Monday, March 11, 2019

Reigning Survival Knife Champ Fallkniven F1, F1 Pro COS Steel Review

Reigning Survival Knife Champ Fallkniven F1, F1 Pro COS Steel Review

I have espoused the amazing virtues of the Fallkniven line enough over the years… really, enough already you should buy the best survival knife in the industry. Specifically, I would recommend the legendary F1 model. It is after all, probably the single most specifically recommended survival knife ever and for good reason. The knife was designed over eight years of harsh research and development in Sweden’s subarctic all to assure Fallkniven designed the best survival knives possible for the military. 

The handles are Kraton and the sheaths are made from Thermorun, both materials which were the only materials other than leather to survive the extreme cold without cracking for failing. Though not the prettiest sheath in the world, it was specifically designed to remain functional and allow removal of the knife even when frozen with ice. The spine is specifically a sharp 90-degrees to assure a shower of sparks flies from your firesteel. The blade grind and steels were specially selected, tested and tweaked and eventually laminated for extra toughness. The result is a knife designed from every perspective to be the best survival knife in the world… and it is.

Fallkniven decided not to just sit on their heels and let the cash flow into their accounts, but continued to push the envelope and several of those pushes were based on feedback from customers. The F1-CoS and F1Pro-Cos are both examples of a company listening to customer feedback. The F1 models are available in laminated steel construction in your choice of VG-10, CoS and the 3G super steel. People everywhere love the $140’ish VG-10 models, but yearning for some of the more premium steels, Fallkniven offered a very premium 3G $240 version that literally out-cut any production knife I have ever tested. Customers loved the 3G version but wanted something a bit less expensive and considerably easier to sharpen, thus the CoS steel F1 version which is admittedly a giant leap of performance over the already extremely good VG-10 F1 version. Customers also wanted a thicker more ruggedized version that added some heft to the knife and the Fallkniven F1Pro version was introduced as well.

The F1-3G steel will still out cut
the COS version 

Any of the F1s will change how you view a survival knife forever. I am a rabid Fallkniven fan and I am not the only one - Google it and you will find most outdoor folks are enamored to some degree with Fallkniven and the F1. Even the wildly entertaining uber picky Dutch DBK Youtube dudes are in love with these knives for good reason. The F1 is everything you need without the bulk at 3.8oz, a 3.8” blade and slim handle it was developed to be the ultimate lightweight knife option for survivalist. The size, shape, handle, sheath, steel, and edge grind are all optimized for survival and bushcraft. For a street price of under $150 of the VG10 F1 model, everyone serious about outdoor survival should own a F1 survival knife. 

Fallkniven made the F1 better with the introduction of a F1 model featuring 3G supersteel for a street price around $260, but that price was a bit out of reach for most people. After the resounding success of their F1 Pro and S1 Pro knives with laminated COS steel they now offer the F1 in $200 laminated COS. 3G is technically a super steel and higher tech and potentially sharper, however COS is proving itself to one of the best overall compromise premium steels on the market for a survival knife, and easier to sharpen, while being a bit more abuse tolerant than the 3G steel.

One of the things I really like about Fallkniven is that they take a really awesome design and enhance it by swapping out the steel or introduce limited edition versions to try out a new steel. This was exactly the strategy they did with the 3G super steel and later the COS premium steel. 

Even with a well refined and tested F1 design, steel is a huge factor in the performance of the knife. Though I am focused on reviewing the COS steel, I do not want anyone to get the idea that older Fallkniven F1 VG-10 is not awesome and it is now somehow inferior. The VG-10 steel is a spectacular steel used in many of the most expensive premium kitchen cutlery knives. It has proven itself corrosive resistant, very tough, and takes a razor sharp edge pretty easily with medium effort.

If you are knife novice and are not well versed in using whetstones then COS and definitely 3G are not steels that would be recommended until sharpening skills are more advanced. Chances are you are going to get really frustrated attempting to sharpen a much less forgiving premium or super steel back to the factory hair shaving sharpness. Sharpening these super hard steels is a task that typically requires diamond or ceramic whetstones, polishing strop and dry stropping to get the most out of the edge. Yes, you can just use the Fallkniven combo diamond and ceramic sharpeners, however the sharpness potential COS and 3G steel knives can achieve is well beyond the abilities of that simple but effective $30 sharpener.

Steel                         Laminant Steel         Rockwell HRC     Sharpening
3G**                          VG2–SGPS–VG2            62                      Hard
Laminated CoS**      420J2–CoS–420J2 
         60                      Medium
Laminated VG10**    420J2–VG10–420J2        59                      Medium
BG-42                        N/A                                   61-62                 Hard
ATS-34                       N/A                                  60-61                   Med-Hard
CPM S30V                 N/A                                  58-60                   Med-Hard
Cold Steel Carbon V  N/A                                  59                        Easy
AUS 8                        N/A                                  57-58                   Easy
AUS 6A                      N/A                                  55-57                   Easy
1095 - Esee                N/A                                 55-57                   Easy
** Fallkniven

When we look at the Rockwell hardness in the table shown, there does not seem like a huge hardness difference, between the three steels, but the how they each hold and edge is exponentially different. If we un-scientifically generalize and say that VG-10 can cut twice as long as a good hard 1095 knife, then COS can cut about four times longer than 1095 and 3G about six times longer. The key is not necessarily just the hardness, it is the elemental composition of each steel including carbon content. Different elements provide different qualities which is another article completely.

