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Ontario RAT-5 Fixed Blade Knife.

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A no-nonsense fixed blade perfect for the great outdoors.


Back in 2002 when Ontario introduced their new RAT line of knives designed by the founders of Randall's Adventure Training (hence the creepy acronym) they broke ground by going against the grain of the tactical fixed blade industry in that rather than being testosterone-laden macho battle knives they instead took a far more utilitarian approach with appropriately less formidable styling. All of the RAT lineup, from the small but excellent RAT-3 to the impressively massive RTAK-I and later RTAK-II, were knife blades brought back down to their most essential elements. Form followed function and that was that. Though slightly military-looking with their olive drab micarta handle scales, there was nothing that was imposing about any of them. They were simply meant to perform a myriad of outdoor tasks rather than drive away the enemy with various degrees of flash and fantasy like so many of the popular blades of the day. Suprisingly, the RAT's were so successful that they almost singlehandedly helped redefine the tactical fixed blade market and in the process created an independent cutlery company, first known as RAT Cutlery and now presently as ESEE. The early knives produced by Ontario are pretty much the same as those produced by the subsequent firms, which have merely purposefully reintroduced slightly more refined versions of the successful originals under their own well-earned trademark. I will admit, in all deference to ESEE, I think they got it right with the originals and prefer them to the lightly tweaked new generation. These tools are as effective and rugged as they are simplistic and unpretentious and since the indications are they'll outlive me by a considerable degree I feel no pressing need to switch brands. One of the most useful of the Ontario RAT's is the midsized RAT-5, which as its name suggests, using RAT nomenclature, has a 5" blade with RAT design's characteristic flat-grind and deep belly, making it more useful as a deep woods camp or survival knife that as an outright combat blade. Having said that, I wouldn't want to come up against it armed with anything less. It handles quickly and stays in the hand well and that alone could provide more tactical advantage than I care to deal with. The reality of it, and the knife industry has since begun to acknowledge this, is that in this day and age the role of a tactical fixed blade in combat situations is pretty much nonexistent. Only in the most extreme and rarest of occassions does the gun give way to hand-to-hand combat. More fixed blade knives are turning their attention toward practical applications and many nice designs are coming out lately which hold strong appeal to those wanting the latest, greatest steel and the sleekest profile in a carry blade while avoiding the juvenile deadly-impact looks of their predecessors for the most part.    For the traditionalists, they'll still never quite take the place of a solid, simple belt knife and the RAT-5 is one of the better ones out there. Made of tough, very forgiving 1095 carbon steel with a full tang design and nearly indestructible linen micarta handle scales, it is about as capable in the outdoors as anything you'll find, able to process wild game, split up kindling for a campfire amd handle campside cooking chores without the need to worry about how it's holding up under all the stress. I've put my Ontario 1095 RAT's to the test (there is a D2-steel optioned version I would not recommend for outdoors use in cold environments) on many occassions and though they've been pushed seemingly beyond the breaking point, they've yet to fail in any way. Which is lot more than you can say for some of those fancier, scarier blades, which are inherently more complex (and structurally delicate.) I've gone over 1095 in other blade reviews and it is by far my favorite steel. I'll touch on only a few reasons here. First of all, it takes an extremely sharp edge. The RAT-5 in particular benefits from this keen edge as it does not have a particularly aggressive blade design, as mentioned. It's also among the toughest of all the simple carbon steels, has served as the steel of choice for high-stress, high-impact blades such as machetes for decades (thanks to the torture-testing battlegrounds/proving ground jungles of WWII.) My own experince with 1095 has been that under lateral stress (such as during prying or batoning through knots in hardwoods) it bends rather than snaps. I have bent my larger RTAK-II to seemingly impossible degrees and it has always sprung back to level again, sometimes to my astonishment. What this means to the smaller RAT-5 is that, unlike a lot of similar blades these days, it can utilize somewhat thinner blade stock, allowing for more cutting finesse in certain situations which require it while still being strong enough to handle anything it will likely ever encounter in the real world. Yes, thicker, quarter-inch blade stock may sound appealing but RAT knives are all about practicality and thinner knives simply slice much better. They're still a relatively heavy duty blade, of course. Manage to avoid backing over them with your tank and you won't have problems. The knives come with Ontario's standard black phosphate coating to protect the blades, which will rust, being carbon (not stainless) steel. With some use the powdery-looking finish will wear smooth but does not readily wear off. After lots of outdoor use, including digging in the garden, my blade has lost some of its classic matte black-out look and now, like well-seasoned carbon steel, it's simply a dull, dark grey. Again, if you think flashy really makes a difference, you're in way the wrong neighborhood. RAT knives are about versatility, practicality and survivability. On all counts, they have always delivered and in my opinion, have helped to restore the craft of bladesmithing back to a more mature, utilitarian level where it belongs. They're still the sleepers of the knife world, bringing little or no attention to themselves until something needs cleaning for the table or cutting once on the table. Then, though your instinct tells you otherwise, they're as good as it gets. To my knowledge, these Ontario RAT's are no longer in production but I keep seeing them for sale on the internet at about the same prices as before so quantities must be holding up. If you do want one, though, and I highly recommend it, don't wait too long to shop around and grab the best deal. Limited item products tend to dry up rather quickly around the Holiday Season. Do expect to pay for what you get, maybe more than you're used to but remember, these are lifelong investments, tools that never wear out, something I would not claim for the lesser steels you may be used to. There's a world of difference between a RAT and a dog, right?   

Houston, TX


Ontario RAT-5 Fixed Blade Knife.

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