Your Chance To Buy The Knife That Almost Got Me Fired


Massdrop is selling the Cold Steel Recon Tanto this week; in fact, they’re selling all sorts of Tantos. If you join Massdrop using this link then eventually I will receive free stuff valued at up to ten dollars. Thirteen readers have already done so; thank you!

I’ve been a Recon Tanto owner for more than twenty years. I love this knife to death. It can do all sorts of things. As my infamous pal Rodney can well attest, at least one of those things will get you fired — if anybody finds out.

The year was 1995. Rodney and I were working at a small Ford dealership in an area that would one day become hugely trendy and expensive but at that time consisted about equally of adjunct faculty and drooling drug addicts. The time was 8:45PM — fifteen minutes before closing. It was late fall. The skies were dark and clear. We were sitting at my desk at the back of the showroom. Other than our general manager, who was in the service bay cleaning his Harley Ultra Classic, there was nobody on the premises.

“Check this out,” I said, pulling my brand-new Recon Tanto out of my desk. “It can punch through a car door.

“The fuck it can,” Rodney replied. “No knife can go through a car door. And even if it could, you’re not the motherfucker to be doing the thing with.” I was hurt at this double affront to Cold Steel’s impresario CEO, Lynn (the dude named Lynn) Thompson, and to myself.

“Well,” I seethed, “let’s find a car and I’ll show you.”

“You do that shit on your own, man, I don’t want to be anywhere near that.” We both sat there for a few moments, more than a little pissed off. Then I had an idea.

“I bet…” and I thought about some bullet testing I’d done recently at a range up in Delaware, Ohio, “…I could shove it all the way through a phone book in one hit.” Rodney didn’t bother to conceal his guffaw. This made me even angrier. “I’ll bet you… ten dollars.” Neither Rodney nor I had ten dollars just to throw away back then. This was real money.

“You’re on,” Rodney chirped, “but I’m gonna pick the phone book. And it’s gotta go all the way through.” He walked to the front office and returned with the Columbus, Ohio white pages. It was about six inches thick. No worries; the Recon Tanto had a seven inch blade. I put the phone book on my desk. Then I gripped the Recon Tanto in both hands, blade facing away from me, left palm over the pommel the way I’d seen Lynn Thompson do it in the Cold Steel catalogs, held over my head. In a single motion, I shoved it down and through the phone book, letting my knees buckle as I did so to put all of my weight behind it.

“JESUS!” Rodney exclaimed, then covered his mouth with his hand. The Tanto was buried to the hilt in the phonebook.My whole body was shaking. I’d just made ten dollars. And then I looked down.


My desk was an old Steelcase, much like the one above, but topped with a half-inch-thick sheet of glass. Between the glass and the desk I had two copies of the Red Carpet Lease contract, with annotations and highlighting by yours truly, turned to face the customer. It was a hugely effective tool to encourage leasing. Some months I leased 100% of my customers. Other months I leased more cars than the other seven saleseople combined. The reason for this was simple: I was paid $25 per lease.

The glass top of the desk had been spiderweb shattered by the tip of the Recon Tanto. I pulled the knife out of the phonebook and set both aside. Rodney and I looked down. Then we stared across the desk at each other for a brief second.

“We… we… gotta do something,” I said.

“Yeah,” Rodney confirmed, “but what?” There was a long silent pause. I had just one idea.

“You have to distract the boss. I’ll throw the glass in the dumpster.” What happened next will someday provide the movie made about my life with a moment of truly low comedy in what will otherwise be a very somber and introspective film starring Nicholas Cage. Rodney went back to the service area and started asking our boss all sorts of stupid questions designed to keep him from looking out of the open service bay door to where I was carrying four-foot-long shards of green-tinted plate glass to the dumpster and gently laying them down on top of the cardboard boxes and trash bags already there. It took me every bit of twenty minutes, which meant that Rodney had to basically hold the dealership open late by tricking the boss into telling a long, boring story about the trip he and his wife had taken to Daytona Bike Week. Finally I ran by the service bay with my thumb in the air, giving Rodney the sign to wrap it up and let the boss close the place for the night.

The following day, I was sitting at my desk when the boss walked up. He looked at the desk, which was now cleaned-off and rather conspicuously non-glass-topped. The lease contracts were gone. I’d left a few brochures scattered across the steel surface in what I hoped looked like a random occurrence. Then he looked up at me. I said nothing. He looked back down at the desk. Then back up at me.

“What,” he growled, “did you do.”

