TOPS Knives is not quiet in the industry. They are loud with their designs and quality. Some of these designs leave many people scratching their heads while other designs come out that make us wonder what took so long. Not only do these knives mean that they have something suited for nearly everyone, they also collaborate with manufacturers and designers to keep it interesting and fresh.
The MSF 4.0 comes in as one of those designs that made me wonder what took so long. A 3.5inch scandi grind blade folds its way into a micarta handle. The blade is made from a N690Co stainless steel which is very similar in properties to 440C stainless. However, this knife is a collaboration and is designed by Leo Espinoza but manufactured by Maserin Knives in Italy. This is one reason why N690Co steel is used, as it is more common in European knives than in American made knives.
While folding knives aren’t primarily designed for the woods the grind of this knife is. No Scandi grind is at home rolled up in a pocket. At 4.25inches closed it can still fit comfortably inside a pocket. The clip holds it well into place and doesn’t stick out so far away from the knife to make it vulnerable to catching on fabrics or doors. As a standard folder it excels at taking down boxes and cutting through tape. In the forest it shines so much brighter.
Over a few weeks this became one of the most useful tools I had in my possession. I decided to replace my Helle Arv with the TOPS MSF4.0. There are significant differences and problems to this, but the goal was to see if the MSF4.0 could stand up to the same types of abuse as a standard Stainless Steel Scandi-grind blade. That thought in mind the comfortable option was released from my possession temporarily and the MSF4.0 found a new home in my pocket.
This year I had some late snow in the American Northeast. Winter storms dropped snow well to the end of winter and temperatures fluctuated often. During one last snowstorm we ended up with several feet of snow, something uncommon for this region. Not only was it a lot of snow it was incredibly wet and heavy. This put a lot of stress on the trees in the area and after this storm the damage couldn’t go unnoticed.
Walking to my campsite the damage was easy to see and assess. Trees were down everywhere and they were mostly evergreens. What the destruction allowed me to do was to really use the MSF4.0 just as I would normally have used my standard Scandi-grind knives.
Put to Use:
The MSF 4.0 seemed like a perfect substitute for a light-use, scandi edge knife. It fit well in my pocket on the walk and was hardly noticeable. If it was going to be put to the test extreme situations aren’t what the MSF, or any folding knife, is designed for. To test it in that type of damage with fresh and dry wood would be asking for a failure.
So, the MSF took the place of other partial and full tang scandi edge knives for regular camp duty. These duties were nothing extravagant, but necessary. To first check how hard I would use the knife I pulled it out and had it lock open. Making sure my fingers were far away from the edge I tapped the spine of the blade against stump while holding the handle. Doing this several times with different intensities I checked the locking mechanism (or biasing spring) for fatigue or stress. Each time it looked as good as it should, like new even.
To be honest, feather sticks were the easiest thing to make with the MSF 4.0. The thin grind felt just like any other scandi edge knife when making thin, simple slices. With a full grip the blade just moved through without any problems or binding, until a knot comes up.
The jimping on the locking mechanism are a bit more raised than I prefer. With a tight grip you can feel them in the center of your fingers. This is not a negative but allows a user to know exactly where the lock is at all times and still makes it comfortable to disengage. In addition to the jimping on the locking mechanism the blade spine has some smoother out jimping for additional finger support and grip.
Even on larger tasks or harder wood the MSF 4.0 makes little work of the obstacles. It cut through with no issues on Pine, Maple, Hickory, even Applewood. Most of these would never be used on the MSF 4.0 but considering the storm it presented the opportunity to use the knife on multiple wood types. Not one of them provided too much resistance or difficulty with the MSF 4.0.
The flipper doubles as a finger choil when the knife is locked open. The handle itself is fairly short in height with several finger grooves. As the knife locks open the flipper provides a substantial choil to protect a user’s finger and hand. It’s especially useful when using a reverse lever grip with the blade dangerously close to the web between someone’s thumb and forefinger.
Even the clip itself is short, height-wise. There is no issue with clipping it into a pocket and it still is close enough to prevent the knife getting caught on clothing or obstacles. This does not mean the entire knife itself is thin. The scales on each side are fairly substantial. What TOPS has done an amazing job with is with all the screws that keep the knife together. Each screw goes all the way into the metal housing under the scales themselves, or all the way through to the other side. This includes the clip which can be moved for right and left-handed use.
Is it worth it? Oh yes. Found around $120-$150 (depending on location, company, and ongoing sales) the TOPS knife fits the need of a perfect backup, small task knife. Small and lightweight, it may not serve every purpose or task thrown at it, but it’s sure willing and built to try.