Pat Cascio’s Product Review: Kershaw’s Emerson CQC-4KXL

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I still remember the first time I toured the Kershaw Knives plant, some 20+ years ago. It was for an article in Knives Illustrated. I wrote for Knives Illustrated for many years, probably longer than any other writer at that time, and I was promoted to their West Coast Field Editor position, where I mostly covered knives made in the Pacific Northwest area. To be sure, Oregon alone houses numerous knife companies itself. It might just be the cutlery capitol of the USA.

Back during my first Kershaw tour, if I recall, they only had, at best, a couple dozen employees, who actually made and assembled the knives. During my last tour of Kershaw, they had just moved into a new building, and they were already making plans on expanding the building, because they were growing so fast. I didn’t count all the heads, but I’m guesstimating, Kershaw had a couple hundred employees producing the knives, not to mention all the administrative personnel in the front offices. I was given free-reign to walk around any place in the plant, talk to any employees I wanted to talk to, and take pictures of anything, with a few exceptions of some of their hi-tech computerized machines that I can’t even discuss. I don’t want to give away some of the Kershaw “secrets”. I’ve never been afforded that kind of freedom to tour a plant on my own. Yep, I was given a tour by Thomas Welk, who is their PR guy. However, after that, I was told to just tour everything and anything I wanted to.

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About a year or so back, Kershaw teamed up with Ernest Emerson– the father of tactical folders, in my humble opinion. They started producing some of Ernie’s designs, both in the Kershaw line-up as well as the Zero Tolerance line– their professional-grade, extra-heavy duty knives. I received samples of the Kershaw and ZT lineup and tested them for articles. Some of these have appeared on the SurvivalBlog.com website. I’m always anxious to receive new products from Kershaw and ZT, especially the Emerson-designed folders of late. I was cruising the Kershaw website a month or so back and noticed some of the newest Emerson designs. The CQC-4KXL folder caught my attention. It’s the biggest Emerson folder that Kershaw is producing, in terms of blade length. I had to have one, so I sent a quick e-mail to Thomas Welk, and the reply back saying “It’s on the way” was greatly appreciated. If Welk tells me something is on the way, it’s on the way, then!

The CQC-4KXL has a blade that is just shy of four inches in length. Many states or locales have restrictions on folding knife blade lengths. Many mandate you can’t have a folding knife with a blade longer than four inches. Go figure. The blade is made out of 8Cr14MoV stainless steel, and I don’t have a clue as to what this steel is, nor does it really matter to me. The blade came shaving-sharp and remained that way throughout my testing. The one handle scale is made out of textured black, G10 laminate, with a stainless steel liner, and the other side has a stainless steel handle, that also incorporates the frame lock, which is perfectly fitted, and it is also a bit thicker than many frame locks are, too. The blade locked up tight, very tight, to the blade. The blade is manually opened in one of two ways. One is via the disk thumb stud, and the other is the Emerson patented “wave” feature, which I will write more about shortly. There is also a reversible pocket/clothing clip for right or left front pocket carry. The stainless steel blade has a nice satin finish to it, and it has the Emerson design logo on it. The shape of the handle itself is just perfect for my hand, and I honestly don’t know how Emerson can come up with so many different handle designs that all feel great in my hand. Yet each is slightly different from another design. The top front portion of the blade has some friction grooves that match perfectly with the friction grooves on the wave; this is nice! For those who wonder or care about such things, this Emerson-designed folder is manufactured in China. As I have said before, you get as good of a knife as you want from China. You want a 50-cent knife? You’ll get one. You want a thousand dollar knife? You can get one of those, too. I have no love for the Chinese government, however, this knife is produced in a factory that is NOT owned by them.

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The blade comes in right at 3.9 inches, so it is just under that four inch regulation that so many states or locales have regarding blade length on folding knives. Closed, the knife is five inches long, and opened it is nine inches in length. Weight is a bit hefty– right at 6.1-oz. The knife feels good in the hand, yet doesn’t feel heavy in the pocket. The thumb disk is black as is the pocket clip. The pocket clip also has the Emerson broken skull logo on it, which is cool!

