The SOG Seal Pup sells itself on its tacticoolitude, but it’s much more useful than that. In fact, it’s good at so many different tasks that it’s almost a Goldilocks knife for the outdoorsman: neither too large or too small, too heavy or too light, too expensive or too chintzy.
If you can find this knife for $50, it’s tough to do much better than this for the price.
What We Got Here Is…
…basically a modernized and slightly downsized Ka-Bar. SOG’s literature likes to describe it as the baby brother of their 7-inch Seal Team model, but the Seal Team is itself a larger modernized Ka-Bar. However you choose to describe its lineage, it’s a midsized fixed-blade multipurpose knife with a street price of $50 to $90.
The Seal Pup’s blade is ground from hollow-ground AUS-8 stainless, .19 inches thick and 1.125 inches wide at its broadest point. It’s powder-coated for additional corrosion resistance, and can be had with a plain or partially serrated (combo) edge. The combo version has 1.5 inches of serrations forward of a small choil, and 3 inches of plain edge from there forward to the tip.
I’m not sure why SOG designed this knife with any choil at all, because you can’t use it for a forward grip on the blade unless your fingers are as thin as pencils. Those serrations start just 5/8″ forward of the guard, and they are very sharp. If you choke up on the blade they’ll cut the shit out of your index finger. You’ll probably only let it happen once.
The blade has a full tang molded inside the glass-reinforced nylon handle, although it doesn’t protrude from the pommel.
The Seal Pup’s edge was sharp enough to slice hanging newsprint, straight from SOG’s infernal blister packaging. This was a good sign, but I always sharpen a knife myself before I test it. I’ve usually found AUS-8 to be fairly easy to sharpen, and the RHC 57/58 Seal Pup was no exception. After a few dozen strokes on the fine Sharpmaker ceramics and a polishing strop, it was exquisitely sharp. I found myself slicing Shotgun News crepe paper, almost as delicately as with a waterstoned Mora.
Fit And Finish
The Seal Pup is a simple design with exactly two parts, and neither of them move so there’s not much SOG could have gotten wrong. Like a Glock it’s all coated steel and textured polymer, and like a Glock it’s all executed just about perfectly. The grinds are straight and even, the powder coating is uniform and smooth, and the handle is neatly molded.
I had to look very long and closely to find any imperfections on the knife, and I only found two incredibly small ones. There’s a tiny spot on the pommel where the molding sprue was snipped off and buffed not-quite smooth, and the swedge bevel on the right side of the blade doesn’t extend quite all the way to the tip. It misses by about 2mm, as if anyone cares.
The Seal Pup’s glass-reinforced nylon handle is 4.5 inches long, with well-shaped finger grooves and a small guard. The balance point is just under your index finger. The sides of the handle are aggressively textured and the back is laterally grooved. The front of the handle and finger grooves is smooth.
I used it wet and dry, clean and dirty, and the diamond-checkered texture provided a really solid grasp. The shape of the grip works well for a standard grip and a blade-up reverse grip. It doesn’t work with the blade-down reverse grip (in which the blade is facing toward you, like a horror movie slasher) because your hand can slip down the grip and onto the blade.
The polymer handle doesn’t look fancy, but it’s comfortable and it doesn’t retain heat or cold the way metal handles do. This is a good thing: a hunting/survival knife shouldn’t burn your hand if you leave it in the sun, or freeze to your skin in the winter.
The Seal Pup comes with a better-than-average sheath for a knife in this price range. It’s made of sturdy reinforced Nylon, with a Kydex insert that holds the blade. It also has a Velcro-flap accessory pocket which is big enough to hold a small stone and a magnesium firestarter.
You can attach it to just about anything, because it’s got a rigid belt loop and multiple MOLLE attachment loops and tie-down grommets at each corner.
The knife is held in place by a snap strap around the bottom of the handle, with Velcro to keep the strap from catching on things and unsnapping itself. The blade can ride up about 3/4″ in the strap, but can’t fall out.
The freshly-sharpened Seal Pup made easy work of newsprint, and even did a workmanlike job on delicate Shotgun News-print. This AUS-8 steel takes a very sharp edge. Grade: A.
Testing the edge retention of a combo edge is a bit tricky, because you’ve got to work the plain portion of the blade, closer to the tip. This is more fatiguing than cutting with the heel of the blade where leverage is greatest, and it gives you a lot more opportunity to slip up and injure yourself.
This difficulty may partially explain the lackluster results I got from the Seal Pup in this test: I used the forward section of the blade to cut through about 60 feet of box cardboard (across the corrugations) before the blade started to tear and plow the cardboard. The Seal Pup had completely lost its newsprint-slicing sharpness, although it was very easy to re-sharpen. Grade: B/B-.
The serrations on the combo edge ripped through 3/4″ Manila with no effort at all, as long as the rope didn’t get caught in the useless choil. Grade: A+.
Overall Cutting Performance: A/A-.
- Light weight.
- Blade performance.
Least Favorite Features
- The small, useless choil can injure you if you put your finger there, and it can interfere with cutting. It should be bigger or smaller, but it’s exactly the wrong size as it is.
- Edge retention isn’t that great, although it’s nothing to gripe about.
Type: Fixed blade hunting/tactical/survival knife.
Blade: 4.75″ clip-point, hollow grind, partially serrated.
Steel: AUS-8, HRC 57-58, powder coated.
Dimensions: 9″ overall length, blade thickness .19″, blade width 1.125″.
Weight: 5.1 ounces (8.5 ounces with sheath.)
Ratings (out of five stars)
Functional, military styling is built for speed, not for looks.
Great sharpness and solid cutting performance, decent edge retention, and easy sharpening.
Light and balanced and comfortable. It would be even better if the choil were smaller. Or larger. Or gone completely.
There are no moving or fastened parts to come loose, so the only thing that could go wrong is the blade snapping. It’s not the thickest blade stock, but I didn’t test to destruction.
Overall Rating ***1/2
Not a collectible or a blade to brag about, but a solid entry-level hunting/tactical/survival knife.