Clay’s Budget Blades Ep. 2: The Spartan from Cold Steel

The Cold Steel Spartan in all its glory.

The Spartan from Cold Steel

Sometimes you want your pocket knife to be light and nimble, suited for a gentleman of dignity and refinement. And sometimes you want it to be built like a tank. If it is going to be a tank day, the Cold Steel Spartan is an excellent choice.

This is a knife I have owned and carried for some time, so my experience is a bit more than out-of-the-box impressions. What first drew me to the Spartan was its unique blade shape, like a tiny copy of a Greek kopis sword. It looked cool enough that I was willing to buy one to try.

The thumb plate also functions as an opener when it catches onto the lip of your pants’ pocket.

What pictures fail to tell you is how absolutely massive this knife is! The blade is 4.5 inches long, and 4 millimeters thick. The handle is almost 6 inches, giving it just over 10 inches in overall length. Not only is the handle long it is double the thickness of most folders. All this adds up to a whopping 9 ounces of knife!

Despite the weight of the knife, I have carried it quite a bit. The pocket clip has proven to be surprisingly durable. The Spartan rides rather low and combined with the curvy profile, it actually disappears in your pocket quite nicely. For such a large knife, I was surprised how well it carried. It also doesn’t have the bad habit of taking up your entire front pocket, which is good.

A hefty thumb plate on the spine.

The handle is cut to also resemble a Greek sword, which I find to be one of the best features of the knife. With the grip folded around your fingers fore and aft, the feeling of security for your cutting chores is like no other. This is one of the few folders I would have no issue stabbing into anything, as there is virtually no fear of inadvertently slicing my own fingers.

Also standard on the Spartan is the Demko Thumb Plate. If you pull the knife back against your pocket on deployment, the thumb plate catches your pants, opening the blade. This is a lovely feature on any folder, and makes deploying the blade lightening quick.

A look at the right side.

The left side of the Spartan.

As a tactical folder, the Spartan is an excellent choice. The blade has not only good reach at 4.5 inches, but it also has width. If you can’t make a deep hole, compared to a fixed blade at least, making a big or wide hole is the next best option. As a self-defense knife, you really can’t ask for more than that.

Drawbacks

The Spartan rides a little too low in the pocket for my liking.

Is it all roses and lilacs? No. If I had to make two complaints, it would be these. First, while the low ride is nice for carry, it makes things a little dicey on initial deployment. Your grip is so low on the Spartan that your control of the knife is weak for a split second while it opens. Not the worst problem I have seen, but something to know.

Minor rust spots. Not a dealbreaker but not ideal either.

My second point of contention is about the finish. My Spartan is an older model, made of AUS-8A steel. This is supposed to be a very corrosion-resistant steel, but my experience says otherwise. From the moment I got this knife, it will show rust spots in a single day. At least if it is humid, or anyone within 100 yards sweats near it.

It isn’t a show stopper, and the rust rubs off easily. But it is annoying. Since its initial release, Cold Steel has changed steels twice, and it now sports AUS10A. I have been told this new steel corrects the issue, but cannot verify.

Even with the spot rust issue, I love the Spartan. If you are in the market for a hard-use folder, this one is hard to beat.

Specs

  • Weight: 9 oz.
  • Thickness: 4mm
  • Blade Length: 4 1/2”
  • Handle: 6″ Long Griv-Ex™ with Steel Fittings
  • Steel: Japanese AUS10A (for new models)
  • Overall Length: 10 1/2″
  • Additional Feature: Ambidextrous Pocket / Belt Clip (Battle Gear)
  • MSRP: $129.99
  • Steet Prices: $70-$80

For more information on the Spartan visit ColdSteel.com.

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About the author: Clay Martin is a former Marine and Green Beret, retiring out of 3rd Special Forces Group. He is a multi-decade and -service sniper, as well as 3-Gun competitor and Master ranked shooter in USPSA Production. In addition to writing about guns, he is the author of “Last Son of The War God,” a novel about shooting people that deserve it. You can also follow him on twitter, @offthe_res or his website, Off-The-Reservation.com

{ 9 comments… add one }
  • Jonny5 December 24, 2018, 11:01 am

    Have you ever considered carrying a Stanley knife? With a retractable blade? That can make a mess of someone’s face if you go to town on them.

