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Archive | Survival

Stout Gear

If you like hard working, custom knives that offer big performance at a reasonable price (who doesn’t?), Stout Gear should be on your radar. I have been purchased one of their Ibex models and I’m seriously impressed. I like it so much that I am already making room in my budget to pick up their Scout model! You can stay tuned for a full review of the Ibex.

Stout Gear Ibex

Ibex

Stout Gear offers several models in several sizes so it is difficult generalize their knives but there are a few things that characterize them. One of those characteristics is good cutting geometry. These knives are made for hard work so they are very thick at the spine and in order to make them cut, Stout Gear uses very tall, slightly convex primary grinds and then applies a 20 degree, polished bevel. The result is a tough edge that cuts very well.

They also have large, hand filling handles with comfortable contours. You’ll find deep bellied, drop point blade shapes on most of their knives. Their work is extremely clean (look at those plunge lines!). They also use tough, high quality steels that are well suited to the tasks envisioned for the knife. Most of their knives use CPM S35VN which is one of the only modern stainless steels I have been able to warm to because it is fairly easy to sharpen. I can sharpen anything, I just don’t care to spend a lot time doing it!

The Scout

Thankfully, Stout Gear is not one of those companies that sells you a great knife and sticks you with an afterthought of a sheath. I could probably write whole post just about the sheath. It is completely unique and very functional. It is a kydex sheath that is constructed much like a leather sheath in that is has an HDPE (tough plastic) welt between the outer layers of kydex. This allows the kydex layers to retain the knife without contacting the blade. This prevents scratching the blade and dulling of the edge by contact with the kydex and all the grit that ends up in the sheath of a knife that is actually being used. The sheath also features metal belt loops that Stout Gear makes themselves. It has to be the most bomb-proof sheath system I have ever seen.

All of their knives have starting prices below $300 – most well below $300. They cost less than many production knives with similar features (thick premium steel, sculpted G-10 handles, quality sheath, etc.). You need to get to know Stout Gear.

Wolverine

Wolverine

The Return of Nick Allen and NWA Knives

I have been a long time fan of knife maker Nick Allen and his NWA Knives brand. His knives were characterized by flowing, organic shapes, deeply contoured handles, fine finishing, tall flat grinds, tough carbon steels, differential heat treatments, an intuitive understanding of cutting geometry, and a love for the outdoors. He has a very distinctive visual style which is something all good knife makers have. You can recognize one of his knives from across the room.

NWA Knives Sierra Scout

Several years ago, he had to stop making knives due to some life changes and a lack of space. I was recently searching the web for his knives in case a good deal had popped up and I came across something that made my day. NWA Knives had a Facebook page and… It was active! I contacted Nick and, sure enough, he is making knives again. Judging by the examples on his Facebook page, it looks like he never stopped!

Check out the NWA Knives Facebook page for details on ordering.

NWA Knives 1 NWA Knives 2

TOPS Knives Kodiak JAC 2

The Kodiak JAC 2 is TOPS Knives’ latest version of their Kodiak JAC hunting knife. The distinctive feature of the Kodiak JAC and Kodiak JAC 2 is its deep bellied, continuously curving drop point blade. It also has an extended tang designed to be used for scraping hides (so you don’t have to use your cutting edge).

kjac02

The new Kodiak JAC 2 is similar to the original Kodiak JAC with the addition of a new Coyote Brown color scheme which includes the powder coating, green canvas micarta handle slabs, and the kydex sheath.

  • O/A Length: 8 3/8″
  • Blade Length: 4 1/4″
  • Cutting Edge: 3 1/8″
  • Thickness: 3/16″
  • Blade Color: Coyote Tan Coating
  • Steel: 1095 High Carbon Alloy RC-58
  • Handle Material: Green Canvas Micarta
  • Sheath: Coyote Tan Kydex With a Rotating Steel Spring Clip
  • Weight: 7.3oz
  • Weight w/ Sheath: 10.0oz

Rocky Mountain Bullseye C.A.T. from TOPS Knives

Just over a week ago, TOPS Knives introduced their C.A.T. knives with a new grip pattern called Cryptic Cyber. Now they have released a second grip pattern option with a very cool back story.

tops_knives_bullseye_hunter

The new Rockey Mountain Bullseye texture came about serendipitously! The folks at TOPS were machining handles when a machining error created a divot pattern in the surface of the grip slab. It looked good and it felt good so the only thing left to do was program the machine to make the mistake divots on purpose. I wish my mistakes turned out so well.

tops_knives_bullseye_tanto

The new texture is available on the C.A.T. knives in both drop point and tanto. The C.A.T. series is a mainstay of the TOPS Knives lineup thanks to their handy size and versatile shapes.

