Tue. Jul 7th, 2020

Spotter Up

In Depth Tactical Solutions

We need to prepare for all contingencies. It’s all about options. In close quarters lethal force encounters you may not have time or ability to deploy your firearm. Empty hand, knife and gun need to be (or become) an integrated skill set.

Retention shooting is the ability to shoot the bad guy at bad-breath distance while retaining possession of your gun. It’s an essential skill for anyone who carries a firearm for personal defense.

Although often neglected, integration of retention shooting training with empty hand and knife techniques is equally essential. Close-quarters training needs to include firearms and combatives.

A dedicated blade for personal defense is considered by many to be an essential component of EDC. Should you choose to carry a blade, you also need know how to use it effectively.

Although folders are the most popular knives for EDC due to their convenience, a fixed blade knife has key advantages (where legal) in so far as self defense is concerned, notably ease and speed of deployment utilizing only gross motor skills and no locking mechanism to potentially fail.

The differences in speed and gripping ability between a fixed blade and a folder are substantial even in a stress-free training environment. The differences become even more apparent when you’re fighting for your life.

Karambit Knives

Karambit (pronounced kah-rahm-bit) knives have become a popular choice for personal defense. And for good reason. Although it could be argued that it’s less instinctive than a straight-blade knife, the unique features of the karambit make it an outstanding knife for last-ditch self-defense at extreme close quarters, especially for those willing to train with it.

Statue of Adityawarman holding a karambit in the National Museum of Indonesia. Adityawarman was King of Malayapura, a state in central Sumatra, from 1347–1375.

The ancient design of the karambit has been traced to the Indonesian archipelago as far back as the early 11th century AD. Orinianaly it was an agricultural tool. It quickly spread throughout Southeast Asia. It’s believed to have been originally weaponized among the Minangkabau people of West Sumatra. Steve Tarani deserves much of the credit for popularizing the karambit in the USA and Europe.

According to tradition, the karambit was inspired by the tiger’s claw. It’s one of the traditional weapons commonly associated with the Indonesian martial art of Pencak Silat and Filipino Arnis (Kali), along with several other Southeast Asian martial arts. The modern karambit is far removed from the ancestral agricultural tool and is available in both fixed-blade and folder versions.

The hook-shaped blade and concave belly of the karambit provide some unique advantages that make it exceptionally effective for personal defense and difficult to defend against. It’s primarily used in a slashing or hooking motion.

The technique of the karambit is heavily focused on targeting the weaker points of the body, including arteries and tendons. The latter is often referred to in Indonesian martial arts as as “defanging the snake.” The karambit can be effectively employed at medium and close ranges without having to change the distance of the striking arm.

The curved blade allows for powerful cutting and ripping wounds. It can be utilized in conjunction with “empty hand” techniques to hook and control an assailant’s limbs. Powerful thrusts can be made with jab-like boxing punches, although the blade profile limits penetration when stabbing, in comparison to a straight blade.

TOPS Knives Devil’s Claw 2

The Devil’s Claw 2 is a new karambit-style knife from TOPS Knives. It’s based on TOPS  original Devil’s Claw.

TOPS Knives has come out with a cool new karambit-style fixed-blade knife called the Devil’s Claw 2. It’s based on the popular original TOPS Devil’s Claw. The original Devil’s Claw was designed with a short handle for ease of concealment and features a hawkbill blade. The blade on the original Devil’s Claw is so reminiscent of karambits that it was only a matter of time before TOPS gave it a makeover to become one. TOPS has now done that. The Devil’s Claw 2 is the result.

The blade shape, materials, and thicknesses on the Devil’s Claw 2 are the same as on the original Devil’s Claw. The only real updates are a longer handle on the Devil’s Claw 2 to fit the hand better and the addition of a finger ring to the pommel. These changes provides the user with additional options and functionality. The trade-off is that it sacrifices some of the conceal ability of the original.

The blade curvature on the original Devil’s Claw and the Devil’s Claw 2 is less acute than is the case with many karambit-style knives. This provides better (deeper) penetration with straight thrust techniques.

The hawkbill blade shape is a proven design for utility and defense tactics. It bites deep on pulling cuts and on slashes.

The Devil’s Claw 2 has a full-tang single-edge blade with a flat grind. It has an overall length of 7.38 inches, Blade length is 3.13 inches, with a 2.75-inch cutting edge. Blade thickness is 0.19-inch. The knife weighs 5.6 ounces by itself and 7.2 ounces with the sheath.

