The Ontario Knife Company is a well known knife manufacturer with origins in the late 19th century. They have produced numerous tools for the military and have a solid reputation for producing quality knives. This month I will take a look at Ontario Knife Company’s second generation Spec Plus 45.
When associate editor Tim Stetzer asked if I would review the Spec Plus 45 I was extremely excited. I have a first generation OKC Spec 6 knife which has been a part of my collection for more than a decade. My Spec 6 has seen a lot use in my regular hiking kit as well as my paintball gear. It is definitely one of the most durable and functional blades in my collection. It has seen a lot of use over the years with only minor dings on the black powder coated blade and a couple of rust spots on the blade edge. Based on my experience with this knife it is my expectation that the Spec Plus 45 will be an exceptional knife.
The Generation II SPEC 45 is a full tang fixed blade military style knife. The entire knife measures 13.25 inches overall and the black powder coated textured blade measures in at 8.25 inches. The blade’s thickness measures .1875 inches. The handle is made of durable black Krayton which has been molded around the tang of the blade and acts as the hand guard / quillon. The handle is well proportioned and comfortable for larger sized hands with five grooves cut around it to increase grip surface and remains unchanged from the first series of SPEC knives. The base of the handle has a hole punched for a lanyard. Another nice feature of the handle is triangular rear quillon that protects users pinkie finger. The entire knife weighs in at just over 1.5 pounds. The first generation of Spec knives were made of 1095 steel. Ontario Knife Company’s Generation II Spec series knives are produced from 5160 steel which has become a common blade material amongst knife makers. 5160 steel has chromium in its composition which adds to blade toughness and edge retention. The change in blade material in my opinion is a respectable upgrade especially if you plan on using the knife for batoning.
The sheath is made of black nylon that is sown around a plastic insert which holds the knife. It has an adjustable snap closure which secures the handle in the sheath. The blade fits into the sheath well although it does rattle in the plastic insert a bit. The sheath can be attached to a belt and worn on the hip. It also features M.O.L.L.E straps that can connect it to any gear that utilizes the system. The sheath is extremely lightweight and well made. Despite the slight rattling of the blade within the sheath I really like its functionality as compared to the sheath that came with my venerable SPEC 6.
I put the SPEC 45 through a battery of tests that confirmed my expectations of the knife. The first test conducted consisted of batoning lengths of wood for fire making. The SPEC 45’s thick blade worked really well for splitting wood. It is a good sized knife for this purpose and replaces the need for a hand-ax in my kit as it is lightweight when compared to most of the ax’s I have handled of similar size. The batoning test did scuff the powder coating on the blade but did not nick the blade edge. The second test I used was using the knife to strip bark off of long branches and created notches in wooden stakes. Normally, I use a smaller knife for this task but the SPEC 45 worked well. The knife was comfortable to use over extended period of time. The edge of the blade was in no way diminished after my batoning tests.
I normally test knives with a variety of kitchen duties. However, I didn’t feel that using the SPEC 45 for chopping up vegetables and meat was an appropriate test for a knife of this size. I did test it out chopping up piles of cardboard, aluminum cans, rope and parachute cord. After these tests I did begin to notice that the blade edge was not quite as sharp. As of the writing of this article I was not able to shave the hair off my arm nor slice a plastic bottle in half with the blade. However, it retained enough of an edge for outdoors tasks. When I have time I will hone the blade edge on my CRKT Slide Sharp system.
This is the second Ontario knife that I have had the chance to handle extensively. I really like OKC’s newest version of the SPEC line. One thing that I would like to see is a version made with brightly colored or glow in the dark handle with either a polished or powder coated blade. My reason for this stems from the fact that the all black knife can be hard to see at night, and in the event that you drop the knife while using it at night would make it difficult to locate. A potential fix I have been thinking about is attaching a piece of reflective tape to the handle or securing a glow stick to the lanyard. I have not had an opportunity to field test either of these modifications but think it could go a long way to keep the knife in survival kit. In reality, the all black knife may be more practical for self defense and combat situations. That being said, I do like the SPEC 45’s functionality and I am comfortable with its predecessor.
Overall, if your looking for a basic but well made full tang military style knife then consider OKC’s Generation II SPEC 45. The durable handle and thick blade will last a long time under heavy use. An easy search of the Internet yields a broad price range from $60 dollars to $90 dollars. The updated sheath gives it the ability to be attached to the latest military and civilian gear. The use of 5160 steel for the blade is also a noteworthy update. These minor changes prove that you don’t always have to reinvent the wheel to produce a solid and functional knife that will serve you for years to come. The next time I go hiking you can be sure that I will be carrying a knife from the Ontario Knife Company.
For more information: http://www.ontarioknife.com/home