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Lou Salseda

Lou Salseda

Lou Salseda is a retired LAPD sergeant with 34 years of law enforcement experience. He is the chief instructor of TAC-1 Defensive Firearms Training in Santa Clarita, Calif., and is a consultant for law enforcement training and litigation.

Nick Jacobellis

Nick Jacobellis

Nick Jacobellis is a medically retired U.S. Customs Agent and former New York police officer who was physically disabled in the line of duty while working undercover as a federal agent.

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Mark Rivera, Customer Retention Manager and CJIS Security Compliance Officer with Vigilant Solutions, served for sixteen years with the Maryland State Police, retiring at the rank of First Sergeant with thirteen of those years at the supervisory and command level. He holds a Master of Science Degree in Management from The Johns Hopkins University and Secret clearance through the FBI, Baltimore.


Knife Review: Buck/TOPS CSAR-T Folder

Buck and TOPS knives have teamed up for a durable, fine-cutting folder.

March 23, 2011  |  by Nick Jacobellis - Also by this author

The TOPS-Buck Combat Search and Rescue Tool (CSAR-T). Photo: TOPS-Buck.

Life is all about tradeoffs when you discuss equipment such as edged weapons. I say this because a carbon steel blade will generally hold an edge better than other types of steel but carbon steel will corrode easier if it isn't protected by a special coating.

This is why modern knife makers apply a corrosive resistant finish to their carbon steel knife blades. Even with this finish, the knives still require proper maintainance when they're exposed to moisture, especially in a tropical environment.

Fortunately, there are knives on the market that provide an excellent balance between corrosion resistance and being able to hold a sharp edge after continued use.

This brings me to the Buck/TOPS Combat Search and Rescue Tool folding knife. As a collaboration between Idaho companies Buck Knives and TOPS Knives, the CSAR-T is a heavy duty folding knife that uses an ATS-34, stainless-steel, Tanto-style blade measuring 3.8 inches long and 0.175 inches thick with a Zirblast Finish for extra corrosion resistance that's heat treated to a Rockwell hardness (Rc) of 59-61. The CSAR-T is being called a tool, because it can be used with an optional hex tool set.

The blade on the CSAR-T has a reputation for holding an edge after repeated use. Buck/TOPS uses 154CM domestic stainless steel to manufacture its knife. Based on what I know, the 154CM-grade stainless steel has a good reputation for holding a sharp edge.

The Buck/TOPS CSAR-T folder also has a superbly ergonomic rugged Rocky Mountain Tread G10 handle, giving the knife an overall length of 8.2 inches and hefty 8.6-ounce weight. The CSAR-T folder has some heft, making it rugged enough to be used in the most demanding applications.

This can prove to be especially useful if you need to use a rock to strike the back portion of the knife's frame while you use the blade to cut limbs from a tree to make a shelter, stretcher, or to simply gather firewood from a felled tree. I also found the folder to have excellent ergonomics regardless of which hand I used to operate this knife. This is an important capability, because you never know when you may lose the use of one hand.              

One topic that warrants some discussion is the difference between a straight-edge blade and a partially serrated blade on a folding knife. Clearly, there are two sides to this debate. One well-respected knife industry expert recently relayed to me that he believes a straight-edge blade made of high-quality steel is stronger than a partially serrated blade. A knife industry executive relayed a similar message. 

Those who prefer a partially serrated blade usually like a mini saw on their knife blade that can be used to quickly cut through seat belts, rope, deck line, tactical nylon products including MOLLE gear. Other end-users seem perfectly happy using a well-made knife with a straight-edge blade for hardcore combat applications and survival situations when you need to whittle cups and eating utensils out of wood or use your knife to build traps to snare animals, dig in the earth to retrieve root vegetables, peel fruit and vegetables, make a spear for protection and hunting, or skin and cut fish and wild game for the pot or the fire.

While most authors tend to concentrate on the primary and most common uses for a folding knife, I would like to add that should you become engaged in a fight for your life and have no other weapons available, the CSAR-T is an impressive folding knife that can serve as a striking weapon when the blade is closed. A heavy stainless steel lanyard ring on the bottom of the handle makes it a formidable blunt instrument in a life-or-death situation as a hand-held weapon. The top portion of this folding knife should also protrude far enough from your closed fist to serve as a blunt instrument if you find yourself being overpowered by someone trying their best to take your life. 

Using a knife like the CSAR-T in an unconventional fashion when your life is at risk may be especially useful for undercover personnel who are overpowered and must defend themselves until their backup team can come to the rescue. Remember, there's no such thing as a fair fight when someone's trying to kill you. If deadly force is authorized under the law, it doesn't matter how you deliver this level of force if you're doing so to save your life or the life of another person.

This folding knife retails for about $150, and is simply too good to ignore because it doesn't have a partially serrated blade.

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