Review: the SOG Terminus XR reminded me how an EDC knife is supposed to feel

My knife and keys can fit in the same pocket again.

The EDC knife game is a crowded market, and it’s filled with everything from hand-crafted heirloom blades to cheap knock-offs too flimsy to whittle a toothpick. Sorting through all that can be daunting. Even established names like SOG and Gerber have faced their share of criticism –– that’s one of the reasons you see the merry band of Task & Purpose contributors giving knives so much attention.

The SOG Terminus XR shares a name with one of my favorite scenes from The Walking Dead; one that officially made Carol Peletier my spirit animal. On day one, I decided that if this knife wasn’t good enough to make me want to carry it as my own EDC, I’d rather make it look at the flowers than recommend it to any of you.

With the pitfalls of the EDC knife market in mind, I figured I’d see exactly what’s what with the SOG Terminus XR by giving it the usual shakedown of daily use, cross-referencing it with the competition, and devising ways to simulate hard use over a long period of time. Here’s what I learned about the knife and what you should know before picking one up yourself.

Blade length: 2.95 in

Weight: 3.2 oz

Materials: D2 steel (blade), G10 (handle)

Unboxing

I’m always pleasantly surprised by packaging that manages to communicate a sense of quality without raising suspicions that I wasted money on wrapping rather than the actual product. This time, SOG did a decent job of striking that balance. The box was well-branded and sturdy without going overboard. I also appreciated that the knife was held in place by its own pocket clip rather than a bunch of zip-ties. Take a hint, manufacturers: I shouldn’t need a knife to access my knife.

Sometimes, I’ll get my hands on a new product and form an initial opinion before looking at the price. There have been times when I’ve gotten serious sticker shock and couldn’t believe anyone would fork over that kind of money for something; but, in this case, I felt like the Terminus XR’s price came in under my expectations. That’s a good start––it’s always easier for gear to stay on my good side if I feel like it offers a lot of bang for the buck.

SOG Terminus XR
SOG Terminus XR (Scott Murdock)

The blade felt sharp enough out of the box. For such a compact size, it also felt surprisingly substantial. Some of that is also due to the G10 handle, which is light, strong, and weatherproof. The XR folding mechanism was light and fast, as promised. SOG touts this knife’s ability to open three different ways: “thumb stud, XR, and kick.” The blade can’t be deployed without deactivating the lock, though, so I can’t see anyone doing anything but unlocking the mechanism with their thumb and middle finger, then using their index finger to flick the blade forward.

How we tested the SOG Terminus XR

SOG Terminus XR vs Ka-Bar Desert Mule
The SOG Terminus XR (right) compared to the Ka-Bar Desert Mule (left) (Scott Murdock)

I previously remarked that my trusty Ka-Bar Mule always felt a bit bulky for a true EDC knife. After comparing it to the Terminus XR, I almost couldn’t believe I’d put up with its size for so long. The Mule isn’t going anywhere, but it’s going to start sharing EDC duty.

During this test, the SOG Terminus XR and I were attached at the hip. It chipped in during home renovations by opening various packaging, cutting painter’s tape to mask hardware I didn’t want to remove, and cutting old phone lines off at the wall (side note: apparently people used to physically tether telephones to their house––wild stuff). It also came in handy when I was pruning trees and bushes that had gotten out of regs. It was nice to have such a sharp blade at arm’s reach all day.

Pleasant summer weather put me on a lot of hiking trails during this test, so the SOG Terminus XR  got to tag along. It’s too small to be a true wilderness knife, but it’s great for day hikes when I’d rather keep weight to a minimum. This knife never got in the way and stayed put with the pocket clip. More impressively, it was just as comfortable to carry via bicycle: when I hit the bike lane, the Terminus XR stayed clipped to the band of my gym shorts and disappeared from my mind as soon as I got rolling. If that doesn’t make it an easy-carrying knife, I don’t know what else does.  

SOG Terminus XR
SOG Terminus XR (Scott Murdock)

The Terminus XR didn’t give me any reason to doubt its physical toughness, but I was curious about this D2 steel and the lock’s tiny components. Since daily use didn’t phase this knife, I dunked it in a cup of water overnight and let it air-dry to see if I could nurture any rust. Flicking the blade open the first time revealed a noticeably crunchy action. The fine springs inside the XR mechanism seemed to bind and prevent the blade from swinging as freely as I had grown accustomed to. I tried a few more times, and each time the motion became smoother. A few hours later, the blade moved well and the crunchiness was gone, but the XR lock moved with just a hint of tightness. 

I have a few thoughts on these results. First of all, you shouldn’t be surprised by them at this price point. Second, a little preventative maintenance goes a long way. Add a few drops of CLP onto the moving parts every so often (depending on your climate, just like with a rifle) to protect against water and rust. Do that, and you can stretch this value-minded EDC knife even further. It’s also worth pointing out that the blade didn’t show a spec of corrosion, so kudos to SOG’s D2 steel for that one.

