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Survival Knives: SOG Aura Hunt Review

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Check out our SOG Aura Hunt review below and see if this is the survival knife for you.


In previous articles, we discussed choosing a fixed blade survival knife. Check them out in the links below:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

A knife is one of the more important pieces of equipment you can have with you in a survival situation. As such, a good, survival appropriate, fixed blade knife is your best choice for inclusion in a survival kit or BOB (Bug Out Bag) or equivalent, and/or to be strapped on when an emergency is likely. In this article, we will consider a contender for “Best Survival Knife”.

As mentioned in the general articles, there are two classes of fixed blade knife which can be appropriate for survival scenarios, the “bush” (medium) knife and the “field” (large) knife. This knife belongs to the bush class.

Why did I consider this knife?

SOG is one of my favorite knife brands, although up to now I have been more interested in their fighting knives.  They were started in 1986 by designer Spencer Frazer, with the initial goal of reproducing the combat knife carried by the MAC-V (Military Assistance Command – Viet Nam) SOG teams during the Viet Nam war. SOG was officially “Studies and Observation Group”; typical government misdirection. Sounds harmless, right? Why would they have require a special combat knife? Let us just say that they were rather more active than the name implies; more often they were known as the “Special Operations Group”.

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In any case, Spenser’s company succeeded in their initial goal, and quickly branched out into a wide range of high-tech knives and other useful items. Although the combat heritage is still highly visible in many of their models, they do offer some models which seem to meet our survival knife criteria.

SOG has some high end (and high price) entries. I thought it would be a good idea to try one of their entry level models. The Aura line has three models. The Aura Seal has too long a blade (7″) and an inappropriate point to be considered a bush knife. The Aura Camp seems to meet bush knife guidelines with a 6″ blade, but appears to have a hollow ground blade. As such it probably is too “lightweight” for its length. The Aura Hunt appears to be the most promising model in the line.

The Specs

Blade Length 4.25″ Overall Length 10″
Blade Width 1″ Weight (Knife Only) 5.5 oz
Blade Steel 7CR13 Grip Material Glass Reinforced Nylon & Rubber
Blade Shape Drop Point Guard Type Half, Molded into the tang
Blade Grind Flat False Edge No
Blade Thickness 0.16″ Spine “Jimping” Yes
Choil Yes Lanyard Hole Yes
Made in China

Special Features:  “Gut hook” behind tip, Carbide sharpening rod in grip

Initial Impressions

This is a low end knife, and the initial view of the sheath makes this completely clear. Cheap looking, cheap feeling, bare bones. But in an inexpensive knife, I’d rather the small price be spent mostly on the knife. Retention appears to be so-so.

The knife doesn’t look half bad. It has a somewhat odd grip which starts nearly a half inch behind the guard, and sticks out nearly an inch beyond my large hand. With a swell in the middle and the textured rubber coating, it is quite comfortable and slip resistant. With the hand wet, it still is slip resistant; with vegetable oil, it slips a bit, but by no means the slipperiest I’ve tried. If you hold it by the grip, it is comfortable and secure in the hammer, saber, reverse (ice pick) and upside down (FGEU) grips.

SOGAHhammer

It is spectacular in the sideways grip, with the reduced diameter rear end that fits nicely, and even a little hook at the pommel for the little finger to curl around. However, if you hold it with the forefinger against the guard, as you do with most knives, it is another story. Since the guard is just cut out of the tang, you have over a half inch section of sharp edged metal against the top and side of your finger. It is mildly uncomfortable in the saber grip and more uncomfortable in the Filipino grip, the latter not only because of the forefinger, but the spine dips beyond the thumb jimping, and the end of that jimping digs into the thumb a bit. It can also be uncomfortable in all the other grips except sideways, again because of the sharp edged guard against the forefinger (or little finger). In this position, the sideways grip is not uncomfortable, just not very secure. By the way, it is advertised as having a 5″ blade, but that includes the half inch of bare tang beyond the guard, and I don’t consider that to be “blade”.

The sharpener fits well and apparently securely, and is fairly easy to remove and replace. It is a rod with a flat on one side, and a groove on the other for pointed objects like fish hooks. Keep in mind that carbide is a “cutting” technology good for reshaping a damaged edge, but not usually optimal for honing it.

SOGAHsharpener1

The edges of the spine are fairly sharp; without any coating; it is hopeful it will be useful

The lanyard hole is a bit small, but you can eventually work a length of paracord through it. The edges have no rounding, but they are rubber, so probably won’t wear the lanyard.

The tang is not visible and the inclusion of the sharpener in the end seems to indicate it might not have a full tang, which violates one of my important requirements for a survival knife. A query to the company indicates that indeed the tang only extends into the handle an inch or so.

Balance is fairly far behind the guard, but not too far behind the start of the grip, so if you hold it only by the grip, it is balanced for most uses,

The lack of a full length tang disqualifies it as a primary “survival” knife. Hopefully it will have the capability of being a secondary knife.

SOGAHsharpener2

The Steel

This is made of 7CR13, which I couldn’t find anything about. There is a fairly common steel called 7CR17MoV which a Chinese copy of 440A, slightly improved by adding a touch of Vanadium. It would seem this steel is from the same company, with less Chromium and no Moly or Vanadium. It is highly likely a low grade steel, which is not necessarily a problem in a low end knife. But it is unknown how it compares with 440A, which is a fairly useful low end steel.

SOGAHfilipino

The knife takes a decent edge, although not as easily as a good carbon steel. Several strokes of my Smith’s Pocket Pal got it sharp enough to easily slice paper. After fifty slices through cardboard it did not suffer any significant ability to slice paper. And I noted it sliced the cardboard easier than most other knives I’ve tested so far.

