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RAT’s Fixed Blades

Written by TR Staff

The fixed blades from RAT Cutlery are for officers who put top priority on simple, straight-forward function; officers who want no-frills, no-nonsense, field-proven knives.

You know the officer who has every gadget in the accessory catalog bolted to his AR-15? The patrol rifle that weighs 18 pounds and has more switches than a fighter plane cockpit? The rifle that makes you wonder if it shoots bullets, too? Some of the blades marketed to the tactical officer, both fixed and folding, look more like fantasy knives than work knives. Or they look like all grown-up Swiss Army knives. Yeah, but does it cut stuff, too?

Then there is the officer with a bone stock AR-15…fixed sights, fixed stock, one 20-round mag. The kind of rifle that can literally roll around in the trunk, doesn’t need re-zeroed, doesn’t need batteries, has nothing to break off, has nothing to snag, and goes “bang” all the time. Right. The plain rifle describes the RAT knives.

RAT and Cutlery

In 1997, Jeff Randall and Mike Perris formed Randall’s Adventure & Training (RAT). They trained military, law enforcement and hard core civilians in the art of jungle survival. They tromped through jungles in Central and South America on these survival training expeditions. No kidding…tour the jungles of Peru. Since then, they hooked up with the Peruvian Air Force Special Forces and other military units, conducting training. They also assisted film crews from the Discovery Channel and the Travel Channel in their jungle ventures.

During this time, they found they needed better knives for use in their jungle schools and excursions than currently existed. So they designed a series of knives for their own use. These turned out to be hard-use fixed blades made from affordable and durable materials that actually work in the real jungle.

Their first venture was a large sheath knife, the RTAK. They found the typical machete was too thin and flexible, while most sheath knives were too small. The RTAK was a large knife with the cutting ability of a machete and the hard working features of a sheath knife. To their surprise, the resulting production knife became popular. So they designed a series of knives that were built by a high-volume knife maker.

New Designs

RAT Cutlery has recently upgraded and redesigned this line of fixed blades. One of these changes was to extend the handle (pommel) by 3/8-inch to expose the steel blank. It can now be used to break glass, an excellent feature, especially for law enforcement. RAT also added larger diameter handle screws. It also improved the sheath to allow a wider variety of carry positions. A boot clip is included with the smaller blades. RAT knives all come with “Jump-Proof” MOLLE sheaths.

All these knives use Micarta handle slabs. Micarta, which is epoxy saturated linen, is about indestructible and impervious to chemicals and warpage. The texture is OK when wet in bare hands and outstanding in a gloved hand. These slabs are profiled and radiused on a CNC milling machine. Each handle slab is then custom fitted to each blade blank. The handles are held in place with three screws and barrel nuts, loctited in place. All have a finger groove in front of the Micarta handles and a relief that serves as a finger groove behind the blade edge. The exposed pommel, however, is rounded for comfortable handling.

The newer designs are now called RC-3, RC-4 and RC-6, all as in Rat Cutlery. The earlier designs had model numbers RAT-3 and RAT-4. Those are the old knives. It’s pretty easy to decode the RAT Cutlery model numbers. The RC-3 has a 3-inch blade, actually 3.4-inch blade. The RC-4 has a 4-inch blade, which is really 4.5 inches. The RC-6 has a 6-inch blade, measuring 6.5 inches. The blades are all full flat ground, again an excellent balance between sharpness (hollow grind) and strength (saber grind).

1095 Carbon Steel

All these RAT knives use 1095 carbon steel. These steels come in three grades. Low carbon has 0.3% carbon or less. Medium carbon has 0.4% to 0.8% carbon. High carbon has 0.9% or more. At 0.95% carbon, the 1095 steel used in RAT Cutlery is genuine, good ol’ fashion, high carbon steel. The steel used in files is generally 1095.

Carbon increases edge retention, hardness, tensile strength and wear resistance. Carbon is what turns iron into steel. The only other alloying element in 1095 is manganese. This increases hardenability, wear resistance and tensile strength.

The 1095 high carbon steel was the knife steel that won “The Big One.” That’s right. This is the steel that was used in the original KA-BAR fighting knife. The blade blanks for RAT knives are cut to size by a laser and then heat treated to 57 Rc, right in the middle of the 56-58 Rc range used by KA-BAR for more than 50 years.

