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
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
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
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.
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,
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).
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
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
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.