Retiring an Old Friend: The Emerson CQC-7

Emerson CQC-7

I retired an old friend to the safe today: my everyday carry knife for the last 13 1/2 years. My constant companion for almost a decade and a half, the only walkabouts she’ll accompany me on now are those into the past. We have shared both the happiest and most exhilarating of times, as well as some damned bitter ones. Purchased in 2004, the knife I’ve carried for almost a decade and a half is the Emerson CQC-7.

I warned you guys when I started RevolverGuy that I might talk about some non-revolver-related stuff. This post kicks off a loose series I’m calling “Off-Topic Tuesday” – topics that don’t have much to do with revolvers, but that I want to write about anyway. Don’t worry, though; regularly-scheduled revolver programming will continue on the normal schedule!

Living With the Emerson CQC-7

There aren’t many things in this world that we use, day-in and day-out for 10 or more years. Sure, most of us probably have guns that are several (if not many) times that old, but I’m not just talking about owning old stuff. I’m talking about carrying it every waking hour and using it multiple times per day. It is doubtful I’ll get to a point where any of my guns are subjected to quite the rigors to which I have put this knife. There are just a lot more places you can carry a knife, and a lot more uses for them.

Emerson CQC-7
Old friends: my 640 Pro, the Emerson CQC-7 and a Fenix LD02 flashlight.

I purchased the Emerson CQC-7BW (and a Mini CQC-7BW, a snub-nosed version that is still basically brand new) shortly after arriving in Iraq in 2004. An inexpensive folder of forgotten provenance crapped out on me so I ordered the pair of Emersons. It immediately became a part of my carry kit. This item followed me home, and just became “my knife.” I have used this knife almost every single day for just about every task imaginable. I am definitely not the person that reserved this knife for defensive duty – she was a daily driver. There are some reasons I feel in love with this knife, but none more compelling than “the Wave.”

Emerson CQC-7

The Wave is a simple hook on the top of the blade. When the knife is extracted from the pocket the Wave catches on the hem and pulls the blade open. This makes getting the knife out and into action incredibly fast. It would be hard to imagine having a folding knife without this feature, especially after all these years of using it. Having been licensed to a select few other manufacturers, the Wave is a feature that is not entirely unique to Emerson, but Emerson still boasts the widest array of blades with this excellent feature.

Repairs the Emerson CQC-7

In all my time with this knife, I’ve had to make two repairs to it. Of course there has been the normal sharpening. I’ve had it sharpened by some expert buddies, and once, while sitting at a sushi bar, by a sushi chef. I don’t really consider sharpening a “repair,” just routine maintenance. Once, though, while on a CQB range in Kuwait, the pocket clip got bent to an unacceptable extent and wouldn’t hold the knife in my pocket. Scared I would lose it I ordered another one with the Emerson skull logo. Of course this was no big deal – but the more recent problem I experienced was.

Emerson CQC-7

Just a few weeks ago I was opening a package. After I had opened the box I was idly fiddling around with the knife (you know, like they teach you NOT to do). I noticed that if I put a little pressure on the back of the blade, the knife would fold in half. “That can’t be right,” I thought. “I must not have gotten the blade fully open!” But, opening the blade up fully and pressing on its spine revealed that the liner-lock had failed. And failed again. And again. This is an unacceptable failure to me. I can’t use this knife for anything other than light chores less I risk my fingers. Before retiring the old girl, I had this issue repaired.

Emerson CQC-7

My Thoughts on the Emerson CQC-7

When it comes to serious knife guys, there are two camps. The first is that Emerson is the absolute last word in hard-use knives. The other is that Emersons are overpriced, mid-range knives with loose tolerances and so-so materials. And to be honest, I think both sides are right. After handling some knives in the same price-range, the Emerson seems kind of…meh. After having a “knife guy” sit down and show me the guts of an Emerson beside a Zero Tolerance, the difference in material is pretty shocking. Emerson, for instance, uses plastic washers rather than the better zinc-phosphate washers used by ZT. It’s hard to get an Emerson back together, too, which is not the case with other folders.

In reality, though, how much does it matter? I’ll let you be the judge, but I got over a dozen years out of the Emerson. After having the lock repaired I could probably get a dozen more. The Emerson slogan is, “Famous in the Worst Places!” I have been joined by this knife in some pretty bad ones. I’d do it all again if I had to. The only times we’ve been separated for more than a few hours are the occasions I’ve had to mail her into combat zones, lest she be confiscated in some intermediate country I had to stop into on the way.

