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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.
Here is a parting size comparison with the Spyderco Delica and the Spyderco Endura. As you can see, the Rat 1 is a big knife.
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.
- Sport type: Hunting
- Open post construction for easy cleaning
- AUS-8 blade steel
- 3. 5 inch plain edge blade
- 3.5 inch plain edge blade
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.
I have always wanted to try one of these. The designers know a thing or two about using a knife and the price is certainly right.
I think that AUS-8 makes a lot of sense for knife like this given how easily it can be sharpened in the field. AUS-8 is one of the only stainless steels that I actually like. It takes a good working edge and if you have a bit of extra time to refine it, the edge can polish up nicely.
Matt, I totally agree. Very interesting point about sharpening in the field. AUS8 is good steel for the money.
Good read, I’m a knife nut!
I study survival and self defense techniques, I purchased the Spyderco Tenacious and it was nice but I already broke it after 2 weeks. I should have my Ontario Rat 1 OD green scales, in a few days. I’m hoping this knife can handle my hard usage!
Great review Dan.
Thanks Marc! Glad to find a fellow blade addict! 🙂 I’d be curious to hear how the Tenacious broke – that is really unfortunate! The RAT 1 is pretty beastly for a $30 folder, but you may find that a fixed blade will hold up better. Something like an Izula II might work well for you if you can carry a fixed blade. Thanks for reading and for the kind words!
Steel sahlute from PocketKnivesBlog.com . Love the writing style. Love the reviews. Oooopah!! I’m in. Signed up as an email subscriber!!
Hey Scott! Thanks for subscribing man I have been reading your blog since I saw the interview they did on you over at the cutting edge. Big fan man. Best regards.
Charles McFarlane says
How would you compare this knife to the Cold Steel Voyager (Medium) for hard use as well as EDC?
Thanks for the reviews, keep up the good work!
Charles, both are very solid knives. However, the medium Voyager is going to be a lot lighter. It’s also going to be noticeably smaller than the Rat 1 with a 3″ blade vs. a 3.6″ blade. I’d say both will hold up just as well. For my use I prefer a medium Voyager because the size and weight are perfect for my every day needs but if you like bigger knives then it may be worth it to move up to the Rat 1.
My pleasure man, many more to come! 🙂
How does this knife compare to a Zero Tolerance 0350 for hard use? Their both heavyish blades but manageable for me, so basically, what I am asking is the 350 worth the huge price difference of the Rat 1?
Well, the 0350 is made in America and features a serious upgrade in materials. Those 2 factors alone make it worth the price for a lot of people. The assisted opening might be another factor to consider.
I will say the level of fit and finish are both very good. Whether it is worth the premium really depends on what you need the knife for and what you value. Personally, yes, I think the 350 is worth the premium. It’s a wonderfully made knife. However, the Rat 1 is a nice knife, and for only $30 it is tough to beat if you just need something for dirty jobs and occasional use.
have one of these and I love it…it is a great design for edc and all tasks…..the blade hsape makes it easy to sharpen and gives you a lot of cutting surface…I also like the four corners clip mounting option they really understand what makes a good folder there is little else out there for the money and value of this knife
I couldn’t agree more man. This is such a well done “budget” folder. I know many will disagree, but in a lot of ways I prefer this one over the Spyderco Tenacious, another amazing budget blade. Thanks for stopping by. 🙂
stu lindores says
100% agree with your final thoughts on this knife review, its certainly one of my best buys at just over £30 in the UK. Most of all I love the ergonomics of the handle, its a good quality hard use tank of a knife with decent steel and a nice blade shape, i cant imagine anyone being disappointed unboxing this gem of a knife a give away at this price, the only problem i have encountered with my Rat 1 is a few rust spots on the liners where they come in contact with my hand, but that’s being picky.
keep up the good work 🙂
Thank you Stu! Glad to hear we see eye to eye on this one. This is one of the best values out there and I don’t hesitate to recommend it to anyone needing a large and sturdy EDC. I haven’t experienced any rust issues with mine yet, that is an interesting observation.
Thanks for reading and leaving the nice comment.
What a nice blade. Imma have to get my hands on one. Cheap too!
I really like the look of this kind of knife and this knife especially.
Great Review as always!
Thanks Jack, I think you will like this one a lot. It’s a real solid knife and is a great value.
Thanks for a good review!
