Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Ontario AFSK Review

This is the Ontario Pilot or Air Force Survival Knife.  It's been around since the '50s or so and is a tried and tested tool.  I bought this particular one as a Bug-out Bag stocking stuffer for someone else.  For various reasons my plans changed, so I worked the edge over a little and took it out myself. 

First, let me say that saw-back knives may not be exactly what you would expect.

I tried it out on a small hickory limb.  It would work fine for notching but it is not really a wood saw.  Since it is a pilot's knife, it is designed to aid in extracting a person from a downed aircraft, among other things.  I didn't have any aircraft aluminum around to test it on, but I imagine it might serve for that purpose.

On the other hand, a few quick snap-cuts with the main blade took the limb off nicely.  This is well-tempered 1095 carbon steel.  You can get it sharp, and it is thick and stout.  The balance and grip are very good for my average-sized hands.

The butt-end makes a much better hammer than the butt of a cowboy's Colt (don't you always cringe when you see those old shows where a guy drives in a fence staple with his handgun?).
  It's about as famous for its sheath as anything. 
The little hone that comes with it is not bad.  It has what seems like a fairly fine grit on one side while the other side may be slightly more coarse, but that's only by finger-feel.  I used a fine diamond and a strop to polish up the blade.  I considered removing the stone and sticking some "survival" supplies, like fishhooks, tinder, and a firestarter of some sort in the pouch.  That might be a reasonable idea, depending on how one expects to this knife.  If you are including it in a bug-out bag then I'd probably stick with the hone.  Sharp is good.

The sheath has several tie-down points in it like the two holes at the bottom in the metal reinforcement.  My old Ontario Marine Corps bowie sheath has a tie-down hole on the sheath, but it is a 7-inch blade and the sheath is a drop-loop -- so it hangs down lower.  The way this sheath rides on a belt with the 5-inch blade, a tie-down is not only unnecessary but maybe not even a good idea.  However, the ability to carry the knife in other ways is of value.  I put a little paracord through the top holes which, with the cord in the bottom, would enable horizontal carry, strapping to a pack, or even rigging as a shoulder holster.

The first thing I did to the sheath before I took it outside was to saddle-soap it.  Leather and carbon steel work great so long as they are given a little consideration and not excessive neglected.

The swedge did not come sharpened.  I have remedied that to some degree, but it needs a little more work before I'll be happy. 
It's not really a requirement, but if the potential is there, I figure I might as well make use of it.

Overall the blade shape will serve well for most camping and general use chores.  It would be an acceptable defensive tool in a pinch.  

The link above is to Midway, which currently offers the ASFK for $46.49 and includes free shipping.  I paid more at for this one at Bass Pro, but, as I said, it was intended to be a Christmas gift, and I was time-constrained.  It is definitely a quality piece of gear for the price.  You can pay a lot more for very, very good knives -- but most won't be very, very much better.  

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