Emerson CQC-7

The design of the CQC-7 has a lot going for it. It’s a great size for every day carry. The G-10 scales are comfortable and it feels good in the hand. The Wave feature has become something I can’t live without. I’m so used to it after so long, I don’t know what I’d do without it. On the other hand, the CQC-7 uses a chisel grind, and a reverse-chisel grind at that! This means the cutting edge is on the inside of the knife (for right-handers) making it difficult to use for delicate tasks. This knife isn’t really intended for delicate tasks, but having options is never a bad thing. One more compelling feature about the Emerson CQC-7: the versions that are available. The CQC-7 lineup is really thoughtful. There is a “Mini” model available with a 2.5″ blade for carry in more restrictive jurisdictions, as well as an inert training model. There are also Wave-free models for places where that would be considered an “automatic opener.” There are definitely some marks in the “pros” and “cons” columns when it comes to the Emerson CQC-7.

Replacement Blades

So what will replace the knife that has worn holes in all my jeans since my mid-20s? There are a few options that I have my eye on, and doubtlessly I will talk about some of them in upcoming posts. Ideally, the perfect candidate would have the Wave (or a functionally similar feature), a “mini” model is highly desirable, and a training model is required. Other than that the sky is the limit. If you guys have suggestions, feel free to let me know!

18 thoughts on “Retiring an Old Friend: The Emerson CQC-7”

  1. Awesome article. I completely understand the attachment to a fine knife. A good knife can fix a lot of difficult situations like no other tool. You can’t open a package, cut a zip-tie, or create a pile of tinder with a j-frame .

    As I was growing up, the cool knife to have was a Buck 110 lockback in the classic black leather sheath on a belt. I carried one for many years and it never let me down.

    Later I became a dad, and gave the 110 to my son who still treasures it. I got into tactical folders (mostly Spydercos and Benchmades). When my state made autos legal, I got a Benchmade Rift. Great knife and I like it quite a bit.

    However, I ended up buying another Buck 110, and it’s still my favorite knife. With a little practice it’s not hard to open one-handed, using the Kwik Thumb Bar, and I carry it in a horizontal leather belt sheath.

    It’s razor sharp and tough as a brick. If I had to give up any of my knives, that Buck 110 would be the last to go.

    1. “You can’t open a package, cut a zip-tie, or create a pile of tinder with a j-frame.”
      I love it!!! Truer words have never been spoken, but you could do all of those things with a Buck 110!
      Thanks, Joe,
      Justin

  2. I diversified my folding knife carry options a few years back. I have 3 folding knives I regularly carry (two are Benchmades and one is an Emerson), all depending on the day’s planned activities. I have others than I will use if my activities include doing things where knives get lost (several of my knives are scattered around DZs in various states and foreign countries).

    So…why limit yourself? Use it as an excuse to buy more nice knives! You can never have too many good knives, good guns, and good watches.

    JMG

  3. A long, long time ago, a young man and his pal, off on a little motorcycle road trip, stopped by a roadhouse. As they pulled into the parking lot of busted pavement and gravel, their eyes took in the dozen-odd Harleys already there.

    Inside the gloomy darkness, the barkeep glanced at the newcomers.

    “Ya need to check your knives, boys.”

    Nodding at Jay, I popped the clasp on the black sheath and slowly extracted the Buck 110 folder. Reluctantly extending our knives to the hardbitten woman behind the bar, we turned to sit at a nearby table. I decided not to say anything about the Walther PPK/s in my jacket pocket.

    What a great story, Justin! Knives and guns go together like peanut butter and jelly, so by all means explore the other half of our sandwich!

    Actually, I think a good blade is the most critically important, versatile tool a man can own. All of us here love our guns, but truth is their use-cases are pretty limited. A knife on the other hand…

    I received my first pocket knife, a Christmas present, when I was six. Nothing ever made me feel more grown-up than that blade in the pocket of my jeans. Alas, it also became my first lesson in the tragedy of loss when I lost it a few months later.

    Fast-forward another dozen Christmas’s, and at age 18 my parents gave me another pocket knife – a Buck Stockman. That older version of me had better luck and that little slip-joint knife became my counterpart to your Emerson… the knife that accompanied me everywhere. The clothes have changed. Watches and wallets have come and gone. The age of the fountain pen turned to ball-point, and then to keyboard. Kids were born, grew up, and moved on to their own things. And that lone S&W Model 15 .38 snubnose slowly morphed into, ahem, a few more. The one thing, the only thing, that stayed the same across that nearly-half-a-century… was that little Buck.

    The main clip-point blade is but a shadow of its former self, having been stoned so many times. But much like its owner, it harkens to the old country song… “I ain’t as good as I once was, but I’m as good once, as I ever was.”

    Actually, things aren’t exactly the same. T’was a time when any man worthy of the title, even a city man, would have a knife in his pocket or on his belt. Nowadays, with our collective descent into fearfulness, there so many places you can’t take even a little knife. I hazard to think what the TSA agent would think as I dropped my Buck into the tray. Or what the school administration might do to the poor kid found with a pen knife.