TOPS Knives launched the new scales today and they are available at an introductory price in both the Tanto version and Hunter’s Point (drop point).

  • Blade length: 3 1/4″
  • Overall length: 7 1/4″
  • Thickness: 5/32″
  • Scales: Black G-10
  • Steel: 1095
  • Sheath: Kydex with multi-position steel clip
  • Weight: 7.5 oz

tops_knives_bullseye

TOPS Knives Overlander 2

The Overlander 2 is the first of TOPS Knives’ SHOT Show debuts to be released. This general utility knife looks ready to work.

ov78

The Overlander 2 has a 4″ blade that is ground from 3/16″ 1095 steel. The drop point blade features a half height flat grind which leaves plenty of steel through the spine and tip for strength. The scales are oiled tan canvas micarta and have subtle palm swells. It comes with an individually fit Kydex sheath with steel belt clip.

Check out the new Overlander 2 at TOPS Knives.

Ontario Knives RAT Mod Limited Edition

Ontario Knife Company is teasing us with an interesting new limited edition version of the RAT-3. The knife has features that several RAT-3 users have been clamoring for since the knife hit the market.

ontario rat mod le

The knife has had the choil and guard area of the of the original design ground away to form a smooth transition from handle to blade. The blade is slightly offset from the handle to form a sort of self guard. The handles are wood and thicker than the original handles. They also feature divets near the blade to make pinch grip cuts possible. The blade is uncoated and the sheath is leather.

Stay tuned for additional details.

Edge/Equipped TDI Sheath

Edge/Equipped just introduced the new E/E TDI Sheath. The sheath was created with LAG Tactical and packs some nice features into an affordable package.

EE_TDI_Sheath_with_TDI

It is designed to work primarily as an inside-the-waistband sheath with the two included coated nylon webbing soft loops. However, the sheath is sized so that it can also be used with a single soft loop wrapped around the body of the sheath for outside-the-waistband carry. Both methods of carry allow the wearer to access the knife with either hand.

LAG Tactical takes great care to round and polish the edges of their kydex which makes this sheath very comfortable. The opening is flared to make it easier to sheath your knife. The design is also aggressively dished out near the first finger groove to allow the wearer to establish a full grip while the TDI is still in the sheath. The retention is moderate to allow the sheath to work with both generations of TDI Law Enforcement Knives.

The goal was to keep this affordable since one of the goals of Edge/Equipped is to offer affordable, ready-to-carry defensive knife options. The sheath is available for $36.95 individually or it can be purchased with a TDI at a special package price.

Cyber Monday Special Edition TOPS BOB Knife

TOPS Knives has released a special edition BOB Knife with a bead blast finish. This is a limited release (less than 100 made) and it will go fast at the Cyber Monday sale price. Check it out at TOPS Knives.

brosbbf

 

Review: TOPS Knives Baja 3.0

The TOPS Knives Baja 3.0 has a size complex. It is small enough to be pocketable but it boasts a blade larger than you would expect.

TOPS Knives Baja 30

Overview

The Baja 3.0 is a TOPS Knives creation through and through. They often follow a simple formula and get great results. That formula is quality 1095 steel + micarta slab handles + solid heat treat + usable sheath = great knife. This one doesn’t stray far and that is a good thing.

