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Tom Brown's Tracker Knife

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Nov 24, 2006
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What is every ones opinion on Tom Brown's Tracker knife for wilderness survival? Here is the information on his design

The Tom Brown Tracker Survival knife is made exclusively for Tom by Robb Russon, a custom knife designer. This knife does an outstanding job for the serious survivalist. Take a look at the picture to really appreciate what this knife can do.


http://wildwoodsurvival.com/survival/trackerknife/trackermag/thetrackerv1-2pg11.html
 
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Jul 15, 2005
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Just saw the drawing of he prototype and to me it looks more like that cheapo Paratraxx then it does the Tops Tracker. I finally got to see one in person the other day and was surprised as I thought the Tops version was a lot bigger then it actually was. I actually thought it was the tracker 2 unbtil the sales person told me that it was the original version.
 
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My question is does anyone know about "Robb Russon, a custom knife designer" :confused:
 
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The Tom Brown Tracker Survival knife is made exclusively for Tom by Robb Russon
Something just isn't right here! TOPS is the one and only maker approved by Tom Brown as far as I understand. That may be old copy from some time in the past.
For what it is worth, I found the original Tracker to be a bit oversized for my use but the Tracker II was much more user friendly, (Even if I ended up with a few stiches while doing the review).

trackers.jpg
 

Kiah

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From the linked page:
(Obviously these are not available any more since this magazine was published in 1982! This material is reproduced here purely for interest of what Tracker merchandise was available back then.)
 
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Something just isn't right here! TOPS is the one and only maker approved by Tom Brown as far as I understand. That may be old copy from some time in the past.
For what it is worth, I found the original Tracker to be a bit oversized for my use but the Tracker II was much more user friendly, (Even if I ended up with a few stiches while doing the review).

trackers.jpg

TOPS is the production maker now, there was a custom maker before that using O-1 and not 1095 (the name escapes me), the one in the link specifies D-2
 
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I happen to know something about Robb Russon, the original designer of this knife for Tom Brown. Because I am Robb's son, and I was there (a teenager) when he designed that knife, and also the skinner shown on the WildWoodSurvival page. I remember distinctly his collaboration with Brown to design "the perfect survival knife", and as mentioned above, the original design was done in D2 stainless to protect the knife from the elements. My father prototyped the knife and had a verbal agreement to be the sole provider to Brown so that he could sell them to his tracking school customers. I still have a few of the blanks my father cut in preparation for the "big order" that never materialized--both of the survival knife and the skinning blade. I have been a knifemaker myself for over 20 years, taught by my father, and was shocked when the movie "The Hunted" came out, to see my father's knife in a movie. Then I read an article in Blade Magazine about the movie knife attributed to "Tom Brown's design". TOPS did not design this knife, and Brown had no right to take my father's design and then walk away into the sunset to profit from it. My father got no credit and not a penny for his work to make the original design and the prototype. I'm outraged that people like Brown have no scruples and won't give credit where it's due. My father is too old and tired to pursue a legal case against Brown. But he should have gotten something. So you can all speculate about where that design originated, but Robb Russon, an unknown craftsman from nowhere, was the genius behind it.
 

Professor

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Well, if it's any consolation to you, the stock grinds that Tops puts on these knives make for a lousy cutter. Mine was reborn once I sent it to Tom Krein for a regrind. So where does Dave Beck fit in this picture?
 
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And should I dare ask where the Dave Beck knives fit into this history?

It started when my father took Brown's tracking class back in 1981, and Brown, upon learning that my father was a knifemaker, collaborated with him to design "the perfect survival knife". Over the course of at least a year, they corresponded, and my father worked on the design. My father made Brown a prototype that he carried on his tracking school trips, and Brown wrote back after one trip, saying that he could have sold at least 80 knives to his students, if he'd had them on hand. He predicted that my father would have to "open a private shop just to fill the orders from the school". My father geared up for a production run, cutting out knife blanks and preparing to mass produce them. For 32 years I've kept what is probably the only blank left from that original stack. The deal that was never to be.