    Anyway, I, like you, decided to give that little Buck of mine a rest, after so many years of yeoman service. And so last summer I cast around, looking for something that might make a suitable replacement. It didn’t need to be expensive – my Stockman was a testament to that. But what that little pocket knife had wrought, in so many places and over so many years, was something pretty special. And so whatever replaced it had to reflect that.

    I ended up choosing a Chris Reeve large Sebenza. My knife for the second half.

    1. Jeff,
      To echo you and Joe, I’m in agreement that a knife is one of the most important, versatile tools you can own. And to quote another old country song, “a good sharp edge is a man’s greatest hedge against the vague uncertainties of life…yeah a good sharp edge is a man’s greatest hedge against the uncertain vagaries of life…”
      A friend keeps recommending Chris Reeves’ knives, so they are definitely on the radar,
      Justin

  4. Not any kind of expert on this, but I like the idea of a small fixed blade. I keep a tiny Spiderco folder on my keychain since I found it at the Ft Bragg PX in 1995, but the lock isn’t all that solid any more (if it ever was). I keep looking for the right fixed blade.

    1. A small fixed blade can be an awesome option. I have a Cold Steel Mini Hunter that I made a pocket sheath for. It fits in all of my pockets just fine and is easy to get to. You also don’t have to worry about a lock giving out. I tend to carry my knife and my keys in the same pocket, and the fixed blade sticks up above the keys. My Victorinox Waiter, on the other hand, gets lost in the keys frequently (a folder with a pocket clip does avoid that, too). That said, I stick with the Victorinox most of the time because I use the screw driver on it almost as much as I use the knife blade.

  5. Enjoyed the post, looking forward to more OTTs.

    As far as a suitable replacement— and especially since you mentioned Zero Tolerance— have you checked out the Hinderer folders?

    1. I haven’t, but I will take a look. I also really like the Wharncliffe blade, so something of that style might be a good option, too. Even a fixed blade with a Wharncliffe, as Rileyguy mentioned. I have handled this guy’s fixed blades and really like his little Wharncliffes (he makes trainers, too!): http://www.alfaknife.com/

      1. Wow them ‘r nice! Justin, I also wanted to mention the “Off topic Tuesday” idea seems great… I have a feeling most revolverguys/gals have an interest in many disparate things.

  6. I tend to be very much a knife guy. I can see many situations where it may be difficult to employ a handgun into a fight. No worries with a blade,,, close range contact sports? YES! No worries over errant shots, clear backstops, etc.

    I have carried my CQC7 for many years. My CQC7, as all my knives, DON’T cut tape, cardboard, etc. They are well maintained and preserved for saving my bacon.

    I gotta say it was great to see a writing about a blade,,, especially one I own & carry daily.

  7. Just thinking here… I generally don’t carry a fighting knife, just the round gun and pepper. Oh, and flashlight of course, which I believe has prevented more trouble at night than anything else I have. Nobody fights when blinded or dazzled. Getting back to my thoughts if I am restricted from carrying guns, I probably also can’t bring a blade, sometimes even pepper spray. Would anyone consider an article on innocuous seeming items to augment their hand to hand skills? As an example I have knowledge of one petite young lady who fought off no less than four junior high schoolers attempting to rob her using a coffee mug!

    1. I’m not sure I’m adequately equipped to write that article, but I like the idea. I’ll ask around and see if someone might be willing to write something like that for us.
      Unfortunately for me there are a LOT of places I can carry a knife but not a gun, including several states where my permit is no recognized, and every single military base.

  8. Great article. I’m not a fan of tanto blade designs, so the A-100 has been my choice. I’ve got the CQC-7 and A-100 and while they are fine, I never felt they were exceptional.

  9. So I have found (in the affordable category) a CRKT minimalist with a wharncliffe blade and a Bokker “magnum” (what a misnomer) with -I think- a clip point. I feel that the Bokker is probably a little tougher but the CRKT deploys from the kydex more readily due to a superior grip. I guess CRKT for a fightin’ blade, Bokker for chores/survival.

  10. It’s funny. When I was younger I was all about “tactical” knives. Before I retired from the military a few years back, you could bet if I had my pants on I had a “tactical” knife in em. Usually a Spyderco but I also carried a Benchmade for awhile. As I get older I kinda laugh about those days. I now carry a Buck model 110 in a leather sheath. Crazy thing is this buck will do everything that Endura would do and it looks better doing it! For me, I guess I just believe a knife is a piece of sharpened steel and we shouldn’t get to caught up in tactical brands. I did put a thumb stud on the 110….I still have to be a little tactical.

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