Professional Tool Reviews for Pros


Tops Mil-SPIE 3.5 Folding Knife Review

TOPS Knives Mil-SPIE knife blade
PTR Review
  • Ergonomics 7.0
  • Functionality 7.0
  • Blade Sharpness 9.0
  • Durability 9.0
  • Value 5.0

The Mil-SPIE 3.5 folder is an unusual knife. It has a unique look to it and it really comes across as a decent tactical save for a few misses like the grip and the tip-up only carry. The price is the real stickler on this knife. With a street price of around $160 it has some really stiff competition. If you want a tough blade that will hold an edge well, then this knife may be one you want to look at, just don't glance left or right or you may spy something else that grabs your eye.

Overall Score 7.4 (out of 10)

When we first got the Tops Mil-SPIE 3.5 folding knife we weren’t sure what to make of it. We didn’t even understand what the name designation meant. Military Spec? This was a knife that had us pondering on a number of levels. As it turns out, a little research goes a long way. The name  Mil-SPIE is actually short for Military-Special Projects Individual Equipment—and it’s pronounced “mill spy”. I think that’s your typical overanalyzed “too much time on their hands” military naming convention for you (though much better than naming it the long version!)


The knife is very much designed for that type of environment—namely, special ops use whereby military personnel can develop and test new equipment that might be handy in the field…items that might not be mass market or available through the typical means. I’m not sure a commercially-available knife like this is all that mysterious, but it certainly plays up its name well.

Tops Mil-SPIE 3.5 Folding Knife Design and Features

TOPS Knives Mil-SPIE black traction coating

First and foremost, this is, considering its size, a little brute of a knife. There’s no wobble on the N690Co steel blade, and it’s got a very textured grip. Unfortunately, while the grip is very textured (as is the blade and even the belt clip), it doesn’t come across as particularly grippy. If you’ve got something on your hands (blood, guts…um, blood) it may still tend to slip.

TOPS Knives Mil-SPIE opened

It doesn’t have an assisted open because, well, that’s for sissies, and this is a military knife, right? Well, let’s just roll with that and move on. Seriously, though, not every knife can be an assisted-open model. There’s got to be a place for a simplistic folder that just works. he trouble is, this one is actually a tad hard to open, and you really can’t do it well one-handed. The thumb stud is placed a bit too close to the fulcrum, keeping you from effectively using it to smoothly open the blade.

TOPS Knives Mil-SPIE knife liner lock
TOPS Knives Mil-SPIE knife liner lock

Tops Mil-SPIE 3.5 Size and Feel

The Tops Mil-SPIE 3.5 folding knife feels very stiff. It feels tough and is equally tough on the user. I’m not so sure that’s a great thing unless you have bigger hands. When we passed it around, those with slightly larger (ahem, manlier) hands seemed able to give the blade a nice gradual and deliberate swing open.


TOPS Knives Mil-SPIE knife accents
TOPS Knives Mil-SPIE knife accents

We like the polished accents throughout the design. We found a total of seven oval or circular agents cut into the left side of the 6061-T6 aluminum handle. Three live on the reverse side.

The center oval is actually a bottle opener. Top may not have designed the Tops Mil-SPIE 3.5 folder that way. If not, then you heard it here first. Oddly enough, the aluminum used in the handle of this knife is the same kind used in the secondary chambers of many pistol suppressors.

TOPS Knives Mil-SPIE knife angled
TOPS Knives Mil-SPIE knife angled

Cut and Carry

The design of this knife allows tip-up carry only. While unusual, we got used to it quickly enough. The entire Top Mil-SPIE 3.5 is very lightweight and so it’s an easy knife to wield. The blade came sharp as a razor and it stayed sharp. It also took an edge quite easily and held its own, even after running it through a lot of work on hard and soft woods, cardboard and even PVC. The N690 Cobalt Vanadium Steel felt familiar and is an alloy I’d like to continue to play with some more as I find it to hold up well, and it was equally easy to sharpen.

Tops Mil-SPIE 3.5 Knife Specifications

  • Model: Mil-SPIE 3.5 (MIL-35F)
  • Blade Length: 3-1/2 in.
  • O/A Length: 8 in.
  • Cutting Edge: 3-1/2 in.
  • Length Closed: 4-1/2 in.
  • Blade Thickness: 1/8 in.
  • Handle O/A Thickness: 1/2 in.
  • Handle: 6061-T6 aluminum
  • Blade: 1-1/8 in. wide N690Co
  • Black Traction Coating
  • Blade Hardness: RC 58-60
  • Liner Lock: Tool Steel RC 50-55
  • Manufactured: USA (Rocky Mountains)

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