Kershaw/Emerson CQC-8K Tactical Folder, by Pat Cascio

Under review today is the Kershaw/Emergson CQC-8K Tactical Folder. It’s one of the most popular tactical folding knives, designed by custom knife maker Ernest Emerson himself.

Knives Illustrated

Many years ago, I wrote for Knives Illustrated magazine, and for quite a few years I was their West Coast Field Editor. In my experience, what you see today in what is called Knives Illustrated isn’t really a staff-written cutlery magazine. Instead, it is designed to appear like a magazine, when it is nothing more than paid advertisements that look like articles but are not. Don’t be fooled. What you read there are paid advertisement “articles.”

Ernest Emerson

If you don’t know who Ernest Emerson is, I’d suggest you Google his name. You’ll see that he is not only a custom knife designer and maker, but he’s the real deal. He is a well-known martial artist as well. Emerson talks the talk and walks the walk. I have, in the past, spent many hours talking with Emerson on the phone when I was reviewing some of his knives for articles. The man is genuine. And before I knew it, several hours passed when we talked on the phone. Back then, in the early 1990s, Emerson had just started mass producing his knives in a small factory he started in California. Emerson couldn’t begin to keep up with orders for his custom-made knives, and the only solution at that time was to start his own factory and train the personnel to produce his knives.

Emerson Knives- Factory Made and Carried on NASA Missions and by SEALS

I’ve compared the factory to some of his handmade knives. There is not any difference between them. The factory made knives are “that” good and at a lesser price, too. Ernie Emerson did a collaboration with one of the big name knife companies some years ago, and it was a hot seller. I owned several of them.

It should be noted that Emerson knives have gone to outer space on NASA missions. And, it is well-known that some of our U.S. Navy SEAL teams carry and use some of Emerson’s knives as well. If they are good enough for the SEALs, they are good enough for the rest of us.

Emerson is semi-retired from making handmade knives these days. The only way to get one is to attend a show he is at and hopefully win a chance at getting one of those knives. As an aside, Emerson was going to make one of his custom knives for me some years ago. I’m thinking he forgot me. Such is life.

Collaboration Between Kershaw Knives and Ernie Emerson

Emerson also had some of his knives produced overseas. However, they weren’t up to his high standards, and he discontinued those knives in very short order. Today, we are looking at the collaboration between Kershaw Knives and Ernie Emerson. Kershaw is producing more than a dozen different models that Emerson designed himself. This is a win-win for us all. If you’ve ever visited the Emerson website, more often than not, many of his knives are sold-out. However, Kershaw usually has all of the Emerson designed knives in stock and ready to go. Furthermore, to be sure, they are produced overseas, so once again save the hate mail and comments to me. It’s very simple, if you don’t want to purchase a knife made in China, Japan, or Taiwan, then don’t! And, if you are so against products manufactured overseas, then I’m assuming you never set foot in a Walmart, because most of their products are made overseas.

Kershaw Knives Factory Overseas

Kershaw Knives doesn’t just send a knife blueprint to any old factory overseas and ask them to produce. No! Far from it. They keep a watchful eye on all the knives they have manufactured overseas, so they are up to the Kershaw high standards we’ve known. And, it is a win-win for us all. Products manufactured overseas and imported to the USA are sold at lower prices than if the knives where made in the USA. That’s a good thing.

Kershaw/Emerson CQC-8K- Flat Grind

The Kershaw/Emerson CQC-8K under review today is one of the most popular designs from the mind of Ernest Emerson. First of all, the CQC-8K has a flat grind. The blade itself is only ground on one side, and there is a reason for this. Cost-cutting savings isn’t one of them. Some years ago, according to Emerson, a U.S. Navy SEAL team designed a device to gauge the cutting abilities of a knife, and they found that a knife with a “chisel” grind, where the blade is only ground on one side, cut much deeper than a knife that has grinds on both sides of the blade. Who’d a thunk it? So, when you pick-up a CQC-8K you’ll think that Kershaw forgot to grind the opposite side of the blade because it’s completely flat. The flat chisel grind produces an edge that is sharper than a blade that has a grind on both sides of the blade, and it is a much stronger edge, too. It’s also easier to sharpen as well.

