The 7 Best TOPS Knives: Reviews and Our Picks for 2019

Conrad Novak
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Introduction

TOPS knives was founded in 1998 in Ucon, Idaho with the mission of producing high-quality knives specifically designed for particularly hard use. Thus, they started by assembling a team of knife designers with backgrounds in Military, Law Enforcement, Martial Arts and, outdoor professions ranging from Navy Seals to Airborne Rangers to SWAT Team Members to Martial Arts instructors to Native American weapons experts and wilderness survival experts. Consequently, TOPS knives are designed and built using the extensive knowledge and real-life experiences of many Operators from nearly every background that uses hard-core knives. Last, all TOPS fixed blade knives are manufactured and hand-finished at their facility in the heart of the Rocky Mountains and thus, they are made entirely in the U.S.A. from high-quality American blade steel so that you can be assured that when you purchase a TOPS knife, you are receiving the highest quality American craftsmanship available.

At a Glance: Our Choices for The 7 Best TOPS Knives

Click on one of the links to go directly to our overview, opinion, and features of each knife.

Fixed Blade Bushcraft/Survival Knife Buyer’s Guide

When reading my reviews of the seven TOPS knives listed below, you will see that I have listed several different specifications for each knife that will provide you useful information about each knife. But, unless you are familiar with the various aspects of knife design, then the various specifications may be somewhat confusing to you. However, when it comes to general purpose bushcraft/survival knives, the type of steel that the blade is made from is the single most important factor to be considered because the blade must be tough enough to withstand any job that you may need the knife for. But, along with the type of steel the blade is made from, you should also note the blade’s Rockwell hardness because a blade with a Rockwell Hardness that is too low will not hold an edge well while one with a Rockwell Harness that is too high may be too brittle. In addition, you should note the length of the blade because the blade’s length determines the knife’s suitability for any given bushcraft/survival task. In addition, you should also note the blade design since some blade designs are far better suited as general purpose bushcraft/survival than others. Then, last but not least, you should note the type of cutting edge the knife has because, there again, some designs are far better suited for bushcraft/survival than others. So, below you will find an explanation of each of these aspects of knife design to help you choose the bushcraft/survival knife that best suits you.

  • Blade steels – As mentioned above, the type of steel the blade is made from is a critical factor when choosing a bushcraft/survival knife and thus, the first step to choosing an appropriate blade steel is to decide between a stainless steel blade and a high carbon plain tool steel blade because they each have advantages and disadvantages over the other. For instance, because bushcraft/survival knives are often called upon to perform a wide range of tasks, you need a steel that it is both reasonably tough and yet, also holds an edge well. Thus, in this case, high carbon plain tool steels such as SAE 1095 are often a wise choice even though they are far more prone to corrosion than stainless steels are. But, even so, there are some stainless blade steels such as AUS-8 and 440C that are also well suited for making bushcraft survival knives and which will do a far better job of resisting corrosion that than high carbon plain tool steels.

 

  • Rockwell Hardness – While the type of steel a knife blade is made from is the single most important factor to be considered when choosing a bushcraft/survival knife, the steel’s Rockwell Hardness is another important factor that should be considered because it will not only provide you with an indication of how tough the blade is, it will also indicate how well the blade will hold an edge. Consequently, you should be aware that the Rockwell C scale is commonly used to measure the hardness of blade steels and, the higher the Rockwell Hardness is, the better a blade tends to hold an edge. But, at the same time, the more brittle it tends to be. On the other hand, the lower the Rockwell Hardness is, the tougher a blade steel tends to be but, the more easily it will lose its edge. However, because a knife is a person’s best friend in a survival situation, a blade steel that does a good job of withstanding both impact and prying is often a better choice than one that holds an edge well because, while a dull edge can be resharpened, a broken blade is completely useless. Thus, when choosing a bushcraft/survival knife, blade steels with a Rockwell Hardness of 52 HRC to 56 HRC are a good choice.

