SOG Fielder Folding Hunting Knife
By the Guns and Shooting Online Staff
Spencer Frazer founded SOG in his Santa Monica, California apartment in 1986. The Company name was taken from the "Studies and Observations Group," a covert special operations group that served during the Vietnam War. Today the Company is headquartered just north of Seattle, Washington. SOG designs and imports a wide variety of straight and fixed blade knives, as well as multi-tools and other cutting implements.
The new Fielder model that is the subject of this review is an economical folding hunter ($30). It has nicely finished wood grip panels and a mirror polished 7Cr13 stainless steel body and blade that make it very attractive.
Heat treated 7Cr17 is a medium grade Chinese stainless steel with properties similar to American 440A. It is used in many medium priced Chinese knives. 7Cr17 has good corrosion resistance, high tensile strength and can be honed to a very sharp edge. It is reasonably easy to sharpen, with medium edge retention.
The Fielder is a single blade, lock-open design; a liner lock holds the blade in the open position. Press the liner lock laterally at the serrated end to close the blade. The blade opens easily and closes smoothly with minimal play. SOG has indicated that an assisted opening version of the Fielder will eventually be added to the line, but we do not think assisted opening is necessary.
An interesting feature of this knife is its open back design. The liner lock design means that there is no need for a spring or back lock to keep the blade open, so the space between the handles is left completely open. This will make it easy to keep the knife free of pocket lint and other crud. The waistband clip is larger and has a wider gap than an original Spyderco Clipit, making it a little bulkier, but easier to use. The handle is rounded at the rear and slightly flared at the front for a good grip and most of us found it comfortable in the hand. This is a big knife, the handle measuring 4-1/2" long with the 3-1/2" blade closed. Despite its size, we found the Fielder comfortable to carry clipped inside the waistband of our pants, just behind the hipbone.
The hollow ground blade's cutting edge has a gently curved edge and terminates in a sharp point. It is a practical design for field dressing game, cleaning fish and general cutting chores. The length of the cutting edge is maximized by sharpening nearly to the handle. The cutting edge is sharpened on both sides, but asymmetrically, with a sharper pitch on the left side of the blade than on the right. We are sure that this was unintentional. Rather coarse grinding marks are clearly visible in the edge. A few minutes with a hard Arkansas stone sufficed to remove the grinding marks and produced a truly sharp cutting edge.
The Fielder is held together by screws, rather than rivets, so it could be tightened or disassembled if required. The thumb stud used to open the blade, on the other hand, is merely pressed into a small hole drilled into the blade. It seems tight, but if it were to fall out, the blade would be difficult or impossible to open.
The back of the blade, from the tip to about the middle of its length, is raised and beveled, as if the blade had a back cutting edge. However, this back "edge" is not sharpened. This gives it the look of a Bowie knife point, but is purely cosmetic. We think the back of the blade should not have been beveled. Left at full thickness and provided with a fingernail cut, it could have served as an alternative way to open the knife, should the thumb stud be lost. As is, there is too much bevel to allow enough finger grip to open the blade.
The design of the liner lock leaves about 5/8" of the grip panel wood on that side unsupported from the inside and unprotected when the blade is open. This should not ordinarily be a problem, but potentially it could allow a chip or split in that area of the wooden grip panel. A polymer or micarta handle would eliminate this potential problem, but would not look or feel as nice as wood.
All of the metal in this knife is polished stainless steel. This included the blade's pivot pin. Some knives, such as the seminal Buck 110 Folding Hunter, use brass pivot pins. This means that if excessive force is applied to the blade, the pivot pin will shear before the blade breaks. In the aftermath of such an accident, the knife can be repaired and put back into service. It is hard to guess what would fail first if a SOG Fielder were tested to destruction, or it the knife would be repairable afterward. On the other hand, it would probably take more force to break the Fielder and the replacement cost is quite reasonable.
Owner and Managing Editor Chuck Hawks had the Guns and Shooting Online staff guess at the Fielder's price tag. The estimates ranged up to $100 and averaged about $65. Only Gunsmithing Editor Rocky Hays, who has engraved many knives and was at one time a Spyderco dealer, correctly guessed the Fielder's actual MSRP. Our conclusion is that the SOG Fielder is a good value at only $30 and a lot of knife for the money.
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