Everything we want in a functional knife: rugged, affordability, tenacity and reliability every time, check out these three that fit the bill.

working-knives-001SOG Tomcat 3.0
SOG’s robust Tomcat 3.0 is a modernized version of their first folder in large lock-back format. The basic design and contours are reminiscent of the trend-setting original lock-back, Buck’s 110.  At an overall length of 8.65 inches, the Tomcat 3.0 features the SOG Arc Lock locking mechanism, whose spring action instantly snicks the lock in place upon opening. Far exceeding the strength of many conventional locking systems, the Arc Lock has been tested at over 1000 pounds of force. The lock may be easily disengaged one-handed.

A 3.75-inch VG10 straight-edged blade it bears double-sided thumb studs and serrations on its spine. The finish is satin. Black rubber handles provide a functional, tacky gripping surface, as well as a great look. Stainless hex screws secure them. Steel bolsters house the Arc Lock and are scalloped to allow easy access to the blade’s thumb studs. Serrated liners inside the bolster further enhance the grip. Lower corners of the liners are exposed, presenting a cutout of the SOG logo on both sides, and a through-and through hole at the opposite edge of the handles allows the option of attaching a lanyard.

Occasionally, a knife comes along that has that intangible quality about it that makes it especially desirable and the Tomcat 3.0 has it. The first thing one notices about it is the heavy heft and construction. This is definitely a weighty folder. Balance and the contour of the spongy rubber handles makes for a very pleasing feel in the hand. The Arc Lock snaps smartly secure as the blade is opened and is easy to master while unlocking.  Some thumb studs are a bit harsh on the thumbs, but I found those on the Tomcat to be very smoothly contoured.

I personally found that grasping the knife with three fingers and sliding the lock with my thumb and forefinger seemed to work best and the blade could then be swung closed with a little practice. The lock may also be disengaged with the thumb only. The Tomcat’s combination of the satin stainless blade, guard, and liners, and the black handles is striking and exceedingly pleasing to the eye.

The only thing I’d change is to add a pocket clip, but the Tomcat 3.0 does come with a sturdy nylon sheath with its own clip.

coltsteelCold Steel Recon 1
The Recon 1 from Cold Steel is a big bruiser of a folder. At an overall length of 9.13 inches and 5.6 ounces, the Recon will definitely fill your hand. Its full, lengthy handles and 4-inch blade make up for what it gives away in compactness with a total absence of compromise in utility.
Rough-textured black G10 laminate scales are reinforced by heat-treated steel liners, to which they are secured by five hex-head locking bolts. The scales are relieved for access to the ambidextrous thumb stud on the blade’s spine.

The blade is made of AUS-8A stainless steel and it is vacuum heat-treated and sub-zero quenched. In the case of our sample, the blade configuration is a partially serrated Tanto point, though a spear point and clip point version are also available. Secure locking described by Cold Steel as “practically precluding lock failure” comes from the spring-loaded, sliding “Ultra Lock.”

A small, yet strong steel pocket clip is secured by three hex-head locking bolts, and may be attached on either side of the scales. The finish is entirely black, contrasted only by the Recon 1 logo on one side of the blade and the Cold Steel logo on the other; both are in silver.
In the case of the blade, a tough black Teflon is employed. The Teflon finish has multiple advantages. It’s resistant to scratches and eliminates glare and reflections. It’s also self-lubricating, which allows it to cut with less friction.

We found the Recon to be easy handling with smooth one-handed opening and closing; the size, configuration and texture of the scales made for solid, unyielding purchase and control over the knife. The Ultra Lock was also easily manipulated with one hand.


The FIN folder from KA-BAR, designed by Peter Jana, is a sturdy all-purpose knife that retains a thin profile. The frame lock effectively guards against closing even with the knife held in a fist. At an overall length of 6.88 inches and a weight of 5.6 ounces, the FIN is aggressive enough to have real utility while maintaining a profile that is easily carried in a pocket.

The 2.75-inch drop point blade is from AUS-8A stainless steel, is hollow ground and partially serrated. The spine is grooved for an improved grasp, and a thumbhole allows for ambidextrous opening. FINs are also available in Drop Point or Hawkbill Tanto styles. I like thumbholes, provided that they are spaced properly from the front of the scales or bolsters.

Arranged the proper distance, they provide for very smooth, effortless opening, whether you are right- or left-handed. The hole on the FIN was my only complaint; it could have been placed a bit further from the finger guard, which interferes with a clean sweep of the thumb while opening. I found that I needed to push against the edge of the hole near the spine to open the blade smoothly.

The FIN’s scales are stainless steel and have recesses that lend a secure, comfortable grip and are secured via stainless hex head screws. The scales are contoured as a finger guard at the front to help prevent the hands from slipping up toward the blade.  A pocket clip is set up for tip-up carry, but holes are arranged in the scales for any of four ways of attaching the clip for either side, whether tip up, or tip down. The clip looks a bit effete for such a beefy little knife, but it functioned fine, holding tightly in a pocket. The finish for the knife is black EDP coating, save for the screws and pins.

The FIN is most definitely a hefty knife for its length, making it perhaps wider than one might expect.  You won’t have much room in a pocket for much else with the FIN in place.

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