It’s common to see a hunter with a blade sheathed at his belt. But that isn’t necessarily the most practical way of carrying a hunting knife. Actually, folding knives are way more practical to use for hunting. They are easy to carry and posses the quality of simplicity and handiness.
Fixed blades can get in the way when you are pushing through undergrowth or approaching game with stealth. They can also slow you down where you’re on the move, and can even be noticed by the animal you’re tracking down.
It’s for these and other reasons that folding hunting knives hold a special place in the hearts of many hunters. The sheer convenience and the fact that they are highly portable can be huge advantages. If you are looking to get yourself a great folder, or even a couple of them, the following guide will help you in making the best choice.
- 1 Types of Folding Knives
- 2 Folding Knife Blade Material
- 3 Folding Knives Blade Grind Type
- 4 Folding Knife Edges
- 5 Folding Knife Blade Design
- 6 Opening Mechanisms for Folding Knives
- 7 The Best Handle for a Folding Knife
- 8 Top 10 Folding Knives Review
- 8.1 1. Spyderco Tenacious Folding Knife
- 8.2 2. Benchmade Mini Griptilian #556
- 8.3 3. Ontario OKC Rat Folding Knife
- 8.4 4. Bushcraft EDC Spring Assisted Folding Knife
- 8.5 5. Kershaw Folding Knife #1605CKTST
- 8.6 6. Buck Folding Hunter Knife #0110BRS
- 8.7 7. Gerber LST Ultralight Folding Knife #06050
- 8.8 8. Benchmade North Fork Folding Knife #15031
- 8.9 9. Piranta Bolt Folding Hunting Knife
- 8.10 10. Dark Side Ballistics DS-A019
- 9 Wrapping It Up
Types of Folding Knives
Although folding knives are separated into many categories, one of the most common one is by the number of blades.
Single Blade Folding Knives
Single blade folding knives come in a variety of shapes, styles, and sizes. They are ideal if you’re looking for a compact tool that is both lightweight and simple to use. The focus here is on the design of the single blade. They will usually come with a locking mechanism that holds the blade in place. Some will have a spring-loaded component so that they can be opened quickly and easily. A good quality single blade folding knife can be a strong and reliable multi-purpose tool, but are generally unsuitable for heavier tasks.
Multi-Blade Folding Knives
Multiple blade folding knives are incredibly versatile. The number of blades can vary from two to as many as four blades, and sometimes more. Two bladed knives usually consist of a drop point blade along with a blade of a different shape, such as a sheepsfoot or a spey. Models with three or four different blades mean you can carry out a multitude of tasks, from skinning game to carving wood. Despite being so versatile, multi-bladed folding knives will never be as strong as the single blade variety. Again, it’s up to you to weigh up the pros and cons according to the intended purpose of your knife.
Folding Knife Blade Material
There are heaps of reasons why stainless steel blades are a favorite among many hunters. One is because they are impervious to rust. Stainless steel contains about 10% of chromium, which makes the blade durable. It helps maintain the high levels of hygiene as well.
It’s true that some hunters prefer carbon steel to stainless, which is equally as good. But if you want an easy to maintain blade that will serve you for a long time, stainless steel is, in my opinion, always going to be the best option.
Folding Knives Blade Grind Type
To those of you not familiar with the term, the blade grind refers to its cross-sectional shape in a plain normal to the edge. It plays a crucial role in the dynamic of the knife and some blade grinds are more easy to maintain than others. There are several blade grind types, but here we will look only the one that appear the most in folding knives:
Knife Blade that creates concave or beveled cutting edge. This type of grind is usually very sharp, but weak.
The blade reduces in thickness from the spine to the edge from the both sides. A lot of material is removed from the blade, making it sharper in favor of durability.
Similar to the flat grind, with the exception that the bevel starts somewhere from the middle of the blade or closer to the edge. One of the most common option in folding knives, behind the chisel grind.
Only one side of the blade is beveled. It reduces its thickness in a straight line towards the end. This means that chisel grind has only one edged side. It is the most used grind for folding knives.
Adds a secondary bevel to the existing grind. This means, a back bevel is put on the blade, behind the edge bevel.
Features a rounded curve, instead of straight line, that creates a point at the end. The tapper is curved as opposite of the hollow grind. Less sharp, but way more durable.
