Hunting is a way of life in the United States, and we are here to help you be as successful on the hunt as possible.
The perfect hunting knife is a personal choice, and is one that can take some time to find. There are many factors to consider in a hunting knife before purchasing.
Nowadays, there’s a knife for everything. The shape of the knife’s blade usually determines the knife’s overall purpose, and can often be extremely specified. It can be easy for a passionate hunter to rack up dozens of knives through the years. Since different types of hunting knives have specific purposes, it’s important to carefully examine the need for a knife before purchasing one. When wisely purchased, the right hunting knife can prove to be a great investment.
Those using a knife across multiple purposes should consider purchasing a versatile, multi-purpose hunting knife. Since there are different uses for different shapes of blades, the search for a true multi-purpose blade can be much harder than it sounds, but good options are available. At the end of the day, any experienced hunter will likely have a range of knives on his belt to fulfill different purposes.
Here’s a simple rule of thumb to correspond with the size of a knife a hunter will need: the smaller the animal, the smaller the knife. For instance, when hunting small game birds, such as grouse, a machete-sized knife just won’t do the cleaning job. A small folding pocket knife tends to suit smaller game while the bigger knives can be saved for the bigger animals, like elk or moose. Whatever the size of the knife, it’s important for the handle and weight to feel comfortable in one’s hand during use. Any knife too big or too small can prove dangerous during use on a hunt.
There are dozens of shapes and designs of hunting knife blades available today. Each shape provides a different purpose on a hunt. It’s important to know the purpose of each type of blade. Here’s a breakdown of the most common and useful hunting knife blade shapes.
Today, the most popular blade shape on hunting knives is the clip point blade. A hunting essential, this blade runs straight out from the handle before suddenly sloping downward to a sharply pointed tip. It’s most ideal for piercing or cutting through edges.
Another must-have hunting item is the drop point blade. This blade gradually slopes downward from the handle to a slightly blunt tip, and is most commonly used for skinning.
A clip point blade is a strange-looking knife, but can prove useful when piercing during a hunt. These blades jut out straight from the handle of the knife, but curve at the tip in a clipped shape. Clip point blades provide its user with a greater proximity of piercing capabilities, and can also be used to cut through smaller spots.
The most quintessential image of any sportsman knife is a spear point blade. Closely resembling a dagger-type knife, this blade is symmetrically pointed from both ends of the handle. These blades are most commonly used for piercing purposes.
Perhaps the safest hunting knife available is the sheepsfoot blade. The blade curves down from the handle on top, coming to a point on its bottom straight edge. Since the knife’s point is concealed by the top curve, there’s a smaller chance for injuring oneself during use. These knives are great for other purposes during a hunt, such as sharpening wood or cutting rope. Due to the blade’s curve, this knife can not be used for skinning or puncturing.
A knife with a serrated blade that resembles a saw will cut through bone. These are often available on multi-tool style knives, or as folding saw styles, such as the Wicked Hand Saw.
Today, more and more hunters are starting to prefer the added protection and portability of a blade that folds down into the handle of the knife. Knives with folding blades are easy to carry in pockets and belts, and often provide a greater sense of safety during transport. When not in use, fixed blade knives must remain in a sheath. Some folding knives come with a compression lock that makes it easier to fold them out and in.
However, knives with folding blades can lose their sense of convenience during use. A knife with a fixed blade is much stronger than one with a folding blade because a fixed blade sits in the handle of the knife, allowing more durability during use. Knives with folding blades can also prove difficult to clean after use when blood and tissue run into the channels of the blade. The parts on a folding blade can lock up during use or even rust over time, preventing the blade from unfolding or folding into place. The classic choice, fixed blade knives are simply more reliable.
Every hunting knife blades is crafted using one type of steel or another. Different types of steel sharpen to different intensities. It’s best to look for a knife with a blade made from steel that maintains its sharpness and shape in addition to resisting rust and wear through the ages. 154CM, S30V, 420HC and VG-10 steels are all great choices when it comes to selecting a durable, sharp-edged knife blade.
Different knife blades also have different thicknesses that should be observed when shopping for a new knife. A multi-purpose knife should have a solid thickness in order to resist wear and tear during use.
If the knife is going outdoors on a winter’s day, metal handle materials aren’t the best option. Though easy to clean, metal is cold to the touch and hard to handle in cooler climates. On a cold hunt, a knife with a handle made of wood or bone is a top choice for warmth and comfort. However, these natural materials can prove difficult to grip when the knife’s handle is covered in blood. A handle made of synthetic material, such as nylon, provides excellent grip in addition to warmth. Knives with synthetic handles also tend to fall on the inexpensive side of the spectrum, making them the most versatile choice overall. Popular folding blade knives often arrive with a pocket clip attached to the handle for easy transport. Many hunters prefer their blade handles in a bright color to make them easy to find when lost or among other tools.
When purchasing a hunting knife, it’s essential to work in the cost of a few additions to the mix. A knife’s blade won’t sharpen itself, so the purchase of all-inclusive sharpening kit, such as the one from Lansky, with the purchase of a hunting knife will help to keep the blade sharp over time. After all, there’s nothing more dangerous than wielding a dull blade.
In the United States, certain lengths of knife blades are prohibited by law in certain states. For this reason, it is wise for any knife shopper to check the most updated rules and regulations of knife ownership by state before making a purchase. A good starting place is Knife Den’s law database.
The hunting knife world is a vast one, and can feel daunting for the beginner to enter. Here are a few top brands that have withstood the tests of time and quality through the ages.
Gerber Knives began as a cutlery brand nearly eighty years ago, but grew over time to become the sportsman knife powerhouse it is today. By far, knives of the Gerber name last longer than any other knife due to exceptionally high-quality materials and craftsmanship. The brand manufactures a vast array of knife and blade types, including top-of-the-line folding and fixed blade styles. Gerber is popular among beginning sportsmen for their field kits, such as the Moment Field Dress Kit which arrives with two unique knives. Gerber’s field kits make it easy for any outdoorsman to have a great set of knives without having to sample several beforehand.
For over one hundred years, Pennsylvania knife brand Case has been manufacturing high-quality knives in simple, sophisticated designs. The brand uses United States brands of steel for their blades, and even produces their own brand of steel called Tru-Sharp, a steel that’s high in carbon and retains blade sharpness for long periods of time. Case is known for their gorgeous handles that are available in organic materials such as cattle bone, precious stone, buffalo horn and others. Any shopper searching for a fixed or folding blade knife fit with a handle in an organic material should put Case at the top of their list. Case is the approved knife brand by the Boy Scouts of America, making it a popular brand for new and aged knife lovers alike.
Browning is an all-inclusive outdoor sporting brand popular among contemporary hunting enthusiasts. In addition to their outdoor apparel and gear, the brand produces a wide range of durable hunting knives to suit every purpose. Browning uses the finest stainless steel available to a create hefty, long-lasting line of hunting knives.
Hailing from Norway, this Scandinavian brand of knives takes organic handle materials to the next level. Helle utilizes gorgeous wood materials like birch and walnut in addition to leather and brass right in the handle of their famous fixed blade knives, making these truly impressive choices on the aesthetic end. In addition to their handle materials, the brand’s stainless steel options are top-notch with heavy blade thicknesses. A fixed blade knife from Helle makes an excellent gift for any knife or outdoor sports enthusiast.
San Diego knife brand Buck Knives is known for quality above all other things. The brand has been producing knives since the early twentieth century, but today, they manufacture premium folding knives for hunting and outdoor sports. The Buck line of knives have been used and trusted by the United States Army through the ages.
Best known for their line of survival knives, Fallkniven utilizes the best metal materials when creating their line of extra-rugged outdoor knives. The brand primarily makes large fixed blade knives for extreme outdoor purposes using the best, sharpest steel for their blades. Fallkniven also produces ultra-durable sheaths to correspond with their line of fixed blade knives.
French brand Opinel is a staple in the knife world. Strong yet affordable, this brand of primarily fixed blade knives is an essential in any knife collection. In addition to their hunting and outdoor knives, the brand is also well-known for their line of cutlery knives. Opinel knives provide a precise cut every time.
Perhaps best known as the original creator of the Swiss Army Knife, Victorinox also manufactures an excellent line of hunting knives for the discerning sportsman. Similar in shape, function and style to the Swiss Army Knife, the brand produces a line of pocket-sized outdoor multi-tools that prove useful in any scenario, featuring tools like wire cutters, fish scalers, bottle openers, pliers and more. Victorinox makes all of their blades with top-of-the-line stainless steel. Producing quality knives time and time again, they’re a household name in the knife industry for good reason.
