respond. It’s a stupid policy, but they don’t seem willing to change. (I even talked to Lynn Thompson one day and had a great conversation with him. He’s very passionate about what he does and I don’t think he’s aware he’s got a lousy PR problem.)

        The one weakness I think Cold Steel is experiencing now is that Thompson is too wed to Andrew Demko’s Tri-Ad locking system. The old Pro-Lite had the same locking system as the Ti-Lite. Very strong lock. Very nice oval hole instead of studs, and the most beautiful black coating I’ve ever seen, though it doesn’t last. Use it and lose it.

  2. Joe says:

    If you had a choice between a used Carbon V or a SAN MAI III which one would you choose?

    • Cary Kieffer says:

      I’d get on ebay and get a used Carbon V everytime. I have some San Mai 3’s and while they are very nice I just have a gut feeling it wouldn’t have faired as well as this Carbon V did. I can’t prove it but that’s what my gut says. On the flip side the San Mai can be brought to such an unbelievable sharpness. I have one if you look at it crooked it will slice you 🙂 Seriously though, never had anything sharpen as well as San mai steel does. Inspite of that I still will stay with the Carbon V. It won’t get as sharp but does a great job of holding the edge it will take. Thanks for stopping by TGR. Cary

      • John Roberts says:

        I bought three or four of their Konjos years ago when they were discontinued. They are some of the sharpest, most beautiful knives I’ve ever owned. Friends who have actually used theirs tell me they’ve never actually sharpened theirs because of their edge-holding ability.

        Why anyone would use theirs is beyond me. When knives get too beautiful, I tend to tuck them away in safes and not use them. Yeah, you can’t take ’em with you, but I just can’t do it. Those Konjos are probably as sharp as any other knife I’ve seen. Sadly, Cold Steel can’t put a razor edge on its new CTS-XHP steel, but it holds the edge they put on it almost forever. You’ll never get the same edge on the new powdered steels that you’ll put on an AUS8A, and the BD1 steel, while very good as an edge holder, isn’t as tough as AUS8A. I’ve seen people break the tips off their BD1 knives while abusing them, but I’ve never seen them break off a tip off an AUS8A though I imagine it’s possible. People love to hate AUS8A, but it takes a very sharp edge and is used on many outdoor knives. The blade steel is an excellent value for self defense knives and they’re easy to keep very sharp. For self defense, they’re great knives.

        That said, one of my favorite knives is the Buck Alaskan 110, made with S30V. Although it also is known for paying attention to the heat treat process, its unflagging use of 420HC strikes me as too old school. Back when I was in high school (in the late 60s), I suspect 420HC was just swell. Today, not so much.

        • Cary Kieffer says:

          I think I have one of those Buck Alaskans in a presentation box somewhere…I’m going to dig around and see. You seem like quite a knife guy, I’ve gotten away from it in last 10 years and went more towards precision rifles and reloading. I do have a collection of Peacemaker and Counter-tac knives. The smaller ones have never cut anything but big Peacemaker in San Mai 3 steel is my prime rib carving knife. Sharpest thing I ever owned.

  3. Cary Kieffer says:

    Thanks guys, boy it was some stress on that knife! 🙂 I bought a new camera. I need to get it out of the box one of these days.

  4. Mike Coker says:

    Awesome Cary! Wow. This one is going out on Twitter for sure.

  5. 53gr says:

    I have to say this may be my favorite article of yours. The photography really makes it cool, though I DEMAND larger pictures. Seriously, good job in turning a common act of forgetfulness into a great impromptu torture test.

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