Folding Knife Edges
The process of serration includes the appearance of the blade, whether it is a plain or saw-alike, which defines the edges of the blade. Most of the folding knives come in: plain, fully serrated or partially serrated option.
Plain edged folding knives are widely considered better for making push cuts, like you would when skinning game, for example. The single sharp edge provides better control and makes cleaner cuts. Plain edged knives are also much easier to sharpen. On the other hand, they cannot be used as a saw, so are not up to tasks such as cutting wood or thick rope.
Serrated edge blades are much more efficient at slicing through tough materials. The individual serrations tend to be thinner than a straight blade, allowing the blade to slice better and faster. One disadvantage is that a serrated blade makes clumsy, jagged cuts, so they are not suitable for slicing meat. Another problem is that they are difficult to sharpen, and you’d probably need a professional for the job. That said, if your main tasks involve sawing and cutting through tough materials, by all means, go for a serrated edge. Its range is limited but can be still the best choice in specific circumstances.
Partial / Combo Edge
Combo edges are a mixture of straight and serrated edges on the same blade. You can use the straight section of the blade for certain applications and the serrated part for sawing. These blades still have the problem of being difficult to sharpen.
Folding Knife Blade Design
Consideration should be given to the shape of the blade too. You want the best shape for the job you have planned. A lot of knife blades are made for specific tasks, but there’s a number of tasks that can be done with any half decent hunting knife. It’s no coincidence then that the best folding knives are also utility knives, and are capable of a variety of different functions.
It’s important to know all the blade types and designs, but here we will stick only with the most used ones when it comes to folding knives.
Clip Point Folding Knife
Clip point is one of the most used folding blade design. They actually look like the front part of the blade has been clipped off in either a straight, or a curved shape. This makes it good for stabbing, but is also a good all-around knife. The blade can puncture deeper and faster that most of the other blade types. It’s usually light-weight, providing very good balance and control.
Drop Point Folding Knife
It’s made so that the tip of the blade is made lower, or “dropped”. Although one of the most familiar blade designs, they are not found in every folding knife model. One of the most recognizable folding knife models that use drop point blades is the Swiss Army pocket knives model.
It’s generally an all-around knife, especially in the world of hunting. These knives are ideal for skinning, piercing or any other jobs that require precision and control.
Straight-Back Folding Knife
This blade has a long and straight spine. It’s also refereed to as normal blade, since it’s the most basic blade shape for a knife. They are best for chopping and slicing and since they are heavy, can be quite useful for many hunting purposes.
Spear Point Folding Knife
These blade types have a long, curved top and bottom edges. This gives them symmetrical design along the center line. The sharp point makes them good for piercing and stabbing. If they are well-made, can be quite strong and durable.
Pen Blade Folding Knife
One of the most common blade designs found in the Swiss Army knife. Very similar to the spear point, except for the asymmetry between both sides. Good for small tasks that are part of the hunting life in the wilderness.
Gut Hook Folding Knife
Gut hooks are exceptionally useful for gutting and dressing meat after a kill. They reduce the chances of piercing an organ or causing other damage when dressing the animal, so they are especially good for beginners.
The hook is handy and eases your job, but I hesitate to recommend a folding knife that has this feature. When the blade folds into the handle, the hook is left protruding, and it can be dangerous to carry around with you. If you want a knife with a hook, my advice is to purchase a fixed blade that you can store in a sheath or a pouch, just to be safe.
Opening Mechanisms for Folding Knives
There are three main categories when it comes to opening mechanisms for knives: automatic (switch-blade), assisted or manual opening. All three have their own purpose, advantages and disadvantages.
Spring Assisted vs. Automatic Blades
The difference between spring assisted and switchblade folding knives is often a source of confusion among new knife enthusiasts. Even people who are familiar with pocket knives or fixed blade knives often don’t understand the difference. In both, the blade can appear to emerge from the handle of its own volition. A closer look at the release systems will make the difference quickly clear.
The switchblade (also called an automatic knife) comes with a slide, some kind of lever, or a button to launch the blade. This releases the tension in the spring inside the handle. When the lever or button is operated, the blade is launched from inside the handle and into a locked position.
Some switchblades release out the front of the handle. Others, similar to spring assisted folding knives, release the blade from the side of the handle.