While United States knife brand Benchmade is most popular in the combat and tactical knife world, they also produce a terrific line of hunting and outdoor knives. The brand is best known for their AXIS Lock technology which gives a secure and intuitive lock hold to every Benchmade brand knife. For their blades, Benchmade uses a variety of top-notch stainless steels. The brand uses a class system (Gold, Blue, and Black) to break down the quality of their knives, Gold being the highest custom quality, and Black being the lower end of the quality spectrum and therefore most readily available for purchase.
For over a century, Schrade has been producing pocket-style knives. Today, the brand exceeds its original high standards for craftsmanship, utilizing the skills of fourth-generation knife makers. Schrade has withstood the test of time by evolving with the ages and technology, joining its original standards to quality to today’s standards of innovation in the knife industry. The brand produces a popular assortment of folding and fixed blade knives, using both original organic and modern synthetic materials.
Established by a California police officer nearly fifty years ago, the Hogue brand of knives is best known for their unique synthetic grips and knife handles. The brand uses a wide variety of stainless steel materials to produce unique styles of folding blade knives. Never truly sticking to the classics, Hogue constantly looks to improve its line of knives by hiring on new experts from the knife industry to create new styles of knives.
Based out of Colorado, Spyderco is widely known for its line of sleek folding knives. They’re famous for producing knives with a deploying hole in the blade for easy opening. The brand produces knives fit with a variety of types of steel, handles and locks, including the contemporary compression lock. Spyderco knives have a great reputation for resisting corrosion and rust over time.
Kershaw is known for its line of EDC knives, or everyday carry knives, but they have a wide range of hunting and sporting knives as well. Their knives are most often small and compact in size and are available in both folding and fixed blade styles. Kershaw knives almost always feature unique SpeedSafe technology, designed to open the knife at a quickened pace that is not quick enough to qualify for automatic opener status that is often illegal. These knives have a streamlined, elegant appearance that suit any scenario.
Zero Tolerance Knives
Affiliated with popular knife brand Kershaw, Zero Tolerance (commonly shortened to ZT) is a step above the rest. The brand uses some of the best materials and techniques to create a durable, long-lasting range of knives. Zero Tolerance is known to regularly solicit experts from the knife industry to collaborate and create better, stronger knives. Their line folding knives are known to be lighter than those of other brands, making them a great candidate as a transportable pocket design. Though the brand is relatively new to the game, it has built a strong name for itself by producing high-quality knives time after time.
Columbia River Knife & Tool (CRKT) Knives
Columbia River Knife & Tool, or CRKT for short, is an Oregon knife brand manufacturing specialized knives. Also stemming from ties to the Kershaw brand of knives, CRKT produces a wide variety of folding and fixed blade knives for a multitude of applications, including hunting and other outdoor sports. Well-known for their innovative designs, the brand has a slew of patented locking and opening mechanisms to promote a graceful unfurling for folding models. CRKT also manufactures a line of knives fit with a manual switch. Though the brand is relatively new to the industry, they’ve made a name for themselves quickly by producing bold, original designs of knives year after year.
California knife brand Emerson specializes in high-quality folding knives for collectors. They have a line of premium hunting knives that have evolved with the brand over time. Emerson utilizes the Walker linerlock locking mechanism, a one-handed lock with a side spring, in addition to their own Wave technology which opens the knife with a protective catch. The brand uses multiple types of steel and titanium for their blade and handle materials. Emerson also consistently field tests products, ensuring quality and safety to customers.
There are dozens of popular, high-quality brands present among today’s hunting knife industry. Even when a sportsman finds his favorite brand, it can be a long and difficult process to find the perfect knife for any specific purpose within that brand. For this reason, we’ve broken down the best knives available on the market today by their individual purposes and price points.
For its portability, the Bill Moran Drop Point Knife from Spyderco that performs more like a fixed blade knife wins the battle. When unfurled, the Bill Moran is sturdy, measuring just over three inches. The blade clicks back into the nylon handle securely. The drop point style blade has an uncharacteristically sharp tip, making this a great knife for puncturing, skinning and other outdoor purposes.
The blade is crafted using VG-10 stainless steel, a Japanese high carbon variety of steel. VG-10 steel polishes and handles a cut above the rest. The blade is also fit with a plain cutting edge for a smooth, clean cut every time. A plain cutting edge is the easiest edge to sharpen, allowing this blade to last and last through the ages. VG-10 remains sharper for longer periods of time than most other varieties of steel.