  • AJ December 23, 2018, 7:39 am

    I’ll stick with my Glock… (Sarcasm)

  • lukeum December 22, 2018, 7:40 pm

    she’s definitely a hoss i liked your outside demo Clay it gave me the feeling of being there! now a thought for your rotation with a full purchase in mind how’s about some of the different karambits out there lots of functional prospecs hard to shake that baby out of the mitts thanks luke

  • Mark Wolfson December 21, 2018, 6:39 pm

    Clay, I am surprised you back a knife made in Taiwan! I think the Para 2/3 from Spyderco is more than a challenge for your picklechops knife. Also the Griptilian from Benchmade trumps both. Sorry Clay, stick with firearms.

  • Higgpigg December 21, 2018, 5:36 pm

    Why are people still wasting their time buying/using any other knife than the USA Kershaw Ken Onion Design Leek and Scallion. There simply isn’t a better pocketknife in the world.PERIOD !

  • Robert Howard December 21, 2018, 1:39 pm

    Loved the review, Clay. Some possible advice on keeping the rust off your blade. I just don’t know if this trick works on that steel or not

    Stick the blade balls deep into a potato. Leave it there for a few days. If it works, it’ll turn brownish colored but you won’t have anymore rust.

    Another possibility is get water displacing oil, easily found at Brownell’s. It’s an “after bluing” oil that prevents rust long-term. Again, not sure if that steel will be compatible with it, but maybe worth a try.

  • Matt Lowry December 21, 2018, 11:39 am

    If you want a decent knife in general stay away from cold steel. They’re products have gone to &%!# in my opinion. I used to swear by them 20 years ago but because of the knives I have bought in recent years I have sworn them off. Now I wouldn’t take one even if it was free.

  • Godfrey Washington December 21, 2018, 8:10 am

    I owned an original aus8 Spartan and that thing was a rust bucket! It got to the point that I pulled it apart and gun blued it. Still friggin rusted! The day the carpenter steel version debuted mine went straight into the trash (it also refused to hold an edge). So I ordered the cst version and it is head and shoulders above the original! I also ordered the 4in tanto recon in cts and a raja II in the bd1. If you want and amazing edc knife go with a plain edge tanto or spearpoint recon 4in. If you need a big but useable knife go with the raja II. Despite being sooo much bigger than the spartan, it actually is more balanced and handles much faster and more easily. And carry isnt nearly as bad as you would think. I wouldnt carry it in a pair of slacks, but edc in a pair of jeans is doable. Plus the 1.5in of handle that sticks out of your pocket gives you more to grab for rapid\”ish\” deployment (longer knives take longer to draw). The Spartan is a great show knife but the blade is not in proportion to handle and makes it unwieldy. Plus the kopis grip, while it does lock your hand into the grip, it makes micro adjustments difficult, transitions next to impossible and if your hands aren\’t the right size it can also be flat out uncomfortable.

  • Godfrey Washington December 21, 2018, 7:49 am

    I owned an original aus8 Spartan and that thing was a rust bucket! It got to the point that I pulled it apart and gun blued it. Still friggin rusted! The day the carpenter steel version debuted mine went straight into the trash (it also refused to hold an edge). So I ordered the cst version and it is head and shoulders above the original! I also ordered the 4in tanto recon in cts and a raja II in the bd1. If you want and amazing edc knife go with a plain edge tanto or spearpoint recon 4in. If you need a big but useable knife go with the raja II. Despite being sooo much bigger than the spartan, it actually is more balanced and handles much faster and more easily. And carry isnt nearly as bad as you would think. I wouldnt carry it in a pair of slacks, but edc in a pair of jeans is doable. Plus the 1.5in of handle that sticks out of your pocket gives you more to grab for rapid”ish” deployment (longer knives take longer to draw). The Spartan is a great show knife but the blade is not in proportion to handle and makes it unwieldy. Plus the kopis grip, while it does lock your hand into the grip, it makes micro adjustments difficult, transitions next to impossible and if your hands aren’t the right size it can also be flat out uncomfortable.

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