Checking to see if the knife has a button or a lever is the easiest way to tell the difference. An assisted opening knife will have neither of the two. It will have some kind of initializing action that requires some effort. You’ll need to push on a disc, a flipper, a thumb stud, or there will be a thumb hole to start the blade moving.
If the knife has a slide or a button to release the blade, then it is most probably a switchblade/automatic knife.
There are strict laws concerning ownership and carry of automatic knives, and you should check local regulations before you buy one. If you’re still unsure, always consult your local law enforcement.
Manual Opening Blades
Manual opening blades can be opened via a variety of mechanisms. It may be a thumb stud which is a small raised cylinder on the knife blade. To open the knife, you press on the stud with your thumb. The disadvantage here is that pressure must be kept on the stud until the blade is completely open.
Other blades open with a thumb hole in the blade. These are easier to use than a thumb stud. Flipper knives open by pressing on a small tab. The tab releases a bearing sitting on the blade. Flippers are quick and easy to open, and a lot of fun to use.
As with all folding knives, the manual opening designs clip the blade into a firm, locked position. They are lower maintenance and cheaper than assisted opening knives. Manual openers generally need two hands to open, but with practice, it can be done with one.
The Best Handle for a Folding Knife
If you hunt for fun, you may like the idea of a fancy handle of intricately carved wood. Sure, the aesthetics are great. But if you’re a working hunter and you’re concerned about hygiene, then you’re better off with a handle manufactured from synthetic materials.
The problem with natural materials, such as leather and wood, is they end up retaining a lot of bacteria from the blood and cadaver of your kill. Over time, all that organic matter starts to rot, and you could end up contaminating your new prey. Synthetic materials like plastic or metal are better because they don’t absorb all those messy contaminants.
With a folding knife, the handle is much more than what you use to hold the blade. It houses the actual edge. Consequently, it is prone to dirt and mess that can negatively impact its function. Nice as they feel in the hand, wood and leather are not best here. A metallic or plastic handle doesn’t retain dirt and is much easier to clean. Plus, synthetic handles don’t rust, either.
Let’s check each of these handle materials one by one:
In my opinion, aluminum is a little flimsy for a knife handle, and it scratches easily. But the alloy does have the advantage of being lightweight and rust resistant.
Wooden handles can be surprisingly durable, particularly when they are made from the hardwood varieties. They have a strong aesthetic appeal and are popular with traditionalists. Wood is fairly inexpensive too.
Rubber is comfortable to hold, non-slip and inexpensive. But it’s not all that durable. Rubber is also often used by manufacturers for handles on cheaper knives.
While expensive, titanium is extremely corrosion resistant and is a lot lighter than stainless steel. It’s strangely warm to the touch, so if you want a metal handle you can use in extremely cold conditions, titanium is a great option.
Zytel is a thermoplastic material made of fiberglass reinforced nylon. It is strong and virtually indestructible. This is because, unlike other synthetics, Zytel fibers are laid haphazardly so they won’t crack down a single plane under impact. Amazingly, Zytel is also very cheap.
Stainless steel is highly durable and corrosion resistant. But it is relatively heavy. It can be slippery too, which is why most stainless steel handles have ridges or some kind of etching to improve the grip. Alternatively, the handle comes with rubber or plastic components. Another minus is that stainless steel blades can become very cold in extreme conditions.
There is a whole load of synthetic materials being used for the manufacture of knife handles. Here’s my list of the most common:
- Carbon fiber consists of strands of carbon running in one direction and set in resin. This makes for a robust but lightweight knife handle. On the downside, carbon fiber doesn’t come cheap.
- Micarta is made from strands of cloth set in resin. It’s one of the very best plastics for knife handles but does need to be texturized for grip. It’s strong and light but tends to be expensive.
- G-10 is another synthetic often used for knife handles. A laminate composed of fiberglass, G-10 is lighter and stronger than Micarta.
Overall, synthetics are probably your best bet when choosing a material for your folding blade handle. Remember that with a folding knife, the handle isn’t just there for grip but it also functions as a sheath. It’s easy for dirt and blood to get trapped inside, so it will require frequent cleaning. Which is why it needs to be made of a material that won’t rust or rot. A metallic or plastic handle is best as they don’t retain dirt and are easy to clean. They also dry immediately, unlike natural materials which absorb moisture.
Top 10 Folding Knives Review
But, which folding knife is best for you? One of the biggest stumbling blocks you’ll come across when looking for a folding hunting knife is the sheer size and range of brands and models on offer.
