Sunday, December 26, 2010

Quick teaser; a brief look at one variation (options are endless) of the LPC folder by Sniper Bladeworks

Written impressions in-process, this is, as I say, "a taste" of the kind of badassery that Lance & Jody bring their customers.  This version is nothing special visually, compared with some of the gorgeous photos of gorgeous knives on their Facebook Page.

I will tell you that 60 seconds of shaky video in my ham hands is not enough to absorb the scope of this beast's durability.  See a bit more info, & email the boys with questions at

I'll be back in a couple days with more info.  I'm going to church on New Years Eve, or, I should say, my musical heroes, Neurosis are playing Seattle, @ Neumo's.  I'll return to you, friends & readers, & all those kind enough to check this place out, with a clear head, refreshed and focused for the new year.

Take Care and don't let the world's bastards dull you.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Winter Thief


We'll be back soon (days?) with more reviews n' stuff ASAP.  We're adjusting to significant (positive) life changes out here & trying to find the time to organize & make room for all our new projects, and also big, healthy changes in our 'day job' work situation.
Please hang with us, and know that we appreciate all new readers and followers of the Facebook page.
take care
(oh yeah, by "we", I mean Me)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Princeton Tec BYTE Headlamp is Fantastic for its Size.

The Princeton Tec Byte next to its slightly larger counterpart, the Fuel, in OD green with ACU digi-cam strap.
 I'm amazed at how many reviews are already up for this little headlamp.  I guess Princeton Tec did get it out in time for the press and bloggers to pick up on it before the holidays, wisely.  It just so happens that this little light would have made it into my currently non-existent Sharp Bright & Tactical Holiday Gift Guide, had I found the time to complete such a post!  Winter robs me of motivation, not to mention I've been trying to keep this very blog's facebook page up to date, and applying for additional jobs while doing some freelance writing for some small companies.  I'm busier than usual & I apologize to those who read for not being one of those meticulously updated blogs.  As you know, there are times when the posts pick up, and times when my activity slows down, either way, thanks for your continued readership & support, everybody who reads & leaves comments really keeps my enthusiasm going for this project.
      I always considered Princeton Tec to be the darkhorse among flashlight companies, but they've built a solid history of quality stuff at generally very affordable prices.  More well-known companies like Petzl (in my opinion) have nothing on Princeton.  You can go to an overpriced retailer like REI and pay too much for a mediocre Petzl headlamp.  Or if you're lucky enough to have a stellar warehouse sporting goods store like Sportco (Fife, just before Tacoma, WA) or Outdoor Emporium (Seattle) nearby, you can go pick up one of a number of Princeton Tec lights well below suggested retail.  For instance, this little Byte retails for about $20.00 USD, I walked out of Sportco with an energy drink, and the new Princeton Tec Byte, for about $17.00 total.
The Princeton Tec Byte only weighs about 2.25 ounces, or 64 grams and is competently water resistant, durable and nicely compact.
      Princeton Tec does manufacture many of their products in the USA and they even mention their USA manufacture on their decent looking, easy-enough-to-navigate website.  I'm pretty sure this new Byte mini-headlamp is among the Princeton products that are not USA made.  Last year I bought their 4 stage Fuel headlamp (shown in a photo above) in the slightly-harder-to-find OD/ACU camo variation.  I remember the package sporting a small American flag on the front, with more details about how the light was USA made with foreign & domestic components on the back of the blister card packaging.  I seem to remember my first Princeton Tec, the Quad Tactical having the same little flag icon and description of manufacturing origin on the packaging.  The Byte's packaging had no such marks though, and wouldn't you know it, I tore that package open and recycled it, almost immediately, the evening I brought it home.  Oh well, I believe the Byte is made somewhere in Asia, though Princeton Tec does indeed make some stuff here at home.  Hey, for those of us that are bothered by largely foreign manufacture, it's cool to see a company that has US facilities, and at least makes an attempt to employ people at home.  They probably couldn't offer this light at such a worthwhile price if it was 100% American made, and I, for one understand this, if you're bothered by it, there are plenty of US made headlamps out there, ok, only a few, but they are costly, I'm thinking of Surefire's awesome "Saint' headlamp series.