The RAT Cutlery knives use Super Tuff, black, textured powder coat as a blade finish. This is important. The 1095 high carbon steel in these knives is not stainless steel. It has the same amount of carbon as 154CM, 440-C, AUS-10, N690Co and VG-10. It is just that 1095 is not corrosion resistant like these more expensive alloys.

We confess to being alloy snobs, spoiled by the hybrid stainless steels like 154CM and S30V. These alloys have high carbon for hardness and sharpness and high chromium for toughness and corrosion resistance. These alloys are for cops who don’t clean their guns after every shoot and whose bailout bag is less organized than a gal’s purse.

It is easy to forget that with just a little care, the high carbon steels make outstanding blades. For a long, long time, high carbon steels were the choice in a “hunting” knife because the 440 stainless steels simply would not hold an edge. Yes, the modern hybrid alloys are remarkable, but to equal good ol’ fashioned high carbon steel, the hybrid alloys became very expensive.

The exposed 1095 steel needs occasional cleaning and oiling to prevent the edge from rusting. Anyone who buys a RAT knife is blade savvy enough to actually care for it. RAT Cutlery has done the hard part. It has covered all but the blade edge. All you have to do is care for that edge, say a sharpening and oiling every once in a while.
Unique Serrations

The equally spaced serrations on the partially serrated fixed blades are simple grinds with a 3/8-inch end mill. These are not fancy, but they do cut like serrations. The real benefit is the ability to sharpen these serrations using a 3/8-inch hone. This may be the only series of knives in the world designed to have the owner sharpen the serrations in the field…or at all.

The serrations are definitely different from anything else you will see in the police and military market. And they work just fine. These serrations cut seat belts, paracord, strap webbing and fiberglass rods as well as any serration design. Again, the ability for them to be end-user sharpened is a huge plus over other serration designs.

RAT Sheath System

The sheath is an afterthought to many fixed blade makers. Not so for RAT Cutlery where the design, function and fit of the sheath is a big deal. In fact, the test sample of the new 6.5-inch, RC-6 was held up for three months while the new sheath design was perfected.

The RC-3 and RC-6 use a molded sheath, while the RC-4 uses a Kydex sheath. All are friction fit, which, in most cases is adjustable by changing the location of one of the sheath screws. The sheath allows the fixed blades to be carried on a MOLLE platform in either standard or inverted mode. The RC-3 can also be carried in the waist band by removing the MOLLE back and attaching the boot clip back, which is included. Finally, the paracord and cord lock can be used to fashion a number of belt loop and pack lashing options.

The sheath on all three blades can also use the included MOLLE locks for additional vertical and horizontal carry options. Of course, the MOLLE back allows the blades to be belt carried or drop-leg carried. In addition to the friction fit, the MOLLE back also provides a Velcro® retention snap and an elastic pommel cover for maximum retention and carry security. A pommel cover? RAT has put a lot of thought into this sheath system.

RC-Series Fixed Blades

All these RAT fixed blades share the same blade alloy, the clip (drop) point blade profile, the Micarta handles and the choice of partially serrated or plain edge blades. However, these knives differ by more than just blade length. The RC-3 is a 2007 design, while both the RC-4 and RC-6 came out in the first half of 2008.

The RC-3 Tactical Knife has a 3.4-inch blade made from a 0.125-inch blade blank. It weighs a relatively light 5.2 ounces. At 8.3 inches overall, the RC-3 has plenty of handle to grasp, yet it pretty much disappears during carry. The blade is available with either a plain edge or a partially serrated edge. The blade is a nice wide 1.2 inches.

The RC-4 Wilderness Knife is slightly longer, using a 4.5-inch blade. However, it is made from a much thicker 0.188-inch blade stock. On a fixed blade, we like that thickness. Again, the blade is 1.2 inches wide for great slicing. The RC-4 has almost the same handle grip area as the RC-3 and is 9.0 inches overall. This is an excellent choice for attaching to the LBV, which we did during monthly SWAT training. The 4.5-inch length and 0.188-inch thickness are good matches for most tactical uses.

