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 particular 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.
SOG Trident Elite Review
Cons: Bulkier than some options
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SOG Trident Elite
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|Pros||Burly construction in a lightweight package||Incredible blade quality, assisted open, perfect combination of compactness/functionality||Proven and well-respected blade, smooth, comfortable ergonomics||Great blade, classy wooden handle||Immaculate materials, assisted opening, fully symmetrical performance|
|Cons||Bulkier than some options||Pricey, blade lock mechanism not intuitive||Large, no assisted opening||Expensive, no assisted opening function||Large in your pocket, expensive|
|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.||Immaculately constructed knife in a form-factor that is easy to carry and large enough for virtually every task.||Full-size, basic folding pocket knife with immaculate construction.||A solid little knife for all-around “every day carry”. With assisted opening, this model would be similar enough to our Editors' Choice to really complicate our assessment.||The full size version of our Editors' Choice is less portable with minimal but real gains in usability. If you know you need a full size pocket knife, the Barrage 580 is a great choice.|
|Rating Categories||SOG Trident Elite||Benchmade Mini-Barrage 585||Benchmade Griptilian 551||Benchmade 15031-2 North Fork||Benchmade Barrage 580|
|Blade And Edge Integrity (30%)|
|Construction Quality (20%)|
|Other Features (10%)|
|Specs||SOG Trident Elite||Benchmade...||Benchmade...||Benchmade 15031-2...||Benchmade Barrage...|
|Blade Style||Clip point, straight||Drop point, straight||Drop point, straight||Drop point, straight||Drop point, straight|
|Blade locks closed?||Yes||Yes||No||Yes||Yes|
|Opening Style||Assisted, thumb stud||Assisted, ambidextrous thumb stud||Ambidextrous thumb stud||Ambidextrous thumb-stud||Assisted, ambidextrous thumb stud|
|Lock Mechanism||Piston lock mechanism||Proprietary (Axis)||Proprietary (Axis)||Proprietary (Axis)||Proprietary (Axis)|
|Carry Style, in addition to loose in pocket||Pocket Clip||Pocket Clip and lanyard hole||Pocket Clip||Pocket Clip||Pocket Clip, lanyard hole|
|Blade Material||AUS-8 stainless steel||154CM Steel||154CM steel||CPM-S30V stainless steel||154 CM stainless steel|
|Handle Material||Glass-reinforced nylon & rubber overmold||Plastic||Plastic||Stabilized wood||Valox|
|Blade Length (inches)||3.5||2.9||3.5||2.9||3.8|
|Closed Length (inches)||4.8||4||4.6||3.9||4.8|
|Thickness (w/o pocket clip) (inches)||0.6||0.57||0.6||0.53||0.7|
|Other Features or Functions||Slot cutter, glass breaker||None||None||None||None|
Our Analysis and Test Results
In the realm of "tactical knives," the SOG is without parallel. It is affordable, robust, equipped with an excellent blade, and lightweight for "everyday carry."
Blade and Edge Integrity
SOG uses "AUS-8" steel in the Trident Elite knife blade. AUS-8 is made in Japan and is 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 decent enough to easily and cleanly cut a ripe tomato.
As a "tactical" tool built for heavy use and including a couple of extra tools, we do not expect the knife to be quite as ergonomic as something like the Editors Choice Benchmade MIni Barrage 585. Similarly, the full-size Benchmade Barrage is even more user friendly than the SOG. For instance, both Barrage knives are completely symmetrical. Every attribute, from lock to thumb stud to pocket clip, can be configured for left or right handed use.
Sure enough, the corners are a little more square, 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. 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.
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 concerning 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, 4.8 inches, while the close competitor Spyderco is just a touch shorter. The size of the SOG is optimized for function with a nod toward portability. Next, concerning 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 lightweight construction of the SOG is the biggest attribute that tips the balance from the Spyderco Tenacious. The Spyderco weighs 150% 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 everyday 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.
We had no problem with the SOG's durability or 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.
The Kershaw Blur is a sort of tactical knife (lacking the v-cutter that the Trident Elite has) that is even more robustly built than the Trident Elite. The Kershaw has an entirely aluminum handle, textured for easy grip.
Like on other tactical knives, the extra features of the SOG are targeted at various sorts of escape and evasion needs.
The hardened steel "glass breaker" protrusion is efficient and low profile, while the slot cutter is unique. On most such knives, 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 a simple groove integrated 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 is oriented 90 degrees from one another. Despite this significant 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 other tactical knives, 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 but almost twice the cost of the other Best Buy Kershaw Chill. 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 potential 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.
— Jediah Porter