Throughout the past three years blogging here, I have had countless requests to review the SOG Flash II. It’s definitely one of the most popular mainstream EDC knives, and while I normally try to cater to my readers in terms of gear to buy, I admit I have dragged my feet immensely over this review.
I first handled the Flash II many years ago and found a plague of issues that put me off the knife entirely. Based on the sheer amount of requests I received, however, I snapped up the SOG Flash II two years ago, and EDC’d it longer than I normally would to see if my pre-conceived notions would change after prolonged use.
Sadly, after 2 years of ownership my feelings over this knife echo the ones I had after handling it for a few minutes. A very usable blade in a minimal(-ish; this is SOG we are talking about) package, with mediocre implementation from lock to features: not a knife I’m happy to recommend.
Right off the bat, the SOG Flash II is a very utilitarian folder; very standard drop point blade (extremely boring by SOG standards) and beyond some aesthetic quirks, I think the handle design itself is relatively benign. I might go as far as to call it ugly, but then again I find the Spyderco Dodo to be adorable, so perhaps I am the wrong person to comment on aesthetics.
Its closed length chimes in at 4.5 inches. It’s a decent size, and in my opinion the 3.5 inch blade market is the perfect equilibrium for EDC knives, not too small and not too big. Just right. The scales are made out of glass reinforced nylon and beyond the amount of “stuff” on the handle, which in my opinion is way too busy, I do think they’re decently implemented in terms of in-hand retention. The scales are grippy without tearing your pockets apart, and unlike the more unique Spyderco patterns you will find on the Spyderco Delica/Endura, it’s significantly more subtle.
Admittedly, I would like it far more if the giant SOG logo wasn’t injection molded in, but that’s the SOG way of doing things, whether you like it or not. On the Vulcan, I found the branding to be a smidgen over the top, but somehow I felt like it worked. On the Flash II, my gut tells me it’s a bit too tacky. Not sure why there is such a huge difference in visual appeal for me, but based on looks alone this knife does not tick any boxes for me.
Other than the handles and those 2 switches (the unlock and the safety lock), its pretty box standard. Definitely as safe as you are going to get with SOG, which I think is a mistake. What I always loved about SOG was their very unique branding and style. Look at the Tomcat, Vulcan, and all their big bowies – that’s the SOG I know and love.
At some point, they decided to take on the aesthetic of other companies (case and point; check out the Sogzilla – I refuse to review it, as it’s a thinly veiled imitation of the Spyderco Endura), and frankly I just don’t get why. Would Leatherman start making “swiss army knife” style multi-tools? It just doesn’t add up to me, and just screams of corporate opportunism. SOG is and in my mind always will be a unique company with a very unique take on what a knife should look like. I don’t need to look at the stamp on the blade to know if it’s a SOG and same goes with Spyderco or anything by Ken Onion. I know it’s tempting to do everything, but some things should be left to other companies unless you can do them better. Having a product on the market just to fill a spot in your catalog just doesn’t read right to me and I don’t think I am the only one who feels this way.
One thing I do think is super nice about the Flash II is the handles being (for a lack of a better term) bonded together. I do like the monobloc design, and I think it offers some great advantages in cold countries like Canada. No one wants metal back spacers on exposed flesh in subzero temps. All in all, it feels like a congruent design, if a smidgen boring.
Boring, by the way, is not a criticism. The blade, for instance, is pretty fantastic. Full flat ground with excellent utility and no bias for any specific tasks. No weird grinds or swedges either, which I sorta miss seeing, as this is a SOG; but from a purely functional perspective I think the blade is a home run. The AUS-8 steel may be criticized as sub-par taking into account the cost, but for me it’s not a big deal. The heat treat is on point, and I never felt like edge retention was an issue even after quite a few months of daily EDC.
Super easy to sharpen, too, I might add.
The shape of the handle is superficially boring, but in hand it’s obviously “optimized” for ergonomics. I would say that its in hand retention is way above average, although the lack of aggression with regards to the molding on the scales is interesting. There is an obvious scallop around the section where your pointer finger rests, which aids in deployment. Beyond that, the handle is very clearly designed to taper downwards. In practice, I think it was a good effort, and in a traditional saber grip, it does feel somewhat natural, although the lack of “meat” and tapering towards the butt did reveal hot spots that are apparent if you exert too much torque.