 

  • Blade Length – In addition, the length of the blade is another factor that you should consider when choosing a bushcraft/survival knife because, while longer blades are a good choice for such tasks as chopping saplings and splitting firewood, they are often too long for more precise cutting tasks such as building traps and snares. Thus, when choosing a bushcraft/survival knife, knives with blades that range from 8 to 10 inches are a good choice for heavy-duty choppers but, knives with blades that range from 4 to 6 inches are a far better choice for general purpose utility knives.

 

  • Blade Design – In addition to the length of the blade, you should also carefully consider the blade design because some blade designs such as the Kukri are very purpose specific while others such as the Bowie are very general. Thus, when choosing a heavy duty chopper, you should look for a weight forward blade design with a very thick spine but, when choosing a general purpose utility knife, you should look for a well-balanced blade with either a clip point or a drop point blade design.

 

  • Plain vs. Serrated Cutting Edges – Last, when choosing a bushcraft/survival knife, you should note that while blades with serrated edges do a far better job of cutting tough materials, they are not particularly useful on a bushcraft/survival knife because they do not carve or slice as well as a plain edge. In addition, partially serrated edges are very difficult to sharpen and they require a round ceramic sharpener of the same diameter as the serrations in order to keep them sharp.

Our Choice for The Top 7 Best TOPS Knives

Because there are so many different fixed blade knife manufactures in the market today who produce so many different designs, choosing a single bushcraft/survival knife from all of those on the market can be a difficult task. Thus, I have listed below what I feel are the top seven bushcraft/survival knives on the market with MSRP’s that are less than $75.00 to help make the task of choosing a general purpose bushcraft/survival knife easier for you.

 #1

TOPS Knives Tahoma Field Knife

1.-tops-knives-tahoma-field-knife
Our Rating:(4.8/5)
Steel:1095 HC Steel
Blade:7.75 in
Blade Thickness:0.19 in
Handle:5.625 in
Overall:13.94 in
Weight:19 oz

Pros:
(+) Very versatile blade design
(+) Good choice of blade steels
(+) Good choice of handle material
Cons:
(-) Too large for precision cutting tasks
(-) Blade steel is prone to corrosion

Designed by Andy Tran to be a general purpose bushcraft knife, the Tahoma Field Knife is large enough and heavy enough to handle most any bushcraft task. Featuring an overall length of 13.94 inches with a blade length of 7.75 inches and a weight of 19 oz., it also features a drop point blade design made from SAE 1095 (which is an American, high carbon, Plain Tool Steel) with a Rockwell Hardness of 56-58 HRC and, it has a plain edge and a saber grind with a matte black, “river wash”, finish to help resist corrosion. In addition, the blade also features a double-edged tip which is designed to provide a secondary cutting edge in the event that the main cutting edge becomes dull during use as well as notch on the spine which can be used for lifting pots from a fire or for scoring materials to create a weak point prior to breaking and, the large finger choil enables the user to position their hand farther forward for more precise control when performing delicate cutting or carving tasks. Plus, it also features a full tang with an ergonomic handle designed for both cutting and chopping made from tan canvas Micarta that provides a very positive grip with dual spindle sockets for use with a bow drill and, the pommel features a small pry bar. Last, it includes a black, heavy-duty, ballistic nylon, belt sheath.

 #2

TOPS Knives Brothers of Bushcraft Fieldcraft Knife

2.-tops-knives-b.o.b.-brothers-of-bushcraft-knife
Our Rating:(5/5)
Steel:1095 HC Steel
Blade:4.75 in
Blade Thickness:0.19 in
Handle:5.125 in
Overall:10 in
Weight:9.6 oz

Pros:
(+) Good blade design for the purpose
(+) Medium length blade is very versatile
(+) Includes Ferrocerium fire starter rod
Cons:
(-) Blade steel is not stainless

