Cold Steel Code 4 Folder, by Pat Cascio

I’ve never been let down by any products from Cold Steel. I waited a good long time to get their Code 4 folder in my hands. It is a very popular folder, and they are quite often out of stock. But I found that it was worth the wait.

Lynn Thompson, who owns Cold Steel, started the trend with his version of the ancient Japanese Tanto style of blade – his first knife was a fixed blade version – and I couldn’t tell you how many companies attempted to copy it – all to no avail. You see, there is the original, and then there are all the others – and none really come close to the Cold Steel version. Now I’m not knocking anyone else’s Tanto folder, but I believe that Thompson just absolutely nailed it, on his version. I don’t think anyone makes a stronger Tanto fixed blade than Cold Steel does.

Take some time, and look at some of the videos on the Cold Steel web site, and you’ll see how Thompson and some of his friends, torture test his knives – and he isn’t shy about what he does – he just absolutely puts his knives through some serious testing – I don’t know of any other knife company, that can make the claims that Cold Steel does. As a sort of disclaimer, Thompson and I are friends, have been since I first started writing about knives, and I believe that was back in 1993. However, friendship aside, Lynn knows I report fairly and honestly on any knives I test, Cold Steel or from any other makers. I just call it the way I see it when I’m done with my testing.

A Cold Steel Tanto blade is tough, real tough – the design of the point on the blade, actually allows it to penetrate much deeper and with ease, when stabbed into any fleshy material, and even non-fleshy materials. Some of Cold Steel’s testing shows not only fixed blade Tanto blades being stabbed through a car’s hood, but also some of his folders with a Tanto blade – that is confidence in your products without a doubt.

I can usually be found carrying two folding knives – one in the right hand pocket of my cargo pants, and one in the left hand front pocket. There’s a reason for this, I get a lot of knives for testing for articles, and at different times, I use one knife for “this” test, and the other knife for “that” test when I’m out and about.

Code 4 Specifications

The Code 4 is one light-weight folder, weighing a mere 4.3 ounces. The 3.5-inch blade is made out of one of the super stainless steels called S35VN and that steel is made in America, even though the knife itself is assembled in Taiwan. And, please, don’t let this “made overseas” thing bother you in the least. These knives are NOT being manufactured in Mainland China in some slave labor factory. Rather, they are being produced in hi-tech factories in Taiwan. That is the independent nation also known as Free China. And, because labor and material costs are less in Taiwan than in the U.S., Cold Steel, and other knife companies are able to produce these knives at a substantial savings to the consumer. If these knives where made in the USA, the costs could easily be double, for many models.

Cold Steel Code 4The handle on the Code 4 is made out of anodized gun metal grey Aluminum, and here’s what I really like about it – the handle scales are thin, so you don’t even know you are carrying this folder in your pocket. We also have the famous Tri-Ad lock, that is one of the strongest, it not “the” strongest locking system available for a folding knife – designs by custom knife maker Andrew Demko – outstanding work on his part.

Cold Steel Code 4The Code 4 is carried tip up, and it comes with two pocket clips, so you can orient it for a proper draw from either pants pocket. This is important – it sounds like its no big deal, but it rally is. We have ambidextrous  thumb studs on the blade, that makes opening easier. Keep in mind that the Tri-Ad lock is stout, so it takes a little bit of effort to open the blade using the thumb studs. Needless to say, but I always mention this, Cold Steel set the gold standard when it came to super-sharp knives out of the box, and the Code 4 is no slouch in the cutting department. BTW, you can also have the Code 4 with a clip point or spear point blade, if you don’t like the Tanto blade. The blade is highly polished on the recess, and a satin finish on the flats of the blade – quite eye appealing if you ask me. There is also a massive pivot pin. Cold Steel doesn’t skimp on this on their folders, you don’t want the blade failing and coming out of the handle scales. There are no worries about that happening with this folder.

The Usual Tough Tests

I put the Code 4 through my usual tests, and it passed with flying colors – a lot of cardboard boxes were cut open, as well as cut into smaller pieces for the recycle bin. Cardboard is extremely tough on a knife’s edge, and the Code 4 stood up to all my cutting, without any need to re-sharpen the blade. Poly rope was no match, nor was cotton rope – I ran out of hemp rope to cut – have to pick-up some more. But if you watch the Cold Steel videos, you’ll see how easily this 3.5-inch blade can cleanly slice right through a one inch hemp rope without any problems. Any chore you can think of, that you use a knife for, the Code 4 is up to the task.

This knife was designed with law enforcement personnel in mind – they wanted a strong, but lightweight folder, that they could easily clip in their pocket, and carry it all day long, without the added weight that some similar folders might have. I used to be a cop, several times over, and I can tell you, that when you can save a few ounces here and there on your duty gear, you do it.  Ounces for all your gear are additive They add up to pounds–more pounds to carry around on long shifts.

The handle on the Code 4 just fits my hand perfectly when I hold the knife in the fencing position – the most used knife hold on fixed and folding blade knives.  I also used the Code 4 in the reverse or ice pick grip, and once again, the knife felt great in my hands.

Cold Steel Code 4Many cities and some states have a length restriction on how long a knife blade can be – on a folding knife you are carrying – and many of them arbitrarily say that you can only carry a folder with a 4-inch blade. No worries here, as the Code 4 has that 3.5-inch blade. Lynn Thompson put a lot of thought into the Code 4 – even though I had to wait on my sample – impatiently – it was well worth the wait. This folder is a winner in my book, and full-retail is only $144.99 – a heck of a deal on this folder. Shop the ‘net and you might find this one deeply discounted – just make sure you purchase from a reputable seller – one who isn’t selling a knock-off – it happens more often than you think. [JWR Adds: Even the limited edition Cold Steel Voyager variant that I designed is now being copied by the fake-makers!]

I love this folder so much that I’m seriously thinking about getting another one – with a different blade – maybe the spear point. That says a lot, when I’m a guy who is sent more than a dozen knives a year by various manufacturers–that I’m thinking about spending my hard-earned money on any knife.


  1. Thanks Pat for this review. I really like the tanto blades. They can take a LOT of abuse. I’m looking for my next EDC and this will be added to the list to consider.

    Yes, knockoffs are prevalent unfortunately. I bought quite a few of the Rawles folders and then sold most of them off. A couple of people accused me of selling counterfeits even though I had the original Cold Steel factory receipt (one even posted my Ebay listing here claiming I was selling counterfeits). The only possible “counterfeit” I sold was a return from a customer who I suspect exchanged the real thing for a counterfeit when the knife was returned. Just didn’t know any better. Be careful – scammers get awfully inventive and even honest authorized dealers can have many counterfeits show up in their inventory if they order from distributers. I’ve still got a couple of the new in box Rawles Cold Steel folders to sell but don’t want to go through that fiasco again.

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