The Ontario RAT Model 1 just might be the single best knife-for-the-money. This is a beast of a knife that has everything you would want for EDC, especially if you’re the budget-conscious type. And you aren’t going to cry buckets if you lose it.
What makes it so solid? Usually, with a knife in this price range, I’d begin with an in-depth analysis of the actual cost and then make apologies for the features the knife is missing. I’ll do a bit of that, but no more than I would for any imperfect knife.
With the RAT, cost still comes first. These are regularly on sale for under $30. I see them sometimes under $25. And that’s nuts. I don’t know how Ontario can pull that off.
The price can go up depending on the features. Upgrades to the blade steel and the scale material will bump up the price, but the sales will always bring them down. And for the basic design, this one can’t be beat.
The Ontario RAT Model 1 Features
I hate the word features. This knife, though, has some nice things that come with it and things it can do. For starters, the scales are over stainless steel. They are removable, which allows you to take this knife all the way down for cleaning or drying.
And the pocket clip can be positioned in four different ways or removed. This one pictured has Nylon 6 scales. Those are very plastic feeling, but rugged scales. G10 scales are an upgrade option for those who don’t like the feel of nylon. And there’s a whole sub-culture of aftermarket scales that are available in titanium, brass, copper, or fancy G10.
- Blade Length: 3-1/2″
- Thickness: .115″
- Blade Grind: Full Flat Taper
- Blade Material: AUS-8 Stainless Steel
- Blade Finish: Black or Satin
- Blade HRC/Hardness: 55-56 HRC
- Handle Material: Nylon 6 or G10
- Handle Length: 5″ (Closed Length)
- Knife Handle Color: Black
- Knife Overall Length: 8.5″
- Knife Carry System: Removable Pocket Clip
The Ontario RAT Model 1’s Lock
This isn’t an apology, really, though I would like to have one of these in a lock-back. But the liner-lock works. The stainless liners are almost thick enough to allow this to cross over into the frame lock category. And the lock is strong.
I have forced a failure by batoning on the blade. This is my number one recommendation for my Scouts when they ask about pocket knives (again—cost and function). So I show them what it will and won’t do. And like 99% of pocket knives, you need to keep your wood-splitting expectations realistic.
But the blade shape (a basic drop point) is great for everything else you’ll do in the woods. There are no serrations (at least on the model I recommend) to prevent you from sharpening it in the field. The edge of the blade is sharp enough to strike a Ferro rod. And the tip is fine enough for the removal of splinters.
The Ontario RAT Model 1 is a straight flat grind that slices well. It is light enough to carry, large enough for practical use, and the clip is solid enough to hold the knife where you put it—be that on a pack, in your pocket, or even over a belt.
The image below picks up a couple of details on the build. Fit and finish isn’t perfect, but it is better than any other knife I know of in this price range. I’d like to have a back spacer to keep the crap out of the knife when it is in my pocket, but this is easy enough to clean.
The Ontario RAT Model 1 Origin Story
There’s a huge movement in the knife world that celebrates the specific designs of individual knife makers and field-use experts. Jeff Randall, of the Randall’s Adventure and Training Team (RAT), had a hand in the design of this one. More than 20 years ago, the RAT team set out to build an EDC version of the fixed blades they were using in their training and survival courses in South America—and they wanted it to be a folder.
The Model 1 was the first of these. The line has expanded into smaller versions (the RAT 2 and 3), and new steels (stainless, D2, AUS 8—mostly the lower cost, higher chromium/higher carbon steels) and grips (as previously mentioned).
And the design has evolved into other companies, too, like ESEE. But the OKC line still is the one every other knife company wishes they’d pioneered.
Why is it the one knife I’d recommend?
I mentioned the Scouts earlier. I have 30+ kids in my troop. Boys and girls. And we never go anywhere (except the airport and the courthouse) without knives.
I take the whole be-prepared thing seriously. I make the kids show me what’s in their pockets at meetings. And if there’s not a knife and a light, at the least, they get a dose of stink-eye.
I’ve carried one of these RAT knives off and on for more than a decade. I keep one in my backup kit when I’m hiking or canoeing, just in case. They are 100% capable.
They also don’t look scary. I can pull one in a crowded place to do some basic task without scaring the sheep. They don’t have the aggressive tactical look, though they’re more than capable of being deployed for self-defense.
The steel is serviceable, which is a great way to teach responsibility to new knife owners. The knife is serviceable, which allows for solid sterilization and maintenance.
In the end, I’d say the Ontario RAT Model 1 is like some of the newer 9mms from Taurus. The GX4 would be a good comparison. What Taurus has done with its guns of late Ontario has been doing with this knife design for years.
In a world where some of the best factory knife designs start around $200, OKC is killing it with a design that comes in at 1/10th of that. And we’ll end where we began. That means something, still.
I could have bought nine or ten of these for what I have paid for lots of other knives. That is absurd.