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The Bunkers Review of the Ontario Sp5 Survival Bowie


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The Ontario Sp5 Survival Bowie


            The Ontario Sp5 Survival Bowie first and foremost is a large, but nimble blade. The knife features a 1095 high carbon steel blade hardened to a Rockwell hardness of 53 to 59, and is ten inches long, .23 inches wide, and has an overall length of just over fifteen inches. The knife weights 15 ounces, and the sheath weighs 4.6 ounces, for a total of 19.6 ounces. The black powder coating is smooth in texture, and although the finish doesn’t tend to drag much when cutting, and it is tough, it can be stripped relatively easily if desired. Both the knife and sheath are made in the USA.



(taking a break... caught in the act!)


Out of the Box


            Out of the box the Ontario Sp5 is hair shaving sharp, evenly ground, and visually and aesthetically perfect, EXCEPT where the clip is sharpened. On both knives that I have, the beginning of the grind nearest the handle on the sharpened clip are somewhat different on either side. Not only that, but I noticed that the sharpened clips on both knives were a little different from each other. Both function perfectly, but the slight variation between the two knives COULD result in the occasional mistake. That being said, this is a VERY small problem on a production knife of this quality and price.


            Ontario named the Sp5 the Survival Bowie, so the tests that I conducted on the blade are meant to be in line with the types of uses a survival knife might see. These ranged from chopping, to batoning, to food preparation. My tests so far have been conducted over a period of about a month, and the knife retains the original edge. (I have not sharpened it) The knife will be rated on a 5 star system based on the knife’s performance and comfort.




What better place to do a review!?




            I expected that the Sp5’s relative light weight would make chopping a chore, and would  cause its user to expend a large amount of energy for the amount of work accomplished. I was definitely wrong. The 10” blade carried more energy that I had expected that it would, and the knife chopped like a dream. Another unexpected benefit was the comfort of the knife while chopping. I believe that the comparatively (to other knives of similar size) light weight and hidden tang of the Sp5 do a great job of dampening vibration while chopping. The handle’s slightly soft and tacky texture is comfortable, but it can create hot spots after prolonged chopping. A detriment to the hidden tang design can be long term reliability. It is possible, if not probable, that after a lot of use and abuse, the hidden tang can come loose in the handle. Although in a survival situation, this would not cause the knife to be unusable, it is an irritating problem. The nature of a hidden tang having a 90 degree corner going from the blade to the tang that is hidden in the handle is also a weak point. I have had a Sp5 blade come slightly loose in the handle in my experience, but on that note, that is where a good American company with a great warranty comes in handy. In my experience, in both hard and soft wood, the Sp5 excelled, although the lighter weight and blade geometry lend themselves to efficiency in softer wood.


This knife is not the best chopper on the market, but considering the weight of the knife, for chopping I give it a score of 4 stars.


* * * *






            The Sp5 Batons as well as one would expect a 10” long blade that is nearly a quarter inch thick with a full flat grind. There are stories that circulate on the internet about Sp5’s that have broken in the past from heavy batoning, and while I have no doubt that these accounts could very well be valid, I did my best to beat this knife as hard as I could while batoning with no failures of any kind. Some of the old drift wood that I batoned through was very, very hard, and the stick (more like a log) that I used was about 4 inches in diameter, and very hard. I hit the tip of the Sp5 with this stick absolutely as hard as I could repeatedly, and on one specific piece of hard wood, it took many, many hits to get through the wood.




            Some of the claims of the Sp5 snapping are surely based on the fact that the knife is comparatively narrow and light weight. While batoning through some of the more stubborn logs, while going through knots and twists in the grain, I looked at the top of the blade, and saw that it was actually bending and contorting with the grain of the wood. With such hard beating, I was a little worried that the knife would either snap, or come out the other side bent. To my surprise, each time after splitting the log, I was pleased to look at the knife, and see no damage whatsoever.




