Terminus XR Review
Tony Sculimbrene 10.23.18
Bob Terzuola launched the tactical knife trend in the 80s and 90s. Since then folders have been obsessed with “tactical” features and designs. This has resulted in big, bulky, heavy knives that are better at chopping (and Instagram pictures) than slicing. With massive locks, locks for locks, fast deployment, and wicked, low utility blade shapes (like the karambit), these knives leave much to be desired in terms of everyday carry. About three years ago, noticing that hipsters and new knife fans came into the market (and hopefully recognizing that smaller knives cut better), knife companies started to move away from tactical designs. Instead we have been treated to thinner, easier to use, easier to carry blades like the Massdrop x Ferrum Forge Gent.
Some companies, like Spyderco, have always made folders that eschewed the tactical knife design philosophy. But for the most part, the mainstream production companies have made tactical knives of various sizes and designs for years. SOG has always had tactical designs at the core of its line up. Some blades like the Mini Aegis, Twitch, and the Flash could pass for EDC knives thanks to smart designs and lightweight frames, but until recently SOG had not yet built a EDC-focused blade. Terzuola’s siren song entranced Spencer Frazer’s design pen for a long time.
The Terminus XR is a clear break with the tactical knife past. This is a blade that is design for and excels in the EDC role. It is the right size, shape, and look for EDC. It has all of the favorite features of an EDC knife. And it is not adorned with expensive useless items. The XR is a focused design and a better blade because of that.
The SOG Terminus XR (product page here) is a small to medium sized folding knife. It has a 2.95 inch blade of CTS-BDZ1 steel. It locks up with the XR lock which is functionally identical to the Benchmade Axis lock (note that the patent on the Axis lock has expired last year).
The knife comes equipped with a pair of thumbstuds. It also has a flipper tab. The knife has a left to right swappable deep carry clip. The entire design is 100% ambidextrous, so lefties take note—this is a lefty friendly flipper. The handle is composed of carbon fiber/G10 laminate and the scales ride on a pair of skeletonized stainless steel liners. The overall length is 7.21 inches and the knife weighs 3.2 ounces. The Terminus XR is designed in the USA and made in China for SOG.
I received this knife from SOG for review. I have carried it for approximately two weeks, carrying it every day but one (when I carried my current favorite flipper the Massdrop x Ferrum Forge Gent as a pallet cleanser/comparison). The clip makes this quite easy to do.
In that time I used the XR for lots of everyday tasks. I used it to process recycling. I did food prep on meat, fruit, cheese, and vegetables. I also used it to make campfire cooling implements, like sticks for hot dogs and marshmallows. I also made a pair of fire sticks with it. I carried the knife in a variety of places—an amusement park, on hikes in jeans, and in a pair of suit pants at work.
The XR is an exceptionally good looking knife. Aside from a few notable janky designs, the majority of SOG’s blades look good, but even among this crowd of beauties the XR stands out. The bright satin grinder finish really pops next to the black thumbstuds, logo, and handle.
The carbon fiber has a series of diagonal milling marks that give the knife grip and a detailed but clean finish. They remind me very much of the Jeff Freeman designs he did for his own brand and for Gerber before he left. The blade shape with a peak in the clip is sleek and confident but not overly aggressive, an excellent choice for an EDC design. The curved pocket clip with the redone (and stronger) SOG imprint is subtle and every effective. The design of the flipper tab is spot on perfect with very effective jimping that snags fingers without tearing them up. The handle’s thickness is just right, not to thin, but not too bulky either. It had a wide chamfer that makes the knife fun to handle and great in the pocket. This is an absolute home run of a design.
The fit and finish of the XR is quite nice.
The blade grind was, as is the case with all SOGs, truly excellent. Not only is the grind thin behind the edge, but the secondary grinds are exceedingly crisp and symmetrical. The blade was centered and the lock up was rock solid. This is a very good implementation of the lock. Traditionally, this lock has not faired well with flipper deployments, but thanks to a truly snappy “detent” in the lockbar channel, the XR is easily the best flipper for this kind of lock I have ever handled. Compared to more traditional flipper lock designs, it is still well above average, but not quite at the level of a good WE Knives or ZT flipper. Given how awful the Benchmade 300SN was with its flipper and Axis lock configuration, I was very worried about the XR would perform. Fortunately, the worry was baseless. I did need to Loc Tite the pivot screw after a week of use, but that is not a big deal, given how easy it is and how often knives need this small tweak (Blue 242 is the ideal formulation of Loc Tite for this use).
One aspect of the XR that deserves direct discussion is the blade steel. CTS-BDZ1 and BD1 are domestically made steels by Carpenter. They are not powder steels, but they tend to be very corrosion resistant and easy to sharpen. They are not, however the toughest or hardest steels out there. Given the $80 price tag, the BDZ-1 steel here is good but not great. Considering that the CRKT Pilar with S35VN is just $65, the XR would be more competitive with a higher end steel. This is not to say that you will be disappointed with BDZ-1, but simply that you might need to do a bit more maintenance than you would with other steels. Its expertly ground and performs well, but it is not quite as good as other steels.
The Terminus XR is an excellent EDC knife. Even with the slightly below par steels, the overall superior design and excellent implementation of that design make the XR one of the best production EDC knives available. This knife compares nicely to the Chaparral, Mini Grip, and the Gent and that is some elite company. The XR along with the Pillar show that SOG is clearly not ignoring the enthusiast market and we consumers are all better off for it.