The Byte sans its elastic strap, showing off its subtle, tactical-minded red light for map reading, or simply not wanting to wake up your wife when you roll out of the tent to take a piss.


POWER35 Lumens
LAMPMaxbright LED, Red Ultrabright LED (2 stage brightness)
BURN TIME146 Hours
BATTERIES2 AAA Alkaline or Lithium
WEIGHT64 Grams
     The 35 lumen beam throws a good 50 feet ahead of you, and I really like that most of Princeton Tec's lamps have a multi position bracket to tip the light up & down, I believe I counted 9 positions from angled lowest to highest on this light.

     You get 2 brightness levels with the single white LED, and one mild level of another LED, in red.  All of the reviewers who beat me to the punch mention the white LEDs for camping, hiking etc. and report success in most outdoor activities. 

Next to a 2008 incarnation of Petzl's decent Tikka headlamp.  I like the Byte much better, it's lighter and  has a better beam throw than the Petzl.

     As I mentioned it's only about 2.25 oz, an ounce being 28.3495231 grams, the Byte weighing 64 grams.  It's certainly the lightest headlamp I own, and with our recent spate of power outages from min-November to just last night, the Byte has definitely been getting used, taking frequent rides on my head (I know, sounds bad) to take the trash out, look for the cat, or simply to have available when the power is out.  The strap is thinner than most, and I mean width, it's very comfortable.  I'm easily bothered by straps, beanie hats and other headwear,& I find the Byte's little red strap very comfortable.  I'm fairly certain the 146 hr. runtime is for the white bulb on low while you can get 80 hours out of the high setting, though in a testament to Princeton's design, I have yet to change the batteries in mine after several weeks, and haven't noticed much, if any loss of brightness.  I should note that 2 brand name AAA batteries were included, and I'm still on that set.  

     The red light seemed almost like an afterthought at first, but I really like it.  It's perfect for those times when you need light but don't really want, or need to be noticed.  If you needed to get up and investigate a noise in your home, and wanted a bit of light to orient yourself as you exit your bedroom, without giving yourself away, the little single brightness red LED is perfect.  I always like to have a less bright option for not waking others in a tent as well, and for this, the Byte is perfect.  Princeton Tec's lights are water resistant, if not bordering on genuinely water proof.  Of course unless a light is IPX Dive rated, you should not submerge it.  This one is not meant really to take anything more than rain outside, but I took my Byte off the band and set it on the shower floor, on the low setting while I showered one morning.  I toweled it off (and me!) and after making sure the exterior was dry, I opened it up and found no sign of moisture inside.  This bodes well for the little light, and is probably the most effective, and demonstrative test I've performed on any piece of gear in recent months.  The Byte was blasted with warm spray, soap residue & runoff and splashes, and had water running around its body for a good 5+ minutes, and seemed no worse the wear.
Byte goes strapless again, back bracket visible.
Princeton Tec has continually impressed me across my personal experience with 4 different lights across about 3 years, the Byte being my newest purchase, and their newest release.  It's super light around 64 grams, boasts a long runtime, even on high, and the red LED is useful for more covert applications, or where you'd like to keep your night eyes unaffected and ready.  The strap is comfy, and more narrow than many, they could offer an all black strap, but the included one is no big deal, at least for me.

Like I said, if I'd have had time to get cracking on my intended Gift Guide, this would have definitely been a recommendation!  I paid about $16 USD for mine, and MSRP is about $19.99 USD,  This may be the best price-to-immediate-usefulness ratio of anything I've bought recently.  I actually had a chance to test it out the night I brought it home, the power went out, from wind, at about 1am, and stayed off until about 6am, from 1 to 3 I used the darkness to explore the yard and surrounding areas, the Byte is definitely competent, and priced right.  I'd be inclined to take this on road trips or hikes, because of the weight and the overall runtime, not to mention the weatherproof factor.  Overall I'm pretty impressed.  Princeton Tec has a pretty cool Company Blog, and you can see the new Byte and many others at

A press photo

At a suggested price of under $20 USD, the Byte is way more than a good deal, and one of my top gift picks for the 2010 holidays.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Just a Couple of Quick Bits Today...

