So I grabbed this limited edition knife n’ gun combo offered as a collaboration between Emerson Knives and Spike’s Tactical. More info on both these companies here:
So as you all know, I love these two companies. Spike’s is always coming up with interesting new stuff and the folks there at Spike’s in Apopka, Florida are top notch. I’ve had the chance to meet AJ a handful of times and work with the Spike’s team on a number of occasions as well. All I can say is that these folks are as good as people get.
As for Ernie Emerson; the man is a legend. I have also had the pleasure of meeting the man and his family on a number of occasions and they are a top notch group. Ernie himself is a great guy and even if he wasn’t a knife maker or business owner, he’d still be one of those kinds of guys you’d want to trade lies with over a pint on any given day.
That said, you know I don’t pull punches on reviews and I always give raw and personal reviews of the gear I swing. I will judge this combo pack as follows:
- Initial Impression
- Fit n’ Finish
- Cost/Benefit Ratio
- End User Comments and Notes
- Overall Impression
So let’s get started…
So I just got back from the land of NO GUNS OR KNIVES (aka Japan) after 740 days abroad and the first thing on my mind was getting my gun on. I’ve shot a lot of stuff running the gambit of calibers and platforms and I gotta say, I love me some .22lr. The first gun I ever owned was a Marlin 60 in .22lr and it’s just one of those go anywhere, do anything calibers. It’s cheap to shoot, fun for the whole family (no matter if you’re with the wife n’ kids, the chick you picked up in that sleazy Korean margarita joint in Bangkok, or you’re hanging with your knuckle dragging buddies after an evening at the 2nd Annual Pole Dancing and Bikini Removal Competition).
In addition, I was traveling light on my jaunt from the chilly streets of Tokyo to the humid haunts of Central Florida. No knife, no gun as I was only rocking a Kelty RedWing 3100 on the plane. No checked bags means more time at the bar, right? I’d been drooling over the Spike’s / Emerson CQC-22 combo since its inception and there was no way in Hades I was about to let the last of the limited edition set slip from my sticky palms. So in the Warmonger Jeep TJ I rode, straight to Apopka within hours of touch down. Mission: Secure a CQC-22 combo.
I walked into the Spike’s Tactical HQ about 30 minutes before they closed for the weekend. After some handshakes and back pats, we got down to business. AJ had a Cali Legal CQC-22 rifle sitting on the wall. Well, the bullet tip-released, Cali legal mag release was on it, but I didn’t mind. It’s a simple swap. I asked if they had any of the knives from the set laying around and was immediately surprised that I had the option of plain edged or serrated! Since I like to slash, stab, AND saw shit, I went for the partially serrated blade.
One of the workers at Spike’s was rolling out by this time (they had gone waaaay past closing by the time I had my rifle and knife in-hand), as it was his birthday that evening. We’ll call him Mad Max for security(s sake. Well, Mad Max was in a rush, but I flashed a couple of Jackson’s at him and tempted him with thoughts of all the lap dances and Guinness it would score him and finally, I convinced him to run the laser engraver Spike’s has on site over the blade. Pics of that later.
I must say, the purchasing experience at Spike’s was incredible. They even let my mama go into the factory storage area, which AJ lovingly called the ‘Ladies wear section’ and had her pick out a couple of shirts for free. He threw in an additional 10 round mag and two shirts, stickers, and a handful of challenge coins for me as well. It would of been a great experience even without the SWAG, but it’s nice to fly the flag, as it were, and the challenge coins went to a number of friends the following week.
On to the ACTUAL initial impression, the rifle and the knife are beautiful. The rifle is very well made, nice and tight and is covered and filled with all the best of the best from Spike’s and MAGPUL. Spikes did most of the work, including an obscene amount of custom billet and marking (there are Spikes and Emerson logos EVERYWHERE, which I really liked).
They adorned the nifty little bad-boy with all the latest and greatest toys offered by MAGPUL Industries. Upon hefting the rifle, I noticed it was a bit front-heavy. This was due to the full aluminum railed fore end area. Chambered in .22lr, this little guy was sure to have zero kick with it being heavy up front.
Great combo for rapid fire and controlled follow up shots alike. Another cool thing about the gun is the bolt. Spikes coated it in some of their proprietary Martian technology stuff (I never did ask exactly what their coating is), which means all you need to clean the rifle is a boresnake, a rag and some brake cleaner. No that isn’t a typo.
The knife was also quite impressive. Ernie has been on a bit of a Bowie kick as of late and this was basically a folding Bowie knife. I’m not a huge fan of the Bowie style knives, but the blade shape at the part that counts (the sharp part) is really intriguing. It was basically a slightly curved tanto style knife.
If the Bowie curve up near the upper swedge wasn’t present, I’d swear this was a folding Japanese tanto. Very nice combo and if you’re a Bowie fan, you’ll NEED one of these in your collection. Seriously, sell a kidney or something. You have another one. Well, SOME of you do. The handle on this one is very similar to the cqc-10 or the cqc-15 and has finger choil and grooves that fit nicely in both forward and reverse grip.
