There’s a reason the Rat II is less than $50. For one, the handle is made out of nylon instead of the more expensive G10, so it’s not quite as grippy as a lot of knives. Like many budget knives, it also uses AUS-8 steel for the blade. But as Dan P.
writes in his in-depth review of the Rat II, “Steel snobs may turn their nose up at AUS 8, but my own testing and use has proven again and again that AUS 8 takes a great edge, is super easy to maintain, doesn’t chip out easily, and resists rust and corrosion.” We found the same thing: even after beating up the Rat II with all of our tests, it was still one of our sharpest knives, cutting through paper nearly as well as it did out of the box.
Unlike Chris Reeve and Benchmade, Ontario covers its knives with a limited lifetime warranty. The warranty covers failures “due to faulty workmanship or faulty materials” for one year only. We’re confident you’ll be happier with the Rat II than with other knives in its price range, but it’s not a knife that you can send into the manufacturer for occasional TLC (like our other picks).
Guide to Pocket Knives
How to find the right pocket knife for you
Think about how you’ll be using it
All three of our experts, knife enthusiasts with years of industry experience and sizable personal collections, cited opening boxes as one of their most common uses of a pocket knife. Dan P. of bladereviews.com told us that, as a lawyer sitting at a desk most of the day, his everyday carry knife is “mostly a glorified letter opener.”
Consider alternative styles
Keeping those most common uses in mind, we approached this review looking for inconspicuous, all-purpose knives; this ultimately led us to our top picks. But if you want something flashier or especially suited for specific tasks, you might consider other blade styles (like tanto, clip point, or sheepsfoot).
Determine your price range
Once you know how much you’ll use it and what kind of knife you’re looking for, you’ll have a better idea of how much money you’re willing to spend. The knives we considered ranged from $10 to $385. In general, we found that more expensive knives tend to be built with more durable materials and covered by more comprehensive warranties.
Try them out yourself
The knives we chose felt comfortable and ergonomic for all testers; that’s why we feel confident recommending them to you. However, we cut several quality knives along the way for being too bulky or awkward. The best way to know the small aesthetic nuances you prefer is to hold and use them yourself in-store before you buy.
Pocket Knives FAQ
Does steel quality really matter?
The harder a steel is, the longer it’ll stay sharp but the more difficult it’ll be to sharpen. Often, high-end knives will require a professional sharpening service to get back to factory condition (which most high-end companies cover for free). The guides at Blade Reviews and Knife Informer are great places to dive into the qualities of each steel.
What about heat treatment?
Heat treatment is the process of heating raw steel to a critical temperature and subsequently cooling it so the new, stronger steel is solidified. Steel types all have a range of hardness to which they can be heat-treated, but it’s up to the knifemaker to choose how hard or soft they want the knife.
How often should I sharpen my knife?
It depends on the knife and how you use it. As knifeinformer.com creator Matt Davidson explains, “On my cheaper knives, which have softer steel, they need [light touch-ups] every day or two and are fully sharpened about once a week. My higher end knives with super steels, like CPM-S110V or M390, can hold a sharp edge for several weeks.”
Are pocket knives legal in my state?
Most restrictions are based on opening mechanism or blade length, but some states have much hazier definitions. For instance, Maine doesn’t allow a person to conceal “any dangerous or deadly weapon” but it’s not entirely clear where pocket knives fit in. Check out the American Knife and Tool Institute’s website for laws in your area before making a purchase.