Review: SOG Night Vision

Oct 3, 1998
For another review of this knife, and also pictures and more details
on the knife itself, check out Sergiusz Mitin's review at:

Among other things, Sergiusz's review contains an excellent
top-to-bottom description of the knife, so I'm going to assume the
readers know his description and have seen his pictures, and will
instead concentrate on how it performed for me. You may also want to
follow the link to his description of how the Arc Lock works:

Overall Fit & Finish
Overall production quality on this knife is excellent, a worthy
competitor to the high-end offerings of the other leading production

The entire knife feels sturdy and well-built. The blade finish is
excellent and consistent. The grind lines are also well-done.
There's a small mismatch in one of the grind line intersections from
one side to the other, that I wouldn't have noticed at all had I not
been checking very closely.

The action is very smooth. The Arc Lock action is reminiscent of the
Axis action, with an initial counterforce at the beginning of the
action, which helps hold the blade closed. My sample has a small area
at the back of the blade tang that isn't quite perfectly finished,
which is the only factor that keeps the action from being smooth as
glass. Based on other SOG samples I've handled, this is an anomaly,
and you can expect your Arc Lock to have a good smooth action.

The ambidextrous lock mechanism is complimented by dual thumb studs
and a clip that can be for point-up carry for either lefties or

Overall Blade performance
The blade is a partially-serrated, modified American tanto. Hollow
ground along the bottom edge, flat ground along the front edge. The
modifications are that the blade has a short straight clip on top
which has a swedge, with another arcing clip behind that also has a
swedge. There is a grooved thumb ramp at the back of the blade.

The hollow ground portion is very sharp, and did about as good as a
new Cold Steel Voyager for whittling pine and push-cutting through
rope -- that means SOG did a good job sharpening this. Surprisingly
enough, the front flat-ground portion was even sharper, and whittled
and push cut more effectively than the hollow-ground portion.

The serrations have a slightly higher grind than my serrated endura.
As a result, they were a little more aggressive.

The thumb ramp is well-positioned for slicing, push-cutting, fine
point work, etc. For extended work, I found the grooves on the thumb
ramp to be overly aggressive. My thumb became uncomfortable pretty
quickly. The handle was reasonably comfortable in a variety of
positions for slicing and push-cutting.

The point is a bit thinner than you'd expect when you hear the term
"American tanto", both because of the swedge, and the fact that the
flat grind starts pretty far back. As a result, it penetrates
extremely well. I slammed the knife point-first pretty hard into
pine, the tip sunk deeply, and did not deform or chip. The handle was
secure for thrusting.

After the cutting tests, the knife had developed a little bit of
vertical play. It's small, just barely enough to see.

The lock
Since I'm anything but an American tanto fan, the lock was what I
really wanted to test out. The Arclock's action was excellent. I
have already mentioned that my sample had a little less than perfect
action due to some roughness on the back of the blade, but that I
expect most samples to have a very smooth action all the way through.

The knife locked up solidly each time. The lock release bar is
well-positioned for closing, but I was never at risk of accidently
releasing it.

My first test was to spine-whack the knife. I start off doing
medium-power whippy snaps, which is the way I can usually make liner
locks fail. I moved on to hard, more hammer-like spine whacks. Then
tried mixing up the power and speed characteristics. The lock held
firm through all tests.

Then, as outlined above, I spent some time slamming the knife point
first into pine, then holding firm and trying to torque the blade
out. Finally, I put the blade in a vise and twisted and torqued the
handle. Again, the lock held firm through all tests.

I plan to follow-up with a test of the Arc Lock's resistance to dirt
and debris, I'll test it directly against an Axis and Rolling lock,
and a compression lock if I have one at that time.

The other details -- clip, thumb stud
My biggest complaint about the knife is probably the clip. It is a
metal-colored, hollowed-out clip, and it works very well. I prefer
black over metal clips, along with black fastening hardware, for
inconspicuous carry, but that isn't my main complaint. The clip is
fastened so that nearly 1.25" of the knife sticks out of your pocket
when it's clipped in place. This means it's very visible, and scrapes
and catches easily when you brush up against anything. This is one
religious war that is over, and the low-clip forces (mainly Microtech,
at the time), have been soundly drubbed. Clips should be mounted high
when concealability is the top priority, or with maybe .5" of handle
sticking out when security-of-draw is more of a priority. But this
much handle sticking out has too many disadvantages.