Stainless Steel Tanto Style Blade with Wave Feature

With a 3.5-inch long blade made out of 8Cr14MoV stainless steel that has a black oxide coating, which helps protect the stainless steel blade from the elements, the CQC-8K is very tactical looking. The steel is a decent steel, too. I’ve never had any complaints about it, because it holds an edge a decent amount of time, doesn’t chip, and is easy to re-sharpen. The blade shape is that of a Tanto style, which I’ve always liked, too. It seems to penetrate deeper when stabbed into material. There is a thumb disk for opening the blade; however, I prefer to use the patented wave shape feature on the top rear of the blade. Emerson came up with this many years back. Some have copied it but were stopped in their tracks, as the design is patented. This little “wave” allows you to start opening the knife as you withdraw it from your pocket. By the time the knife is complete out of your pocket, the blade is fully opened and locked. Kershaw has an instructional video on this, on their website. Nothing is faster opening than a knife with the wave feature, nothing!

Liner Lock and Reversible Clip

The liner lock keeps the blade locked open to protect your fingers, and the blade comes razor-sharp out of the box. There is a reversible pocket clip so the knife can be carried in either front pocket. It only takes a few minutes to switch the clip from one side of the blade to the other. Also, it’s designed for tip-up carry in the pocket.

G-10 Textured Handle Material and “Just Right” Weight

The handle material is textured G-10, which was once only offered on custom knives. It is a little bit expensive to use, and it affords a great hold on the knife under any weather conditions. The liners are black stainless steel. Weight of the CQC-8K is 5.3 oz, so it’s not too heavy nor is it too light. It’s just right.

Plenty of Handle to Hold Onto

One thing you will notice with Emerson folders is that he designs his knives so there is plenty of handle to hold onto. I like that. Some folding knives just don’t give you enough handle to really grip. On the top front of the handle and bottom rear of the handle, you will find jimping or friction grooves that aid in a sure hold on the knife. The top of the Wave feature also has this feature. Lots of thought went into this design. It’s no wonder it is one of the hottest Emerson designs on the market.


I’ve carried this particular folding knife for more than a month now. It just grew on me for some reason, and during my testing I never once had to touch-up the edge on the blade though it was used for all manner of cutting chores on my small rural homestead. And, as regular readers are no doubt aware, one of the cutting tests I put all knives through is slicing through tough blackberry vines. This knife had no problems cleanly slicking through a vine with one swipe.

Retail – One Great Deal

This particular Emerson design is one great deal, as are all of the designs that Kershaw Knives is producing for Ernie Emerson. Full retail is only $59.99, and if you shop around a little bit you can often find this knife for under $30. Yes, you read that right. I am referring to a genuine Emerson-designed combat folder, produced by well-known Kershaw Knives. It’s a steal of a deal, if you ask me, even at full retail. Additionally, it makes a wonderful gift for a prepper, too. Check one out!


  1. We mistakenly put the photos with this article that feature the Kershaw/Emerson CQC-9K instead of the CQC-8K – our sincere apologies for the wrong photos…you can see the full-line of Emerson folders on the Kershaw website…

    1. That’s it! I’m never reading your reviews again Pat! 🙂

      Thanks for another solid write-up, I may seriously look into this one. Seems like a solid knife for a reasonable price.

  2. Your rationale for buying Chinese products is faulty and telling readers not to comment on this suggests you are trying to stem the truth. Everyone benefits when we support our own economy, period. That is the history of mankind and nations who don’t support their own are doomed quickly.

    1. He is not trying to stem any truth. Were he attempting to do so, he would neglect to mention the nation of origin in his review entirely. Truthfully, this would not be an unreasonable omission on his part, as he is a product reviewer, and the core of his message is how the product performs. It’s place of origin has precisely zero bearing on whether and how well the tool does the job it was designed for. He simply tells people to leave him alone about it, because he is tired of being harassed by people typing on devices almost assuredly manufactured in China about reviewing a separate product made in China. The fact of the matter is, unless you are willing to purchase absolutely everything used, with a decade or more of use on them, it is not possible to purchase items made exclusively in America. And besides all of that, as mentioned above, the topic of Global Trade and manufacturing is out of his purview, and he is sick of hearing about it from people. I don’t blame him.