The knife’s injection-molded handle is made of sturdy nylon. The synthetic handle is fit with Kraton rubber inserts, ensuring a strong, sturdy grip every time. It’s reinforced with fiberglass for additional long-term durability.
The knife is named for the legacy of knife craftsman Bill Moran, who brought the classic process of pattern welded steel into the modern knife industry. He also established the American Bladesmith Society. Moran is well-known throughout the knife world as a true bladesmith, using aged techniques like forging Damascus steel and pattern welding throughout his career in knife craftsmanship.
The Bill Moran Drop Point knife from Spyderco arrives with a Kydex sheath plus a Spyderco belt clip for easy portability. The sheath can be adjusted into multiple positions and angles using the detachable belt clip, and has a secure grip on the knife when placed in the sheath.
There are so many great options for folding hunting knives that we had to choose two.
The Grizzly Creek from Benchmade is one of the best folding knives available on the market today. It has a drop point blade in addition to a fold-out gut hook, causing this knife to border on multi-tool classification.
The knife’s folding drop point blade has a plain, straight edge and a satin finish. It’s a three-and-a-half inch long blade. The steel is premium CPM-S30V which sharpens like a razor and holds its sharpness over days of use. The blade unfolds quickly with just one finger’s touch, and locks up solid using Benchmade’s special AXIS lock technology. The gut hook on the other end of the Grizzly Creek’s handle is made of the same top-notch steel materials and utilizes the same locking mechanism. This hook can be used for a more thorough clean.
The Grizzly Creek’s handle is made of smooth DymondWood, a plastic wood composite material that has a natural grip feel to it unlike pure organic wood materials. This Benchmade knife resembles more of a utilitarian tool than a tactical combat knife, making it a great choice for everyday outdoor use.
This top-of-the-line folding knife from Benchmade does not arrive with its own sheath, but the manufacturer produces a soft fabric sheath with a velcro strap that corresponds with the Grizzly Creek’s size and fit.
The 110 Chairman Series Folding Hunter Knife from Buck Knives is an equal match in the folding hunting knife battle. It has a smaller blade and a firm feel. It’s one of the more polished-looking folding knives available in the knife industry today.
The blade is a 420HC steel clip style. On the smaller side of the spectrum, it’s the perfect size for cutting in small spaces and performing detail work. The blade measures three-and-three-quarter inches in length.
The knife’s handle is made of cherrywood DymondWood which uses organic cherry wood in addition to plastic to create a composite material that gives the handle more grip than most organic handle materials. It has a gorgeous natural red cherry finish. The handle is complete with stylish nickel silver bolster accents to correspond with the blade’s bright shine in addition to Chuck Buck’s engraved signature.
Buck Knives provides a corresponding genuine leather sheath upon purchase of their 110 Chairman Series Folding Hunter Knife. The sheath is fit with a snap closure and belt loop option for easy accessibility and transport.
The gorgeous Helle Sylvsteinen brand of knives takes the cake in the fixed blade category. It has a large drop point blade and a thick handle, perfect for average- to large-sized hands. Scandinavian knives are known for falling on the larger side of the spectrum, and the Sylvsteinen does not disappoint in the size classification.
The handle is the key part of any Helle brand knife. This Scandinavian brand is widely known for crafting beautiful handles using pure organic wood materials. On the Sylvsteinen, “The Silverstone” in English, the handle is made using curly birch with ring-shaped reindeer antler inserts and brass accents, making this knife a real crowd-pleaser.
The knife’s blade is a wide drop point style. For a drop point, the Sylvsteinen’s blade is unbelievably sharp, making it a true multi-purpose knife that’s great for butchering and other purposes. This is a huge knife, fit with a blade measuring just over five inches in length. The blade is crafted using Helle’s own indestructible triple laminated stainless steel. Fans of the Helle knives will love this blade which is designed after the brand’s popular Jegermester style.
Helle provides a beautiful genuine cowhide leather sheath upon purchase of the Sylvsteinen. All in all, the Sylvsteinen is a premium Scandinavian knife that belongs in any outdoorsman’s collection.
From the aptly-named Buck Knives, the 113 Ranger Skinner is the best knife available to use when hunting deer. It’s a skinning knife with a sharp point, making it the perfect choice for multiple uses while packing out.
