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Hands-on Gear Review
SOG Trident Elite Review
Cons: bulkier than some options.
Bottom line: A well-made, purpose built knife. The blade steel is highly regarded, and the overall construction is lightweight and low profile, without compromising ergonomics.
Selecting a suitable pocket knife can be a daunting task. It is a huge category, with a dizzying array of options. In narrowing down the field, we found sub-categories. A certain portion of the population is looking for a tactical knife like the SOG Trident Elite Assisted Opening. This tool is purpose built for burly use, in automotive and urban environments. The basic selection of additional features, specifically a glass breaker and slotted cord and webbing cutter, is curated to lend confidence and assistance to the user in an escape and evasion situation. Now, most users will never have to bash their way out of a locked automobile, so it is the blade that they will use the most. On the SOG, the blade is made of excellent steel and tuned for heavy use.
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Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
In the realm of "tactical knives", the SOG is without parallel. It is affordable, solid, equipped with an excellent blade, and lightweight for "everyday carry".
Check out the following chart to see where the SOG Trident Elite stands in our lineup of pocket knives.
Blade and Edge Integrity
SOG uses "AUS-8" steel in the Trident Elite knife blade. AUS-8 is made in Japan and is very highly regarded. Considered one of the better knife blade steels on the market, this stainless alloy is known to hold an edge under the burliest of applications, while responding readily to standard sharpening techniques. There are inherent trade-offs to balance in selecting knife blade steel. For instance, harder steels hold an edge better but chip more readily and are more difficult to sharpen. Alloys can be blended and tuned, not to mention the employment of post-alloying hardening processes, to mitigate these trade-offs. AUS-8 is widely regarded to offer one of the best balances of durability, edge integrity, and ease of maintenance. In the Trident Elite, SOG stamps and polishes this steel into a beefy, thick blade capable of the burliest tasks with an edge that is still fine enough to easily and cleanly cut a ripe tomato.
As a "tactical" tool built for heavy use and including a couple extra tools, we do not expect the knife to be quite as ergonomic as something like the Editors Choice Benchmade MIni Barrage 585. You can see in the chart below that the SOG knife rated slightly above average in this category.
Sure enough, the corners are a little more square on the Trident Elite and the locks and mechanisms are just a touch less smooth, as compared to the Benchmade. The handle is slightly more squared off and the locking mechanisms are less refined. For instance, the Mini Barrage can be unlocked from either side of the handle, while the Trident only has an unlock tab on one side. In favor of the SOG is the blade-closed lock on the Trident. A simple metal tab on the side of the handle, the SOG blade-closed lock is easier to manipulate than the small plastic slider along the back of the Benchmade's handle. As compared to the close competitor NeoKut Black Kryptonite - Spring Assisted, the SOG definitely feels more refined and easier to hold. The plastic handle is more rounded than the NeoKut's metal handle, and the material simply feels gentler on the hand in burly application. The sturdy blades and rugged marketing materials associated with these tactical knives encourage heavy usage. It is nice that the rounded plastic handle of the SOG is forgiving on the user's hands during such intense application.
We had no problem with the SOG's durability nor construction quality. SOG is reputed to make excellent portable tools, and their Trident knife is no exception. Elsewhere we have tested SOG products and found them to be similarly functional and durable. Notably, in our Multi-too review, the SOG PowerAssist Multi-Tool S66 is also a Top Pick winner and also innovative and strong in a confidence inspiring fashion.
In evaluating portability of pocket knives, we look at three major criteria. We measure their external, closed dimensions, we weigh them, and we look at their options for carriage.
Size is the portability criteria in which there is the most direct compromise made. Larger knives are more easily used, while smaller ones are easier to carry. There seems to be a sweet spot in terms of closed dimensions. A handle of 4.5-5 inches fits securely in an adult hand for usage while also disappearing into that same adult's pants pocket. None of our tools are bigger than 5 inches. The SOG is on the large end, a 4.8 inches while the close competitor NeoKut is just a touch longer at 4.9 inches. Basically, the size of the SOG is optimized for function with a nod toward portability. Next, in terms of weight, the SOG is relatively light. It compares favorably with the much smaller Benchmade Mini Barrage, and is far lighter than its closest sub category competitor. The light weight construction of the SOG is the biggest attribute that tips the balance from the NeoKut. The NeoKut weighs 175% of what the SOG weighs. This is a significant difference and is easily noticed in one's pants. With no compromise in construction quality, the lighter weight of the SOG is a no brainer for every day carry. Finally, the SOG comes with a near-standard pocket clip. The pocket clip is unobtrusive and short. It holds the knife securely and ready in a front pants pocket.
The Trident Elite was one of the few knives in our review that had extra features. Reference the chart below to see which knives ranked in this category and where they stood.
Like on the NeoKut, the extra features of the SOG are targeted at various sorts of escape and evasion needs. The hardened steel "glass breaker" protrusion is effective and low profile, while the slot cutter is unique. On the NeoKut, the slotted cord and webbing cutter has a dedicated blade. Many tactical knives are built exactly this way. The slot cutter on the SOG is actually a simple groove built into the handle that exposes a short section of the main blade. Both work just fine, in our experience. Interestingly, this means that the slot cutter blade on these respective devices are oriented 90 degrees from one another. Despite this important seeming difference, both slot cutters work just fine. The one advantage of the SOG style, in which the main blade serves "double duty", is that the slot cutting blade can be resharpened readily. On the NeoKut this is not an option.
For anyone looking for a tactical style knife, the Trident Elite is an excellent choice. It is well-made, with a clever inclusion of the features important on a knife in this category. It is on the verge of "ultra lightweight" status, with no apparent compromises in function or durability.
The SOG Trident Elite is a well-made, functional tool at an excellent price. The blade is made of some of the best steel in the business, and the mechanisms are all tight and sound. It is half the price of our "Best Buy" winning Kershaw Leek. We gave the SOG a Top Pick award instead of Best Buy because it is a more specialized piece of equipment for burly applications, while the Leek will appeal more broadly to the general population. Both are high quality and excellent value.
If you spend a great deal of time in vehicles and urban environments under duress, a tactical knife like this in your pocket is an excellent confidence boost. In our experience, both in this review and market screening for product selection, there isn't a better tactical knife for the masses than the Trident Elite.
Other Versions and Accessories
SOG makes Trident knives in a dizzying array of variations. Common to all of them is AUS-8 steel, the innovative slot cutter, and burly construction. Variations include different colors and handle materials, as well as different blade shapes, sizes, and lock/opening configurations.
— Jediah Porter
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