TOPS Knives is company that specializes in the manufacture of high quality, mission specific, knives for military and law enforcement personnel as well as outdoorsmen and each knife in their extensive line is designed using the knowledge and real life experiences of 12 individuals with backgrounds in the Military, Law Enforcement, Outdoor Education, and the Martial Arts. Consequently, TOPS knives are specifically designed to handle extreme assignments. For more information on TOPS knives from one of my previous articles, please click here.
Therefore, the TOPS Mountain Lion is constructed to be a tactical knife meant for use in harsh terrain and extreme cold and was designed with considerable input from retired members of the 10th Mountain Division (a Light Infantry Division of the U. S. Army that is trained and equipped for fighting in winter weather and mountainous terrain). Thus, it features an overall length of 10 3/4” with a 5 1/2”, Drop Point, blade made from 1/4” thick, 1095, high carbon, non-stainless, tool steel hardened to 58 Rockwell with a Saber Grind, a Recurved Edge, a secondary edge on the spine, and a black “traction coating” to help prevent corrosion. In addition, it features full tang construction with an integral quillion and black and green, G10, handle scales. Plus, it’s supplied with a black, combat style, ballistic nylon, sheath.
Although the TOPS Mountain Lion was designed to be a tactical knife, it would also serve well as a dedicated wilderness survival knife due to its 5 ½” blade length, Drop Point blade shape, and recurved edge. Also, although the blade is a bit too short to serve well as effective chopping tool, it would excel at the numerous other tasks the user would likely put it too in a survival situation such as cutting, carving, and slicing due to the slight Positive Included Angle created by the recurved edge. In addition, the Drop Point blade design is most often favored by hunters as a tool for removing the hide from harvested game animals due to extended sweep (also called the “Belly” of the blade) created by the relatively wide blade and the fact the Drop Point design places the tip of the blade closer to the center line.
Plus, the back of the primary cutting edge has a large finger groove ground into it so that the user can “choke up” on the handle by placing his or her thumb on the spine and their index finger in the “finger groove” for better control over the knife when performing cutting and carving tasks. Plus, the use of 1095, non-stainless, tool steel combined with a ¼” thick spine and full tang construction makes the TOPS Mountain Lion a very tough knife and thus, it is ideal for use in conjunction with a baton to split saplings for making an Atlatl or a Self Bowand for making lathes for weaving baskets to construct fish and bird traps as well as digging edible roots such as wild carrots, wild onions, Chickory, ect. Furthermore, 1095 is a high carbon, non-stainless, tool steel which is a very tough due to the fact that it consists of 0.90% – 1.03% Carbon which increases the hardness of steel and 0.30% – 0.50% Manganese which increases its toughness and hardenability.
However, because it does not contain Chromium in a quantity greater than 11.5% (depending on which definition you choose), it is classified as a non-stainless tool steel and thus, it is far more prone to corrosion than stainless steels are. On the other hand, I have read of instances where users have had knives made from stainless steels break or even shatter when subjected to lateral force generated by prying or shock generated by chopping in sub-zero temperatures. Consequently, the use of 1095 is in keeping with the intended purpose of the knife.
Also, I happen to really like the shape of the handle because it is very ergonomic and it features an integral quillion adjacent to the “finger groove” and, I also like the fact that the full tang is covered with black and green G10 handle scales (G10 is a very tough material that is impervious to chipping, splitting, cracking, and the absorption of moisture that also provides a very positive gripping surface).
Consequently, in my opinion, the TOPS “Mountain Lion” displays a truly elegant, yet functional, knife design that would serve its user well as either a tactical knife or a dedicated wilderness survival knife. However, it is important to note that the non-stainless tool steel does require more care to keep it corrosion free than a knife made from a stainless steel and thus, it is necessary to thoroughly clean the blade after a day’s use and to wipe down the exposed edges with a anti-corrosion application such a Sentry Solutions Tuf-Glide or Tuf-Coth.