I’ve got 2 medium-sized folders – Ontario RAT 1 and Spyderco Paramilitary 2, so I use them for some camping (and small jobs in the kitchen – still waiting to get a proper set of Japanese kitchen knives ;).
What I found out is that RAT is better for cutting vegetables (and lobsters ;), and I am doing some woodwork with it. While Paramilitary is better with wood, and absolutely awesome with meat (on par with pchak – central asian traditional knife), its price is keeping me from giving it a lot of hard work for now. I’ll wait several months, and then I could do a proper test in the wild.
PS. I saw people sharpening RAT 1 using usual rocks while on different trips. Obviously, this can’t be done with many other knives;)
I couldn’t agree more Alex! That is one of the nice things about AUS 8 – sure it won’t hold an edge forever, but very easy to field sharpen.
Thanks for reading and commenting – my pleasure! I am glad to hear the RAT 1 is working out well for you in the kitchen, it has got a nice grind for that, although a nice set of kitchen knives will be a substantial upgrade. At any rate glad to hear the knife is working out so far and I would be very interested to hear how it holds up during some wilderness testing.
Not quite sure how I ended up here but 1. I feel not I ended with an education on knives 2. I think I might like to start a collection. Your videos and site organization is great – very well done and thanks for your time and effort. I didnt even know what EDC was until about an hour ago 🙂 (admittedly I grew up in London – much more opportunity for use in Georgia )
So I just ordered the Rat 1 it arrives Tuesday (cant wait) and I now have 5 others in the wishlist.
Hey Nav! Thanks for the very kind comment. Glad you enjoyed the website and found the content helpful. Knife collecting is a lot of fun so I encourage you to take your time and enjoy yourself. The Rat 1 is a great start – you will be hard pressed to find a more solid or functional folding knife for the money, so you made a very good choice.
Can you give me a clue what a “tactical” folder is? What tasks would it perform that a non-tactical folder can’t do (or do well)? Slicers, I get. Thin, thin, thin sharp blade. Necessarily not sturdy. Maybe not for sharpening 300 1″ thick wooden stakes for a fish trap. That task would go to an outdoor/hard use knife. What do you do with a tactical folder that you wouldn’t with a slicer or outdoor knife?
Rather than respond to this directly, as I think I know where you are going with this, I’m going to link you to an article on the subject. I hope you find it helpful.
I still use the word because to some people it means something. To others it doesn’t.
Hi again, Dan.
People might not know that the Rat 1 is a very popular knife in Russia. Now, Russia has a huge knife adict comunity in forums and on youtube. They got more knife reviewers and hard use testers than alcoholics (okey, that’s not true). And they got the best
and latest knives from all the manufacturers, and custom makers, on their youtube chanals. And top 10 votes with thousands of participants, for best knife of the year. And 3 years in a row, the Rat 1 was at first place. 2nd place is often taken by the Paramilitary 2, or Spyderco military, and the Griptilian is often up there too, and a Strider SNG or SMF also normaly makes it to the top 10-just to give you an idea of what the Rat is up against.
Just thought this bit of random info might be interesting to knife nuts.
Interesting! That Rat 1 is a sturdy, no-nonsense knife so I am not surprised to hear it is well regarded, but the fact that it has been voted best knife of the year for 3 years running is a real eye opener. Thanks for taking the time out to provide that interesting perspective.
The king lives.
Just in: fourth year in a row, the Ontario Rat 1 made it to number one in the Russian youtube (vininull chanal) vote (650+- participants) for top ten folding knives of the year 2014.
#7-CRK large Sebenza 21
Spyderco Tenacious didn’t make the top 10 this year.
Same thing’s been going on in the last 3 years on the leading Russian knife forum (Guns.ru), though I can’t find results for 2014.
Thanks for the update. Interesting to see the Ganzo 704, BM Contego, and Buck 110 all make the list. The Rat 1 is just an exceptional knife.
Indeed Dan. The Buck 110 and BM Contego are newcomers in the top ten. And I believe that’s a result of raving YouTube reviews, mostly by one guy who has a popular Russian chanal. He called the 110 a man’s knife with old timer charm. And raved about the Contego. After that, reviews and unboxings of those two knives started multiplying.
You guys sell a lot of knives. I hold you , Dan, personally responsible for several of my purchases.
But back to the Rat 1, I didn’t think much of it until I used it. Then it became instantly one of my best knives. It just blew me away.
