As hard as it is for me to say this, I think I’ve finally found a knife that I like better than the Ka-Bar Becker BK-2. The BK-2 is an awesome knife. It’s a workhorse and of the few smaller knives out there it’s one that you can actually chop and pry with that has some effect on what you’re hitting. Check out a comparison of the BK-2 and a couple of other knives here. I’ll use the BK-2 as a comparison here because this is probably one of the knives I’ve used most in the last five years.
by Bob Augustine, a.k.a. “Jarhead Survivor”
Before that I had a Ka-Bar USMC fighting knife that I used for many different tasks. If you’re one of my old readers you’ll know I love the BK-2. I still do, but I’ve found an alternative knife that I like a little better. The Tops BOB knife was designed right from the beginning as a woodsman/survival knife by the Brother of Bushcraft. It’s got some cool features that might seem a little gimmicky like a divot to be used as a bearing block with a bow drill set, but I’ve actually used it and it works.
The Tops Knife
The knife is made from 1095 High Carbon Steel with a blade thickness of 3/16″. It’s got a Kydex sheath with a rotating steel belt clip. The whole knife is 10 inches with a blade length of 4 1/2 inches, which makes this a smaller knife. But, it gets the job done.
I used it for the normal bushcraft things you’ll do: splitting wood, chopping, cutting, carving, among other things. It’s real test came when I took a class at the Maine Primitive Skills School. I can’t emphasize how important a knife is during wilderness survival since it’s arguably the most important piece of gear you’ll take into the field. Sure, most any knife will get the job done, but it takes a special knife to get good marks in all categories.
At the Maine Primitive Skills School we used knives to split wood, carve a bow drill set, peel bark from a pine tree, and all kinds of other stuff. Over the last few months I’ve put this knife to the test and the more I use it the more I like it. One area that it really excelled in was whittling. I used it to whittle a spindle and fireboard out of a piece of firewood and it worked beautifully. I also carved a spoon and wasn’t disappointed with its performance there either.
Some of the features of this knife include a whistle attached to a fire steel, which makes it a pretty good simple survival kit. Drawing from Dave Canterbury’s 10 C’s of Survival this kit gives you cutting and combustion, and you can make your own cover with it.
Tops Knife Features
The features on this knife are pretty cool too. First of all the ferrocium rod also has some magnesium rods on it that can be whittled down and used to assist your spark in starting a fire. The whistle is shrill and would help if you got in trouble and were able to blow it. Remember – three blasts is a distress call. There’s also a divot in the knife which allows you to use the knife as a bearing block with a bowdrill, which I used to successfully start a fire.
There’s a small wedge on the bottom of the handle that you use as a striker for the fire steel. It’s a little awkward to hold the knife when starting a fire at first, but you get used to it after using it a few times. When used for whittling there’s a thumb ridge along the back of the knife you can use to help with that fine detail work.
The Kydex sheath holds the knife tight and there’s a holder built in for the fire steel and whistle combination. I didn’t like the way the whistle tapped against the sheath as I walked and I was afraid the firesteel was going to fall out when I was in the wood, so I wrapped a Ranger band around the knife over the whistle and firesteel and that kept it in there nice and tight and quiet.
Tops Knife Testing
Testing consisted of actually using the Tops BOB Knife in many different scenarios. As mentioned earlier I split wood with it. Because it’s so sturdy it handled very well at this task. I’ve used some knives in the past where the handle would twist when you used it batoning, but this was rock solid. The thickness of the wood being split is determined by the blade length, of course, so keep that in mind when gathering wood you intend to process with your knife.
I also started fires with both the firesteel and by using it as a bearing block with a bow drill set. The firesteel is much easier of course, but not having to carve and burn in a bearing block probably saved me fifteen minutes of looking and actual work, so it’s a handy feature.
The knife is marginally heavy enough that you could chop wood with it, but it would be a struggle, so I didn’t bother trying to chop a tree down or anything of that nature. You can generally look at a knife and have an idea of how it’s going to work at a given task and while the knife is sturdy and of a good weight for its size, it’s not a hatchet. If you’re going to do some serious chopping bring an ax.
The question I ask myself every time I have a piece of equipment like this is, “Would I be confident that this would be useful to me in a survival situation?” Meaning, do I think this knife would stand up to the rigors and be an asset to me if my ass was on the line?
The answer is yes. I’m confident it would be helpful. As mentioned earlier I’ve favored the Kbar BK2 and it still has a place in my heart, but the Tops BOB Knife is now my main knife and it now holds the main place of honor in my everyday Bug-Out Bag.