note: first appeared in early 2015
I have always loved knives. The fascination began when I was in Scouting and I learned how to safely handle and use a knife in the outdoors. The love affair began when I was in the navy and we had to have a quality knife for our work on deck; our life could well depend on it. My knife of choice then was a folding Buck knife; I think it was a Buck 110 Hunter. But times change and so do needs. Hence, the knife of choice changed as well.
What I was looking for as I began my search for a knife:
• A dependable survival knife that could be used tactically if needed.
• Very high quality knife that you could bet your life on and win.
• High carbon steel, not stainless steel.
• Easy to sharpen and holds an edge well.
• Sturdy enough to chop on a 3” tree or handy enough sharpen a spear tip.
• Skin an animal or cut through bone.
• A virtually indestructible handle that could be replaced if needed.
• A full tang blade with a handle end (pummel) that could be used as a hammer.
• Partial serration to assist with cutting through thick items.
• A company that offers an “unconditional warranty”.
I researched a whole lot of survival websites and some military related websites. I asked a knife collecting buddy, a hunter buddy, and a survival expert buddy what they thought. As I boiled down my search the name RAT, designed by Jeff Randall and sold by Rat Cutlery, kept rising to the surface. The second knife that got good press was a RAT knife by Ontario Cutlery; also designed by Jeff Randall.
As I read about the issues between RAT Cutlery & Ontario I quickly realized that RAT Cutlery was the better choice as a company. Also the RAT knife by Rat Cutlery was the superior quality knife to the one offered by Ontario. One problem, there is no Rat Cutlery any more. Thankfully they just changed their name; it is now ESEE. The name change had to do with the business issues between Rat Cutlery and Ontario Cutlery.
Just to clarify the RAT stands for Randall’s Adventure and Training. Jeff Randall is pretty well known trainer/instructor for jungle survival. He even trains Special Forces, foreign and domestic. The manufacturing is done by Rowan Manufacturing located in Idaho Falls, Idaho.
Back to the knife…Technical specifications of my ESEE-6:
• Overall length: 11.75″
• Cutting Edge Length: 5.75″
• Blade length (end of handle to tip of blade): 6.5″
• Blade Width: 1.56″
• Weight (knife only): 11.8 ounces
• Maximum thickness: .188″
• Drop point blade style, full flat grind
• Available in plain or partially serrated edge
• 1095 Carbon Steel, 57 Rc.
• Removable lined Micarta handle slabs
• Rounded Pommel w/ lanyard hole
Why did I want a knife so large (6”)? Well, I would have preferred a 4” blade but I bought that size for my wife. Since we are a team I figured we could use a knife that was a bit longer for larger heavier work; so the 6” fit that bill quite nicely. That would give us two solid sizes to cover most survival situational needs.
I ordered my knife (and my wife’s) on a Saturday and it arrived on Thursday straight from eseeknives.com. My first impression was speedy handling and shipping. When I took it out of the box and then out of the plastic wrapper and sheath I wasn’t disappointed. “Solid quality” was my initial impression when I grasped the handle. It just felt very good in my hand, a natural fit. The more I looked at this knife the more I liked it and the better it felt. That led to confidence in it without even having tried it on anything.
As any man would do – I then touched the sharpened blade edge. Yes, it was very sharp right out of the box. No, I didn’t need stitches, an ambulance, or even a band aid. As I looked over the blade I appreciated the textured powder coating that is flat black in color. I am not a “shinny” blade kind of guy; reflections and such are not my cup of tea. The powder coating is applied in such a manner that it resists corrosion and chipping more than the normal powder coating process. And, it is a smooth texture coating, not rough.
I wasn’t crazy about the sheath at first. It is plastic and feels cheap. There was no inherent way to attach the sheath to anything. However I was willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. I read the instructions and tried various options for carrying. When all was said and done I am still not crazy about the sheath but not for the obvious reason of it being made out of plastic.
The primary drawback to the sheath is its complete inability to attach to MOLLE gear. Even with the MOLLE locks that are supplied with the knife & sheath it’s still a pain. I will have to find an alternative. But I would not return the knife or cancel a purchase based on the sheath. I tried a number of carry options with the knife and overall I am impressed and pleased with the earlier exception with MOLLE gear. The following pictures show different options that do work.
The sheath is a friction retention system. There is no other way to secure the knife in the sheath other than the friction retention system. This is my first real exposure to this retention system and I was not real crazy about it initially and I am not sure I am sold on it now. But I do find it convenient and no telltale “snap” sound when undoing a conventional retention system, or “tear” sound when undoing a Velcro closure. I feel that it’s a $1 sheath holding a $100 knife, just not right.
The sheath and lanyard does give a couple basic carry options; the standard vertical carry and the horizontal carry. For those of you that might not recognize a horizontal carry it is sometimes used to carry the knife in the small of the back mounted with the knife handle in the direction of your strong side (i.e. if you are right handed the handle is to the right of your back). I was surprised at how well the knife stayed in place while mounted in either position. But, we will see how it holds up to field testing for a good carry system.
I am always thinking about “worst case scenario”. So naturally I tried out the sheath to see how I could add some other functionality to it. I ended up adding 12’ of 550 paracord to the sheath rather easily. Had I taken the time to do a proper wrap I probably could have gotten 15’ or so on it. You never know when you might need 550 paracord. I love the stuff. I also used the desert camo pattern 550 paracord and it did a great job of breaking up the stark outline and color of the sheath.
Overall – I am very pleased with my new knife, it is solid, well styled, and an impressive design. So far I am glad that I spent the money for a high end knife. I will test it out camping and finish the review.
2 – weeks later: OK, we spent the weekend up on the Gila National Forest, right on the edge of the wilderness area. We tried a bunch of our gear out, including our new ESEE knives. I tried to figure out the wording for conveying exactly how I feel about my 6″ ESEE.
So I summed it up with one word…WOW !
The knife did everything I asked it to do and then way more. Let’s see – I used it to split 2″ x 6″ wood (using a piece of wood like a mallet on the blade to drive it through the 2×6), I used it to shave very fine slivers of wood, I used it to cut meat, to saw with and to chop with. It performed better than any knife I have ever owned. I did not use it to skin anything on this trip. I would probably use DW’s ESEE-4 for that task.
The knife felt right at home in my hand, comfortable grip, solid, and hefty enough to do tactical work I am sure.
Just to push the envelope a bit I pried apart 2 pieces of wood that had been nailed together. I used a twisting motion on the blade between the wood. No problems, very solid, no strain on the blade tip. Then one more interesting note, while splitting some wood I brought with us I accidentally went through a finishing nail. The knife went right on through like it wasn’t even there. The knife is very easy to sharpen and holds an edge extremely well.
This ESEE knife is a sure winner ! ! !
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