Since it came out, SOG’s Ultra XR has been one of those knives which I see pop up everywhere. It’s hard to find people have strong opinions against it, while many are either ‘meh’ or really love it. The thing about this knife is that it looks completely normal when you put it on a desk and take a picture, but when you touch it the knife seems to defy knife logic.
That’s because the hallmark of this knife is that it is very thin and very light. While the blade is an ideal 2.8” long, the entire knife package weighs 1.2oz with the clip on it. Bananas.
My short one line summary: this knife surprised me in every way, and I am a big fan.
This is possibly the sharpest knife out of the box I’ve ever received. It’s fantastic. That’s my entire summary of this blade. I’ve owned dozens of SOG knives over the years and I have never been wowed by the blades. When I took a step away I did so because I learned more about blade steel and what to expect for the price paid and SOG wasn’t meeting the standard.
SOG took a step away too, retooled their entire lineup with XR and LTE modifications and came back with a lineup of knives which have a Titanium Nitride coating on the blades (the Ultra comes in graphite and gold) and a CRYO S35VN blade steel. It sounds like a gimmick, I know, but it’s not. The best info I can find on this type of S35VN is from Knife Nerds where they were testing the treatment themselves, and concluded:
Optimum heat treatment was found to be 2025°F for 15 minutes with a cryo treatment and tempering between 300 and 400°F.
I don’t know if that is how SOG treats this blade or not. I do know that I have owned many blades in S35VN as it is one of my favorite steels (good edge retention, still easy to sharpen, not delicate). This is the best of all of the S35VN I have handled. It holds an insane edge.
In a lot of ways, this knife steel feels like M390 too: impossibly sharp all the time. Crazy.
The chip is hard to see here, but is dead center in the image above.
But there’s one caveat to the above: I got a chip in the blade. I don’t know how it happened, and it’s possible that I hit some metal using it (but I don’t know how/where) or possible there was a small imperfection in that one spot. So I have reprofiled the blade to get it back to perfect. You can’t tell at all, and it sharpened up very easily. I am still happy with this blade and steel overall.
All sharp and no more chip.
If that’s the only chip I get, I can write it off as a fluke, if I get another, I’ll be concerned.
Carry and Use
The thing about this knife is that it is wide but so thin that it’s fantastic. It can be used as a money clip, or a hank clip as I use it. That makes it amazing to carry. It disappears into the bottom of your pocket because there’s not enough weight to pull down on your pocket, and not enough depth to print. But you should clip it to something, or it’s not comfortable in your pocket as the knife will lay sideways. If you rock a money clip, you’ll love to replace it with this. If you carry a hank, this will clip right on it and stay tidy in your pocket.
But the clip doesn’t work well for the top of my pants pocket. Because it is more money clip than deep carry clip, the clip has a very wide footprint. And depending on your pocket shape, this might not work for you to easily carry it. On a slanted pocket, like on my Outlier Futureworks it rides at an angle that is silly and not tenable. On a 5-pocket style pants where the top edge of the pocket is more parallel to the ground, it works reasonably well. If you are a pocket clip only type of person, this is your deal breaker.
The knife in use has been outstanding. I love using it. I wouldn’t want it for hard or heavy use. Or in the woods. But for EDC use around the house it’s fantastic. The blade shape is very slicey while offering enough depth and thickness that it never feels delicate. The locking mechanism is the XR system, which is essentially the same system in a Benchmade. It is fantastic and nothing to worry about — the knife is fully ambidextrous.
Opening the knife is done with a large rounded rectangle of a cut out in the blade for your thumb to grip. I’ve found this easy enough to locate without looking, but it doesn’t overly protrude and if your skin is dry and rough, you might find this a little harder to get open. The blade also is a rather stiff open, without much of any flick. Because the handle is so thin (just two minuscule bits of carbon fiber) the handle can and does flex into the blade, which can bind the system a little when you open. You need to have a relaxed hand, firm grip, and rotate the blade all the way with your thumb. It’s still easier the a two-handed open, but it’s not fast — intentional is what this is all about.
The clip can go over a lot of material, here it’s over 4 layers of my hank.
Generally I’ve been happy with this. The slow opening, and lack of ease to carry on the top clip keeps the knife away from my house chores, or working in the yard/outdoors. But for a more robust gentleman’s knife, which still can be discretely carried — wow.
All of this comes with the biggest caveat ever on a knife I have reviewed: for as awesome as the blade is executed, the handle is not as well executed.
The handle edges were disappointing out of the box as they were very precise on the beveled edges which felt like too hard of an edge in your hand. I would forgive someone for saying they felt ‘rough’ or ‘sharp’ in your hand but I don’t think that’s accurate. They just didn’t feel properly eased and while there was nothing at all that was directly wrong with them, they produced a handle I didn’t really want to hold in my hand.
Out of the box, you can see how defined the edges are on the handle.
So I set about looking into how I could smooth them, and it turns out that sanding carbon fiber can be a little risky if you don’t take the proper precautions. So I wet sanded these to keep the dust down, wearing two layers of nitrile gloves, an N95 respirator, and safety goggles — something which anyone who worked construction with me knows is not something I really ever do. But breathing in carbon fiber dust seemed very bad, so I thought best to avoid that.
Sanded and eased.
Once wearing my insane safety gear, I wet sanded the bevels on the handle with 1000 grit wet/dry sandpaper, and then with some 4000 grit polish tape I have for knives, and finished with a plastic polishing compound. These were all mistakes, I should have only done the 1000 grit sanding and then stopped.
The reason the last two were mistakes is that after sanding with 1000 grit the bevels were rounded, smooth, and had a solid look to them. Hitting them with the 4000 grit made them look scratched, which then necessitated my use of the polishing compound to clear back up the carbon fiber.
The end result for me was a fantastic look, and I think you could easily do this with 1000 grit paper, water, mask, and gloves. The handle is now smooth, comfortable, and I have zero complaints. Had this not turned out, I would have been complaining about the handles this entire post. I really am sensitive to stupid angles on knife scales.
I thought I’d get this knife and not love it, maybe a neat toy.
I love this knife though.
It really is slim, it’s easy to carry even into the office while being a great size for all tasks. That the blade is as good as it is, icing on an already great cake.
It’s a touch bigger than the Mini Bugout in footprint. But weighs less and carries easier. The Mini Bugout works better for most tasks but the Ultra has better steel. The Mini Bugout is a better all around knife as the handle is more comfortable and feels better with longer or harder use and easily opens and closes with one hand.
That said, for a money clip knife or just something slim to hide deep in your pocket: the UItra is amazing. It’s one of those knives where it makes a great addition to a collection you are already happy with, because few knives like this exist.