Extrema Ratio Ontos and Selvans Survival Knives
Major Pandemic 10.02.13
If you’re knife nut like myself, then you may lust after the sexy Italian Extrema Ratio knives like motorcycle enthusiasts lust after a Ducati 999. In this case, the Extrema Ratio Ontos and Selvans survival knives are, without a doubt, the most exotic of the production knives designed for the actual hard use of the Italian Military and Special forces. Yes, they are different than a typical drop point survival knife. They have different blade tip, a different look, a more substantial heft, and a different feel, and they certainly cost more money than almost any other production knife. But this out-of-the-box thinking performs spectacularly and is worth every cent when your life is on the line. If you have the money, the Extrema Ratio Ontos and Selvans have proven to me to be the ultimate survival knives.
In the pictures below, the Ontos is on top, and the Selvans on bottom.
I picked up both Extrema Ratio Knife kits from XtremeKnives.com here in the US for testing. What sets these knives apart from other survival knives is that ER started with a clean slate and asked what was needed in a pure mid-sized SERE (Survival, Evasion, Rescue, and Escape) knife in an urban and woodland environment. The results were two crossover knife kit systems; the Ontos addressed Urban survival and Selvan addressed woodland.
The knives share a few similarities such as look, full tang construction, .25” thick Austrian N690 (58HRC) cobalt vanadium stainless steel blade, Forprene handle, tanto pointed chef knife blade profile, and base knife sheath platform. This is where the similarity stops. The knife kits handle and cut differently with different contents in each survival kit.
The ONTOS Kit provides a complete survival kit for the urban survivalist and fills the quintessential SERE role perfectly. The big, heavy, .25” thick 6.5” blade is just a little longer but not as tall as the Selvans. The Forprene handle is extraordinarily comfortable, and the handle inlets lock the fingers in during thrusting and heavy cutting. The pommel/end features a hole for a Paracord lanyard and an extension which can be used for hammering, a defensive contact point, and breaking glass.
The design and higher edge grind angle maximize blade and edge strength without compromising the ability to take a shaving sharp edge. Ultimately, Extrema Ratio chose a good compromise of sharpness vs. durability for the intent of this knife, and if you feel the edge needs touching up, a diamond sharpener is attached to the sheath kit.
This brings me to my next point about both kits: the quality of components in the kit. Generally, survival kits these days are filled with a bunch of poor quality junk just to hit a price point. The only component in the Ontos kit I would swap would be the mini multi-tool for a higher quality and larger Sog or Leatherman. Otherwise everything is top quality.
The kit is housed in a MOLLE compatible nylon case attached to the knife sheath, and it can be detached and mounted to the belt or pack separately for increased comfort or flexibility.
One side of the case houses a diamond knife sharpener, and in the other is a 12-hour chemical light stick. Inside the quick release buckle interior is the Extrema Ratio Ultimate Survival Kit, which includes the following: ziplock water bag, condom, tampon, nylon cord, button compass, candle, ferro rod flint and striker, fishing kit, mini multi-tool, matches, sewing kit, water purification tablets, single edge razor, mayday mirror, high output whistle, snare wire, wire saw, pencil, and survival instructions. All of this is packed into an aluminum clasped box with a silicon sealed watertight lid. The box can be used for a cooking and boiling container as well. There is even a little room left to tuck in a mini-lighter, cotton for tender, band-aids and Neosporin or other personalized accessories.
The Selvans is a pure woodlands, subsistence, and survival knife developed by master instructor Daniele Dal Canto of F.I.S.S.S. (Italian Survival Federation). Daniele wanted to tune the already popular Ontos design to increase the performance of the knife as a working tool with a longer handle and heavier blade and lower angle edge grind for improved chopping and cutting for the needs of extended subsistence survival.
The blade on the Selvans is quite different that the Ontos. The Selvans blade as taller, a little shorter (6.1” length), and omits the faux top edge grind to increase weight. Instead of the serrations, Extrema Ratio left the top edge squared for use as a fire striker or bone breaker for large game. The edge itself is a lower grind angle, extending over 1” up to the full blade width for a much finer and sharper edge.