Now, let’s discuss the wave feature that Emerson designed and patented. It is quite unique and one of those “why didn’t I think of that” designs. The wave feature actually looks like a wave on the ocean, which is something surfers can appreciate. The wave makes this folder the fastest-opening folding knife I’ve ever used, bar none. When the knife is clipped inside your pocket, you simple start to draw the knife out of your pocket, adding a little bit of rearward pressure (don’t pull the knife straight up), and with that little bit of rearward pressure and a steady pull upwards, when the knife leaves your pocket the blade will automatically open-up. No, it’s not an automatic folder; you are still opening it manually as you pull it out of your pocket. It takes all of five minutes of practice to master this simple skill. Check out the video on the Kershaw website, and you’ll see how fast and simple this technique is. It just blows me away how such a simple addition to a folding knife blade can rapidly open a folder. Also, if you want, you can open the knife using the thumb disk, but I honestly don’t see any need for it.

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The blade shape itself is almost dagger-esque in shape, and it holds the thickness of the blade out front as long as it can before coming to a point. This type of blade is extremely useful for all kinds of cutting chores. I used the Emerson around the kitchen quite a bit, slicing a lot of veggies for my new smarter eating plan, after I suffered a mini stroke. I don’t especially like fresh fruits and veggies, but I’ll do whatever it takes to drop some weight, plus it afforded me the opportunity to really put the CQC-4KXL to work many times per day. The blade made quick and easy work around the kitchen fast. As is the usual routine, many UPS, FedEx, and USPS boxes were opened. Plus, the knife was “stabbed” into stacked cardboard, and it easily stabbed up to the handle. The blade design isn’t the best for slashing moves, but it worked, once again, on stacked cardboard boxes. One test I always do is cutting down blackberry vines, which are super tough to cut. Many lesser knife blades can’t cut them with a single slashing move, but the CQC-4KXL had no trouble cutting through the vines. I also cut poly rope, and if you’ve ever tried to cut this stuff, you know how slick it is. Many knife blade simply slip right off the slick material. The Emerson easily cut through the poly rope.

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Many of the people I associate with weren’t familiar with the wave feature, and they had to watch me draw the knife from my pocket numerous times and watch how fast I could do it. They couldn’t figure out the wave feature until I placed the knife in their pockets and showed them how easy it was to do. Everyone, to a person, loved the way it worked. Again, it’s so simple and so easy to master, and so super fast!

If you go to the Emerson Knives website, you’ll see quite a few of Ernie’s designs, and one thing you will also see is that many of his knives are out of stock. It’s an ongoing thing for Emerson. No matter how fast they turn out his knives, they can’t keep up with supply and demand, ever! So, you could end up waiting months for a particular Emerson folder. I applaud Emerson for teaming up with Kershaw and ZT Knives on numerous collaborations of his designs. If you look over both websites, you’ll see quite a few Emerson designs, and I’m betting good money you’ll find more than a few of Emerson’s folders that you’ll want. Best of all, they are priced right. The CQC-4KXL has a full-retail price of only $64.99, and I’m here to tell you that I believe Kershaw priced this one too low. If I saw this knife in a catalog or a knife shop and it was priced at $150, I would still buy it. It looks for all the world just like a Emerson Knives (factory) folder. It is “that” well made and finished to perfection.

As an aside, I had to get a replacement CQC-4KXL. When my oldest daughter was doing the photography on this knife for this article, she decided to “steal” the knife. She has an early Emerson CQC folder that she’s had for at least 2 years. She has good taste in knives and guns. So, I had to get a replacement for my own use. How much do I like this CQC-4KXL? Well, I’ve been carrying it in my right front pocket for three weeks now, where my Zero Tolerance Model 0630 used to be, and I have no desire to put the 0630 back in my pocket at this time.

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The Kershaw CQC-4KXL Emerson-designed folder would make a fantastic city survival knife, used for all kinds of daily cutting chores at work, or at home, as well as a last-ditch self-defense weapon, if that’s all you have on you at the time. The speed you can draw the knife from your pocket will have a bad guy scratching his head thinking perhaps you pulled a switchblade knife on him, and for some strange reason many folks believe that a switchblade is more deadly or dangerous than some other type of folding knife. The CQC-4KXL might just give a bad guy time to pause and rethink his criminal actions with the speed at which you can draw the knife and have it in hand with which to defend yourself.

Better get your CQC-4KXL, before Kershaw realizes that they priced this folder too low.

– Senior Product Review Editor, Pat Cascio

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