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As we sit around the camp fire, inevitably the question will come up. What knife do you carry? Some people will recognize a knife quickly, oh you carry the Tom Brown tracker. We always proudly pull out our blade and begin to say what we love and possibly dislike about the knife we call out partner in crime.
When I started learning survival, my first knife was the USMC Ka-Bar. The knife is tough and held its ground through the beatings. Living in a temperate region, allows me the luxury not really needing a saw. We can usually just carry a larger blade and a small carving knife. This is one of the reasons I tend to carry a larger knife. I like to use it for chopping, carving etc. As the years pass, I have been able to test knives made by many manufacturers. Recently, we started doing long distance hiking, and decided to try a lighter knife. My most recent companion has been the TOPS Knives Cochise . This four inch fixed blade has truly been a pleasure to work with so I wanted to write a review on my experience.
The blade is 1095 High Carbon Alloy RC-58 and 3/16 inch thickness. The Cochise blade has no finger cut out or choil. For a blade of this size a choil could be more of a hindrance for doing woods work. Furthermore, this allows us to have a 4 inch cutting edge on a 4 1/2 inch blade. The grind on the blade seems like a Scandinavian Grind with a secondary bevel and the tip is a drop point. A strong full tang blade is always nice in a bushcraft/survival blade. At the end of the blade you will find a lanyard loop in the pommel. We usually add a parachute cord wrist wrap to the blade. The coating on the blade is a hybird epoxy/poly powder coating which is baked on to add to the integrity of the coating. The coating did not chip off throughout our test and batoning of the wood.
The spine of the blade has scalloping on two places. They are different location than I am used to. Mostly working with scalloping in the thumb area. However, it seems to add to the grip of the blade and I was thinking about modifying it to use as a firesteel scraper as well.
Blade Length: 4 1/2"
O/A Length: 9 3/4"
Cutting Edge: 4"
Handle / Slabs
The handles are made of black linen Micarta. Micarta laminates are used in industrial and military applications. Most recently, Micarta is being used for ballistic material. Micarta is industrial high pressure laminates produced with resins and fibers. These materials made of composite of linen, canvas, paper, fiberglass, carbon fiber or other fabric in a thermosetting plastic are tough and low slip. This allows knife makers to have handles that are strong, durable and light. Micarta has become fairly standard on a lot of knife handles. The Micarta is shaped to fit the hand well. It felt comfortable in both the forward and reverse grip. The material allows for a strong grip while wet and can stand to every day wear and tear.
The sheath is made of kydex thermoplastic. The blade fits nicely into the sheath with a snug snappy feel when you insert the blade. It allows for an easy draw while keeping the blade secure. Kydex is impervious to the weather and chemicals. One great feature on the sheath is the steel rotating belt clip. The rotating clip can be turned 360 degrees. This is great when hiking with a pack. We were able to wear the knife while carrying a pack with a hip belt.
In the Field
We spent over a month carrying the Cochise during backpacking and day trips to the woods doing the normal tasks. However we wanted to push the TOPS Cochise further. Yes we normally cut dry wood for fires and some shelters. We decided to cut down a tree with the knife. If its going to get us out of a survival situation, it would need to cut fresh wood for a shelter spine, and possibly more. Using a baton, we started to cut down a tree that was growing at a very awkward angle and damaging another tree. The Cochise took the beating with a smile. We cut down a tree over six inches in diameter. We cut through it once, and decided to go for a second run. After cutting through the tree a second time we continued to baton through wood. The knife handled the task with flying colors. No bending, the edge was intact. We would pry the wood with the knife in an unforgiving manner without any damage to the knife. Note: We have to mention not to twist a blade out of a batoned cut other than for testing purposes. This could damage the blade and is not a good habit to get into especially with larger blades when chopping.
We wanted to test the blade further, so we decided to test the tip. We hammered the blade into the same tree several times and twisted the blade out. The blade tip was intact. The idea is to try to push the blade beyond what you may normally use it. We want to know we can count on the blade under an emergency situation. After more cutting with the blade, it was time to test the durability of the edge. This is not our first 1095 High Carbon Alloy Steel so we were confident the blade would perform. We carved out several traps and spears with the Coshise.
The TOPS Cochise is a lightweight comfortable knife. It is built strong enough to handle the harsh environments and difficult tasks during an emergency. The Coshise to me is somewhere in the middle between a bushcraft knife and a survival utility knife. It can handle daily tasks and could be used to skin an animal or prepare fish. The knife fit well in our hands and was comfortable during extended use in the bush. The blade stood up to the testing and is still in great shape. * Note: we did not need to sharpen the blade during all our testing.
After our testing we noticed what looked like chips in the blade coating. After closer inspection and cleaning the spots on the spine of the blade were bark particles from the baton.
The integrity of the blade and the coating remained intact. So we included a picture after we cleaned it. This is a great knife for someone not wanting to carry a large blade, but have the strength and performance of a much heavier and thicker blade. Coming in at 13 ounces, this is a lightweight tough cutting tool. If larger blades are the big dogs, the Cochise could easily be called a pitbull. Test your blade before you actually need it. This blade passed the test and I am sure will continue to do so.
Blade Length: 4 1/2"
O/A Length: 9 3/4"
Cutting Edge: 4"
Blade Color: Tactical Gray
Blade Steel: 1095 High Carbon Alloy RC-58
Handle Material: Black Linen Micarta
Sheath: Kydex With a Rotating Steel Spring Clip
Weight w/ Sheath: 13.0oz
Mfg. Handcrafted in the USA
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TOPS Cochise Knife Review video