For any serious or seasonal hunter/knife passionate, it is a no-brainer to own the best hunting knife. There are a handful of situations where you might need to have a good knife on hand. Maybe you need to cut a rope, clean a fish, or for dressing a deer. As essential as it is, a good hunting knife is hard to find. But hard work never goes in vain. Once you find a good knife, it is going to be with you for the next many years to come.
In case you’re lucky, you might get one with a lifetime warranty. It would be very vague to call a single knife as the best, but there are several which I’ve tested that get the job done pretty well. When looking for knives, there is no “one size fits all”. Due to which, some hunter carry multiple knives with them. Different people have different opinions about the best knife, but I won’t touch into that.
Gerber Bear Grylls Ultimate Serrated Knife
I know, in the first paragraph I mentioned that it won’t be right to call any knife as the best, nor I am doing it. Because I know, if I term a knife as best, some people sure are going to be let down because their favorite knife is different. There are tons of blades, and I’ve tested more than a dozen personally.
I’ll mention the one that I’ve recently become a big fan of. Again, this is my personal preference, I am not terming it as the best knife, but my personal favorite. Its okay if you have a different choice, let me know which knife is your favorite.
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Best Hunting Knife Comparison table
List of Hunting Knives that I recommend
Over the years, I’ve collected more than 5 dozen of them. Some of them I bought online, some offline, and some are the ones that someone else gifted me(knife as a gift sounds odd, I know). Below are some of the best blades you should get your hands on –
Hunting Knife: Buying Guide
Below mentioned are some aspects that you should put into account before purchasing a knife.
Fixed or Folding
There are two types of hunting blades. One is fixed in their position, and the other one can be folded. Those who’ve been in this for a while prefer the fixed blade, while the new hunter like the folding styled. In terms of the blade, one isn’t better than other, and it’s all about user preference. Those who need a durable blade will certainly pick up the fixed blade, the less mechanical parts there are, the fewer chances there are that it might break. Fixed ones are also easy to clean and maintain. You take it out of the box and it is ready to do heavy duty tasks. You can even push the knife through bones without ruining it. A fixed blade might be heavy duty, but under certain circumstance, it can be dangerous as well.
Thereby, people turn to folding blades, which are much more versatile and portable. They can be taken out quicker than fixed blade ones and can even be used for everyday use. They’re portable, you can carry one in your pocket, which proves helpful in several situations. With time, folding knives technology has grown more and more. The locking feature is consistently upgrading with safety being the prime priority. Folding blades although are less durable, harder to clean and you can’t expect them to do heavy duty tasks like the fixed blades. The folding blade might break before a fixed one.
Two common blade materials in the market are – carbon steel and stainless steel. Like fixed blade and folding ones, both of these also have a fan base which favors one over other. Blade material is an essential factor because the blade is going to be the main part of your knife. Stainless Steel is made of several things like nickel, iron, chromium, carbon etc. It is quite resistant to rust.
Although these blades lack the sharpness of carbon. It is also known to stain in some specific environments. When you talk about a knife which is going to be primarily used for hunting, you can’t expect it to be clean in the long run. Thereby stain might not be a big issue for you.
Carbon steel wins in being the sharpest and is quite easy to maintain and care. Just as they come out of the box, they’re ready to use. You don’t have to worry about dulling of the blade as well because it can be fixed easily. Carbon blades although require the maximum care and are sometimes put into questions when they are to be used for long care. Carbon blades also get discolored and rust easily.
Often overlooked, the handle is an important point of any hunting knife. Depending on what the user is looking for, handles make a big difference in the way it is used. The handle grip can even go as far as to destroy the whole purchase. Sometimes the handle can even be dangerous for the hunter and can cause sincere damage. A good handle feels good, firm in both big and small hands. The fixed knife is known for their firm handles, unlike folding ones.
This applies only to fixed blades as they can’t be folded and it is quite an important component. One of the key issues with the hunting knife is the shealth. A bad sheath can often lead a sharp hunting knife to cause considerable damage. The shealth has multiple uses, it makes the overall knife looks good, allows the knife to be used with ease, prevents the knife from external damage, and also keeps the hunter from being cut.
Also, a good shealth would usually come in leather, nylon, and kydex, and won’t be clunky. One suggestion is if your sheath is made of nylon sheath, ditch it immediately. There is a debate in the community on kydex and leather sheaths, same as fixed and folding knives.
Leather, of course, is a traditional material and has been around for years. Not only being used in hunting knives, but also in weapons. Usage goes as ar as cowboys and even sheath for weapons. They look classy, and material will last for years if used well. Duration won’t be a concern and comes to concern only when leather being used itself is low quality.
