Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Ontario Knife LC-18 - A Good Basic Machete

A reader emailed the other day asking about some of the more widely available machetes that might substitute for the better quality Latin American machetes such as the ones I wrote about in my post Some Favorite Machetes.  He was specifically looking for an 18-inch blade model and mentioned the ubiquitous Ontario Knife Company's LC-18.

This particular machete has been in production for over 60 years, manufactured to U.S. government specs with a full-tang 1095 carbon steel blade and shatterproof handles.  The LC-18 is a good size for a general purpose bug-out or camping machete, with 18-inches of blade and a compact overall length of 23.25 inches.  The blade is hefty enough for good cutting power, though not as springy or well-balanced as some of the more refined Latin machetes that I described in the above-referenced post.

My experience with these Ontario Knife machetes goes back to way before I started adventuring as they were available in most any hardware store or sporting goods store, unlike the best imported blades.  When I did eventually set off on my first long-distance sea kayaking trip, which led me down among the islands of the West Indies where the machete is an everyday tool, I had in my gear an 18-inch Ontario Knife machete.  The blade served well as a camp tool and for opening coconuts and other essential chores demanded by the life of a traveling beachcomber.  When I returned from that trip and launched my kayak in Canada to paddle part of the old fur trade route and then work my way back south by way of the rivers and lakes to Mississippi, I once again carried that same 18-inch machete.  I'll never forget the hassle I got from a young Canadian customs agent who did not want to allow me into Canada with the machete, which he deemed a deadly weapon.  Fortunately, his older superior understood my need for it in the wilds of the North Woods and declared it a "utility knife" rather than a weapon.  I would have certainly felt lost without it, but once again it served well on that 2600-mile solo journey.

All those years I carried this basic machete I was content with the service I got from it and probably would not have switched to better blades had I not been introduced to them while working as a land surveyor and later while traveling in Central America.  So while it may not be the best available, this tried and true machete would still be my choice over most of the gimmicky "survival" machetes sold today that have poor balance and poor cutting abilities.  Best of all, the Ontario Knives LC-18 is cheap and readily available.  I found it listed on Amazon for just $22.95.  It's listed as the Ontario Knife 1-18 Outdoor Survival Machete here but on the Ontario Knife website it is designated the LC-18.  A Nylon Sheath is available separately for $9.50. You can also find these at most military surplus stores. Give one a try, and you may find that it's all the machete you'll ever need.


  1. Good review - thanks for writing it up. My brother has had an Ontario w/ military sheath for years and had good service from it. One of the scales cracked from impact, but some 'Red Neck Engineering' (duct tape) made it good as new. Don't forget good gloves, they take a beating if grass or growth is thorny or has sharp edges.

    I like the CS Bowie myself, now discontinued in the shorter length, its a good handy pack blade that does not take up much space at all. The fine tip can be used for smaller tasks when blade is gripped on back of unsharpened blade. It was made in China, but this one has been good to me. The CS sheaths are NOT well built though, I don't recommend them.

    Thanks again sir - good to hear from you. We expect your upcoming book is taking quite a bit of your time.

  2. Great post! While you obviously use your machete as a jungle tool, I also use mine in the several-feet of snow during the winter in the Cascades!

    I'll be using my machete on snow blocks this weekend as I help train a bunch of scouts on how to make igloos and survival shelters! The machete is my go-to tool for shaping snow blocks, cutting out doors in snow walls and trimming brush for tree well shelters! Amazing how the tool is so useful!

  3. There's a pretty interesting discussion about machetes on the bugoutbagquest.blogspot.com. The link to the post is:

    The thread originally is about axes, but the comments talk a lot about both axes and machetes, and was interesting.

  4. Very good review. I figured I would chime in on this post, as I recently acquired a crocodile machete ('cutlass') from Ghana, Africa that my old lady brought back from a field course there. Does anyone have any experience with this brand? I haven't used it much, but figure a few months of use in the Gladez down here in South Florida will out it to the test.

    I cannot imagine they are easy to come by here in the states, but here's a link if anyone wants to check them out:


  5. Be still my heart - just saw that Cold Steel is introducing a new version of their 21" Latin machete, one with a 9" long two hand sized grip. That would be awesome.

  6. Anon 10:16 here - that 2 hand CS machete is awesome! Got it yesterday and quickly realized something - the extra weight behind the handle adds momentum to your swing if gripped on front side when you swing it. So extra cutting power - sweet!

  7. Might have lucked out and found an inrxpensive Collins Legitimus - $12 at local flea market. A short one with a 14" blade, rough and somewhat pitted with bake-lite handles. Not a collector - a user!

  8. Congratulations on a great find! I recently found a like-new Collins Legitmus machete with a 26-inch blade after my father passed away. I had given it to him many years ago and forgotten about it, and he had put it in a closet and used it very little.


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