Cold Steel SRK Review for 2020: Is This A Good Survival Knife?

Cold Steel is a brand of knives that I was introduced to late in life. I have been happy with every knife I have owned by them because they are affordable, good quality, built tough and they have some interesting designs.

  • Black coating that protects the blade and reduces glare
  • Texturized rubber handle provides a good grip
  • Can be used to baton wood
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Cold Steel SRK Review

Cold Steel SRK Review

For this article I was posed with the question of, “is the Cold Steel SRK a good survival knife?”

I have seen this question asked about survival items more times than I can count and unfortunately the answer isn’t always as straight forward as we would like. There are several things to consider when posing such a question. What makes the product good? What type of environment are you going to be using it in? What uses are you hoping to get out of it? These are just a few questions you should ask yourself when considering a piece of gear. As you can see, the questions listed above can be answered differently depending on the person. What makes a knife a good survival knife for one person, isn’t the case for someone else. So, it can be a bit tricky.

To better help answer this question, I place knives into three different categories based on the environment they will primarily be used in.

Urban environment

I follow two basic scenarios in this category. Normal EDC (everyday carry) and a more extreme emergency situation. I would expect the knife to hold up to the tasks and materials I would encounter more in an urban environment.

Wilderness environment

This is your basic lost in the woods or my car broke down away from civilization scenario (i.e., wilderness survival). When I place knives into this category I gauge the knife’s performance based on wilderness tasks such as fire prep, hunting, fishing, processing wood, hammering, digging, processing wild game, building shelter, etc.

Combat environment

For me knives fall into this category when they are used for survival purposes that don’t completely algin with the two categories listed above. Many times, knives in this category are specifically advertised for law enforcement and military personnel.

A knife can be placed into any of the above categories and be labeled a survival knife because at the end of the day if it helps you get home, then it helped you to survive. Just to be clear, generally speaking, I judge a “survival” knife based on its performance in the wilderness category. That is because in my experience most people’s first thought of survival situations has to do with wilderness scenarios, i.e. making fire, making shelter, finding food, etc. And most people are not in combative environments.

So with all of that in mind, let’s take a closer look at the Cold Steel SRK and see if it is a good survival knife.

Specifications of the Cold Steel SRK

The Blade    

The blade measures in at 6 inches, the handle at 4 ¾ inches, with an overall length of 10 ¾ inches. The blade thickness comes in at 5mm. Overall, not too long or too short for what I would consider a good survival knife. But it is a bit thicker than I would like. In comparison, the knives I use by Morakniv have a blade thickness in the range of 2mm-3mm.

I found it a bit difficult to use this knife for finer work, such as making a pile of wood shavings. The thick blade wanted to dig too deep and the overall form of the knife made this task uncomfortable.

However, if you want to be able to chop with this knife, that you can do. The thickness of the blade and the accompanying weight behind it, have allowed me to easily chop at branches. Baton cutting wood is a personal choice but for testing purposes I have been using this knife off and on for that method. I have split pieces of wood up to several inches in diameter with no problem.

The blade is made from SK-5 with a Black Tuff-Ex finish. Next, I tried the knife out on a Swedish made fire steel. The flat spine of the knife coupled with a suitable amount of carbon content in the metal, allowed me to produce enough sparks to get a fire going.

I am not a fan of the black coating on the blade. Sure, it looks cool and helps to protect the underlying metal from the elements. But due to that coating I wouldn’t recommend using this knife for any prolonged periods of food preparations. If I was in a true survival situation and I was only using this knife for a handful of meals, that’s when I would have to weigh not using it vs the acceptable risk.  

The Handle

The handle is made from a rubberized material that is textured. I find the feel of the material to be quite comfortable and safer as it provides for a firm grip, even in wet conditions. The shape of the handle I find to be quite uncomfortable as it is absolutely straight with no curvature for finger placement. Towards the bottom of the handle there is a predrilled hole that is handy for adding a lanyard or tool loop should you desire.

Cold Steel SRK blade review

The Sheath

The sheath is made from hard plastic and is very durable. There are several points along the side of the sheath that have been cut out that allow for different ways of attachment. I like this feature as I have carried this knife on my belt, tied to a pack and in my vehicle. The belt loop is made from a nylon material and is removable from the sheath by two Phillips head screws. When the knife is in the sheath, it is incredibly form-fitting to the blade and there is no wiggle room to speak of.

Cold Steel SRK sheath review

When the knife is inserted into the sheath I do like how it “locks” into place. Should the handle strap on the ever break or I forget to snap it close, the blade still remains pretty secured. One thing I have noticed about tight forming sheaths like this, is that it is near impossible to draw the blade out without the edge rubbing against it. I have had a hard time keeping this knife sharp to my standards. To my knowledge I don’t know if this due to the rubbing action against the plastic or not, but is something to consider.

Cold Steel SRK Personal Pictures

I took a few pictures of my personal SRK by Cold Steel: 

Cold Steel SRK Pros and Cons


  • Black coating that protects the blade and reduces glare
  • Texturized rubber handle provides a good grip
  • Can be used as a chopper
  • Can be used to baton wood
  • Built tough


  • A bit uncomfortable in the hand. Keep in mind this will vary among users
  • Black coating vs. food prep
  • Blade is too thick for detail work
  • Too much time spent on sharpening
  • Black coating that protects the blade and reduces glare
  • Texturized rubber handle provides a good grip
  • Can be used to baton wood
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FAQS About Cold Steel Brand

  • Cold Steel was founded in 1980. Since then they have contributed a number of innovations to the knife industry.
  • Their products have been featured in many video games, television shows and movies. Next time you sit down for movie night pay attention because you just may spot one of their products in action.
  • Many law enforcement and military members carry items made by Cold Steel. In fact, the SRK is standard issue for the United States Navy SEALS for their Basic Underwater Demolition training (BUDS)


I really enjoy Cold Steel products and I have used this knife for over a year now. But at the end of the day I would not rate this knife a good survival based on the thickness of the blade, the finish and overall design. However, I would rate it a good combat knife with survival applications. As always, if you have experience with this knife or have additional questions, please feel free to comment below. Stay sharp!

  • Black coating that protects the blade and reduces glare
  • Texturized rubber handle provides a good grip
  • Can be used to baton wood
Check Price on

Written by Bryan Lynch

Bryan grew up in the Midwest and spent every waking moment outdoors. Learning how to hunt, fish, read the land, and be self-reliant was part of everyday life. Eventually, he combined his passions for the outdoors, emergency preparedness, and writing. His goal was to spread positive information about this field. In 2019, Bryan authored the book Swiss Army Knife Camping and Outdoor Survival Guide. His second book, Paracord Projects For Camping and Outdoor Survival, is scheduled to be released on March 2, 2021. Read more of Bryan's articles.

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