Designed by the Brothers of Bushcraft which a coalition of men across North America focused on sharing wilderness living skills, the Fieldcraft knife is the culmination of their knowledge and experience. Thus the B.O.B. Fieldcraft knife is a good choice for use as either a general purpose utility knife or a dedicated wilderness survival knife and features an overall length of 10 inches with a blade length of 4.75 inches and a weight of 9.6 oz. In addition, it features a drop point blade design made from SAE 1095 (which is an American, high carbon, Plain Tool Steel) with a Rockwell Hardness of 56-58 HRC and has a plain edge with a modified Scandinavian Grind and a matte black, “traction”, coating to help resist corrosion. In addition, it features a full tang with an ergonomic handle design made from black canvas Micarta that provides a very positive grip as well as thumb scallops that provide more comfort and control when using specialized carving and skinning grips as well as a single bow drill divot. Plus, the extended tang features a scraper specifically designed for striking the included Ferro rod. Last, it includes a black, molded, Kydex belt sheath.

 #3

TOPS Knives Scandi Trekker Knife

3.-tops-knives-scandi-trekker
Our Rating:(5/5)
Steel:1095 HC Steel
Blade:3.63 in
Blade Thickness:0.12 in
Handle:4.125 in
Overall:7.63 in
Weight:3.7 oz

Pros:
(+) An excellent utility knife
(+) Ergonomic handle design
(+) Light weight makes it easy to carry
Cons:
(-) Non-stainless blade steel

Designed to be a somewhat smaller general purpose utility and bushcraft knife than the B.O.B Fieldcraft knife, the Scandi Trekker features an overall length of 7.63 inches and has a blade length of 3.63 inches with a weight of 3.7 oz. In addition, it features a drop point blade design made from SAE 1095 (which is an American, high carbon, Plain Tool Steel) with a Rockwell Hardness of 56-58 HRC and has a plain edge and a saber grind with a matte black, “tumble”, finish to help resist corrosion. In addition, it features a full tang with an ergonomic handle design made from green canvas Micarta that provides a very positive grip even when the handle is wet. Last, it includes a black, heavy-duty, leather belt sheath.

 #4

TOPS Knives Brakimo Knife

4.-tops-knives-brakimo
Our Rating:(4.6/5)
Steel:1095 HC Steel
Blade:5.25 in
Blade Thickness:0.18 in
Handle:4.75 in
Overall:10.0 in
Weight:9.4 oz

Pros:
(+) Comfortable handle design
(+) Good choice of blade grinds
(+) Bow drill divot in the handle
Cons:
(-) Made from non-stainless blade steel

Designed by wilderness survival instructor Joe Flowers as a backup for a machete and/or a general purpose camp knife, the TOPS Knives Brakimo (pronounced BRAH-key-moe) features an overall length of 10 inches and has a blade length of 5.25 inches with a weight of 9.4 oz. In addition, it features a drop point blade design made from SAE 1095 (which is an American, high carbon, Plain Tool Steel) with a Rockwell Hardness of 56-58 HRC and has a plain edge and a modified Scandinavian grind with a matte grey, “tumble”, finish to help resist corrosion. In addition, it features a full tang with an ergonomic handle design made from green canvas Micarta that provides a very positive grip along with a deep bow drill divot. Last, it includes a black, molded, Kydex belt sheath.

 #5

TOPS Knives Tom Brown Tracker #1 Knife

5.-tops-knives-tom-brown-tracker-1
Our Rating:(4.9/5)
Steel:1095 HC Steel
Blade:6.38 in
Blade Thickness:0.25 in
Handle:5.5 in
Overall:11.88 in
Weight:21 oz

Pros:
(+) Good choice of blade steels
(+) Good choice of blade designs
(+) TPE over mold provides a positive grip
Cons:
(-) Blade design has limited utility
(-) Extremely heavy