The fixed blade is an extra-sharp drop point style, measuring just over three inches in length. Buck Knives has crafted this skinning blade using durable 420HC steel for maximum edge retention, ensuring a sharp knife throughout the skinning process.
The knife’s handle is crafted using American walnut. It has a brass bolster and additional shiny brass accents along its length for added sophistication. The handle is shaped in an ergonomic design for comfortable long-term use. For easy portability, Buck includes a lanyard hole along the end of the knife’s handle.
Upon purchase of the 113 Ranger Skinner, Buck Knives provides a genuine leather sheath to protect the knife’s blade over time, along with Buck’s all-inclusive Forever Warranty.
For elk, something on the long and lean side is usually required. The 105 Pathfinder from Buck Knives is the ultimate choice for this purpose.
The knife’s fixed blade is made of sturdy 420HC steel. It’s an extra-sharp clip shape with premium edge retention that will remain sharp during an entire pack out. The blade measures five inches long and has a wide finger guard at its base for extra protection during use.
The handle is unique in material and feel. It’s crafted using black phenolic cocobolo DymondWood for an organic look and sturdy, gripped synthetic feel. Cocobolo is a tropical wood with a natural red tone which comes through the black stain on this handle in the light, giving this knife a beautiful and distinctive coloration.
Buck Knives includes a genuine leather sheath to protect the 105 Pathfinder and its user during transport. The knife comes with Buck’s all-inclusive Forever Warranty.
Certainly the most pocket-sized knife on this list, the Case Cutlery 053 Bird Hunter is perhaps the only multi-tool required for dressing fowl and other purposes. Included in the folding tool is a small clip blade in addition to a bird hook tool.
The folding clip blade and bird hook are made of Tru-Sharp surgical steel. The clip blade holds its sharpness over lengthy periods of time. The hook can be used to remove internal parts of the bird, making cleaning a breeze. The blade and hook open smoothly and snap tightly closed.
The tool’s handle is crafted using genuine peach seed jigged amber bone for a rugged look. Fans of the Case brand will appreciate the Bird Hunter’s design after Case’s popular Muskrat frame. Instead of the Muskrat’s California Clip blades, the Bird Hunter has a helpful bird hook.
When it comes to skinning, this signature blade named for and designed by knife industry legend Ken Onion rules the roost. Specially made by CRKT, the Ken Onion Skinner is perfectly designed to process game.
The extra-sharp drop point blade blade is crafted using three-quarter tang Bohler K110 stainless steel. It has a gorgeous polished satin finish. The angles of the blade are perfect for resharpening over and over again, and holds its sharpness for long periods of time. It’s wide enough across to flesh thoroughly, and has plenty of tip to get through thick tendons.
The skinning knife’s molded synthetic handle is double injected for extra stability. It has a textured grippy feeling to ensure a strong hold while skinning.
This top-notch skinning knife is designed by and named for knifemaker Ken Onion, who is best known for his invention of the SpeedSafe opening mechanism.
Upon purchase of the Ken Onion Skinner, CRKT provides a black leather sheath to fit to the unique shape of this relatively compact skinning knife.
The Gator Fixed Blade from Gerber is a skinning knife that fulfills plenty more purposes than skinning.
What the handle lacks in organic material it quickly makes up for in a quality grip and reasonable price point. It has tactical alligator-style texturing for a strong grip, even in damp conditions during use. The inner core of the handle is filled with a fiberglass nylon composite material for added stability, and is covered with Santoprene rubber for a soft hold. The handle has a lanyard hole fit on its end for easy portability.
The knife’s blade is a full-tang, shallow drop point style, measuring four-and-a-half inches in length. It’s crafted out of 440HC Bollwerk stainless steel which maintains its sharpness over long periods of use.
Gerber is well-known for field testing their knives and tools before releasing them, ensuring quality and safety before purchase. The knife comes with a durable molded sheath made of ballistic nylon for safe carry, a snap-on belt loop and a lifetime limited warranty from the manufacturer.
Every hunting knife has its own specific purpose. Before purchase of any knife, it’s important to keep in mind the intention of the knife, for this alone will determine the blade shape, handle materials and overall knife size needed to do the job. It’s also essential to keep in mind the United States’ laws for knife blade length by state before purchasing certain lengths of knives. At the end of the day, it’s impossible to have too many knives. Due to their various purposes, knives are wonderful items to collect.