Gear Review: Cold Steel’s Special Forces Shovel

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Okay, for those of you who don’t like video (or don’t want to listen to me talking the whole time), here’s a full text review:

I never thought I’d get excited about a shovel, but that’s before I heard about Cold Steel’s Special Forces Shovel. The Special Forces Shovel is a short camp shovel with sharpened edges, which makes it effective at a number of tasks beyond digging holes. It’s a Frankenstein’s monster combining all the best parts of a machete and a shovel, and I love it.

So why is this called a “Special Forces Shovel”? Well, because it’s based on the design used by the Spetsnaz (Russian special forces). This entrenching tool was designed to be used as both a tool and as a weapon of last resort, with the sharpened edges of the shovel making for a deadly piece of kit. The Spetsnaz soldiers were even trained to use the shovel as a throwing weapon.

The shovel comes from the factory with what Cold Steel calls a ‘utility edge’. It not as sharp as I would like, but it’s a good starting point. You could work it into something much better, but I wanted to test it straight out of the box. I took it up north to my parents’ property to try it out, and had an absolute blast.

Cold Steel's Special Forces Shovel

Special Forces Shovel as a Machete/Hatchet

The very first thing I did with it was use it as a machete. I limbed a few fallen trees, and chopping down a whole bunch of saplings. It even took out a few decent ash branches.

Seeing that it was working pretty well, I took it to a poplar my dad was going to take down anyway. It took a bit of chopping, but I’m pretty happy to say I cut down a full sized tree with a shovel. Now granted, it was softwood, and my dad did some of the chopping too, but still. I chopped down a tree with a shovel. That’s awesome right there.

Ninja Star Shovel?

Next, I just had to try throwing it. I picked a handful of targets on the property: a nice sized tree, an old stump, a pallet, and an old chair. And I was surprised to find out that I’m really, really terrible at using a shovel as a throwing weapon. I hit what I was aiming for most of the time, but usually with the wrong end, or as a glancing blow.

In the end, the only thing I got the Special Forces Shovel to stick in was an old chair, which isn’t really all that impressive. That’s not denigrating the tool of course, only my ability to use it.

Despite my complete lack of success, throwing this thing is an absolute blast. It’s almost worth the price along just to take it out in the woods and see if you can get it to stick to a few trees. I’m definitely looking forward to trying it again, and hopefully I’ll have a bit more luck.

Special Forces Shovel Versus Zombies

The Spetznaz Shovel - an entrenching tool for Soviet special forces

Next up was the zombie test. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any spare zombies sitting around, so I was forced to use coconuts, which are pretty standard in the world of zombie weapon testing. As luck would have it, my sister and her husband – both funeral directors – were also home visiting. I had them both check out the coconut, and they said it was fairly close to the thickness of a skull. It wasn’t exactly scientific, but I’m going with it.

To test, I put a coconut on a tree stump, with a towel underneath to keep it from slipping when I hit it. I didn’t think breaking the coconut open was going to be an easy task; I figured it would take me two or three hits. It didn’t. One solid blow with the Special Forces Shovel and that thing exploded, sending coconut milk everywhere (I had to change my shirt).

My wife took a crack at it too, only she was a lot more delicate because she didn’t want to get covered in coconut juice. It took her three blows, but she made mincemeat of the stand-in zombie.

So can the Special Forces Shovel kill a zombie? Well, if the coconut is reasonably close to the density of a zombie skull, then I would say absolutely. Granted, we had the coconuts on a stump at waist level, and had plenty of time to line up our shot. At head level, it’d be a bit more challenging, but I still have no doubt this thing could cleave some zombie skulls when push came to shove.

Okay, So Let’s Dig a Hole

Finally, I decided to try it out for it’s actually, designated purpose: digging holes. I’m happy to say the shovel was up to the task. It was early spring when I tried this out, and in northern Michigan the ground was a still a little frozen. This shovel dug right in without a problem, no doubt helped by the sharpened edges.

One thing that I think is really cool is that the head is mounted to the handle with two normal screws. That means you could easily replace the handle, or even substitute in a longer one, without too much trouble.

The Verdict

So, is Cold Steel’s Special Forces Shovel a worthwhile purchase? Absolutely. Not only did I have a ton of fun testing it out, it would also make for a fantastic camp or survival tool. I know it’s earned a permanent spot in my trunk, and it’s definitely going to come with my on my next few camping outings.

It comes with a nice nylon sheath, which is good since the edges are sharpened. I beat on my pretty well, and the only damage I manged to do to it were two small chips in the handle and getting the whole thing dirty. This thing is built to stand up to some punishment.

Grade: 5 zombie heads out of 5

On an Unrelated Note

So this is my first video content. I’m sure it’s a little underwhelming. I’d really love honest feedback from you guys on how I can improve things, because I’d like to do more of them.

