Wicked! That’s the word that comes to mind, whenever I think about certain types of knives, especially those designed for self-defense use. Of course, many will associate the word “wicked” with an ex-spouse, and I can certainly understand that! LOL! However, many knives have passed through my hands over the years for articles, perhaps a thousand or more knives. Many, while designed for self-defense, weren’t especially “wicked” looking to my mind. Oh, for sure, you could tell they were what many call “tactical” knives, whatever that means to different people.
I’ve been trying to lay claim to a Cold Steel Tiger Claw folding knife, since they were first announced in the 2015 Cold Steel catalog and on their website. Needless to say, I really hounded Cold Steel owner, Lynn Thompson, for months on end to get a sample headed my way. As it is, with many new knives (and guns), sometimes they don’t come out right away, or when we think they should be out. I know Thompson was getting sick and tired of my e-mails to him, requesting a sample of the Tiger Claw. Lynn and I have been friends for a lot of years– ever since the early 1990s. I knew, sooner or later, he’d get a sample into my hands for testing.
We have to remember that knives are considered tools, first and foremost. To be sure, knives, in some form were some of the very first tools civilized man produced, perhaps our oldest tool. Who knows? Many knives are designed with a specific purpose in mind. Some are designed strictly for use in the kitchen, and at that we have many different designs for various kitchen chores. Some kitchen knives are designed for cutting steaks, some for de-boning meat, and some for carving the Thanksgiving turkey or the Christmas ham. Then, we have the outdoorsman knives. Once again, there are different designs for different tasks. Some of these knives are great for all-around camp chores. Some are for dressing out big game, while others are better suited for caping big game.
Just about any knife can be used for self-defense purposes; however, some designs are better suited than others for particular self-defense use. Of course, we have the ever-popular folding knives. Then we have fixed blade knives. Given my druthers, I’d select a fixed blade knife for self-defense, if I knew when and where trouble was coming my way. Then we have all manner of blade shapes and designs. Probably one of the most popular is the Bowie shaped blade and then the drop point blade, the tanto blade, and the list goes on and on. Just as with firearms, there is no one knife that can do all the different things we expect from a cutting tool.
Enter the Indonesian “Karambit” knife, which can be had as a folder or a fixed blade. While I’ve been involved in the martial arts, actively, for about 35 years, I readily admit that I wasn’t familiar with the Karambit until about a 20+ years ago. It was obviously a well-kept secret from much of the world.
As you can see in the pictures with this article, the Karambit has something of a Hawkbill shape. It has a drastic curve to it, and the curve is there for a reason. (There is more on this in a bit.) The Tiger Claw, which custom knifemaker Andrew Demko came up with for Cold Steel, is without a doubt a wicked-looking blade meant for serious self-defense use. The blade is only three inches in length; however, because of the curve, the actual cutting portion of the blade is a bit longer. The handle is manufactured out of super-tough, black G10 material, which is almost bullet-proof and once the domain of custom knife makers only. The handle has fine checkering, too. The handle alone is six inches in length, and the overall length of the (opened) Karambit is nine inches, though it looks longer, but it’s not! The knife weighs-in at 5.1 oz, and the blade steel is Carpenter CTS XHP Alloy. I don’t know exactly what that is, but I’m impressed with this steel, to be sure. It came sharp and stayed sharp though my testing.
Speaking of the blade, it has the patented Demko thumb plate that allows for a super-fast draw from the pocket. As the knife is drawn from the pocket, a little rearward pressure is applied, and the thumb plate catches on the edge of the pocket, opening the knife as it is pulled rearward and upward from the pocket. Once completely out of the pocket, the knife is open. Nice! The reversible pocket clip allows the knife to be carried in the right or left front pants pocket and is easy enough to change it over from one side to the other. There is also a large aluminum ring on the butt of the handle, and this is there for several uses. One is, when holding the knife in the reverse grip, that you can put your index finger through the opened ring for a sure hold on the knife. In the forward raking grip, you can slide your hand further down the handle, giving you a little more reach towards your attacker. It takes some practice, but the opened ring really is a nice touch to use.
Of course, we have the Demko-designed Tri-Ad lock on the top of the handle scales that is positioned just “right” so there is no fear of accidentally activating it and closing the knife on your fingers. The Tri-Ad lock is one of the strongest folding knife locking systems there is to be had.
The entire blade has a nice polished finish on it and is only sharpened on one side. This allows a stronger blade edge with less chance of the edge of the blade “folding” under hard use. I have had expensive custom made knives where the blade, under extremely force, put a “fold” onto the edge; that is not good. Additionally, this provides but one edge to sharpen instead of two. I’ve found with this type of edge, after running it on some croc stix on the one side when finished, to just give it a swipe or two on the stix to take off the “wire” edge on the non-sharpened side.
Now, while the Cold Steel Tiger Claw Karambit can be used for some chores, like ripping open boxes and cutting rope and the like, this is really designed for self-defense use. The extremely curved blade design is meant for ripping into clothing and flesh and not letting go. As a matter of fact, this curve actually draws flesh and other material into it, instead of allowing it to slip off, like a straight edge knife can do.
Over the years and through experimenting, I’ve found one of the best uses for a curved blade like this is in the “raking” motion, similar as to what you might see a cat do. They reach out with their claws (tiger claws for example) and rake downward, ripping deeply as the blade digs into flesh and clothing. It is actually scary watching how wicked this curved blade rips. I tested it on cardboard as well as clothing, and it digs in and doesn’t want to let loose. Without giving knife fighting lessons in this article, one can only imagine the damage this blade can do, say for example, if you hooked someone’s arm or wrist. It would rip into the muscle and flesh, cutting nerves along the way and disabling your attacker.
For those of you who live in states or jurisdictions that have limits on the length of a blade on a folding knife, the Cold Steel Tiger Claw might be right up your ally. The blade is only three inches long, and many places allow pocket knives to have blades that are three inches in length. However, as I mentioned early on, the blade looks much longer than it is; it’s an illusion, because of the extreme curve of the blade. To be sure, like all Cold Steel products, this knife is stoutly built.
I’m not about to second-guess my friend, Lynn Thompson, on this, but I’m betting there will be a huge demand for this same Tiger Claw with a two-inch blade. So the knife is a little smaller yet has all the attributes of the current Tiger Claw, it’ll work for those jurisdictions that only allow folks to carry a pocket knife with a two-inch blade. Now, while one wouldn’t think a “mere” two-inch blade knife could possibly be used for serious self-defense work, I would disagree. With the curve of the blade, it can rip into flesh and clothing like you wouldn’t believe.
The Tiger Claw can also be had with a fully-serrated blade, and one can only imagine how wicked those serrations would rip into flesh and clothing. WOW! Currently, Cold Steel, is sold out on their website. However, if you shop around, you can find a Tiger Claw on the Internet. Full retail is $199, and while some may think this is expensive, it isn’t. You are getting the Cold Steel lifetime warranty and the expertise of custom knife maker Andrew Demko behind the design of this knife, and also the testing, extreme testing, by Lynn Thompson himself. I don’t know of any other company that tests their knives to the extreme Thompson does. Watch his short videos on his website to see some of the torture tests he puts his knives and other products through. You’ll be impressed.
So, if you’re in the market for something a little bit “different” in the way of a serious, proven self-defense blade, take a close look at the Cold Steel Tiger Claw. It is one wicked folder, to be sure.
– Senior Product Review Editor, Pat Cascio