View Full Version : Hoffman Harpoon vs Bird & Trout

2007-01-11, 21:44
Gear review for:
TOPS Hoffman Harpoon vs Cold Steel Bird & Trout

Specs: TOPS Hoffman Harpoon
Blade Length: 2 1/2"
O/A Length: 8"
Cutting Edge: 2 1/2"
Thickness: 3/16"
Weight: (*2.6oz as measured with stock paracord wrap)
(2.2oz without)
Blade Color: Black Traction Coating
Steel: 1095 High Carbon Alloy RC-58
Sheath: Cordura, includes Lanskey sharpener, and magnesium flint striker
Mfg. Handcrafted in the USA
Cost: $79.00 USD MSRP

Specs: Coldsteel Bird and Trout
Weight: 0.8 oz. (*0.7 measured wt)
Blade Thickness: 7/64" (2.6mm)
Blade Length: 2 1/4"
Handle: 4 1/16" long.
Steel: AUS 6A Stainless Steel
Overall Length: 6 5/16" Bead Blast Finish
Sheath: Concealex Neck Sheath
Cost: $24.99 USD MSRP


Whats Good:
TOPS Hoffman Harpoon:
* good quality, rugged, over-built. This is a blade
that will take abusive treatment like all TOPS knives.
* An excellent design for its intended purpose. Very
* High quality, functional survival accessories come standard
* The smallest, lightest, combination magnesium & flint fire
starter kit I have ever seen mass produced, anywhere.

Cold Steel Bird and Trout:
* Extremely comfortable and utilitarian blade design with outstanding
handle design to ensure confidence when precision cutting and slicing
* Both blade and sheath are incredibly light weight. The fit between knife
and sheath is absolutely rock solid and it is quite comfortable when worn
as a neck knife.
* Cheap! Common Ebay item for aprox. $12. You could get 1/2 a dozen
with shipping for about the same cost as one Hoffman Harpoon at MSRP.

Whats Not So Good:

TOPS Hoffman Harpoon:
* The blade angle is made for penetration and hard impact. It is
far better suited to stabbing/harpooning than it is to delicate
precision cutting.
* The overall sheath design is just terrible. A sloppy ill-fitting imitation
kydex insert puts the final nail in the coffin of a poorly laid out
multi-carry option combination survival sheath.
Recommendation for improvement:
- If the other end was a tiny tomahawk head, and it had saw teeth
on the spine I would pit this knife against any of the WSK Tom Brown
Trackers or improved imitations out there.

Cold Steel Bird and Trout:
* The blade is quite thin and AUS6A SS will flex and then snap suddenly
and without warning as you reach the maximum stress point. From
strictly a safety viewpoint, this is a strike against for the knife.
Cold Steel does not manufacture the knife in any other steel types.
* As a spear/harpoon/spike-hawk the CS B&T requires careful control.
Brute force combined with novice hand-eye coordination will result in
a damaged or broken blade.
Recommendation for Improvement:
- If the finger guard were removed and was instead barbed like the
Hoffman harpoon and was also sharpened to function as a gut hook,
this could potentially be the greatest Ultra-light fixed blade neck knife ever.
Greatest being defined an overall assessment of utility,quality and cost as highest factors

My Impressions and overall Assessment:

Both knives are an excellent choice as a small camp knife/ piece of survival
gear. However my experience in the field with both of these knives has
left me with some rather firm summations on both.

Firstly the Hoffman Harpoon. As a weapon, this knife is absolutely deadly.
Lash it to a stick in a variety of combinations and you can walk around the
forest throwing/smacking/wacking/beating until you are blue in the face.
The knife is just plain tough. The long thick handle fits people with
larger hands and fingers far better than the thin and short CS Bird and
Trout. As a practical backpacking knife, the Hoffman harpoon is lacking.
It slices well. You can bore out holes, shave bark and even split wood.
However the same blade characteristics that make it so well suited to
these brute force, agressive tasks also make it a poor choice for slicing
thin fillets or dressing and skinning survival game such as amphibians and
rodents. Not a great carving or whittling knife. If you are a fanatic LNT
treehugger, and everything I just said was complete gibberish.. you
definately don't want or need this knife. A more practical everyday
backpacking knife will serve you much better. Moving on ......
The sheath is just really really bad. You will need to do something about
it fairly soon after purchasing one. I highly recommend a custom kydex
shoulder strap sheath so you can wear it inverted on the shoulder strap
of a backpack or life jacket. Several vendors are available online.

