Knife Review: Cold Steel GI Tanto

This post was previously published HERE on MSO. I have now owned this knife for over a year and it continues to perform well.

A couple months ago I bought the Cold Steel GI Tanto knife. I had been looking at this knife for quite some time as other Cold Steel offerings I have owned were quality items. Due to the low cost of the GI Tanto I kept my distance….until recently. I ordered one from Amazon for around $22.00 and hoped for the best.


The Knife: Once it arrived I opened the box and initial impressions were pretty good. I liked the black coating on the 7″ blade and the sheath was absolutely outstanding. The blade is full tang and is made from 1055 carbon steel. The knife “snaps” into the Kydex-like sheath (called Secure-Ex) very securely and has continued to do so ever since. Overall weight is 10.6 ounces, which is very close to full-sized USMC Ka-Bar. On the negative side the blade was not very sharp at all and the handle – to me – is too slick. It did not take long for me to improve the edge substantially using a set of ceramic sticks. As far as the handle goes – I left as is.

How does it perform? Over the last several weeks I have been able to use the Cold Steel GI Tanto and so far am very happy with it. A few days ago I took a few pictures and figured I would use them to describe some of my experiences:


The GI Tanto is not a small knife – though it is not a machete either. It contains a 7″ blade and with the 5″ handle this a total length of 12″ inches. It was a joy to carry on my hip.


Chopping on the dead tree above it was easy to create a small pile of wood chips. I would have preferred a handle that provided a better grip. No doubt it can be modified but as of right now I have left it stock. The knife provided enough heft that it felt pretty good wacking at that tree. Now – it was not as comfortable as my Buck Hoodlum but for a knife this size it was good.


I used the Cold Steel GI Tanto to do a little bit of feathering. I found with the sharpened blade it was not difficult to control the cut. With the tanto-style blade it is easy to use the point for more detailed digging, cuts, and carvings.


Batoning with the GI Tanto is where it really shined. I used it to split several pieces of wood down to many smaller pieces, much as  would if I was trying to get a fire going or feeding a rocket stove.


Depending upon the density of the wood the Tanto was able to slice through the wood with ease as I hit the rear spine to get it started and the end of the blade to drive it down. Worked very well no doubt in part to the sharp blade.


When batoning and feathering I continued to wish for a handle that provided a better grip. Possibly I will remove the current handle and wrap with paracord or buy some Micarta material and shape to fit. DO NOT misunderstand – it is certainly not unusable but it could be better. 

Summary: Beyond the grip  (and it is really not that bad) I really have nothing to complain about. I like the size and once it was sharpened it has held its edge extremely well. I am growing more and more fond of non-stainless blades as experience is telling me they hold their edge better than the softer stainless. The coating on the blade has also held up and the sheath continues to work extremely well.

For around $22.00 – the Cold Steel GI Tanto is a great deal.




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6 thoughts on “Knife Review: Cold Steel GI Tanto”

  1. Cold Steel has some very good products. Their entry level machetes and fixed blades are nothing to sneeze at and their tri ad lock folders are supremely strong. However, if anyone is thinking on buying a cold steel soon then I would wait a month or so, because they’re re-releasing their lineup with better steels like American BD-1 and XHP. The prices will increase slightly but it’s worth it.

  2. Rourke,

    I agree that the grips could be better but for the price one shouldn’t expect ray skin.

    Decades ago I purchased a Cold Steel Magnum Tanto IX with nine inch blade. The handle on this knife is exceedingly much better than the GI Tanto with handle approaching the gripping quality of ray skin. The cladded steel blade is likely greatly superior as well. When purchased, I was suspicious that the Tanto IX grip material wouldn’t hold up but it is still as good as new. This Tanto series are all excellent well made commercial knives and the Tanto IX is more of a combat knife or short wakizausha. I really like the tsuba style blade stop on the Tanto IX.

    Tanto points have their adherents and detractors. The chisel point tanto shape was designed to pierce traditional Japanese armor and for general purpose use, many prefer a modified Bowie point such as on the Randall. Those of you who might be interested in moderately priced Japanese style swords entirely suitable for combat should see Bugei offerings. These swords are the real deal, very sharp and quite dangerous.

    As sword design evolved, the trend was toward faster shapes such as the rapier which combined limited cutting with a long pointy blade for stabbing, eventually culminating in the very fast foil. The US Calvary stayed with the saber shape due to the unique challenges of slashing from horseback. For combat between humans, due to its speed, the foil is likely the most lethal although some argue that the katana style sword might be better against predators.

    I keep a traditional old Japanese made katana bedside along with my trusty .45. The katana is my first choice against that solitary home invader but you bet I would take the .45 as well. There is something about being behanded or beheaded that invokes a very special horror.


  3. I have had one of these for a couple of years and they ROCK I had used one to the point the rust proofing on blade was worn off but it still held a good edge I just bought another one a couple of months ago and it came from the box with a edge was sharp enough to shave with

  4. I’ve had an SRK for 20+ years (since Gulf War-1)and it has served me very well (and no it’s not a sterile model, so collectors don’t call me). It is/was my main fixed blade on my kit until I retired in 06′. (AND… back then,they were made in USA and cost around $45usd.)

  5. I think this is a very good knife, and it is currently going for under 20 clams on Amazon.

    One can also buy aftermarket wood grips for it. I got mine through facebook, for around 20 dollars. Nicely finished oak. Looks….dare I say it?…. pretty sharp.
    I’d post a pic if I could, but, cannot do that in this here response box.


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