Video reviews are still in the works, I've been short on time & occupied with other pressing stuff, apologies, but keep an eye peeled.  Working on Princeton Tec 'Byte' cheap LED headlamp review, coming soon, along with a feature on self defense instructional/training DVDs & more.

New Knives out this week (just a couple out of MANY):

Benchmade's new manual version of their venerable Bedlam folder promises to kick as much ass as the original auto.  I actually prefer manual knives over autos, and I'll be snatching up one of these ASAP when $$ allows.
 Benchmade's manual opening version of the Bedlam is out, or will be available in the coming days.  The original was an auto.  I love the Persian-inspired upswept blade.  Very cool.  See it at stores like Knifecenter and others.

Survival expert Doug Ritter has teamed up with hard use camp fixed blade forefather & Joy of Cooking author Ethan Becker, click his name here to listen to an audio interview.   The project is made by Rowen Manufacturing, who is Esee Knives' primary manufacturing partner, and has apparently done work with Tops Knives.  I own 3 Esee Izulas, made by Rowen, and the quality is fantastic, we can anticipate a big brutal knife from this collaboration.  See it at Knifeworks, looks like it'll go for about $120 USD.  The description of the knife comes across as sort of defensive of (IMO) the very reasonable price:  
     "As with the original Doug Ritter RSK® Mk1, one of the guiding principles in developing the Doug Ritter RSK® Mk2 Perseverance™ was to provide an exceptional value. Becker knives already had a well-deserved reputation for providing an incredible price to performance ratio, which has been one of the keys to their success. The challenge was to not mess that up.  Doug has succeeded, producing an extraordinary hard use fixed blade knife, a knife you can bet your life on®, at a price that is a good value for a low-rate production blade. That's the rub. You can't do a high quality, low-rate production knife for the same low cost as you can a more mass produced production knife such as Ethan's KA-BAR Becker Knife & Tool knives. We  hope that you find the unique properties of Doug's RSK® Mk2 Perseverance™ are worth the extra cost."

I feel that it's a fair price, but find their double mention of "low rate" both confusing, and potentially conveying some subconscious negativity to the target demographic.  Companies should not have to justify the prices they charge, unless their products are prohibitively expensive for most "average" people.  Anyway, looks like one hell of a camp blade.
The Long awaited Esee Knives Robert Young Pelton HEST (Hostile Environment Survival Tool) Folder made for them by Italy's fantastic Lion Steel brand, with a reputation for big chunky folding knives.

I'm really excited about the Italian made Esee/Pelton HEST knife., mine is on pre-order, unpaid though, so we'll see how much dough I have when Knifeworks gets them in.  Robert Young Pelton is one of my writing heroes, and also a talented mind as far as what is needed in a knife.  You can see what makes Pelton unique at his primary site, and see Jeff Randall & Mike Perrin's wares at Esee Knives.  Lion Steel, in Italy is making these, as it's my understanding that Rowen Mfg. is not set up to make folders.  Lion Steel has a great rep, and a growing fanbase.

Princeton Tec Byte, my written & video reviews coming soon.

Like most of you guys, the only thing I love as much as knives, is lights, hence the "BRIGHT" in this project's name.  Princeton Tec recently started impressing me, like, around 2008 for their well made, low priced headlamps.  I used to think of the company as a sort of "wannabe", but they have proven time and again that they are a competitor with companies like Petzl, who are famous for their headlamps.  I like this little Byte light, it's got a single red LED and a dual stage, low-high white LED.  More to come on that as well.

