Every year many writers and editors attend the annual SHOT Show with a vague sense of impending doom: “What if none of the companies displaying have anything new and exciting enough for me to write about and/or fill the magazine with for the next year?” In truth, there always are a few cutlery makers that live up to that fear but there are usually just as many that come through in spades. This year I felt it was SOG Specialty that was among the real winners for new product introductions and this was especially true of their folder offerings. Doing a quick count in the 2008 SOG catalog, I came up with 10 new tactical folders, and this is ignoring their many new fixed blades, multi-tools, and EDC pocketknives.
Two of the new knives that particularly caught my eye were the “Arcitech” and the “Fatcat.” Like most of SOG’s new folders, both of these knives feature blades of premium VG-10 steel. The difference between the Arcitech and most of the other models is that it utilizes a laminated San Mai version of this alloy. Another interesting feature is that the knife comes in a choice of either jigged bone scales ($450) or carbon fiber ($425), with both versions having a 3.5-inch drop-point blade and the patented SOG ambidextrous “Arc-Lock.” To add bling, the reversible thumb opening peg has a jeweled abalone insert. The “bayonet” pocket-clip is also reversible for left- or right-hand carry.
Carrying the Arcitech
I’ve been carrying the bone-handled version of the Arcitech as my EDC off and on for several months now and I’m really impressed with this model. It opens and closes as smooth as glass. The Arc-Lock has never failed and the blade is still tight as new despite a fair amount of heavy homestead chores. Its San Mai blade has held its edge well beyond what I would normally expect of a production folder. A good example of this was when I was helping a contractor repair the dry rot in the floor of our laundry room. He asked if I had a knife handy because he needed to cut a dryer hose and some duct tape. Handing him the SOG Arcitech, he commented several times on how sharp the blade was. What he didn’t know was that the only thing going through my mind was, “Wow, I haven’t sharpened that knife in several weeks!” I can also say that I have yet to open it in public without someone wanting to take a closer look and making comments about how attractive the bone handle is.
I don’t know about the “fat” part but this knife certainly fits the description of a “big” cat. The straight, slant-point blade is a full 4.5 inches long .16-inch thick and 1-7/16 inches wide at the base. Its titanium handle frame is covered with Kraton scales. Like most of the newer SOG folders, the blade is held open by an Arc-Lock and the blade can be opened by means of ambidextrous thumb pegs. Where this knife varies from the common theme is that it doesn’t come with a pocket carry-clip. At 8.5 ounces in weight and with a relatively massive handle, SOG has, probably wisely, provided a nylon belt pouch instead.
It certainly requires no technical breakthrough to scale a knife design up in size. The trick is making that same frame fit anything but a pro football tackle’s hand. While I do wear a large size glove, I found the Fatcat worked very well in my hand. It also requires some design savvy to ensure the one-hand opening pegs actually work on super-sized designs. The Fatcat proved to be just as easy to deploy as the smaller Arcitech.
This may not be a knife for everyone, but if you wear a uniform to work—S.W.A.T. team, military, conservation officer, beat cop—I think you will find the Fatcat is an ideal alternative to a more conspicuous fixed blade hanging on your belt. The VG-10 blade should also guarantee you won’t be resharpening it very often.
To mention a few of the other new tactical folders in the SOG line, I’ll start with the Vulcans (named after the six-barrel 20mm “gatling” type cannon used by the military). The Vulcans are available in both a standard 3.5-inch blade size and a “Mini” with a 3-inch blade. There are also tanto point versions in both sizes. The blades are, again, VG-10 stainless and the handle scales Zytel. All blades are secured in the open position by Arc-Locks. The suggested retail runs $140 for the Mini and $160 for the standard size version.
Visionaries With Style
SOG stated their goal with the Visionaries was to create a stylish tactical folder. Once again, the VG-10 stainless knife is available in two sizes, 3-inch and 3.75-inch. Both versions feature a black, powder-coated blade, Zytel handle scales, a stainless frame and an Arc-Lock. The Visionary is a relatively straightforward design that should make a good work knife for a wide variety of uses. Suggested retail runs $140 for the smaller folder and $160 for the larger.
Folding knives called the “Tomcat” have been a part of the SOG line almost from the beginning. The basic design has evolved over the last couple of decades but it has always been based on the concept of a compact, ultra heavy-duty knife that can stand up to anything a user should reasonably expect of a folder. Over the years, I’ve noticed that the Tomcat tended to fall into favor with a wide variety of armed professionals. Picking up the 6.5-ounce knife just automatically gives you a feeling of solid reliability.
As far as I know, all of the earlier models of the Tomcat were based on mid-handle rockerbar locks. The 2008 model used the Arc-Lock of the earlier knives covered in this article. Currently, it is offered with both Kraton ($230) and carbon fiber handle ($370) scales. The steel used in the blade? You guessed it—VG-10.
Past Tomcats had kind of a square, brick-shaped look to their handles. SOG has redesigned the latest version to a more ergonomic outline that may look kind of strange at first. Actually holding the knife in your hand quickly changes your mind: This is one well-thought-out grip! The only down side to the Tomcat, and this depends on your personal tastes in folder, is the fact it lacks a pocket-clip. SOG supplies a nylon belt pouch with the knife, but having torn way too many of these scabbards off my pants working in the woods, I much prefer low-riding clips. I know other knife users feel just the opposite. In any case, this is a knife I personally would carry in a deep coat or cruiser’s vest pocket. My favorite Terra Tech forester’s vest almost always has a large folder of this type in one of its many pockets.
It is probably obvious that many of these new models have overlapping functions. Everyone has their own thoughts and personal tastes in knife design so there is no reason a company shouldn’t offer them some choices. I’m sure somewhere in this group you will find a knife that fits your needs to a T.