The TOPS Sonoran has released at last. The fixed blade, which is a collaboration with primitive survivalist David Holladay, is an outdoors knife created from a fresh combination of longstanding fixed blade elements.
Even hardcore knife nerds may not be familiar with Holladay’s name, and that’s because he’s not primarily a knife maker. Holladay is one of the U.S.’s preeminent authorities on primitive skills: how to make tools, find water, and generally subsist in some of the country’s most inhospitable locations. Holladay has been tapped for consulting gigs for various outdoors shows like Man Vs. Wild, and worked as an instructor at the Boulder Outdoor Survival School. Also a bit of a renaissance man, Holladay makes stone jewelry, arrowheads, plays multiple instruments, paints, and, very occasionally, designs knives.
Prior to this TOPS collaboration, the only Holladay-designed knife you could get was the Cochise. Made in collaboration with Schenk Knives, the Cochise is advertised as “David’s Signature Knife.” The Sonoran is not a 1:1 recreation of that knife, but it does share an obvious family lineage, most notable in the blade shape. Just like the Cochise, the Sonoran has what we’d call a “burly trailing point.” It’s wider and thicker than the usual trailing point, but still has the pronounced tip and belly that we expect from the form. The wider blade profile the durability high and, in an unusual move for an outdoors-centric design, the Sonoran’s 4.75-inch blade doesn’t have a 90-degree spine for firestarting; Holladay evidently prefers other methods for starting fires and had TOPS round the spine a bit instead, which gives it more strength for batoning and other high-impact tasks.
As befits a design by a lifelong survivalist, the Sonoran’s handle is pared back to just the bare essentials. There’s just the slightest hint of a finger guard, and a subdued curvature to the handle, but that’s it. Ivory G-10 scales cover the full tang construction, and a portion of the tang extends beyond the end of the handle to function as an impact tool. A leather sheath is included instead of something made from Kydex, which would throw off the Sonoran’s back-to-basics style.
KnifeNews first took a look at the Sonoran in January of 2020, when it was one of the many prototypes on display at TOPS’s SHOT Show booth. We expected the Sonoran to arrive that year, but that was before COVID-19 put the brakes on everything.
Knife in Featured Image: TOPS Sonoran