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Last Updated: July 13, 2019
These days, if you want a high value EDC knife, then there are plenty of options. Kershaw and Spyderco make some great knives in the $30 and under category that are easy choices for EDC. But if you want something that is both hard use and high value, it gets a little harder. Sure, the Spyderco and Kershaw blades are well built, but for many, these knives are firmly in the EDC category.
Enter the Ontario RAT 1. The RAT 1 combines tank-like construction with a big blade and comes in around $30. At that price this larger folder becomes difficult to ignore. I’ve carried my RAT 1 for years, and have compared it with hundreds of other pocket knives. Let’s see what the Ontario RAT Model 1 is all about.
General Dimensions and Blade Details
The RAT 1 has a an overall length of 8.6″, a 3.5″ blade, and it weighs of 5 ounces. This ain’t no rice cake. However, it’s a solid folding knife. This is for people that want an inexpensive heavy duty folding knife. If you are looking for a small Every Day Carry (EDC) knife, then I would recommend the RAT 2 over the RAT 1. Here is a size comparison so you can see the difference:
So as you can see, the RAT 1 is more of a utility knife then a suburban daily carry. That said, plenty of guys like to carry a RAT 1, so it just depends on what you like.
The blade is an attractive drop point shape. It’s a no-frills blade, and the full flat grind adds to the simplicity. Overall, the blade is a great design for slicing, thinly ground from 3mm thick stock and an edge that has been neatly applied. There is no swedge on this knife, but the the tip is still sturdy considering. This is a practical blade that will perform well in a variety of tasks.
The blade comes with either a satin finish or a black coating. The coating Ontario uses is pretty cheap, and will start wearing off almost instantly. For that reason I prefer the satin finish. The satin finish on the RAT 1 is excellent. It’s bright and reflective, which may chagrin the more “tactical” crowd, but it wears well and provides little resistance when slicing. And the satin finish has held up great over the years. My knife shows some wear, but nothing crazy.
The blade steel on my particular knife is AUS8, a mid-range Japanese stainless steel. AUS 8 is nice because it is tough, easy to sharpen, and resistant to rusting, but it will lose its edge faster than higher end steels. For a ~$30 knife, I’m honestly happy to have it.
In practice my RAT 1 has been a workhorse of a blade. The thin, full flat grind is excellent, and the big blade of the RAT 1 flies through cardboard and other materials. I’ve used my RAT 1 for innumerable odd jobs, and I’ve also used it as a daily carry knife. It will open mail and packages, and perform basic food prep with the best of them.
For those turned off by AUS-8, Ontario released the RAT 1 in D2 a few years ago. D2 is even tougher than AUS-8 and will hold an edge longer, but D2 is far from a “super steel”. It’s semi-stainless, and depending on the heat treat it can be difficult to sharpen. From what I’ve read people like the D2 on the RAT 1, and it appears to be an upgrade over the AUS-8 version, but I haven’t tried one out yet.
Handle, Ergonomics, and Pocket Clip
The RAT 1 has a flow through / pillar construction handle with zytel (plastic) scales over stainless steel liners. Zytel may not be everyone’s first choice for handle material, but it does the job here and serves as a lightweight and durable scale. Speaking of scales, Ontario offers this knife in a variety of different colors. I happened to like the OD green version, so that is what you see here.
The full steel liners on this knife are not milled out, which accounts for part of the knife’s weight, but for a hard working beater blade, milled liners are a luxury I don’t require. Nylon scales and solid liners are minor grumbles that shouldn’t detract too much from an otherwise solid handle.
The ergonomics of the RAT 1 are nice, thanks in part to the generous handle. The handle offers plenty of room, even if you have larger hands. The handle is also thick with rounded edges. This makes the knife comfortable in forward and reverse grips, but it also makes it bulky. The zytel handle scales offer light traction. There is not as much grip as a G-10 handle, but it’s not slippery either.
There is a well defined finger groove. This will keep your hand from sliding forward onto the blade, always nice. There is a pretty good sized thumb ramp with some toothy jimping. The jimping is not super sharp, but it’s coarse and you will feel it. There is also room on the ricasso to choke up on the blade.
The pocket clip is a simple spoon style clip. It’s similar to what you would find on most Benchmade knives. The handle has been drilled and tapped for “4 corners” carry. This means you can mount the clip tip up or tip down on either side of the knife.
The clip has been blackened with an inexpensive coating. It will wear off with use. The clip’s spring retention is good though, and the mild texture on the scales means that this knife won’t tear up your pocket when you insert and remove it from your pants.
Speaking of which, here is a shot of the RAT 1 in the pocket:
The Rat 1 carries like you would expect for a big heavy knife. It’s big and heavy and you feel it in the pocket. That’s one of the compromises you make for a strong folding knife at this price point. That said, the clip keeps the knife in place, and the RAT 1 has never fallen out of my pocket. Carry is relatively discreet, but a decent portion of the handle sticks out of the pocket.
Deployment and Lock-up
Deployment on the Ontario RAT 1 is excellent. There are some phosphor bronze washers in there, a welcome feature on this value priced knife, and it lends to nice smooth deployments. Ambidextrous thumbstuds are always welcome, and the RAT 1 has some nice big ambidextrous thumb studs. These large thumb studs provide plenty of leverage, and they allow you to pop the blade out fast.
The liner lock is solid and crisp. It’s a nice early lockup with a thick piece of steel. It feels secure. One open there is zero blade play in this knife, which comes as no surprise when you feel how solid the rest of this knife is. 5 ounces is heavy for a modern folder, but I think the RAT 1 makes up for it here with it’s rock solid feel and lock.
Blade centering is perfect on my RAT 1. Impressive given the price point.
Ontario Rat 1 Review – Final Thoughts
If you are looking for an inexpensive hard use folder, then the RAT 1 is tough to beat. You get a lot of well made knife for your money. The RAT 1 is comfortable, strongly built, and the fully flat ground blade is excellent. This is an everyman’s knife. It provides many of the features people look for in higher end folding knives, but it’s at a price point most can afford.
I have had my rat 1 for years. This review was originally published in 2011, and I’m doing a major long term update in 2019. Over the past 8 years I have had the chance to carry and use the RAT 1, and compare it with hundreds of other knives. For ~$30.00, I still think it’s tough to beat. Cold Steel offers some good lightweight budget stuff, but the RAT 1 remains a classic.
However, it’s not all rosy with the RAT 1. At this price point there are compromises. The biggest compromises with the RAT 1 include the softer AUS-8 blade steel (unless you pay extra for the D2 version), the plastic handle scales, and its weight. That said, I think the pros outweigh the cons, and the RAT 1 represents a significant upgrade over less expensive knives. The RAT 1 is a tank. Those that need an expensive tank of a folding knife will find a lot to appreciate with the RAT 1.
And perhaps the best test for a knife is the test of time. The RAT 1 was a success when it first came out, and it remains a modern classic. There is a reason people still buy it years after it’s original release. It’s a timeless design that has been well executed, and it’s offered at an excellent price point. I highly recommend it.
- 4-way clip position for
- Open post construction for easy cleaning
- AUS-8 blade steel
- Full flat grind
- Lanyard hole
I recommend purchasing the Ontario Rat 1 at Amazon or BladeHQ. Purchasing anything through any of the links on this site helps support BladeReviews, and keeps this review train running. As always, any and all support is greatly appreciated. Thank you very much.