It has been a long time since a SOG knife review graced this site. And if you exclude the awesome Pillar, it has been a very, very long time. The reason is pretty simple—SOGs folders have been pretty lackluster here recently. The designs waded into the murkiest waters of the swamp steels. 8Cr is the steel equivalent of Mendoza line in baseball and going beneath it is tremendously bad. There is simply no reason to dip below the already inexpensive 8Cr steel, other than to appeal to corporate buyers at Big Box, but SOG went there. To compound the problem, as SOG was going below the Steel Mendoza Line, Chinese brands, even budget Chinese brands, were upgrading their steel. Unless you are really trying, finding a budget brand blade on Amazon with something less than D2 is difficult. SOG was embracing 7Cr and even 5Cr while Ruike was sporting D2 and 14C28N. And when the prices of the knives are the same, its awfully difficult to justify buying a SOG. Until September of 2018 it seemed like SOG folders were lost in the wilderness.
But then the Terminus XR showed up. Unlike most major releases it was not shown at Blade or SHOT Show. Instead it was a surprise midyear drop. The appearance was mysterious—this is certainly the most promising SOG folder in years. But whatever the reason, the specs made clear that this was a SOG designed to capture the growing EDC knife market. It was light, relatively small, with a good lock and a flipper. On paper it looked promising. The steel, CTS-BDZ1, wasn’t a screamer, but it is leagues better than the 7 and 5Cr that was showing up on SOG stuff. I reached out to SOG and within a week I had a review sample.
When the knife slid out of the box and landed in my eager hand, I knew this was something special. This knife is the perfect example of the Aristotelian concept of the soul where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. That is not to say that the knife has soul, such vague language serves no one in a knife review. It simply means that this knife is better in person than its specs sheet would indicate. The Terminus XR is a really good knife.
Here is the product page. It costs $79.95. There is a slipjoint version of the Terminus XR (which was released first) called the Terminus. This is the first written review. Here is a video review by Eugene Kwon (an excellent reviewer). Here is my video overview. Here is a link where you can buy the Terminus XR:
And here is the review sample:
Twitter Review Summary: Showing up at the end of the year to help make 2018 the best year ever for EDC folders.
This is an incredibly simple design, a profile that could have been made by literally any knife company. The details are pure Freeman, with the striated grooves across the CF/G10 laminate handle. The blade shape is basic. The clip is no nonsese. The thumbstuds work. The flipper, holy moley, works. Time and again, everything about the Terminus XR seems so simple that it is surprising this exact knife has never been made before. Even the chamfering around the top and bottom edges of the handle are simple and excellent. There is nothing excessive, nothing flashy, and nothing unnecessary here. What is present screams cohesion and function. I love the Terminus XR design.
The performance ratios are decent. The b/w is .92 and the b/h is .69. Neither is great, but neither is bad. Solid, like the rest of the Terminux XR.
Fit and Finish: 2
Dead centered blade. Silky, snappy pivot. Excellent machining on the handle. Like with the design, the fit and finish on the Terminus XR is simple and wonderful. I would have preferred no jimping on the flipper tab and both that jimping and the spine jimping is about as sharp as it gets without being a problem. But aside from that small matter of taste, this is a meticulously clean build.
Notice the very subtle bird’s beak at the rear of the handle. Its small, but surprisingly it works. It basically reminds you: “You have reached the end of the handle.” The rest of the knife is just too good in the hand as well. The index notch, subtle as it may be, is also effective. And fortunately, the clip is positioned so that it doesn’t bother the hand that much.
The Terminus XR carries well thanks to a compact size and a clip that rests on a smooth part of the handle. Its not perfect as the sharp jimping can get a bit snaggy in slacks or pants with thin pocket liners, but aside from that one very odd and specific cavaet, the XR carries very, very well.
Look, CTS-BDZ1 is not a bad steel. It is probably between AUS8 and VG-10 in terms of performance with a similar profile in terms of corrosion resistance, hardness, and toughness. But in a world where there is a CRKT with S35VN for the same price, this is a bit of a hard pill to swallow. That said, in use, I have had no complaints with the steel. This is my third knife with BDZ-1 and it has never bothered me. At the same time it has never surprised me either.