      1. I wouldn’t trade my original, US Made, Emerson CQC-7 for five of the reviewed knives. I’m sure they are quite nice. Country of origin has nothing to do with it. Mine is an “Emerson” Emerson knife, from when he actually made knives, and not just put his stamp on someone elses knives.

        And to your point, yes, its 23 years old. Still surgical sharp.

  3. Sounds like a smokin knife deal. On the buy only America deal don’t some of you naysayers realize that we like to sell stuff to other countries also? So we have to have a tit for tat. Now yes most of the trade with Asian countries is lopsided to them. But we have to play it smart and keep at it. Sounds like Trump is trying to make the Chinese play fair by threatening tariffs and such. And it would seem to be working. They are nervous.

  4. I have to comment on the whole “made in China” thing. Many like to place the blame for the proliferation of Chinese made products squarely in the shoulders of company greed, and nothing more. That simple. Well, I can say from personal experience, that much of this ever-broadening phenomenon actually stems directly from consumer demand. Right out of high school, through community college, and for a couple years after, I worked at a farm and ranch type store, which had a large hardware and tool section. This was a few decades ago. A large percentage of our customer base was made up of rural and country residents, including many farmers and ranchers. Basically, good hard working Americans. We stocked tools made in China (marginal quality, cheap price,) Japan (good quality, mid-price,) and made in the U.S.A (great quality, high price,) providing the customers the choice. Quite regularly, I would have a customer ask me something like, “Where are your pliers?” I would escort them to the section where the Chinese and Japanese made tools were displayed. They would look at the $3.99 pair of pliers, and see the made in China stamp, then set them back down. Next they would pick up the $7.99 pair of made in Japan pliers, set them down, then ask, “Don’t you have any tools made in America?” I’d say, “Sure, right over here.” I’d hand them the $14.99 pair of made in America, lifetime warranty, heirloom quality Diamond Tool pliers. I have a pair of Diamond Tool pliers that must be over fifty years old. The quality is second to none. The first thing out of the costomer’s mouth was nearly always, “$14.99 for a pair of pliers!” They’d almost always, without fail, hand them back to me, walk back to the import section, and buy the cheap Chinese pliers. Maybe two. We easily sold a hundred pairs of import pliers to every one American made one. Probably more. This is called consumer demand. Most of those claiming a desire to buy American, simply would not, when it came time to put their money where their mouth was. The American consumer has ultimately brought this on themselves. I’m not saying every single consumer, but us as a whole, yes. We are to blame. I would say it is an exceptional few who have made the choice to buy Americam, every single time it was possible, regardless of price. To those who have, I can find no fault, but in the end certainly almost none of us can honestly say we share zero blame. I’m not wishing to start a big debate on the matter. I, too, am frustrated by the lack of higher quality products; which “Made in America” often denotes. I would often be willing to pay considerably more if an American made option were available. Rather, I’m simply stating that American consumers created the situation, and that’s just a fact. Chinese made products have become so ubiquitous, that now there is often no other choice.

  5. I would prefer American made as well. I don’t mind spending a little more if it supports jobs here at home. 15-20% more seems to be my limit unless there is a marked increase in quality over the same product manufactured overseas.

    Appreciate the article on this knife. I’ve been looking for an affordable EDC knife that won’t break my budget.

  6. I agree with you Chris about supporting American manufacturing but if anyone is trying to chase the low-end market they’re doing it wrong, and they’re still not going to be able to compete with stuff made with negligible labor costs and shipped over in container ships.
    The problem is companies that make quality things chase profits and setup factories elsewhere. If they were producing reasonably good stuff here they can produce reasonably good stuff there.
    You can compete on the high-end artisanal stuff. That has cachet. But the middle and low end stuff that people use to buy because it was cheaper and good enough or dirt cheap and serviceable can’t be made here cheap anymore.

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