January 16, 2021

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In Depth Tactical Solutions

TOPS Knives Combat Utility Tool (C.U.T) 4.0 — Combat Capable EDC Knife

7 min read

TOPS Knives Combat Utility Tool (C.U.T) 4.0

TOPS Knives Combat Utility Tool (C.U.T.) 4.0 the name says it all. It defines exactly what the knife is and what it’s intended to do.

The C.U.T.S. 4.0 is designed to serve dual purposes. It combines the offensive-defensive combative capabilities of a ring-style knife with a utility style blade for all-around field use. Although crafted with professionals in mind, it’s a great knife for anyone looking for one knife that’s capable of handling whatever arises.

The C.U.T 4.0 has a 4.25-inch drop point blade designed for all-around utility. It has an aggressive tip for maximum penetration.

The C.U.T. 4.0 was designed by Joshua Swanagon. Having a martial arts background, he had done some training with the karambit and recognized its advantages in combat applications. However, as an avid outdoorsman and student of both urban and wilderness survival, he also found the hawkbill blade of the karambit less than ideal for utility.

Joshua wanted a knife that provided the advantages of a karambit with a blade that’s better suited for daily tasks. As there wasn’t any knife on the market at the time that met his criteria, he decided to come out with his own design. TOPS was the natural choice to collaborate with and bring his vision into production. The C.U.T 4.0 was the result of this collaboration.

The C.U.T. 4,0 has an overall length of 8.50 inches (21.59 cm) with a versatile 4.25-inch (10.8 cm) drop point blade with a full flat grind. It has a 4.00 in. (10.16 cm) cutting edge. The knife weighs in at 6.3 ounces (179 g) without the sheath.

The drop point blade of the C.U.T. 4.0 provides a large cutting edge, good control, and a strong point. The full flat grind provides a thick spine for strength and tapers down to a thin, sharp edge for excellent slicing capability. It has an aggressive tip for maximum penetration, designed to allow it to penetrate soft body armor and heavy clothing. Aggressive jimping on the pine where it meets the handle provides precise control when needed.

The blade is made of 0.190-inch (0.48 cm) thick 1095 high carbon steel, hardened to RC 56-58. 1095 is a basic steel that contains approximately 0.95% carbon (hence the 95 in 1095) and 0.4% manganese as the main alloying elements.

It may be old school, but 1095 is still an excellent, well-proven knife steel. It’s reasonably tough, holds a good edge and is easy to sharpen. It has performed admirably in military use. The US Marine Corps has specified 1095 steel for its issue fixed blade knives since WWII.

The tip of the C.U.T. 4.0 shows almost no wear after driving it through a steel ammo can. Photo courtesy Joshua Swanagon.

The drawback to this type of steel is that it rusts fairly easily. For this reason, most 1095 blades have some sort of coating to resist rust. In any case, with just a little care you won’t ever have any rust problems.

The use of a good knife oil or a dry film rust inhibitor such as provides optimal protection. All fixed blade knives purchased directly through TOPS (and all TOPS folders irregardless of where they’re purchased) ship with a bottle of TOPS-branded HP100 Knife Oil.

I recognize that we all have our preferences but in reality there’s no single best steel for all knives. There are advantages and disadvantages to every steel.

When selecting a steel, a knife maker balances multiple factors, including type/design of the knife, how the knife will be used and cost. Requirements will differ. Just as one must match the tool to the job, one must match the steel to the tool.

The steel is only part of the equation. How a blade is heat treated is as important as, if not more important than, the steel itself. Although it’s more involved than a conventional heat treatment,TOPS does a differential heat treatment on its carbon steel knives. The reason for this is that it allows the knife to have harder edge with a softer spine. This helps create a tough blade with a wear resistant edge.

Differential heat treatment makes TOPS knives stronger and capable of withstanding the sideways stresses that many other knives cannot. The renowned feudal Japanese Samurai swordsmiths also used differential heat treating on their blades.

Not onlt gies the handle on the C.U.T. 4.0 look great, it’s exceptionally ergonomic and very secure in the hand . The finger ring on the pommel provides added retention and control..

The blade on the C.U.T 4.0 has a textured matte-black powder-coat that TOPS refers to as Black Traction Coating™. It’s a polyester-epoxy hybrid powder coating. It reduces visibility when the knife is deployed and offers excellent hardness, corrosion and chemical resistance. It looks awesome too!

TOPS Black Traction Coating outperforms most most powder coats in terms of durability. That said, all coatings will wear eventually with use.

All TOPS fixed-blade knives feature full tang construction for strength. The handle slabs (scales) on the C.U.T. 4.0 are made of tan linen Micarta®, a high-pressure laminate made from a cotton fabric and a phenolic resin. Not only is it extremely durable, it looks great and provides a superior gripping surface. The scales are attached with recessed blackened stainless steel round-head hex-socket screws in two locations.

