Earlier this week we received a great review of the NW Ranger by Dylan Fletcher. He does a great job of discussing the NW Ranger and giving some thoughts on its design and function. Take a few minutes to read through the review and I think you will be impressed with the performance of this knife.
The Plain Edge SOG NW Ranger
We asked for it and SOG finally delivered.
By Dylan Fletcher
Just about every knife nut out there that has perused SOG's lineup is familiar with the NW Ranger. It has been a part of the SOG family for years and is a tested and respected tool. However, when it comes to the communities like bushcraft, woodcraft, whatever you want to call it, it had one specific flaw. All of the blades came partially serrated. For bushcraft guys, that's a bit of a problem. The majority of the fine blade work they do is with the first couple of inches of blade and serrations make that area useless for anything but cutting rope, webbing, etc.
A couple of years ago, a picture from another country was posted on one of the popular knife forums. It was a picture of the Russian version of the NW Ranger, which was the only NW Ranger to be produced without serrations. The thread instantly blew up with people asking where this knife was being sold, why was the Russian version the only one without serrations, and would they be available in the U.S. As it turns out, the Broskies have slightly stricter laws than us when it comes to having a knife with teeth. Due to the laws, SOG had to produce a non-serrated version in order to meet requirements over there and get the knife in their market. To answer the last question, SOG marketing said that these knives were not available anywhere else. They were a limited run for that area only. Well that certainly didn't stop everyone and their mother from badgering SOG to no end about producing a non-serrated version for the U.S. I think that now, a couple of years later, SOG had received enough encouragement and seen just how big the interest for this knife is in the U.S., and decided that it was time to give all these people what they asked for. The newly designed SOG NW Ranger in plain edge was introduced with the new 2010 lineup.
Here are the specs straight from SOG:
Blade Length: 5.2" x .150"
Overall Length: 9.925"
Weight: 6.2 oz.
Steel: AUS 8
Finish: Satin or Black TiNi
When I pulled this knife out of the package, there were two things I noticed right off the bat. The first thing I noticed was that this knife was stinking sharp. As with every knife any of us get, the first thing I did was the arm hair sharpness test. This sucker was shaving sharp straight out of the box. That's always nice. It gives a good first impression.
The second thing I noticed was that this handle is unbelievable comfortable. Whether wet, dry, coated in oil, it doesn't matter. That handle is grippy and comfortable no matter what. I just sat there, trying different grips on the handle for a good while and completely forgot about the sheath still in the box. That NW Ranger handle is a masterpiece of simplicity and makes the knife very intuitive in the hand. I will say though, the handle is so grippy that it does have a bit of a bite after extended use. When I say extended use, I mean anything over an hour or so.
Now it could be argued that a lot of the simple outdoor chores that one may use a knife for rarely take more than an hour. I've heard many times from outdoorsy friends of mine, "It doesn't bother me. I never use my knife for that long in one sitting unless I'm doing arts and crafts." They usually say this while trying to justify their love for an uncomfortable handle attached to an extremely visually appealing knife. On the other hand, it's common knowledge that when a woods bum gets to carving, he has a tendency to lose all track of time, whittling crafts is an uncontrollable urge for every "woodsy", and a simple project can turn into hours of chipping off little bits of wood. For long term use, this is definitely a gloved hand kind of knife. For me, this is a common thing though, and certainly not a drawback. I believe that there's no such thing as a handle so comfortable you don't need a glove for hours of fun. I recommend that everyone keep a simple glove in their pack for their strong hand. It doesn't take up much space and, if used regularly when you know you're going to be putting some time into a project, can make your various edged tool experiences much more comfortable and happier ones.
The other features of the knife are a decent and well placed lanyard tube, thumb jimping on the spine of the blade in a useable area, and a substantial enough guard. The jimping on the spine is rough enough that it can be used to shave dry wood for a handy dandy little tinder bundle of wood fuzz. The blade as a whole is nicely done. It's not too thick, not too thin, a good length for bushcraft and has a nice pointy tip on it strong enough from light drilling. The AUS 8 gives it a good amount of corrosion resistance. The guard has some grooves ground into it that I'll touch on later.
I was very happy to see that this knife came with a very well done black leather sheath. While I know and enjoy the benefits of kydex and other quality plastic sheaths, I do still love a good old school leather sheath now and then. Right away, I soaked it with oil and laid a book on top of it to smash the belt loop down. That way, it won't make the knife stick out when I wear it. My one issue with the sheath is the snap strap. I'd like SOG to pop a rivet through the sheath and loop to hold it in place. The space on the sheath that the snap strap goes through lets it move around a lot, so you have to hold it still while you unsnap it.
Another thing I love about this knife is how light weight it is. It's one of those knives that just disappears on your belt. Being very light also adds to the intuitiveness of the knife in your hand. When you start working with it, it just becomes part of your hand, as any good bushcraft knife should. Overall, this knife is very well designed and it's simplicity and comfort makes it a great user. Needless to say, I hate this knife and think it's a piece of junk.
As with any knife I review, I didn't just take it for one outing and do simple tests over a weekend. I carried this knife for weeks and used it for everything I could think of from mundane chores like cutting up boxes at work, food prep and opening the mail, to making traps, prepping firewood, and building a shelter. It performed every task I threw at it just fine. The edge retention is good, it's a strong little knife, and when it did lose its edge, sharpening it up was a breeze. Honestly, I don't see how anyone who tries this knife out, as long as they use it correctly, could be disappointed. One area where it really shined for me was in fire prep. The blade length was great for batonning and splitting the hunks of wood and the edge made great fuzz sticks. I made at least ten fires with this thing and it was always quick, easy, and fun. Of course, when is making a fire not fun?
Now, unfortunately, it's time to discuss the one part of the knife that I didn't like. It's not a big thing, but it does exist. The grooves that SOG cut into the guard might not have been the best idea. Again, if you're not using the knife for an extended period of time, it's no big deal, but if you are, you better wear a glove. When you're really choked up on the blade, your index finger is right up against those grooves and rubbing on them as you do your fine cutting work. Those grooves make some nasty hotspots and will cause some serious discomfort. If I were in the SOG design department, I might suggest leaving those off the next run and just rounding that guard off a little more. So there it is, my one gripe. Even with this, I say all in all, this is a worthy woods bumming knife and knife nuts should give it a shot.
For more information:
SOG Specialty Knives & Tools, LLC
6521 212th Street SW
Lynnwood, WA 98036