The TRACKER Knife
It has long been believed that the unique survival knife produced by TOPS Knives as the "Tom Brown Tracker" was the sole creation of Tom Brown, a New Jersey author and survival instructor--though in truth Mr. Brown had virtually nothing to do with the conception of this iconic design. The "Tom Brown Tracker" reached its pinnacle of public attention as a prop (ironically portrayed as a combat rather than survival knife) in the 2003 movie "The Hunted", where Brown was retained as a technical consultant and parlayed an interesting knife that he claimed to have designed into the plot.
The version as produced by TOPS Knives
The truth is that the original Tracker Knife has existed since 1981, and is a creation of my father, Robb Russon, a university professor and hobbyist knifemaker from Utah. He had been corresponding with Mr. Brown, and sent him the prototype for his knife to get feedback on its design as a survival tool. He proposed a business venture with Brown, since the tracking instructor had access to his pool of former survival school members, but Brown backed out after hearing the cost to produce the knife.
Unbeknownst to my father, Brown instead took credit for the design and shopped it to other knifemakers for years, trying to make it a commercial success. He finally found that success with The Hunted, after which he took the knife to TOPS Knives of Idaho to be mass-produced under his name. As movie props often do, the "Tracker Knife" (a named coined by my father) took on a life of its own. Although its design may now be one of the most copied knives in history, Brown has profited greatly from my father's work over the past 20 years since the release of The Hunted. For those who are interested, the entire story is told in detail on this site through the link below, with proof in Brown's own handwriting.
Robb Russon (circa 1981), professor, hobbyist knifemaker and outdoorsman
Armed with the original letters written to my father by Tom Brown, I started pulling at the thread of this story back in 2003 when we first discovered that the knife had a secret life of its own. Using the resources of the internet, I was able to contact many people who knew details of this secret life. I found pictures, exchanged emails, and made phone calls to discover enough information to be sure that the knife known to the world as the "Tom Brown Tracker" was indeed the direct offspring of my father's prototype knife. Now, over 40 years after the conception of the original knife, I am making this information public. I sat down with my father and formally interviewed him about the story, and the video link here to YouTube contains the first and only account of this story directly from the knife's creator.
An interview with Robb Russon, designer of the original "Tracker knife", 2022
In what will surely not be the final chapter of this story, my father and I have collaborated to produce the original Tracker knife as designed by him in 1981. Although others have made what are indisputably improvements to the original design, we are producing this knife from his original pattern with no variations. This will be the only actual original design in production, in a world filled with copies and variations. We hope that if nothing else, this venture will serve to leave a legacy of the Robb Russon Tracker knife, to memorialize his great contribution to the survival knife world.
As of this writing of this page, the knife is now available, handmade for us by a third-generation family knife business in Pakistan, and every part of the design and production of this knife has been overseen by Robb Russon himself. While the TOPS version and many other copies are overly large and hard to wield, the original design is more sleek, nimble in the hand and has perfect balance. SPOILER: the knife is currently under design to be CNC-machined instead of handmade. Rough estimate is that a machined version 2 in D2 will be available around February 2024, still true to the original design.