Despite the name, the Ontario RAT 5 fixed blade knife has nothing to do with killing rats, although you could use it for that if you were quick enough to catch one. The acronym comes from Randall’s Adventure Training, the founder of which, Jeff Randall, designed the RAT knife range with the purpose of being suitable for a myriad of outdoor uses rather than terrifying the enemy, which so many of today’s blades seem designed to do.
The first RAT knives were made back in 2002 and at the time were groundbreaking in the sense that they were built for survival rather than as a weapon.
Superb Survival Knife
The Ontario RAT 5 fixed blade knife has, as you would expect, a blade that is 5″ long. As with the other knives in the RAT range the blade has a flat-grind and a deep belly which makes it more suitable as a survival knife than one for combat. Still, it has a decently pointed tip and the handle shape provides a really tight grip, so you wouldn’t really want to come up against it if push came to shove. But, of course, except in rare circumstances, hand to hand combat is not common these days, most people preferring to do their killing from a distance with a gun rather than getting close up and personal. Having said that, RAT knives are carried and used by military personnel worldwide, including US forces in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Blade Properties of the Ontario RAT 5
The blade of the RAT 5 is made of 1095 steel which is among the toughest of all the carbon steels. It is the same steel that has been used for years in machetes in jungles since World War II and can take a lot of stress. It handles particularly well when under lateral stress such as prying through knots in hard woods when it simply bends and springs back into shape rather than snapping. The blade itself has a 4.75″ cutting edge and is 0.187″ thick. The overall length of the Ontario RAT 5 fixed blade knife is 10.75″.
Similarly, 1095 steel will take a very sharp edge which is exactly what is required when cutting or slicing. It also means that the blade can be manufactured thinner than other steels while retaining the same amount of strength as other lesser steels with thicker blades. Obviously, this makes it somewhat lighter. But again a thinner blade is more useful for slicing and the thickness is ideal, unless you require a survival knife that can replace a medium sized chopping tool (e.g., a hatchet, machete or kukri). In that case you may want to look for a thicker blade stock. It wouldn’t be out of place in the kitchen either. You can most certainly use it for food preparation without feeling like you’re holding a brick.
Phosphate Blade Coating
Being carbon steel, as opposed to stainless steel, the blade will rust if you aren’t observant and practice preventative care. To combat corrosion Ontario have coated the RAT 5’s blade with their standard phosphate coating. This gives a black matte finish to the which with a lot of use will tend to wear smooth, but not wear off. In fact, after considerable use it does actually wear down to a dull dark grey and still retains the protective properties it was originally intended for.
Handle Scale Material and Construction
The Ontario RAT 5 fixed blade knife does resemble a piece of military gear, what with the olive drab canvas micarta handle scales. The handle slabs are attached to the full tang by means of stainless steel hex bolts. The extended portion of the tang has a good sized hole for a lanyard which gives maximum security when chopping and is actually supplied with a bootlace which might be useful. The spine of the blade on this knife has generous jimping for control when cutting in close and the blade also has a deep finger choil. These two aspects make for comfortable and easy precision cutting or whittling. The full extended tang also has a “skull crusher”, which can be used for breaking glass and crushing things, but it does not dig into the palm of the hand when in normal use or when using a reverse grip.
Sheath and Carrying Options
It comes with a rather pedestrian sheath, which seems to be the norm these days for knives under $100. It’s made of nylon with a plastic/kydex insert that keeps the blade from cutting the sheath as it is drawn or inserted. It has a flap near where the handle and blade meet that can be fastened to secure and aid in retention. (Update: I have seen recent pictures of newer models which includes a sheath with two retention straps. This may vary depending on the date of manufacture.) It can be opened in a way so that you are less likely to cut the sheath when withdrawing the blade. There is a decent sized belt loop and the sheath also has a storage pocket for carrying additional supplies like a sharpener or small backup blade. Only two eyelets (near the bottom) for tie down points. At least the sheath is MOLLE compatible. That’s always a positive as far as carry options go.
The Ontario RAT 5 is a very popular option for a tough, relatively inexpensive survival knife. It’s ideal for camping or any other excursions you may wish to take into the wilderness. The price of the Ontario RAT 5 fixed blade knife varies enormously and you would be well advised to practice due diligence and do a little research before buying. It has a recommended retail price of as much as $175 in some circles. However, the pricing as of posting this review was only in the $70 range, which is a savings of over 50% off retail. At that price, definitely worth a look for adventure junkies needing a tough and reliable blade for all purpose use.