The Cold Steel Gurkha Kukri SK5 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 have helped to define the knife industry as a whole.

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.

Cold Steel has remained true to their core philosophy of constantly striving to make the world’s strongest and sharpest knives and the Gurkha Kukri doesn’t deviate from that one bit.

The Cold Steel Gurkha Kukri is a 17 inch long knife that features a 12 inch long, 0.313 inch thick drop point, recurve edged blade that is available in your choice of either SK-5 high carbon steel (non-stainless) steel or VG-1 San Mai III stainless steel.

Each of the mentioned blade steel choices has different properties. The VG-1 San Mai III version has a much more steep retail cost. (For the purpose of this review, I will focus on the less expensive knife.)

This knife also features a flat ground bevel, a deeply checkered Kray-Ex grip molded over a full tang that is specifically designed to enable the user to retain a grip on the handle when chopping or slashing.

In addition, the knife includes an extremely well-designed Secure-Ex sheath which you can securely attach to your belt, pack, etc. using the supplied, detachable, belt loop or one of the many holes incorporated into the edges of the sheath.

In my last four articles on this web site, I have written about three ethnic outdoor knife designs, the Parang, the Bolo, and the Golok; all of which originated in either Nepal, Malaysia, or the Philippines.

However, there is a fourth ethnic knife design that also hails from Nepal that makes a very efficient heavy chopping tool much like the Parang and Bolo knives and that knife is called a Kukri.

Please note that there are two versions of this knife design designated as “eastern” and “western” designs and that the blade shape can vary drastically depending on the type, the intended use, and the knifesmith who made it.

Consequently, what most Americans think of as a Kukri knife is the “western” version carried to this day by the famous Gurkha regiment of the Royal Nepalese Army known as the “Brigade of Gurkhas” (formally known as “The Gurkha Rifles”).

In fact, there is one situation report from a battle field in North Africa that truly exemplifies the effectiveness of this knife design and it reads: “Enemy losses: ten killed, ours nil. Ammunition expenditure: nil.”

Consequently, the Cold Steel Kukri was based upon the “western” design and, due to its extreme drop point blade shape, it makes a VERY effective chopping tool because the Kukri blade’s distinctive forward drop is intended to aid the cutting action by having the edge maintain an angle (like a guillotine) which provides more of a “slicing” action rather than having a straight edge striking at right angles to the target.

However, theses extreme western designs need to be paired with a smaller, general purpose, knife making them less effective as a survival tool than some of the other knives we’ve looked at. In addition, the SK-5 steel (a Japanese equivalent of American 1080 steel) used in this version of the Tail Master, and hardened to 57-58 RC, is somewhat similar to the AUS 8A that my Russell Camp Knife is constructed from.

FYI, 1080 steel is a high carbon steel with a Carbon content of 0.81%, a Manganese content of 0.75%, a Phosphorus content of 0.04%, a Sulphur content of 0.05% and a Silicone content of 0.22%. The carbon content and lean alloy make this a shallow hardening steel with a quenched hardness normally between RC 60-64 depending on exact carbon content.

This combination of factors makes this one of the toughest steels available because, when quenched properly, it produces a near saturated lathe Martensite with no excess Carbides, avoiding the brittleness of higher carbon materials.

Therefore, this steel is particularly well suited to applications where strength and impact resistance is valued above all other considerations and will produce blades of almost legendary toughness. 

However, according to the Cold Steel website and as per quenched by Cold Steel, SK-5 steel has a Rockwell hardness near RC 57-58 and produces a mixture of carbon rich Martensite with some small un-dissolved carbides and the excess carbide increases abrasion resistance and allows the steel to achieve an ideal balance of very good blade toughness with superior edge holding ability.

Moving on to the handle, the deeply checkered Kray-Ex material is very comfortable to hold, it provides a positive grip when wet, and absorbs shock with chopping with the knife. In addition, this knife includes a Secure-Ex (Kydex) sheath which, like the handle material, is resistant to water and is also very long-wearing.

So, while this type of knife design may appear a bit strange to Western eyes, it is actually very useful as a survival knife especially when combined with a smaller general purpose knife.

The Cold Steel Kukri combines a very tough steel with an ergonomic and shock absorbing, non-slip, handle material that is impervious to water, cracking, chipping and abrasion. Thus, whenever, heavy chopping tasks need to be performed in the field, the Cold Steel Gurkha Kukri is an excellent choice.

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