This post was originally published in 2019 but was updated in 2022 with newer models.
Over the past year or so, I’ve been going over the best knives from each brand. Some have been really easy to narrow down such as Spyderco and Kershaw.
However, few brands have been harder to pin down than Ontario Knife Company. Ontario, sometimes known more simply as OKC, has a surprisingly robust and diverse selection of knives that all serve a purpose and do it well. There are some obvious choices — ahem, the RAT folders — but there are so many other serviceable knives that could have been on this list.
These lists always carry some level of bias and subjectivity, but I feel like this list may contain more whimsy and randomness than others.
If I’m alive and kicking and still have this job, I’ll redo this next year and may swap out some others, but this is the list for 2019. Let me know which ones I missed in the comments.
Ontario RAT Folder
The RAT folders are a perennial favorite among knife people because they are relatively cheap, reliable, and solid knives. The fact that they are now available in D2 at a low cost means they may be the best budget knife on the market.
Along with D2, you can get an assisted version, an AUS 8 version, and some with different blade finishes and handle colors.
Ontario Black Bird SK-5
The next no-brainer is the Ontario Black Bird. The series is designed by Paul Scheiter. The survival knife was named the best of the best by Field and Stream Magazine in 2011, and it’s evolved over the years. It’s a pretty simple bushcrafting knife with a 5-inch 420HC stainless steel blade and multicolor Micarta handle scales.
Made in the United States, the Black Bird is often featured on lists of best survival knives.
Ontario OKC-3S Bayonet
The OKC-3S Bayonet is the culmination of improvements upon existing knives used in the military — basically the best aspects of the KA-BAR and M-7 Bayonet. Marines only started using the design in the early 2000s, but it’s proven itself as a great all-around knife.
It has a thick 1095 carbon steel blade, durable Dynaflex handle, and guard. It can be fixed to rifles, but many have used this as an outdoor knife without attaching it to any rifles.
The other bayonets Ontario still makes — such as the M-7 and M-9 — could easily be on this list as well, but we thought we should save some space for other knives. The fact that the company is one of the last American bayonet makers and continues making such iconic bayonets is pretty awesome.
Ontario Spec Plus Marine Raider Bowie
The Spec Plus series from Ontario is a line of fixed blade knives aimed at military personnel and first responders. These are essentially the tactical knives from the company and often come in on the cheaper side.
All of the knives in the series have their own personality and function, but the SP-10 Raider Bowie is probably the best. As far as I know, they’re still made but they seem to be out of stock right now in most places. The Bowie has a massive 9.8-inch black-coated 1095 carbon steel blade with a Kraton handle.
The handle is ergonomic and there are several safeguards to keep the knife from flying out of your hand when you’re whacking away at brush. Reviewers often talk up the durability and versatility of the knife. Competitors include those in the KA-BAR Becker series.
Ontario Old Hickory Butcher Knife
Ontario Knife Company makes a sub-brand of kitchen cutlery called Old Hickory. These knives were first introduced in 1924 and feature carbon steel blades and hardwood handles.
What makes these knives so great? They are dirt cheap, made in America, have a ton of history, and are tried and true. The reason I specifically chose the Butcher knife is that the 7-inch version is frequently used as a testing ground for mods and customization. You can turn the under $15 knife into a great outdoor fixed blade.
The Old Hickory Sticker deserves a mention too as a good throwing knife.
The Ontario Shikra is a relatively new knife, but the brand does make some pretty good fodlers. This is one of the least expensive titanium framelock folders you can buy.
It has a 3.2-inch AUS8 flipper blade with a Micarta scale on the front.
Ontario Carter Prime
The Carter Prime is a strange knife. It has a sheepsfoot blade, titanium handles, and a D2 blade at a relatively cheap price. The design comes from Robert Carter, son of OKC’s Joe Pardue and grandson of Mel Pardue. He gets a lot right in this knife. It’s a heavy-duty knife that can feel like a tank, but it also works well as an EDC.
The materials and action are great; however, I have heard some complaints about the ergonomics. Still, this knife deserves a mention on this list.
Ontario 499 Air Force Survival
We’ve already had a few knives on this list designed for different branches of the military. Ontario set out to make an American-made knife meant for survival following an air crash. The result was the Ontario 499 Survival Knife — sometimes known as the Air Force Survival Knife.
This isn’t an all-around survival knife, but it is a relatively inexpensive option that works well in the right situations. It has a 5-inch 1095 carbon steel blade and stacked leather handle.
Many people keep one of these in their bugout bags.
Ontario SP8 Survival Machete
When it comes to ultimate survival and rescue knives, few beat the SP8 Spec Plus Survival Machete. This beast of a knife boasts a huge 10-inch blade that can chop, pry, slice, and saw.
For a reasonable price, you can always be prepared for anything.
Ontario RAT 7
I’m a bit disappointed I couldn’t fit a knife from the Ranger series on here, but I had to end this list with another from the RAT series. These knives were designed in conjunction with Randall Adventure & Training before they created ESEE Knives. While ESEE has become an overall better option for similarly designed knives, the RAT fixed blade series remains an excellent option from Ontario.
The RAT 7 is akin to the ESEE-6 but a lot cheaper with a half-inch bigger blade. It’s a big knife with a 7-inch blade. The handle is Micarta and the sheath is nylon. I probably could have picked any of the RAT fixed blades because they’re all good options depending on the task.