Review Cold Steel Outdoorsman san maiIII

Wave Man

Jun 22, 2011
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Brisbane, QLD
Here is my review of my recently purchased CS Outdoorsman san maiIII, I have long wanted this iconic Cold Steel knife (I have long wanted all the iconic Japanese made san maiII CS knives, so the Trail Master, Master hunter, Pendleton Custom Classic, Black Bear Classic sub-hilt fighter, Tai Pan and Master Tanto) though the high price (they usually retailed for around $350-$400) always put me off, well that changed when Cleaver's had them on sale for $200 and I just couldn't go past it.
I also have to note that the Japanese san maiIII made CS knives are all now discontinued, CS still make san mai versions of most of these knives (not the Pendleton Custom Classic or the Black Bear Classic, both of these are discontinued) but the san mai mix has changed to a VG-10/420J(?) laminate and they are manufactured in Taiwan.
I have missed out on the Black Bear Classic, Tai Pan and Master Tanto, are all very rare and not for sale from what I have seem and when they are they go for $6-700+ each. The Pendleton Custom Classic san maiIII is also quite expensive (though I know where one is for sale but retail is $500). I will probably have to settle for the new san mai versions of the Tai Pan and Master Tanto, which is not a big deal for me but a little disappointing.

what the company says
Cold Steel CS18H Outdoorsman
The Outdoorsman is a tried and tested Cold Steel classic. With the good looks, impeccable fit and finish and high performance to rival even the finest custom knives…but make no mistake, this is no mere showpiece – the Outdoorsman is made to work!
The Outdoorsmans has a razor sharp, hollow ground blade with a continuously curved cutting edge. This, combined with the blades wide belly and upswept point make the Outdoorsman a fantastic skinner that will process even the biggest game with ease.
Its Japanese VG-1 San Mai III blade is further complimented by a bone breaker on the spine - which will keep your skinning edge keen by taking up the hardier processing tasks – and a slip-resistant Kray-Ex handle that encapsulates the blades full tang.
There is no doubt that the Outdoorsman deserves pride of place in any knife collection, but it is in the field where it really shines. A fine gift for any hunter and a future heirloom to be passed down to future generations, the Cold Steel Outdoorsman is hard to beat.
Item Number: 18H
Name: Outdoorsman
Blade Length: 6"
Overall Length: 11"
Steel: VG-1 San Mai III
Weight: 9.9 oz
Blade Thickness: 3/16"
Handle: 5" Long Kray-Ex
Sheath: Black Leather Sheath
Made in Japan
cost for me was $200 on sale, no longer available at this price. This Japanese made version is discontinued.

The Cold Steel Outdoorsman san maiIII is delivered in a Cold Steel propirotory box, unusual as the knife was in the sheath (usually they are shipped separately) all wrapped in bubble wrap.
I have noted that because the knife was shipped inside the sheath the sheath has 'worn' slight impressions on the Kray-Ex handle, not a problem per say but I feel that the knife should have been shipped like every other CS knife (separately) which would have eliminated this issue.

The Outdoorsman san maiIII is a typical example of one of Cold Steel premium Japanese made iconic designs, with a satin finished san maiIII laminated (VG-1 core/420J laminate) 6" blade that features a high hollow grind, sharpened top 'bone breaker' and unusual side cut jimping and excellent over moulded 'sticky' Kray-ex handle. A polished stainless steel (420J[?]) bolster half guard and pommel cap finish off the knife and add heaps of class to the build. All the grind are close to perfect and the laminate line is quite uniform
The entire Kray-Ex handle is textured and affords excellent grip. The knife has a full tang, with the Kray-Ex handle moulded over. The knife was delivered very sharp (easily cut phone book paper and shaves arm hair effortlessly), and I further refined the edge further with a light stropping.

The quality leather sheath is well fitted (the knife is almost friction fitted in the sheath) and the knife is secured via a single snap clasp that extends slightly past the guard. I have noticed the sheath marks easily, I have already scratched the finish in one place and there is a slight separation of a part of a seam (it was not glued correctly). The marking issue is not a big deal as it is a common 'problem' with leather and is to be expected. I was a little disappointed in the separation, but I will re-glue it and it will be all sorted.
The leather sheath doesn't have as many carry options (it is only really set up for right hand belt carry) as the Secure-Ex sheaths but does suit the knife very well, gives it a more traditional look and is very classy.

I haven't done a lot of test cutting with the knife so far, but what I have done has shown me that the Outdoorsman is an excellent slicer, the hollow grind is thin behind the edge and the sweeping belly of the knife lends itself to the tasks that this knife was designed to do (game processing, general utility outdoors tasks). I won't be using this knife as a general bushcrafting knife though (I will never baton with it for example, though I will do light wood working with it), not that I don't think the Outdoorsman couldn't do those sort of tasks but rather that I feel it was designed as a hunters knife and not a bushcrafting knife.
The side cut jimping is unusual, and I have never seen this type of jimping done before. On top it is useful and not aggressive, but is aggressive if you roll your thumb over to the side.
The Bone breaker is designed to save your edge when breaking down game and when you have to break through bones. It is reasonably sharp and you have to be careful that you finger does not go onto it otherwise you will risk getting cut.
The hand filling Kray-Ex handle feels extremely good in hand, is 'sticky' and offers a good amount of cushioning during use. This is a knife I will use but not abuse or 'hard use', not that I don't think it couldn't handle hard use but because I view this knife as a classy hunters knife and not a 'survival' knife.
After my cutting tests I did touch up the edge again (another light stropping) and it is back to the keenness that it was before I started the tests.

sheath seem lifting

ware marks on handle

The Cold Steel Outdoorsman san maiIII is one of Cold Steel's premium quality, iconic blades and the Japanese manufacture is renowned for producing high quality fit and finish. It did not fail to deliver, it is a stylish, well manufactured fixed blade hunters knife with outstanding fit and finish on all but a slight hiccup with some lifting on one seem on the sheath. I am extremely happy with the purchase of this knife and it is going straight into my permanent collection and will be my primary belt knife when I go hunting.

- Hands on/Ergos 5 stars (excellent, handles brilliantly and is well balanced, performance is outstanding)
- Materials/Features 4.75 stars
- Build Quality/Fit and Finish 4.95 stars (slight decrease for sheath seem lifting and ware marks on handle)
- Value/Price point 5 stars (would be lower if not bought on special)
- Aesthetics 5 stars
-Sheath Quality/accessories 4 stars
overall rating 4.78