Sunday, March 28, 2010

Survival Knives

I am no expert when it comes to Survival Knives. The way I see them is they’re just like guns; everyone has their own favorite size, shape and maker so there’s no way to pick one that most will agree with.

For myself I want a Survival knife that must be able to do and do well:1. Baton for kindling and split small 2-4 inch logs for fires.
2. Pry, Cut and Separate larger game joints.
3. Skin larger game.
4. A full size, full length tang with pomell.
5. Capable of chopping small limbs to construct an emergency debris shelter.
6. A large handle or grip so I can securely hang onto it while batoning or chopping.
7. Not made from stainless steel.
8. Not to big, not to heavy and not to small.
9. Price is important as I would like to stay in the $75-$85 range.

You will find as I, that there are hundreds of makers and models out there to choose from with many of them grossly over priced for field work at well over $200. I’m not looking for a pretty face but a knife that someday I may need to save my life. I like the Becker Knives because it is a very simple design, thick, robust, non-stainless blade and overall a tough functional design. My first two choices from the Becker line are the either a BK-2 (Campanion) or the larger BK-7.

The other design is RAT ‘Randall Adventure Training’ and has now changed its name to ESEE. The Original ‘RAT’ or now ‘ESEE’ are expensive, exceeding $200. ESEE makes their own knives now but Ontario Knife the original maker still makes the Randall designs and markets them direct to the public for considerably less. However the extra fine finishing and attention to detail that ESEE applies is not found on the Ontario workmanship. Apparently a fall-out between the two companies led to this split and name change.

So now for my choice:
Well I had a weak moment last Saturday morning. I finally ordered my new knife, but not the Becker. I really like the Becker’s grip, it’s big and with the large front finger guard and the rear finger guard or bolster I feel is safer from slips during heavy chopping, although I would have to texture the grips surface first, but that’s no big deal. The four deciding factors that made me go for the RAT-7 design was:

1. The Becker’s clip point spine that is ‘semi-sharpened’ is a negative. I felt for baton work against that almost sharpened edge would chew-up the striker log before its time.
2. The Micarta Grip slabs of the RAT-7 are almost a denim like surface to improve the grip.
3. The RAT-7 has a finger Choil already in the thickest area of the blade design so I don’t have to grind it in myself, all I will have to do is radius the edges for comfort. For me to add a Choil to the Becker and because it was not part of the original blade design, I would have to grind the shape into the thinnest area of the blade thus making a very probable blade breaking point during batoning or heavy chopping use.
4. The price for this RAT-7 was $88.95, just a few bucks more than the Becker.

Factory Product Description:Ontario RAT 7 Fixed Blade Knife designed by Jeff Randall
The Ontario RAT 7 Fixed Blade knife is a good sized outdoor and survival knife at 12" in overall length. Designed by Jeff Randall, the RAT 7 Knife features a blade made of 1095 Carbon Steel that is 6.5" long and is .187" thick. The blade of the RAT 7 knife is coated with a black textured powder coating and is a drop point. As with all the RAT knifes, the handle of the RAT 7 is canvas Micarta. The RAT 7 fixed blade knife comes complete with a Cordura Nylon Sheath (but you can also use the lanyard on the pommel for carrying) that features a plastic insert for edge protection and an accessory pocket for storage. The RAT 7 Fixed blade knife is made in the USA.

Overall first impression, I like it.It feels secure in my hand and overall quality is good.
The flat head screws that secure the Micarta slab grips on could have been counter sunk another 1/64th of an inch and a little edge touch up in the finger Choil detail would be the only manufacturing issues I have. After all not bad, as it’s not a $200 plus knife. After I give it a good workout I may change the blade edge angle to the typical 20 degrees as it seems blunter than 20 degrees right now.

Would I recommend this knife? Yes!

Here’s how the RAT-7 arrived.

Left side view.

Top or spine view.

Right side view.

Blade or bottom edge view.

Sheath front view.The sheath is a typical cheap sheath. It does have a plastic blade liner and a front pouch to store a sharpening diamond and fire-steel. The plastic blade liner offers no knife retention so you must rely totally on the fabric snap retainer.

Sheath Back side view.Along with a good sized sewn belt loop and on the back side there is a ‘MOLLE’ system for attaching to belts, packs and vests.

RAT in Sheath.

I also ordered an M-18 Machete.
Some will say you don’t need a machete and that’s probably true for the majority of the USA and Canada. I live in Florida and the forests here for the most part have a dense under growth much like a jungle and there are times you must hack your way through some areas. This is where the machete is best.

I’ve owned an M-18 Ontario Machete for I’m guessing 30 years, then one day somebody stole it. So I ordered a replacement and I have to say workmanship in the USA has just about disappeared. The blade is still good but the old handle rivets were made of brass and fit flush, the new design uses steel rivets and they don’t fit flush. I can and will make some adjustments to it and then I’ll be happy.


  1. If you want a good inexpensive knife make your own. I've been making knives since I was 12 years old. A file makes a fine knife as does "cheapy jeepy" springs.
    The Internet has thousands of sites that will help you with the process, including the heat treating steps.
    Mountain rifleman

  2. Anonymous,
    I'd like to see some pictures of your knives made from files and see how they turn out, this sounds interesting. E-mail them to me and I will post them so we all can see the end result.

  3. I will recommend Greyman knives.
    Great useful knives at a great price..

  4. T3, thanks. I checked out the website and they are nice but way out of my price range plus I'd feel real bad batoning fire wood with one and scuffing it up!

  5. I agree with the machete comments above. An axe is great if you need to chop a lot of wood for a fire in cold climates, but in the South, is generally too much for general use.
    If you need a compromise, the golok is a pretty good one, call it a light sword, it bites deeper than a machete. Great if your wood species are hardwood, vs. soft woods like pine which are easier to cut.