Cold Steel Pendleton Hunter Hunting Knife Review

Cold Steel, Inc. was founded in 1980 as a company dedicated to making the strongest and sharpest knives in the world. Over the last three decades, Cold Steel has been at the forefront of the many innovations that helped define the knife industry as a whole.

Progressive accomplishment including the introduction of the checked Kraton handles and the American Tanto point blade styles have gone from curiously interesting features to industry-wide hallmarks of quality and sophistication.

New ground was also broken with the introduction of unique new blade steels like San Mai III as well as the “Tri-Ad Lock” locking mechanism for folding knives. In fact, the Tri-Ad Lock has never been equaled by any of Cold Steel’s competitors and nothing they have produced yet has been proven to outperform it.

Therefore, Cold Steel has remained true to their core philosophy of constantly striving to make the world’s strongest and sharpest knives. The Cold Steel SRK is a prime example of this advanced technology. Thus, when Cold Steel designed and introduced the Pendleton Hunter, they adhered to their stated philosophy by using quality materials incorporating superior craftsmanship.

Consequently, the Cold Steel Pendleton Hunter is a reproduction of one of custom knife smith Lloyd Pendleton’s most popular knives and is designed to be a small hunting knife for those of you who prefer shorter blades when skinning game.

Since it was designed to be a dedicated hunting knife, the Pendleton Hunter features an overall length of 8 1/4″ with a drop point blade shape measuring 3 1/2″ in length. In addition, this knife is made from 3/16″ thick VG-1 stainless steel (please note: since the VG-1 San Mai III version has a higher cost than the VG-1 version, in this article I am going to focus on the less expensive version.)

Plus, this knife also features a hollow ground bevel, a deeply checkered Kray-Ex (Krayton) grip with a single quillion and full tang construction. The knife also includes an extremely well designed Secure-Ex sheath (Kydex). Cold Steel says

“in fabricating these knives, we have tried to duplicate Lloyd’s work as accurately as possible. Both the Pendleton Hunter’s hollow ground blade and the Mini Hunter’s flat ground blade are honed to perfection. The handle’s cross sections and contours match Lloyd’s handmade knives exactly. For safety and durability, we have dispensed with leather in favor of Secure-Ex for the sheaths. This material won’t rot or mildew and is far more resistant to cuts or punctures than leather.”

For those of you who have read my previous articles, you are probably aware that I normally only review survival knives for this blog. However, since I am a professional hunting guide in addition to being a professional fly fishing guide and outdoor survivalist, I thought that it might be nice to review a hunting knife now and then as well.

Since the Cold Steel Pendleton Hunter was on my list, I decided to give it a closer look. For starters, I am impressed with the overall design.

Let me qualify, though, that statement by saying that I don’t like short blades on my deer skinning knives because I often find myself reaching deep into the pocket created between the skin and muscle when I am removing a hide and a longer blade of 5″ to 6″ in length works much better for me.

On the other hand, I am also aware that the conventional accepted length for a drop point skinning blade is 3 1/2″ to 4″ because a shorter blade provides the average user with more control than a longer blade does and that is why this knife was designed to meet those specifications.

If you prefer an average sized skinning knife like most people do, then this knife will serve you well. So, as I mentioned previously, even though I prefer longer blades on my skinning knives, I do like the overall design of the Cold Steel Pendleton Hunter.

The 31/2″ drop point blade is a good choice for a dedicated skinning knife because the drop moves the point out the way and places it more in line with the horizontal center of the knife for greater control. The shorter length provides excellent maneuverability in tight quarters as well as adding extreme precision to slicing strokes. The belly of the sweep is also well designed for slicing and thus, it would be an excellent knife for skinning any type of deer since, on a deer, the skin is only attached to the muscle with a thin membrane.

However, for skinning pigs, it lacks enough length to the sweep and the belly is too shallow because a pig’s skin is attached to the fat layer which is in turn attached to the muscle as if they were stuck together. Thus, a pig’s skin has to be literally carved off instead of sliced off.

In addition, the blade is made from 3/16″ thick VG-1 high carbon stainless steel with

  • a Carbon (C) content between 0.95-1.05,
  • Chromium (Cr) content between 13.0-15.0,
  • Molybdenum (Mo) content between 0.2-0.4 and
  • less than 0.25 of Nickel (Ni)

In fact, Cold Steel claims that VG-1 has better aggregate characteristics in the areas of sharpness, edge retention, point strength, shock, and strength characteristics than 440CVG-10, or ATS 34 stainless steels. This is even when any of those alloys may be better than VG-1 in individual categories.

Also, during forging, Mo and Cr forms hard double carbide bonds which help improve the abrasion and corrosion resistance of the steel. In addition, it is usually heat treated to reach hardness of 58-61 (please note: Cold Steel’s web site does not state the Rockwell Hardness of the steel used in the Pendleton Hunter.)

Be aware, however, that there have been reports that VG-1 might be more chip prone than other comparable stainless steels but these reports have been disputed.

Also, I really like the shape of the handle because it is not only reminiscent of Bob Loveless’ handle design but it is also very ergonomic. On top of that, the deeply checkered Kray-Ex (Krayton) handle material is both comfortable in the hand and is impervious to water, weather, cracking or chipping.

Although there are other designs I would prefer over the Cold Steel Pendleton Hunter, when examined though the eyes of a professional hunting guide, this knife would be an excellent skinning knife design for the average hunter who prefers an average-sized knife for skinning.

In addition, the VG-1 steel is well suited to this task since it has

  • high Carbon content which makes it hard
  • a high Chromium content which makes it stainless; and
  • double carbide bond formed between the Molybdenum and the Chromium which makes it highly abrasion-resistant so that it takes and holds an edge well

Last, while the Kray-Ex handle material is not nearly as pretty as an exotic wood burl with a nickel-silver bolster would be, it does serve the purpose and serves it well.

So if I were somehow to find myself in possession of a Cold Steel Pendleton Hunter, I would not feel like I was stuck with an inferior knife; just a plain one.

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