Friday, February 13, 2009
Ontario Ranger series; Shiv
Ontario Knives is a knife company with 100+ year old roots, in New York state. They have held a number of military contracts and are known primarily for their relatively inexpensive, US made fixed blade knives. It's my understanding that Ranger Knives went under, and Ontario purchased the rights to manufacture most of the knives the defunct company used to offer. Knifecenter began carrying these Ranger knives last month. It's odd though, Ontario's site looks very outdated, the new Ranger knives are nowhere to be found, as of this writing, and there are models listed that I know that they no longer produce. Oh well, maybe having a web presence is not high on the company's list of priorities. Anyhow, although I've heard lots of knife industry buzz about how Ontario screwed over Jeff Randall, and his company Randall's Adventure Training in past business dealings, I could not resist their new Ranger Shiv. I got mine for about $46.00 USD, and it took about a week to get here from Knifecenter.
The Ontario/Ranger Shiv and Shank knives are each available in either cordwrap or micarta handle slabs in various colors. I didn't think that the micarta handles looked that cool, and they were a bit more expensive, so I opted for cordwrap, in desert tan. The larger Shank series sports 6.5" blades, while the Shivs have 4.5" blades. These knives are close to a hefty quarter of an inch thick, made of 1095 carbon steel. I like 1095, it's an excellent choice for impact resistance and ease of sharpening, it's incredibly tough, but not stainless. I have found that carbon steel blades don't really tend to rust any easier than certain stainlesses, discolor, yes, but not rust. Especially true if they are cared for, and worst case scenario, from my experience with 1095 carbon steel, all that's needed to remove oxidation from a cutting edge is a bit of metal polish rubbed on with a soft cloth, I then wipe the blade down with a light coat of Breakfree or something and call it good. Either way, I like 1095, and had this knife been made of a stainless steel, I probably wouldn't have purchased it.
The Shiv is coated with some sort of baked-on black powder coat which should do an adequate job of protecting the blade. The word "ONTARIO" is etched on the back side and there is a lightning-bolt-inside-a-diamond logo etched on the front, underneath it, the word "SHIV" is printed. There is a basic, but functional area of jimping for thumb-purchase on top of the spine, making the grip pretty secure. I also like the cord wrapped handle because if I wanted to, I could rewrap it with any paracord color I wanted; from neon green to multi-cam. The included sheath is a very basic ballistic nylon affair, with a velcro collar which wraps around one of the slight finger grooves in the handle to prevent the knife from sliding out. It's a pretty cheesy sheath, but it works for the intended use of keeping you from getting cut, there's a hard composite insert to keep the thing rigid. It is by no means a "carry system", but I'm sure you could either make your own kydex sheath for it, or have one made fairly easily. I'm not concerned, I recently bought a Bark River/Sharpshooter Sheath Systems black leather pocket sheath which happens to coincidentally fit the Shiv perfectly. Said sheath also is a good fit for my RAT Izula, and several other smallish fixed blades I own.
For a thick knife of carbon tool steel, the Shiv carries very light. It can't be more than a few ounces, and it's comfortable on my 5.11 Tactical TDU belt, or simply carried in its sheath in my front right pocket. This knife is every maximum security prisoner's wet dream, it's basically a sharpened pry bar. The Shiv came packaged in a heat sealed poly bag, inside its sheath, with nothing more than a barcode sticker on the bag, no frills here. I'm not even sure if Ontario offers a warranty on anything they make, but there aren't too many ways to break a sharpened hunk of 1095 carbon steel, so I don't care either way. I bought this thing with some reluctance at first, thinking that it wouldn't have too many real utility uses, the thing is obviously meant to be a simple weapon. But now that I realize how lightly it carries, I can see it having potential as a camp kitchen knife, in spite of its thick blade. The Shiv and Shank series all feature generous lanyard holes, as you can see I've added a Lanyard Zone 4-skull twist lanyard in black and desert camo. I think it's a good look, adding to the blade's already threatening appearance.
Time will tell if this is a knife I will actually use and carry, but as a fan of smaller fixed blade knives, I can tell it'd make a decent light camping knife, and the lightly grooved handle and its paracord clothing should make it plenty comfortable to work with. Don't bother going to Ontario's site, it sucks. If you want to check out the Shanks and Shivs, go to KnifeCenter of the Internet
Here's my Shiv, next to a Sharpie, for size reference:
I would recommend the Ontario Ranger series Shiv to anyone looking for a basic and rugged no-frills small fixed blade. It is essentially a weapon, but I believe it has potential for utility. I actually like mine enough that I'm considering ordering its larger brother, the Shank, also in tan cordwrap, so I have a matching set.
If Shanks and Shivs aren't your thing, Ontario has some other burly fixed blades in the Ranger series, like the RAK, I particularly like the serrations, and the skullsmasher pommel spike on this baby: