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Big, Dumb Fun: Cold Steel Lynn Thompson Leatherneck Bowie Review

With an edge as sharp as its use case, this knife is at once bombastic, fantastic, and questionable.

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Here’s an unpopular opinion — 99% of the time, large knives are ineffective and stupid. Unless your day job involves working in a jungle, a meat plant, or lumber yard, carrying an oversized folder or fixed blade is little more than EDC peacocking.

And yet, this sort of thing is exactly Cold Steel’s schtick. The entire philosophy behind this company and its catalog is analogous to a late ’80s or early ’90s B-level action film: Loud, punchy, and the dumber, the better.

Or at least, that’s how things used to be. When GSM Outdoors acquired Cold Steel in 2020, many hobbyists feared that the gleeful madness of founder Lynn Thompson would become watered down.

Fast forward to 2023, where Cold Steel’s Lynn Thompson Signature Leatherneck Bowie ($160) is here to hack away all your doubts. Packing 15 inches and just over a pound of crazy-sharp D2 steel, it’s a design that’s as barely practical as it is crazy fun. This particular version is a KnifeCenter limited edition, with a run of just 3,000 units, and the maker was kind enough to send one my way for testing.

If you miss out on the madness, the blacked-out edition is still available both on Cold Steel’s website or places like Blade HQ. There’s a lot to cover here, so let’s dive right in.

In short: The Cold Steel Leatherneck Bowie feels like old-school Cold Steel, from its ludicrous presentation to its out-of-the-box sharpness. This Lynn Thompson Signature Edition (a KnifeCenter exclusive) is particularly attractive, with excellent finishing and branding. Its comfortable handle and chopping prowess create an absolute monster of a backyard blade, though its usefulness for slicing and detail work takes a backseat to over-the-top antics. At least the price is most definitely right!

Cold Steel Lynn Thompson Leatherneck Bowie


  • Blade length 10.5 in.
  • Overall length 15.25 in.
  • Blade thickness 5 mm
  • Blade material German D2 Steel
  • Weight 17 oz.
  • Handle material OD Green Griv-Ex
  • Sheath material Secure-Ex
  • Country of origin Taiwan


  • Massive blade-to-price ratio
  • Excellent ergos and grip
  • Chopping prowess
  • Sheer silliness


  • On-belt weight
  • Overkill blade guard
  • Tactical marketing, Limited practicality

Cold Steel Leatherneck Bowie Review

cold steel lynn thompson signature edition leatherneck bowie
(Photo/Josh Wussow)

Sticking Point: ‘Tactical’ Marketing

Before we get to the review, there’s something I need to get off my chest: There are certain aspects of Cold Steel’s marketing that I find are in poor taste.

The company’s social media and YouTube channels are littered with proving-ground videos, showcasing everything from the ruggedness of its blades to the strength of its vaunted Tri-ad Lock. I’m fine watching the hosts chop through bricks, bamboo, and cords of heavy rope. Heck, I’m even OK with the presenters attacking pig carcasses, as this provides a legitimate insight into how these large knives would function if used for butchering meat.

But when you start stabbing, slashing, and generally massacring dummies to reproduce and display the trauma that an edged weapon will do to the human body, I feel like we’re crossing some sort of line.

And no, I’m not going to provide a link to the videos, as any traffic directed that way could be considered an endorsement. All I’m saying is, it’s a bad look, and this kind of advertising does more harm to the outdoor knife community than good.

Lynn Thompson Signature Edition

(Photo/Josh Wussow)

So, why am I using this platform to advertise something that’s clearly designed as a military-style survival tool? Because on some level, the Leatherneck is really, really fun.

Look — it’s still a big, dumb knife, and we’ll get to its flaws in a moment. But just take a look at this thing, and tell me it doesn’t make you want to hack down a tree or tie on a Rambo bandana.

Here’s what this Cold Steel will do: hew through a pineapple, break down several chickens, absolutely destroy cardboard boxes, and bite into lumber like a termite the size of a dachshund.

(Photo/Josh Wussow)

The sheer chopping power of the Leatherneck is a sight to behold, and I had an absolute blast tooling around with this thing in the forest.

But, with a weight of just over a pound and a reach of 15 inches, I expected this kind of brute force prowess. What caught me off guard is just how comfortable the Leatherneck feels in the hand.

Per Cold Steel, the limited edition’s “Kray-Ex handle is based on the Leatherneck’s standard design but is enhanced with a longer guard and forward curving quillons and appealing OD Green color.”

Just how much longer, I can’t say, though the guard on my tester appears more or less identical to the standard version in pictures. But with just the slightest bit of give and a genuinely grippy feel, I was blown away by the knife’s ergonomics.

(Photo/Josh Wussow)

As for the blade itself, Cold Steel comes through with its signature out-of-the-box sharpness. The German D2 edge is spectacular, with what appears to be a flat grind beneath a well-done fuller. The branding is largely tasteful (including Thompson’s signature), and the stonewashed finish held up well under all manner of abuse.

The Tradeoffs Are (Almost) Part of the Fun

I’m not going to sit here and complain that the Leatherneck isn’t the greatest kitchen tool. That’s apparent, simply from its shape.

It’ll get the job done, certainly, but between its heft, length, and the guards that both keep you from choking up on the blade and prevent the edge’s heel from reaching the cutting board, it’s definitely more of a chopper than a slicer.

(Photo/Josh Wussow)

Besides, cooking isn’t necessarily a big part of the Leatherneck’s use case. No, this is a “sur-VAH-vil knaf, maggot!” And as such, I’d expect it to be useful when it comes to firecraft. (Well, kind of!)

It’ll certainly split and baton, and a little carving ain’t out of the question. But if you’re trying to roast your fresh kill over an open flame, there are other tools that’ll work better with a ferro rod. The Leatherneck will produce some sparks, but not many.

The tip, likewise, is going to be rather delicate. I didn’t attempt any prying tasks, for fear that I’d mess up that trademark point at the business end of the bowie.

(Photo/Josh Wussow)

Lastly, there’s the sheath. Don’t get me wrong — its retention is good, the Secure-Ex polymer is excellent, and the overall package smacks of quality. But there are no two ways about it — with this much weight dangling from your belt, I hope you enjoy having something long and flat constantly paddling your thigh.

Conclusion: Cold Steel Leatherneck Bowie Review

I’ll make this summary quick: The Cold Steel Leatherneck is impractical, dumb, and questionably useful. But so is a sports car or a watch that can go 550 m underwater. Like an action movie that eschews plot points and subtle characters in favor of explosions and one-liners, this bowie is an over-the-top treasure.

Yet, this kind of simplicity can be easy to screw up. By paying attention to the materials, the edge, and the knife’s in-hand comfort, the Lynn Thompson Signature Edition is something the man himself should be proud of. Plus, all of this ridiculousness comes with a price tag of $160. That’s an outstanding value for a tool with this combination of quality and size, practical applications be damn.

In short (and despite my misgivings about some of the company’s marketing), I’m glad to see the iconic “Cold Steel” spirit lives on under new conglomerate ownership. The Leatherneck Bowie represents everything I like about this brand, both for better and for worse.

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