SOG-TAC’s California Special is a California-legal automatic knife. Retailing for $134, its 1.9-inch blade is short by most measures, but what it lacks in length it more than makes up for in versatility. With a simple push and snap of a button, the blade powerfully rotates into place. In my hands, it has never been needed for a tactical scenario, but it has seen numerous uses in the normal, everyday chores of life.

You know SOG knives as some of the best around, and the California Special lives up to the name. You can feel the quality of the knife when holding it. The fit and finish are simply excellent. There is no play in the button, the safety or the blade. The spring that launches the blade open is strong, and the movement is smooth.

The blade is made of AUS-8 steel and measures only 0.1 inches thick, which is just right for a knife of this size. A clip-point blade with a straight edge is just right too. When used carefully, a small blade can make either big or strong cuts. The serrations on the top of the blade allow the thumb to create extra leverage. This works in conjunction with four finger grooves and other side-panel grooves in the aluminum handle. In other words, you can get a very good grip on this tool.

On the right side of the handle, a strong pocket clip reads, “Caution FullAuto LE/MIL” and lists the SOG website. You can switch the pocket clip to the other side of the knife, but it is always facing tip up when carried in a pocket. The clip extends just beyond the back of the knife, meaning the knife is totally hidden in your pocket. You can remove the pocket clip and carry it loose if that is your preferred method of carry. The California Special measures just 3.9 inches long when closed. The knife handle also sports a hole for a key ring. Whatever way you carry it, just be sure to engage the safety switch to avoid an accidental opening.

Here is a correctly sized, lightweight automatic knife that not only is rugged but also carries and deploys easily. Call it short if you want, but remember that short is also the time it takes to go from being in the pocket to being in hand and in use.

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