TOPS also offers the C.U.T. 4.0 in a Blackout Edition. Available exclusively through authorized TOPS dealers, the Blackout Edition has black canvas Micarta handle scales.

The handle scales on the C.U.T. 4.0 feature a unique “Dragon Fly Tread.” Not only is it very attractive in appearance, it provides a superior grip with no hot spots. I have medium size hands and the handle fits me perfectly. It’s exceptionally ergonomic and lends itself to a variety of grips.

The contoured curved handle profile and finger groove provides a secure grip with or without use of the pommel finger ring. The edges of the scales are rounded for comfort. Substantial jimping on the spine where it meets the handle provides additional security and control. The knife is well balanced and lively in the hand,

The C.U.T 4.0 comes with a custom molded Kydex sheath with Beta Loops for multiple carry options.

The finger ring on the pommel aids in rapid deployment and retention. It allows full use of the hand to perform tasks without having to let go of the knife and facilitates knife to firearm transitions.. It also doubles as an impact weapon. The ring has an inner diameter of one-inch, allowing for use with duty gloves. The trade-off is that the is the ring makes the knife somewhat more difficult to conceal.

The C.U.T. 4.0 comes with a versatile black Kydex® friction-fit one-piece fold-over style ambidextrous custom sheath. It holds the knife very securely without any rattle, yet allows for easy deployment of the blade. The knife locks in place with an audible click.

The sheath comes equipped with two removable TOPS Beta Loops mounted for scout (horizontal) carry. The Beta Loops provide considerable flexibility for carry or mounting on tactical gear. You can also substitute an aftermarket mount or clip of your choice, or a static cord.

TOPS Beta loops are strong, flexible and features a rubberized coating so they don’t slip around on your belt. The Beta loops have Pull-the-Dot® type directional snaps and are adjustable to fit belts up to 2.25 inches (5.7 cm) wide.

The C.U.T. 4.0 has proven itself to be both strong and capable, whether in the urban jungle or the backwoods. It can take a lot of abuse for a knife of it’s size.

In testing, it proved capable of piercing steel ammo cans with no damage to the point. It also proved capable of handling batoning (spitting) wood as well as any knife of its size. Both are abuse of a knife, but it’s good to know that it can handle such abuse.

The C.U.T. 4.0 exhibits the high level of attention to detail that I have come to expect from TOPS. The workmanship on the C.U.T 4.0 that I received for evaluation is flawless, as has been the case with all TOPS knives that I have examined. Fit and finish are darn near perfect, The knife came razor sharp.

Final Thoughts

TOPS has a real winner in the C.U.T. 4.0. It’s an outstanding no-compromise knife for anyone looking for one knife that does it all. It provides a well thought out combination of both defensive capability and utility in an EDC-friendly package. It’s big enough to handle tough tasks but still small enough to for discreet carry. And it looks great too.

MSRP for the C.U.T. 4.0 is $175.00. Customization options available at extra cost include serrations and a camo finish. As with all TOPS fixed blade knives, the C.U.T. 4.0 is covered by a limited lifetime warranty (one-year on sheath). All TOPS knives are made in the USA.

TOPS Knives Combat Utility Tool (C.U.T.) 4.0

Manufacturer: TOPS Knives
Model: C.U.T. 4.0
Designer: Joshua Swanagon
Knife Type: Fixed Blade
Overall Length: 8.50 in. (21.59 cm)
Blade Profile: Drop Point
Blade Grind: Flat
Blade Length: 4.25 in. (10.8 cm)
Cutting Edge: 4.00 in. (10.16 cm)
Blade Thickness: 0.190 in. (0.48 cm)
Blade Steel: 1095 RC 56-58
Blade Finish: Black Traction Coating
Handle Material: Tan Canvas Micarta
Handle Style: Dragonfly Tread
Special Features: Karambit-Style Retention Ring
Knife Weight: 6.3 oz. (179 g)
Weight w/ Sheath: 9.0 oz. (255 g)
Sheath Included: Yes
Sheath Material: Black Kydex
Sheath Clip: Beta Loop
MOLLE Compatible: Yes
Use: Tactical/Utility
Origin: USA
Warranty: Limited Lifetime
MSRP: $175.00

Material Disclosure

I received this product as a courtesy from the manufacturer so I could test it and give my honest feedback. I am not bound by any written, verbal or implied contract to give this product a good review. All opinions are my own and are based off my personal experience with the product.

*The views and opinions expressed on this website are solely those of the original authors and contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of Spotter Up Magazine, the administrative staff, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

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