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Thread: Cold Steel 12" Barong Machete- Bushman's Big Brother

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    Default Cold Steel 12" Barong Machete- Bushman's Big Brother

    Cold Steel 12" Barong Machete Review- Bushman's Big Brother




    (I apologize in advance if this was supposed to be posted only in the review section, and if so then I'd be happy to delete the thread.)

    I've been wanting to do a review of this wonderful bush tool since ordering one on a fluke from Cold Steel last year for the ridiculous closeout price of only $7.00! I had never heard of a "Barong" machete and to be honest, the name was rather off-putting and strange to me being as I'm not much of a tactical gear person, but the blade shape looked very useful and for only $7 I decided to order one to see what it was about.

    What I found (to my utter suprise) was a machete that was basically a Cold Steel Bushman on steroids but with a quality, fit and finish that seemed more like a knife costing $50-$60. Needless to say I was pretty blown away. After using the tool for the better part of a year up here in the rugged Rocky Mountains, my initial favorable impression has only grown stronger. Since I had already owned a Cold Steel Bushman, I was struck with the fact that the Barong machete just seemed more or less like a bigger version of the Bushman, so after a long winter, I wanted to post this review with that in mind.

    Cold Steel Barong Machete specs
    • 12" Blade length
    • Overall Length 17.75"
    • Weight without sheath (as measured on a digital postal scale)- 16.9 ounces
    • Weight with sheath- 22.3 ounces
    • Blade steel- 1055 Carbon Steel
    • Price- Discontinued last year


    The Barong when it was new out of the package and taken last year when the weather was still warm (ahhhhh!). Note the Cold Steel logo stamped into the machete which is conspicuously absent on the South African made Cold Steel machetes (like the Kukri Machetes, for instance).

    Unlike the Kukri Machete, the Chinese manufactured Barong machete sports a much higher quality sheath, with thick Cordura material similar to the Bushman's sheath. My Cold Steel Kukri Machete's flimsy sheath literally ripped open after only my first outing, but the Barong sheath has easily handled almost a year of bush trekking with no problems. It holds the machete securely and also hangs low enough to clear a backpack strap, a big plus for me since I backpack quite a bit. I like cordura over leather for this application as it is lighter than a comparable leather sheath yet still holds the tool safely and securely.

    The fit and finish of the blade is also much higher than the Kukri's and this particular one came with a fairly sharp edge right out of the package. The handle material is also of much higher quality, being much softer than the rather hard plastic of the Kukri and closer to the feel of the Kraton on the SRK. The handle is just about perfect and one of the things that makes this machete such a pleasure to use.

    The steel is 1055 Carbon Steel, which is commonly used in machetes as well as Cold Steel's line of axes and tomahawks. It's not the greatest in edge retention but makes up for it in toughness and ease of sharpening. This machete will easily get hair shaving sharp with no effort, whereas my Kukri machete took quite a bit of work to reach this point. It comes stock with a very efficient Scandi grind profile, similar to what the Swedish Mora Knives have. This makes it an excellent chopping and cutting tool. In practice, this machete will chop nearly as well as my 1.25 lb head Wetterlings Wildlife Hatchet, which is really quite an accomplishment considering the machete weighs almost 6 ounces less than the hatchet. Though this is a very tough machete in general, the Scandi grind does require one to be a little more careful when using around rocks and tree knots. That said, it is easily fixed in the field with a file and some 220 grit sandpaper. (PART TWO OF REVIEW BELOW)

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    Default PART TWO- Bushman vs 12" Barong

    I already mentioned that the Barong was like a Bushman on steroids. Here's a size comparison between the two, with my Husqvarna\Wetterlings 1.25lb Hatchet thrown in to give a better idea of the size. As you can see, the Barong really looks more like a big honkin survival knife than a typical machete.


    The Bushman and the Barong both have the same blade thickness as shown here:


    The tips of both blades (to the right is the Barong)

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    Default PART THREE- BUSHMAN vs 12" Barong, Chopping & Batoning

    Now for the fun stuff- chopping and batoning. Though I consider myself more of an axe person, tools like these can and will be used for batoning if the situation calls for it. That said, they should be able to handle reasonable tasks without breaking. The Bushman has been put to the test already by thousands of users as well as the Noss guy on Youtube, so I won't rehash any of that here. What I did want to find out was how well the bigger Barong did against the Bushman in chopping and batoning and if the extra weight would be worth it.

    For demonstration purposes, I grabbed a big 9 inch seasoned and knotted up Douglas Fir log, pretty much a nightmare to split even with a big axe. I know the selection of this kind of log may seem extreme, but I've been in situations before where I camped or hiked in more well used places and the only firewood around has been bigger pieces like this. The Bushman's normally large 7" blade is simply out of its league with a piece like this and could only be used to take off very small pieces from the outer edge, realistically. Note that even at the edge, there is very little metal to strike with a baton



    I didn't baton this with the Bushman, but wanted to show the difficulty it would have if one encountered a larger log.

