By Dexter Ewing
Specialist in Edged Weaponry
Cold Steel's Voyager line of lightweight folders have been a hit among those looking for a tough, reasonably priced knife for defensive or work applications. Already, Cold Steel has several big folding knives within their Voyager series: the Vaqueros (Grande and Large), and the XL clip point blades. With mad gleams in their eyes, the Cold Steel folks added some steroids to their 4" large tanto folders and the end result is the XL Tantos with 5" blades (34XT plain edge, 34XTH partially serrated, and 34XTS fully serrated). New this year is the option of partially serrated blades for the Large and Extra Large Tantos, for those persons like myself who generally prefer the best of both worlds. The evaluation knife is the 34XTH partially serrated.
The AUS 8 steel blade is finely crafted in the hollow ground tanto style. Measuring a full 5 inches, this blade is capable of handling large cutting tasks with ease and it is especially suited for self defense applications. As with all other Cold Steel knives, the edge is scary sharp, and the serrations are their exclusive pattern, which features a tremendous bite yet cut smoother than the standard two-step serrations (Found on knives like Spyderco). Another thing I like about this blade is that the Cold Steel name, "Voyager", and "Made in Japan" are actually engraved on the blade as opposed to electro-chemical etched. This adds a nice touch to the beautiful blade. Cold Steel added ambidextrous thumb studs, permitting the user to open the blade with either hand. Ambidextrous opening is an important feature to have on any folder used for rescue or self-defense applications.
To effectively exercise control a knife this big, the handle needs to feel as comfortable as possible. With the XL Voyagers, this is no problem. Using the handle of their Large Voyagers as a template, Cold Steel added a slight belly to the handle to accommodate the palm. The strategically placed traction grooves on the top of the handle keep your thumb in place while adding pressure to the blade. Turning the knife over, there's a beefy molded-in clip, as with the rest of the Voyager line. I have heard concerns expressed over this style of clip (not specifically Cold Steel's...) regarding accidental breakage. But with the ones that are found on the XL Tantos, this will not be a problem. The clip provides enough tension to prevent the knife from coming unintentionally unclipped, yet slides free of anything it is fastened to. Overall, the large handle is shaped in such a way that the large blade is easily controlled.
I have always held Cold Steel's folders in high regards. So as word reached me that they were releasing a 5-inch tanto Voyager, I could not wait to get my hands on one. Cold Steel has solved the dilemma associated big folding knives -- the weight. With the XL Tantos, one can have a large blade combined with minimal weight. I discovered that this knife rides exceptionally well, in spite of its 6-inch handle length, clipped to the waistband. The lock up is solid. Except for a barely detectable lateral play when you grab the blade and attempt to wiggle it. Keep in mind that this does not affect the lockup in any manner. I'm not sure if this is the case with each and every XL Tanto Voyager, but if you get one that does, I assure you that there is absolutely nothing to worry about. A nice feature to the XL Voyager tanto is the notch in the blade tang that causes the blade to pause about halfway during opening and closing. My guess is that Cold Steel put the notch there to alert the user to the position of the blade during opening and closing, even without looking at the blade. It's just a built in safety feature. For those of you who are familiar with the Voyager line, all of the folders have this feature. Finally, the sheer size of the handle will accommodate those who have large hands with no problem at all. No matter whether your hands are large, small, or in between, you'll find that this folder will feel very comfortable in your grasp. My only recommendation to Cold Steel concerns the pocket clip. I can live with the molded in one, but if I had a preference, it would be a traditional, three screw steel clip. If the clip needs to be replaced, the user could do so after purchasing a replacement from the manufacturer. This way, the user will not be inconvenienced by having to send the knife back to Cold Steel, even if it is under warranty.
The Cold Steel XL Voyager Tanto is a great knife for people who fancy big folders. In spite of the physical size it can be carried easily and comfortably. A very eye pleasing piece, it does perform as good as it looks. Those who use a knife on the job (especially a large one), this is THE knife for you.
DEXTER "Blade Man" EWING
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Have a knife day!