The Ultimate Firearms Destination for the Gun Lifestyle

TOPS Knives Bartender Defender XL

At RECOIL, we review every product fairly and without bias. Making a purchase through one of our links may earn us a small commission, and helps support independent gun reviews. Learn More

Yesterday afternoon TOPS Knives released their final new knife design for 2016: the Ryan Johnson designed Bartender Defender XL. They describe it as the the natural successor to the smaller Bartender Defender (also designed by Johnson) first released four or five years ago.

Here's what they tell us about the new Bartender Defender XL.


Industry News: TOPS Knives Bartender Defender XL

“Pop one open. The Bartender Defender XL is a follow up to TOPS’ very popular Bartender Defender. This model was made thanks to specific customer feedback. Many liked that the original was extra small and lightweight, but wanted a slightly longer blade to work with. Don’t let the “XL” fool you. This new model is still less than 5.5” long when it’s sheathed, but has a blade over 2” long. Another update is that the bottle opener is accessible without having to remove the knife from the sheath. TOPS went with a smooth and attractive tumble finished 1095 blade with a clear Cerakote to protect from rust. The Bartender Defender XL is an excellent choice for those who are constantly opening boxes and/or brews.


[It was] created by Ryan “Stone Hands” Johnson, an up and coming designer and high speed CAD drafter with talented handspart-time musician, guitar player who's hobbies include a bit of beer or root beer, whichever the case may be.”


Overall Length: 4.63”
Blade Length: 2.13”
Cutting Edge: 2.13”
Blade Thickness: 0.13”
Blade Steel: 1095 RC 56-58
Blade Finish: Tumble Finish
Handle Material: Skeletonized
Knife Weight: 1.6oz
Weight w/ Sheath: 2.4oz
Sheath Material: Kydex
Sheath Clip: Neck – no clip
Designer: Ryan Johnson
MSRP: $80 (online here:

TOPS will be at SHOT Show 2017, booth 20401.

Here's a look at everything TOPS Knives released in 2016. You can take a tour of their facility in the video below.

2016 TOPS Knives Releases




We suggest doing some reading and research from multiple sources before selecting a knife, whether weapon or tool. A basic knowledge of tool steels, an understanding of realistic principles of knife-fighting, and a solid grounding in deployment and manipulation (fixed or folder? strong side or support side carry? am I truly prepared to fight if I have to, and do I know how?) will all help you make a more informed decision. For instance, you should be considering materials and manufacture, fighting realities, and maintenance and upkeep.

Here are some articles you might want to read. After all, knives are one of Five Things You Should Never Leave Home Without.

Materials and Manufacture

Basic Anatomy. ‘Grind line, Swedge, Jimping, Thumb Rise, Ricasso, Choil, Bolster, Cannelure….' Learn what each means in the Knife Anatomy 101 glossary.

Proper Steel. “…a knife is essentially just a sharpened hunk of steel with a handle, so its molecular composition changes everything.” Patrick McCarthy, Knife Steel Comparison guide

Blade Types. Grinds and profiles and points, oh my. “Just like guns and pretty much any other tool, knives have an anatomy. There are parts of varying significance (some utilitarian, some only aesthetic), there is a specific nomenclature and design geometry, and of course a classification of attributes most often dictated by intended use.”  RECOIL: Know Your Knife

Knife Anatomy 101-1

Fighting Realities

Tool vs. Technique & Training. “[Keep in mind that] Any knife will cut and penetrate flesh. Don’t get hung up on the knife. It’s getting that knife into action that’s critical. Worry about where/how you carry it and how you access it…from compromised positions like being under the mount, [and] If you aren’t practicing realistically — in protective gear, with drone trainers, and with enough force that you get hurt (but hopefully not injured) — then you aren’t really training, you’re just masturbating with an edged weapon.” Ralph Mroz, Everything there is to know about knife fights (almost)

A Proper Attack. “Favor stabbing over slashing. People tend to overestimate the slashing capabilities for pocket knives. Our testing has shown that layers of clothing often offer enough protection to prevent a slash from reaching flesh, especially when dealing with a moving target that you may not connect perfectly with. Stabs, on the other hand, will easily penetrate many layers of clothing, and are even capable of piercing soft body armor.” Scott Babb, 9 Ways to Adapt Your Blade Training for the Streets.
Ed's Manifesto 2 - organic mediums for training in knife fighting and gunfighting
A Proper Grip. “Folks, keep your dang fingers off the blade like this and keep your thumb and the ball of your thumb down on the knife! Get out on a war-post / tree / pell / whatever and slash and stab it for impact and see what happens with your knife and your grip. Folks, when you bang away on a war-post, or get inside a rugby-force knife fight, odds are you will lose your knife if you have the ‘muscle' memory to grip it in these…artsily…ways.” Hochheim, Terrible, Terrible, Mistaken Knife Grips

Maintenance and Upkeep

Knife honing (vs. sharpening). “Almost all non-serrated blades can and should be honed periodically. Knife honing can also be done with a strop, a leather belt, or even the frosted edge of a car's window. Maintaining your blade by honing will allow you to go long between sharpenings, and keep your knives slicing and dicing smoothly.” Patrick McCarthy, Knife Honing: Blade Maintenance Between Sharpenings.
New Coye Knife Steaming With Cold Treatment
Sharpening and Sharpeners to Do It With.  “Since the dawn of mankind, the most basic survival tool has been the blade. Its basic requirement is a sharp cutting edge. Surprisingly, maintaining that edge seems to be a lost art…Whether you are restoring a completely dull piece of steel or using the finest stone available to touch up an edge, always remember that you’re removing metal. There is a learning curve…” A Guide to Knife Sharpeners and Sharpening



Industry News. What are you seeing here? Just as the tagline reads — industry news. This is a product (or service) announcement. It is not an endorsement. It is not a review. It is not an advertisement.

Posts on labeled as Industry News are advisory notifications only. Information contained therein is likely provided by the individual manufacturer (or service provider), provided to RW and passed along to our readers as a notification only. Such articles do not represent our tacit approval, nor (unless labeled SPONSORED) were they paid for. RECOIL publishes not just for a fraction of the gun-owning community, but all of it. Individual editorial staff member opinions are not the sole arbiter of what news we present. What one person derides, another will extol. One of RECOIL's responsibilities is to inform readers of new products or services from manufacturers, training organizations, and the like. RECOIL readers have made it very clear this is something they want to see, and frequently. Some of those products will be chosen for further coverage or evaluation. Some will not. Some may have great promise or potential. Others will do nothing but prove the old adage, A fool and his money are soon parted. Readers should form their own conclusions, if appropriate. Rest assured if a member of the RECOIL staff is providing an opinion, you will know about it.

If you are aware of a new technology, product, or service you think is worth us passing along, reach out to [email protected] with details.


Enter Your E-Mail to Receieve a Free 50-Target Pack from RECOIL!

NEXT STEP: Download Your Free Target Pack from RECOIL

For years, RECOIL magazine has treated its readers to a full-size (sometimes full color!) shooting target tucked into each big issue. Now we've compiled over 50 of our most popular targets into this one digital PDF download. From handgun drills to AR-15 practice, these 50+ targets have you covered. Print off as many as you like (ammo not included).

Get your pack of 50 Print-at-Home targets when you subscribe to the RECOIL email newsletter. We'll send you weekly updates on guns, gear, industry news, and special offers from leading manufacturers - your guide to the firearms lifestyle.

You want this. Trust Us.

Add a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe to the Free