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Survival knife review: Cold Steel Master Hunter


After the two-day Mississippi deer hunt, my friend Buddy Douglas was displaying the tenacity some would call “Pig-Headedness.” Despite my repeated efforts, Buddy would not accept a cent for food or drink, nor would he let me pay my guest fee at his hunting club.

The C.T. Fischer Bushcraft Knife, top, Bark River Bravo and Cold Steel Master Hunter all have similar designs.

The C.T. Fischer Bushcraft Knife, top, Bark River Bravo and Cold Steel Master Hunter all have similar designs.

     Southern hospitality, you must understand, is a very real tradition to many Mississippians, especially as it relates to whitetail deer hunting. We were raising our voices.     

    “The deal was NEVER that you would pay for everything, even if this is your hunting club,” I reiterated. “Damn it, Buddy, you’re about to piss me off!”

     “You’re my guest,” he stated again. Buddy was starting to get a little red around the collar. “And you’re not the only one fixin’ to get pissed off!”

     I dropped the subject. Later, I sent Buddy a Cold Steel Master Hunter. While a southern gentleman might not accept payment for taking a friend  hunting, neither would he insult that friend by refusing a gift. Buddy loves the knife!

by Leon Pantenburg

I’m a long-time user of Cold Steel knives. Since I bought my first, a SRK, back in 1991, I’ve used the product line extensively. That SRK (the initials stand for Survival Rescue Knife) is still one of my first choices for a survival/hunting knife.

The Cold Steel Canadian Belt Knife is a great choice for skinning and camp chores.

And I like the Cold Steel Canadian belt knife for cleaning small game, chopping potatoes and onions  and trimming fat and gristle off meat. It’s also a good skinner on many parts of a big game carcass. (But, I’d like the Canadian belt knife better if the handle was made of Kraton and bigger in diameter!)

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     But the Master Hunter’s name says it all. If you could only have one knife for big game hunting, the Master Hunter should be in the running.

I like the Cold Steel Finn Bear, because I also like the Scandinavian Mora style of knife.

First, my criteria. My qualifications for any survival knife are based on prejudice, use and experience.

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Briefly, my hunting and survival tool must be a strong sheath knife with a sturdy blade. No folders or guthooks. The blade should be between four to six inches long, and made of a steel that is easy to sharpen, but that will hold an edge well.

I test knives by using, not abusing them.   In all my knife testing, the implement must first  pass the kitchen test. The knife is used for everything a kitchen knife might be used for, including spreading peanutbutter, slicing bread, peeling things, etc.

     Then, if possible, the  knife is used for butchering and field dressing elk or deer. (I used the Master Hunter to skin a cow elk, and it worked fine! )  The Master Hunter passes all my quirky survival knife tests with flying colors.

So, IMO, Cold Steel makes a very good knife for your survival and hunting needs at a reasonable price and you can narrow your choices down to the SRK and the Master Hunter. But you will have to decide.

First, the similarities:

  • The Kraton handles on both knives  give a positive grip, especially where conditions are wet and slippery.  Cleaning game is certainly one of those occasions and expressly the role the Master Hunter was intended to fill.
  • Both models have blades with backbone, though the Master Hunter’s is shorter: 4-1/2  inches, versus the SRK’s 5-3/4 inches. The thick blades are incredibly strong, but also means that neither knife is the best choice for a meat-slicing knife. And I’ve never gotten any Cold Steel knife new out of  a box without it already being shaving-sharp.
  • Both knives have excellent sheaths, readily adaptable to carry and safe. I really like the Concealex sheaths shipped with both models. Both have a snap closure that  lets you put on or take off the sheath without undoing your belt.  That’s an extra little touch I like a lot. You can also adjust the location of the belt loop with two Phillips- head bolts.
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But there are a few differences that only knife enthusiasts would consider:

  • The SRK comes with a blackened blade, which is useless for my needs. I removed the finish on my SRK immediately, and have never had a problem with rust. The Master Hunter comes with a bright, plain finish that is appropriate for a working hunting knife.
  • The SRK has a clip point, which is my favorite design for that initial cut up the belly and through the ribcage of a whitetail. But the Master Hunter has a drop-point, which is another great choice.
  • The angle, or bevel, of  the edge is more abrupt on the SRK, making it more of a wedge and harder to sharpen. The Master Hunter’s bevel is more gradual and spread out over the width of the whole blade.

When my cousin, Marion Fitzgerald, came west to hunt elk with me and my brother Mike Pantenburg in  1993, I recommended he buy a Master Hunter. For what Marion was looking for – that is, a solid hunting knife that would also be useful back home in Nevada, Iowa – the Master Hunter was the best choice.

I don’t claim to be a wilderness survival expert, but I know what equipment works for me in the backcountry.  The Master Hunter  will serve you well.

Order your Master Hunter here.

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