Author’s note: It took me a full four months of real-world use to bring this review to you. So grab a cup of coffee and spend some time studying my thoughts and images. You won’t find multiple flash studio photos here, only real-life field photos taken in the wild by me and my friends and family (to show me using the knife). I hope you enjoy it! – Piotr
I admit it, a year ago I didn’t know much if anything about Vulture Equipment Works or their knives. I was probably too focused on more mainstream companies and custom knives. I first met William from Vulture Equipment Works in June during the Blade Show in Atlanta. It was there that I was introduced to their Cholera fixed blade knife. I left Blade with Cholera in my bag and I was eager to review it. I then spent July, August, September and part of October putting my Cholera through some really heavy use during my summer trips. I started with ten days at the lake followed by fifteen days in the wild mountains. Now, I can honestly say that I used and tried the Cholera on all kinds of cutting and chopping jobs, so I know a thing or two about it and I’ll like to share my thoughts with you.
The Cholera is a mid-size knife with blade length of just a hair under 5 inches. Most of my personal belt knives have a blade length of between 4.5 and 5.5 inches so it’s just in the middle of my favorite range. It’s big enough to handle almost any kind of bush craft job, yet till small enough to be carried comfortably the whole day.
At just under 5”, the blade follows the classic lines of a drop-point blade with Scandi-style flat grinds and a nice crisp swedge. The cutting edge is very thin, but not zero grind. I would call it ‘Scandi with just a bit of American flavor’ as it has a secondary micro-bevel which adds some strength to the edge and makes sharpening a breeze. It still cuts incredibly well! When compared to classic double-bevel blades, which you can find on 95% of today’s knives, there is no contest here! You can do virtually any cutting job with a blade of such a utilitarian line. From chopping and wood splitting to cutting, jabbing, whittling, skinning and food preparation – the Cholera does it.
You’ve probably already noticed the half-inch hole in the blade. Well, it’s not without a purpose. You can choke up on the blade with your thumb and index finger on the hole and use it for precise cutting or skinning. The hole indexes Cholera’s blade perfectly in your hand. It also works well with gloves on. The small sharpened notch at the base of the cutting edge is a perfect spot to use on the magnesium fire-starter, which comes as standard with Cholera. The handle is an example of ergonomics – anatomically 3D shaped, with shallow & smooth finger grooves and made of sand blasted micarta allowing for a strong, firm grip with either a bare or gloved hand. Personally, I really enjoy coarse sand blasted micarta handles as it gives positive grip when wet from water, sweat or blood, which is why most hunters I know really like micarta scales. Also, the handle dries fast and is very easy to clean with mid-hard brush as blood and sweat doesn’t penetrate inside it. It is a solid resin-based composite after all. Red liners add just a small touch of style while the all-screw construction makes it easy to take apart for cleaning. What I really like is the lanyard hole with smooth edges. It’s just big enough for 550 paracord. Well done, Vulture!
The Vulture Equipment Works Cholera comes with a kydex sheath. I mean it is actually kydex, not some injection molded crap that you see on so many knives today. Vulture Equipment Works has made their sheaths using the classic thermoforming method. It holds the knife really well and does an excellent job! The sheath is constructed with screws so you can open it up for easy cleaning. It comes with multiple attachment holes along the edge and bottom. You can also drill it easily for TekLok use with 1/4 inch bit. An injection molded heavy-duty belt clip comes standard, but can be removed if needed.
I enjoy making custom kydex so I couldn’t resist making my own drop-loop sheath for the Cholera with a skull pattern on it. I thought it was fitting given that Cholera is a terminal disease after all. I use both of the sheaths in a rotation depending what I need. Sometimes it’s discreet high-ride carry using the original sheath or a well visible drop-loop carry in the field using my custom one. Long story short, making a custom kydex for the Cholera was so easy! It has no negative angles, no sharp edges on the handle, and is it’s smooth and easy. Based on my experience, it’s one of the easiest knives to create kydex for, which is great news if you like going the custom route.
