SOG Seal Team Elite vs Ka-Bar 1217

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While shopping around for knives, I had a difficult time trying to figure out if I wanted to go SOG Seal Team Elite or Ka-Bar 1217. My SOGs have never failed me in the past and my brother has been happy with his SOG Seal Pup for a few years now. The Ka-Bar, even more popularized because of Netflix’s Punisher, has been a tried and true knife of the military and knife connoisseurs. With that said, I have never seen a side-by-side comparison between these two blades. There are great videos that highlight each of these blades individually. I thought it was time to highlight them both.

Ka-Bar

The Ka-Bar was first introduced around World War II to the Marines. It was stamped Ka-Bar on one side and USMC on the other. The knife we see today came about because troops complained about their previous military issued knife; the Mark 1. The Mark 1 had a brass-knuckle handle, which made it impossible to hold in combats stances and would break easily. After a few prototypes, the Ka-Bar was made and dubbed, “Knife, Fighting Utility.” The Ka-Bar is a 7″ blade with a clip point. The handle is made up of stacked leather. The tang, while full, is more of a rat-tail with a nice pommel at the end to cap it off. Today, you can get the Army or Navy stamped versions and variations with a partially serrated edge. As a side note, Cutco purchased Ka-Bar so there are Cutco Ka-bars out there with a forever guarantee.

SOG Seal Team Elite

SOG Seal Team Elite does not have a detailed wikipedia fan page like the Ka-Bar. At the most, you can read a small snippet about the SOG Seal 2000. I wish I purchased one of those back in the day. Today, they are worth about $175 used. Ka-Bars are somewhere near $100 depending on the condition. My guess for the low price is because there are so many of them out there. With that said, technology has increased and the new SOG Seal Team knives are made with glass reinforced nylon handles which are a lot better than the rubber on the Seal 2000. The new blades are made with AUS-8 steel instead of 440A. What’s the difference? 440A has a carbon content of 0.65% while AUS-8 has a carbon content of 0.75%. Regardless, these steels are pretty resistance to corrosion. AUS-8 also contains vanadium. The blades are measured from the handle to the tip and this blade is also 7″.

For a true comparison, I should have compared the SOG Seal Team Elite to a Ka-Bar 1218 (this is the Ka-Bar with a partially serrated edge). Or compared the Ka-Bar 1217 to a SOG Super Bowie. Mentally, I already made up my mind on the different use-case scenarios which I’ll mention near the end of this article.

Here are the specs for the blades:

SOG Seal Team Elite
Ka-Bar 1217
Overall Length 12.3″ 11.875″
Blade Length 7″ 7″
Product Family Seal Team Elite Ka-Bar
Country of Origin Taiwan USA
Finish Hardcased Black TiNi Black Epoxy Powder Coated
Blade Steel Type AUS-8 1095 Cro-Van
Handle Material Glass-Reinforced Nylon Stacked leather
Hardness 57-58 56-58
Sheath Color Black Brown
Product Weight 10.30 oz 11.20 oz
Blade Thickness 0.24″ 0.165″
Product Type Fixed Blade Fixed Blade
Lanyard Hole Yes No
Engravable Yes Maybe
Edge Type Partially Serrated Straight
Blade Shape Clip Point Clip
Handle Color Black Brown
Sheath Included Yes Yes
Sheath Options Nylon (Material), Molle (Attachment), Velcro (Closure) Leather (Material), Snap (Closure)
Edge Angles 15-20 Degrees 20 Degrees
Blade Width 1.2″ 1″
Butt Cap/Guard None, Full Tang to the End 12GA Commercial Grd Carbon Steel
Grind Hollow Ground Flat

The first thing any knife person would look at is the type of steel used in the blade. The SOG uses AUS-8 while the Ka-Bar uses 1095 Cro-Van. 1095 has a carbon content of about 0.95%. What does this all mean? The Ka-Bar is easier to sharpen and will rust easily. The SOG will hold an edge better and is more resistant to corrosion. On the SOG Seal Team Elite versus SOG Seal Team, the difference is the saw back. The Elite has a saw back. There are days where I like it and others when I wish I didn’t have it. The decision to go saw back or not was truly based on the price of the two blades. Would I use the saw portion? That’s a big maybe and most likely.

The next big difference that I noticed is the choil. A knife choil is the area between the edge and the tang of a knife. This area can be big enough for a finger or just a small area that is not sharpened. The SOG has a huge choil. My guess is for better knife handling. At least it gave me better control when doing fine tasks. The huge choil comes at a cost. The sharpened edge of the blade is reduced. I measured the sharpened edge to be about 6.15″ while the Ka-Bar had an edge of about 6.75″. That’s a good half inch difference.

There’s a “full” tang that goes all the way on both blades. While I can’t see behind the handle, the Ka-Bar’s end is very small compared to the SOG. While not a super deal breaker, I just don’t see me trying to break anything with the Ka-Bar butt because it looks like it’ll break. The pin holding the cap is small and I don’t think it can take a beating. I’m told not to worry but I just can’t risk it.

Overall, the knives are pretty close in their specifications until you get to the handles. The Ka-Bar has stacked leather for the handle while the SOG has Glass-Reinforced Nylon. With the Seal Team Elite, it feels like it can survive in any climate. I’m afraid to get the Ka-Bar wet or near water. I’m sure the Ka-Bar is coated well where I don’t have worry about rain. WWII reports have said that the Ka-Bar handles deteriorate and mold after submersed into water. I’m sure that could have been avoided with really good knife care but then again, who’s putting a leather anything into water? The feel of each handle is totally different. For those with soft hands, the Seal Team Elite will chew up your hands after a few hours of use while the Ka-Bar’s stacked leather has a great feel and makes you feel you can hold it forever. I’m just not about those round handles.

Question

With all that said, which one would I carry with me?

Answer

Depends on where I am and where I’m going.

Scenario 1

You’re in the middle of North America surrounded by big trees and large game.

Answer

Ka-Bar

Scenario 2

You’re in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Nothing but fish and marine animals with an occasional clam to eat.

Answer

SOG Seal Team Elite

Scenario 3

You’re near water or will get wet.

Answer

SOG Seal Team Elite

Scenario 4

You need to get a job done no matter what and don’t care about the blade as much as human life.

Answer

Ka-Bar

Conclusion

Both of these blades are great. If I had to choose between both of them, I would probably go SOG Seal Team Elite. I’m generally around water so I need the blade that resists corrosion the most. The SOG Seal Team Elite also has a lanyard hole. Not that I’m going to make spears but if I did, I feel like the SOG would do this a lot better than the Ka-Bar. It is also 1 oz lighter. Not that it means too much but it matters if you’re counting ounces.

The reality is…I have both of these blades and they both rock! I use the SOG Seal Team Elite when I go to the beach. I use the Ka-Bar when I go camping and know I’m going to hack into some wood. The serrated blade of the SOG makes cutting rope super easy. The flat, easy to sharpen, straight edge of the Ka-Bar gives you a lot of blade to work with and the knife seems to know where to cut next. These are big knives and when used right are the best tools in the great outdoors.

I’m interested to find out which route you took.

Resources:

SOG Knives

KA-BAR Knives

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