Trail Blazing Cutlery Designs — Their Way
By Pat Covert
Photos: chuck Pittman, Inc.
Over 30 years ago, in 1986, history buff and entrepreneur Spencer Frazer took the bold step of designing a replica of the famed Studies and Observations Group Bowie knife of Viet Nam lore in a limited edition of 200 units. Little did he know at the time a war would break out in the Middle East, opening the door for a booming company named after the famous knife — SOG Specialty Knives & Tools. When the demand for rock solid knives for field and combat took off due to the first gulf war in the early 1990’s, Spencer jumped in and helped feed the beast that would become the age of the modern tactical knife. And he hasn’t looked back.
The secret to SOG Knives’ success has been a consistent focus on manufacturing knives and tools built for duty — initially in field and battle stressed situations — and for sporting and everyday carry as the demand for these genres grew. In a nutshell, Frazer is a wizard at the art of adapting. As the cutlery world grew, so did Frazer’s brainchild and today SOG Knives is considered one of the top knife manufacturers in the world.
“I like to think the SOG is just expanding upon our heritage rather than balancing new tactical knives with classics,” SOG Senior Director of Marketing Chris Cashbaugh tells Handgunner. “We have always been a tactical brand and were at the forefront of the wave of what is currently referred to as tactical knives. We stay true to those roots — look at the new knives we’ve introduced this year — but we aren’t afraid to take some risks. The market has been somewhat tough recently, with popular culture influences that often drive knife sales — such as survival shows and zombies — slackening. We’ve reacted by trying to deepen our product offerings for a wider consumer base.”
Always keeping a pulse on the market, Frazer and right-hand man Cashbaugh are experts at rolling with the times. “In recent years SOG has been focused on doing what we do well, making knives and pushing the envelope on design. Along with adding new technologies and knife models, we have made concerted effort into taking a new tact on our multi-tools in recent years.”
We asked Chris how the new administration in Washington might affect cutlery sales now restrictions on firearms and knives are loosening. “There are two ways to look at it. We’ve already seen a decline, or at least a slowing, in knife sales since the new administration took office. There’s not this impending sense of regulation driving consumers to gun shops. So the pessimist view is with fewer people heading to gun shops, sales of all accessories and associated equipment might slow. The optimist says there is now more money in consumers’ pockets for accessories like optics, knives and clothing. SOG is taking the optimistic view.”
Seal Pup Fixed-blade
SOG’s Many Faces
SOG Knives’ line-up today is more multi-faceted than it’s ever been. For tradition, look no farther than SOG’s time proven SEAL Pup fixed-blade. A scaled down, modernized version of the famous SOG Bowie that put them on the map, the Seal Pup is a staple among soldiers and other serious users who appreciate a blend of combat and field knife.
“The SEAL Pup is one of our best-selling fixed blade knives,” Cashbaugh states. “It has been a staple of SOG and is probably the most well-known SOG knife on the market.” On the other end of the spectrum, the company’s collaborations with noted Japanese knifemaker Kiku Matsuda has resulted in a line of futuristic and aggressively styled folders and fixed-blades.
SOG’s folding knives are likewise diverse, from the more traditional Pent Arc — which is rooted in the company’s enduring Pentagon model — and the Trident, with its blade taking styling cues from the SOG Bowie. Others, such as the Kiku Assisted model and Zoom S30V, are much more modern tip-to-base. With more relaxed laws, automatics are becoming more prominent, and SOG was on the ground floor of this revival movement.
“The biggest reason for the boom in automatics is the fact there are more states where owning an automatic knife to some degree is now legal. Automatics are part of our DNA, with our military heritage and influences,” notes Chris. “I see SOG continuing to support and produce automatic knives. For 2017, we introduced two new autos to the line, the Tac Ops and Strat Ops. These are both Made-in-the-USA knives, and I think they’ll do well in the market.”
There are also smaller everyday carry folders, such as the Ultra CT-1, which will serve those who need to be discreet with their edges.
Sporting knives, such as the handsome Pillar, have also become a regular in the SOG line. “We have been putting more emphasis on broadening the user groups the SOG appeals to, including hunting and camping users, and this has helped to increase awareness outside of our core tactical influence.”
Then there are the SOG multi-tools, which have been a highly successful segment of their tool line for many years. “We’ve made a good splash in the multi-tool market in the last couple of decades,” Cashbaugh informs. “The PowerLock is one of our best sellers. Recently, we’ve made a concerted effort into taking a new tact on our multi-tools. Our designers have really brought fresh, creative looks and this effort to reinvigorate this genre has really paid off for us. We have continued this for 2017 with a couple of really eye-popping models and will be looking to continue the trend moving forward.”
Zoom S30V Folder
Kiku Assisted Folder
Ultra CT-1 Folder
SOG Looking Ahead
It’s always interesting to take a look in the crystal ball, so we asked Chris what he foresees down the road for SOG. “I think the cutlery market is looking up, and with the newest items from SOG we are looking forward to a good year. As for future plans, we’ll see more innovation in the multi-tool category and perhaps a deeper commitment to domestic-made products. Bottom line, we are going to continue making great knives, multi-tools and more for users who are not afraid to get outside and use their tools.” And this is the secret to SOG’s success.
For more info: https://americanhandgunner.com/company/sog-specialty-knives-tools-llc/, Ph: (425) 771-6230.
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