The word exfiltration is a military term for the act of removing personnel or units from areas under enemy control by means of stealth, deception, surprise, or clandestine means. As I understand it, this is a somewhat simple and clinical term that is used to describe actions that are often anything but simple. History shows us that operations behind enemy lines are almost always unpredictable, and they often change in the blink of an eye. Due to the uncertain nature of these missions, the ability to quickly adapt to sudden changes is a requirement of both the personnel involved and the tools they carry. The Exfiltrator-5 from TOPS Knives is the brainchild of Austrian knife maker Armin Stuetz and is his interpretation of a knife purposefully designed for operating in just such capricious environments.
The tip of the Exfiltrator-5 is designed to be strong and durable in rough use. To test the durability of the tip author used the knife to punch air holes in a field-expedient wood stove. After making a total of 154 penetrations in 16 gauge steel, only a minute portion of the very tip of the knife had suffered any real damage.
The Exfiltrator-5 combines several elements of design, which come together to create a tool that is adaptable to a broad range of tasks. The blade is 5.25 inches long, 1.25 inches wide, is made of 3/16-inch thick 1095 high carbon spring steel, and has a slight re-curve to it. It features a textured thumb ramp, compound-grind edge geometry, and a beveled drop-point tip that is very sharp. It is hardened to a respectable RC 56 to 58 to give it a combination of toughness and good edge retention, while still having an edge that is easily maintained in the field. The handle scales are made of black linen micarta and are textured with TOPS “Rocky Mountain Tread,” which combined with the shape of the handle offers the user a very secure grip even in adverse conditions.
Getting A Grip
I had spent a good bit of time with my hands wrapped around the handle of the Exfiltrator while performing various tasks, when it soon became clear that Mr. Stuetz had obviously put a good deal of thought into the handle of this knife and the various grips in which it would be held. The guard offers excellent protection in plunges, but also provides leverage for twisting the blade to increase the level of trauma inflicted in wounds, and it provides a point of purchase for hooking an index finger around to aid in extrication. The thumb ramp does double duty as well by not only providing grip for the thumb in a backhand cutting motion, but also bracing the knife against the base of the forefinger in a pinch-grip forehand cutting motion. The overall ergonomics of the handle are quite comfortable. There are three finger grooves on the lower part — one for the index finger, a larger scallop for the middle and ring fingers, and then another smaller one for the little finger. Pressure applied to the center finger scallop by the middle and ring finger seats the curved upper surface of the handle comfortably in the palm, while the first finger notch and the bird’s beak pommel combined with the RMT handle scales give the hand a very secure purchase on the handle even under much less than perfect conditions. The double bevel on the end of the bird’s beak pommel gives the user a good striking point if needed, yet the design of that point is such that it does not create a safety issue for the user during carry.