The TOPS Helo Insertion Team 5 (“HIT 5”) is a new fixed blade design by Chad Los Banos and manufactured by TOPS Knives. Chad is a Hawaii based designer who has made a name for himself with popular small folding designs like the Boker Subcom and Spyderco Lava. A corrections officer by day, Chad is also an avid martial artist, shooter, husband, and family man. His wealth of practical experience is what inspires his designs, and the HIT 5 is no exception.
The HIT-5 was designed with Helicopter Insertion Teams in mind. These are the first responders of the military world – flying in to unknown locations carrying out dangerous and unpredictable missions. With that in mind he focused on developing something slim, relatively lightweight, and versatile enough to excel at everything from common utility tasks, to urban and outdoor survival, to hand to hand combat. Although I have never set foot in a helicopter, and am a far cry from an edged combat expert, I did spend a lot of time carrying and using this knife in an outdoor setting. Hopefully that will at least give us enough data to draw some meaningful conclusions about the knife.
General Dimensions and Blade Details
The HIT 5 has an overall length of 11”, features a 5-1/2” blade, and weighs 8.7 ounces. From a size perspective I think the knife strikes the balance between fighting knife and utility blade well. The 1/16” thick steel is heavy enough to hold up to hard use, yet the knife isn’t overweight or bulky. There is a well placed choil for utility work, but still plenty of reach and an acute tip for thrusts. You can tell a lot of thought was put into striking a balance with this knife in effort to account for the unpredictable needs of a person flying in to unknown terrain.
The blade is a classic clip point, forming a stout but sharp tip, reinforced by a swedge along the top. The blade is pretty thick so even the relatively fine tip has good strength and held up well to tests in wood. The knife is partially flat ground, and sports a broad edge, strong enough for outdoor use, but able to cleanly slice paper from the factory. This isn’t a dedicated chopper, but I had no problems taking small limbs off trees, working through thick pieces of rope, and batoning. The entire knife has been given a black powdercoat finish, lightly textured and simply adorned.
TOPS went with 1095 high carbon steel for the HIT 5, heat treated to 56-58. 1095 is tough stuff and is among my favorite steels for outdoor use. TOPS did a nice job heat treating this one and the edge kept plenty of “bite” even after extended use. 1095 will rust if left neglected but the durable powdercoated finish does a great job protecting the steel – even having spent a couple weeks a stone’s throw from the Atlantic.
Handle and Ergonomics
The HIT 5 has a “naked” handle with several slots and holes drilled out for a cord wrap. I’m no Stormdrane, but even I was able to figure out a way to weave a little 550 cord around this knife. It made the hard handle a little more comfortable, but this knife is primarily designed to be slim, so it simply will not offer the comfort of a bulky handle. For that reason I wouldn’t recommend this as a dedicated camp or bushcraft knife.
In practice the handle offers a number of different grips for self defense. The lanyard hole on the back of the handle provides for extra leverage, and the thumb ramp keeps you from slipping forward. A forward choil gives you a little versatility allowing for more detailed work like carving. And the knife feels comfortable in a reverse grip, a detail that I am sure Chad spent great attention on given his heavy martial arts background.
The HIT 5 comes with a rugged kydex sheath that follows the same thin minimalist lines of the knife itself. It’s a simple fold over design, nicely finished and held together with 4 torx bolts. For mounting options you have several holes for weaving in cordage, and a sturdy steel belt clip. This clip allows for quick and easy attachment to belts and straps. The sheath pivots around the clip so the knife can be positioned for horizontal and vertical carry (and every angle in between). The HIT 5 spent a lot of time on my belt, and I liked how easy it was to position the sheath as well as add and remove it from my belt. As far as retention goes, the knife slides into the sheath with a firm “thwack” and feels very secure. A drainage hole is included to help prevent rusting.
The only issue I was able to uncover is if you wrap the entire length of the handle with cord, it interferes with the retention in the sheath. You will not want to run cord through the hole closest to the blade if you plan to use the included sheath. In reality this is not a huge deal, as you can still wrap a majority of the handle, but it is something to note. This is especially important to note if you have your heart set on a paracord wrap or decide that you want to make your own handle scales for this knife.
TOPS HIT 5 – Final Thoughts
The HIT 5 is a quality tool that does exactly what it was designed to do; perform reliably in unreliable situations. It is a versatile knife – light, slim, and unobtrusive, yet strong enough to take some real abuse. I don’t doubt in the hands of a capable user it would be highly effective for self defense and utility work alike. Everything is very well made, with great attention taken to the fit and finish. It’s also worth noting that the HIT 5, like all TOPS Knives, is 100% made in the USA. I also thought the price was excellent given the materials, fit and finish, and USA construction.
That said, the scope of this knife is fairly narrow. I found it uncomfortable for extended cutting and see it as more of a fighter. But if you are in need of a slim line combat knife, I can attest that the HIT 5 is well made, tough as nails, and extremely capable. Chad’s latest creation is a far cry from the tiny folders that put him on the map, but the design is just as robust and inventive as everything else in his portfolio.