haven’t heard the term in use much in recent years, but at one time there was a trend among custom cutlery craftsman to call certain short-bladed utility knives with full-sized handles “fixed-blade pocketknives.” One of TOPS Tactical’s first models, the CAT 200 (Covert Anti-Terrorism) fits this general description very well. Over the years, this model has been offered in a wide variety of handle options with the most recent being “Rocky Mountain Bull’s-Eye” and “Cryptic Cyber” G10 scales.

Yes, I know that Covert Anti-Terrorism is a pretty over-the-top-sounding name for what even by TOPS’ description is a cutting tool aimed at hunters, campers and bushcrafters. The knife comes in two basic blade patterns: tanto and clip-point. In both cases, the basic dimensions are the same—blade length is 3.25 inches, overall length is 7.25 inches and thickness is 0.156 inches. All blades are 1095 carbon steel with a black “traction” coating, and the sheaths are Kydex with a steel belt clip. The combined weight of the knife in the sheath is only 8 ounces.

Trail Tough

As luck would have it, my pair of evaluation knives arrived shortly before I was to spend a week hiking the rocky desert trails of Big Bend National Park, in extreme southwest Texas.  While a survival knife is an essential tool for any wilderness desert trekking, the lack of vegetation over a few inches in diameter makes mega-sized blades an unnecessary burden.

In truth, the CAT Hunter Point (clip) I chose for the trip mainly saw use as a cheese slicer and sandwich cutter, but any survival knife is an insurance plan you hope not to use for real. Its compact size made it hardly noticeable on my belt or when stored away in a pack pocket. I would also like to mention Rocky’s S2V Special Ops military-issue desert boots here (rockyboots.com). They proved extremely comfortable over many miles of rough up and down trails, not to mention contact with every kind of thorny desert vegetation that part of Texas can throw in your path.

The tanto-pointed version of the CAT would have to be called more of a last-ditch self-defense take on the model, as this blade pattern is less useful for utility work but better suited to deep penetration. TOPS’ Cryptic Cyber-textured G10 gives a very secure grip under any and all conditions. The 7.25-inch overall length of the knife enclosed in the sheath allows for a wide variety of concealed-carry options. Like all fixed blades, the CAT has the advantage of not requiring any kind of opening movement, just pull it and go to work with no fear of a blade lock failing under stress.

Either of these knives will make a practical alternative to a folder that you can count on in the wilderness or on the street. (topsknives.com; 208-542-0113)

This article was originally published in the AMERICAN FRONTIERSMAN™ Winter 2016 issue #205. Subscription is available in print and digital editions here.

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