This Growl has a solid bite.
SOG Growl Fixed Blade
By: Tactical Response Staff
SOG makes a huge variety of tactical folders, fixed blades and multi-tools. New for 2013, SOG introduced the Growl fixed blade. The Growl was designed in conjunction with noted custom knifemaker Jason Brous, a California-based designer whose artistic flair has won worldwide praise. Among custom knifemakers, still in his 20s, Brous is a rising star.
New in the SOG Tactical line, the Growl uses a 3.6-inch long, 1.5-inch wide blade. This type of especially broad blade has a significant and loyal following among hard-core tactical operators. This broad blade width adds cutting/slicing ability, blade strength, heft and utility not possible with narrower blades.
The blade alloy is 9Cr18MoV stainless steel, which is essentially 440-C. This grade of stainless is a step up from AUS-8 and 420HC, which are essentially 440-B. In perspective, 9Cr18MoV is a step below ATS-34 / 154CM / VG-10. This 9Cr18MoV alloy literally takes a razor edge, holds the edge fairly well, is extremely tough and very corrosion resistant.
The Tanto point used on the Growl is probably the best design for any SWAT fixed blade. A fixed blade is going to see much harsher use, much more abuse, and used for much more than mere cutting. That is where the greater blade strength, and especially tip strength, of the Tanto comes in. Yet the grind on the Growl’s Tanto point tapers enough toward the tip to get into very small gaps, unlike some Tanto tip grinds.
The Growl has a hollow ground blade. This grind allows for excellent cutting and slicing, since the blade near the edge is thinner. However, the hollow grind also allows for abusive prying and leveraging, since the blade near the back is the original blank thickness. The hollow grind is a big deal.
Most Tanto knives are bevel ground, which leaves a lot of stock on the blade blank. The hollow grind removes more material, leaving a thinner, more slice-oriented blade. A hollow grind gives up some strength to gain cutting power. The Tanto design adds back that strength with a full blank thickness from the hilt all the way to the Tanto point. A hollow ground Tanto point blade is the best of both worlds.
Maze Pattern Handles
The Growl uses screw-on fiberglass-reinforced nylon handles. These have only a slight texture, which means they are not rough and abrasive in normal carry. However, the handles also have numerous, full-depth slots in the famous Brous maze pattern. The Growl has a handle design with three pronounced finger grooves: index, dual finger, little finger. The blade back and handle back have a series of heavy jimping (grooves). Under a heavy hand pressure, these maze slots, back jimping and finger grooves all result in an excellent rough-use grip of the knife.
At 5.4 ounces, the Growl is light for a full-size fixed blade. It is easy to carry but has enough heft for confidence. With a ¼-inch thick, full-length tang, the Growl balances at the back of the first finger groove. This handle-oriented balance makes the tip of the Growl extremely quick to move. Of course, with just a 3.6-inch blade, it is more suited to cutting than hacking.
Brous Triple Threat
The SOG Growl is virtually identical to the Jason Brous custom knives called Triple Threat. These blades come in two versions, Triple Threat Fixed Blade and the Triple Threat Folder. The Triple Threat name comes from the triple bevel grind on the blade edge and the blade back. The blade edge actually has three cutting surface angles, giving it a true belly—very well done. The Triple Threat Folder uses a liner lock, has dual thumb studs, and twin pocket clips.
The production SOG Growl and the custom Brous Triple Threat share many features. They have the same very broad blade, blade of the same length, and with the same blade back and handle back grooves. They have the same heavily finger-grooved handle and a very similar, signature maze pattern on the scales. Both use similar Kydex® sheaths. However, these two knives are quite different in many ways, both pro and con.
Production Versus Custom
As a nod to the custom Brous knife, the triple grinds on the blade are very impressive—custom knife cool. Functionally, the three grinds (three edges) produce a useful and effective blade belly. The G10 handles on the Triple Grind are better than the Glass Reinforced Nylon (GRN), AKA fiberglass-filled nylon. G10 is epoxy-bonded fiberglass—tougher, more durable, better texture.
As a nod to SOG for a knife used in tactical scenarios, the SOG Growl uses 9Cr18MoV stainless steel, while the Triple Threat uses D2 high-carbon steel. The 9Cr18Mov alloy hardens to 58-60Rc, while the D2 hardens to 57-61 Rc, a toss-up. Even though the Triple Threat has a Cerakote™ finish on the carbon steel, stainless steel is more tolerant of infrequent care.
Surprisingly, the SOG production knife has a much thicker blade than the custom Brous knives—a full 0.25-inch for the SOG versus 0.15-inch for the Triple Threat Folder and 0.19-inch for the Triple Threat Fixed Blade. Not surprising, the SOG Growl lists for $120, while the custom Triple Threat knives run $259 (folder) and $379 (fixed).
Excellent, Simple Sheath
We have seen many excellent fixed blades come with totally lame sheaths. These are examples where the knife may scream “bad to the bone” but the sheath whimpers “annual fishing trip.” Not so with the SOG Growl. The “SOG” and “Brous Blades” embossed Kydex and nylon web combination sheath is both straightforward and excellent.
The blade portion of the knife is housed in a rigidly reinforced, two-piece, Kydex lower sheath held together with both rivets and fasteners. The lower sheath is both riveted and bolted to wide and thick webbing. Using Velcro®, the webbing loop is three-way adjustable for belt or carrier size, including what amounts to a six-inch drop down.
The knife is held in the sheath by a single strap, however, the strap has a metal snap mounted in a Velcro closure. With a nod toward tactical use, you don’t need to fully engage the metal snap to quickly secure the knife. As the knife is fully inserted, the handles are a friction fit between the sheath halves. This is tight enough to allow a rollover and the knife stays put. After the initial insertion, all the operator has to do is quickly wrap the two Velcro tabs together. Fully engaging the metal snap can come later.
The Growl was carried for four months. It was effective in a variety of cutting tasks: nylon webbing and para cord, copper and aluminum wire, light sheet steel, carpeting and drywall, and the occasional prying and screw loosening. The Growl did everything asked of it. The Tanto tip remained intact and the blade edge stayed reasonably sharp.
We have a few suggestions to this otherwise excellent knife. First, the big one: Take the next step up in blade alloy. Upgrade to the VG-10 already used in other SOG fixed blades. The current gold standard for police and tactical blades is a three-way tie between the chemical twins of Crucible 154CM and Hitachi ATS-34, and VG-10.
Yes, a platinum standard for blade steels exists, like S30V and BG-42, but it seems like these alloys cost what platinum does. All police knives, both fixed and folding, should be compared to the 154CM / ATS-34 / VG-10 high-end performance benchmarks for stainless steels in police use.
The Growl is only available as a straight, plain edge. A partially serrated blade should be an option. Yes, to serrate or not to serrate is a hotly contested topic among purist blade enthusiasts, but not so much among cops. For tactical folders in police use, the partially serrated blade is a must-have. For a tactical fixed blade, it is a nice-to-have, but a worthwhile option. Finally, the SOG Growl does not have an exposed pommel. For a tactical fixed blade, the pommel should be at least slightly exposed for tasks like glass breaking.
The satin finish, Tanto point, straight-edge Growl has an MSRP of $120, but is all over the Internet for $80. So, here is the shocker: This production SOG fixed blade is probably a better overall choice for police tactical use than the custom Brous knife—that never happens.