The blade I grabbed came in Ernie’s black T coating and was adorned with the Spike’s Tactical ‘Spider’ logo, which was a nice touch. I got some personalized Laser Etching on the reverse side, which can be seen in the pictures..
I wasn’t happy with the bullet button, Cali legal magazine release, but that is no fault of Spike’s. It’s actually kind of cool that a company will actually go out of their way to make such a thing. Sure, lots of companies do this, but not all, and the idea of a group like Spike’s making these specialty items in both Cali legal and ‘normal’ is pretty nice.
One other thing I wasn’t super thrilled about is the ‘slap button’ on the side. Now I’m not angry, far from it, and I’m no engineer so I couldn’t tell you why this is, but on the .22lr version of the cqc-22, the slap button is non functional.
Yes, I know, the .22lr receiver is not engineered in a way that would allow for the button to work, but as a training tool, the muscle memory thing is VERY important. When the doo doo hits the oscillator, you do not rise to the occasion; you fall to your level of training. If you’re not slapping the button in training, you aren’t going to do it when your huevos are on the line..
Bottom line. I talked to one of the techs at Spike’s ad naseum in this regard and they are indeed working on the issue. Whether there will be any retrogradable (is that a word?”!?!) option available down the line that allows your cqc-22 to utilize this vital function is up to the people that are good at math. As for knuckle draggers like me, we get to yank the bang crank after each mag load. Sure it adds to your mag change times, but in reality, this is a plinker.
Albeit a very serious plinker. But a plinker none the less. But for many it is a training tool, so Spike’s…we love you. We want to give you our moolah.. So pretty please. With cherries on top. Slap switch. We want it. We need it. Chicks DIG IT!
If Spike’s made a functional side ‘slap switch’ for reloads, this would be an even better weapon. I know the techs at Spike’s are working the problem and I feel confident they will come up with a solution down the line.
On the knife, like I said, I’m not a big fan of Bowie style stuff. Sure, there is a historical aspect to it as well as a style aspect, but I’m an end user. I noticed when I would stab heavy materials (leather, carpeting, thick boxes) the Bowie blade shape would actually ‘ride the curve’ of the Bowie.. I didn’t like this (personal taste, not everyone is gonna do this with a knife, but stabbing deeply into thick materials is something I want ALL my knives to do well if I’m going to carry them), but reasonable people can disagree on this point.
Anyway, have grinder, will travel…and so I ground the Bowie style upper portion of the knife down to a more traditional flat point and evened the top of the knife out. Then I hit the top of the blade with some ultra matte black rattle can to protect the knife and called it a day. Again, this is a personal preference and not a major gripe as I had the means and the willingness to re-profile the blade a bit myself.
Upper: Spike’s Aluminum with black coating
Lower: Spike’s Aluminum with black coating
Rails: Picatinny 1913 rail (four sided forward of the receiver, flat top style on the upper receiver, no gap between the two giving the end user a nice solid looooong single rail up top)
Sights: MAGPUL MBUS ambidextrous flip ups (http://store.magpul.com/prod_detail_list/44)
Mags: Mad Dog 22lr. Polycarbonate semi-transparent
Stock: MAGPUL CTR MilSpec (http://store.magpul.com/prod_detail_list/83)
Blade: Black T coated, partially serrated Bowie/Tanto hybrid
Handle: Black g10 (medium texture) with Ti lock side and stainless detent ball side liner locks and painted black pocket clip
My initial impression of both the knife and gun, in a nut shell, was: Holy……!!!! The rifle has everything you need, and nothing you don’t. It’s CUSTOM…and I mean, EVERYTHING was touched. The knife was a perfect size and shape and well designed. It has a little of all the best Emersons.
Tanto like the 7, bowie like the 16 and 13, handle ergonomics similar to the 15 and 10. It’s a true hybrid of Ernie 7s skills and it seems damn near every legendary blade had a big, sharp orgy and 9 months later, out popped the cqc-22. And its pedigree combined with the way Ernie blended all the best of the best into a single knife makes this bad boy one of the top Emerson knives I’ve ever owned.
It’s not left my pocket since I received it, displacing even the legendary Emerson OBS folder that was riding shotgun before the cqc-22 showed up.
Both the rifle and knife were gorgeous! On the rifle, every detail was thought out. From the beautifully etched and printed logos (some hidden in places you only see once it’s field stripped!) to the control inputs to the way Spike’s really kept this great ‘Black Rifle’ nice and simple. Too often these days we see every frigging gadget, toy, play thing, and doo-dad under the sun.
Spike’s took a basic black rifle, did aluminum rails up front, worked the receiver to run .22lr, sexed up the details a bit, and added tried and true, yet simple and tasteful details in the MAGPUL accessories. The end result? A bad ass looking, fantastically performing, .22lr with all the controls, feel, and heritage of the m4.
If you carry an m4 for a living or if you have a need to train and train and train with the m4 and need a cost efficient solution for the range, you would be hard pressed to find a better rifle than the Spike’s tactical CQC-22
On to the knife. Ernie is a legend in the knife making business. His designs have revolutionized the industry and continue to do so. His blades are battle tested and I have personally beat the shit out of everything in his arsenal, or damn near it. I own and severely use Ernies combat kbits, cqc-8 (in all three sizes), cqc-15, 10, the EOTAC Snake 10, bullnoses, Commanders, you name it.
