Cold Steel Bushman Review
The Cold Steel Bushman is billed by the company as a “survival” knife. It is made of 2.5mm thick SK-5 high carbon steel. This knife is forged of a single piece of steel and has a hollow handle. The idea behind this knife is versatility, it’s supposed to work as a strong, sharp knife, capable of holding an edge for years on end, and also, a bit oddly, it can be mounted on the end of a pole and turned into a spear. It essence, this knife is meant to be more than just a knife, it’s meant to be a tool.
The Blade is a fairly soft metal. The entire knife except the blade is blued, but this knife is carbon steel, not stainless; so theoretically at least, it will rust. Personally, I have abused the crap out of this blade. The best way to tell you about the blade of this knife is to tell you how I have used this knife and what it has endured:
I left it outside once for a week, no rust. I actually had managed to drop this knife (we’ll talk about the sheath later) in the woods near my parent’s house before I was married. I had bent over at some point for some reason and the knife had slipped from my sheath and managed to fall straight into a pile of leaves. I did not notice when it happened (I was with other people, talking.) Once I went to remove the sheath from my belt I noticed it was gone, looked for it, did not find it. About a week later my dad was out their and as he’s walking he steps on something hard: knife recovered; it was in perfect condition, there was no rust at all, in fact you could hardly tell it had been unsheathed outdoors ever. Arguments that this knife will rust if not oiled are just not true, I have NEVER put a drop of oil on this knife and it had yet to show any signs of rusting after nearly six years of ownership.
I’ve used this knife along with a hammer to plane the bottom of a door while it was still on it’s hinges. This may sound crazy, but trust me, I needed a quick simple solution so I could shut my door, I found it. I simply pushed the blade against the bottom of the door and hammered; with most knives, this would have been tantamount to throwing the thing away, but cold steel makes a great product and the bushman took it like a champ. At the time I did this, the blade was 5 years old, never been oiled, never been sharpened; and it still hasn’t, and it always performs.
I have used this knife, somewhat painstakingly, to chop wood. The blade is fairly light actually, which is great for carrying around but crappy for cutting wood. It’s sharp, It’s strong and it will get the job done, but it is much easier to use a heavier knife or a hatchet. I have also used this knife for various day-to-day cutting tasks, particularly to cut leather, it really is amazing how sharp this blade is and how well it holds an edge, over the years, I’ve been able to consistently cut straight even lines in leather without ever sharpening.
The handle is a part of the blade, that is to say, the whole knife is one solid piece of very tough steel. This is both a good and bad thing. It’s a good thing, an excellent thing really, because there isn’t much to break here. The knife is one piece and off the top of my head I believe the knife has been subjected to something like 5000 lbs of pressure without breaking. This is because there is no “seam” like on some other knives, where the handle has been connected; even on high quality knives there is usually a dramatic difference in size which can cause a crack that can lead to a break. I had a cold steel “Grosse Messer” sword when I was a teen; I used to cut young trees in half with a single stroke, sharp, but not strong: the blade broke from the handle because of the difference in size between the tang and the blade (and the stupidity of the owner.)
On this knife, you have one piece, so it is much stronger and unlikely to break as there is no particular weak point. However, there is an unfortunate aspect to this as well. The handle is simply smooth metal, making the grip not very secure. Any sort of serious work done with this knife pretty much requires the addition of something “grippy.” Grip tape on either side of the handle does the trick ok, as does a properly wrapped cord grip. After over five years of ownership, I finally glued a half-inch strip of leather in a “tornado” pattern down the handle. The leather is relatively thick, and it fills out my hand nicely a well as giving a good grip. I wouldn’t say a solution like this is strictly necessary, but at this price point if you didn’t like it you could always just buy another one really.
Additionally, the handle is hollow, which is for two supposed reasons: storing stuff in it or attaching it to the end of a pole to make a spear, of all things. Personally, both purposes seem dubious to me. You couldn’t store much in this tiny space really and I have no idea how you’re supposed to keep the stuff in… As far as the spear is concerned, this would work just fine really, it would mount a pole nicely, but unless you are really stranded for weeks in the wilderness I don’t know why you would want to do this. If you want a spear for whatever reason (hunting comes to mind) cold steel sells great spearheads as well which would make better spears. So basically, if you HAD to use this as a spear, you could, but I don’t view it as something you probably would do.
The Sheath / Carrying
The sheath sucks. Period. It doesn’t hold the knife inside at all, it’s really more of a pocket than a sheath. The knife sits in it but that’s all. As mentioned above, it falls out very easily. Therefore, carrying this knife around is a somewhat unpleasant proposition as you have to think about not dropping it all the time. I recommend either adding a retention strap of your own to the sheath or making or buying a new one.
As far as other carrying concerns, the knife is light enough that you will positively forget it’s on your hip. Which Is nice, get a nice sheath and carrying is a breeze. It is unfortunate though that Cold Steel encased such a great knife in such a crummy sheath, however, at this price point it’s hard to complain too much.
What is the supposed purpose of this knife? “Survival.” To me, that means that this knife does whatever you need it too whenever you need it without wearing out fast. It also means that it can be carried relatively easily and retained. As to the first purpose, it does this very well, this knife just won’t break, rust, or fail. It will always get the job done. My one concern is that the knife may not be there to do it. With the stock sheath, this knife is easy to lose. On the other hand, fixing the stock sheath, or buying a new one isn’t hard, and if you have the skills to make one you can give it as much retention as you like. This knife I shard to beat for overall quality and function at it’s price point, if you’re willing to fix the sheath situation you will be very satisfied.