I'm not a fan of thumb studs, but the SOG's is pretty good as thumb
studs go. It's got grooves along the body, and the tip of the stud is
more square than rounded -- which is a little less comfortable on the
thumb but provides much more security. The stud is reasonably
well-positioned in the finger-cutout so that it's pretty easy to hit.
It's easier to hit than my 710 Axis's thumb stud, for example. Still,
some thumb relief along the finger-cutout would be an excellent idea.

Summary and Constructive Criticism
This knife is very well-done. Overall production quality seems to
match SOG's major competitors. Just as importantly, although I can't
draw strong conclusions from just one sample, the Arc Lock is a
player. These two attributes -- production quality and lock format --
should give SOG the foundation to compete strongly against its
competitors. There is some nice attention to detail as well, such as
doing the tiny extra bit of work to make sure the knife is fully
ambidextrous. And I always appreciate an edge that's properly
sharpened out of the box. If someone were to tell me they were
looking for a high-quality tanto folder, I would not hesitate to
suggest that among the good candidates, the various Vision versions
should definitely be looked at. My only practical concern, rather
than design concern, is the little bit of play the lock developed.

There are some details that I feel can be improved. The thumb grooves
are much too aggressive, and a simple test of whittling for a few
minutes would have caught that. The thumb stud is well-placed, but
providing some relief in the cutout would have made a difference --
just angle the relief back a bit so the hollowed-out portion near the
lock doesn't lose structural integrity. The clip is the most
important "detail" that needs tuning. I find a clip can make-or-break
a knife for me, because if the knife doesn't carry well, I stop
carrying it quickly. Given the Visions current design, it might be
difficult (but not impossible) to have mounted the clip higher.
Future designs should specifically keep a high-mounted clip in mind
right from the beginning. Start with a high-mounted clip, then design
your pins and other integrity features around it.

Sergiusz suggested that SOG come out with a version of the Vision that
has a more practical working blade, like a drop-point, instead of a
modified tanto. I was going to agree with that, but I feel that
suggestion doesn't go far enough. SOG has an excellent lock on its
hands, that it needs to exploit. But so far, the knives that have
come out with the Arc Lock have less-useful blades -- for example, a
modified tanto and a modified dagger. In my less charitable moods, I
call that a fad blade and tiny-niche blade. I personally would like
to see SOG come out with a serious working blade with the Vision's
quality and the Arc Lock. I'd also like to see SOG looking at some
collaborations with custom knifemakers who specialize in this area. I
feel the design acumen and sense of aesthetics of a good custom maker,
along with SOG's production quality and the Arc Lock, could put SOG
over the top.

As it is, the Vision doesn't get as much press as I think it should.
The price is high, but SOG is coming out with well-done versions at
lower price points. I think the fact that the tanto craze is slowing
has something to do with this. But the interest in well-done,
high-quality working folders with new and better lock formats is as
hot as ever.
Thanks for nice and particular review!
Match exactly my vision of the Night Vision
, maybe excluding thumb ramp aggressively. Seems they tried to make the handling security maximally turned onto no-slip-forwards side.

I'm very curious to see your dirt and debris resistance test comparing with another new generation locks. As to hard piece obstruction between stop pin and blade tang Arc Lock loses with Axis Lock but this situation is hardly imaginable in real life conditions. Your announced test seems to be far closer to real knife use circumstances.
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Joe Talmadge:
...As it is, the Vision doesn't get as much press as I think it should...

SOG in general doesn't, and that's too bad as they make some pretty decent knives.

Their folders have improved by a marketing view point in the last few years as they have introduced high-end materials like carbon fiber handles, titanium, and have started using ATS-34 in a lot of their newer designs. Hope to see more high-end knives from SOG.

How about a special edition Blade Forums model? A vision, or say even one of those big "mutha-you-know-what" Pentagon folders with arc-lock, ATS-34 blade (or better), and G-10 or inlayed ti handles? That would kick ass!

(Hint, hint, Ron@SOG).