Some very light jimping on the back. Interestingly, the blade is utterly devoid of jimping. I own the SOG Northwest Ranger 2.0, and the jimping on the spine is unreal in terms of grip. I do wish SOG opted to add a version of that. Looking at and handling the SOG Flash II, it does feel like the blade and scales were designed by two different people. Somehow they don’t seem to mesh well together.
SOG is big on advertising itself. A touch odd since real-world performance is mediocre at best. SOGs are not the strongest, toughest, sharpest, etc. knives. SOGs aren’t made with super steels like Spydercos, nor does the company cater to the overbuilt obsessed crazies (like me) as Cold Steel does. The lock is advertised as locking up like “Alcatraz” (if by Alcatraz they meant a play pen made in the East, then sure). It’s a version of their ARC lock which essentially is a spring loaded piston. In the real world, the ARC lock on the Vulcan is quite excellent. Sadly, the version used on the Flash is utter garbage. Its lock up is piss poor, and frankly, SOG should be embarrassed to have such a product on the market. My SOG Flash II and a handful of others I have handled all had blade play. The lock feels spongy and frankly does not inspire confidence. Downward pressure on the spine will reveal a certain amount of give and in a day where you can buy a TRI-AD lock knife for under 30 bucks, this is pretty embarrassing.
The lock up is the most egregious complaint I have with the SOG Flash II. You can scrutinize the price (way too high), the steel (not acceptable taking into account price), the fit (mediocre), the features (safety lock which is a hindrance), the pocket clip (wobbles around), and the lock (feels less sturdy than a slip joint), but at the end of the day, we have to accept the universal truth of folding knives – they are created from the day they leave the production line to fail and take your digits with them.
A lock on a knife with a 3.5 inch blade should be rock solid. Google around for tests with this lock or stories of lock failure, and then do the same for a TRI-AD lock or an AXIS lock. This knife (in my opinion) is not safe for its intended purpose. End of.
Disengaging the lock is smooth with very little resistance. I do have concerns about the ability to clean it due to the unique design of the handles, but I reckon some hot water and compressed air would remove anything lodged. The knife does have a secondary “safety” lock to make sure it doesn’t open in your pocket. I shan’t harp on about it, but it’s basically crap. I found that it would engage when I didn’t expect it to, and its implementation is sub par compared to the safety on the Kershaw Leek. I never use it, and frankly I wouldn’t advise you to either (should you even have purchased this knife, which I don’t recommend at all, in case you haven’t yet noticed).
The saddest thing about mediocre implementation of locks, and generally speaking, features, is that it lets down what could have been a great knife. The blade is very nicely machined with a lean full flat grind. It’s honestly a pleasure to use. You will notice below some staining on the blade which is unusual for one of our reviews, as we tend to photograph the knives whilst they are still pretty, then review them a few months down the line. When the Flash II arrived in the mail, however, I immediately started to EDC it. Didn’t take time for pictures first.
AUS-8 is a stainless steel, but with acidic food, I found that it would readily stain. Not a big deal for me, but something worth mentioning if you live in coastal areas (please share your thoughts on AUS-8 near saltwater if you have any).
The general fit and finish is adequate. It’s similar to many knives of the same price, but perhaps with more wiggling and play. The injection molding looks decent, but the parts do feel like the tolerances are off by a few thou.
Linerless is always a good option (in my opinion) and SOG did it properly. The Flash II weighs in at 3.10 ounces, and that’s pretty awesome. The knife does feel effortless when you’re actually using it, and it really puts me off heavier options, especially right now as I am currently EDC-ing one of the Schrade stainless steel frame locks (it ain’t fun).
SOG’s spring assisted technology works and I dig it. Not quite as crisp as the Kershaw equivalents, nor as violent (my Blur comes out like a bat out of hell), but it suffices. Once again, SOG does oversell this by saying the Flash II has “wicked-quick blade access, that handles like a race car on rails” – which is… under-delivered to say the least. It’s not super fast; it’s just a standard assisted knife. Even then, it’s not anywhere near the top in terms of speed. Check out the Kershaw & ZT options or the CRKT Hissatsu if you want a speed demon.
Pocket clip is pretty perfect. It’s unique and yet very functional. Withdrawing the knife is effortless and I really dig it. Sadly, I have noticed quite a bit of play developing and quite a few people have commented with similar experiences. Personally, it has yet to fail on me, and I don’t think it will, but it doesn’t inspire confidence either. The Benchmade pocket clip on the Griptilian for me will always be one of the most “solid” feeling pocket clips, and going between the two knives, you really can appreciate the difference in terms of implementation.
