Ontario RAT Review (Model 2)
The RAT Model 1 folding knife previously released by the Ontario Knife Company is an amazing value for a large and somewhat heavy folding camping/tactical knife, but what about those of us who prefer smaller, compact and lightweight knives for EDC? The RAT Model 2 is Ontario’s answer to that problem in 2013. The RAT 2 features the same design, blade steel, materials and overall construction of the RAT 1, but in a scaled down version that is roughly 20% smaller than the original. How does the RAT 2 compare to its bigger brother? Continue reading our Ontario RAT 2 review below to find out.
RAT 2 Size: Dimensions and Weight
The Ontario RAT 2 is noticeably smaller and has a slimmer profile than the RAT Model 1. Open length is 7″ with a 4″ closed length. Blade length is 3″ with a 2.75″ cutting edge and blade thickness of 0.093″. It weighs in around 2.7 ounces, almost half the weight as the Model 1. As light as the Ontario RAT 2 is in comparison to the Model 1, it could have been even lighter. Ontario has included full steel liners which haven’t been skeletonized for further weight reduction. That is a little disappointing, but not completely unexpected for a $30 folding knife. It’s still very lightweight and presents no issue for EDC.
Blade, Handle and Pocket Clip
Ontario has made use of the same materials in the RAT 2 as the previous model. The full flat-ground, drop-point blade is made from AUS-8, a very good value steel (I personally rate it slightly higher than 8Cr13MoV), and has a satin finish (also available in a black blade variant). Ontario has improved the heat treatment as well, resulting in a Rockwell hardness between 57-59. The factory edge on the RAT 2 is very sharp. Had no problem shaving hair with it. Edge retention is extremely good for a value steel and it’s not hard at all to resharpen and restore razor sharpness from a dulled blade. I broke down many boxes, used it to peel fruit, did a moderate amount of wood whittling and after the first week it still had a useable edge. It wasn’t hair popping sharp like when brand new, but could still deal with any light to moderate EDC cutting tasks I threw at it.
In addition, the blade is almost perfectly centered, which some folding knives costing double or triple that of the Ontario RAT line sometimes have trouble getting right. One thing to be cautious of with AUS-8 is moisture, which could very easily lead to rust since this steel doesn’t have the greatest corrosion resistance. Make sure your RAT 2 isn’t wet after use and store it in a dry area with reasonably low humidity if possible.
The Ontario RAT 2 handle has a pillar design with flow through construction. Handle material is black Zytel FRN and it will most likely be available in many other colors at a later date, just like the RAT Model 1 was produced in a large variety of colors. I personally prefer G10, but FRN is a good handle material that is durable, lightweight and inexpensive. The FRN is textured in a way that makes it look a lot like G10 with just a quick glance. Despite the texturing, the RAT 2 handle is very smooth and doesn’t really provide outstanding grip. This will be discussed in more detail further in the review when we get to ergonomics. A full size lanyard hole is also present if you want to run some paracord through the handle.
The pocket clip is four way positional for left or right handed tip up/down carry. It has just the right amount of tension to tightly grip onto a pocket and the smoothness of the FRN means it can be easily removed with minimal damage to your pants or jeans after extended use. In the default tip down configuration out of the box, the knife carries very low in the pocket with only a tiny slither of the knife exposed. In my preferred tip up position, it carries a bit higher, though still relatively low. This will draw more attention to the knife, but also gives a larger area to grasp making it easier to remove the knife from a pocket. The clip is painted black and I can already tell that it will be prone to scratches and eventually begin to wear off like any knife with black painted hardware. Something to consider if that sort of thing bothers you. I don’t mind a knife that shows a little wear and proof of use.
Detent, Lockup and Blade Deployment
The first thing I noticed about the RAT 2 was the detent. It is very strong. Maybe a little too strong in my own opinion, but many will like this as there is virtually no chance of the knife accidentally opening in your pocket, so it should be very safe to EDC. I tried as hard as I could to fling open the blade with just downward force, but it wouldn’t budge even a millimeter.
The Ontario RAT 2 employs a liner locking system. The steel liner lock, just like the rest of the RAT 2, has also been scaled down from the RAT Model 1. It’s thinner, but perfectly acceptable for a moderate use EDC knife. The lockup isn’t exactly early, but it’s not late either. Somewhere in between, right around 45%, which I actually prefer to an extremely early lockup. In my experience, knives with a really early lockup seem more likely to have the lock fail when pressure is applied to the spine of the blade. The blade is very secure with absolutely no blade play in either direction and there is still plenty of room left in the lock travel for the RAT 2 to have a long life of solid lockup.
The Ontario RAT 2 includes dual ambidextrous thumb studs for blade deployment. The design and shape of the thumb studs is the one area where Ontario made some minor changes from the original RAT. They are large and have a sort of tapered, step down pattern milled in to provide extra grip. And the extra grip is welcomed, as the strong detent does require a bit more force than I am accustomed to when flipping a knife. The RAT 2 can be flipped though, and once you provide enough force on the thumb stud to overcome that beefy detent the blade flys open really smoothly thanks to the phosphor bronze bushings. My RAT 2 has broken in and really smoothed up nicely after flipping it a couple hundred times. I’ve also gotten used to the extra strong detent to the point I no longer even notice it.
The pivot of the Ontario RAT 2 is adjustable, so if you do receive a knife with a stiff blade that doesn’t open as smoothly as you would like or one that is too loose with some blade play, you have the option of loosening or tightening the pivot yourself until finding the perfect balance. But from all the reports I have read from other RAT 2 owners and my from own experience with the knife I highly doubt you will have any such issues.
Comfort and Ergonomics of the RAT 2
This is one area where the original RAT 1 may top the newer RAT 2, at least if you have larger than normal hands. It’s a small knife. My hands are on the smaller side, so I have no problems fitting all four fingers on the knife handle for a secure and comfortable grip. But if you have large or chubby hands this may present a problem and the RAT 1 might be a better option for you.
As I mentioned earlier, the RAT 2 FRN handles have a very smooth texture that leaves a lot to be desired as far as grip is concerned. However, the shape of the handle and excellent jimping along the thumb ramp on the spine of the knife really mitigates this issue. It has a decent sized finger groove that will prevent your hand from slipping forward and the jimping, though somewhat minimal, is very aggressive and bites into your finger enough that slippage is not a big concern.
Final Thoughts On The Ontario RAT Model 2
I can’t really find anything overly negative to gripe about with the Ontario RAT 2. If you really want me to nit pick, the detent may be a bit too strong and the handles are a little smoother than I would like, but no major or glaring problems to report. Lockup is perfectly secure with no blade play, the blade is sharp and almost perfectly centered, it holds an edge very well for a knife in this price range and best of all it’s more compact and lightweight than the first Ontario RAT 1 for a more comfortable EDC experience. A true “pocket” knife. The RAT 2 is also a great value. I would put it on par with Spyderco’s Tenacious line of knives as far as bang for the buck goes. Definitely a great folding knife for any EDC collection.