RC-6 Large Knife

The RC-6 is, indeed, a large knife. It is the first knife of this size made under the RAT Cutlery banner. The RC-6 uses a 6.5-inch blade from 0.188-inch stock. At 1.56 inches wide, it is a bit wider than the RC-3 and RC-4. Almost 12 inches long overall, the RC-6 weighs a hefty and reassuring 12.0 ounces.

We divide fixed blades into two categories, the lighter knives in the 8- to 12-ounce range, and the heavier fixed blades weighing 12 to 16 ounces. A lighter fixed blade is easier to carry, and the ounces DO add up. A heavier fixed blade is easier to hack and chop with. A lighter knife is like a small sharpened wrecking bar. A heavier knife is like a sharpened crow bar. At 12 ounces, the RC-6 is right in the middle, perhaps the ideal fixed blade weight.

You say that is not as big as some fixed blades you have seen? Maybe, but most of those larger blades are just too big to actually carry, too unwieldy, too unbalanced. Do these other, bigger blades hack well? Yes. Precision cutting? Not so much. Balanced is the word RAT Cutlery uses for its RC-6, and that is probably the best description for tactical use.

The RC-3 and RC-4 have relatively straight handle profiles. Not so the RC-6. It has a bit of a palm swell, a taper down toward the back and a bit of a little finger relief. The exposed pommel is flat instead of rounded. This is an extremely comfortable handle profile. The handle profile is quite like the original (and popular) RTAK. Gripped in all four of the common positions, the RC-6 fit perfectly. The RC-6 shares the clip (drop) point with the other RAT fixed blades. However, in its wider blade width, the RC-6 has the slightest bit of belly for just a bit more cutting efficiency.

Affordable Function

The RAT Cutlery’s goal has always been to offer an affordable and functional knife. The RC-3 is available in a wide variety of combinations: gray or green Micarta handles; orange G-10 handles; green, black or desert tan blade finish; partially serrated or plain edge blades. With an MSRP between $148 and $162, the RC-3 is widely available for under $100. The RC-4 is available in the same variety as the RC-3. The MSRP runs between $161 and $195, while Internet pricing is closer to $115.

The RC-6 is currently only available in gray Micarta and black finish on either a serrated or plain edge. The MSRP is between $200 and $248, with the MOLLE back sheaths at the higher end. Internet pricing is around $130 without the MOLLE back and $150 with it.

Tactical Use

We carried the RC-3 off duty and briefly during traffic enforcement. We found it relatively light and comfortable to carry. Frankly, it is a great off-duty addition to the waistband, concealed carried Glock 27. We cut some stuff with the RC-3 but didn’t begin to challenge it. It started very sharp and kept its edge.

During monthly SWAT training, we carried the RC-4 a little and the RC-6 a lot. With the RC-4, we cut the stuff cops normally cut, and it worked fine. The most exciting use we put the RC-4 to was some glass shattering with the pommel. Any day you break glass is a good day.

It was the RC-6 that got the workout. Things that would chip some stainless blades didn’t chip the RC-6. We don’t actually try to break the tip off test knives during our field use, but sometimes it happens. Not so with the RC-6, due mostly to the width of the blade, which in turn, strengthens the tip. We pried door and window jambs, cut coaxial cable, sliced carpet and cut cardboard. The 1095 steel did everything we asked of it. And then we cleaned and oiled the cutting edge and serrations.

Which One?

If you can get by carrying a fixed blade on patrol, the RC-3 has advantages in strength over literally all tactical folders. The RC-3 boot clip screws to the back or front of the molded sheath, making a great, low-profile, waistband rig. The sheath and clip snap firmly over a pants belt. This made for quite a comfortable carry. In reality, however, fixed blades for uniform carry are rare. So where do the RAT blades fit for tactical use?

The RC-4 is a very capable blade. Its blade thickness advantage and longer length compared to the RC-3 make it the right answer for many outdoor tasks. You are not going to break this knife. It carried well on the LBV. All that said, the bigger RC-6 is our choice for SWAT use. The earlier RAT collaborations didn’t have a 6-inch blade. We are glad the company stepped up to this size.

Overall, these RAT Cutlery fixed blades are functional and economical. The blade and serration geometry are both excellent, and the grip profile, especially the RC-6, is great for the variety of tasks in policing. And the RAT sheath system? That just means you will always have one of these excellent field-proven blades around when you need it.

Published in Tactical Response, Jan/Feb 2009

Rating : 9.7


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