A good pair of everyday carry pliers is hard to find, which is why I was so excited to try out the 5” Cobra Water Pump Pliers from Knipex. There’s been some good buzz behind these pliers in the EDC world, and after carrying and using them consistently for a couple of weeks, I’m happy to report that they deserve a place on anyone’s list of EDC essentials.

I was turned onto these Knipex one day when scrolling through Instagram. I was familiar with the brand from when I worked in a BMW and Mercedes repair shop, I just never knew they came in such a compact size. Prior to coming across the 5″, I’ve wanted to get a good pair of pliers for everyday carry for some time because I’ve just never been satisfied with multi-tool pliers. While there are plenty of folks who like multi-tools for their versatility, I’ve always found the functionality of their pliers to be sub-par. They’re almost always made of soft steel, and the handles never seem to offer a firm or comfortable grip.

Multi-tool pliers simply don’t hold up when you really need them, but the Knipex 5” Cobra Water Pump Pliers are a different story.

Knipex Cobra 5” Pliers: First Impressions

This is going back a while to when I got my first pair. I don’t know what I was expecting, but upon opening the box I was struck immediately by how tiny these pliers are. As I would learn after using them, the dainty dimensions of these Knipex pliers don’t make them any less useful, but at first glance they’re almost—dare I say it—cute.

The German-made Knipex 5” Cobra pliers are lightweight too (just 0.81 oz.) which is a good sign from an EDC standpoint. They feel great in the hand, and the handles have a comfortable rubberized grip. The patented push button adjustment is simple and intuitive to use, and makes changing the gape of the pliers quick and easy. One can even do it one-handed if necessary with a push of the thumb and a flick of the wrist.

These pliers have V-jaws, with an offset design that can grip all different sized and shaped objects. The maximum gape of the jaws is about 1.75”, which is pretty impressive for such an easily pocketable set of pliers.

Recently, Knipex has come out with a 4″ version: Cobra XS Water Pump Pliers(87 00 100)

What Makes Knipex Pliers Great

I have to admit, I approached these pliers with a healthy grain of skepticism. I hoped that they would be good, but the way some people talk about them, you’d think the Knipex Cobra pliers were the greatest invention since electricity or running water. Why is it that people love these things so much, and—more importantly—are they deserving of such high praise?
The answer, as it turns out, is pretty much ‘yes’ across the board. Here’s what I especially like about these pliers.

The Jaws

These pliers have a fierce grip. I was genuinely surprised that such a small tool is able to clamp down with such force, but the Cobra pliers are designed to lock in with minimal effort from the user. In fact, you don’t really have to squeeze at all to keep a good grip. Goodbye, blisters.

You can thank the offset V-jaw configuration for that. The jaws of the Cobra pliers are designed so that the jaw faces are always parallel no matter how wide you open the pliers. That allows them to grip round, square and hex-shaped objects with equal ease, and without slipping or stripping the object in question. The teeth of these pliers are keenly honed and sharp, which also helps.

The Steel

The Knipex Cobra pliers are made of forged and oil-hardened chrome vanadium heavy-duty steel. What that means is that they’re made of “hardened steel” that is actually hardened, and it’s one of the big things that makes these pliers stand out where so many of their competitors fail.

Far too many pliers are made of soft steel that just doesn’t hold up under pressure. The teeth of cheap pliers bend when they grip a metal object harder than themselves. That isn’t an issue with the Knipex pliers. You can clamp down on any metal pipe, nut or bolt, and the teeth won’t round off or dull.

The Button Lock

One of the chief selling points of Knipex pliers is their patented, push-button adjustment. It’s a novel design and, in practice, the system works every bit as well as I might have hoped. You simply position the upper jaw against the object you need to grip, push the button, adjust the opening to the proper width, release the button, and close the lower jaw.

It creates a perfect-sized, precision grip every time, and with a little practice one can easily do it one-handed. I haven’t had these pliers long enough to speak to the longevity of the button mechanism, but after a couple of weeks of pretty intensive use, it shows no sign of weakening in the slightest.

The Size and Shape

The 5” Cobra Water Pump Pliers are simply the perfect size for EDC. They’re supremely lightweight and pocketable and, despite my initial misgivings, are by no means too small to operate comfortably. They fit in my hand just right. The thinness of the jaws also makes them more adept at gripping in tight spaces compared to larger pliers.

Knipex also makes their Cobra pliers in several larger sizes from 6” all the way up to 22”. There’s even a truly miniscule 4” version. This also seems like as good a time as any to mention that the handles of these pliers are very comfortable, and are designed with and include a pinch guard. I’ve yet to accidentally pinch my finger once while using these, which is not something I can say about most pliers.

Final Thoughts on the Knipex 5” Cobra Water Pump Pliers

I’ve been using these Knipex for years in my regular lineup of EDC essentials. They slide right in your pocket or fit perfectly in a door pocket of your vehicle. These little guys offer an outstanding, self-locking grip with tough hardened steel and a level of craftsmanship in the design that you just don’t see that often. I’ve found them tremendously useful in the short time I’ve used them, and plan on carrying these pliers for a long, long time.

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