Cold Steel AD-15, by Pat Cascio

I’ve been an amateur knife designer since the early 1980s, and several of my designs have actually been produced by custom knife makers, as well as some factories. One custom designer went so far as to add my design to his inventory – never giving me credit for the design, nor paying me any royalties, but that’s okay, I don’t hold a grudge. Another knife company has been producing several of my designs for quite a few years now, and I actually gave them my design, to help them get their company up and running – no problem there at all – I earn nothing from the sales of those designs – like I said, I gave them the designs.

By no means am I professional “knife designer,” by my own designation. I used to love mechanical drafting when I was in high school, I was a fair hand at it – but not great at it. These days, its hard for me to draw a straight line with a ruler, but when I submit a design, either to a custom maker or a factory they somehow manage to muddle through what I want and the knives have turned out fantastic. I can visualize a knife in my mind, but its sometimes hard to put it down on a piece of paper. I’ve been blessed to have worked with some great custom knife makers, who could somehow make heads and tails out of my vision.

I love fixed blade knives, because they are so much stronger than a folding knife. However, its not always practical to carry a big fixed blade knife on my belt, so I usually carry a folding knife of some sort. Of course, we are giving up something in the way of strength, when carrying a folder, instead of a fixed blade knife, but we can’t always have the best of all worlds.

Over the years, I’ve really tried coming up with a new folding knife lock, so it wouldn’t fail me. And, no sooner do I get a good idea in my head, then someone else must have read my mind, and came out with a folding knife lock before I could even begin to get it on paper and prototypes produced. Such is life, I guess.

I still remember when the first liner-lock folding knives started appearing on the scene, and they were, and still are, one of the hottest locking mechanism to come along. However, they are not nearly as strong as you believe them to be, I’ve had more than a few liner-locks fail on me during testing, and we are not talking abuse, just serious testing. Still, they are a good design, much better than the old slip-lock designs used on many folders.

We also have various other locks for folders, from buttons, to a sliding lock, to – well, let your imagination run wild. And, everyone claims their locks are the best or strongest on the market – we call that “hype” – not a lot wrong with hype, so long as you realize that’s what it is…it sells knives, lots of knives.

Long time friend, Lynn Thompson, who owns Cold Steel Knives is always coming out with new knife designs and he has introduced us to some pretty strong locking mechanisms, one is his is the Tri-Ad lock. That was designed by custom knife maker, Andrew Demko, and it is a super-strong lock, if not one of the most strong locks on the market. We are talking brutally strong locks. I’ve yet to have one of Cold Steel’s Tri-Ad locks fail on my during testing, or regualr use.

Today, we’re checking out the new Cold Steel AD-15 – the AD stands for Andrew Demko, who designed this folder and his new lock. There’s one thing you can always count on when you own a Cold Steel knife of any kind, and that is they are strong – really strong. It took me the better part of 6-7 months to get my hands on the AD-15 – they sell out just “that” fast. I have to admit, though – the AD-15 didn’t really make me appreciate it – at first.

Developing Muscle Memory

Cold Steel AD-15After playing with the AD-15 for a day or two, it really grew on me, especially the lock, that they are calling the Scorpion Lock – it is like nothing you have ever seen before. The lock is actually visible on the outside of the knife – it is really a part of the knife, and watching how it unlocks and locks is a real marvel to behold. Of course, we have dual thumb studs for opening the AD-15 with your thumb – right or left handed, However, as you watch the Scorpion Lock in action, its one of those “oh gee, this looks way to easy…why didn’t I think of it” sort of thing. Unlike pressing a button to unlock the blade, you actually lift-up on the front of the Scorpion Lock, to unlock the blade, once it is opened. Huh? What? Yeah, its that simple – at least in theory when you watch the lock in action. Practicing with manipulating it builds muscle memory.

Cold Steel AD-15I played around with the AD-15 for several days while sitting on the sofa and watching television, and it grew on me – a lot – opening and closing it one-handed became instinctive and easy to do – just another type of muscle memory thing that needed to be drilled into my mind. Having taught martial arts classes for 35-years, I always instilled in my students, that they needed to correctly do a move about 5,000 times before it was part of their muscle memory. I know I didn’t open and close the AD-15 that many times, but I did have to re-train my mind a bit, before I could easily close the blade without having to fumble around or think about it.

However, there is much more to this knife’s design, like the way it is balanced so it locks-up super-strong. However, it is just as easy to unlock the blade when you want to fold it back into the handle.

Now, as if the Scorpion Lock isn’t strong enough on it’s own, when the blade is locked-open, and you are holding the knife in the fencing grip, your thumb and hand are actually pressing down on the lock, making it that much stronger, and if you grip the knife with your fingers wrapped around the handle, it is just that much stronger of a lock. Hard to explain, but easy to see – watch the video on the Cold Steel web site to see how this operates.

Next up, was unlocking the opened blade one-handed – can’t be done – or so I thought. That took a little bit of practice, but once mastered, it is really easy to use one hand to unlock the Scorpion Lock, with just one thumb. This knife design was really starting to grow on me, very quickly.

The Specifications

The blade is 3.5-inches in length and made out of S35VN hi-tech stainless steel, so it takes an edge and holds it a very long time and is fairly easy to re-sharpen. I once had a knife magazine editor tell me that a knife blade can’t hold an edge a long time, and also be easy to re-sharpen.  But he was wrong! The handle is 5-inches long, and is made out of G10, that really grips your back, and the upper part of the handle houses the Scorpion Lock, that piece is made out of aluminum alloy.

The liners in the handle are stainless steel – heat treated – so its tough. The entire AD-15 weighs in at 6.5-ounces, not too light and not too heavy. The blade is a spear point, that is saber ground – excellent! The lock is part of the “yoke” on the top of the handle and you just have to look at the pictures to see what I’m talking about to understand this term.

Cold Steel AD-15I ran the AD-15 through a lot of my usual tests, that included cleaning slicing through some very thick blackberry vines, and they are tough to cut with a single swipe of the blade – a dull blade won’t slice through these vines with a single swipe. The AD-15 had no problems at all with this test, and I repeated it several times. The strapping tape on some cardboard boxes is tough to cut through, and it is often used on boxes – thick boxes – so they don’t burst open if dropped. Once again, the AD-15 easily cut through these straps. Cutting heavy-duty cardboard boxes was no challenge, nor was polymer rope, which is super slick, a lot of knives won’t cut through this stuff without a lot of effort. I also used the AD-15 to “stab” though several layers of stacked cardboard boxes – and it easily penetrated to the handle without much effort. I refrained from throwing the AD-15 – no folder is really designed for this sort of test – no matter what you might see in the movies.

The lock mechanism is not immediately apparent. When I handed most of my friends the AD-15 and asked them to close it – most couldn’t figure out the all-too-simple Scorpion Lock.

I like the AD-15 a lot – it really caught my attention and it will catch your attention, too. Check one out on-line at Cold Steel’s web site, of visit your local cutlery shop to see one in-person. Full-retail is currently at $157.99 – and it is a steal-of-a-deal.

One Comment

  1. Unquestionably a really good knife. I love Cold Steel products. But for a “best buy”, you can buy one of their Finn Wolf folders (which I like even more) for about half that price, and you can buy them on sale at Amazon for $38.

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