Thanks for your support, take care and happy holidays, I'll be back with more soon.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Interesting & Important Knife Rights Article in the NY Times, Please follow link...

blogger is being finicky and refusing to let me print this link as text so...

Reposted blatantly and without permission from the NY Times, why should they care? credit is given.  Sharp Bright & Tactical is in no way responsible for the below article, it is simply a REPRINT from yesterday's NY Times.  Article by Marc Lacey of the NY Times.
New Hampshire State Rep. Jenn Coffey RULES!!!

If contacted by the paper, I'll take this down, but in the meantime, share the actual link with everybody you can.

Pushing a Right to Bear Arms, the Sharp Kind

(Page 2 of 2)
In Arizona, however, police groups were more circumspect about lifting all of the local knife laws. The Arizona Association of Chiefs of Police opposed the move, saying local jurisdictions ought to set their own knife restrictions. The Phoenix Law Enforcement Association remained neutral.
Joshua Lott for The New York Times
Todd Rathner, the lobbyist for Knife Rights Inc., was mugged twice before moving to Tucson, once at knifepoint.
Joshua Lott for The New York Times
A knife made by Mr. Holder.
In much of the country, especially in urban areas, knives are still viewed as weapons in need of tight control.
District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. of Manhattan announced in June that his office had pressured retail stores that were selling illegal knives to remove them from their shelves, forfeit profits from the knives made over the last four years and help finance a campaign to educate people against illegal knives.
“What makes these knives so dangerous is the ease with which they can be concealed and brandished,” Mr. Vance said of the illegal switchblades and gravity knives, which require a wrist flip to open instead of a switchblade’s spring, that were bought by undercover agents.
Mr. Vance’s offensive drew the ire of the American Knife and Tool Institute, which issued an “action alert” and offered to assist New York retailers and individuals charged with knife violations with their legal defenses.
The knife lobby similarly rose up in 2009 when the federal Customs and Border Protection agency issued a proposal that would have reclassified many pocketknives and pocket tools as switchblades and thus made them illegal for import or sale across state lines under the 1958 federal Switchblade Act. In the end, Congress intervened and blocked the change.
A case now unfolding in Seattle shows how volatile knives continue to be. A police officer there fatally shot a man in August after, the officer said, he ordered the man several times to drop a knife that he was carrying. But the legitimacy of the shooting has been questioned by the Police Department, partly because the knife, which had a three-inch blade, was found in a closed position near the body of the dead man, who had been using it to carve a piece of wood.
Knife advocates are hoping that, just as Arizona’s immigration law has led to a national debate on that topic, its move to end knife restrictions will lead more states to take up the cause.
“Arizona is now the model when it comes to knives,” said Mr. Rathner, who was aNational Rifle Association lobbyist before he switched to knives. “We’re now going to be moving to other states, probably in the Rocky Mountains and the Southeast. There’s probably half a dozen or more places that are ripe for this.”

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Tops Knives CUMA Evolution, a Waysun Johnny Tsai Design Built to Take A Beating!

Can you tell I've improved the quality of the photos on this blog?  I realized I had a fantastic light source right under my nose, and tweaked my cheap little point n shoot until I found the optimum settings.  Here's a detail shot with the serial number visible.
      I feel like martial arts & knives go hand in hand, naturally on some level.  They are both interests that captivated me very early in life, and often when I think of one, the other pops into my head as well.  There have been points during the relatively young life of the tactical knife market category that have been dominated by designs from Special Operations folks, in addition to professional, career knife-makers.  Most production knife companies collaborate with all sorts of professional soldiers, police officers etc. to produce signature model knife designs.  It's not rare to see knives out there designed by people with martial arts backgrounds, but it's more uncommon to see knives designed by what I might call, "pure" martial artists.  Datu Kelly S. Worden of Modern Arnis fame comes to mind as somebody that, by most standards would be considered a pure martial artist, who has worked his knowledge and fighting expertise into a successful segue into the world of knives & tactical gear.
Sifu Waysun Johnny Tsai, of Tsai's Kung Fu in Chicago, is one such "pure" martial artist.  He's made a career of teaching martial arts in many different ways to people from widely varied backgrounds and professions.  Waysun is the son of Grandmaster John Chi Yuan Tsai, one of the world's foremost teachers of Shaolin Kung Fu in modern times.
  If Waysun Johnny Tsai's name is new to you, it won't be long before you're hearing it in many more places, in connection with the worlds of self defense and tactical products.  Johnny is the founder of his own CUMA system, that's Combined Universal Martial Applications.  He has more than a quarter of a century of experience teaching martial arts.  Johnny Tsai is still a young man, it makes sense that when your father is a grandmaster, that you're going to get an early start, and lots of individual learning at a young age!

