Tops or Livesay


Feb 4, 1999
If you were to get a down to earth fighting knife would you go with a Tops 45,77 or a Livesay model 100,140 or his 135.

The steel is the same but what about the tempering.

If you were to get a sholder carry rig (under the armpit) and one of these knives was your "WEAPON" which one would you choose?

I own three livesays. The Air assault, Little pecker and SOP. I think newt has a great tempering processes. What he does is gets the metal to the critical point(where a magnet won't stick to the hot metal) and then quenches it....then he bakes the blade three times and three hundred Ninety(I may be wrong on that number? its in the 300 degree area. He gets a rock well hardness of about 60.
As for your choices. The 135 isn't really a fighting knife. either model 100 or 140 would be great. But 100 is just a 1/2 inch longer.
Hope i helped
I`m not up on all the TOPs models but the ones I`ve seen have struck me as SpecOps wannabe knives with lots of holes and notches and widgets so they look "cool" and thick wedgie grinds for that sharpened prybar effect. They may not all be this way but some of them are just plain silly IMHO. Livesays on the other hand are pure using knives. They`re purpose built to work not to look neato, although they generally look good too. I`d go with a Livesay. Marcus
Basically agree with marcus. In addition, everyone who has reviewed the TOPS knives has remarked on the very thick edge grind, which is useful for very hard utility use but not for fighting, which is what you asked about. Newt seems to grind a bit thinner right off the bat, and you can make special requests of him if you want a really thin high-performance edge.

I have 4 Livesay knives. The Company Knife is my favorite. I finally got the top as razor sharp as the bottom. I have not had any experience with TOPS, just seen them in the magazines. For the money I don't think you can go wrong with Newt's. I have a Project 1, A Gerber BMF, a New Generation K-Bar, and an old K-Bar from the serivce, But if I had to go with one, it would be the CK from Livesay.

I have held the TOPS knives and I don't care for them too much.

Also the saws and such seem to court failure as far as I am concerned.

The Livesay attitude and the knives I have seen have impressed me.

Marion David Poff aka Eye, one can msg me at

I wrote a review of the Kasper AFCK variant, an interview of Bob Kasper, and some thoughts and brainstorms of the AFCK in general. It can be found at . Check it out and tell me what you think.

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"It's the action, not the fruit of the action that's important. You have to do the right thing. You may never know what results come from your action. But if you do nothing there will be no result." Gandhi

OK, all of you know by now that I'm gonna jump right on top of the Livesay bandwagon, so maybe I'm doing a dis-service by posting my 'biased' opinions :)

I had the opportunity to use a TOPS Steel Eagle model during a previous jungle trip. As far as a wilderness blade (although I know we're discussing 'fighting' blades), I was not impressed and tend to agree with Marcus' post above.

Don't get me wrong; no doubt the rugged construction of the TOPS would hold up under extreme conditions, as would a crowbar from Home Depot, but for my use the 'tanto' point, heavy-angle edge configuration, 'saw' back, and weight, was just more than I needed. Handle configuration was great though.

Haven't handled any of the other TOPS blades, so I can't comment. - Jeff

Randall's Adventure & Training

hey mr. randall,
Which is better in your opinion and why...the RTAK or the Basic9 made by Busse?
I have three of newts blades and love them but for the big blade i am leaning toward busse...what do you think?
I don't want to comment for 2 reasons:

1) Since I designed the RTAK, I'm naturally partial to the blade and feel it would represent less integrity if I trashed Busse and said 'my blade's the best.'

2) I've never used the Basic 9, so I cannot formulate an opinion.

Saying that, let me add that Busse makes a fine product, but Livesay makes a fine product also and usually at less cost. I would be interested in reviewing the Basic 9 over an extended period and formulating an honest opinion on the piece. I might just do that if I can find one of his blades.

My suggestion as far as your question is concerned is to talk with someone that owns the mentioned blades and get their responses. We have a review on the RTAK on our site and it preforms well, but again this is our review.

