Thursday, June 8, 2017

Ontario Rat 1 Review

I  never know what to ask for on my birthday. Most of the stuff I want is either too expensive (in other words, tools), or too complicated to tell someone else to buy for me (parts for projects). I mean, I guess theoretically I could tell Grandma that I wanted, "10 feet of 3/4" schedule 80 PVC pipe, with two 1/2" female threaded couplings.......and...........Oh, I could also use some black and green canvas micarta handle scales, the 1/4 inch thick ones, mind you, and be sure they are an inch and a half wide and, oh, about ten inches long would no no, Grandma, I said the canvas micarta. Can't you hear me? Yep, thats schedule 80. The pipe has it printed on the side. Not the schedule 40, that won't work. It needs to be schedule 80. Yeah, 3/4". No, that's refering to the inside diameter of the pipe. Oh, they sell it at Home Depot. Or Lowes. And don't forget the couplings..................." 

But somehow I can't bring myself to.

One thing I do ask for is books. There are always a few good books I wish that I owned, but whenever I get worked up enough to buy one I end up spending the money on whatever project I'm working on at the time. So there are always a few books I want, (ask what I got for Christmas).

My default, however is knives. I can always use more of those. So for my birthday (several months ago) I asked for some knives.  

Typical me. 

One of the knives I received was the Ontario Rat 1 folding knife. It has received critical acclaim for being one of the best budget folders out there, with good reason. For only 25$, it is certainly close to the top of the list in terms of value for the price. To take you to the end of the review at the beginning; I really like this knife. 

Now let's start at the beginning. 

Knife Specs:
Blade length: 3.5"
Knife Closed Length: 5"
Knife Open Length: 8.5"
Weight: 5oz
Lock: Linerlock
Handle: Nylon scales, with stainless liners
Steel: AUS 8 Stainless
Grind: Full Flat Grind

This is your basic blade shape here. A simple three and a half inch full flat ground drop point with plenty of belly, straight edge, and fine point. Very simple, no frills or funny curves, just a basic utilitarian design. Everything you need, and nothing you don't. The full flat grind is very effective, and the blade gets nice and thin behind the edge. It cuts very well, and although it's not the best I have handled (hollow grinds are always better), it makes a pretty good slicer.

The grinds are crisp and clean, and no stray machining marks anywhere on this knife. Trust me, any marks or dings that may be visible in the pictures were caused by me banging it around. Out of the box it was flawless. Impressive, considering its price. 

The blade steel is Japanese AUS 8 stainless. It is a standard budget steel, and is very common on knives in this price range. In performance it is practically the same as its Chinese equivalent 8Cr13MoV, which is the other main budget steel. It takes a razor edge, holds it decently, and is easy to sharpen. I have experienced only minor chipping, which happened when stabbing and hacking through a rusty paint can. Quite understandable in my book. 

Tip strength is also superb. It is nice and thin at the tip, yet not too thin, hitting the sweet spot of strength and fine cutting power. It came out of my tip strength test with flying colors, making the 2x4s beg for mercy.

As far as rust goes, it has proved to be a good stainless. I do not wash or oil my pocket knives very often, and so far I have only seen two minuscule spots of rust on the blade. Which, now that I am thinking about it, I can't find anymore. Funny. Maybe I am remembering wrong. Either way, I count that very good for a stainless with the crazy high humidity like it is down here. 

Overall, I am very satisfied with the steel. 

Also on the blade is (I think etched) the Ontario Knife Company logo, as well as the model, the steel, and where it was made; Taiwan. No, this knife is not made in the USA. That may be a big deal to you, but it's not to me. I get driven crazy by all you people who exclusively buy USA made knives, and run from China made or in this case Taiwan made stuff like it was Kryptonite, as if all China made knives are crud made to be thrown away. Allow me to set y'all straight: you're darn wrong. 

It's a lot like racism really. There are good black people and bad black people, same as there are good white people and bad white people. And good and bad China manufactured knives. The trouble is when you write off a whole race because of a few bad folks, or a whole country because of a few bad knives. Unfortunately, like racism, the mindset is also passed down, done unconsciously, and is fed by ignorance. 

