Saturday, March 19, 2011

Why I don't like the Flash I

I have a lot of respect for Nutnfancy's opinion on gear. He obviously puts in a lot of time and energy and thought into what he is doing. He has vastly more experience than I do. But his go to knife, the knife that was the subject of his first review, the SOG Flash I, is not a knife I like. Maybe when I have used knives for as long as he has and in the manner in which he has, I will change my tune, but right now, March 20, 2011, I just can't stand that little knife.

I bought one when it was on sale at the Kittery Trading Post (yes, that is how far I have to go to see even a basic selection of blades). It was $32 as a open box (it still had its box, it was just no longer sealed shut with a sticker). It seemed like a good deal. So, bang, I bought it purely on Nutnfancy's recommendation.

I got it home and used it for about two months over the summer. Its buddy, the Preon I, was a similar size, shape, and weight. They were, I thought, a very nice, inexpensive and lightweight light&saber EDC. After those two months, I was fed up and I sold the knife on a forum. Here is an artsy shot of my Flash I and Preon I:

The issue isn't the blade shape, that was great, a sorta mini Busse with a drop point and almost recurve on the belly. The steel is a bit lacking. For the same price you can get a VG-10 blade on a Spyderco, which is, in my opinion, a better steel. AUS8 isn't bad, its just not as good as you can get for the same money. The clip's design is fine, but its execution leaves a lot to be desired. Even in my use, as a pure EDC knife, the clip buries the knife too deeply into the pocket and it bent a bit on me as I tugged to get it out. I bent it back, but still, this is something that never happened on my Benchmade, Kershaw, or Spyderco knives.

But the real heart of the problem is this: the handle is terrible. The finger swells hit my hand in all of the wrong places. The thumb stud is hard to access, though I never really missed it. And the lock is just a fiddly mess. It is hard to activate the lock and when you do it still feels loose and sloppy. The entire handle just didn't work for me. I don't have giant hands, medium sized gloves are what I wear, but this handle just didn't work for me. It was a two fingered grip at best.

All of these drawbacks might be forgiven if it was the cheapest or only knife of its kind on the market, but its not. There are bunch of small, lightweight EDC knives out there, some more expensive and some less expensive. Here are a few knives that I think just outright beat the Flash I in its given role:

Spyderco Dragonfly II: a bit wider in the pocket, but the same weight and price with a better steel and better handle design.

Kershaw OD-2: almost exactly the same knife as the Flash I, with Chinese steel in place of AUS8. Similar size and shape. Equally fast (and easier) deployment and MUCH cheaper ($15 to $40).

Buck Vantage Select: significantly worse steel and patchy fit and finish, but a better clip design and if you can find one with good quality, a vastly superior knife for significantly less money.

Kershaw Scallion: a very similar design, with an assist and compact size. The curvy, all metal Ken Onion design gives it a bit wider size and a bit more weight (a full ounce more), but this is just a better knife. Without serrations it also more people friendly. It is about the same size but a bit heavier.

CRKT Ken Onion Eros Small: even lighter than the Flash I with IKBS bearings. This is the smoothest opening knife I have ever used and it is less than an ounce (.8 ounces to be exact). It is all Ti in the handle though and twice to three times the price.

Al Mar Falcon
: Again a more upscale small and light EDC, also with AUS8 steel, but better fit and finish. No clip though, so bear that in mind.

There are just too many superior competitors in this market niche to have the Flash I be the standard by which other knives are judged. The newly released ZDP-189 Dragonfly 2 just slays the Flash I in every way, except for price.

The fact is that over time, this little blade has become an important knife. It has become the standard by which all other knives of this size and purpose are judged. However, technology and design improvements have left the Flash I on the wrong side of average, given the market competitors. It might be time for a redesign for the Nutnfancy favorite.


  1. I just found out the Twins Smoke Shop in Londonderry NH has a small selection of Benchmade and SOG stuff. I live in Exeter and I have to agree that Kittery Trading Post is the only place where you will find a decent selection of knives.

  2. Thanks for the tip. It is awful trying to find a blade to handle in person around here. It is basically either wait for an outdoor show or buy from a place with a good return policy.

  3. Al Mar Falcon Ultralight does have a clip.

    The smallest folder in their Ultralight line, the Hawk, lacks a clip, but the Falcon (medium) and Eagle (large) do have them.