Not trying to be short, nor do I have less faith in the RTAK compared to the Busse - just trying to be fair. - Jeff

Randall's Adventure & Training

Hey mr. Randall,
I understand where you are coming from. I have been on your web page alot reading about the Rtak and the AA(which i have and love). I was just wondering what you thought. but do believe that InFI is really that much better? I am not ssaying either way...I think it is probably superior to 1095 or any other metal. What i wanna know is would it be worth it? The Basic nine is 50 more bucks than the RTak where i found it for sale.
Interesting. I haven't handled either knives yet, but have been offered by a dealer to sell me a Basic at wholesale (I'm a good customer), which brings it right around RTAK pricing. Despite the INFI steel and overall awesome reputation Busse has, even at the same price I'm leaning towards the RTAK a bit. I lean towards a thinner high-performance edge, and Busse tends to leave 'em real thick (I could thin it, but why not get it right, right away). And although I have no problem with kraton, I like the RTAK's grip better.

Unfortunately, without having held either, it's a real tough choice.

Jeff, what's the return policy on the RTAK? If I buy it and it doesn't fit my hand, can I return it for a full refund?


I can't speak for Newt since he's the manufacturer and retailer, but I am almost positive that he will give you your money back if you don't like the way it fits. Please email him about this question at and tell him I told you to ask.

I will make you this guarantee personally: If it doesn't fit your hand then let me know and I will pay you the full amount for the blade since these blades are no problem to sell. Email me at if you need to re-sell the piece. - Jeff

Randall's Adventure & Training

Despite my obvious biase towards Busse and Newt ...I'll just say that between the TOP and RTAK won't be under knifed with the RTAK.... .for a very long time.

From Africa


Aubrey --

If you were in my position -- same price for either a combat basic 9 or an RTAK -- do you think I'm crazy for going with the RTAK? I want the knife to be strong, but I highly value performance. The RTAK has a thinner blade, and I'm guessing a shallower grind, so it should cut really well. It'll lose to the CB9 in the area of weight, I don't know how the two will compare when chopping. INFI sounds amazing, but diff tempered 1095 is no slouch.

I'm not prying open doors doing high-risk entries, but using the knife for outdoors use -- I expect it to chop and cut well, and stand up to a little abuse.

First off, Mr. Randall I must say I wasn't to impressed with the RTAK when it first came out but it has lately grown on me and I have realized many of the small design features you added that make it so special. I must say I am really impressed with the blade as of late and I hope to get one soon. The handle seems well designed. I like the shape and extra lenght compared to other handles.

Second of all, Luke let me see if I can help you decide.
You have to remember first of all the RTAK was designed for the jungle so henceforth the thinner 3/16 inch stock and wide flat ground blade. THis combination gives it the ability to me a very good slicer and machete which is needed becasue of all the trail clearing that has to be done in the jungle. The thin grind also helps in food preparation for slicing up the animal and skinning it etc. Also as I understand it the trees in the jungle are very fibrous and dense so the thinner grind is really going to bite into them well and make chopping easier.
(A quick lesson in edge geometry in case you don't know it. The thinner the blade the better the penetration. The thicker the blade the lower the penetration but a thicker blade will often pop more chunks out of the wood and get stuck less so they tend to even out in a lot of cases. Now on really dense woods the thinner grind is going to bite in much better than the thicker grind. For more on this talk to Cliff Stamp or Mr. Talmadge.)
Now I wouldn't assume one would do a lot of heavy splitting in the jungle so you really don't need the extra strength of a 1/4 inch thick blade. However to give it more strenght to do such things as prying logs into place for rafts Mr. Randall designed it with the wide blade and differential heat treatment.
Now in a heavily forested area like say Idaho where the trees are very large etc. the thicker blade would probably suit you better. First of all heavy chopping would be more often and so would heavy splitting so you are going to want the extra lateral strenght of a thicker blade than the RTAK in my opinion. Plus the thicker grind will get stuck less in the wood and pop out more chunks making chopping faster I would assume but then again the wood is different than in the jungle--less dense in many cases I would assume. Alsoyou don't really need the thinner edge for trail clearing as much. More importantly in such an environment I would assume one would need more lateral strength more heavy lateral forces one would ocur during the heavy chopping and splitting.
Now from what I have learned from Mr. Talmadges writings where he lives and does outdoor activity in northern CA I believe there is a lot of dead wood to be had for fires by simply picking it up off the ground. As I also understand it he doesn't do a lot of heavy chopping but rather light stuff, such as delimbing, where the RTAK's thinner blade is going to come in handy. (Thinner blade will meet less resistance going through thinner objucts than a thicker blade as I understand it.) The RTAK having enough strenght to split wood still and do fairly heavy chopping therefore works for him.
As for edge holding the Busse has the upper hand but 1095 works fine for me. I can reharpen good enough that I don't need much better.

