The Cold Steel Two-Handed Katana Machete is my answer to those that demand a katana over a more sensible blade. The katana machete has a 19 inch blade, with an overall length of 35.5 inches. As you can see in the picture, the blade is only slightly longer than that of the magnum kukri. It weighs 2 lbs 1 oz, and the blade is a good 3/32 of an inch thick – it certainly feels substantial and durable.
Cold Steel markets the two-handed katana machete as a chopping tool, so I decided to test that function first:
As I said, the blade is shorter than the blade of an actual katana, but holding the 16.5 inch polypropylene handle near the end allows you to extend its effective range to the length of a full size katana. This extra length allows you to generate a great deal of force – much like an ax. Unlike an ax, however, the katana machete’s center of balance is only a half inch forward actual center, and about 2.5 inches forward of the hilt – that means it’s considerably better balanced than most tools designed for chopping.
This balance and the wide grip you’re able to get on the long handle lend themselves to better control of the tool. Good control + a sturdy and damn sharp tanto tip = a good weapon. However, the first thing I noticed when I widened my grip on the handle was that the handle itself gets wider nearer to the hilt – and in my opinion, uncomfortably so.
For those with larger hands than mine, this might not be a problem, but I found that it compromised my grip a bit. Also, the aggressive grip texturing that I’ve come to love on the handles of some of their machetes is absent here, and missed – especially when stabbing.
I engaged in some reckless stabbery around the yard and found that, while effective, there are some problems with using the katana machete for thrusting attacks (I say “attacks” because stabbing doesn’t often come into play in yard work. It might make chores more exciting if it did…). The hard-angled tanto tip is certainly effective in puncturing, and sturdy enough that you don’t need to worry about it being damaged – my issues, again, are with the handle. The hilt is designed to keep your forward hand from sliding onto the blade during a stab, and it absolutely works, but unless you position your hand tightly up against the hilt prior to the stab, a sweaty hand will slide forward. Granted, I was stabbing plywood and tree stumps, and flesh wouldn’t put up near the same resistance (as you can see clearly on the embedded youtube video at the bottom of this post)… but I’m being picky. It’s my job. Luckily, the hilt is very well designed, and sliding your hand up against it, even forcefully, isn’t the slightest bit painful.
If you look at the handles on their other three two-handed machetes (the panga, kukri, and heavy) you’ll see that they have a lobe at the base that would improve grip retention when swinging with both hands placed at the end of the handle. I’m not sure why they used the unique handle style present on the katana machete, other than that the integral hilt facilitates safer thrusting. If I could design the perfect handle for the katana machete, I’d make it an even width (more the width of the handle near the pommel instead of near the hilt), include the grip retention lobe on the pommel end, and texture the handle to further improve grip, especially in the elements. In fact, standardizing that hypothetical handle for all four two-handers might be the best option all around (and would cut production costs…*wink, wink*).
My only other problem isn’t actually a problem with this specific blade, but a problem I have with Cold Steel’s blades in general: the labels.
Cold Steel’s labels aren’t easy to peel off, and they don’t come off gracefully. You might try to remove the leftover paper and adhesive residue with a cotton ball soaked in rubbing alcohol, but I discovered the hard way that you can actually damage the matte-black anti-rust coating this way. Instead, I recommend rubbing the residue with your fingertips and a drop of blade oil. It will ball up, and eventually come off. In general, do wish that Cold Steel would make their labels easier to remove, or place them on the handles where their removal wouldn’t risk damaging the blade finish. Then again, if you’re more into the utility of the blade than the aesthetics, don’t worry about the label whatsoever! It’s certain to wear off eventually during the kinds of use (and abuse) these blades are built to withstand.
My final verdict: BUY IT. The Cold Steel Two-Handed Katana Machete is a valuable tool and viable weapon. For those of you still relying on a mass produced wall-hanger katana as your go-to zombie wig splitter, abandon the fantasy and spend $40 on this instead. Not only will it work better and last longer, but it won’t cost you a fifth of what an acceptable battle-ready katana will – even if you do somehow manage to tear it up, you can replace it without skipping rent. Being able to spread your hands so far apart gives you excellent control over the blade’s weight, and keeps you from wearing yourself out too quickly while swinging it around like a yay-hoo in your backyard. Where it really shines, however, is in choking down to the bottom of the handle and swinging this chopper for pure power. So go – do some landscaping, and frighten the neighbors while you’re at it. (As always, tell Cold Steel that ThePostApoc sent you).