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September 12, 2009 Comments (0) Blades & Tools

SOG Seal Pup Review

IMG_9879cSOG Knives is a company that was founded in the late 1980s to meet the needs and demands of people who required a higher standard in the performance of their edged tools.

 

 

 

 

The company started with the ideals of meeting the needs of the Studies and Observations Group, a joint military operation that begun before the Vietnam War.  They were quite successful with fixed blade, folder, and multi tool designs.  That ideal and success continues on today, more than 20 years later.  One of the most current designs that they manufacture is the Seal Pup, a knife designed for hard use in a military or any other special needs environment. 

IMG_9885aThe Seal Pup is a 9 inch knife with a partially serrated blade that is just under 5 inches.  The tang of the knife is .16 inches thick and extends all the way through the handle, giving the knife a maximum amount of strength.  The handle is Zytel, and is cast around the blade. This provides a solid, secure feeling as well as making it nearly impossible to separate from the metal.  The metal is AUS-6 and has a Rockwell hardness of 56-57.  I’ve found that AUS-6 performs exceptionally well at that hardness level, providing excellent edge holding as well as enough flexibility that edge chipping and overall brittleness is not an issue. Even though AUS-6 is a stainless steel, the knife has a powder coated blade, which provides an extra level of protection for the metal.  The knife I received is a combo edge.  Normally I wouldn’t necessarily pick that option for a knife of mine, but the serrations only take up 1.75 of the 4.75 inches of blade, leaving plenty of straight edge for slices.  Having the serrations closest to the handle allows for incredibly powerful push cuts to rip through fibrous of tough material, and doesn’t effectively reduce the ability to cut notches with the knife. 

IMG_9876aThe knife also comes with a nylon sheath that has many excellent features.  As with most any fixed blade sheath, it allows the Seal Pup to be tossed right onto your belt for vertical carry.  The sheath can also be mounted horizontally, on MOLLE gear, or even upside down!  Rivets in the sheath also allow the knife to be lashed to just about any surface.  I have carried the knife on my belt, attached on to the MOLLE webbing on my daypack, attached to the shoulder strap of my camera bag, and in a couple other configurations.  The sheath has stayed securely attached every time.  The knife is retained in the sheath by means of a wrap around strap that covers the handle.  The strap has a large snap that engages and disengages very positively.  On top of that, both sides of the strap are covered in Velcro, so if somehow the snap isn’t fully engaged, the knife should still be retained.

IMG_9877aThe blade sits inside a kydex pocket that is built into the sheath.  The pocket is shaped so that the blade doesn’t wobble or make too much noise, but at the same time it is snug enough to keep the edge from banging around and becoming damaged or driven through the sheath.  I’ve tossed the sheathed knife around, sat on it, and have even fallen on it with no concern that the sheath may fail to retain the knife.  

On the front of the sheath there is a utility pouch.  The pouch could be used for any number of things, but I found that it fits my Leatherman Wave perfectly.  The contents of the pouch are secured by a Velcro flap, and even with the heavy Wave in there, I couldn’t get the flap to open accidentally.  The pouch could also be used to store a sharpening stone, fire starting supplies, extra pistol or rifle ammunition, water purification supplies, a fishing kit, or anything else that strikes your fancy.  It adds an excellent element of versatility to the sheath.

IMG_9889aThe handle of the Seal Pup is constructed in a very interesting way.  It is actually cast around the metal tang of the knife, and made of fiberglass-reinforced Zytel.  Because of the material and construction methods, it makes the handle impervious to chemicals.  It also makes the handle almost impossible to separate or break. The handle also has very aggressive texturing, which will provide a non-slip grip, especially with cold hands or while wearing gloves.  Many times I have been concerned about aggressive texturing causing blisters with extended use.  The Seal Pup didn’t start creating hot spots until I had been using it for more than 30 minutes straight carving and chopping wood.  This means that there is plenty of time to use the knife quite heavily before you may develop a blister.  When wearing gloves, it becomes a complete non-issue.  Because of how the handle is constructed, very little care or worry is necessary to maintain or hold the knife.

IMG_9892aThe knife has a partially serrated clip point blade with a shallow hollow grind.  The AUS-6 steel it is made of is tempered to 56-57 on the RC scale.  It is .16 inches thick, and the blade is just under 5 inches long.  The knife came from the factory with a rather excellent edge that would easily shave arm hair.  I was quite pleased to be able to shave hair right out of the box, because normally production knives don’t quite receive the level of care required to give them such a well refined edge.  The edge was also relatively thick.  It seems to be right at about 25 degrees per side.  Some might consider this edge to be overly obtuse, but the angle allows the knife to take extra abuse while still maintaining a good edge.  Carbide tear out and edge deformation are quite bad when you are out in the field.  The less a knife needs to be sharpened in the field, the better it will be able to serve its purpose!  Since the blade also needs to be able to withstand torsion and prying, the .16 inch thickness helps make it rock solid. 

IMG_9894aDuring my evaluation I certainly tested out how well these theories would enable the knife to perform in the field.  Plenty of reviewers have tried out cutting cordage, opening MRE’s, opening metal cans, and other such militaristic style uses.  This isn’t any old publication, this is Woods Monkey!  Those of us around here tend to be more interested in woods craft, so I concentrated on that aspect of knife usage for my review.   I started off pretty simply by slicing some paper and creating a fuzz stick or two.  With the keenly honed factory edge, it was no problem at all to make thin slices and tiny curls.  Since that was so easy, I figured maybe it was time to try batoning a 4.5 inch thick log.  Many people may think batoning is simply gross abuse of a knife, but I have found that any quality knife can be used to perform this function (even folders, but that is another article) provided proper technique is followed.  I have found no better way to get dry wood for tinder when it is soaking wet outside. Normally I wouldn’t try a log that large with a knife that has a 4.75 inch blade, but I wanted to see if the knife would deform or the tip would break in such usage.  The Seal Pup took it like a champ and asked for more, with no damage to the edge and no deformation of the blade.  The coating was worn off a bit at the points of greatest contact but mostly stayed in place.  

IMG_9902aIMG_9899aOnce I was done making tinder for the fire, the knife got passed on to my fiancée to slice up some onions for dinner, and then to cleaning a couple fish that another camper caught.  My fiancée was pretty happy with the food slicing performance of the Seal Pup, saying that it worked well for a field knife, but obviously not as well as a dedicated kitchen knife.  Another camper that was with us that weekend was incredibly impressed at the shape of the tip and sharpness of the edge, even after all the goofing around I had done with it.  He cleaned the fish, making remarks about how impressed he was with the knife the entire time he was using it.  Not only was I impressed with how well the knife performed, but it also has the approval of two other outdoors minded people that used the knife right alongside me.  After dinner was over that night, I broke out my strop and in less than 5 minutes had the edge right back to shaving sharp again. 

IMG_9901aWhen I first received the Seal Pup, I was somewhat concerned that the knife could perform to my expectations.  I am happy to say that the knife met and surpassed my expectations.  From tactical use to woods craft, the Seal Pup should be able to meet anyone’s needs.  The design, materials, and craftsmanship that go into making every Seal Pup provide a knife that will perform every time by resisting damage, holding an excellent edge, and of course cutting stuff!  For just under $80 at most knife stores, this is an affordable knife that is an excellent performer for anyone’s needs.

Check out the Seal Pup Elite at www.sogknives.com .

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