KNIFE REVIEW: The Ontario Blackbird

Function without frills, Ontario’s Blackbird is a true survival knife. Check out the first part of this two-part knife review:

the Ontario Knife

In 2011, the Ontario Knife Company’s Blackbird SK-5, designed by survivalist Paul Scheiter, was awarded “Best of the Best” in the knife category by Field & Stream.


The SK-5 designation for the Ontario Blackbird sums it up—Survival Knife with a 5-inch blade. Designer Paul Scheiter developed the knife with the goal of achieving maximum function delivered through pure simplicity.


“I believe that the less complicated a product is, the better it will perform when your life depends on it,” said Scheiter. He feels the Blackbird is comfortable to use, has ideal cutting geometry, and is durable—all desired features necessary for the most demanding wilderness survival tasks.


Scheiter is also the owner of the well-known sheath company, Hedgehog Leatherworks (, which produces an aftermarket leather sheath for the Blackbird SK-5 Knife. According to Ontario Knife Company (, the Blackbird has proven itself to be an invaluable tool for survivalists, soldiers, hunters and outdoorsmen.


Our reviewers, Paul Granger and Mark Allen Prince, said, “We’ll see about that.” What follows are their conclusions after testing.


Mark Prince

According to Mark Prince, “After a very long weekend of spending many hours keeping the Bass Islands of Lake Erie safe for democracy, I began my field evaluation of the Blackbird on a Sunday afternoon.”



Granger noted that since Paul Scheiter is known for his Hedgehog Leatherworks sheaths, he would begin his review with the Blackbird’s sheath. (It’s important to note that the nylon sheath that comes with the knife is not manufactured by Hedgehog Leatherworks).


As to the Blackbird knife itself, its thin blade is very sharp out of the box. It’s readily applicable for tasks such as cleaning pan fish or field dressing small mammals like squirrels or rabbits more than large, thick-bladed survival and tactical knives. Why people would sell a person a dull knife is beyond Granger, perhaps because of liability issues, but that is hardly the case with this keenly edged blade.



The knife has a good blade length for both utility and tactical work. While spear tips are not particularly common in America, this blade comes together nicely at its centered point. Its spine is good for forward use as well as for more blade control in doing finer work. There is a flat/full grind all the way to the spine.


The Blackbird blade is made of 154CM steel, a premium grade stainless steel. Developed in the United States, this particular knife steel is probably one of today’s top three knife steels. Granger thought he would bevel the tip of the blade’s guard a little as it’s a bit sharp. If the blade is used for slicing sideways, this guard tip might be an infrequent problem.


Ontario Blackbird

This Blackbird is shown on the hull of an M42 40mm self-propelled anti-aircraft gun called a Duster. It’s an armored light air-defense gun on display at Camp Perry, Ohio.



Very effective and simple, the handle fills the user’s hand well, with nothing flashy and nothing to break off. Ergonomically, it has a comfortable grip in all four basic holding positions: forward, reverse, inverted and icepick. The three-piece knife’s recessed screw holes are kind to the user’s hand; non-recessed screw heads can be irritating if the knife is used for a while.


Ontario Knife Company’s ads call it a finger groove, but Granger feels that might be a bit of a stretch; it’s more of a finger “recess.” A true finger groove lets the user know exactly where the finger or fingers are.


The handle is made of scaled, canvas Micarta, which is slightly more “grippy” than linen Micarta. There’s a small, two-dimensional belly swell of 1/4 or 5/32 inches on the blade side of the handle. The front and back handle panels of this three-piece knife are flat. Another nice handle feature is the expanded lanyard slot.



Paul Scheiter is known for his Hedgehog Leatherworks and his camping expertise. The 28-year-old Scheiter began his interest in camping by going into the deep woods at an early age in the company of his uncle. These experiences in Missouri evolved into a passion for the outdoors and experimenting in hill and woods survival skills.


Scheiter saw a need for a survival knife that bucked the trend of some knives, which seemed to be more and more about featuring gimmicks. In developing the Blackbird-SK5, he and his staff were looking for knife characteristics that were time-proven in the realities of what really works well. Instead of thinking about what they could add, they worked at what they could take away.


Ontario Knife

According to Ontario Knife Company, because of its emphasis on function with no frills, the Blackbird has proven itself to be an invaluable tool for survivalists, soldiers, hunters and outdoorsmen. The Blackbird is shown with one of Heckler & Koch’s new MR762A1 match rifles.



Blackbird’s basics include a handle that’s rounded for a comfortable grip; three recessed stainless steel Allen screws securing the Micarta slabs to the tang; and 154CM steel that’s known for its toughness, edge retention, sharpness and corrosion resistance.


Its center-lined spear blade has more metal behind its point at the tip for a greater degree of point strength. The blade’s smooth spine is comfortable to the touch. For those knife buyers adding the Blackbird’s leather sheath from Hedgehog Leatherworks, there’s a 25-year warranty on the rapid release sheath. Hedgehog Leatherworks will be making future modifications on it.



Though Scheiter is not a fan of turning a knife into a spear, there can be real and psychological field advantages for doing so, such as a tool for protection from animals, etc. Keeping this in mind, the Blackbird’s handle ends in a flat, level butt. Those individuals turning the knife into a spear should rest the butt alongside a carved, flattened end of a sapling and attach the knife. This gives better support to the knife rather than sticking it onto the end of a pole and relying on securing it by lashing.


Paul Granger

According to Paul Granger, the knife is very effective and simple, and the handle fills the user’s hand well, with nothing flashy and nothing to break off. Ergonomically, it has a comfortable grip in all four basic holding positions: forward, reverse, inverted and icepick.


By Jim Weiss and Mickey Davis

Photos by the authors