“I have no idea,” was my remarkably cool-headed response, “what you mean.” The boss spun on his heel, all six foot five and two-eighty pounds of him, and stormed off. I sighed in relief. Rodney walked up and sat down.

“A black man,” he offered, “coulda never got the benefit of the doubt the way you just did. That’s some bullshit.”

“You,” I replied, quiet in conscience and calm in my putative superiority as an Ohio cracker and a master of the Recon Tanto, “owe me ten dollars.”

22 Replies to “Your Chance To Buy The Knife That Almost Got Me Fired”

  1. ComfortablyNumb

    I could watch Cold Steel YouTube videos for hours.
    …OK, I have watched Cold Steel YouTube videos for hours.

  2. CoopDeville

    Damn I forgot all about cleaning my personal vehicle in the wash bay on slow summer nights before going and trying to get laid. Got even better when I became mgt and could just have the lot tech clean it for me. Good memories.

  3. VolandoBajo

    Sounds like a nice edged weapon concept but I will bet acquiring one involves a good bit of sticker shock.

    I have carried a Canyon River Knife & Tool M16-Z13 (think that’s the right mod #) for years. Twenty plus years ago it Washington $50. A nice street legal everywhere (except NYC because illegal 1 hand opening) all-around ostensibly work knife capable of self defence in a split second.

    The CS tanto seems like too much of an LE target for my taste. But I admire the beauty of the concept, and no pun intended, the execution of the tanto.

    I wish I could find a replacement for my old carbon compound non-detectable letter opener that perfectly doubled as another “stealth” self defense “tool” also. Never have found another but a rigjhteous office friendly backup.

    Just for S&G let us know the cost of that thing. And do they make a katana sized weapon?

    As long as you have me reminiscing about street carry non-ballistic weapons, I also had and later had stolen a hardwood walking stick with a heavy round brass handle. Balanced to whip about really fast or to deliver a cranium crusher with the brass end. Any and all iaido moves worked perfectly.

    In the right hands it was probably an easy match for three or more would-be assailants.

    My guess is they give you a hard time about the tanto even if in checked baggage, right?

    Rodney should have known better. Bet you’d already pierced a couple of phone books. Am I right?

    PS glad that all seems to be going well for you. Next time you are in S Jersey don’t be a stranger. You’re wellcome with or without entourage any time even on short notice.

  4. VolandoBajo

    Damn spell checker. Should have been was instead of Washington & I meant to be modest and say that it not I would be a match against a small crowd of miscreants.

    Oh well. Best laid plans and all that.

  5. aircooledTOM

    I’m more of a knife as tool kinda guy. If you gotta get standby any old knife will do, provided it has reach and a locking blade.

    Also, while I appreciate CS videos for the theatrics, I suspect that most similar products will do the same thing- hog slashing, hood punching, etc.

    For a fixed blade I’ll take an ESSE 4 or Bark River bravo 1. For a large folder big Medford TFF 1, smaller and cheaper, you can’t beat Kershaw leek in d2.

    Great story. It’s amazing what you can do with a knife.

    My dealership stories are not as much fun.

  6. Rock36

    I brought one of those cold steel tantos into OIF 1 in 2003. Never really needed it though, but I was 23 and thought it was cool and didn’t know any better. I used it to cut a lot of 550 cord and MREs though, and occasionally some DET cord.

  7. aircooledTOM

    I always use the same blade on my multi tool for demo related tasks. Strictly segregated from any food prep work to include opening MREs. I’ve had some friends accidentally ingest a little comp-c…. Not good. Another kind of explosive.

  8. dickie

    I joined Massdrop. I now have more knives than I ever knew that I needed. Oh well, one is none and thirty-something is… one…

    Thanks, Jack.

  9. -Nate

    You prolly think 10 is a lot , right ? .

    Last time I counted I stopped at Thirty Five .

    Yes , I like wrenching but I also like riding .


    • aircooledTOM

      Having so many things that you cannot enjoy them sucks. I guess it’s better to have fewer and ride them more or more skillfully. 35 is probably too many, unless you just like to look at them in a garage museum thinger.

      I’m at 4. I think 2 more ought to do it.

      • -Nate

        Just so Tom ~

        Growing up with nothing made me a sucker for stuff I always wanted and I find ’em in the oddest places , drag ’em home and fix up then cast off .

        I get so much satisfaction from making some long forgotten old machine road worthy again .


  10. aircooledTOM

    So you’re not a hoarder, you’re a saver of things you find valuable. That’s admirable and I wish I had the skills and time for it. I hate to admit that my favorite bike is still in pieces after having it ported 4 years ago.


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