  • Steel: 1095 carbon steel
  • Thickness: 1/8″
  • Blade length: 3″
  • Overall length: 6 1/4″
  • Blade shape: Drop point
  • Primary grind: Full height flat grind
  • Scales: Green canvas micarta
  • Coating: Tan traction coating
  • Sheath: Leather pouch style sheath (can be worn vertically or horizontally)

TOPS Knives Baja 30 Handle

Observations from Use

The Baja 3.0 is comfortable to hold and use. The handle is lightly contoured and the scales are flat but grooved for texture. The butt of the knife is turned down a bit and this curve rests nicely on the ring finger. Some users will be able to get all four fingers on the grip.

TOPS Knives added jimping on the spine and the self guard area. The spine jimping is well placed and provides grip during cuts that require you to back the blade with your thumb. I could do without the jimping on the self guard but it isn’t so aggressive that it is uncomfortable.

The first thing that jumped out at me when I unwrapped the Baja 3.0 is just how much cutting edge is packed into a relatively small knife. It is just 6 1/4″ long and 3″ of that is blade. When measured from tip to handle scale (instead of the plunge line), it is actually more like 3 1/4″ of blade with 3″ of handle. That is a lot of blade for a knife in this size range.

TOPS Knives Baja 30 Spacers

There are times when I am glad it has that much blade but I often find myself wishing it was 1/4″ – 1/2″ shorter. That would leave plenty of edge for an EDC fixed blade and make this knife just a bit more compact overall. Maybe a Baja 2.5 is in the works!

Back in the day, you could expect a thick edge from TOPS Knives. Their edges were bomb proof but they didn’t always cut so well. This little Baja 3.0 is just the opposite. It has a very tall flat grind and distal taper that results in very aggressive cutter with a fine point. TOPS Knives turns the point down just a bit to keep it strong. This knife came to me shaving sharp (literally, I always check on my arm hair) and it graduated to laser status without much work on a strop. The combination of flat grind, carbon steel, and good edge geometry almost always creates a solid cutter that is easy to maintain. That is definitely the case here with the Baja 3.0.

The sheath is of good quality. The leather is fairly thick and it has double stitched construction. It is ambidextrous in design and holds the knife securely. There is some kind of insert in the bottom of the sheath to protect from pushing the knife through. In addition to belt carry, the rounded shape lends itself well to back pocket carry. While the sheath is well made, I do find myself wishing that the Baja 3.0 came with one of TOPS Knives Kydex sheaths with metal clip. They are a little smaller on the belt and I like how easy their metal clips are to place on the belt. This is purely a preference and I suspect that many users will prefer the leather.

TOPS Knives Baja 30 in Sheath

Normally, I don’t really care what a knife looks like as long as it works. The Baja 3.0 certainly works but I think it could be a lot more attractive without the brass crosshead screw that is used in the handle construction. It is a tiny nit to pick but it just looks out of place.

The size of this knife allows it to work well for a variety of tasks. This is a true general purpose knife. It may not be the right tool for every cutting job, but it is rarely the wrong tool. It is great as an EDC fixed blade due to its compact size and more than enough blade for opening boxes, cutting strings, and other typical tasks that an EDC knife must perform. It would also make a good hunting knife. I prefer a more compact knife for dressing game up to whitetail deer size and the Baja 3.0 is ideal for that. Surprisingly, it is pretty handy in the kitchen as well. The blade is offset from the handle quite a bit allowing the user to get close to the cutting board.

TOPS Knives Baja 30 in Hand

Wrap Up

The Baja 3.0 is a solid offering that stacks up well with other similar EDCable fixed blades. I find myself wishing the blade was a bit shorter at times and the crosshead screw is a bit off putting but these are small nits to pick. It cuts like a laser thanks to a tall flat grind paired with 1/8″ stock. The handle is comfortable and offers plenty of purchase. The sheath is usable and well made. It is just a very solid, ready-to-use package.

More often than not, you’ll find mine tucked into my back pocket.

Diclosure: This product was sent to me by the manufacturer, free of charge, for review.

HHA LFT01 Desert

Hardcore Hardware Australia’s LFT01 Tomahawk is now available in a striking, all desert brown color scheme. The G-10 handle scales are brown. The D2 tool steel is coated brown. The kydex sheath is brown. This is one good looking tomahawk!

HHA LFT01 DT 1 HHA LFT01 DT 2

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