Ontario RAT Model 2 Folding Knife
By Gary Zinn
Image courtesy of Knife Center.
Randall's Adventure Training has designed several notable knives that have become well regarded as working tools for outdoors adventurers. These include the early RTAK model, followed by other rugged fixed blade knives, such as the RAT skinning/survival knife, Laser Strike, RTAK II, TAK, RAT-7, RAT-5, RAT-3 and the Camp-Lore series. The RAT Model 1 and Model 2 are notable RAT style folders. These various designs have been and are mostly manufactured/marketed by ESEE Knives and Ontario Knife Co.
The Ontario RAT Model 2 is a scaled down version of the popular RAT-1. It is a folding EDC knife that can withstand hard use and abuse associated with hunting or survival tasks, yet is sized for convenient carry in a jeans or field pants pocket.
I felt that the RAT-2 was worth a close evaluation as a knife for everyday carry and use for a variety of medium duty cutting tasks and I sweetened the deal by choosing the variant with D2 blade steel; this is a step up in material from the AUS-8 steel that is the standard blade in the RAT-1 and RAT-2 models. The RAT Model 2 with D2 blade has come to be known informally as the R2D2.
Specifications (as reviewed)
Model 2 variants
The R2D2 variant I ordered is as pictured above, with a coated blade and coyote brown FRN handle scales. Other variants have uncoated D2 blades, or coated or uncoated AUS-8 blades. Different colored nylon handles are available, plus one model has carbon fiber/G10 handle covers. (Those who have reviewed knives with the carbon/G10 handle covers mostly feel that they are not worth the $10 they add to the price of the knife.)
The RAT-2 comes in only one blade design, a plain edged, full flat ground blade with a no-nonsense drop point profile. A 1mm wide secondary grind forms the cutting edge. The product line is not cluttered up with funky blade profiles or grinds, or combination edges. This is a functional directness and simplicity that I appreciate.
A $40 EDC knife with a D2 blade is a big deal. Most knives of similar design and market price use a lesser steel, such as something in the 7Cr, 8Cr, or 420/440 steel series. D2 is definitely a step up from anything in the "common" steel groups, for it will hold an edge much better than the steels commonly used in knives selling for $50 or less. This goes far to make the R2D2 a value leader for the price, especially when one considers that the RAT-2 with an AUS-8 blade sells for only about $8 less.
True, D2 does not contain enough chromium to be classified as a stainless steel, but neither is it highly susceptible to rusting. With normal care, especially cleaning and drying the blade after use, I feel comfortable carrying and using a D2 knife anywhere but in a salt water environment.
The RAT-2 is available with either uncoated or coated blades. I opted for a coated blade, even though I do not get excited about coated blades in general; I say this because many coatings wear off with use. The coating on my R2D2 is teflon, I believe, and time and use will tell how durable it is. If the coating deteriorates, I will take the trouble to remove what is left and then treat the blade as l do uncoated D2; i.e., clean off any corrosives that may linger after using the knife, keep it dry to avoid moisture induced rusting and lightly polish the blade from time to time.
The blade has 2-11/16 inches of working length (sharpened edge). It is 3/4 inches wide at the belly, 0.09 inches (2.3mm) thick at the spine and is well-proportioned, with a slight drop point profile and good edge curve between the belly and tip. The full flat grind makes the blade a natural slicer, with overall proportions that are right on for a medium duty, general purpose cutter.
The factory edge on my knife was on the margin between very sharp and extremely sharp. (Extremely sharp is the top category on my qualitative scale of edge acuity.) Just for fun, I treated the edge to a half-dozen alternating strokes on my Lansky Masters Edge ceramic rod sharpener, which brought it up to definite extremely sharp condition. Routine test cuts on a variety of materials confirmed that the R2D2 cuts very well and holds its edge tenaciously.
Blade deployment and lockup
Blade deployment is via ambidextrous thumb studs. There is no opening assist mechanism, but the blade pivots on sintered bronze bushings. This works, for the blade opens easily. I anticipate that an occasional small drop of light oil, applied to the pivot area, will be all that is needed to keep the blade firing nicely.
