If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you’ve probably noticed that I have a real affinity for both budget-friendly machetes and higher end machetes. I guess you could say I just like machetes, period.
In any case, today we’re taking a close look at one of the latter. With a price tag ranging from around $120 to $160 depending on where and when you buy it, the Tops 230 Machete isn’t what you’d call a cheap machete, nor does it feel like one.
I picked up a Tops 230 Machete in the hope that it would be the ultimate slashing and chopping tool. And while I perhaps wouldn’t go quite that far after putting it to the test, I have to say that this really is a premium machete, and one that I’m very impressed with.
Tops Machete .230: First Impressions
The Tops Machete .230 is really a work of art, with beautiful fit and finish that is impressive right out of the packaging. It comes nice and sharp, and the blade has a handsome protective coating. It was designed by the Tops team in collaboration with Joe Flowers, who has a lot of really cool machete and bushcraft knife designs to his credit, including a couple of my all-time favorites.
It’s a little thicker than I expected, and a little heavier. I had some initial worries that this machete might not handle grasses and thinner materials simply due to its bulkiness (not to mention that it would wear me out after swinging it for an hour). Fortunately, those fears turned out to be mostly unfounded.
Measurements & Specs
The Tops Machete .230 measures 22.5 inches in total length, which includes a 15.75-inch blade. It’s not a small machete by any means, but it is, for whatever reason, a little more compact than I expected it to be (not that that’s a bad thing).
It weighs 1.26 lb (not including sheath), so it certainly has some decent heft to it. The blade thickness is just a hair over 1/8 of an inch, which is a little thicker than a lot of comparable machetes in this size class. It’s made of 1095 carbon steel with a tactical gray protective coating. The handle is made of black linen micarta, and it comes with a black ballistic nylon sheath.
Blade Shape & Grind
With a short saber grind that allows the blade to keep its full thickness across almost its entire width, the Tops Machete .230 is a tough chopper with a sturdy blade that bites into tough materials with great ease. The blade has minimal flex to it; just enough that it will bend before breaking, but overall it has a fairly rigid, sturdy feel on the swing.
The majority of the cutting edge is perfectly straight, rounding upward only at the very end to meet the tip. The tip is clipped twice, a somewhat unconventional design that gives it a look almost like a bolo or a bull nose machete, while making the tip very strong. Some folks like a more pointed tip to a machete, but I find that this particular shape works very well.
It’s well balanced while being somewhat weight-forward, which also helps it to really chop with authority. Oftentimes a thicker-bladed machete will have trouble cutting thinner, softer plant matter, but I’ve found that the Tops Machete handles tall grass and weeds quite well with an angled swing. It also makes short work of thicker stuff like bamboo, saplings and small trees.
Edge Retention & Sharpening
Let’s talk about steel. The blade is made of 1095, which is pretty good quality carbon steel. It takes a very sharp edge and retains its sharpness quite well through long-term use. I’ve heard people say that it’s hard to sharpen, which I don’t necessarily find to be the case. Let’s say it’s neither the hardest nor the easiest steel to sharpen, but it’s not bad by any means.
1095 steel contains approximately 0.95% carbon, which gives excellent hardness and toughness. It comes in around 56 to 58 on the Rockwell Hardness Scale. In some cases, 1095 can be brittle, which makes it better for larger, heavier tools, and is probably why the blade of the Tops .230 is a little thicker than some other machetes.
Like all carbon steels, 1095 is not corrosion-resistant. You’ll want to keep your blade dry, and oil it periodically. Luckily, the protective coating that covers all but the sharpened edge of the blade is really good quality. I’ve used a lot of machetes that start to lose their coatings almost immediately when you start using them, but I’ve yet to have that happen with my Tops Machete.
Handle Grip & Comfort
Judged by its blade alone I would rate the Tops Machete about 9 out of 10. It’s really good. But a blade is only as good as the handle it’s attached to, and this is where the Tops Machete loses a couple of points for me. It’s not terrible, just not as good as it could be.
And look, I usually like micarta handles. The material itself is tough and comfortable, but in this particular case it’s really not as grippy as it should be. When you’re using a machete, the reality is that you may have to work in wet conditions, and I’ve noticed that this handle can really start to slip when it gets wet. I would highly recommend wearing gloves or adding some grip tape.
The contouring of the handle might be an acquired taste. Some other reviewers have been not-too-fond of it. Personally, I think it’s nicely shaped and very comfortable, and I haven’t had any real problems with hot spots.
It’s a bit of a longer handle that has a forward finger choil, so you can sort of grip it a couple of different ways; either choke right up on it, or wrap your fingers around the whole thing closer to the butt end if that’s more comfortable. The machete also has a lanyard hole that comes with an elastic strap that one could loop around their wrist to help keep it in hand on a swing.
Sheath & Carry
Not all machetes come with a sheath, and when they do, the sheath often seems like little more than an afterthought. That’s not the case with the Tops Machete .230, which is appointed with a sturdy and functional ballistic Nylon sheath. I’m not saying this sheath will blow you away, but it’s definitely a rugged, well-made sheath with surprisingly good retention.
It has fairly sizeable pockets that can hold a variety of survival gear, and a couple of somewhat bulky clip straps that could be used to secure the sheath to some backpacks (though, admittedly, they feel a bit like overkill if you don’t want to carry it that way). Overall, it’s just a good quality sheath, and I’m happy with it.
Final Thoughts on the Tops .230 Machete
At the end of the day, the Tops Machete .230 isn’t perfect. But is it worth the money? Yeah, I’d say it is. I like almost everything about it, and although the handle leaves a bit to be desired, that isn’t enough to make me not want to use it.
What I really like about the Tops Machete .230 is the blade, and I specifically appreciate that it works almost as well at cutting soft and flexible plant materials as it does at cutting denser, woodier stuff. Relatively few machetes are good at both, and that makes this a rare find for me.
If you’re into higher-end machetes and want something that looks great, gets the job done and will last a long time, the Tops Machete .230 is a great option.
Blair Witkowski is an avid watch nut, loves pocket knives and flashlights and when he is not trying to be a good dad to his nine kids, you will find him running or posting pics on Instagram. Besides writing articles for Tech Writer EDC he is also the founder of Lowcountry Style & Living. In addition to writing, he is focused on improving his clients websites for his other passion, Search Engine Optimization. His wife Jennifer and he live in coastal South Carolina.