Mr. Talmadge, I would not think it weird if you opted for the RTAK. From what I know of you it would be a good blade for you and it does have some very good features. I myself would probably opt for one over the Basics right now but i have a BM already so a different blade with slightly different performance qualities appeals to me. I would see how you like the feel of the RTAK and if you don't take MR. Randall up on his offer. (Also, congratulations on the little one. How is your baby doing?)

Now I much apologize for any inaccuracies in my post it is just what I have gathered from Mr. Randalls and Mr. Talmadges rightings so please corect me if I stated anything wrong. I like learning new things.

Also, as for the thickness to performance ratio that is subjective as well but I feel the above way and so do many others.

thanks you all for your time

thanks and take care
collin -- baby and mother are doing fine, dad is a little tired. thanks for asking!

Yeah, I think you have the advantages/disadvantages summed up well. Exactly what I was thinking also about the RTAK. In the northern california woods, there's wood everywhere, and in any case I practice low-impact camping. I don't need the knife to do heavy splitting or chopping. Some chopping, especially on smaller pieces maybe. In an emergency survival type situation, again there's plenty of wood on the ground for both fire and shelter, I just might need to do some cutting to size.


Just a quick comment with regards to the TOPS line in general. Most people know TOPS from the Steel Eagle line. This knife whether the 7 inch, 11 inch or, 15 inch model is purpose built. It is not a light weight agile fighting knife. To refer to it as a crow bar is a little harsh but, not unwarranted. This knife gets used like an axe as much as a normal knife. Frankly, I can't see using the the SE111 models in a normal camping or hiking excursion effectively because the knife is just massive overkill, it is a large heavy hard use knife. I have sold several SE111's and have gotten back positive user feedback. Most users like the edge just the way it is but, a few do thin it down to make it "sharper". Whether it is a good or bad choice for you depends on what you expect to do with the knife.

Personally, I find something in the 5 1/2 to 7 inch range in 3/16ths or 1/4 flat ground to offer a better balance of weight, size and, cutting performance. This can be achieved with number of blades. I stock and sell several models that fit these general requirements - all of them are good knives for the money. If I didn't already have an excellant using knife in my Trace Rinaldi TTKK (thanks Joe!), the smaller TOPS or Mission MPK A-2 would get the nod. That doesn't mean the CRK One Piece line or, Busse Basics, or Doziers are not good knives. Personal preference, cost and, intended use are import factors to consider in knife selection.

Stay Sharp,

Can't agree with you more. Personal preference is the final straw when it comes to buying a blade.

The problem for most folks like us is we don't use a blade everyday for survival, so we tend to buy what works best 'out of the box' with the least amount of training and 'learning' the piece. We go for quality because we can, so we generally don't have to work around flaws like those who are forced to use inferior products.

It's a proven fact that I can give away an expensive 'purpose-designed' blade to the jungle folk and they will trade it off for another 5 dollar machete simply because they are accustomed to using what they have survived on for years.

There is no perfect survival blade, or perfect fighting blade and never will be. The only way a blade becomes perfect for a task is when it has to be used for the task. If you manage to get your mini-afck out of your pocket and cut the thugs throat while he's trying to mug you, then you have instantly found your 'perfect' fighting blade.

True survivalists who must depend on one piece to sustain their life usually work around design flaws...if the handle has hotspots then the hand just becomes tougher in that area, if the blade breaks...well they now have 2 understand my meaning. - Jeff

Randall's Adventure & Training