Kydex however, is a thermoplastic which has gained a ton of respect from the community. So much so, that a bunch of manufacturers shifted to kydex from leather. When the hunting knife fits perfectly, it makes a click sound and also negates the need for a strap holding it in place. Due to strap not being an issue, it makes for a smaller sheath with fewer materials to care about. The material, however, lacks the looks and appeal of leather. Also, it dulls the edge of the knife over the time. The dullness caused, however, is so less, that it isn’t a big issue for future.
The idea itself of using two types of the blade in one knife is a great one. The primary focus is that it is nice to have multi-use in one knife. However, there is no doubt to the fact that quality is better when one knife is used for a specific purpose rather than for multiple things. But there is nothing bad with dual bladed knives.
Blade Styles for Hunting Knife
There are tons of blade styles that you can test in the industry. But in this blog post, I’ll be discussing only specific ones which are made for hunting. So Below are some hunting knife styles you’ll come across.
1. Clip point
This is most common blade shape for clip point. The knives of this kind extend from the hilt, two-thirds of the complete blade length, up to which where it begins to taper, recovers to a point, and creates a false edge. This can be sharpened to a secondary cutting edge.
This point can be on the line along with spine, with blades at mid-width or below it. As you might have understood from the name, the last 1/3 part of the blade has been clipped. One of the most common examples of this style is the bowie knife, which is a large clip point.
For the record, Bowie’s didn’t invent this blade. The invention goes date back to around 9000 BC. There are stone knife blades found at that age which have similar designs. One of the pros is that this design makes it easy to penetrate and has acceptable slicing power. Clip point knife makes up the majority of knife blade designs and is thereby most popular knife.
2. Drop Point
After clip point, drop point is the most famous blade in the market. It is also one of the oldest known styles of the blade and dates back to 12,000 BC or more. One of the key characters of this knife is the placement of a point below the spine of the blade but above the midline of the blade. These blades have good pentration and offer a lot more control in slicing. The point is also stronger than the clip point. If you want to get a knife for hunting upland birds or small games, these would work perfectly. They are used when you don’t want to puncture any of the internal organs.
3. Spear Point
Next on the list comes spear point. This resembles the drop point, however, the point is placed at blade’s centerline. Spearpoint also has a bunch of advantages, and even comes with stronger point. Spear points can be usually found in sporting knives, and are much more popular than the stilettos, and double-edged daggers.
4. Trail point
This kind of blades have a lineot of the belly. And the point ends above the spine. Their appearance is like a typical scimitar and they function as the knife choice for skinning, where it is important to preserve the skin. For example, in tanning. Most of the serious hunters have at least one trail point skinner knife in their kits. They are optimized for slicing, although they have a weak point.
5. Roach Belly Point
Last, but not the least, Roach belly blade. This kind of blade was quite popular among fur traders, and Hudson Bay trappers of 19th, 18th and 17th centuries. The blade has got all the advantages of trail point, as well as the clip point. I still don’t know why these knives ran out of style, but they are all-rounder in terms of a sporting blade. These knives can be used as both skinning, and utility knife.
Tips for choosing right knife
With the large number of knives, blade styles, and everything, picking up the right hunting knife can look like a confusing and daunting task. But it won’t be confusing once you figure out what you’d be using it for, and what you like.
The very first thing is setting your budget, you should decide how much you need to spend. It won’t be a good move to spend a ton on an expensive knife if you won’t be able to afford one. Now, if you need a knife, an old one will work fine as well. Also, it wise to purchase a better quality used knife with same money as for a lesser quality but new knife.
You also have to think whether you want to use it near salt water. If your answer is yes, then you should use a stainless steel knife. Also, it shouldn’t be any less than AUS 8 steel, or equal. If you are going to purchase a knife, purchase a steel one.
Although the polished wood and micarta scales look great, they get slippery and are harder to grip while dressing out animals. Grippy and textured scales will make your grip and life much easier. The traditional scale material is usually antler and bone. They’re great, textured, but can be costly. You can also consider to use Kraton.
Personally, I avoid Kydex, plastic sheaths because they get noisy as the blade rattles around inside it. They might also dull your blade over time. Same goes for friction fit sheaths. I don’t trust them when I think I might need to climb over a tree or go through a dense brush. The Cordura nylon, however, is ok, and so goes for leather. Also, apart from what material your sheath is made of, you should pay special care on stitching. Is the stitching tight, is it made from good quality thread material ? are you sure there are no broken or loose stitches.