     SiJo (founder) Johnny Tsai defines his CUMA sytem as follows; "C.U.M.A. is a “Hybrid Fighting System” designed to develop a practitioner’s skills in the art of PRACTICAL martial art applications. It focuses on all ranges of practical armed and unarmed combat."
I have watched some of Tsai's CUMA instructional DVDs, and as somebody with a modest bit of on & off martial arts experience since I was 13 (that's 20! years ago, gah!) I can say that Tsai's CUMA system IS indeed practical.  It seems to take an amalgamation of some of the most logical and effective martial arts techniques across different personal combat ranges and fuse them into a practical grab-bag of knowledge & muscle memory.

Johnny Tsai making a statement on the cover of a 2007 issue of Inside Kung-Fu
      For most of us, knives are a tool first, and God forbid the worst scenario arises, a weapon second.  But where do we draw the line, if at all?  It's almost as if, because a tool happens to be a knife, it also has the capability to be used in a defensive role under extreme circumstances.  Tactical Knives Magazine Editor, Mr. Steven Dick is a hero of mine.  I used to read TK avidly, and I still pick it up when I think of it.  I remember his statement about what it is exactly, that qualifies a piece of bladeware as a Tactical Knife.  It seemed to be the consensus of Mr. Dick, and most of the TK writers, that a tactical knife, is simply one that is meant to be used.  I would agree with that.  Fantasy knives, in my opinion, are not tactical knives, because they are constructed to look neat (or dorky) on a wall.  On the other hand, you could call a Swiss Army knife a Tactical Knife, because it's a handful of utility, meant to be used in even more ways than say, a pure fighting knife.  Regardless of your exact definition of what constitutes a "Tactical Knife", there can be NO arguing, that Idaho's Tops Knives makes Tactical Knives that beg to be used!

This is a gorgeous piece of work intended for hard use, I would not think twice about using this as a camp or self defense blade, if the need arose!

     Mike Fuller and company over at Tops have been putting out a wide array of hard use tactical knives for a long time.  Mike's in-house crew is comprised of a group of people with real-life experience in many different fields.  From the Tops website;  "Our Knives are TOOLS designed, and built, using the extensive knowledge and REAL LIFE experiences of 12 Operators with backgrounds in the Military, Law Enforcement, Outdoor Professions, and the Martial Arts."
Tops has designs that are created in-house, with the input of the core group & lots of other knives which are designed by experts in various fields like military, law enforcement, survival and martial arts.  Past collaborators include knife writer/survival expert Terrill Hoffman, Tracker Tom Brown (the knife used in the film 'The Hunted'), survival expert Ron Hood, and Canadian Special Forces Vet & knife-maker Brent Beshara, just to name a small but impressive handful!  The aforementioned Steven Dick, one of my knife-writing heroes & a man with a ton of military experience even designed a great all around camp/outdoor knife called the Pasayten.  Tops has always impressed me with the sheer number of designs they have produced over the years.  They even make folding knives!  Their website is a virtual treasure trove of knives for every imaginable use, from big survival knives, to small covert neck knives, they even make a "tactical steak knife"!  Tops, as a company does have a refreshing sense of humor in some of their product names, but their knives are certainly no joke.  They have a hardcore reputation for real world use, both by military & law enforcement folks, as well as adventurers & civilians.
It's no surprise that Waysun Johnny Tsai would team up with Fuller & Tops at some point.  It seems like a pretty natural collaboration.  Tsai is one of the foremost street survival teachers out there, who has been practicing martial arts since early childhood, a man who was practically born with a combat mindset.  The CUMA Evolution is a nice, large fixed blade with a beautifully clean looking spearpoint, and an additional sharpened edge on top.