Designed by well-known naturalist, tracker, and wilderness survival instructor Tom Brown Jr. as a bushcraft knife, the TOPS Knives Tom Brown Tracker #1 (featured in the movie The Hunted) is one of TOPS most popular knife designs. Featuring an overall length of 11.88 inches, it has a blade length of 6.38 inches and weighs a hefty 21 oz. In addition, it features a very unusual trailing point blade design made from SAE 1095 (which is an American, high carbon, Plain Tool Steel) with a Rockwell Hardness of 56-58 HRC and has a plain edge with a saber grind with a matte black, “traction”, coating to help resist corrosion. In addition, it also features a dual section cutting edge with the section closest to the handle designed specifically for chopping and splitting while the deep belly is specifically designed for skinning as well as a short saw blade located on the tip of the spine. Plus, it features a full tang with an ergonomic handle design made from black canvas Micarta that provides a very positive grip along with finger grooves and a curved pommel to aid retention. Last, it includes a black, molded, Kydex belt sheath.

 #6

TOPS Knives Silent Hero Knife

6.-tops-silent-hero-knife
Our Rating:(4.5/5)
Steel:1095 HC Steel
Blade:6.38 in
Blade Thickness:0.18 in
Handle:5.125 in
Overall:11.25 in
Weight:12 oz

Pros:
(+) Good camp knife design
(+) Full tang for extra strength
(+) Good choice of handle materials
Cons:
(-) Blade steel is prone to corrosion

Designed by Anton Du Plessis who is the Chief of Operations for the Specialized Interdiction Unit of the Silent Heroes Foundation who’s task is to combat the poaching crisis in South Africa, the TOPS Silent Hero knife is designed to be a general purpose bushcraft knife. Featuring an overall length of 11.25 inches, it has a blade length of 6.38 inches and weighs 12 oz. In addition, it features a drop point blade design made from SAE 1095 (which is an American, high carbon, Plain Tool Steel) with a Rockwell Hardness of 56-58 HRC and has a plain edge with a hollow grind with a matte black, “river wash”, finish to help resist corrosion. In addition, it also features a large finger choil to enable the user to position their hand forward on the handle for greater control when performing precision cutting tasks as well as jimping on the spine to provide better grip for the user’s thumb. Plus, it also features a full tang with an ergonomic handle design made from black canvas Micarta that provides a very positive grip. Last, it includes a black, heavy-duty, leather belt sheath.

 #7

TOPS Knives Tex Creek XL Knife

7.-tops-knives-tops-tex-creek-xl-knife
Our Rating:(4.5/5)
Steel:1095 HC Steel
Blade:6.13 in
Blade Thickness:0.19 in
Handle:5.0 in
Overall:11.13 in
Weight:12.8 oz

Pros:
(+) Excellent camp knife design
(+) Super tough blade steel
(+) Super tough handle material
Cons:
(-) Blade steel requires extra care

Designed by Leo Espinoza to be a large hunting and camp knife, the TOPS Tex Creek XL knife is a tribute to the intrepid men and women who hunt the Tex Creek Wildlife Management Area in Southeast Idaho. Featuring an overall length of 11.13 inches, it has a blade length of 6.13 inches and weighs 12.8 oz. In addition, it features an extra wide Straight Back blade design made from SAE 1095 (which is an American, high carbon, Plain Tool Steel) with a Rockwell Hardness of 56-58 HRC and it has a plain edge with a hollow grind and a matte black, “river wash”, finish to help resist corrosion. In addition, it also features a full tang with an ergonomic handle design made from black canvas Micarta that provides a very positive grip and, it includes a brown, heavy-duty, leather belt sheath.

Conclusion

So, for those of you who are in need of an utterly dependable bushcraft or wilderness survival knife, it is difficult to make a better choice than one of the seven TOPS knives listed above since they are all constructed from SAE 1095 Plain Tool Steel with an appropriate Rockwell hardness for their intended purpose. Plus, they each feature full tangs with very ergonomic handle designs along with canvas Micarta handle scales and thus, each of the all of the TOPS bushcraft/survival knives listed above will last you a lifetime without displaying any appreciable wear.

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