There have been a few cases in the past where two well known knife companies team up for something unique. Often this occurs between a company that has an excellent rep and good pricing and a company that has an excellent rep but higher pricing. The team up allows for an excellent well-priced design to be produced. Welcome to the reality of Buck Knives teaming up with TOPS Knives to produce a high performance locking folder.
Enter the Buck / TOPS CSAR-T, model number 0095BKSTP-B. When I first pulled the knife out of the box it was inside the black ballistic nylon sheath that it ships with. I pulled it out of the sheath and my first thought was, "Holy cow! THIS is a chunky knife." For those of you who remember or are familiar with previous collaborations Buck has taken on, they don't flinch away from performance for the sake of light-weight or easier-carrying. They focus on building the knife to take abuse and perform as it's supposed to: in harsh conditions being abused to complete a job / mission. The CSAR-T definitely fits into that mold.
With a 3.8" blade and an overall length of 8.24", the CSAR-T is unique in a couple of ways. First, I've never seen a blade shape quite like this. It has the feel of a Tanto blade, but also incorporates a slight drop at the point. The angles aren't pure Tanto and they aren't pure clip point. What they are is designed to take a serious beating and still be there - not broken off. The blade design also permits it to retain its full 3/16" thickness to within 5/8" of the tip. It's still a full 1/8th" thick within 1/4" of the tip. It's not a blade tip that will be easily broken.
The blade steel is ATS-34 and is secured in the locked out position by a liner lock that one of my children described as "hefty". When you lock the blade out you'd better have a strong thumb to unlock the liner lock (move it to the side) so you can fold the knife back closed. The thumb studs used to open the knife are large and easy to engage even with gloves on. Near the back end of the spine there are some milled-in ridges to serve as a press point for pushing into cuts.
Now, I mentioned the thumb studs. They are one feature on the knife that is equally easy to use with either hand. The grips are cut so allow equal access for either a left- or right-handed user when it comes to disengaging the liner lock. Why? Well, the steel pocket clip can be mounted on either side of the knife grips so you can clip it into either your right or left hand pocket. If you're going to carry the knife on the left side then it's good to be able to open and close it efficiently with your left hand, don't you think? That's one place some knife makers drop the ball. They design the grips so the clip can be attached on either side and at either end. What they don't change is the fact that the liner lock is specifically accessible for a right-handed person. Tsk tsk. Buck got this right.
Since I mentioned the pocket clips let's talk about carrying this knife a bit. I wouldn't recommend clipping it onto a pocket unless you're wearing cargo pants, baggy tacticals or you're putting it into a pocket specifically designed for a knife of this size and weight. The knife, at some points, measures almost 5/8" thick. While the handle is nicely shaped and comfortable in the hand, and the G-10 grip slabs are textured to provide for a secure grip, it's not a knife with a thin profile. My preference in carry is going to be in the sheath or in the knife/utility pocket of my tactical pants.
The last feature I want to mention before I get into the testing is the lanyard loop on this knife. On one side the lanyard hole is round; on the other it is hex shaped. That hex shape is there for a reason - and it's properly sized to boot. It's intended us is as a hex-head drive handle. Now let's move on to the abusive part.
Out to the shed I went to collect my materials. String, twine, fishing line, nylon webbing, a plastic construction bucket, some 1/2" ugly yellow plastic rope and two sheets of plywood: one 1/4" thick the other 1/2" thick. Oh, and lest I forget, my 3 pound sledge hammer.
The knife had no issues cutting everything I tried it on - usually in a single pass / pull. It handled the nylon webbing quite easily. I pulled it through the ugly yellow rope in a single movement. I attacked the plastic construction bucket with it, puncturing the bucket several times and then hacking away at the rim of it. When I finished several minutes of that I went back to cutting again and it still performed with no issues. Next was puncture testing on the wood.
Setting up the 1/4" plywood so I had about a one foot square target I swung the knife overhand and had no problem penetrating the wood. I got about 1/2" through before the blade was stopped. I swong harder, got a little farther. The grip was comfortable and I didn't worry about my hand sliding down onto the blade. When I performed the same test on the 1/2" plywood I couldn't quite get the tip through - obviously it was me and my swinging and not the knife. So, I took another swing and got the blade stuck but not through. That's where the hammer came in. I gave the knife a few good whacks with the small sledge and it went through the wood with no issues. I had to wiggle and pull to get it out but finally managed. The blade still showed no signs of real wear or tear. Back to the string, twine, webbing and plastic I went. It still cut well. I was satisfied.
I can't find this knife on the Buck Knives website yet but a Google search found me several pages of returns. Much of the pricing I've found runs between $105 and $140. Given the companies involved in the design collaboration, the production and marketing of it, I think that's more than reasonable.