Notes on RAT-5 for Fieldcraft use

RAT-5 with Badlands Drifter Sheath

I had a gentleman reach out and ask me to make a sheath for his Ontario Knife Company RAT-5. I thought I would take the opportunity to give my thoughts on it in an attempt to help educate others on the usefulness of this knife in the field, since this knife is one that gets recommended often for a field knife. The following is a list of notes I made while handling the knife. One thing to keep in mind is that this is not a brand new knife from OKC, but a used one from an owner. From what I can tell there haven’t been any modifications to the knife from its original state.

Cons

  • Pointed pommel is questionably useful. As far as I understand these types of knives were designed for air crews to be able to break out of a downed aircraft. While it may work good for that, for a general use field knife I don’t really know when I would need it. I’d rather have a more useful pommel design personally.
  • Spine not sharpened to a useable edge. I like a sharpened spine for scraping tinder and ferro rods.
  • Jimping not really useful, gets in the way for flint strikes. This is a general observation I have for most knives with jimping on the spine.
  • Ricasso area waste of blade surface. There’s a solid half inch of length that is wasted on the ricasso and choil. That’s a half inch of edge this knife could have.
  • Choil pointless when you have integral guard. Had they brought the edge back towards the guard you wouldn’t need a choil.
  • Very poor fitting handle scales to blade, looks to be only bolted with no epoxy to seal underneath. Lots of overlap with tang, 1/16” in some areas.
  • Very poorly fitting ergonomically. 1/4” slabs that have been routered. Feels like holding a 1×2.
  • Full flat grind doesn’t take advantage of the thickness of the steel. Blade starts at 1/4” thick in the tang and ricasso, but because of the blade geometry it rapidly gets thinner towards the tip. Blade is wide enough to do a saber grind and this would preserve the spine thickness while still being thin enough to slice good.
  • Factory sheath is very basic, not much retention.

Pros

  • Good overall size and weight for a serious use belt knife.
  • Really good balance
  • Full tang
  • 1/4” High carbon 1095 steel
  • Ergonomic handle profile, could be very comfortable with a little work to round off the corners of the scales.
  • Lanyard hole
  • Continuously curved blade
  • Integral guard
  • Blade has been coated to attempt to control corrosion
  • Very economical ~$90
  • Made in the USA

So is this knife “good for the money” as so many people seem to say? For me, personally, with the criteria and uses I’m looking for? No, it’s not. This would have been a knife I upgraded from a long time ago, most likely to a Mora Garberg Carbon for around the same price.

It has the look and feel of a product that was designed to sell to a certain market, not designed for a certain use. Someone at OKC said we need a tactical looking “survival” knife under $100. I’m sure these are quite a popular item in the PX for young grunts, and I’m sure there’s plenty of First Sergeants that have outlawed them from young grunts cutting themselves. I understand what it’s like to not even be able to afford a $100 knife, I’ve been there myself plenty. And I have a whole pile of “good for the money” gear that I don’t use anymore. My unsolicited advice, save up, and buy once cry once.

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