    By comparison, the 12" Barong Machete dominates this log and has plenty of exposed metal on the back of the blade to baton with:


    Though the Barong is pictured in the middle of the log, I would never attempt to baton through the middle as it would probably destroy this or any other blade since the knots are so bad in this one. I ended up taking a piece from it, which it handled easily......



    The Fir chunk was easily reduced into kindling with the Barong, and to demonstrate the cutting capabilities, created a featherstick with it.


    In a comparison to test chopping, a piece of partially seasoned Douglas Fir was used. On the left is the Bushman after 25 chops and on the right is Barong notch after 25 chops. Clearly, the Barong is a much more powerful chopper. The angle of the photo doesn't show the depth of the Barong chopping notch as well as I would have liked, but needless to say, the Barong chops almost 3 times better yet weighs only 7 ounces more than the Bushman.

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    Default Closing Summary- Bushman vs 12" Barong Machete

    My overall impression is that the Barong is about three times better in batoning and chopping for only a 7 ounce increase in weight over the Bushman. As evidenced by the featherstick in my photos it is also capable of some of the finer work that the 7" Bushman blade can do as well. I've found the combo of the Barong machete plus a Mora or Swiss Army Knife or Multi-tool to cover just about all bases. Throw in a 5 ounce Coglan's 7" Sierra Saw and you can do just about anything, unless of course it's winter and then nothing will do like a boy's axe

    As a machete, it's probably not the best of the bunch, because the weight tends to be towards the center and not at the tip as most machetes are. That said, it still clears brush fairly well. I think it is more of a survival\bush machete in that it can do so many things well, but there is always a compromise.

    As a defensive weapon, it is truly fearsome because of the combination of the sharp point, 12" blade length, thick enough to have power yet thin enough that it is extremely fast in the hand. Though I carry bear spray as my main defense against animal attack, this is one tool outside of a firearm that makes me feel as if I would have a fighting chance if I were attacked by a mountain lion or black bear or wild dogs. The reach, sharpness and hitting power would be devastating even to a tough animal like a bear or cougar, as the way this thing takes out chunks of wood means it would crush or break bones, etc. Hopefully none of this ever happens to any of us and especially me, as I have always been an environmentalist and an animal lover. But God forbid if it does then it's nice knowing that your bush tool can maybe save the day. Another thing I might add is that it is a very intimidating tool, and as such is not the best thing to use if more timid hikers\campers are around.

    I carry mine inside my daypack if around more populated hiking\camping areas and keep it strapped to my belt if in more quiet places. There was a time last year when me and my girlfriend were coming down from a trail and I still had the Barong strapped to my belt. When we got to the trailhead parking lot there were a couple of guys who were looking in cars and then started giving us dirty looks until they got a look at the Barong on my hip and then all of sudden they were asking how we were doing lol. It is that intimidating that it can scare the bad guys but also scare the good folks too, so proper diligence is needed when carrying and using it. If I'm going to spend most of my time in areas where using the Barong would scare people then I bring my Husky hatchet.

    One final note.....For the money I just don't think you can beat the 12" Barong Machete. Though they were discontinued last year, they still sell new on eBay for under $30, an absolute steal in my opinion. Buy two if you can, because once word gets out they will probably get more expensive as many other discontinued Cold Steel products have. Just an incredible value and I have to pinch myself that I was able to buy several of these for only $7 a piece!

    Cheers, CW
    Last edited by coloradowildman; 02-20-2011 at 09:20 AM.

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    Wow! Very thorough review. Good job. Got a coupla bushmans and aaaaalmost snatched a barong on sale... but didn't. Rats.

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    Bought a barong and a Seax machete back in December, have not had a chance to use them for more than a bit of yard clearing so far, but they are very good quality , and for the clearance price they were a heck of a steal.

    One note , they were available in both the 12" and the 18" size.
    The 12 inch seems much more an all around user for my area.
    Nemo me impune lacessit ! Wisdom is knowing what to do; Skill is knowing how to do it ; Character is what lets you actually do the job.
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    I also took advantage of the clearance pricing. In order to make the minimum purchase order amount, I just HAD to buy several. I have 2 12" and 1 18". The 12" is definitely a handy package. The only problem I noted is through extended use the handle is actually a little TOO grippy. I covered one of mine in bright yellow cloth tape and it is more comfortable to use. I also convexed the edge on that one. My intention was to do a side by side of normal edge and convex, but I haven't gotten to it yet. I have mostly used mine for splitting kindling (they both do very good).
    Semper fidelis

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    Great review! Thanks!

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    Great review! I never understood why CS discontinued this design. I while I didn't buy this model (I got the 18" Kopis instead), it was one I was considering. Still might get one. They are still to be found for the $7 price.

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    Thanks everyone, I enjoyed doing this review and I'm glad that some people have actually read and enjoyed it as well.

    Taliesin, would you mind sharing where you can get these for $7.00? Cold Steel sold out of these at the Special Projects site several months ago, so please tell us your source! thanks!

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