Long time knife collector, and I have several TOPS knives. On the last day of SHOT Show, they are typically VERY affordable.
They are VERY basic 1095 steel, but the heat treat that TOPS does is very good. They extract everything out of that basic steel. I think the ONLY criticism I have of TOPS is their over the top names. They are a solid knife and some of the designs are excellent. Some not so much, but that’s ok. I just don’t bother with those.
Blade seems good but I would rather not have the cerakote or whatever is on the blade of this knife so that I could use the spine to strike a spark. Havent really had much time to try it out but from what I see the Shango Notch on the pommel is not that user friendly.
I'm sure they are well built, but they're pretty spendy for 1095 steel. And, the blades are generally pretty thick. Sure, they may be "bomb proof" but I'm not an EOD tech so I see very few bombs. What I need is a blade that cuts. Those thick spines just don't make for optimized cutters. TOPS seems geared to the "tactical" crowd. Blade coatings also turn me off. They're just a way to hide the miserable finish on the blade (cutting finishing costs) masquerading as rust prevention. 1095 will patina (rust) with use, creating your rust prevention for free. The blade coatings will eventually wear off- unevenly- allowing the blade to rust (or patina, if you will). If you like them, rock on, but I think there are better options.
So I looked up TOPS knives again, and used their tools to select for knives I would actually buy.
4-8 inch blade
1/8 inch thick
No blade coating
(They only list 8- total- that fit the length and thickness constraints. And, of those only 3 are uncoated.)
(They list 11 knives with 4-5.5 inch blades that are 0.25 to 0.38 inches thick, more on this later...)
Dragonfly- 1095 steel. 4.5 inch blade. 0.13 inch thick. bead blasted. scandi grind. MSRP $180.
Pasayten Lite Traveler- 154cm steel. 5.25 inch blade. 0.13 inch thick. tumbled finish. flat grind? MSRP $225
I already have a spyderco bushcraft knife that mirrors the specs of the Dragonfly, but in what I consider superior O1 tool steel, and got it for $80, new. It also has the 90deg spine for striking a fire steel.
I also have a Busse Sar5 in the much superior INFI steel that mirrors the looks and specs of the Pasayten. I believe it was less than $200 as well, though I had to strip the coating and polish the blade. I think it was well below $200 because it was discontinued...
Blades to not need to be thick to baton through kindling- you can do it with an opinel- ask me how I know. 1/8 inch thick, with a decent steel and heat treat is more than sufficient. TOPS knives are thick because they cater to the tactical fantasy. (A four inch knife blade for wood chopping? ) I've got several knives that fit that bill. I don't carry any of them. My most used knives, by far, are a Knives of Alaska cub bear and the spyderco bushcraft knife. The Sar5 also gets some carry time in the woods- it was with my on my last hike-in/hike-out elk hunt- but it is heavy with the G10 handles.
If you like them, rock on, but I would liken TOPS as the meopta scopes of the knife world. (Maybe I'm the only one that stumbled into that thread...) They are just spend for what you actually get.