TOPS Knives I.C.E. Dagger™ was designed by Andy Tran of InnerBark Outdoors specifically as a no-compromise, last-ditch defensive weapon for law enforcement, military, close protection specialists and other armed professionals. Function in this role was the main driving force behind the design of the I.C.E. Dagger. No knife does everything well. I.C.E. stands for “In Case of Emergency.” Although the I.C.E. Dagger has been in production since 2017, there still isn’t anything else quite like it on the market.
Although we’re taught to utilize the concept of “reactionary gap” when dealing with a potential assailant, we deal with people in close proximity all the time. It cannot be avoided. Most assaults take place up close and personal. Although the employment of appropriate tactics, techniques and procedures (TTP) cannot eliminate the reactionary gap, they can lessen it. In a close-quarters lethal-force encounter, we may not have the time or ability to deploy our firearm.
Daggers have been used throughout human history as a close combat weapon, with examples dating back to the Stone Age. The modern dagger is a double-edged fighting knife that may be distinguished from other knives by its full-length edges and central spine.
The I.C.E. Dagger is of full-tang design and features a 3.0-inch double-edge dagger blade. The blade has a unique compound grind that gives it an exceptionally strong reinforced tip and an extremely sharp cutting edge. The tip is a weak point (no pun intended) on many daggers. Not so with the I.C.E. Dagger. Andy Tran has a YouTube® video of him repeatedly punching the knife through steel ammo cans without any damage to the blade.
Targeting with the goal of decisively disabling / stopping the threat is paramount to the effectiveness of any blade. Dagger blades are primarily designed for designed for thrusting and penetration, although the blade profile of the I.C.E. Dagger makes it a capable slasher, as well. With a shorter dagger blade, such as on the I.C.E. Dagger, maximum penetration is reduced and targeting to maximize the blade’s stabbing potential becomes all the more crucial.
The blade is made of 1095 high carbon steel. As I have mentioned in previous articles, 1095 is a simple steel with two main alloying elements: approximately 0.95% carbon (hence the 95 in 1095) and 0.4% manganese. 1095 is reasonably tough, holds an edge well and is easy to sharpen. It’s less brittle than many other types of steel due to its lower manganese levels. It’s a good knife steel but it will rust if it’s not properly cared for.
The heat treatment process is key to maximizing the performance of any knife steel. The blade on the I.C.E. Dagger is differentially heat treated to 56-58 HRC. TOPS prefers to use the differential heat treatment process on its knives, as it allows them to selectively harden or soften different areas of the blade to create optimal hardness.
Feudal Japanese Samurai swordsmiths employed differential heat treating on their katanas (swords). Differential heat treating strengthened the non-cutting edge of the sword and in so doing reinforced the cutting edge on the opposite site.
The I.C.E. Dagger has a non-reflective matte-black Cerakote® coating. Cerakote is proprietary thin-film ceramic coating made by a company called Cerakote. It provides excellent corrosion resistance and lubricity, as well as high chemical resistance. It’s exceptionally hard and wear resistant, which makes it an ideal coating.
The I.C.E. Dagger has a micro double guard to help prevent your hand from slipping forward on the blade during a fight. The edges of the micro guard are rounded to prevent snagging on clothing during the draw.
The I.C.E. Dagger has a symmetric shape that allows you to grasp the knife securely with either hand. The handle incorporates a finger ring that aids in rapid deployment and retention. The finger ring facilitates seamless transitions from hand to knife and from knife to gun. The ring has an inner diameter of one-inch, allowing for use with duty gloves.
You must be able to draw your knife in a critical situation and still be able to rapidly transition to your handgun. Passing the knife between your hands, attempting to re-sheath it, or dropping it to the ground during transitions can create additional problems.
The finger ring on the I.C.E. Dagger also doubles as an impact weapon. The ring features scalloping on the outer edges that’s designed to maximize its capabilities it’s when employed in the role of impact weapon.
