Since my first trip south to work with the Peruvian Special Forces during jungle training, knives have changed a lot. Baked on coatings are now in vogue over the old military phosphate finishes, stacked leather washer handles have given way to custom-styled Micarta and G10 handles, and new design features and grinds have become the wave of the future. If you haven’t followed soldiering in today’s world, you might be surprised at some of the high-end cutlery now hanging from their load-bearing gear. And these knives are not just hanging there to kill enemy combatants. While they may be considered weapons (and even designated as such in the government NSN system), the fact of the matter is just about every knife with “combat” in its description will complete its life cycle doing nothing more than utilitarian work. But it’s still nice to know that the gear you carry is capable of doing more should that situation present itself.
All that brings us to a knife I feel is probably one of the better high-end combat knives manufactured today—the TOPS Mountain Lion. Since “ground truth” has led me to the conclusion that military and survival knives are pretty much interchangeable, I’m always looking for a new knife to put through the paces in a quasi-military survival environment in the jungles of Peru.
TOPS and the 10th Mountain
According to TOPS, the Mountain Lion was created in collusion with retired and active members of the 10th Mountain Division. For those of you who don’t know about 10th Mountain, they’re a light infantry division equipped for light infantry deployment in winter and mountain warfare, anywhere in the world. Given that description, one would surmise that these hardcore individuals are pretty tough on their gear. Well, this piece is obviously designed to take about any amount of abuse a soldier can dish out. The Mountain Lion is built from a solid piece of ¼-inch-thick 1095 high-carbon steel that’s been powder coated with TOPS’ Black Traction Coating. It has an overall length of 10.75 inches, a blade length of 5.5 inches, and finished off with green/black G10 handles. Suggested retail price (with nylon sheath) is $179.