There are a heck of a lot of good folding knives out there. But just as many duds, too. I’ve assembled for your pleasure here a list of top 10 folding knives, which I consider to be the best. Take a look at my following reviews to make your purchase decision a tad easier.
1. Spyderco Tenacious Folding Knife
Spyderco’s knives consistently rate highly, and this one is no exception. The 3 3/8-inch plain edge blade is constructed from 8CR13MOV steel. This is one tough knife and it can take a lot of wear and tear. A mid-sized blade with a weight of 4 oz., the handle is black G-10 laminate. The leaf-shaped blade and textured spine make it super easy to open.
2. Benchmade Mini Griptilian #556
The 2.9-inch blade on this knife is tough, corrosion proof stainless steel. The attractive, comfortable nylon handle is glass-filled for strength. The AXIS lock from Benchmade means it can be opened and closed safely and easily with one hand. As always, you’ll benefit from Benchmade’s Lifetime Warranty and LifeSharp service should your knife need sharpening or repair.
3. Ontario OKC Rat Folding Knife
These fantastic folding knives has a satin finish blade with a plain edge. It has a total length of 7 inches with a black nylon handle. It’s an affordable little knife that is spring-assisted to enable one-handed opening. It has a liner lock to prevent accidental closing and is perfect for both men and women. The knife weighs just 2.8 oz.
4. Bushcraft EDC Spring Assisted Folding Knife
Bushcraft’s spring-assisted pocket knife can be used for all your hunting and skinning tasks well as for survival crafts. It’s easy to deploy with one hand, and the blade is razor-sharp. The black handle is wrapped with paracord to prevent slipping. The blade is corrosion free 420-grade stainless steel. A great all-rounder knife that’s lightweight and simple to use.
5. Kershaw Folding Knife #1605CKTST
Another winner from Kershaw. This knife has a black-oxide coated stainless steel blade. It has a drop-point and is semi-serrated. The contoured glass-filled nylon handle ensures a slip-proof grip and exceptional comfort. It weighs 4.3 oz. and is clearly a knife for all your hunting and camping needs. Comes with a reversible pocket clip for more convenience.
6. Buck Folding Hunter Knife #0110BRS
These highly rated folding knives from Buck has a 3 ¾ inch 420HC stainless blade. The blade ends in a sharp point, ideal for precision work like piercing and slicing. The blade is simple to open and has a nail notch. There’s a lock back safety catch to keep the blade open with no movement. This beautiful knife has a wooden handle with brass bolsters and comes with a leather sheath.
7. Gerber LST Ultralight Folding Knife #06050
The surgical grade stainless steel of the 2-inch blade has a drop point and a convex curve. This means there’s a good amount of edge for slicing through your meat. It is rugged yet ultralight, weighing just 0.6 ounces. The handle is glass-filled nylon, so it’s strong, durable and non-slip. A great choice for a hunting knife.
8. Benchmade North Fork Folding Knife #15031
The handle of this knife is layered wood and resin, which is very strong. The drop-point blade is perfect for hunting purposes, offering superb edge qualities and rust resistance. The exact size of the blade is 2,97 inches. Once it’s opened, the full length is 6.97 inches.
9. Piranta Bolt Folding Hunting Knife
This is a folding fillet knife with a thick, strong 2 ¾ inch blade. It has a chunky orange handle which makes it easy to find. The knife has ambidextrous thumb studs so you can open it easily with either hand, and an open back to make cleaning up simple. Your purchase comes with a black nylon belt holster.
10. Dark Side Ballistics DS-A019
We couldn’t resist putting this beautiful folding knife into our review list! The 4-inch stainless steel blade has dragon scale detail and is easily deployed with one hand. The handle is shaped like a dragon tail with a rainbow sheen. Though very attractive, this knife is also practical with a secure-lock blade and pocket clip for safe carrying.
Wrapping It Up
Like all knives, the folding knives have both pros and cons. The portability is, of course, its greatest asset, but you might find a folder won’t be up to some of the heavy duty tasks you encounter on your hunt. Plus, it is essential you keep it as clean as possible to ensure the folding mechanism works the way it should.
Be aware that safety is an issue too, and there’s a danger of the blade closing back on your fingers. When used correctly, however, and in the right circumstances, a quality folding knife is a great tool to have in your outdoors toolbox.