First and foremost, Tops Knives are TOOLS that are designed and built using the extensive knowledge and real life experiences of 12 Operators with backgrounds in the Military, Law Enforcement, Outdoor Professions and the Martial Arts.
Consequently, TOPS knives are specifically designed to be mission critical tools for extreme assignments. Therefore, over the last couple of years, TOPS knives have been requested and deployed in many “Hot Spots” around the world.
Plus, numerous individuals who are currently active field operators are using TOPS knives and they have been reporting excellent performance and reliability from their TOPS knives.
On top of all that, all TOPS fixed blade knives are designed and meticulously handcrafted at TOPS’ own facility in the heart of the Rocky Mountains so that you can be assured that, when you purchase a TOPS knife, you are receiving the highest quality American craftsmanship available.
For outdoor survival situations in heavily wooded regions, the TOPS Condor Alert is an excellent choice for a truly large survival knife.
This knife features an overall length of 14 3/4” with a 9 1/2” drop point blade made from 1/4”, high carbon, 1095 (non-stainless), tool steel (Rockwell Hardness unknown) which is then subjected to a proprietary differential hardening process that actually creates three distinct zones of different hardness within each blade.
Each blade is then cryogenically frozen to relive stress and to force the molecules of the steel into permanent alignment. When finished, the edge of each TOPS blade is very hard, while the center of the blade is less hard, and the back of the blade is left relatively soft to create a “spring steel tempered” spine.
In order to prevent corrosion, each blade is coated with TOPS proprietary Black Traction Coating epoxy polyester which is then baked onto the blade for permanent adhesion. In addition, the full tang is fitted with linen Micarta handle slabs that are available in your choice of the standard, smooth, version or the scalloped, Rocky Mountain version. Last, the TOPS Condor Alert is supplied with a heavy-duty, ballistic nylon, sheath.
Those of you who have read some of our other survival knife reviews on this web site are most likely well aware of our propensity for a LARGE survival knife combined with a smaller one and the TOPS Condor certainly fits my criteria for a large, heavy-duty, knife.
Although 1095 is not a stainless steel, it is a very tough tool steel consisting of 0.95% Carbon and 0.30% to 0.50% Manganese only and it is so tough that it is often used for cutting blades designed to cut much harder steel.
The carbon content and lean alloy make 1095 a shallow hardening steel with a quenched hardness between Rc 60-64 depending on exact carbon content. This combination of factors makes this one of the toughest steels available because, when quenched, it produces a near saturated lathe Martensite steel with no excess carbides; thus avoiding the brittleness of higher carbon materials.
Consequently, this steel is particularly well suited to applications where strength and impact resistance is valued above all other considerations and will produce blades of almost legendary toughness.
However, with a quenched hardness of 60 to 64 Rockwell, it also has a very hard outer surface (commonly known as “case hardening.”) In addition, with a 9 1/2” blade made from 1/4” thick steel, the Condor Alert has both the length and the weight to easily handle light to medium chopping jobs and, with TOPS proprietary zone hardening process, I would not be afraid to subject the knife to even heavy chopping jobs.
Plus, the blade is ground using a shallow saber grind which is specifically designed to create a tough (if not particularly sharp) edge. However, I personally do not care for the large choil ground into the back of the edge since I feel like it removes a valuable section of the cutting edge right where I need it most when carving or sharpening stakes.
On the other hand, the full tang is covered by a pair of man-sized linen Micarta handle slabs which are not only extremely tough, they are also impervious to moisture, heat, cold, chipping, cracking, or splitting and thus, they will withstand some extremely tough conditions.
Plus, the tang incorporates a small sub-hilt which helps the user maintain a positive grip on the handle of the knife when the hand is wet. Last, the exposed tang on the end of the handle serves as a lanyard loop but could also be used as a glass breaker.
So, overall, I am highly impressed with the TOPS Condor Alert for use as a dedicated survival knife. Not only is it made from some extremely tough materials, it is well designed for the purpose of outdoor survival and it is both large enough and heavy enough to handle most any job the user would need to ask of it in survival situation.