Kershaw Emerson CQC 3K by M.H. for BladeOps Writing Contest Round 2

Kershaw CQC3K
Kershaw CQC3K

In my work with carry knives, the folder has always held a sort of sexy appeal. Never willing to spend over a hundred fifty dollars can be a serious impediment to this attraction however, so the Emerson line has always been just out of my reach. Certain standards concerning how a weapon deploys prevents me from buying folders that do not automatically deploy one way or the other. Recently, there have been karambits on the market with this wave feature that meet my price point; so I considered it a happy coincidence when I came into a knife with a price worth a severe test run with no regrets.

Speaking in terms of aesthetics, they really hit the mark. This is a beautiful knife. The handle is the classic Kershaw shape: fits the hand like your refrigerators handle; effective enough that you haven’t replaced it yet and hauntingly reminiscent of times long past (if you maintain the same fridge, or have a lot of early Kershaw memories). The blade is aggressive in appearance and yet not so large that it cannot be used casually in sensitive company: it even has a thumb stud should you decline the more surprising means of deployment.

In total, it is extremely compact but offers a lot of the same functions one would want in a standard size combat/utility knife, which I would say is four inches in the civilian world. What I mean by this, is that the frame of the knife is thick enough that one could comfortably press into or stab a target without feeling too much recoil. I consider this knife the minimum standard for carry and since most people carry basically toy knives, this is a serious improvement.

At First Sight

First and foremost: a round of applause for Kershaw31. They’ve finally realized which end the pocket clip belongs on! The thing that really sent me away from folders as a teenager was exactly that issue: the process was long enough before I knew about wave-type features; they insisted that I flip the thing around mid deployment on top of it.

I was also taken aback when I noticed how normal the screws were. I half expected–because it happens often–that my first knife inspired mission would be to find the requisite screwdrivers to operate the thing. After cycling through all my mini phillips, I finally realized I would have to find that clunky old normal screw driver I keep in the back of a something somewhere. After spending a minute confused, this grew into genuine appriciation.

I expected it to come out of the box with nothing forgiving in it: thought it might take some breaking in. The Kershaw operated smooth and clean from the first moment and continues on the same trend. Even better, if you don’t like smooth and clean: Kershaw has finally made a fully serviceable knife. Ive worked on many of their knives in the past and though I may be missing something, I don’t believe I’ve ever found one that could be opened with just one screwdriver and no vice grips.

The hand guard–if I can get away with calling it that–is perfectly suited to this tools mission. If you aren’t one of those people that trains with motor oil and slippery knives, this blade may ensure that you never need to. This is a pitch or pack issue for me and I didn’t expect a Kershaw to come through this well.


Before anything, let me state that I haven’t destroyed this knife: I’m actually enjoying carrying it quite a bit. As a result, I have in no way attempted to stress the locking mechanism beyond angles of attack into wood. It probably wont tolerate being thrown and I’m always a little wary of all liner lock knives to begin with. That said, this one inspires enough confidence that I am carrying it.

A thing one may not know if they are new to these style of knives, is that all of them are just a little too short at this size. Not enough handle protrudes from the pocket to actually deploy without a chance of snagging a finger as the blade comes out. If you never deploy under stress, you may think “just a little nip in the finger, wont even cut you. Whats the issue?” It definitely wont cut you. But it definitely will activate every nerve on your index finger while your supposed to be paying attention to your knife and your problems.

To remedy this, I’ve attached a bit of paracord. Its just enough that I can get my thumb down onto the handle and have cord running across my whole palm, thus ensuring that even though I wont have a master grip on my weapon, at least when I transition my grip, its not just my thumb and indexfinger on the tool.

Then I stumbled across a thing that initially I took to just be cheap manufacturing: the checkered grips are only on one side. I cursed them for a moment, knowing Emerson would never do such a thing, then I remembered something. When I wasn’t asked to use my brain very often in my work history, it usually meant my knife was coming out at least twenty times an hour. I had shredded pants like nobody that isn’t homeless. The handguard being what it is, this is a reasonable sacrifice.

The Emerson Wave feature exceeds my already incredibly high expectations. It is exactly perfect where Cold Steel falls short in its “Ambidextrous Thumb Plate.” Cold Steel has a solution that translates well into four inch or larger folders. In my own experience, the Mini Ak was unable to dependably deploy and leaned heavily on the type of pants one is wearing. In its larger version, the screw snapped that held the thumb plate in place. Ill grant that I voided the warranty and then some, but I had been wishing to find Emerson’s solution ever since.

A fantastic aspect of the wave feature is its ability to catch clothing. In the event of a failure to deploy, its only a matter of swiping it against your jacket or theirs. I did have a complicated experience however: it doesn’t have much luck against light wool, which isn’t always easy to distinguish from heavy wool jackets. It seems like I wouldn’t want to count on my perception of my opponents outfit at this point. It could change with experience.

Now this issue may be a false one. There is no second pocket clip for a lefty. Maybe it was left out of my box–as there are holes where one could affix a clip–but insofar as first week of carry; that is not an option. This leaves us with two options: strong side standard or support side reverse. For the left handed, this means strong side reverse. The knife deploys well in reverse, with paracord attached. Again, without the cording, this isn’t a viable self defense option.

Before I attached the paracord, I did notice a severe and common defect: the checkered grips that are there, are so minimal that they are useless in the draw. Once deployed, they give you just enough but before hand, you will not dependably produce this knife. It is too small and too slippery to be carried out of the box. If you have a tool to cure this, fix immediately.

The pocket clip has a commonality with many on the market; too tight initially. If there were checkered grips on both sides, it would do quite a bit of damage to your pants just in the first day. Without addressing the grips with paracord or your favorite workbench sidekick, this thing will never come out of your pants when you want it to. I bend them all out just a little bit and address the presentation issues: this should retard future disasters by a lot.

In Conclusion

Legality is an aspect that is always worth paying attention to. If your like me, you want something you can confidently travel with. Though you wont be getting by in England with this knife, it should do well in the continental United States. This knife should pass the test anywhere: it is as innocuous looking as a clown in a circus compared to many civillian tactical options today.

I like this knife because I come from a poor background–pretty much still coming from it–and the self defense knife is my passion. In the martial arts I’ve taught, I often wound up taking the student down a very long rabbit trail of knife training. I can get them to love it, train constantly and come back for more. But I cannot for the life of me get them to commit to buying a decent knife.

For me, this is the first real solution I’ve seen. I see Kershaw in Walmart and while I don’t particularly enjoy the latter, I know that it represents what is really available to people that don’t care about the data the way I wish they would. If they have the tools they will know they need the tactics: this is that tool. Lets hope it pops up everywher

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