The cold steel bird and trout; - definately gets the bargain buy award.
This is a great little knife for small precision tasks. In practical everyday
hiking terms, this knife far and away out performs the Hoffman harpoon.
If you just want to repair gear, cut cordage, slice open food packets or
any myriad of plain mundane camp tasks that you might otherwise use a
small swiss army knife for, the CS Bird and Trout is a fantastic alternative
choice. You get all the function of the SAK blade with the bonus of a full
sized, fixed blade handle and at less weight than all but the smallest SAKS.
What is important to keep in mind is that this knife was never intended to
be used as a spear or spike-hawk or javelin. You cannot expect it to
perform like a hoffman harpoon in these kind of 'survival related tasks'.
The neck sheath is fantastic but requires two hands to draw the knife;
one to hold the chain so you dont choke yourself, and the other
(with a good deal of force) to extract the blade from the tight fitting sheath.

The 'In short' Conclusions:
If you want a more practical everyday situation camp knife with
"some-experience-required" survival capability and if weight is a
major factor in your decision - The Cold Steel Bird and Trout is the
way to go. Buy one anyways, heck they are like 12 bucks! Even if
it never makes it into your pack... toss it in the car, or use it around
the house. Buy 10, so what if you break one. Carry two of them
for insurance at 1/2 the weight compared to one Hoffman in its sheath
minus accessories.

If you want high quality steel and are more interested in trying and
practising survival/primitive skills, then you can't beat the TOPS
Hoffman Harpoon. You still get most of the function for everyday
camp chores with some penalty for dealing with a thicker clumsier
blade design, but definate performance focus as a survival tool.
It also doesnt hurt to have money to burn as the TOPS hoffman
harpoon is quite possibly the most expensive weight to steel quality
ratio I have ever seen in a knife. Its a piece of 1095!! sharpened
to a spike, with a hole in one end. How can it cost 80 dollars!?!
If you can get over this outrage... its a pretty darn good knife.

*I included pictures to show size/scale of both knives, accurate
weights and some features and applications of the blades in general.
Will post updates/ improvements or critical failure of gear should
the events occur in the future. If you cannot view the images in the
above post, click on the link below to view the images from the

2007-01-11, 23:03
Informative review Turk,
I looked for some years for a "bird/rabbit/trout knife" before settling on a Gerber "Pixie" for the dough. It's got some kind of cast metal handle material that if lost under water will be the end of it. I'll be stuck with my Case medium stockman for dressing fish in that case.
I like the pinky ring of the B/T knife that can be used belly up or down in hand but am concerned about the trailing edge/point of the "harpoon". Different tools for different purposes. The ColdSteel Bird/trout knife could be ground with a "dremel" tool to provide a barb behind the choil if one were to have the foresight to improve it.
If my only game were artic seals,then bigger the better.:beer:

2007-01-11, 23:52
Man gerber pixies are nice! impossible to find these days. Good choice.

SGT Rock
2007-01-12, 05:44
Great write up Turk.

2007-01-12, 08:48
Very informative and entertaining.

Left me feeling hungry, but in a good way.

2007-01-12, 16:28
Nice steel!!!!!!

Good job as usual!!!!

2007-01-12, 17:43
Gerber doesn't make any of those knives with cast handles anymore, they are in demand of sorts I'm told. The couple I have ( skinner and shorty) can be made scary sharp.

2007-01-12, 22:00
I have one of those Gerber skinners too; I think it says: "Flayer" I got from my dad. Don't carry it much cause I can't figure out how to sharpen around that curved end for nuttin'. The sheath has a pocket for Gerber's sharpening steel/stone(?) Never saw that piece or used one. I have a little 4" Solengen round steel that screws into itself from Dad that works in the field if you use descretion and don't work it too hard against the knife edge.
Gerbers used to have the reputation that Spyderco enjoys today of being actually useably sharp as they came from the shop.
The Pixie takes a nice edge. It's a little smaller than the Gerber Bird/Trout knife (with the spoon thingy?) of the same general size.

2007-01-23, 13:44
Great review:adore: