Their latest blades are some of their best
SOG makes a huge variety of tactical folders, fixed blades and multi-tools. Depending on the knife in question, SOG uses the best blade alloys, like VG-10; the best lock designs, like the Arc-Lock™; and the best one-hand opening methods, like SOG Assisted Technology™. We selected a few of the police-oriented knives recently introduced by SOG. This included the Flash Rescue, SOG-TAC and Vulcan tactical folders and the Vulcan Fixed Blade and SOG Ops fixed blades. The folders were a mix of manual, assisted and automatic opening.
The Popular Flash-series
The Flash-series is the high-volume folder from SOG, and for many good reasons. The Flash uses a full 3.5-inch long, 0.125-inch thick blade with dual thumb studs and ambidextrous pocket drop. Most of the Flash folders use a piston lock instead of the more popular but mostly lame liner lock. Some Flash folders, depending on the exact version, now use the excellent Arc-Lock. (More on this lock later.)
The Flash is an assisted folder, i.e., it uses SOG Assisted Technology. This is not an “automatic” opening knife. Thumb-start the Flash blade and the dual but opposing, high-tension coil springs take it from there. We don’t always have that second hand available. Nor do manual opening blades always fully lock when opened under stress. Nor is the non-gun hand usually as dexterous, or have the fine motor control of the gun hand.
Wide Variety of Options
The Flash-series is known for its variety. It is available with a straight edge or partially serrated blade; with a drop point or Tanto point and with aluminum or fiberglass-reinforced nylon handles. The Zytel® nylon is available is black, yellow, green, blue, orange and DigiCamo. The blade finishes are satin, black Titanium Nitride (TiNi) and Tiger Stripe.
Finally, the Flash is lightweight and very affordable. Every knife in the Flash-series is available for under $40. The SOG Flash II (3.5-inch) and Flash I (2.5-inch) are assembled in the USA. The Flash is almost everything you want in a patrol knife for almost nothing.
I have carried a Flash II every day for the past 10 years. I replaced the first one when the blade had too much play (left-right, up-down) in the pivot pin. Of course, by then the relatively soft AUS-8 blade had been sharpened so many times the blade edge was above the top of the serration scallops. The next step up in blade alloy – from AUS-8 to VG-10 – would be great, but that would greatly increase the cost.
One of the newer blades in the Flash-series is the Flash Rescue. While all the rest of the Flash folders have a clip or drop point blade profile, the Rescue has the classic “sheepsfoot” blade. The back of the blade arches down to the point and the tip of the point is on the straight line of the blade edge and the tip itself is slightly rounded. This design reduces the chance of accidentally piercing anything with the point while cutting. Think seat belts.
The other major feature of the Flash Rescue is the amount of blade serrations. With nearly all knives, the serration scallops take up one-fourth to one-third of the blade edge. With the Flash Rescue, the serrations take up two-thirds of the blade edge. The intended purposes are clear: cut nylon webbing, para cord, hemp or nylon rope and other tough materials. The Flash Rescue uses the black nylon handle and is available in either a satin or black TiNi finish.
The newer Flash folders use SOG’s excellent Arc-Lock, which is a tang-lock. Tang-lock folders are stronger than lock-back and liner-lock folders – the tang-lock can withstand higher forces and is less likely to mechanically fail. Tang-lock folders are also more reliable locks than the lock-back and liner-lock folders – the lock is less likely to accidentally unlock during heavy, aggressive use. Tang-locks are better for police work, period.
Yes, the SOG-TAC is an automatic opening folder. That means, state-by-state, restrictions on the knife may exist. However, many states that limit civilian ownership or possession of an automatic folder have an exemption for police-fire-EMS.
The advantages of an automatic for law enforcement are easy to demonstrate. Clip any folder in your non-gun side pocket. Have your partner start a gun grab. Clamp your gun hand over your partner’s hand. Have your partner tussle a bit. Pull, open and fully lock your folder as a lethal force counter-measure. Slow or almost impossible to do, eh? All of a sudden the benefits of an assisted opening or automatic folder are quite clear.
Push the button on the SOG-TAC and the 3.5-inch long, 0.125-inch thick, AUS-8 blade is opened and solidly locked. The SOG-TAC is available in both straight edge or partially serrated, drop point or Tanto point, satin finish or black TiNi. Of course, the SOG-TAC has a reversible pocket drop – as all police knives should.
Hard Use and Abuse
The SOG-TAC is built for very hard use. The handles are aircraft aluminum with G10 inserts. The aluminum handles are rugged, strong and easy to clean. They add to both the lock strength and the pivot pin durability. The handle profile has four prominent finger grooves and the blade spine has a heavily jimped thumb rise.
Based on months of carry, we really like the SOG-TAC. However, it is a bit expensive for a folder with just an AUS-8 blade. The aluminum handles could be machined with a texture and the G10 could also have the new “rough” texture. The blade release button is small, but we hit it every time we wanted to.
Likewise, the open-lock, close-safety is very small. If the knife is locked, it takes a very precise finger motion to unlock the knife to allow the push button to open the blade. That could be a problem since automatic folders really need to be carried on “safe” when the blade release is a push button.
SOG has put it all together for the patrol officer – and the tactical officer – with the Vulcan-series. With the Vulcan folders, the best blade alloy for policing (VG-10) is combined with the best lock (Arc-Lock). A manual opening knife, the blade has the ideal amount of smooth opening combined with controlled friction – mechanically perfect.
The Vulcan folder uses heavily textured fiberglass-reinforced nylon handles, which are durable, lightweight and easy to sanitize. The handle profile has three sculpted, finger grooves. The index finger groove is both relieved and heavily jimped, as is the thumb rise on the back of the blade. The blade has dual-side thumb studs, and the Arc-Lock can be unlocked from either side. Of course, the pocket drop is reversible.
VG-10 with Hollow Grind
The Vulcan uses a 3.5-inch long, spear point blade or Tanto point. The Vulcan uses the ultra-tough, super-edge retention VG-10 stainless steel. The hard blade is nice and thick: 0.160 inch. The hollow ground blade allows for excellent cutting and slicing, since the blade near the edge is thinner. But it also allows for abusive prying and leveraging, since the blade near the back is the original blank thickness. For more durability, and total knife strength, the Vulcan uses full-length stainless steel liners. The Zytel nylon handles don’t bear the stress and load. The steel liners do.
Where is the assisted opening? Confusion exists between an assisted opening folder and an automatic, let alone a switchblade. And there is no explaining the differences to some people. That said, the use of an assisted opening on the Vulcan would limit the number of departments that will approve, accept or even tolerate the Vulcan.
The Vulcan is kind of assisted. It uses a kick deployment. A finger flick built into the tang opposite the thumb studs. When the blade is opened, this kick boss becomes part of the index finger groove. A flip with the finger and a flick with the wrist and the blade is opened and hard-locked by the Arc-Lock.
We carried the Vulcan a lot and used it for everything. This is an excellent patrol knife and a very credible tactical ops knife for the two-thirds of SWAT officers who carry a folder instead of a fixed blade. We have high praise for this rugged, refined and affordable tactical folder.
Is the Vulcan the perfect tactical folder? Probably. The Vulcan is only available as a straight, plain edge. Most police-oriented tactical folders are partially serrated. Yes, to serrate or not to serrate is a hotly contested topic among blade enthusiasts.
SOG Ops Fixed Blade
The new SOG Ops is the next generation of their world-famous SEAL Pup. While that is like trying to improve on excellence, the new SOG Ops really is better in many ways. The blade alloy has been upgraded from AUS-6 (hardness of 55-57 Rc) to AUS-8 (hardness of 57-59 Rc). This is a pretty big step. It is like going from softer, maritime-grade 440-A to a harder, general purpose 440-B.
The blade has been lengthened slightly to 4.9 inches and made much thicker to 0.190 inch. Importantly, the blade profile has also been recurved. The cutting edge now has a bit of a “belly” for improved cutting and slicing. The Bowie-style, clip point has been replaced with a drop point to improve the tip strength. Part of the new blade profile is a more pronounced thumb rise, that heavily jimped (scalloped) area on the blade spine near the handle. The large, textured, glass-filled nylon handle has four finger grooves.
Importantly, the SOG Ops comes with either a MOLLE nylon sheath or a Kydex tactical sheath. We tested the Kydex version – a simple but excellent sheath. The fixed blade easily but firmly snaps into place and passed the rollover test without the secondary strap. The strap itself is a combination of both Velcro® and a snap. The nylon loop is Velcro adjustable for a variety of belt widths. In today’s ultra-competitive knife market, a fixed blade is equally judged by the sheath that comes with it. This one is just great.
The SEAL Pup is SOG’s best known and widest used fixed blade, and the SOG Ops is a clear product-improvement over the SEAL Pup. And the new blade is widely available for well under $100. We carried the SOG Ops a bit and used it on and off again. But the reputation of the SEAL Pup clearly preceded the now-improved SOG Ops. So, how do you test a legend?
Vulcan Fixed Blade
SOG makes at least two dozen excellent fixed blades. Their best fixed blade, their new flagship, is the Vulcan Fixed Blade. This is their signature knife; their showcase of precision craftsmanship. They have thrown down the gauntlet to other production knife makers. This knife is very difficult to make and SOG accomplished it. The Vulcan Fixed Blade is more exotic than most custom knifesmiths’ work, but with production knife pricing. Don’t be put off by the $285 MSRP. It is available all over the Internet for exactly half of that.
The Vulcan Fixed Blade has a very complex blade. Each side of the knife has five different grinds: the hollow ground edge, the tapered false edge, the tapered Tanto point, the cutting edge on the main blade, and the cutting edge on the Tanto point. What makes these radical blade grinds is the curved profile of the Tanto blade – there is not one straight section in the entire blade. The profile is part curved Tanto and part drop point, all with a reverse belly for the primary edge. And with all that, the whole thing is hollow ground. No wonder SOG is so proud of this big blade.
The Vulcan Fixed Blade uses a 5.3-inch long, 0.175-inch thick blade made from the good stuff: VG-10. It comes in two finishes – satin and black TiNi. The blade profile puts incredible cutting force on the compound edge of the Tanto point. While the clip, drop or spear point is probably a better design for a patrol folder, the Tanto point is probably a better design for the SWAT fixed blade. That 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.
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.
The Vulcan Fixed Blade is a full tang knife with an exposed pommel, as it should be. The knife uses screw-on fiberglass-reinforced nylon handles. These have excellent texture and a subtle palm swell. The pronounced index finger groove, index finger relief, other finger grooves, and small and jimped thumb rise all add to the rough use grip.
At 8.4 ounces, the Vulcan Fixed Blade is in the class of relatively light, full-size fixed blades. The Vulcan Fixed Blade is well-balanced and has enough heft for confidence. We cut, hacked, pried and pierced with the Vulcan Fixed Blade and pounded with the pommel. The VG-10 blade retained its original cutting edge. What an excellent knife. Suggestions? Just one – the option for a partially serrated blade. SOG has proven they can machine everything else!
The Vulcan Fixed Blade is awesome. The sheath, however, is surprisingly awful. It is stitched leather with almost no retention ability. The expensive knife must be strapped into place, and the strap uses only a metal snap. The belt loop is not adjustable and no other way exists to carry the knife. It will remind you of the sheath that came on your first hunting knife when you were a kid. Buy the incredible knife. Throw the horrible sheath away. Buy a SpecOps Brand, jump-ready sheath. You are still under $200.
What Are These Blade Steels?
Many SOG knives, fixed and folding, use AUS-8. For all practical purposes, AUS-8 has the same chemistry as 440-A, and significantly, exactly the same carbon. While AUS-8 has less chromium and molybdenum than 440-B, it makes up for it with a bit of nickel that 440-A does not have. Through the magic of heat-treating, AUS-8 ends up as hard as 440-B in the 57-59 Rc range. Cut to the chase: AUS-8 is really 440-B.
The 440-B alloy has the chromium as 440-A, meaning it is just as rust resistant, but it has more carbon. Carbon makes steels harder. The hardness of 440-B is typically 57-59 Rc. This is a better stainless steel alloy for patrol use. It is not a bad blade steel. It won’t rust, edge chip or break. It will just be disappointing in how quickly the edge dulls.
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, fixed and folding, should be compared to the 154CM and ATS-34 benchmark.
Again, VG-10 is a member of this same gold standard. The carbon, manganese and chromium in VG-10 are the same as 154CM / ATS-34. VG-10 has less molybdenum than the twins, but gains back blade performance with a bit of vanadium and a lot of cobalt.
Vanadium allows the blade to take an incredibly sharp cutting edge. Cobalt increases hardness and adds edge retention to the blade alloy. This might mean VG-10 is a just little tougher and holds the edge just a little better than 154CM and ATS-34…but that is probably too close to call. Bottom line? VG-10 is the high-end performance benchmark for stainless steels in police use.