The handle is also different and has been extended to a hand and a half length which provides comfortable normal, choked up, and a solid grip at the far end of the handle, which greatly improves chopping strikes. The striking, glass-breaker pommel has been removed to provide greater comfort when using the extended grip. Besides, there’s not much glass in the wilderness.
The Selvans was designed under the assumption that many of the typical survival kit items would be in a primary pack. The result is an attached survival kit with a different intent and contents including: whistle, pocket chain saw, water purifying tabs, full sized compass, copper wire, ferro rod flint and striker, led micro torch, 2.5 meters of Paracord, and a diamond sharpener. These are the tools you would need while away from your campsite for scouting, foraging, gathering materials, and hunting. You’ll have a few survival items in case you get stuck on the way back to camp. Like the Ontos, the Selvans Kit is housed in a smaller MOLLE compatible nylon case attached to the knife sheath, and it can be detached and mounted to the belt or pack separately for increased comfort or flexibility.
Features and Performance
The blade contours on each knife are consistent, and edge grind is perfect with no casting seams on the Forprene handle. The N690 steel is a cobalt based stainless steel similar in performance to the expensive VG-10 while being more corrosion resistant.
The Ontos and Selvans blades arrived arm-hair-shaving sharp and remained so through testing, which is something I would expect from any knife with a steel similar to the VG-10. Both functioned extremely well for all the basic chopping and cutting chores. The Ontos edge is more of a hard use, general purpose, splitting edge with a lot of strength for surface cuts of varied materials which might damage a thinner blade profile. It is an edge that can you can abuse a bit more before chipping or blade damage occurs. The Selvans is more of a deeper slicing and cutting edge which will take a sharper edge. It will also cut deeper on wood where the Ontos will produce chips.
Cutting up a chicken, carrots, onions, and celery was easy with the Selvans’ edge geometry. It felt like I was working a standard chef knife, except I was able to cleave right through an entire chicken without any efforts. The more durable edge on the Ontos meant my chicken looked more crushed than cut. Both edges are good but have a different purpose. The Ontos will take the beating without damaging the blade edge, and the Selvans finer edge is tuned to food prep and woodland bush-crafting activities.
Working with XtremeKnives.com (largest Extrema Ration importer) was a new retailer experience for me, but they provided great customer service and very fast shipping and the best prices I could find. I will definitely work with them again.
The Ontos will undoubtedly be the more popular of the two knives due to the kit and blade serrations, and it would be my choice for urban type survival. The Selvans is one hell of an impressive chopping and cutting knife. That weight, long handle, and low angle edge grind work together in unison to just cleave through small saplings. It’s the big game hunter’s friend.
I have tested and owned literally hundreds of knives over the years, and these two knives changed my mind about what a survival knife should look like, feel like, could be, and can do. Expensive yes, but when you find a knife that performs so much better than anything previous, you have to take note. My expectation is that, at some point, my life may depend solely on these knife kits. I would rather spend the money now for custom knife performance than pay the ultimate price later. Each are exceptional pieces of kit of the highest quality. Pair these with a quality multi-tool, and you have everything you will ever need for survival cutlery.
Extrema Ratio Ontos Specs
- WEIGHT: 400 g -.88 lbs
- BLADE LENGTH: mm 165 – 6.5”
- TOTAL LENGTH: mm 298 – 11.73”
- BLADE THICKNESS (MAIN BLADE): mm 6.3 -.25”
- BLADE STEEL: N690 (58HRC)
- HANDLE MATERIAL: FORPRENE
- SERRATION ON THE BLADE: YES
- BLADE: BURNISHED
- MSRP: $588
- STREET: $439.00
- SHEATH: Nylon, Green or Coyote Brown
Extrema Ratio Selvans Specs
- WEIGHT: g 424 – .93 lbs
- BLADE LENGTH : mm 155 – 6.1”
- TOTAL LEGTH : mm 310 – 12.2”
- BLADE TRICKNESS : mm 6.3 -.25”
- BLADE STELL : N690 (58HRC)
- HANDLE MATERIAL : FORPRENE
- SERATION ON THE BLADE : NO
- BLADE: BURNISHED
- SPECIAL: SURVIVAL KIT
- MSRP: $634-$759
- STREET: $422-$493
- SHEATH: Nylon, Green or Coyote Brown