Field operators, a.k.a. the quiet professionals, trust the DART.
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Direct Action Rescue Tool
Trace Rinaldi did his homework on this piece, interviewing numerous field operators, particularly snipers and HRT members (Hostage Rescue Team). He is a well-known knife designer and gun enthusiast who worked overtime preparing the prototypes of this tool. The DART's well thought out design has been executed in 5160 steel, and with its recurved belly and down tilted blade, it makes chopping in closed areas very easy with economy of movement and energy. The DART has been and presently is, actively used by the special operations community, with noteworthy success. Particularly in Europe and now here in the USA and Canada, a valuable asset for the quiet professionals as well as those that get out and mix it up.
|Knife Type||Fixed Blade|
|Blade Steel||5160 RC 56-58|
|Blade Finish||Black Traction Coating|
|Handle Material||Black Linen Micarta|
|Knife Weight||15.2 oz|
|Sheath Material||Black Ballistic Nylon|
|Sheath Clip||Molle Backing|
- Good but room for improvement IMO
Honest review of TOPS D.A.R.T
21 years Military service, last few working in SERE.
Bought this knife to take with me out to Canada up in Manitoba where I was using it on an extreme cold weather survival course. Temp's ranged from about -42 to -1. I bought it with the intention of mainly using it in shelter construction. The first task I used it for (wearing light leather lined cutting gloves) was to sharpen x100 foot and a half long by inch thick Quincy poles. The poles were a mixture of silver birch and softer woods. I found the DART needs to be held quite far back down the handle towards the end to be utilised to chop and cut in a heavy duty manner, this is ok as long as you have fashioned a Paracord lanyard to wrist loop your wrist and secure it. I wasn't overly impressed with the handle scales, considering other reviews I read had said they grip up well, I found them quite slippery in the temp ranges I was working in with a leather glove. That being said it performed the task pretty well cutting Quincy poles nearly as quick as my buddy was with an axe.
Next I headed into the tree line where I used the DART to de-limb pine trees to construct pine bow shelters. Again the lanyard proved essential as the knife would exit your hand and disappear into the waist high snow quicker than you could blink without it. Again I wasn't overly impressed with the handle in the cold, I would definitely prefer a more stippled grip to retain the blade better in the hand.
Having chopped and sliced up a fair bit of wood now I decided to inspect the blades coating, I was highly impressed to see it was completely untouched. I wiped the knife clean and put it away till the next day. The following day I drew the knife to do some work and was amazed to see a fair bit of rust along the edge of the blade itself, I kicked myself for being a bit lazy and not fully drying the blade off after use, but after a quick oil and run over with a sharpening stone I had it back at factory edge minus rust.
It did make me ponder the priority scale I might have in a true survival situation - if I was constantly worrying that should I not clean the knife off fully it would rust overnight and if I didn't have access to oil and stone how long would my tool remain effective, but as said a few minutes work did have it back to its proper condition and I now keep the blade oiled at all times.
The knife is very easy to sharpen which I found surprising considering the curve in the blade but it seems to come up very well indeed.
I decided to utilise two carry methods for the sheath to see which I preferred in the environment I was operating in. First was a drop leg Blackhawk thigh holster I mounted the sheath onto which worked nicely. The second one was a single point sling that I just threw over my carinthia jacket which worked better IMO I attached the sheath to the single point sling at the top.
The sheath itself is ok. A lot of people slate the generic TOPS sheaths and prefer to make Kydex ones. I wouldn't want Kydex in this environment and would worry about cracking or damaging it. The supplied sheath does the job fine and won't break. Where it isn't great is the double Velcro straps that retain the blade in the plastic inner. Both straps are on the front edge of the sheath and prevent the knife being drawn and returned cleanly even when the Velcro is done up out the way. My solution is going to be to remove both and sew a new one looped onto the back side of the sheath that does up with a popper and can be clipped out the way on the back of the sheath when not being used. There are two lanyard holes that allow a Paracord toggled retention loop to be added which works better for quick access. I do like the ability to fully secure the knife for transiting too and from areas of work though.
The front pouch on the sheath fits a small honing oil bottle and stone fine.
Overall though with some slight modifications the sheath is more than adequate.
I will touch on using the blade as a weapon as it's a multi purpose blade and warrants mention. As a chopping and slashing weapon this knife would excel. It is weighted and shaped well enough to penetrate well when stabbing too. The knife could be equally well used in the dagger style grip and offensively could be utilised to good effect. Although the pommel isn't meant to be its weighted and shaped well enough to be used as a weapon too.
Conclusion- would I buy the knife again? I'm 70/30 towards yes at the moment. An extra inch on the handle and a stippled grip would be the ultimate improvements for me. I love the blade shape and it cuts well and the coating is excellent. The rust speed is an issue for me. In a survival/rescue/frontline situation I want a tool that I can rely on, not one that's always reliant on me to maintain it constantly, that being said the edge is easy to sharpen so it has its plus side, and I will just keep it well oiled.
The simple addition of the Paracord lanyard negates the need for the extra inch of handle (just) and perhaps saves the extra weight and size that may take its toll on other areas.
I've yet to utilise it for finer cutting work but the two blade grinds means it can be used for lighter work, and since it's comfortable weight wise it should perform well.
(Posted on 2/4/2022)
- Should have bought sooner!!!
- Just received this beauty today and wow TOPS is on point with outdoor craftsmanship, Thank you everyone at Tops for wonderful service and outstanding knives!!! (Posted on 5/24/2018)
- Use for intended purpose
- I've done some minor chopping on hiking trips, and cut some other items including food with it. Have not used it as heavily as some of my other knives, but it went from an edge that I was afraid to run my fingers along to one I couldn't care less about touching. But I'm not upset about it, in my mind this was meant to be a chopper and not a surgical knife. Center of balance is around where the top of the handle ends and the bottom of the blade starts, so you have to grip almost near the end to get some good chopping action in. If the devs of this knife see this I want to suggest a wider pommel section to prevent the blade from slipping out during chopping, but maybe that would create hot spots so I don't know. I have not done any hard stabbing tests, but just trying by "dry fire" it's not difficult to slip my index finger past the "hilt" section of the blade. Again in my opinion this was meant to be a chopper so I'm not upset about it, but maybe extending the hilt and like I said the pommel thing would make it more versatile since the center of balance is so far back. When you're holding it the blade may not seem big, but it is actually huge when attached to molle gear or hung off belt especially with the factory sheath. As you can see in the pictures there's 2 velcro straps around the handle, in my opinion that's too much redundancy. Also for those who open beer bottles with knives, don't do it with this knife because it fucks up the coating big time. Lubrication is crucial! I live near the coast, I left it untouched for a while and the un-coated cutting surface rusted.Other than that I am happy with this purchase, looking forward to see if and any changes at all happen to this knife. (Posted on 11/1/2016)