The Cholera uses 1095 carbon steel with cerakote finished flats. This makes the Cholera’s blade damn hard, with enough rust protection where it’s really needed. I’ve been using the knife for the past four months, including ten days of some very wet sailing on the lake. As you can clearly see, the knife is pretty worn from heavy use, but there is no rust at all. I was a bit surprised to be honest, but it really means that Vulture’s heat treating was done perfectly. With just some basic blade care, the Cholera will stay clean from stains and rust for years to come. Oh yeah, one thing I forgot to point out earlier. The Cholera is entirely US-made!
The only way to really test a knife is to put it to some serious use. Let’s look at some of the basic knife tasks. How about starting with just some cutting and whittling? Scandal grinds and sharp edge make it such an easy job!
From simple stick whittling to making bark boats for my kids using the Cholera (trust me, I made a countless number of them during vacations with my kids), it was a piece of cake! I also did a lot of camp kitchen work with the knife as well. This included rope cutting, barbecue stuff, cleaning fish and cutting red meat. Regardless of the task, it just works!
Now on to a bit more challenging job, like chopping hardwood in the forest. Well, it ended up being not hard at all. The Cholera was going through almost 3-inch birch in less than 30 seconds. That is not bad at all! What you can see in the photos took me just couple of chops and below 15 seconds. Also, it should be noted that the dark spots on the blade are just bark and resin, not rust.
Next I tried my hand at making some firewood. Batoning? That was no problem at all. Just take a look at the deep marks on my wooden baton from the swedge! I put some serious force on Cholera’s blade and quickly discovered that it splits wood like a dream. The blade remain untouched, of course.
Now that I had the firewood squared away, I whittled feather sticks so all I had to do is set the fire. Again, the Cholera worked great for this task! The high carbon steel and a dedicated fire starter gave me flames in just 3 or 4 strikes. The original fire starter that is included with the Cholera isn’t my favorite as I prefer a solid Swedish Army kind, but it works well if you remember to scratch a bit of magnesium from the silver rods on your tinder first. I was starting fires with my Cholera every evening during our ten-day sailing trip to the lake and it never once let me down.
When it comes to digging holes into hardwood, the Cholera’s strong, hardened carbon steel point was just the ticket.
I have been using the knife a lot in the mountains as my EDC fixed blade. It is usually attached to my Kifaru E&E or in a side pocket of my Hill People Gear UMLINDI pack. I couldn’t ask for more! As you can see from the photo above, the Cholera has been a vital part of my kit. Also, take into consideration that I was hiking in the wild in bear country. Hence, you can see the bear-spray in my kit. We aren’t allowed firearms like in the United States, so since my kids and friends were with me on my hikes, I can honestly say that I trusted the Vulture Equipment Works Cholera with my life!
Usually, I’m not one for online reviews with stars like you’d find on websites like Amazon, but if given the choices I’d reply, “Yes, I’d recommend it to my friend.” Actually, since I’ve had my Cholera I’ve actually recommended it to quite a few friends. And as you can see in the photo above, even my 4-year-old son would like one. Well, he’s going to have to wait couple of years! It would make a great Boy Scout knife for sure. When I was a Boy Scout, a knife like the Cholera would have been a dream come true!
If you’re looking for a no-nonsense hunting, hiking, or survival blade – the Vulture Equipment Works Cholera is one of the options I would highly recommend. Do I own more sophisticated knives? Sure I do, but they usually come with double or triple the price point of a Cholera and offer more or less the same performance with maybe a bit more sophisticated materials and finish. However, consider that we’re talking about $600 high-end or custom knives verses a completely US made knife that retails for less than $200! That’s a seriously important difference for most users who need performance, but at a sensible price. At $189, the Cholera is terrific value for the money in my book.
Here is the bottom line – the Vulture Equipment Works Cholera is a fine working knife. As you can see from this article, I beat the hell out of it this summer and have been using it day-to-day for almost four full months in a variety of environments. This wasn’t a Sunday wannabe review. It was four months spent at the lake, in the forest, mountains, field, and camping on and off a sail boat. It’s a good fixed blade and it won’t let you down. I’ve been in the outdoor and related industries for well over 25 years now, I know what I’m talking about.
Last but not least, here is a shot of where I used my Cholera in October when I was hiking with my family. Fall in the mountains, isn’t it just beautiful?