What we like about the SOG Terminus XR

A knife is only as good as its blade, so let’s start there. We could get lost in the various types of steel and treatments available, so I’ll cut to the chase and point out that tool-grade D2 steel is popular among knife makers in part because it has fantastic edge retention properties. That means D2 blades are close to maintenance-free in most real-world EDC cases. It also exhibits good corrosion resistance without quite reaching stainless levels. Indeed, this particular blade got dunked in a cryogenic tank for an extra layer of wear and corrosion resistance. All that is to say that this blade is very user-friendly without running up the price with expensive materials.

At 4.26 inches closed and 7.21 inches open, the Terminus XR is easy to slip into a pocket. I even clipped it to the waistband of my shorts for an hour-long bicycle ride and never felt it. The 3.2-ounce weight is certainly light, but quality construction prevents the knife from feeling cheap. Clip placement allows it to sit low and snug inside a pocket. That would make it very discreet, if not for the prominent SOG branding on the clip. You can switch the clip from side to side by removing a few tiny Torx screws. 

What we don’t like about the SOG Terminus XR

SOG Terminus XR
SOG Terminus XR (Scott Murdock)

It’s hard to find reasons not to like the Terminus XR, especially at this price. I suppose the SOG-branded pocket clip––although a cool marketing trick––is stylistically something I could do without. One of the biggest advantages of an EDC knife of this size is the ability to keep it out of sight, and that’s hard to do if you’re a walking advertisement for a tactical gear manufacturer.

I also don’t see a use for the thumb studs. The blade deploys so quickly with the tab or a flick of the wrist that I can’t picture owners doing anything else. It just seems like a feature that adds cost without giving me anything for my money.

I happen to like the stonewash finish of this blade. It looks good and isn’t too reflective for tactical use. Still, if SOG reads this and becomes inspired to offer a hard-cased black blade with the olive drab handle, they’ll probably sell faster than energy drinks at the PX.

Verdict

This knife was built to a price point, and there are places where that shows. The blade is serviceable and rugged but it definitely isn’t a scalpel. The XR mechanism is lightning-fast and almost effortless, but it’s not as tight and sturdy-feeling as some of the higher-end alternatives I’ve used. Those of you coming from a back lock knife will also have to adjust to how freely the blade swings on its axis. D2 steel serves this knife well and helps achieve a compelling value, but it falls short of certain competitors.

Are these reasons to avoid the Terminus XR? Not necessarily. I’m not going to claim SOG has built a world-beater in this knife, but for the money, it’s hard to argue against it. There are times when you’ll want a quality knife handy, but won’t be interested in packing a high-dollar item. Maybe you’re just getting into knives and aren’t ready to blow hundreds of dollars on one. In those cases, the Terminus XR deserves to be on your shortlist. 

Saved rounds

This knife illustrates the importance of owning different knives for different jobs. It’s sharp, functional, and incredibly easy to carry. There are times when I’d rather have my Mule or a fixed-blade knife––so I own those, too. I recommend packing your burly blade for deployment and keeping something smaller for everyday use. You’ll be happier with both if you do. 

FAQs about the SOG Terminus XR

More questions? Here’s Task & Purpose’s additional brief. 

Q. How much does the SOG Terminus XR cost?

A. I’ve seen various versions of the SOG Terminus XR priced from about $55 to $85. For one like the knife I tested, expect to pay about $75.

Q. How does the Terminus stack up against other folding knives?

A. That depends on what you want from your next folding knife. The Terminus XR is a great option for an EDC, glove box, or a lightweight blade outdoors. Go ahead and carry one when you run, bike, or do errands. I wouldn’t make it my primary camping or hunting knife just because it is so compact and light. 

Bang for the buck is where this knife shines. Even if you can’t whip it out to brag about elite steel composition, it’ll do the trick every time without draining your wallet.

Q. Is the blade made from quality steel?

A. SOG built the Terminus XR I tested with a D2 steel blade and a G10 handle. Tool-grade steel has grown in popularity among knife makers since about the 1960s because it punches above its weight. The chromium content puts this steel just shy of stainless (and saves money) so it provides a usable amount of resistance against rust and corrosion. Hardness is certainly adequate, and edge retention is better than carbon steel. You can get into the weeds with Knife Steel Nerds, but the bottom line is that D2 steel makes blades affordable, durable, and low-maintenance. That sounds like EDC material to me.

Q. Is the Terminus XR a good travel companion?

A. This knife is a fantastic travel buddy for a few reasons. First, it’s so damn easy to carry. It flicks open effortlessly, holds an edge, and doesn’t need to be babied. Size comes second. Because the blade measures less than three inches and doesn’t use automatic opening, it’s likely to comply with the various laws you might run into. Finally, the price is right. At less than $100, I wouldn’t lose sleep if this got snatched from my luggage or confiscated abroad.

Q. Is there anything it isn’t good at?

A. Absolutely. I wouldn’t dress a deer with this knife. I wouldn’t baton firewood with it. In a tactical situation, this would just about be my last line of defense. That’s ok because there are other knives that do those jobs well. Let this one do what it was built for, and you’ll be happy with it.

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Scott Murdock is a Marine Corps veteran and contributor to Task & Purpose. He’s selflessly committed himself to experience the best gear, gadgets, stories, and alcoholic beverages in the service of you, the reader.

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