Let's check the specs:
Overall Length: 10"
Top Edge Blade Length: 4"
Bottom Edge Blade Length: 4 5/8"
Thickness: 3/16"
Steel: 1095 HighCarbon RC 56-58 (Rockwell Scale steel hardness rating)
Handle: "Rocky Mountain Tread" Black Linen Micarta
Blade Color: Black Traction Coating
Sheath: Nylon with a hard insert.

     The CUMA Evolution starts its life as a piece of 1095 high carbon steel.  The knife wears Tops' classic black traction coating, a sort of powder coat, if I'm not mistaken.  The fact that the blade is sharp on both sides adds a unique visual flare to the CUMA Evolution, with the black coating converging into a point, right before the knife's tip.  I really like the fact that the back edge is truly sharpened, it is NOT a "false edge", it is truly sharpened.  I wondered where Tsai drew his inspiration for this knife from.  I could tell the first time I held it, that it was balanced differently in the hand, it's just a bit handle heavy, which actually gives it a great feel.  With just a bit more handle-weight, the blade sits at a very natural angle in the hand in a more traditional "sabre grip".  The Rocky Mountain Tread micarta handle (which I'll touch on in a bit) makes a transition to reverse grip, and other slightly modified grips very easy & quick.  This feels like a very clear cross between a pure fighting knife, and a hard use utility fixed blade.  I actually thought "hmmm pure fighter/hard use utility" as I handled the knife.  It turns out, I was not too far off the mark of Johnny Tsai's vision & design influence.  This knife can dance with the best of them, it moves very fast for a knife its size and very graceful as well.

Waysun Johnny Tsai told me;
  "The Cuma Evolution was designed to function both as a combat and a sportsman's knife. The double edged blade was designed for both piercing and slashing. I wanted a combat blade that had great balance and enough cutting edge so that if it should have it's tip broken in the field, it would still have plenty of cutting power."

     Wow!  Statements like that are why it's clear to me, and many of Tsai's associates, that although his roots are in a fairly traditional martial art, Kung-Fu, that he brings a very modern, open & urban mindset both to his CUMA fighting system, his teachings, and any products he has a design role in producing.  I realize that the term "Kung-Fu", because of poplar culture, and probably a bit of Western ignorance, has become a very broad, non-specific sort of catch-all phrase for many martial arts fighting styles of Chinese origin.  I'm simply trying to say that it's apparent that Johnny Tsai is a master at combining the most useful pieces of martial knowledge and fusing them together, so they work well together.  I am most impressed that Tsai seems to have designed the key points of this blade to be useful in real-world applications, for soldiers, hunters and adventurers.  Again, that just speaks well of his "big picture" mindset.  I can't wait to see what Sifu Waysun Johnny Tsai brings the world of tactical knives & weapons in the coming years.

The rear/unmarked side of the blade.  Look at those clean lines and gorgeous spearpoint tip!  The back edge is sharpened as well.
     The CUMA Evolution's handle slabs, like many, if not most knives that Tops produces, are made of black linen micarta.  Micarta is, in simple terms, layers upon layers of tough, papery cloth squashed together at insanely high pressures in a resin-like plastic to make a material that is lighter, and tougher, than say, wood.  From WikiPedia;
"Micarta is a trademark of Norplex-Micarta industrial high pressure laminates and refers to a composite of linencanvaspaperfiberglasscarbon fiber or other fabric in a thermosetting plastic"