The blade is made of 1095 high carbon steel. 1095 carbon steel is a basic steel that contains approximately 0.95% carbon (hence the 95 in 1095) and 0.4% manganese as the main alloying elements. Now it may not be the sexiest steel these days, but it’s a good knife steel. It’s reasonably tough, holds a great edge and is easy to sharpen,

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 such as TOPS HP100 Knife Oil or a dry film rust inhibitor such as SENTRY TUF-GLIDE® or TUF-CLOTH® provides optimal protection.

How a blade is heat treated is as important as, if not more important than, the steel itself. TOPS prefers to do a differential heat treat on its knives to provide a harder edge (56-58 RC) with a softer spine. This 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.

The blade has a textured matte-black powder-coat that TOPS refers to as Black Traction Coating™. It’s a polyester-epoxy hybrid powder coating. It not only looks great, it also reduces visibility when the knife is deployed and offers excellent hardness, corrosion and chemical resistance.

The longer handle with the ring on the end provides the user with options that aren’t available with the original Devil’s Claw. The trade-off is that the new version is slightly more difficult to conceal.

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 handle features attractive blue and black G10 scales with red-orange liners. G10 is a super-tough high-pressure fiberglass and epoxy laminate. The contoured handle profile provides a secure grip with or without use of the 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 only real update between the Devil’s Claw 2 and the original Devil’s Claw is that the handle has been extended to fit the user’s full hand and the ring added to the pommel.

The scales are attached by three recessed round-head hex-socket screws for easy removal for cleaning, further reduce the thickness of the grip, or replacement, if desired, with a paracord wrap.

The Devil’s Claw 2 comes with a black Kydex® custom, friction-fit one-piece fold-over style sheath. The metal grommets are spaced to allow you to attach a mount of your choice, such as those from Blade-Tech® or Ultimate Carry Solutions / Ulticlip™. The sheath also allows for static cord IWB carry, which works especially well for concealing knives like the Devil’s Claw 2.

The sheath comes with a removable TOPS Beta loop for right or left-handed, IWB and vertical or horizontal (scout) OWB belt carry. TOPS Beta loop is are strong, flexible and features a rubberized coating so they don’t slip around on your belt. It has a Pull-the-Dot® type directional snaps and fits belts up to 2.25 inches wide. The sheath and Beta loop have a leather texture appearance.

The Devil’s Claw 2 comes with a custom molded Kydex sheath with Beta Loop for multiple carry options.

The sheath is very secure and rattle free, yet allows for easy deployment of the blade. I was unable to dislodge the knife from the sheath with very aggressive shaking.

The Devil’s Claw 2 works well with all of the karambit techniques and grip choices. It can be employed with or without using the finger ring. I have average size hands and found the grip to very comfortable. The knife has excellent balance and is lively in the hand.

The workmanship on the Devil’s Claw 2 I received from TOPS for evaluation was flawless, as has been the case with all TOPS knives that I have examined. The knife came razor sharp.

MSRP for the TOPS Devil’s Claw 2 is $150. Additional Beta loops are $10. Custom options available at extra cost include serrations, camo finish, and Rocky Mountain Tread™. As with all TOPS fixed blade knives, the Devil’s Claw 2 is covered by a limited lifetime warranty (one-year on sheath). All TOPS knives are made in the USA.

Final Thoughts

TOPS Knives makes great knives. The Devil’s Claw 2 is no exception. If you’re looking for an outstanding fixed blade knife for personal defense, you’ll definitely want to check out the new Devil’s Claw 2. The name couldn’t be more appropriate. It’s a vicious name for a vicious knife.


MODEL: Devil’s Claw 2
TYPE: Karambt-Style Fixed Blade w/ Finger Ring
OVERALL LENGTH: 7.38 inches
BLADE LENGTH: 3.13 inches
CUTTING EDGE: 2.75 inches
EDGE TYPE: Single Edge
GRIND: Flat Grind
BLADE STEEL: 1095 HRC 56-58
BLADE FINISH: Black Traction Coating
KNIFE WEIGHT: 5.6 ounces
WEIGHT w/SHEATH: 7.2 ounces
WARRANTY: Limited Lifetime (one year on sheath)
MSRP: $150

Material Disclosure

I received this product as a courtesy from the manufacturer via Spotter Up 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.

Photos provided by TOPS Knives.  Used with permission.