The Ontario Knife Company RTAK II Survival Knife Review


Ontario Knife Company is a venerable, old, and well known knife company that was founded in Naples, New York, in 1889 by three men, William B. Ensworth, Charles Albert Brace and William Maudsley, who derived the name of the company from Ontario County where Naples lived.

Their early knives were hand-manufactured on a water-powered grindstone and sold tinker-style from a pushcart throughout the neighboring countryside and consequently, due to their face-to-face relationship with their customers, OKC has built its considerable reputation on its heritage of uncompromising craftsmanship, quality materials and components, and a steadfast commitment to its workforce.

Ontario 8628 RTAK II

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The OKC RTAK II survival knife features an overall length of 17″ with an 10 1/2″ Drop Point, flat ground, blade made from 0.2” thick, 5160, high carbon tool steel hardened to 54-56 Rockwell with a “foliage green” powder coat finish to help prevent corrosion. In addition, it features full tang construction and tan, canvas Micarta, handle scales with an exposed “glass breaker” tang at the pommel and it includes a black, MOLLE compatible, nylon/Kydex sheath.

Randall’s Adventure Training (RAT), formed by Jeff Randall and Mike Perrin, is a professional, survival training, expedition guiding, and outdoor gear research team based in Alabama with operations in Latin America and is considered to be a leading authority in the research, testing, and design of remote adventure and survival gear. Therefore, in 2002, the Ontario Knife Company entered into an exclusive agreement with Randall’s Adventure Training to produce both the RAT and TAK series of knives for hard-core adventurers, civilians, and professional soldiers around the world and thus, RAT Knives (now known as ESSE Knives) have served in Afghanistan, Iraq, and many non-publicized conflicts around the globe.

However, while the Ontario RTAK II appears to be very similar to the “Junglass” knife produced by ESSE, one significant difference is that Ontario’s RTAK II is made from SAE grade 5160 high carbon tool steel which contains 0.56% – 0.64% Carbon, 0.70% – 0.90% Chromium, and  0.75% – 1.0% Manganese whereas the ESSE Junglass is made from SAE grade 1095 which contains 0.90% – 1.03% Carbon and 0.30% – 0.50% Manganese. Also, according to the SAE Steel Grade scale, 51 series steel is better quality steel than the 10 series (1055, 1080, 1095, ect.) due to the addition of the small amount of Chromium which the 10 series lacks but, 5160’s lower Carbon content makes it softer than 1095 and its higher Manganese content makes it tougher than 1095 and thus, 5160 is not likely to hold an edge as well as 1095 but, it will have greater impact resistance so the edge is less likely to chip and the blade is less likely to snap. In addition, the OCK RTAK II knife is a half an inch longer and has a slightly thicker spine than the ESSE Junglass and it has a foliage green powder coat instead of the black powder coat featured on the ESSE Junglass.

Other than that, I can find no significant difference between the two knives other than the fact the RTAK II has a suggested retail price of $174.95 whereas, the ESSE Junglass has a retail price of $317.95. Furthermore, it is important to note that non-stainless steels such as 5160 are more prone to corrosion and thus, the exposed edge of the RTAK II will require more attention to keep it corrosion free. Plus, it is important to note that the 5160 high carbon tool steel used on the Ontario RTAK II has a medium Rockwell Hardness of 54-56 and thus, it will be easier to sharpen in the field than most stainless steels but, the edge will require more frequent attention. In addition, although the Flat Grind featured on the blade represents a compromise between a Saber Grind and a Hollow Grind in that it is sharper than a Saber Grind and tougher than a Hollow Grind so that it will slice through foliage with ease and bite deeply into green wood, it is a weaker edge than a Saber Grind which will also cause the edge to need retouching more frequently.

Furthermore, the back of the cutting edge features a short ricasso that places the back of the edge very close to the user’s hand for greater leverage when plunge cutting and carving. Plus, the handle features a very ergonomic and hand filling shape that is perfect for heavy duty use and is made from tan colored canvas Micarta which is one of my favorite handle scale materials because it is an extremely tough material that is highly abrasion resistant and is impervious to cracking, spitting, or chipping and is also impervious to the absorption of moisture. Furthermore, the tang of the knife is exposed at the pommel and a slot has been milled in it so that it serves as both an attachment point for a lanyard for times when losing one’s grip on the knife would make it unrecoverable and as a “glass breaker” in the event that you find yourself trapped in a downed aircraft.

Consequently, in my opinion, the OKC Ranger Tactical Assault Knife II (RTAK II) would serve well as both a camp knife and an excellent option for survival or bushcraft since it is made from quality materials that are well chosen for the particular purpose that this knife was designed for. In addition, it is large enough to serve as a dedicated chopping tool and yet, it is not so large that it is unbalanced or unwieldy. Consequently, it would be an excellent alternative to the ESSE Junglass especially when combined with a smaller general purpose knife such as an OKC RAT-5 or an OKC RAT-7.

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