     Needless to say, if you have been around a significant number of custom and factory knives in the past 20 years, you have likely (hopefully) seen and felt micarta, and you know it provides a very good grip, is light weight and very strong.  Tops takes this a step further with their proprietary rocky Mountain Tread handle pattern.  The micarta slabs are ground with grooves, or wide channels across the handle's width.  Every other groove is a full-width channel, and the others meet in the center of the handle, creating a flat little "peak", hence, Rocky Mountain Tread.  This pattern was created by a man named Leo Espinoza.  I found out from the Tops website, that Leo "The Lion" Espinoza is a Tops Design Manager, and also an accomplished knife maker & designer in his own right.  My hat goes off to Mr. Espinoza, the grip works, and passed my little "wet hands" test.  I took it a step farther.  With the bath faucet running and water in the tub (don't worry guys, I was fully clothed, kneeling out-side the tub!), I immersed my hand in the water.  Good grip when wet.      Next I went and got the liquid dish soap.  I didn't think there would be ANY way the grip would work well with the slick mess.  I expected the CUMA Evolution to shoot from my hand like a ketchup-saturated hot dog off of a tightly gripped bun.  I figured if I was lucky, I wouldn't lose an eye when the knife hit the fiberglass tub wall & ricocheted into my head.  Surprisingly, even with dish-soap slicked hands, the knife stayed nicely in place.  I realized the reason for this, is because Leo's Rocky Mountain Treads serve as channels to drain away any sweat, mud, rain, blood soap!  Ok, it far exceeded my expectations in the grip department.

An excellent, more artistic photo crafted by my great friend Eric Bauer, who did some gun writing early on when I launched this site in 2008.  See more of Eric's fantastic HDR photography @
     What about cold hands?  Sportsmen during hunting season are certainly gong to face wet & cold hands, even if they're only using the CUMA Evolution as a camp cook knife.  I have family that lives on a little Puget Sound saltwater bay.  The water there is VERY cold, especially in November!  The CUMA Evolution smelled as if it had been treated with Tuf-Cloth, or a similar rust-preventing product already from the factory.  Just to be safe, I gave it a good coating of Sentry Solutions' Tuf-Glide, the stuff that they saturate their Tuf-Cloth with.  After wiping the excess off & letting it dry, I ended up immersing my knife-gripping right hand in the freezing, shallow water until I couldn't stand it anymore.
  I had lost a significant amount of feeling in that hand up to my wrist, I still had the dexterity to grasp the knife, but I was losing fine control because of the cold.  Of course, this is nothing to the conditions that professional soldiers, outdoors-people & hunters might face, I just wanted to see what sort of a grip the RMT handle provided with cold, wet hands.  I'm happy to say that I never lost control of the knife, not even while choking back on the handle, as you might for light chopping, with a 3 finger grip.  Tops' Rocky Mountain Tread design works as intended, plus it looks really cool.
A better look at the micarta Rocky Mountain Tread handle slabs, which provide an excellent grip with dry or wet hands.
     I'm confident that Johnny Tsai's design, as manufactured by Tops Knives USA, can take pretty much anything you can throw at it, I'll update readers as I have a chance to really let it perform.  Right out of the box it was shipped in, the CUMA Evolution was hair-shaving sharp on both edges.  I always emphasize this because on knives that are made from thick, beefy stock, as this one is, it can be harder to get that acute, scary sharpness, even straight from the factory.  The back edge shaved, just as the primary edge did, but it took just a tad more pressure to make the arm-hairs fly.  Still, the back edge sharpness is impressive, and way, way more than good.  I'm pretty impressed when the secondary edge on a knife is sharper than the main edge on many other knives!  As far as manufacturing executions goes, everything on my CUMA Evolution is perfect.  Bevels and lines are clean, when held to a bright light source, there are no gaps or wide spots between the blade steel & the handle material.  There are no uncomfortable areas or 'hot spots' anywhere on the handle that I could find, and I tried a wide variety of grips.  Tops Knives gets an "A+" for manufacturing quality, the knife is clean, and looks & feels just about perfect.

