Folding Knives Guide & Top 10 Folding Hunting Knives

Folding knives guide cover

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.

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.

Folding knife with a metal handle

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.

Stainless or Carbon Steel Folding Blades

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 I mentioned earlier.

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.

The Shape of the Folding Blade

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.

Folding Knives with Gut Hooks

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.

Gut Hook Folding Knife

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.

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.

Switchblade folding knife animation

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.

Assisted opening folding knfie animation

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.

Which Folding Hunting 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.

Top 10 Folding Knives Review

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 Plain Edge Folding Knife

Spyderco’s knives consistently rate highly, and this one is no exception. The 3 3/8-inch 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 Knife 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 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

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 0110BRSFG Folding Hunter Knife

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. 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.

8. Gerber LST Ultralight Folding Knife #06050

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.

9. Benchmadee 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.

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.

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