Is it super discreet? No, not really. The Flash II pocket clip is deep carry, which is awesome, and whilst the bead blasting doesn’t scream “LOOK AT ME,” it does stand out quite a bit. I imagine people on the street may think it’s a pen of some kind, though.
No choil. Not an issue for me on knives like the Recon 1 because it’s a literal tank, but on this? Eek. I don’t dare do anything too heavy-duty with this knife, and I think with good reason. In January, I commented about the garbage lock somewhere on the blog, and one of my readers (who didn’t have the same experience) questioned it as if I was blowing the blade play out of proportion. The sheer amount of blade play is actually unbelievable.
Saber grip is natural. As I’ve mentioned, the tapering to the butt and general lack of meatiness did create hotspots with sufficient torque, but all in all, I think it was decent. No the best, but certainly not the worst. I read some reviews that mention the ergonomics being less than optimal, and I think the size of your hands will have a lot to say on the matter.
As with all knives with “enhanced ergonomic swoops and swedges,” how this knife feels in-hand will vary from person to person. I don’t recommend the Flash II at all (yes, really trying to stress this), but if you still for some reason want it, try it out in a store first. Personally, I thought the ergonomics were okay, but others had complaints – your mileage may vary.
Choking up is obviously not an option due to the lack of a choil on the Flash II. A reader raised a good point as to why I show myself using grips that clearly won’t be comfortable based on the design of the knife, and to put it simply – it’s partly so I don’t forget to talk about all grips and whether or not a knife can be used in it, and partly because we have a format here at MTJS and we like a certain level of consistency. We don’t use stock photos, and always prefer to demonstrate all aspects of the knife visually so you can stare at the screen and think, “Would I like this?” – hopefully being able to imagine the knife in your own hand. At the end of the day, if I can make your next gear purchase decision easier or save you some money (like with this knife – save your money), then I have done my job well.
Reverse grip is great. The exaggerated taper of the handle does aid with retention, and I just don’t see my fingers slipping past the guard. Gotta love the way that blade looks in that picture, aye? So minimal in a sterile sort of way. I really wish it was on a different handle!
Pinch grip on the Flash II is weirdly viable. I used it briefly in the kitchen to slice away some meat from a bone and it was like I was holding a paring knife. The guard is just a touch too pronounced to be comfortable, but I think it’s okay, at least for a short while.
Balance on the Flash II is almost perfect, and the deviation from the natural balance point is almost insignificant in real world use. This thing is super lightweight, and frankly, it’s effortless to use in real world situations – I totally get why nutnfancy likes it.
Over the 2 years I have owned it, I must say it has grown on me. The lock is (as I mentioned multiple times) garbage and the business of the branding, the stupid safety switch, etc. is all useless, but the blade is the textbook definition of beautifully simple. It screams utility, and I only wish the rest of the knife was as viable.
Obviously, I don’t recommend the SOG Flash II.
Get yourself a Kershaw Blur instead and it will serve you much better with its superior… everything (besides the blade). I want SOG to remove the lock, turn the Flash II into a nested liner, and sell it for 30 bucks. I think it will be a real winner for a featherweight EDC knife designed for light use. I don’t think all knives have to be built like a Cold Steel Recon 1 (contrary to what you may think I was insinuating), but I think all knives should have a solid lock or no lock at all. Look at the Spyderco Military for instance: lightweight with a long blade and good lock up. Not amazing lock up, but it feels sturdy. I wouldn’t treat it the way I treat my Rajah II, but then again, it’s a different type of beast altogether.
To use a metaphor, I don’t expect the Flash II to perform like a Hummer – it’s clearly not designed for extreme use, but I don’t expect it to fall apart as it leaves the showroom either. There is a middle ground, and with the Flash II, SOG is way, way off the mark.
Side note; if you check out the SOG product page, you will notice a lot of bullshit like “ASSEMBLED IN THE USA” – the Flash II is an Asian knife, don’t kid yourself. If you want a true American-made knife pick up a Blur and don’t fall for tricky advertising. Shame on you SOG, reminds me of those watch companies that stamp “made in Switzerland” when everything besides the movement (which is mass produced anyway) is made in China.