Earlier I had talked about wanting a new pocket knife and the process I went through in deciding which one would be best for me. Well Christmas came and not only did I get the knife I chose, I received two others! Can anyone say comparison test?
The challengers are the Ontario RAT Model 1, Ontario RAT Model 2, and Leatherman Sidekick.
The baseline I had chosen to compete against is the almost historic Buck 110 Hunter. (My wife’s favorite large folding knife.)
To be honest, when comparing these three tools against each other, it’s not a fair fight. Each one is a different size and has different strengths and weaknesses.
As you can see, they all fold nicely and will fit into a pocket no problem, and all have line locks to hold the blade in place. (More on this later.) What did surprise me is that the Leatherman Sidekick had the smallest blade. I expected it to be at least the size of the RAT Model 2.
The advantage of the Sidekick is all the tools packed in it. You can do so much more with it than the Ontario folders.
But, of course, it is also heavier. I can put both Ontario knives in a pocket to offset the weight of the Leatherman which weighs in at 7oz. The blades are 420 high carbon (HC) stainless steel. That’s a big plus living in Florida with the high amounts of rain and salty air. I see the Sidekick coming along with me on bike rides, picnics, beach excursions, and possibly some shopping in other towns. The bottle opener will come in handy if I ever have that urge to buy Sprite in a glass bottle again. (They don’t twist open.)
The overall features of the two Ontario RAT knives are the same but the differences in size changes the character of them dramatically. Both are made in Taiwan, use AUS-8 steel, have stainless steel liners inside the handle, have “jimping” on back of the blades, and have black handles.
I should also mention here that the RAT in these knives stands for Randal’s Adventure Training. It’s a woodman/survival school, but I really don’t care about that. I just like the knives.
The RAT-2 is the Gentleman’s folder of the two. Lightest to carry and very discrete. Its three inch blade is very maneuverable for projects like trimming a picture or cutting down an oversized straw. Non-knife people won’t feel threatened if you use this to open boxes at work or cut string for a kite at a kid’s birthday party. My wife balked at me bringing my old Smith and Wesson knife to the movies, but has no concern when I bring this one. It is the best in a social setting.
Its big brother, the Ontario RAT Model 1 is the woodsman of the bunch. Its 3.5 inch long blade is the closest to the original Buck 110 Hunter as is its overall length.
The blade of the RAT 1 is also a tenth of a centimeter thicker than the Model 2 as well. (0.3 cm/0.12 in for the RAT 1 vs. 0.2cm/0.095in for the RAT 2)
The blade is definitely wider than the blade of the Buck and gives a good, solid feel to the blade as you carve with it. Chopping through branches is really easy with this knife.
The AUS-8 steel is nowhere near as rust resistant as Buck’s hard chrome stainless, so you need to keep the blades oiled to prevent rusting in high moisture areas. (I have a rule of oiling them once a month just to be sure.)
The blade is a flat grind which will make it easier for me to sharpen and while it does seep up to a point, it doesn’t have the hole punching point of the Buck 110.
There are a lot of differences between the Ontario RAT 1 and the Buck 110 Hunter, but two items were the most noticeable to my wife.
The first was the locking mechanism for the blade.
The Buck uses the lockback design. What this means is that a long piece of metal along the back of the handle pivots against the bottom of the blade to hold it in place. Pressing a part of it, levers it open to allow the blade to fold into the handle.
The Ontario uses a liner lock design. Here the metal on the liner of the handle pushes out against the bottom of the blade to hold it in. To close the blade, you must push this lock back towards the handle and hold it as you start folding the blade back into its handle.
My wife doesn’t like the liner lock design because she is concerned about cutting her finger while closing the blade. I know that once you start the process of closing the blade, you can move your finger out of the way and not worry about cutting yourself. My personal concern with the lockback design is that lint or dirt can get caught in the pivot point of the blade and locking piece of metal in the handle, preventing it from locking and allowing the blade to swing back into your hand as you are pushing down on the blade to cut. (In fact this has happened to me a number of times with other folding knives.)
The other difference is in how they open.
The Buck uses the original “pull with your thumbnail” method while the RAT uses a thumbstud to flip it open. The thumbstud is definitely faster and is easier to use. Could it get caught in your key ring and open if you shove your keys in your pocket with it? I guess it’s possible. I keep them in separate pockets, so that’s never happened to me. I will say that I personally prefer a knife that is easy to open one handed and takes more attention to close than one that takes attention to open and is easier to close.
So that’s my opinion of these great knives.
The Leatherman Sidekick is great for active days biking or picnicking.
The Ontario RAT 1 is a great camper/woodsman folder
And the Ontario RAT 2 is great for a night on the town.
You can’t go wrong with any of them.
What’s that? You want to know which one would I pick if I could have only one? “Sigh.” I knew you were going to ask that. Well, since I started this project by looking at my wife’s Buck 110 Hunter and wanting something comparable for me, I have to say I’d pick the Ontario Rat Model 1. It does all the hard chores with ease and I’m not afraid to work it. It is exactly what I was looking for. (I’m still keeping all three though.)