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Monday, December 11, 2017

Product Review: the OKC Marine Combat Knife

I am a big fan of a knife for every day carry and use.  Opening packages, trimming things, even prepping food; all of these things happen on a regular basis, and all of them are easier to perform with a knife.

While I do prefer a pocket folder, there are some tasks that a fixed blade is better for, especially when camping. Sometimes you want a knife large enough to do the job without getting in the way.

To that end, I purchased an Ontario Knife Company Marine Combat Knife.*

Full disclosure: I have never used this knife to stab anyone, open a can of chewing tobacco, or do anything with it that would make a first sergeant turn purple with rage. Because of this, I feel that I have only tested it as a “Combat/Utility knife”, not as a “Marine Combat knife”.

Made by Ontario Knife Company, the Marine Combat knife is patterned after the Ka-Bar. There are a few differences, such as the coloration of the handle, but by and large it is a Ka-Bar clone.

My knife came with a leather sheath that fits quite nicely on my belt. The sheath seems to be well built, and has acquired only minor visual scarring. I use a shoe care oil on mine every six months to a year, and it seems to be holding up well.

The Good
I have opened a lot of cans (Number 10, all the way down to miniature cans of tomato paste) with my knife. I just jam the tip in and move it to cut. It seems to work well and the blade has yet to develop nicks or chunks out of it.

I have used my knife in the kitchen when everything else was packed (or when everything else was in the dishwasher or dirty in the sink and I was too lazy to clean something), and I can attest that it works well as a meat cutting implement.

I have prepared several roasts with it, as well as at least one round of steaks for grilling, and have gotten an even, clean cut out of it each time.

Mine occasionally goes through the dishwasher. It develops very small rust spots, but they come off with a little light rubbing from my thumb.

In use as a general camp knife it holds up well, and only requires sharpening after extended hard use (2-3 days or longer).

I keep enough of an edge on it that I have used it to dig out splinters, cut open letters, and (in one memorable case) to clean up a vinyl stencil when I could not find a razor knife.

On occasion I have used it to cut kindling off of a larger piece of wood. Hammering on the back of the knife, or on the pommel, has yet to produce more than minor visual scarring and has yet to chip or bend the knife in any way.

I have used it to pry apart car suspension parts, and the blade is not bent. I do not recommend this, since I am sure that it is bad for the knife.

A light oiling and storing outside the sheath (to avoid trapping moisture) seems to be all the care it needs most of the time.

The Bad
This is not a piece of modern technology. The Ka-Bar was adopted in the early 1940’s, and even if the technology used to assemble it has improved, the essential design is still limited by the technology of the era when it was developed.

The Ontario knife company has done pretty much nothing to change that. Which, to be fair, may be exactly what some of you will want: a very straightforward and no-frills knife with a blade thicker than that of a modern knife made with modern materials.

The Ugly
I have noticed that the knife was imperfectly sharpened when I first received it. It took me about three hours of hand sharpening with a Lansky sharpening system to get the blade perfect, but that included a bunch of use before I sharpened it, and a lot of finicky work to get it just the way I wanted it. I probably could have done it in a third the time if I was not watching television while I did it.

Other than that, it has had no serious problems.

The Verdict
Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.

It doesn't have as nice a fit and finish as some other Ka-Bar clones and variants (including the Ka-Bar itself) but it is much cheaper; as little as half the price at the time of this writing.  Ka-Bar brand knives will also often come with decoration, such as embossed sheaths.

If you want the ~80 years of history, it's hard to go wrong with the name brand. If you want bang for your buck, and don’t mind a quality off brand, this is an excellent buy.

*Note: this is not the OKC3S Marine Bayonet, which is currently produced for the USMC under contract by Ontario Knife Company. They bear a strong resemblance, but are not the same knife.

The Fine Print


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution- Noncommercial- No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

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