THE SPEC ALPHA PLUS FROM OKC IS A NO-FRILLS WORKHORSE
The Spec Alpha Plus by Ontario Knife Company is a mid-size, no-frills knife that puts the work in workhorse. BY JIM HOUSE
Frills. They do not often enhance the performance of tools, so I am a big believer in simple tools. More important than artistic or fancy are characteristics such as sturdy, durable, and inexpensive.
When it comes to knives, I have a few fancy art objects, but most knives that I use would hardly be described as elegant. Among my newer edged tools is one that belongs in the latter category, the Spec Alpha Plus from Ontario Knife Company.
Tale of the Tape
Having a fine edge blade that measures 5.0 inches long and 0.190-inch thick, the Spec Alpha Plus is a knife in the mid-size range. It measures slightly over 10 inches overall and features a clip point blade that is beveled at the top of the curved clip section.
The blade has a hardness of 57-59 HRC and has a surface that has a durable black coating. Made of carbon steel, the blade has a flat grind for approximately one-half of its width and finishes at full thickness above the grind surface. It is a very sturdy blade that extends the full length of the handle. Although it is not a particularly large knife, the Spec Alpha Plus has a substantial feel.
The Spec Alpha Plus weighs 6.6 ounces alone and the sheath adds only a couple of additional ounces. However, the balance point of the knife is at the forward end of the handle, making it seem nimble in the hand. I don’t mind a knife that has substantial weight as long as it is neither blade- or buttheavy. A knife that has the correct balance is much easier to use, especially for an extended period of time.
At the butt of the handle, a hole is placed for convenient attachment of a lanyard. If the situation warrants it, the knife could also be used to make an effective spear. I always prefer this feature on a knife that may be called upon for rough use in uncertain surroundings.
Although the Spec Alpha Plus does not have a separate hand guard, the grip has a deep recess at the front end that is effective for that purpose. The knife features a handle that is gently rounded in the midsection giving it a thickness of 0.68 inch and making it fit the palm very well. The pebbled surface is covered with a molded rubber coating, which creates a handle that is well-shaped and provides a
“…THE BALANCE POINT OF THE KNIFE IS AT THE FORWARD END OF THE HANDLE, MAKING IT SEEM NIMBLE IN THE HAND.”
lot of traction in the hand. The result is that the knife is both comfortable and easy to use.
Words such as elegant or stylish will not likely be used to describe the Spec Alpha Plus knife. Moreover, they will most certainly not be used to describe the black nylon sheath that comes with it. The sheath has a shape that is rectangular with squared ends. A wide single loop fits any belt, and in most cases has a lot of room to spare. There are two retainers that snap around the knife, one at the ricasso and the other about two-thirds of the way up the handle. The knife is held securely with this arrangement, but one might wish for something more attractive. However, with the black knife that is devoid of adornment, the sheath could hardly be expected to be made of hand-tooled leather.
A Solid Performer
Out of the box, the Spec Alpha was not as sharp as many knives. However, a few strokes on the stone and it was a different matter. The blade smoothed up nicely and it passed the usual sharpness tests of cutting strips from a sheet of paper. It was certainly as sharp as a knife of this size needs to be to perform the usual tasks.
After some light cutting and testing, it was time to submit the Spec Alpha Plus to a more rigorous test. A knife of this size would likely be called on to perform rather rough work in a survival situation, so it was used to split some segments cut from pine stems measuring 2-3 inches in diameter. One such piece was used as a baton, and others were split without difficulty. As long as one does not use a baton on the
“A DURABLE KNIFE OF MODERATE SIZE MAY REPRESENT A COMPROMISE BETWEEN RUGGED USE AND DETAILED WORK.”
thinner clip point section of the blade, the Spec Alpha Plus is up to the job of splitting wood for the campfire. This is a durable knife.
The Spec Alpha Plus is labeled as a survival knife by the manufacturer, and it could serve well in such use. However, the overall configuration, size, and weight of the knife would also allow it to be a good knife for the trail hiker or camper.
Being an aficionado of older outdoor literature, it is interesting to read what authors wrote long before there were such an enormous number of knives available. Chapter 7 in the little book “Camp and Trail Methods” by E. Kreps (A. H. Harding, Columbus, OH, 1950) begins, “One of the most useful articles in the hunter’s, trapper’s, camper’s or prospector’s outfit is the sheath knife …” The author goes on to describe his preferred knife and it was a model having a 4.5-inch blade and no hand guard, but with a deeply checkered grip. In several respects, the knife described by Kreps is not greatly different from the Spec Alpha Plus except for the Spec’s more modern construction. Knives of the type described by Kreps many years ago are just as functional today. The Spec Alpha Plus is a modern, general purpose knife.
“ALTHOUGH IT IS NOT A PARTICULARLY LARGE KNIFE, THE SPEC ALPHA PLUS HAS A SUBSTANTIAL FEEL.”
One Size Fits All
A durable knife of moderate size may represent a compromise between rugged use and detailed work. The Spec Alpha Plus is a good candidate for that one-size-fits-all type of knife. This interesting and capable knife has an MSRP of $42.75, which is very reasonable for a knife of this type made in the USA. KI
Out of the box, the edge of the Spec Alpha Plus needed a little touch-up work, but a keen edge was easily obtained.
This knife excels in the subjective area referred to as “feel.”
Top Left: The 5-inch blade features a clip point design and flat grind for approximately one-half of the blade width. Top Middle: The dual retainers hold the Spec Alpha Plus securely in the sheath.
Bottom: With its light weight, the Spec Alpha Plus does not feel heavy when carried.
Top: With a weight of only 6.6 ounces, the Spec Alpha Plus is convenient to carry and use.