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||Great blade, classy wooden handle||Incredible blade quality, assisted open, perfect combination of compactness/functionality||Proven and well-respected blade, smooth, comfortable ergonomics||Immaculate materials, assisted opening, fully symmetrical performance|
|Cons||Bulkier than some options||Expensive, no assisted opening function||Pricey, blade lock mechanism not intuitive||Large, no assisted opening||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.||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.||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.||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 15031-2 North Fork||Benchmade Mini-Barrage 585||Benchmade Griptilian 551||Benchmade Barrage 580|
|Blade And Edge Integrity (30%)|
|Construction Quality (20%)|
|Other Features (10%)|
|Specs||SOG Trident Elite||Benchmade 15031-2...||Benchmade...||Benchmade...||Benchmade Barrage...|
|Weight (ounces)||3.9 oz||3.2 oz||3.4 oz||3.9 oz||4.2 oz|
|Blade Style||Clip point, straight||Drop point, straight||Drop point, straight||Drop point, straight||Drop point, straight|
|Blade locks closed?||Yes||Yes||Yes||No||Yes|
|Opening Style||Assisted, thumb stud||Ambidextrous thumb-stud||Assisted, 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||Pocket Clip and lanyard hole||Pocket Clip||Pocket Clip, lanyard hole|
|Blade Material||AUS-8 stainless steel||CPM-S30V stainless steel||154CM Steel||154CM steel||154 CM stainless steel|
|Handle Material||Glass-reinforced nylon & rubber overmold||Stabilized wood||Plastic||Plastic||Valox|
|Blade Length (inches)||3.5||2.9||2.9||3.5||3.8|
|Closed Length (inches)||4.8||3.9||4||4.6||4.8|
|Thickness (w/o pocket clip) (inches)||0.6||0.53||0.57||0.6||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." Who uses a "tactical knife" like this? The first and most significant user group that comes to mind is law enforcement officers operating from vehicles. They are the largest category of people that spend a great deal of time in vehicles and are most exposed to potential strife. Other emergency responders might have similar needs. It is hard to imagine a "regular" citizen truly requiring the function and utility of a tactical knife like the SOG Trident Elite, but many will lean this direction "just in case". For them, the blade is easily worth the price of admission and the ergonomics and portability are suitable for every day 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 a more all-purpose product.
Sure enough, the corners are a little more square, and the locks and mechanisms are just a touch less smooth, as compared to the top scorers. The handle is slightly more squared off, and the locking mechanisms are less refined. For instance, the Editors Choice 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 other solutions we've tried. 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. 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 Editors Choice 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 other tactical knives we have assessed. Some weigh more than 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.
In fairly long term testing, we found that the hinges, pivots, and mechanisms of the SOG Trident Elite are sound, solid, and ready for whatever you might throw at it.
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 cutter styles 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.
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. 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 Best Buy winners will appeal more broadly to the general population.
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