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TOPS Knives Shango Review

IMG_7637cTaken from Manufacturer’s website:  “Shango is one of the most powerful gods for many African natives. The “SHANGO” represents fire, thunder and lightning. In the Caribbean yoruba religion, SHANGO lights up the darkness with lightning so followers can find their way, Shango also brings prosperity and good strategy to those deserving.”




I was recently given the opportunity to field test and review the Shango.  This knife, which is made and distributed by TOPS Knives, was designed by Joe Flowers.  Joe is a professional outdoorsman and survival instructor.  His adventures have taken him halfway around the world in search of the next bit of knowledge and experience.  (Editor’s Note:  In the interest of full disclosure, Joe Flowers is a contributing author to the Woods Monkey site) Knowing this, I was sure the knife was going to have many good points wrought from a solid working knowledge of knives.  Also coming from a manufacturer like TOPS Knives I was almost assured a potent package.

IMG_7588aLets start with an over view of what you get.  The Shango is a package deal when you buy it.  For one price you get a base survival set up.  Coming in at $99 dollars, the knife and accessories are fairly priced.  The package consists of the Shango and kydex sheath, neck chain, three tone signaling whistle, Lansky pocket sharpener, snap link, and the complimentary piece to the knife – a three rod firestarter with short chain.  I’ll give you a brief look at each piece, thought the bulk of this review will center on the knife.  All of these items together are a fantastic start to a good survival pack or kit.  First up is the signaling whistle, with three tones as opposed to one the tone modulates and carries further.  Also at distance it is less likely to sound like a natural sound like wind whistling or a bird song.  The snap link is a standard biner, allowing the smaller accessories to be clipped quickly on or off the neck chain or other point of attachment.  The Lansky pocket sharpener has two sides to help keep your edge dressed in the field.  One side is tungsten carbide to rough and the other side has crock sticks to finish the edge.  Also in the package you receive a three rod firestarter.  The fire starter consists of two magnesium rods and one ferro rod press fit into a piece of machined aluminum.  The idea of this dual material is to scrape off a bit of magnesium and ignite it with the ferro rod for a super hot flame capable of lighting the most stubborn tinder.

IMG_7632aThe extreme back end of the Shango has a scraper incorporated into the design to help make this a good bit easier and save the edge.  I don’t wish to jump ahead so more on this later.  Looking at the Shango package from a survival or wilderness self reliance situation, we can see that they have covered many of your needs in a very simple and light package.  Taking care of signaling, fire, and knife maintenance in a pocket sized bundle. Now we get to the meat and potatoes of the package, the Shango itself.  The Shango comes in at 6½” in length with a blade length of 2¾”.  The size is what makes it a real all around knife. It works well as either a neck knife or a small EDC fixed blade.

IMG_7590aThe handle is skeletal with no scales allowing for its impressively light weight at only .15 lbs.  Three holes in the handle allow for some usage options to be decided by the user.  These holes are just the right size to accept paracord size cordage; one could cordwrap the handle, tie on a lanyard, or use these holes to lash the Shango to a pole for a little more reach.  Though the handle is skeletal in nature, it is by no means too small; it fills the hand nicely and even works well with gloves.  This coming from a guy who gets consistent ribbing from his buddies for always wearing his baseball gloves (big hands) is no small statement as to the functionality of the knife.

IMG_7631aThe traction coating and spine jimping also accounts for an increased degree of control over the knife.  It is also very resistant to wear with this coating.  Sheath retention is good even carrying as a neck rig with the handle down.  The kydex sheath is smooth and slim enough to mount anywhere one could wish, or to slip into a pocket.  Six holes in the perimeter of the sheath with three bolts allow for further mounting options.  With the knife sheathed one can use the scraper at the extreme rear of the handle with no concern of accidental injury from the blade.  When partially sheathed the Shango makes for a decent drawknife, doubling your leverage for wood crafting.  A short false edge along the top of the first inch of the knife aids in plunge cuts through materials.  The point of the knife is needle like and the edge is keen out of the box.  Steel choice for the Shango is 440c, and cryo treating assures a good edge holding ability at 58-60 Rockwell.

IMG_7606aUsing the Shango proved to be an addiction.  The neck rig, though solid, is so light and accessible it seemed a waste to pocket the knife for any great length of time.  The blade coating made it comfortable for use barehanded for small tasks as well as giving a good grip for more intense tasks.  I tried the fire starting capability of the knife out a few different times and found it anything but lacking.  The integral scraper feature allows for controlled shaving of the magnesium into a neat pile, a few quick blows of the scraper to the ferro rod yielded a flame that was greedy for tinder and kindling.  I did find that I liked the results of the scraper on my bigger ferro rods better than the included smaller diameter rods.  This was no short coming of the included firestarter it was simply a matter of surface area in contact during the strike.  The contour of the scraper serves to direct the sparks more readily as well greatly increasing your accuracy in hitting the tinder bundle.

IMG_7618aI was able to find no short comings in the performance of the Shango or the kit components that are included with it.  There may be better items on the market to purchase separately to fill the individual survival needs of a situation but for a compact system that is easy, even enjoyable, to carry this is a great place to start.  The knife itself however stands out as a great all around blade.  Lightweight enough to carry as a backup but stout enough in form and function to rely on as a primary in minimal to medium situations the Shango measures up and then some.  Be it addition to an existing preparedness kit or a introductory purchase to knives the Shango will live up to its name and help you to find your way to adventure and, more importantly, back again.


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