            Although the Sp5 is absolutely great for batoning, in my opinion, it does have a chink in its armor. The clip or swedge of the knife is sharpened along its 3.5 inch length. I believe that there is no purpose for a knife to have a sharpened clip outside of a combat specific knife. The reason is that it weakens the tip, it makes pull cuts dangerous, it limits fine knife manipulations, and most importantly to me, it weakens the back of the knife when batoning. Although my clip retained no damage, I was not filled with confidence when I was bashing it as hard as I could with another large piece of wood. The baton is a simple piece of wood you find lying around, so the damage the sharpened clip does to you baton is no big deal, but hitting a sharpened surface repeatedly like that could cause chipping, or even small stress cracks in the edge, that could weaken the blade as a whole. For batoning, the sharpened clip didn’t affect me at all (I can’t say the same for the baton I used), but I don’t like this feature regardless. Because of this, I give the Sp5 4 stars for batoning.


* * * *




Food Prep and Feather Sticks




            Any knife can make a feather stick or slice food, but some do it better than others, and the finer nature of work needed, the more a delicate well balanced knife will excel. The Sp5 is not a delicate knife, but its relative light weight makes finesse in all but the finest of slicing pretty easy. I did notice that while chopping food and making feather sticks, when I tried to make fine slices of food or wood, that I wanted to choke up the blade ALL THE WAY TO THE SWEDGE, which as I mentioned earlier, is sharpened. This made me uncomfortable to say the least. When you are surviving, life is hard, attention is divided, fine motor skills could be hindered by gross muscle damage, and the last thing I want to do is play around a sharpened clip while trying to do fine work. If I had to use the Sp5 for skinning, I would want to do the exact same thing, choke up all the way to the top of the blade, to make use of the wonderfully large belly of the knife, only to find my hand on or near the sharpened clip. For this reason, I give the Sp5 three stars for food and fine wood preparation.


* * *






            This is the part of the review where I get really excited. Right now (December 3, 2014), at Thepreppersbunker.net, the Ontario Sp5 can be had for $55 plus shipping! For an American made, 15 inch knife, that has the capabilities of the Sp5, this is INCREDIBLE! I believe if you are pinching pennies, dollar for dollar, this is the most valuable knife on the market! I give the Sp5 5 stars for value.


* * * * *




          Overall, the Sp5 is a very capable survival knife that can be had at a very affordable knife, but it does have some issues. The edge held up very well throughout all of my testing, but I did have some VERY small roles that can be seen with the eye, and the knife would no longer cleanly cut paper. That being said, I was shocked at how long this knife held a good edge throughout the abuse that it saw. All imperfections in the edge from its use will be sharpened out easily, I have no doubt.


I would like to see Ontario use a full EXPOSED tang, and get rid of the silly sharpened clip. Most people nowadays who are looking for a survival knife aren’t motivated by Rambo to do so. I hope. The knife isn’t perfect, but for just over $60 with shipping, it is hard to beat. Really hard to beat, especially when you consider that this knife AND sheath are made in the USA, and they are backed by Ontario’s warranty, which I can personally tell you, is great. The knife packs a lot of capability into a package that is comparatively light weight, comfortable to use, and comfortable to carry. The overall score is 4 stars.


* * * *


About the Sheath




            A common mentality when it comes to a value chopper/ survival/ camp knife such as the Sp5 is that if it comes with a sheath, consider it a freeby, and expect to upgrade. Although the Sp5 is no different in that regard, and the knife could absolutely benefit from a nice kydex sheath (which will most likely cost as much as the knife itself), I wanted to mention that I am in fact, quite impressed with the sheath that the Sp5 came with. There are none of the kung fu cool guy Chinese details that are poorly executed that I am used to. Instead, you get an incredibly simple knife with a belt loop. That is it. What I like about this, is that although you don’t have molly attachment points, or a cool guy survival tin storage pouch on the front of the sheath, this sheath does what a sheath is supposed to do very well, (which those Chinese made sheaths do not) and that is hold the knife securely, and safely. No rattling, no moving, no worries. I wouldn’t want to keep the sheath for a long term or life time option, but if I had to, I could. If you are buying this knife because you want as much American steel as you can afford, but you can’t afford to take away from your ammo money for a nice knife, this is the knife to get, and you can feel comfortable knowing that the sheath will do what it is meant to do well until you can afford to upgrade to a nice kydex unit.




Please take the time to like facebook.com/thepreppersbunker to keep up to date with sales, reviews, and giveaways, and go to thepreppersbunker.net for the best deals and selection of high quality knives and gear such as the Sp5.








Edited by beachmaster
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