But, one of you might say, "Aren't almost all bad cheapo knives made in China?" Well, yes. Does that mean that China made knives are inherently bad? No. Then why are most of them bad? Because, Einstein, cheapo knives are made very cheaply, so they can be sold very cheaply. Guess what? To make a knife for low cost, you not only have to use cheap materials, but you must use cheap labor. People don't work for cheap in the US. They do in other countries. To produce a cheapo knife, for cheapo prices, they must go with cheapo labor. They can get that in China. That is why you wont find cheapo knives made in the US, because if they were, guess what: they wouldn't be cheap.

Then why are all USA made knives so good? Because they cost three times that of anything that comes out of other countries. At that price, they can afford to use better materials. Look, knife companies understand that most people love USA made knives. They are not moving out of the country by choice, but by necessity to keep the prices down. If this knife had been made in the USA, it would have cost double for the same performance. Yeah, I'll take the Taiwan made. 

Another interesting inconsistency is that many of those knife-racist people also swear by their I-Phones, which, incidentally, were also made in China.

Forcing myself to move on now.......

Handle and Ergonomics:
There's no mistaking it, this is a big folding knife. It is a full 5 inches long closed, for crying out loud. I don't care how big your hands are, there is no fear that the handle will be too short to accommodate them. My hands are somewhere between a large and an xtra large glove, and there is room for another finger or so at the end of the handle. Not that it looks or feels out-of-place large (this isn't one of Cold Steel's Espadas), but there is certainly a little extra room thrown in. Nothing wrong with that, just something to take note of. 

Unfortunately for those of you who don't like heavier knives, this one's weight is in proportion to its size. Coming in at a full 5 ounces, this is no ladybug. The liners are thick and solid, with no milling to help keep down the weight. Couple that with a large blade, over abundance of screws, and not-so-light nylon scales, and you have a bit of heft. Personally, I have no problem with that. I don't think this knife is too heavy to carry by any stretch of the imagination. Heck, I even regularly edc a full size Leatherman Sidekick multi-tool on a pocket clip. (why do you think people invented belts?) This knife is a tad heavy on pajama pants though. (not that I don't wear it on pajama pants, just that it weighs em' down more than, say, my Spyderco Cara Cara 2)

This knife isn't designed to be lightweight. It is a no nonsense knife designed to be tough and able to take a beating without breaking. That being said, I don't think it's overly heavy at all. Just be warned, if you are a fan of feather-weight edcs; this isn't one of them.

On the subject of ergonomics, I think this knife scores fairly high. Not a Spyderco high, but pretty good nonetheless. The main problem is going to be the position in which you prefer your clip. The handle is drilled and tapped for all four carry positions (which is another big plus for this knife), but due to the shape of the handle and the rather large clip, when it is in tip down position it gets in the way and causes a bit of discomfort. Not a huge amount, but enough to make it annoying. With the clip in tip up arrangement the problem is completely solved. I'm on the fence as to which carry position I prefer, I kinda go back and forth. Right now I think I favor tip down slightly more, and that's generally what I run on this knife. I just deal with the clip getting in the way a bit.

Otherwise the ergos are fairly good. The scales are rounded over nicely, with no hotspots. Choking up on the blade is doable, though not very comfortable, due to the lack of a forward finger choil. I don't understand why they didn't add one to this knife. There is plenty of room for a finger choil, and it would have greatly improved it. Oh well, you can't have everything. 

Due to the interesting shape where the blade meets the handle, when deployed there is a small thumb ramp, on which is some aggressive jimping. I have found it to be too aggressive, making my thumb sore after prolonged use. I would much prefer smaller or better shaped jimping, such as is on my Cara Cara 2 or the Kershaw/Emerson CQC series. Taken on the whole though, its a pretty comfortable knife in the hand.

The handle also includes a lanyard hole, although why you would want a lanyard on a knife like this is beyond me. The option is open if you want it though, so that's a plus.

Lanyard hole

Pocket Clip and Carry:
Despite its large footprint, the knife carries well. It is large yes, but not uncomfortable. The scales are textured enough to provide some grip, but not so much so that it tears up pockets or is difficult to pull out; exactly what one wants on a pocket knife. 

The clip is on the large side, taking up half of the handle. Not that taking up half the handle makes the clip inherently large, but when that handle is five inches long, well, the clip is a little on the large side. It isn't a deep carry, and while not a ton of the handle sticks out, it's not exactly discreet either. I have no problems with that; you may think differently. 

The clip is coated with a black paint like material, which as you can see does not hold up very well. I don't really mind that either, I think it gives the knife some character, although personally I would prefer a plain polished metal finish. Once again, you may think differently.

