Knife Review – Cold Steel Mackinac Hunter

I’m not a fan of stainless steel knives, having grown up with some of the most unruly stainless knife steels on the planet.  And I thought I was buying high quality stuff.  Sharpening was one problem.  I always got that edge feature that would “roll over” from side to side as I tried to hone or steel it down.

Some of the knives were cheap products and I deserved those metallurgical temper tantrums (temper pun intended).  But even some American and German made knives proved a problem.  Which reminds me of another issue:  The stainless steel knives also didn’t hold an edge very long, thus leading me back to the sharpening bench.  Those two factors, difficulty in sharpening and not holding an edge, were the cycle of life for a while.

So I learned to value quality carbon steel blades.  The good stuff.  Most of it was 1095 as I look back on it with a keener understanding of cutlery recipes.  I still prefer carbon steel but a few modern-made stainless steel knives have earned my respect.  Not the least of these is AUS8A,* especially that used by Cold Steel.

Cold Steel Mackinac Hunter – unfortunately discontinued

A good example of a knife using this steel, if not a down right great example, is Cold Steel’s Mackinac Hunter (actually, in my experience any of Cold Steel’s AUS8A knives are equally good examples).  But alas, it and its companion, the Lone Star Hunter, have gone the way of other overlooked and underappreciated designs.  This seems to be a problem across manufacturers’ lines – will someone please tell knife makers to stop messing with a good thing!

My Mackinac Hunter has been with me on numerous outdoor adventures.  In one deer season not many years ago, it field dressed three deer and was used for countless other chores.  While I prefer to field dress game with a fixed blade knife (only because of cleaning blood and fat out of a folder’s mechanism), the Mackinac Hunter sliced and diced with ease and still remained razor sharp.  And I’m not kidding when I say razor sharp.  After a thorough cleaning that season, it showed no signs of wear or corrosion, even after a few stubborn blood spots were scrubbed off.

Cold Steel Mackinac Hunter knife, 6

Cold Steel’s Mackinac Hunter, with a Charter Arms Bulldog in .44 special.

To be sure, it is a rather large folder, and therefore heavy, weighing in at 6.6 oz., about a third the weight of my Charter Arms Bulldog .44 special revolver.  Overall length is about 8.25″.  The blade length is about 3.5″

The Tri-Ad Lock mechanism is fairly stiff to operate when closing, but is easy to deploy using the ambidextrous thumb studs.  Created by Andrew Demko, Cold Steel claims that their lock backs so equipped are “the “safest, strongest folders on the planet.”  After a fair amount of use, I found myself confident in that claim.

The handles are made of synthetic Delrin in a faux stag design.  It provides for a decent grip when used wet or dry.  A pocket clip came installed (and an extra provided free, thank you very much).  The knife is noticeable when carried, even with heavy denim jeans, but not cumbersome.  I usually carry big knives, including big folders, separately in a pack so this was no big deal for me.  It did not come with a leather sheath, which would probably make it more convenient to carry on one’s self.

The knife is made in Taiwan using Japanese AUS8A stainless steel.  Other than a few more Cold Steel products made in Taiwan, I don’t think I own any others from that country.  It is quality-built throughout and represents a top of the line weapon that one of our ally nations is capable of producing.

Cold Steel Mackinac Hunter knife, 5

Cold Steel Mackinac Hunter with my favorite carry gun

Because it is now discontinued, I don’t carry it regularly but there is no reason not to.  Because I know it will hold an edge, is safe to deploy, and will shrug off light abuse in the field, I return to it now and then.  It’s a beautiful, robust knife that will not fail to get me back home.

The only other lock back this size that I would consider carrying afield is my Buck 110 with its S30V stainless steel blade (a superior knife steel, by the way), or perhaps a Schrade LB-7 with a carbon steel blade.  I’ve used all three and can say with confidence that they exemplify some of the best lock backs made…  if you can find them.  You’ll do well if you inherit one of these.

UPDATE:  I found a new Mackinac Hunter in an online store and bought it.  It will be relegated to “collector” status as I gladly bring my first Mackinac out of semi-retirement for regular use.  But wait!  There’s more!  I’ve since found a couple of more including a new one at an Army surplus store.  And I’ve found the brother to the Mack, the Lone Star Hunter.  All are in the collection box now, except for the one tested here. Blog (here) says this about AUS8 (which is the same as AUS8A, practically speaking):
*  The Japanese-made AUS 8 steel is often considered an upper-range steel, comparable if not better than steels such as 440C, CM-154, and D2 steels. Given a proper heat treatment and hardened to the right level, which is usually around 58 to 59 HRC, it will perform satisfyingly and meet the standards of a true quality stainless steel. A well-rounded composition allows for this steel grade to reach high levels of hardness, toughness, wear (the sideways shifting of the metal from its original position) and corrosion (the gradual destruction of metals) resistance, as well as edge retention (the ability to retain its sharp edge).