Blade Shape: 2
The XR sports an absolutely dead sexy blade shape: a classic mild clip point blade. This is, in my mind, the best looking blade shape and one that, when done well, calls out to all true knife knuts. In a philosophy class once we had a discussion about the aforementioned Aristotle and how virtually no one that liked philosophy, regardless of the school of thought, disliked Aristotle. For me the mild clip point blade shape is the same thing for knife folks. If you like knives you like this blade shape. And not only does it look gorgeous, it works well too.
Ah. SOG grinds. Even on knives with crappy steel, SOG’s manufacturers manage to pull of some of the best, most crisp, most visually arresting grinds in the production world. This knife, though, stands out even among that vaunted company. Thanks to a horiztonal flats and vertical bevel grind patterns and the black logo and thumb stud, the grinds on the XR really stand out. Furthermore, the grind is functional as well, slicing and not popping apples. It is not an elite grind in terms of performance, but it is certainly above average. That, coupled with the Kate Upton-level good looks makes this one hell of a knife grind.
Deployment Method: 2
I am not sure how SOG did it, but this is basically an Axis lock flipper that actually flips. Whatever the solution, this proves to me definitely that Axis lock flippers are possible, but that they are difficult to do (it is also a great argument against the current patent system—the Axis lock patent expired just over a year ago). An enormous amount of tuning was required because when I first got the knife the loose pivot screw messed with the flipping action. Once I tightened it down (and Loctited it), the action has been wonderful. An Axis-type lock will never have the best flipping action, but the Terminus XR proves Axis flippers can been significantly better than average.
Retention Method: 2
It is as if the SOG design team was told to make as simple a clip as possible and the marketing team, seeing the simplicity decided to get greedy. The clip functions beautifully, but it has a level of billboarding that is hard to miss. Fortunately, it is not as prone to bending or breaking as the previous clip that looks similar to this. Still, I would have loved a non-branded clip.
I am not sure what the differences are in terms of internals or engineering but the XR locks functions exactly the same as an Axis lock and that is a very good thing. It is easy to enage, easy to disengage, and rock solid (oh, that is the other thing—no blade play here unlike most Axis lock knives). I also appreciate that the knife is fully ambidextrous.
Fidget Factor: Very High
When you combine the most fidget friendly lock and the most fidget friendly deployment method you get a knife that is basically crack for your fingers. You will not be able to put this knife down once you pick it up.
Fett Effect: Very Low
With a pronounced grinder satin finish and a ding hiding CF/G10 laminate (which frankly doesn’t bother me in the least), this knife looks like new for months after carrying it. If that is what you want, then the XR looks good as long as any other knife.
You are getting a very nice knife for $70. It hangs with much more expensive knives. But still, the steel seems a bit meh given the price tag. You can get an equally great design with better steel for the same money in the CRKT Pilar.
Overall Score: 19 out of 20
The SOG Terminus XR is easily one of the best knives released in 2018 and instantly vaults to the top of the EDC knife heap, regardless of the year of release. This knife is not out of place hanging among the Benchmade Mini Grip, the Spyderco Chaparral in FRN, the TRM Neutron, and the CRKT Pilar in S35VN. Its one of the cheapest of those knives, and has the “worst” steel, but its silhouette and in-hand feel somewhat make up for the under par steel. This knife works, feels solid, and cuts nicely. Other than an upgraded steel, I don’t know how SOG could improve the Terminux XR and that is a very good sign.
The market right now is absolutely stuffed with great knives. Fortunately, the SOG overcomes its mediocre steel with a very, very solid, well made design and hangs with the TRM Neutron, the CRKT Pilar in S35VN, the Mini Grip, and the Chaparral in FRN. It is the cheapest or second cheapest knife of the group and while it is probably not the best any one thing, it is definitely good. If you like the style, the performance won’t disappoint. Still, the CRKT is a notably better value, the Chaparral is a better performer, and the Neutron is just a slicing machine.