On the other hand, I really like this clip. It is easy to slide in, easy to slide out, and keeps the knife put in the meantime. There are no hang ups, and nothing for the lining of your pocket to catch on. It shows no signs of it losing tension either. The clip does everything I would desire it do.

Deployment and Lockup:
Deployment is one thing Ontario scored perfectly on this knife. Right out of the box, I was flicking it open with hardly any effort. And believe me, it's a joy to operate. I find myself snapping it open constantly, very much to the dismay of my family and friends (who for some reason get unreasonably nervous around a guy casually flicking open and shut a large razor sharp knife).

The detent is perfect, strong enough to keep the blade firmly in place when shut, but small enough to allow you to snap it open with minimal effort. Once past the detent the action is very smooth, courtesy of the phosphor bronze washers, all the way up until the lock bar snaps into position with a beautiful click.

The cut out around the thumb studs is not very large, but I have never had a problem deploying it. My thumb falls right where it is supposed to, and gets plenty of purchase on the thumb stud. No problems there. Not much to say about the studs themselves, they are the average deal that comes on 95% of all folders. They get the job done.

The blade is centered perfectly, with zero wobble in any direction. 

Now, as to lockup.........I might as well say right out there is a huge flaw in this liner lock. At some point I decided to try some spine whacks to test the lock's integrity, and at the first whack the lock failed. The lock bar slid right out of the blade ramp. Not even a hard whack either, this was a light one. I tried again, with the same disappointing result. Every time I hit the spine it closes. Every. Single. Time. Disappointing.  One radius hit just below the tang: same result. It fails. Wow. What a bummer. I really do not why know this linerlock is so weak. It engages fully, the liner is not thin, and the ramp isn't super angled or anything. It's unfortunate.

Otherwise the lockup is great. It engages easily, zero stick, it's not hard to disengage, and it has some small jimping on the lock bar. There is also a nice cut out to help access it. But you don't need me to tell you that all that good stuff with a weak lock is hardly better than a beautifully polished Ferrari with a bad transmission. A very good car, but with a pretty bad problem. 

Ok, well, it's not as bad as that, but doubtless it does detract a good deal from the knife.

Final Thoughts:
I might as well say right out, like I did at the beginning of the review, that I like this knife quite a bit. 

My first impressions were very, very good. It was big, solid, sharp, opened fast, and locked securely (or so I thought). It felt solid and reassuring in the hand. As I mentioned in my review of the Spyderco Byrd Cara Cara 2, I received the knives at the same time. Comparing them, which I couldn't help but do as I opened the other gifts from friends and family, did not turn out favorably for the Spydie. It only strengthened my already very favorable first impression. After edc-ing it exclusively for the last two months, I found that my initial impressions were very nearly correct. 

This is a very good pocket knife. For me, it is exactly what I want in an EDC folder. It is large, holds up to abuse, flicks open fast (the intimidation factor), holds a good edge, cuts well, and looks fairly nice. I'll admit, the design isn't what I'd call inspired, and it won't win any beauty contests, but I like it nonetheless. I appreciate things that don't look like much, but have got it where it counts. While I love a good looking knife, I also know that knives are tools. Tools are made to be used. Not to sit in a drawer and look pretty. You'll find that most of my knives don't look pretty. Because I use my tools.

As far as the weak lock, I won't disguise it from you that it took the knife down considerable in my estimation. It lost a whole Awesome Star on that account. However let's be careful not take it too far, because honestly, although I like to know that my lock is strong enough to hold under any amount of pressure, it's not really necessary. I can't think of any legitimate day to day use that would cause the lock to fail. Even my day to day operations. I mean, unless you are some sort of........... (what?) a serial killer (?) and make a practice of stabbing stuff on a day to day basis, your fingers should be perfectly safe. You simply don't need an uber strong lock for an everyday carry knife. So while the lock is definitely not up to par by my standards, I wouldn't totally discount this knife because of that. Matter of fact, out of all the reviews I've read on this knife (many), I'm the first to have even noticed this. 

Would I recommend this knife? Absolutely. For $25 on Amazon, I think this is a very good knife. I would recommend it to anyone looking for a solid edc. 

I give this knife four out of five Awesome Stars. If it wasn't for the lock, it would be five. 

I will also mention that there is a second version of this knife, known as the Rat 2. It is the same knife in all aspects except that it is a smaller version. If a 3.5" blade is too much for you (why oh why?!!?!!), then you will probably prefer that model. 


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