After my father's original design was set, I believe Brown thought my father was too "small-time" to produce the knife in any quantity. He was just a one-man shop. So he cut off all communications with my father, eventually took the design to Ed Lombi, who I believe produced some for Brown. Then Beck came on the scene, where they probably furthered tweaks in the design. I see that Beck also has a "Tracker" knife on his site. I believe that Brown jumped from knifemaker to knifemaker with the design, trying to strike the right deal and get it mass produced. Chip McConnell was also reportedly involved with producing the knife and prop knives used in the movie "The Hunted". Ultimately, it looks like found his deal with Mike Fuller of TOPS knives in Idaho, who supposedly mass produces the "official" version. I don't know, there are lots of bits and pieces of this story out there.

What I do know, and I have drawings and letters exchanged between my father and Tom Brown to prove it, is that back in 1981 the genesis of this knife came from Robb Russon, who was forgotten. We never even knew that Brown was producing the knife until I received a copy of Blade Magazine with the cover showing the knife from the movie "The Hunted" with Tommy Lee Jones. I was flabbergasted. I took one look at the picture on the magazine, called my father, and said, "Your knife is on the cover of a magazine!". That design was so familiar to me, having watched my father develop it in his shop as he taught me the craft of knifemaking, that it only took one glance to know that it was no accident that it was identical.

I only wonder if Brown still carries my father's prototype in a sheath at his side, and I wonder if it burns a little when he pulls it out. No, he probably replaced it with that piece of crap that TOPS builds.
 
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Tom Brown hasn't really been known to be a class act so this doesn't surprise me.

If you have any pics of the original design your father made, it'd be awesome if you could post them.
 

bodog

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If you have any pics of the original design your father made, it'd be awesome if you could post them.

Agreed. I don't understand the design but I'm not a hardcore wilderness survival guy either. Seeing the original would be interesting and credit being received where credit is due is important.
 
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Absolutely.

I wonder why Tops keeps ruining designs with their blunt edges and low sabre grinds. I don't see where the saving is for them, because elsewhere on the knife the quality is not bad at all...

Gaston
 
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Thanks for the supporting comments, guys. I wish we had a picture of the prototype my Dad made for Tom Brown in 1981. Unfortunately, he never took any pics of his knives back then. But it was made with D2 stainless and I believe it had a Micarta handle. My Dad can't remember exactly. My Dad stopped making knives in the late 90's because of arthritis, which was about when I took over. I owe everything I learned to my Dad, who was also a world-class engraver. But to him it was about the love of the art, not making money. I do have one of the original drawings that my Dad made when collaborating with Brown while at his tracking class in 81. I'd bet nobody has ever seen this, but my Dad saves everything!

tracker2.jpg

I see you have a IMG link in your post but it's not showing for me. Anyone else having trouble seeing it?
 
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Mar 7, 2013
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I owned a one from tops. I hated that knife. It was like having a boat anchor on your hip and the angles made sharpening a pain in the ass. I have spent a lot of my life in the woods hunting camping and for the life of me I cant understand the design.
 
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The only Tracker that I remember was made by Dave Beck.
And he made a very nice knife.

I have nothing bad to say about Dave Beck. I really don't know the story of his involvement, but he is a reputable maker, so I don't doubt he makes a nice knife. All I hear is bad about the TOPS product, which doesn't surprise me. A knife of that size needs to be expertly built to be of any utility. Making it right can make all the difference in utility. So with TOPS' corrupted version, I don't doubt it has ruined the intent of the original design. I think changes were made that detracted from what made the original (of which there was only one) a work of art--and usability. Thickness of steel, angle of grind, type of steel... these are all components of a good knife that make all the difference if done wrong.
 
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I honestly do not know why everyone hates on the TOPS model so much. I have had one for over three years, used it on many hikes, and have never had a problem with the grind or its performance. It is designed with a purpose in mind. It most definitely wasn't made to be a delicate skinner, or even close to one. It was made to perform numerous different tasks, and though some of those tasks may be difficult or not well suited for the knife, it is possible to perform those tasks with it. I have abused the living hell out of mine, and it is still in great shape. And about the weight of the blade, it is a well suited weight for its purpose. The weight most definitely helps with chopping anything. And if you are a bigger person, like me (6'5" & 225lbs), the weight is not nearly as noticeable. I put off buying one because of all the negative reviews, and I almost ending up not getting one. What changed my mind was that a friend had purchased one, and loaned it to me for a hike. After a day in the woods, I fell in love and never looked back.
 
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