In case it has any riverts, are they rusted, are they tight, does it fit the blade tightly? You should also check the fit & lock by turning it upside down with the knife inside it. If your knife doesn’t stay in sheath, keep looking for other ones.
If you are in love with the knife, but not the sheath, you can get a custom sheath made for your knife.
I suggest sticking with popular brands and avoiding bargaining. If you aren’t sure about any specific knife, go to Amazon to check more details. Youtubers don’t work for any knife companies and thereby give honest and straightforward reviews.
Your decision of investing more time and effort when purchasing knife which will be with you in unknown locations will turn out to be good in the years to come.
How to Care for your Knife
Hunting knives do require the same amount of care as the other knife. If you don’t care for your hunting knife, it is soon going to be useless. No matter which type of knife you’ve bought, there is always a great chance that your life would be dependent on how the knife performs. Be careful as you’ll only get one chance only.
I don’t need to mention that your blade should be kept sharp always. If you are purchasing a knife, you should also get a set of honing stones. Those quick sharpeners are good for minor touch-ups, but your blade should honed on real stones on regular basis. There are tons of videos on Youtube guiding how to sharpen a knife.
Do note, that your knife blade needs to have thin coat of food grade mineral oil on top when not in use. Carefully examine your blade for spots that might have been left out. If a spot got left out, they can be polished with some fine steel wool. You can also rub them over with a paste of Bar Keeper’s Friend Scouring Powder along with water. This usually removes all the stains and spots. Also, make sure to oil and dry the blade afterward.
Grivory, Kraton, G-10, Micarta and plastic scales are maintenance free. All you need to do is wipe them off and clean them periodically. Bone and wood-based needs to be moisturised every once in a while. Oil soap works great for both moisturizing and cleaning in one step. You should check rivets, pins etc which hold scales on tang. You should also tighten any points which are loose.
In case you’ve got leather sheaths, they need to be cleaned with saddle soap every once in a while. It won’t hurt to treat your blades with mink oil or neatsfoot annually. Do check the re-strict and stitches when there’s a need for it. Other than leather, every sheath material requires no maintenance.
Also, ensure that you store your knives in a dry place when you’re not using them. Keeping them in a drawer isn’t the best idea unless they are in their sheaths. They might get dull and scratched. Knives come on the list of best tools of humankind and thereby should be respected with the care they deserve.
Best Brands for Hunting Knives
If you’re going to purchase a knife, get a good one which will lose for long. There is no single answer to which brand you should consider over another. But there is definitely a list. I’ve made a list ranking them up, in no particular order.
- Buck: It ranks among one of the most popular manufacturers of knives which have been in business for a long time. It is almost more than a hundred years. They’ve been selling some of the finest and most treated knives tailored to last long. They’re so confident about their brand, that they offer a lifetime warranty. Thereby, you can assume, that a buck knife is made to last long. You can see all their knives on their official website. The website is pretty neat and is neatly organized. You can choose filters to decide price range you want, as well as length of blade and many other things. Usually, knife manufacturers don’t have this on their website.
- Gerber: They started off in 1939 with producing handmade cutlery. Around 1960’s they become one of the most well-known knife manufacturers. Their knives are used for high quality and longevity. They offer a whopping 25 years warranty. The brand also stats that their knives would be free of defects in workmanship and material. Their website has a knife maintenance section where all questions related to knife caring are answered by the brand itself.
- Kershaw: One of the finest brands out there whom you want to consider before buying a knife. Even their entry level products are high quality. This was the brand that introduced knives with interchangeable blades. They’re also famous for using what they term as composite blade technology. In this, the blade is made up of 2 types of steel. Thereby providing more edge retention and strength. They however, provided limited lifetime warranty. But they sharpen the knife for free if you send it to their warranty service center.
- Cold Steel : They are a California based venture manufacturing knives, machetes, swords and other tools. Some of their products use VG-1 stainless steel ( which is resistant to corrosion and abrasion). Almost all of their products are highly rated. Some of them are even bestselling on Amazon. The brand goes as far as to provide DVDs that demonstrate their product, something other brands don’t do.
- Case: They’re the oldest manufacturer on this list and have been in business since the late 1800s. They retail premium quality knives, most of which are made of chromium vanadium steel. Which makes their steel more hard and prevents it from abrasion, corrosion, and rust.
There are some other brands which have been in the business for quite a while. These include Smith & Wesson, and Schrade. You can check out their products on Amazon as well.