In the end, special steel equals special sharpening attention, skill, and time to get the most from that super awesome steel. The more abuse you want to push on the knife, generally the softer and less expensive the steel you want. There are reasons they makes axes and chisels out of forgiving high carbon steel - it is easy to get back in shape after abuse and relatively cheap. Everything with knife steel is a compromise - awesome edge holding steel comes at the cost of harder to sharpen and… a higher price.
The PLX COS folder, F1 COS, F1 Pro COS, S1 Pro COS
Note the beefier Pro model sheaths 

The well loved Fallkniven F1-VG10 is one of those happy compromise steels that sits in the middle between the super steels like 3G and standard 1095 carbon steel - it sharpens with medium effort and skill, takes a beating, holds an edge a very long time, and edge touch ups are fairly easy with most ceramic sharpeners. COS is a lot like that from a sharpening perspective, but it can get a lot sharper and stay that way much longer. 3G is just harder to sharpen altogether, but holds an edge longer. The high cobalt and carbon based CoS steel really is pretty amazing stuff and especially in the F1 profile. If you are an experienced knife person and know how to sharpen then the COS is well worth the upgrade charge.

Really there is not a lot to review here on the F1 with COS because it is identical to the F1-VG10 and the F1-3G model. The COS F1 model just carries forward all that awesomeness in a steel which is more forgiving than the 3G when it comes to sharpening but with an edge that holds up longer than the VG-10 model. 
F1 Left vs F1 Pro Right 

Let’s say we were on a one year world tour and needed a survival knife, I would go for the COS steel with a DS4 diamond/ceramic stone and an improvised strope since the 3G can be a bit finicky to get sharp to a COS beating level with those minimal sharpening tools. On a one week trip, I would grab the Fallkniven F1 3G model since it is unlikely the blade will need any sharpening at all during that length of trip. If you are on a budget the VG10 model will work just fine, but will require more tough ups.

The F1 Pro model is basically everything the F1 ever has been giving up nothing, but with more stout construction. Fallkniven beefed up the thickness by about 12% and the overall weight by just over 20%. The cutting edge profile is still very similar to the F1, but the F1 Pro has a taller overall blade. The F1 Pro also adds a stainless finger guard which reportedly is now welded to the tang. Another addition is a larger thicker version of the standard sheath. I really do not thing any more robust is needed, however in theory the F1 Pro is thicker and tough so I guess the sheath should be also.
The interesting thing is that the F1 Pro can be had just a bit less than the F1 3G model which just makes me happy. If you don’t mind the extra weight, my money would go for the F1 Pro over the F1 3G steel 90% of the time. That extra weight does help with snap cuts on saplings and also splitting wood battoning and also screams, the heft seems to scream “I never break this in a million years.” From a cutting perspective, the thicker f! Pro seems to give up nothing because apparently Fallkniven is infusing Swedish magic in the knife. It is fairly mind blowing that this thick of a knife can cut as well as it does.

I am not paid by Fallkniven nor a stockholder, but I sincerely believe that if you are taking any other knife into the wild, you are just playing with toys or sentimentally just not taking advantage of modern metallurgy and knife design technology. If you need a survival knife, a hunting knife, an outdoor trail knife, a camp knife, a fire making knife, and a bushcraft knife that you can stake your life on… the F1 still reigns supreme.

Fallkniven F1z/3G
Total length: 210 mm (8.3")
Blade length: 97 mm (3.8")
Blade thickness: 4.5 mm (0.18"), tapered
Tang: Broad, protruding
Weight (knife): 150 g (6oz)
Steel: 3G
Blade hardness: 62 HRC
Handle: Thermorun
Sheath: Zytel sheath

Fallkniven F1z/CoS
Total length: 210 mm (8.3")
Blade length: 97 mm (3.8")
Blade thickness: 4.5 mm (0.18"), tapered
Tang: Broad, protruding
Weight (knife): 150 g (6oz)
Steel: COS
Blade hardness: 60 HRC
Handle: Thermorun
Sheath: Zytel sheath

Fallkniven F1Pro-10
Steel Lam. CoS
Hardness (HRC) 60
Edge Convex
Tang Protruding broad tang
Handle material Thermorun
Sheath Zytel
Weight, knife only (g) 182
Blade length (mm) 100
Blade thickness (mm) 5
Total length (mm) 217
Finger guard Stainless Steel



Unknown said...

Great blog, well put and very informative. I agree, the F1 and CoS steel is the perfect knife, steel combination. Also, Fallkniven has come out with the new X-series, which addresses a lot of the things Fallkniven fans have been asking for. I wish they would make the F1x with the same blade geometry as the original F1 but with all other traits of the F1x. Everything from the new X series is amazing, the sheath, the handle and lanyard hole is what a lot of us have asked for, I simply don’t like the blade geometry of it, it’s just not the same. Anyway, thanks for the blog, it was a great read.

Unknown said...


Unknown said...

Hi,what a great blog,I have used the vg10 F1 for over 10 years,all the usual tasks,and a few others...your final thoughts are exactly my own..well said.