The RAT RC-3: Constant companion EDC
I had the opportunity to try out the RAT cutlery RThe RAT RC-3: Constant companion EDCC3, on loan to me from Paul Robinson.
I already had a well formed respect for RAT blades, mostly on reputation for their quality control and excellent heat treat protocols, but also out of appreciation for their simple but functional blade designs.
RAT cutlery is a young company created by 2 American jungle survival instructors. Their designs were originally bought by Ontario Knife co, but the entrepreneurs later decided to step away from the manufacturing giant.
RAT knives are now heat treated and manufactured by Rowan, also known for their production of TOPS knives.
They are all made out of 1095 steel, a tried and true honest steel that is perhaps a bit old fashioned considering some of the new creations in tool steel (A2 for instance) or different performance knife “super- steels” (ATS series, CPM 154, VG series, or the venerable INFI).
However as demonstrated with RAT knives you don’t always need some fancy steel that will hold an edge, not break, sharpen easily, be stainless and cook breakfast by itself! (Though there is nothing wrong with that either)
1095 is known for being receptive to multiple tasks based on the heat treat. It is also known for good edge retention while being very “tough”- not breaking or chipping easily.
In other reviews and experiments, namely Nutnfancy’s extensive work with the Ontario RTAK, 1095 has proven to maintain that toughness in colder conditions as well.
Back to the RC3. Here are some stats:
O.A. Length: 8 5/16”
Cutting Edge Length: 3 3/8”
Maximum thickness: 1/8”
Weight knife and sheath: 9.3 ounces
Here are some pictures of it in hand and being carried while wearing gloves.
View in sheath
Choking up on the choil
Gloved hammer grip – note the pinky
Choking up on the choil, with gloves
Comparison shot with the RAT RC5
Back comparison shot w/ RAT RC5
I have seen other knives that are more exciting to receive – the plastic bag this guy comes in doesn’t exactly challenge the kid in you. However pulling it out certainly does! Initially I was stunned at how light it was.
The edge coming out of the box was a very satisfying work edge. It was able to shave, and cut paper easily, however with some negligible drag because of the coated sides.
The sheath is really nice, hard plastic with a drain hole at the bottom. The fit is perfect, with no rattling in any direction. The knife will not come out when shaken violently. In fact it is pretty hard to take out as is, and requires leverage from the thumb.
The carry options are extensive for such a little knife- the screw holes in the plastic allow you to attach plastic molle locks, perfect for military or tactical users.
When you put the locks across the sheath, it allows you to carry the blade horizontally. When you put the locks in the same direction as the blade it allows you to carry the blade vertically. Simple concept, works well.
Only hiccough was when I tried to configure it for vertical carry: I couldn’t get the holes on the locks to align with the holes in the sheath. This would be easy to customize/fix at home with a drill.
The holes in the sheath allow you to do some funky carry options, like lashing your knife to your pack or making your own belt loop out of paracord.
I found the knife to be very uncomfortable for belt carry. Because the point of attachment to the belt is your actual sheath, it means that the handle of the knife always digs into your side. If you plan on belt carrying this blade I absolutely recommend either horizontal carry or buying the jump proof back.
If you do use the jump proof back, the holes in the sheath now become a way of storing paracord by looping it around the sheath.
To put the blade through its paces I took 2 approaches: use of the knife in day to day use (involving tests at home), and use of the knife in a survival situation in the Boreal forest.
At home the knife was pretty much what you’d expect for such a small blade.
-Light enough to carry any time you’d be carrying a larger SAK without noticing the difference
-In kitchen duties the length of the knife proved to be a drawback: though it was very sharp and able to cut into tomatoes easily, I found that I had to actually saw through the tomato because the blade wasn’t long enough to make 1 quick slice of it.
-Cutting carrots was easy, again because of the edge but also because the blade is so thin. Even with a Fallkniven F1 you’ll find yourself splitting carrots a little (this occurs because of the wedging properties of a thick blade). This was minor with the RC3.
I was finally able to free up some time to take this blade into the brush with “Rufio”, a friend of mine that is in the CF.
The scenario we ran for our tests was that of a person finding himself stranded in boreal forest, and having evaluated his options made the decision to spend the night.
The first priority was to make a shelter. We chose to make an A frame shelter (very common in Canadian survival credo), which required cutting down a green sapling for a solid ridge pole.
This involves chopping the sapling down, and getting it to the right length – an opportunity to test the chopping ability of the RC3. Now please remember that I had no expectations for the RC 3 to be a chopper…. But I wanted to provide you with an all round review. If you had to chop could you do it?
I would also like to mention at this point that the sapling we cut was a bit thin for what we’d actually need in a survival situation, but I wanted to restrict the test to dead wood, standing dead wood and also saplings growing in bunches so as not to denude the forest.
Here is the beginning of the chopping process, and the biting of the blade:
And farther along:
As you can tell, it certainly chews wood instead of biting into it. Because the blade has such little mass whatever energy goes into the wood is the physical strength you put behind it.
Because the blade is so light you have to constantly fight the urge to “speed chop” instead of measuring your hits… you just want to Jedi your way through it – not a good idea.
Chopping without gloves wasn’t pleasant; again the blade length meant your knuckles coming close to the chopping block. The handle material was comfortable, but the handle itself too thin to be comfortable with the impacts.
