Having owned several Kershaw EDC knives designed by Ken Onion, I have a lot of trust in the higher-end products that Kershaw produces. However, in most cases you pay dearly for those quality American made knives, and for the average person looking to add a few quality options to their EDC it can be a pain-point. This led me to explore Kershaw’s more affordable CQC (Close Quarters Combat) line designed by Emerson, which brings together the build of Kershaw and the design of Emerson at a modest price-point.  What makes it more affordable?  As far as I can tell, the primary reason for the lower cost is because this line is made in China.  Don’t let this dissuade you though – they are a solid EDC option for what you get at their price.

To cover a range of the CQC-1K through CQC-11K, I am reviewing the 4K, 5K, 7K, and 11K models, which vary in size and blade type.  Each uses 8Cr14MoV steel, just with varying coatings and finishes.  Each includes a reversible pocket clip for left or right-handed carry, and each are manual openers that utilize a wave shaped opening feature which allows the person to open the knife as it is withdrawn from a pocket.

The locks for the 4K, 7K, and 11K were frame locks, which mean that one side of the knife’s steel “liner,” the steel plate to which the handle scales are attached, moves into position behind the blade to securely lock it open.  The lock for the 5K was a liner, which means one side of the knife’s steel “liner,” the steel plate to which the handle scales are attached, moves into position behind the blade to securely lock it open.

CQC-4k

The CQC-4K features a drop-point blade for multi-purpose cutting capability.  Probably the most aesthetically pleasing one of the four knives I reviewed.  The contrast of the black-oxide back and the desert tan G-10 front look sharp.  A small Emerson skull logo is on the blade and the pocket clip as with the others, so if skulls aren’t something you’re into then you’ve been warned.  I personally like the look and feel of this one, although the blade and frame lock were both a bit stiff until it had been used a bit for a few days.

This knife blazed through the informal knife tests that I conducted, including cutting through denim, 550 paracord, small branches, and always telling “arm hair” test.  The edge held up well and after days of using the blade, it showed no signs of significant dulling.  Regular care and maintenance is sufficient.

Features include:

  • Frame lock
  • Reversible pocketclip (left/right)
  • Steel: 8Cr14MoV, black-oxide coating
  • Handle: textured G-10 front, 410 black-oxide finish back
  • Blade length: 3.25 in. (8.3 cm)
  • Closed length: 4.2 in. (10.7 cm)
  • Open length: 7.4 in. (18.8 cm)
  • Weight: 4.1 oz. (116.2 g)

CQC-5K

The CQC-5K features a modified clip-point blade for versatile cutting capability. This is a good-looking knife with a solid feel to it.  Right out of the box, the blade has quite a bit of stiffness when opening it, and utilizing the wave feature didn’t feel natural as it required extra effort.  As it was used and tested, it loosened up and was much more useable.

The factory edge required a bit of sharpening based on feel alone, but after that it performed well during a rope test using 550 paracord and other materials.  Of the four knives I review, this is the one I feel would be a good EDC for someone with smaller hands, or used as a utility knife for opening boxes.  The slightly smaller blade and handle are enough to make me choose the CQC-4K over this one.  My least favorite to review out of the bunch.

Features include:

  • Liner lock
  • Reversible pocketclip (left/right)
  • Steel: 8Cr14MoV, black-oxide coating
  • Handle: Textured G-10
  • Blade length: 3 in. (7.6 cm)
  • Closed length: 4 in. (10.2 cm)
  • Open length: 7.1 in. (18 cm)
  • Weight: 3.7 oz. (104.9 g)

CQC-7K

The CQC-7K features a modified tanto blade for both slicing and punching capability. My choice for favorite EDC knife out of the four in this review.  The tanto blade, slightly larger blade and handle (compared to the 4K and 5K) and the excellent edge are what pushed it over the top for me.  Rope and other sharpness testing surpassed all expectations.  The blade’s action felt well broken-in and was easy to open from my pocket.  Compared to the others it simply had the best weight, feel, and function for an EDC.  Next to my Kershaw Blur with SpeedSafe, this is my new favorite EDC from Kershaw/Emerson.

Features include:

  • Frame lock
  • Reversible pocketclip (left/right, tip-up)
  • Steel: 8Cr14MoV, stonewashed finish
  • Handle: Textured G-10 front, 410 bead-blasted finish back
  • Blade length: 3.25 in. (8.3 cm)
  • Closed length: 4.5 in. (11.4 cm)
  • Open length: 7.75 in. (19.7 cm)
  • Weight: 5 oz. (141.7 g)

CQC-11K

The CQC-11K is a great option for hunting, skinning, survival, camping, or other outdoor activities.  Rope and other sharpness tests were a breeze for this knife.  It is the largest knife in the CQC line, and while I prefer a fixed blade knife for those types of activities this is an excellent knife if you like a folder.  I personally wouldn’t use this as an EDC, but if you’re the burly type this would certainly be worth considering.  Aside from the extra size – again, I would rather just carry a fixed blade instead – the skinning blade is not specifically built for penetration.  As a general outdoor knife that’ll fit in your pocket, this is a great value.

Features include:

  • Frame lock
  • Reversible pocketclip (left/right, tip-up)
  • Steel: 8Cr14MoV, stonewashed finish
  • Handle: Textured G-10 front, 410 bead-blasted finish back
  • Blade length: 3.5 in. (9 cm)
  • Closed length: 4.75 in. (12.1 cm)
  • Open length: 8.5 in. (21.6 cm)
  • Weight: 5.8 oz. (166 g)

*Originally published on SOFREP and written by