So, I can’t speak about the steel in general, but in this knife, it appears to be relatively easily sharpened to a useful but not razor edge, and have some degree of edge retention.

Evaluation

Since this does not have a full tang, there is no point in doing a full evaluation. High stress tasks will not be tried.

General tasks

  • Cutting cord – This is often necessary during construction of shelter, fishing, sewing and making snares and traps, as well as other times. As the most commonly available to survivalists, I tried fish line and paracord, as well as 3/8″ Manila and 3/4″ Sisal, just because fish line and paracord would seem to be trivial for any knife worth having. Cutting the fish line was no problem, as was cutting paracord under tension. Cutting the paracord while it was laying on a flat surface was a bit more difficult than I’m used to. The knife performed adequately on Manila. As for Sisal, it did the job with a lot of effort; not the worst knife I’ve tried it with, but near to it.

SOGAHreverse

  • Making notches in branches – This could be required for shelter construction and making snares or traps, as well as other times. This did surprisingly well at this. It seemed to cut with the grain nicely, and was able to make the perpendicular stop cut adequately.
  • Trimming/Sharpening/smoothing branches – This would be for shelter construction, as well as making arrows, spears, stakes, walking sticks and even bows. The knife did a pretty good job of this, although the natural tendency is to use the jimping for the thumb position, but it is so sharp that extended use under pressure tends to aggravate the thumb. Putting the thumb before the jimping or after, if your hand is big enough, works as well and is less painful.

SOGAHpainPoints

  • Pounding in stakes – This could be required for making shelters, snares and traps. This knife is not set up to perform this function.

Firemaking

  • Use with a magnesium bar or ferrocerium rod is fine using the edge of the spine; it shaves and sparks well.
  • The spine is sharp enough that it can be used to scrape tinder, but it is not straight, so there is only a short area which is really useful. As for making a “featherstick”, the knife does a decent job of it, with the same caveat about using your thumb on the jimping.
  • Drilling a hole (for a fire drill) was pretty easy; the tip is not too thin, but is of a unknown stainless steel, so should be ok for reasonable use but may be a problem for “unreasonable” use.

SOGAHsaber

  • Batoning for access to tinder or making kindling from logs is totally inappropriate for this knife, due to the lack of full tang. It is also possible that if you hit the tip of the gut hook wrong, it would bend or break it, making the gut hook or even the whole knife unusable.

Food Gathering/Preparation

  • Use as a throwing knife – A word to the wise, don’t. If you throw your knife, you may not get it back, or it can be damaged, particularly if it is made of stainless steel which is a bit brittle. I did not try throwing this.
  • Use as a spear – Turning your knife into a spear gives you additional reach, but throwing a spear made of a stainless steel knife is more susceptible to damage than is acceptable. Besides, the grip cannot be removed, and is rounded and curved, so it will be quite difficult to lash this to a shaft.
  • This chops veggies pretty well and the blade shape should be excellent for skinning and butchering. It probably would be adequate for filleting.

SOGAHsideways

  • Digging for grubs and bait. It is hard to imagine anything which can dull or damage a knife quicker than digging with it, and stainless is at risk of chipping if it hits a rock, so I don’t recommend using this knife for digging.

Chopping

  • Sticks or fronds – For shelter and other construction, splints and firewood. As mentioned, the lack of a full tang rules out ‘heavy duty” usage.

Defense  

  • I’d say the gut hook makes it unsuitable for defense. It might act like the barb on a harpoon, and make it difficult to remove after stabbing. Besides, the built-in half guard provides essentially no protection for your hand from your opponent, and so-so protection from your hand slipping onto the blade. The exception would be the sideways grip, which is actually very secure.

Sheath

The sheath, as mentioned, is quite unimpressive. It appears to be plastic covered with nylon or equivalent cloth. The plastic makes the belt loop very stiff, which is good; it won’t flop around much, and there is a single grommet at the bottom for a paracord or thong leg tie. There does not appear to be a blade liner, and the sheath is not fitted, so it would seem that there would be rattle, but with the retention strap fastened, there isn’t any. Speaking of the retention strap, it is pretty flimsy, with a small Velcro closure, and I don’t know that I would trust it. Turning the knife around, it fits the sheath fine, so although it looks really weird (handle faces one way, sheath curve faces the other), this can be carried in a left hand position without any difficulty.

SOGAHsheath

Accessories

It appears no accessories are available, and if there were, they would probably cost more than the knife.

SOGAHupsidedown

Price and Availability

The list price of the Aura Hunt at this point in time is $55.00. You can generally find it on eBay for $30 or so.

Company Website

This Knife

It is listed as being in stock at the company, and there are a bunch of people selling it on eBay, as Buy It Now. Alternatively, Amazon has it for a reasonable price and it is on the Prime program, although tax will be added.

Conclusions

Without a full tang, I would never, under any circumstances, rely on this as my primary knife; there is just too much opportunity for the grip and blade to become separated. If it had an essentially full tang (with a notch for the sharpener), I’d still be concerned about the “unknown” qualities of the steel, but at least I’d give it a fair chance. That said, it is a nice knife for its price range, and for its designed purpose, it should be quite adequate. As an inexpensive backup knife, primarily for skinning and field prep of game, it is worth considering. After all, it did perform at least adequately on every task I dared to ask of it.

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Want to know more? Check out these related articles:

HFT Survival Knife Review

UST ParaCuda FS Knife Review

Kabar BK&T Machax Knife Review




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