I have, at one time or another, owned, used, destroyed, resharpened, and generally caused utter carnage with ernie’s production models. The CQC-22 takes a little bit of the best of those and blends them masterfully into one serious, hardcore, no bullshit EDC folding knife. If you like the long blade body of the cqc-8, it’s in there. If you like the tanto of the cqc-7, that’s in there too.
Dig the Bowie shape from the 13 or 16? Yep, it’s in there as well. Dig the ergonomics from the 15 or the 10? You guessed it. It’s also inside. Not to mention that this badboy comes with the wave (a favorite feature for me…I carry NOTHING that isn’t waved) and optional serrations, making it the penultimate every day carry folder. Get one for yourself and one for someone you love in harm’s way. It’ll serve you both very well.
This is a no brainer. The total package, including the rifle with all the fixings, the knife, a custom patch, a nice MOLLE adorned range bag with velcro internals, mags, stickers, and a coin came in at just shy of $1500. Now let’s break this down. If you’re LUCKY, or you want to go through the trouble of building your own black gun, you’re looking at $500 for an upper, and another $200-300 for the lower.
This doesn’t include the awesome rail / handguard set up Spike’s does and does not include all the MAGPUL goodies. You’re talking $90 bucks in pop up sights, another $100 bones for the stock, $50 for the rail covers, THEN spring for the $350 Emerson knife? A basic black rifle with similar stuff is going to run ya about the same price, but you’re not going to have the attention to detail, the finesse, or the extra touches that come with this Spike’s / Emerson combo. Sure, you could do a build for $1000. You could get a decent knife for $100-200. But how often can you pay about the same amount to get a set up this awesome? Not often, in my experience.
The rifle is great to shoot. As i mentioned, I have the .22lr version and with the Mad Dog 26 round mags and the shorter Mad Dog 15 rounder combined with Spike’s sweet little .22lr upper, I had ZERO failures that were not directly attributed to human error. But BrownMagic…how can a human screw up the firing process of a black gun? Well, as you may know, .22lr rifles in general can sometimes have magazine feed issues when you start getting past the ten round mark. The .22lr and the rifles that they sit in have very tight and tiny tolerances (say that five times fast, suckah!).
As such, the longer magazines many of us like can be a bit finicky. If you grip the magazines or have your hand in a position that may cause you to touch or otherwise bother the magazine (such as gripping the magazine well and letting your ring and pinky fingers ‘hang’ on the magazine) and fire off a rapid salvo, you are subjecting the magazine to forces that may interfere with the proper transition of the rounds from the magazine, up the feed ramp and into the chamber.
I like the MAGPUL thumb forward grip and even have one of their ACR fore end grips inbound, but I couldn’t help myself and grabbed the magazine well, letting my fingers hit the mag and, well, there were feed issues.
As soon as I got my dick beaters in the right place on the rifle, I experienced no failures of any kind. I shot Remington cheap-o’s, Winchester Wal mart Specials, and CCI Mini mags. They all ran smoothly, and the rifle even ran super dirty (I put 500 Remy’s through her, then shot her again before I cleaned her, putting 200 CCI mini mags through it, no problems). I pulled the trigger, the gun went boom. Didn’t matter what I was shooting out of her or how dirty she was.
The knife! I’ve been carrying it nonstop like I said previously. I’ve cut paracord, foil, boxes, nylon, some straps, a bit of leather, plastic bottles, paper (cut a cute girl’s first target out of a four target paper so she could take it home). The knife, as expected, had no problem eating all that stuff. It’s plenty comfortable to use and very confidence inspiring.
Lock up is early and solid and the blade design lends itself to a lot of different tasks from fine slicing to stabbing, and chopping. It does all the things a folding knife is supposed to do and looks and feels awesome to boot. Plus it’s a 100% made in America, by an American item, which is a plus for a lot of folks, including me.
The folks at Spike’s were awesome. AJ was a saint and Mad Max was a wild man with the laser engraver. The rifle was beautiful and performed like a champ clean or dirty, good ammo or crappy cheap stuff. The knife is an instant classic. All the good parts from the legends in the Emerson lineup and no fluffing or stuffing.
Just a dead sexy cutter/chopper/stabber/sawing blade that’s waved and ready to serve end users in any situation. This is a great combo and if you’re looking to grab a great Emerson knife and an excellent rifle that’s great to shoot for pros, average Joes, or first timers, you should seriously check out this package. The individual parts alone make it worth the price.
Add in the fact that it is a limited set and the weapons are matched to one another, and you have a user’s perfect combo and a collector’s wet dream.
Shawn is former Navy and author of Gray Talon Group, a time-relevant fiction novel set in Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Japan, China and the United States that centers around private military contractors in the Global War on Terror. He is currently a guest lecturer at Toyo University and an Instructor at Meisei University and the English Language Education Council in Tokyo Japan.