26 thoughts on “Gear Review: Cold Steel’s Special Forces Shovel”

  1. I have never even though about getting something like this. Cool review, I might pick one up…

    • Thanks Al. It was a lot of fun to make. I’d like to do some more of these.

  2. Holy wow, you’re real!
    Cool shovel too, very well reviewed. I also subscribed to your Youtube!

    • I am indeed real!

      Thanks for the subscription. Anyone else that wants to subscribe, upvote, etc., that’d be pretty cool.

  3. Well if zombies are at a distance their safe. And before I forget nice towel.

    • Yeah, that was my mom’s. It’s quite the towel.

  4. Dave!!! Man, you look just like your sig-fig!
    That is an awesome review… I have no idea what I would do with a shovel but you made me want to get one!

    Oh, and that chair is so dead…

    • The only thing is that my sig fig smiles more.

      It’s definitely a cool item, and little shovels like that a useful to keep around.

      We put the hurt on that chair for sure.

      • There, you convinced me, I’ll take a dozen.

        • There you go! One for each car, one for each person in the survival bunker, and a couple just for fun.

  5. Well put together video here Dave! I’m interested in this shovel now as I’m big on multi-use tools that also boast a great durability. I would need to learn a bit about how to properly throw a shovel, but I’m sure it would have the same amount of science to it as throwing an axe.

    • Thanks Calicade! I imagine it is pretty similar to ax throwing. I should do a bit more research and try it again. Maybe the next time I’m up at my parents’ place.

  6. As I said on the Book of Faces, you need a dedicated vertical knife-throwing target, because throwing it at trees and pallets on a pile can lead to it striking at an angle and glancing off, possible hitting something you don’t want to hit. This I speak from a bit of experience, since I’ve had one for about 15 years, either as the CS model itself or the nearly identical Swiss Army’s infantryman’s WW2 surplus shovel. I’ve carried it while walking my dogs in my old neighborhood at night (emphasis on “hood”), swung it at many tree limbs, and thrown it at dead trees to see how well I could hit a target. Unless you can hit a tree square-on (which is a target only a few inches wide, even if the tree is a foot across), it’s gonna glance off, which is never pretty.

    Sidenote regarding throwing axes: CS used to have the “Bad Axe” that shared a replacement handle with the shovel. It was discontinued a few years ago. While it might have been fun to throw the axe, for more utility I’m glad I got the shovel, since it chops, slices, flies, AND digs… and when you’re carrying the shovel while walking the dog, nobody freaks out like they would if you carried a throwing axe!

    • Awesome comments here Mattexian!

      You don’t happen to know any good resources for building an inexpensive vertical target, do you?

      • I used to have a throwing knife book with instructions on building your own target, by essentially gluing 2×4’s together, not using nails in the target body itself. (You could probably salvage boards from those pallets.) It was long enough ago that I lost my copy, so I’m relying on memory from almost 15 yrs past. It was put out by the Hibben company, so maybe they still have it (I think I’ve seen it, an updated version, in various knife catalogs, alongside their throwing knives). (Ok, found ithere, halfway down.) Something that makes throwing knives and such more fun is having a set of knives, so you can work on your technique from multiple throws, instead of working on walking back and forth to the target retrieving your one knife. (Another thing I know from experience!)

        • Yeah, walking back and forth with every throw would get old in a hurry.

  7. What is Dave’s youtube account? I would not mind checking out some vids.

    • There’s only one video on there now, but I plan on doing more. You can find it here:

  8. Nice review of a nice bit of kit, not sure if I’d get away with keeping one in the car as UK plod might regard it as a lethal weapon.
    Look forward to more video reviews.

    • Thanks Dex!

  9. Nice review… I especially like the chopping down of the tree and throwing of the shovel. I was very impressed with how well it dealt with the coconuts too.

    Maybe next time if you have sound issues you can just do a BotD special and do some comic book sound effects over the video (think old school TV series Batman)…. a “CLANG!” or a “DONK!” or something like that overlaid would have made it amusing yet informative.

    I have no idea how hard it is to do that because I’ve never tried manipulating video files.

    • Awesome idea! I don’t think it’d be too hard to pull off, actually.

  10. thank you for the review! I’m planning to pick one up for my emergency bag next month. I’ll also be making my own review based on the kit I’ve put together. oh hey, I also do smashing coconut tests. your wife has a decent swing, I’m sure she’ll hit way harder under duress. stay safe!

    • Hey TZH, make sure you share that review!

      Oh, and my wife can definitely hit harder. She was just trying to avoid getting covered in coconut juice like I did.

      • restraint is a proof of strength 🙂

        • Well said.

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