The handle features aggressively textured black G10 low-profile scales with red-orange liners. The texturing provides a secure grip without being so rough as to abrade clothing. The edges of the scales are chamfered for comfort. Palm swells and jimping on the tang spine provide additional security and control.
The scales are attached by three recessed round-head hex-socket screws for easy removal for cleaning, or to further reduce the thickness of the grip or for replacement with a paracord wrap. The handle has a cutout that reduces weight and allows it to be paracord wrapped
The I.C.E. Dagger comes with a custom, friction-fit hybrid Kydex® self-draining “taco” style sheath that provides the strength of a one-piece design with the mounting capability of a pancake design. The sheath is completely ambidextrous.
The metal grommets on the sheath are spaced to allow a you to attach an aftermarket mount of your choice, such as those from Blade-Tech® or Ultimate Carry Solutions / Ulticlip™. The grommets may also be used to attach a cord for IWB static cord carry, which works especially well with a knife that has a pommel finger ring such as the I.C.E. Dagger. The sheath comes with a stainless steel break-away neck chain. Beta Loops are available from TOPS Knives as an option.
Beta Loops provide considerable flexibility for IWB and OWB vertical and horizontal (scout) carry, or mounting on tactical gear. The Beta loops are strong, flexible and feature a rubberized coating so they don’t slip around on your belt. They feature Pull-the-Dot®-type directional snaps and fit belts up to 2.25 inches wide. The unidirectional closure and unsnapping provides greater security than standard snaps.
The I.C.E. Dagger locks in the sheath with an audible click. The sheath is very secure and rattle free, yet allows for easy deployment of the blade.
When carrying a knife for personas defense, it should be carried where it can be easily and quickly accessed. I generally prefer appendix carry for short- to medium-length fixed-blade knives, for several reasons. The closer the knife is to the body midline, the easier it is to access and deploy with either hand. It’s also easier to access and deploy from a clinch or if knocked to the ground. The knife should always be carried concealed. Not only does this lessen the chances of a knife grab by an assailant, but it also provides the tactical advantage of surprise.
A dedicated blade for personal defense should be kept as such. It needs to be kept sharp and always ready. Carry a separate knife or multi-tool for everyday tasks.
The symmetric design of the I.C.E. Dagger allows it to be employed equally well with forward and reverse grips. It can be employed with or without using the finger ring. I have average size hands and found the grip to be very comfortable. The knife has excellent balance, which is important in any fighting knife.
The workmanship on the I.C.E. Dagger I received is superb, which is to be expected with a knife from TOPS Knives. TOPS Knives makes all its knives in the USA.
MSRP for the I.C.E. Dagger is $180. Beta loops are $10 additional. Custom options include serrations, camo finish, and Rocky Mountain Tread. As with all TOPS fixed blade knives, the I.C.E. Dagger is covered by a limited lifetime warranty (one-year on sheath).
If you’re looking for a fixed blade knife specifically designed for last-ditch personal defense, you’ll definitely want to check out the I.C.E. Dagger from TOPS Knives. And it’s incumbent upon you to check the check the legalities of double-edged weapons in your area.
TOPS I.C.E. DAGGER
MANUFACTURER: TOPS Knives
MODEL: I.C.E. Dagger
OVERALL LENGTH: 7.75 inches
BLADE LENGTH: 3.0 inches
BLADE GRIND: Compound grind
CUTTING EDGE: 2.88 inches
SECONDARY CUTTING EDGE: 2.88 inches
BLADE THICKNESS: 0.13-inch
BLADE STEEL: 1095 High Carbon Steel HRC 56-58
BLADE FINISH: Black Cerakote
HANDLE MATERIAL: Black G10
KNIFE WEIGHT: 4.5 ounces
WEIGHT w/SHEATH: 6.5 ounces
SHEATH MATERIAL: Black Kydex
SHEATH ATTACHMENT: Neck chain or Beta Loops
DESIGNER: Andy Tran
WARRANTY: Limited Lifetime (one year on sheath)
MSRP: $180 or $190 (w/Beta Loops)
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.
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