After the process there weren’t really any hot spots in your hand (the handle material is remarkable for this), but your pinky gets very tired as it doesn’t have much purchase on the handle.
The knife worked very well to obtain other saplings, of similar diameter or thinner, by using the “bend the sapling over and cut it while it’s under tension” technique.
Truncating through those branches was too easy using a baton… so we went on to another test to really beat this baby up.
Once you’ve established your shelter, you’d need to build a fire to heat yourself, cook whatever rations you have and purify water.
The best place to find dry firewood in a rainy autumn forest such as we had is inside dead standing timber.
The first job is to take the tree down, and then split the rounds by batonning through them.
This is us starting to use the knife as a chisel, and baton chunks out of the log.
In that last picture I took the opportunity of my knife being wedged to put some flex into it, and see how it liked it. As expected, 1095’s resiliency had no problem with this relatively minor bending.
Now let’s be honest: I picked a log that was much too big for the knife I was using. Obviously if I had stayed to a diameter of 4-5 inches I could have felled it easily- so I call that experiment a success.
However I wanted to really push this knife, I wanted a “mission impossible” so I could test multiple aspects at once.
Once I did a pretty considerable amount of notching
I decided that this would be enough to fell a smaller tree, and that it was time to move on.
The tip of the knife is the most delicate and fragile part of the blade. This is both because of the physically les amount of metal on the tip, but also because during the heat treat process the tip can cool faster than the rest of the blade, making it more brittle.
There is also a technique that exists to use the tip of your knife to pretty much dig into the tree, by batonning the pommel. You make holes all round the tree, and Chuck Norris kick it down.
Worked OK, then again wasn’t getting anywhere with that tree.
One last tip test I wanted to do: prying.
This is an ongoing source of feud among knife enthusiasts. Obviously a knife isn’t made to be a pry bar… however in many lines of work they end up being used as such accidentally, or in an emergency.
The RAT RC5 for instance is overbuilt just so that pilots or other military users might use it to pry metal in the course of their escape from a vehicle.
To do this test which is considered mildly abusive, I batonned the blade into the tree tip first about half an inch and used hand power to wedge it with gentle steady pressure.
The knife took on a very slight (2 degree) bend at the line where it emerged from the wood.
You can barely see it in this picture, at the level of the split in the log I’m using as a backdrop.
By doing this again, but in the other direction, I was able to return the blade to neutral alignment, Excellent!
Ok, we proved that the blade can baton for its length and that the metal will take being beaten on the spine quite hard and ask for more. And that the metal is very tough.
Time to cheat:
I sawed off rounds of wood with my trusty Sawvivor, and started splitting them. The rounds were thick, about 5 inches. Much thicker than the RC3’s length. I could have used a technique involving batonning the knife spine deep into the wood, creating a fissure, then using a wooden wedge to finish the job.
The RC5 piped up however, and insisted that it be used.
I used the RC3 to split the halves and process the rest of the wood.
Worked very well.
Once I had dry sticks from the center of the log, it was a matter of creating feather sticks.
In a scale of ease of making feather sticks, with 1 being a Mora (or other thin scandi ground) and 10 being a splitting maul (or other thick, heavy blade with a very wide edge), this was probably a 6-7 because with my normal sized hands I found that when I was applying downward shoulder generated pressure my pinky was struggling to keep the handle straight in my hand.
This is also another indication that the knife’s edge was perhaps a bit too wide for this application to be done comfortably.
There are 2 ways of making feather sticks: with a Mora you can do the Ray Mears style of broad paper thin shavings, but with this knife you had to resort to shaving corners. You make a cut, and shave the 2 corners of that cut, and continue.
As such It worked really well:
You can see in that last picture that I was able to get some really fine shavings in there….
Used the RC3 to make some shavings of Birch Bark, and threw those into the mix with a couple of sparks…
I didn’t even need to make the full stick into shavings, only did about a third of it, and got a really hot flame.
After all these tests the knife did lose some sharpness, shaved less and with a lot of pressure, but still cut paper fine.
After about 10 passes per side with the Fallkniven DC3 stone (ceramic side) the edge was restored to the original. (Better since the original still had some grind lines visible).
In closing, to me this knife is one of very particular use. I don’t think I would put it in the same league of “survival knife” as the F1 because it’s so much thinner. However it can absolutely be used for survival. In terms of day to day use, I recommend that this knife be carried in the same circumstances as you would a folding blade of similar length- with advantages of being that much more solid than a folder. That means paired up with a bigger knife, or another appropriate tool. In the RC 3 you will find a companion that is easy to sharpen, certainly very tough, and will get the job done. Great for use by those that cut rope a lot, or want a knife that is tougher than a Mora but will still be a great carver. (The choil allows you to choke right up on that blade and gives you a multitude of carving grips).
If you’re looking for “the one knife” to be used for heavy duty, I would suggest to go with the RC4 in this line.
If you’re looking for an EDC knife in the woods the RC3 is right for you.
Good points :
None really other than it being a single purpose built tool – it is built to be a knife. Not necessarily suited to the rigors of intensive survival work. This is the tool that will make the other tools that you’ll use more often.
It will not be the fixed blade in the Nessmuk trio. Look to the RC4 for that.
With much pleasure,
Messes TheCarotidPulse and Rufio.