Very nice review. Looking forward to more. Thank you for taking the time.
My pleasure, Clay. Thank you.
joE a says
I have this knife and it’s performed well until just recently…
the paint has chipped off quite a bit from use and the handle material is slippery when wet but is comfortable when dry.
I wanted to ask if anyones had problems with the blade’s movement when opening and when its locked up..
mine was soaked with water and after that hasn’t been right since;
the blade when opening wouldn’t deploy as smooth and fast anymore and would sound like something was grinding inside it, so I took it apart and cleaned the parts and applied lubricant to the washers and tightened everything back up.
now it opens smoothly but it seems like there’s a gap in there or something because the blade wiggles and the liner lock pushes the blade to one side, touching the inside of the opposite liner.
I’ve tried tightening it more, what’s wrong here? and does the copper washers need to be in a certain position? there were copper ones and a set of paper-thin plastic washers too? what?
I have not had that experience with my Rat 1, but perhaps someone reading the review will chime in with some thoughts. Good luck!
Thanks for the review, it helped me decide to pick this up! Unfortunately it is more expensive here in Europe (about $60). I am nonetheless very pleased!
LOL, wait, this is a “heavy” knife to some people? What do they usually carry, titanium folders? I suppose I have a couple knives that weigh a bit less (while being in the same general size category), but I honestly wouldn’t have noticed the difference if you hadn’t brought it up. If anything, a lighter knife makes me feel like it’s flimsy. Of course, you keep saying it’s “heavy” and “rugged” and “big”, all of which seem strange to me: I bought a Camillus Beast folder a few years ago, and after that, there aren’t many folders that are anything but “smaller” and “lighter”. It’s a huge, heavy hulk of a folding tanto (and incidentally pretty useless as a knife; you might as well carry a fixed blade at that size and weight class, and it just isn’t USABLE).
Anyway, I just got a Rat 1; I guess the handle is more “hunter green” than OD green; maybe “Olive green”? And the blade is polished to almost a mirror sheen; not sure what you mean by “satin”, but it looks duller than what I have here in your photos. Nearby objects easily reflect in this blade. The clip is indeed painted with cheap-looking black paint, and I noticed that the company logo already looked like it was wearing off even as I took it out of the box.
And I’m glad they didn’t mill out the frame. That would just make it weaker and make it harder to clean out inside.
Dan Jackson says
I looked up the Camillus Beast, and it’s a 4 ounce folder according to BladeHQ. The Rat I weighs 5 ounces. So it’s actually heavier than the Beast. That supports my position that the RAT I is a heavy knife. That’s not necessarily a bad thing as some people will appreciate a heavier knife, but in my opinion the Rat I is on the heavy side. For whatever that is worth to you (apparently not much, but others may find some value in my opinion).
A satin finish is a particular type of blade finish. It’s shiny, but not to the point of a mirror polish. A mirror polish is a highly polished finish and is even more reflective than a satin finish. Ontario describes the blade finish of the uncoated RAT I as a satin finish on their own website. A mirror polished finish literally looks like a mirror. This blade is shiny, but not as shiny as a mirror. It’s a satin finish.
With regards to debating whether the knife is “hunter green”, “olive green”, or “olive drab green” – I’ll leave that debate to you.
Enjoy your new knife!
Ed Vargas says
Fund one of these at Walmart. For the cost, thought … what the heck. Having more knives than anyone could really need and more brands figured I could always try one more. While this may not be a Benchmade or a Chris Reeves, I love it. work in an office so this is a larger EDC, has failed me yet. I have cut boxes, apples and chicken, still holding an edge. This just replaced the Sog, Benchmade, Gerber and the CRKT. This is just a great, easy knife to own.
I just picked one up in D@ – not sure why I have not until now, it is everything you said in the article. I am very pleased. I intend to carry it everyday for a bit (service technician) and really get used to it, but I am thinking I will go to the R2 to actually expect a comfortable EDC.
Great review, and now on to your R2 review!
Dan Jackson says
Thank you, Mike! Congrats on your new knife. The Rat 1 remains a classic. I’d be curious to check out one in D2. My guess is it’s a beast. Enjoy!
George Green says
Compare it to my buck spitfire it’s got stronger lock back lock vs liner lock.comparable size also bucks 420hc tougher at low temperature.lots of competition out there.wish rat had 10 dollars more up grade blade steel vg10 or s30v or s35vn or so in it