Friday, February 29, 2008

Colt Jungle Commander Review...

Back again.
Just took a long walk in the woods with a good cigar and a large knife which I haven't yet made a review of. Did some testing I thought I should put out there as I've heard people say never to buy a knife with a gun company's name on it and it seems to have held up pretty well as long as I've used it (intermittently) for about a year and a half.
Here we go:

Things I have used it for:
  1. Chopping fuel and kindling for campfires/woodstoves whilst camping.
  2. Chopping random wooden objects to test its edge retention.
Things I have NOT used it for:
  1. Excessive prying.
  2. Cutting through airplane fuselages.
  3. Chopping up oil drums.
  4. Chopping people's heads off.
  5. As a spear for hunting wild boar.
OK, now that we're through with the list of uses/non-uses, here's how it held up under pressure since its last honing. It started off with a keen edge but eventually I had to re-sharpen it within a week or so of heavy use. That was six months ago but since it was still good and sharp, I headed up past the ski hill into the hemlocks for some field testing. While not all that extensive, here's a few shots of what I did.

The lean-to (my base of operations):

After shaving the outer, frozen layer of bark off a tree. Don't worry, the tree is fine. I made sure that (a) it was already buggered up by other people, and (b) that I didn't cut too deeply.

After cutting a flat area in this log for people to rest a hot pot on, the edge is still going strong.

Closeup of the flattened log.

After bucking a small sapling-sized trunk (dead, of course). The edge is still pretty sharp. Note that all three of these testing compounds are not only frozen but also full of sap. Hard stuff to cut through.
Back at the Flat, I've been slicing away at double layers of this corrugated cardboard box. Most knives will go dull after only a few boxes' worth of cuts, but after positively filling this box with slices the edge is still serviceable, and this after the woodsy escapade.

Note that there was one area toward the tip of the blade that did not want to cut when used in a chopping motion. This was an area I had previously (before today) screwed up and then "fixed" with a diamond rod. Evidently it stil wasn't quite up to par, so I promptly re-honed the edge.

Now after all this you may be wondering "What type of steel is that?"
It is only the lowly, pathetic, practically useless 420 Stainless.
"But wait!" you say. "I thought stainless steel in a bushknife is a bad thing!"
Well, yes it is when you are speaking of custom knives, which is why most makers wouldn't expect you to pay hundreds of $$$ for a top of the line knife if they used crappy steel.
But 420 has its uses. It may not be useful in, say, a "high speed low drag" knife like a Strider, which is meant to be used every day for months at a time with zero problems. However, if you're talking about a knife you might use for a week at most out of a year, then there's not a problem with it, especially if the knife is built (like this one) with a thick tang (nearly a quarter inch thick) and grinds that do not compromise its structural integrity.
After all, would you really want to use, much less carry around in the woods with you that 400.00+ knife? Save the MSCs and DDCs for the safe or for selling in the future. At least, that's my take on it.

Here are some pros and cons as I see them.

  • It's cheap. This is a big factor when you're talking about a bushknife that you may at some point lose, have stolen, or have to ditch. Especially when you're only using it from time to time. If you're getting a big knife for a BOB, then all the more reason not to pay huge bucks for it.
  • It's surprisingly durable. When it gets dull, sharpen it. That's what your stone is for. And if it breaks in any way, you won't feel bad grinding away at it to fix it or even scrapping it. Just buy a new one if necessary.
  • Unlike many other partly-serrated knives, this one is ground on both sides, not chiselground, even the serrations are on both sides. I prefer my edges double-sided. Just a thought.
  • It's heavy. I mean heavy.
  • The sheath is a POS and a real PITA. I'd make (or have made) a Kydex rig for it if I thought it was worth it. Maybe someday I will.
  • The rat-tail tang isn't the sturdiest hilt construction method ever. One day it may pull off or fall apart and then I'll have to figure out a way to fix it.
  • The ribbed, rubberized handle is hard on your hands. Gives me blisters in five minutes, no joke. And I've got pretty tough hands for a college kid.
  • The "Teflon" finish is crap. It wears off in about fifteen minutes of heavy work. If you really like your non-reflective, matte-black, Parkerized finish then don't buy this knife.
Cost: Around 45 to 50.00. Got mine on Ebay, NIB.
Berserker's Overall Rating: 4 Stars. Minus 1 Star for rattail tang, crappy handle, crappy Teflon coating and REALLY crappy sheath.

If you buy this knife, give it a bit of work and attention, you may end up liking it and it will serve you just fine for normal camp useage.


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