      I've been struggling for weeks to find something to gripe about!  Alas, I think the only way this knife might not be perfect for an individual depends entirely upon the specific needs of that individual.  This goes for any knife or tool.  If you want a "fishing knife", you should probably peruse the Tops website and pick something a bit smaller, if you are going for concealment, they (Tops Knives) do offer a ton of personal sized knives specifically for concealment.  I absolutely think our soldiers in the Middle East would really love this knife because it offers them all of the utility of a more conventional fixed blade knife, plus a secondary, fully sharpened edge in a package that moves quick & gracefully.  There's no doubt that the CUMA Evolution would rule the day in properly trained hands if used to defend life & limb.  Certainly just from the knife's full USA pedigree, and the involved parties that made it a reality, you could probably guess that this is a knife that will excel in a combat role.  I say combat, in its purest sense, man against man, but I know from talking to servicemen that combat is not simply about "fighting".  A "combat knife" should be capable of being useful in many aspects of a combat zone.  I have to reinforce once more, if you have any preconceived notions that the CUMA Evolution is simply "just a fighting knife", you should take another look.  Bushcraft, survival, military, hiking, camping, I could go on, but realize that this is very much an all-purpose knife that happens to have been designed by a man to whom personal combat is his bread & butter.

     The CUMA Evolution comes standard in a ballistic nylon sheath, with a hard polymer insert that carries the blade.  There are 2 very high quality hook & loop (Velcro) straps that secure the handle, and they work very well.  The sheath is MOLLE/PALS webbing compatible and the only real limit to attachment styles is probably your imagination & your other gear.  The sheath also comes with a long length of OD paracord, to use as a thigh tie, I'm assuming, or for the user to use however they find it most useful.  There's a nice pouch built into the sheath that will fit a wide range of multi-tools, a folder, or a pocket stone.  Some people may want to have a Kydex rig custom made, but for my needs, and for many of us, the ballistic nylon sheath included with the knife is more than adequate.

The CUMA Evolution's ballistic nylon sheath is a basic affair, but does its job well.  It has a hard polymer insert that holds the blade, and a front pocket for a stone or additional folder or multi-tool.  It comes with a long length of OD paracord that can be used as a leg tie down, or be woven into a lanyard.

     I'm very impressed overall with the design and manufacture of the CUMA Evolution.  Johnny Tsai is a very interesting, multi-talented guy who definitely knows his way around a knife.  Both his lifetime of martial arts experience and his calm intelligence serve him well whether he is teaching, or designing knives & self defense tools.  Check out my review of Johnny's fantastic CUMA Ram Tactical Pen, if you missed it a couple months back, it's one of the most well-made items I saw in 2010, as far as overall quality, toughness & design.  Speaking of "best of" items, I'm going to come right out and say that the CUMA Evolution knife by Tops & Johnny Tsai is also one of the overall best items I have reviewed this year.  If the CUMA Evolution is on your list, you can get it straight from Tops Knives, mine was shipped very quickly, and exceeded all expectations, right out of the box.  For more info on Waysun Johnny Tsai, check out his site, Tsai's Kung-Fu, and seriously, no bullshit, his CUMA Ram Pen is the best tactical pen I have used yet, and fits my needs perfectly, check out the CUMA Ram.
    I'm really excited to see what projects Johnny Tsai is working on for 2011.  I'm willing to bet they'll be smartly designed and multi-purposeful, in addition to being manufactured with very high standards.

The tool/accessory pocket on the sheath's front.

The sheath's reverse with PALS webbing.
Another great shot by my great friend Eric Bauer, who did some gun writing early on when I launched this site in 2008.  See more of Eric's fantastic HDR photography @
Photo courtesy of blog supporter and friend, Alexander Wood, in New York.

Another awesome shot of the Tops/Tsai CUMA Evolution at home in nature.  Photo courtesy of my friend Alexander Wood, aka: Urban Lex in NY