The pivot pin cap screw can be loosened or tightened to tune ease of blade rotation and control side play of the open blade. My knife was just right, so I have not messed with the cap screw.
The liner lock spring, located in the lower front of the right side liner, engages smoothly and fits solidly against a shelf on the blade tang. The lower edge of the lock spring fits flush with the right side handle scale, while the finger choil area of the left side scale and liner is routed-out slightly to allow access to disengage the lock. I have encountered liner locks that were difficult to get a thumb or finger onto, to disengage, but this one is fine.
Blade lockup is excellent. When the blade is opened, the liner lock spring engages with an authoritative click and the open blade has no play in any direction. The front handle frame bolster serves as a blade stop, for the top shoulder of the blade tang rests against it when the blade is fully deployed. Meanwhile, the lock spring sits firmly against the lower shoulder of the tang, so that the blade is held in battery rigidly and securely.
Among knife brands and models, I have been most consistently impressed with Kershaw liner locks. The liner lock mechanism on my R2D2 is right there with the best Kershaw locks.
The handle is a conventional design, with fiber reinforced nylon scales mounted onto a pair of hardened stainless steel liners. The back of the handle is open, with four small metal bolsters separating the handle halves. Small Torx screws secure the handle covers and liners to the bolsters. The handle is very solidly built, but is trim and light weight.
Like the majority of EDC style knives, the RAT folders have slab sided handles. I call this slab handle malaise, because it is detrimental to user comfort when the knife is worked long or hard. The RAT Model 2 handle is an unvarying 7/16 inch thick. The edges of the handle covers are rounded off and the flats are finely checkered; these nuances are a positive for user comfort, but the slab sides do not fill the hand well. The knife carries nicely in a pocket, but is not designed for optimum hand comfort in use.
However, the RAT folders share a subtle design feature that, if taken advantage of, goes far toward making them much more ergonomic than the slab sided handle design would imply. The blade spine sits higher than the handle spine. The handle to blade spine transition is via a sloped tang, which forms a thumb rest, complete with jimping. This invites a thumb-on-top grip, which forces the handle butt deep into the palm of the hand. Holding the knife in this manner makes the it feel quite secure and comfortable. This may seem a small thing, but it is amazing how much more ergonomic the knife feels when gripped with the thumb resting on the tang shelf, rather than wrapped around the handle.
The handle is four inches long overall, with a working length of 3-7/16 inches, from the lip of the finger choil to the butt. The handle spine is arched adequately to fit the palm nicely. Handle width is 5/8 inch at the throat (index finger position), flaring to a maximum of 7/8 inch at the center, then gradually tapering toward the butt. Outside of its flat sided nature, the handle is about as good as one can expect for a knife of this overall size.
The pocket clips on contemporary style knives are often a sore point with me, both figuratively and literally. I usually end up removing these, because they are so poorly designed that they dig into my palm or fingers, or they are too rigid to clip onto anything, or too flimsy to hold securely.
The RAT-2 clip is acceptable; it does not bite my hand and it does a decent job of holding the knife in place, clipped to the edge of my jeans pocket. Moreover, the knife handle has holes predrilled, so that the clip can be mounted in any of four locations.
That said, I will likely remove the clip from my R2D2, because the knife is just small enough to carry by simply dropping it into the front pocket of my jeans or field pants. To me, this is the main reason for choosing a RAT-2 over a larger RAT-1 knife. The RAT-1 is bulkier, so needs to be carried clipped somewhere, or tucked into a field pack.
I am always on the lookout for a useful pocket knife and the RAT Model 2 qualifies. My usual everyday carry pocket knife is one or another of a few two or three blade slip joint knives that I keep handy in a tray on my dresser. I have added the R2D2 to these, for it is now my go-to compact locking folder. I know it will serve me well whenever I may have a cutting task a bit more demanding than I would normally do with a medium size, slip joint knife.
Copyright 2019 by Gary Zinn and/or chuckhawks.com. All rights reserved.