While you can’t always bet on being able to tell much from a particular model’s designation, there’s something about the TOPS Steel Eagle name that doesn’t bring images of opening letters, whittling cute little forest gnomes or creating ham and cheese omelets in the kitchen. “Steel” implies strength and endurance while “eagle” implies a fierce outdoor spirit. As it happens, all of those qualities apply to the newest version of the company’s big and long-running 107C fixed blade.

The original Steel Eagle design goes back 14 years to TOPS’ first general-purpose large fixed blade offering in the same tried and true 1095 carbon steel hardened to 56-58 Rc and black linen Micarta handle slabs that the company uses extensively across many different models and blade styles. TOPS Knives’ president Mike Fuller says the knife has been in continuous production in original form since it was first offered, but a year or so back the company began to get requests for a modified version with a smaller backup knife in the handle. Listening to its customer base, roughly six months of design and prototyping followed, with several protos sent overseas for some very serious beta testing by the military market for which the new model was initially intended. Positive feedback led to the finalized production version that we now see in 2013. In the meantime, it hasn’t been military users alone who have shown interest with cash in hand.

Knife Details

The new Eagle is a hefty tool that projects a rugged business image and feels very comfortable in any of four different holds in the hand. The 6.75-inch blade on this 20-ouncer looks bigger than it is, while its 0.25-inch thickness boosts confidence right out the gate. A single, narrow 3-inch fuller strip on each side shines through what TOPS calls a Black Traction Coating (hybrid epoxy powder coat), but not enough to cause too much glare; the coating provides enough surface texture to help users hang onto the blade in certain types of close work. Not all blade coatings are created equal in either texture or longevity; Fuller says the Black Traction Coating passed the standard seven-day saltwater spray exposure test and holds up well in extreme-use environments. The 107C XX has a flat saber grind, one of the stronger blade grinds for a heavy-duty knife that will see prying, hammering and chopping on a regular basis. The tip is anything but fragile, and the spine carries 4.25 inches of reverse-angled sawteeth.

The grip area gives a slightly blade-forward angle that’s efficient for chopping chores—better than a standard straight-line blade/tang configuration, but not quite as good as a khukri in blade angle heft and force. On a knife that that’s going to suffer heavy impacts, including tip-forward defensive thrusts, edge-on forward chops and 90-degree sideways “hammer” pounding, smoothly polished handle scales are something I try to avoid. Checkering can be too much of an abrasive on skin and gloves with prolonged use, but the coarser grade of linen Micarta scales on the Eagle is just about ideal: It gives enough surface texture to avoid slippage without wearing holes in either hand or leather. Micarta is also a very strong and stable material. It doesn’t crack easily, get brittle or soft in temperature extremes or retain moisture like wood does.

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