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October 17, 2021

Professional Tool Reviews for Pros


Kershaw Emerson Knife Review

Kershaw Emerson
PTR Review
  • Ergonomics 8.0
  • Edge Sharpness 8.0
  • Edge Retention 8.0
  • Grip 7.0
  • Deployment 10.0
  • Value 10.0

If you've always wanted an Emerson knife and could not see yourself spending hundreds of dollars, one of these knives will surely fit your budget and give you years of enjoyment. The price can't be beat!

Overall Score 8.5 (out of 10)

­­­The former boxing champion Muhammad Ali once said  “I’m so fast that last night I turned off the light switch in my hotel room and was in bed before the room was dark.”  Obviously the Champ was bragging about his speed, and he understood that speed was a factor to his winning record.  So why am I writing about speed in this Kershaw Emerson knife review? Well it’s because speed has everything to do with blade deployment when talking about this particular knife series from Kershaw.


Ernest Emerson, a custom knife maker, martial artist, and edge-weapon expert, teamed up with Kershaw to produce a series of affordable knives that is designed—among other things—to fit your budget. In the past, Emerson had designed knives for the US Navy SEALs and is well known in the tactical knife community for his “Wave” feature.  Do I have your attention yet?

So what is the “Wave” feature? The wave was invented by Emerson and patented in 1999, which gave the ability to deploy the blade by simply pulling the knife out of the pocket. This gave the user speed in one-handed knife blade deployment and use.  It quickly gained popularity with military and law enforcement.  This can translate into a perfect use for emergency situations or just to impress your friends. The blade design of the new Emerson is like a steep tanto, as opposed to the more common “snub” design, or the smooth top of the Kershaw Kuro 1835TBLKST.

Kershaw Emerson CQC-7K
Kershaw Emerson CQC-7K

Kershaw Emerson CQC-7K Features

  • Thumb disk; “waved shaped opening feature”
  • Manual opening
  • Frame lock
  • Reversible pocket clip
  • Steel: 8Cr14MoV, stonewashed & satin finish
  • Handle: textured G-10, 410 bead-blasted finish back
  • Blade length: 3.25 in. (8.3 cm)
  • Closed length: 4.5 in. (11.4 cm)
  • Weight: 5.1 oz. (144.6 g)
  • Street Price: $32.37 Buy it at Amazon
Kershaw Emerson CQC-3K
Kershaw Emerson CQC-3K

Kershaw Emerson CQC-3K  Features

  • Thumb disk; “waved shaped opening feature”
  • Manual opening
  • Frame lock
  • Reversible pocketclip (left/right)
  • Steel: 8Cr14MoV, black-oxide coating
  • Handle: Textured G-10 front, 410 black-oxide coated back
  • Blade length: 2.75 in. (7 cm)
  • Closed length: 3.75 in. (9.5 cm)
  • Weight: 3.8 oz. (107.7 g)
  • Street Price: $27.99 Buy it at Amazon

Kershaw Emerson Performance and Ergonomics

I’ve carried both the CQC-7K and CQC-3K for a few months and had plenty of short-term data to pen a review. At first glance, the CQC-7K is a beautiful tanto knife. The blade design and finish grabbed my attention right away. The Black oxide coating is more consistent and smooth than their blackwash finish knives. The CQC-7K and CQC-3K handles have a black G-10 grip on one side while the opposite is 410 with a smooth finish. The canvas-like texture of the G10 seems to suit right-handed users fairly well, but could slip a bit if you’re left-handed. (Both knives are still usable using your left hand but if your hand sweats like mine you might not get the full benefit of the design.) Because of the G10 being only on one side, my fingertips landed perfectly on the textured grip.

Kershaw Emerson

Holding both knives with a traditional saber grip style, the handle groves are quite comfortable. The CQC-7K has good jimping, and I found it to be slightly better than the CQC-3K. My sweaty thumb seemed to slide up more with the CQC-3K. While I found it very comfortable to hold the CQC-7K in the tradition saber grip, the “reverse grip” (with the blade out) was less natural. My ring finger landed directly on top of a grove, which I found uncomfortable with a full pressure grip. Hand sizes vary, so if this is a concern, try the knife out for yourself to see if this is an issue. The CQC-3K was comfortable in both grip style.


The clip has great retention and can be placed on either side of the handle. It features only a tip up carry position, which serves the purpose of the wave design—which is my favorite feature on these knives. Deploying the blade is both fun and quick!  It takes a little practice if you’ve never used this deployment method before, but once you figure it out it’s hard to go back.

Kershaw Emerson

Kershaw Emerson Final Thoughts

The blades look beautiful, and performed well with my paper cutting tests—and both ship quite sharp. Sharpening after some use was also easy, and I found both blades to be easy to position on my Lansky sharpening system. Blade retention was also excellent with no play at all. The frame lock is superb and seems to be well secured in the open position. It is highly unlikely that these knives will close on your hands. These were the first knives I have had the experience of using with a thumb disk, and I really grew to like it.  I found it easy to use and the disk caught my thumb well for out-of-pocket blade deployment.Kershaw Emerson

Overall, the CQC-7K and the smaller CQC-3K can be a great option for an EDC or tactical knife for its price range. If you’ve always wanted an Emerson knife and could not see yourself spending hundreds of dollars, one of these knives in the series will surely fit your budget and give you years of enjoyment.

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Anyone have one of these? Do you prefer the Wave Feature opening or spring assisted?

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