Traditionally, hunting knives are meant for cutting. Most have a single sharp edge with either a curved or straight blade, but some knives have a blade with both. Hunting knives are designed to make tasks such as skinning and dressing an animal easy and precise enough to produce accurate cuts of meat for cooking.
Specialized knives such as the “Guthook” are great if you’re a fisherman, but they are also useful for boning, skinning and slicing meat.
There’s a lot to consider when choosing the perfect hunting knife, and a lot of hunters use several different blades. Here’s some information to help you choose the best hunting knife for your needs.
Anatomy of Hunting Knives
A quality hunting knife forms a crucial part of your hunting gear, especially considering its multi-purpose nature.
You can use it to kill an animal, skin it, butcher its meat and execute many other activities around the campsite. For centuries, hunting knives have served as vital tools for hunting and other outdoor activities.
A lot of different factors and components need to come together to create an excellent hunting knife: the blade tip, the belly, the shape, the tang, the handle, etc…
Having been in existence for so long, it’s natural that many different styles and varieties of knives have evolved, depending on the particular function they serve.
When it comes to the blade of the knife, the blade grind has a considerable influence on how successful it will perform a certain task. It helps if you have at least a fundamental understanding of blade as well.
While it’s good to have variety, it can make it more difficult to know which one to choose. Here, I try to help you sort through the almost overwhelming number of hunting knives so that you can come to a decision that you’ll be happy with.
Uses and Types of Hunting Knives
A good hunting knife should enable you to complete various tasks such as skinning, slicing, deboning and cutting. If you are looking for the perfect hunting knife, then check out this useful guide that will enable you to choose the best knife for the job.
These knives are used for various purposes, such as cutting, skinning modify equipment, clothing, etc. They usually have sharp double-edged blades with a very sharp point to stab the animal. Besides, there are some excellent ones on the market. General-purpose knives have 4-5 inch blade. It usually has a clip point shape, with a little belly on the blade for skinning. The handle needs to be very comfortable and non-slip to give you adequate control when hunting.
This is one of the most technical tasks after hunting, and that is why you need the best quality knife, so you can cut off the skin cleanly without damaging the flesh. The best skinning knife needs to be short, sharp and slightly curved. It should be perfectly sharpened and should remain so even after several uses. It is also essential that the handle should have a good grip and be non-slip to avoid any accidents.
This involves removing the internal organs from the animal to preserve the meat. It is one of the first things you must do when processing an animal since it is easier when the body is still warm. An excellent quality, the sharp hunting knife is needed to cut the animal open.
This is often seen as a sideshow, but this art does have an essential place in the hunting scene. The art of throwing is necessary if you want to scare away an attacker or to hunt a small animal. There is a lot one can do having mastered this art. A well-balanced knife is essential for this form of sport.
Many people think of a hunting knife as the type of blade used when camping. Usually, a camping knife is a multi-purpose tool that also performs a lot of hunting tasks. Hence, it is designed in a way that it can adequately fill in for a hunting knife. It is usually made using a drop point style that can take care of various camping tasks.
This involves skinning the head of, for example, a boar, bear or deer to use it as a trophy. It requires an excellent capping knife to cut away the skin and flesh. There are specialized knives used for this, but they can also be utilized for various other tasks as well.
This is the process of removing the meat from the bones using a hunting knife. The knife needs to have a slim blade and should be very flexible to debone effectively. This kind of blade is similar to a filleting one that is used for fish. Using a combination filleting and deboning knife is quite common.
After deboning, you will have to butcher the meat to get all the different cuts that you want. For this, you will need a quality hunting knife to enable you to cut through the flesh easily for very clean cuts of meat.
Knowing all the different uses of a hunting knife should enable you to find the perfect blades for your hunting expeditions. Go for quality over quantity, and you will not be disappointed.
Different Hunting Knife Blade Shapes
Today, there are a lot of different blade shapes and designs, serving for a different purpose and task. However, that doesn’t mean that there are not a lot of excellent multitasking knives out there.
Because of the huge variety of knives available on the markets, choosing the best for you can be difficult, especially if you’re new to the hunt. So, let’s start with each one-by-one.
Drop Point Knife
If you are looking for one blade that will take care of most of your hunting needs, then this is for you. The sharpened edge is thick and robust, and the blade is slightly curved on the unsharpened side for maximum control. With this blade, skinning or cutting meat is generally hassle-free.
The thick and firm curved tip stays sharp and gives you excellent control. The cutting edge has plenty of ‘belly’ making it ideal for cutting and slicing.
Compared to the clip point, the tip is not as sharp, so it’s not ideal for the stabbing game.
Clip Point Knife
For anyone who prefers the more traditional hunting knife, the clip point is perfect. It can either be curved or straight allowing you to choose what suits your tasks best. The design is frequently used for fixed blades, Bowie and pocket knives.
Has an extremely sharp tip which is great for piercing. The large belly facilitates controlled cutting.
Narrow, weak point, with not as much control as a drop point.
Tanto Point Knife
Slightly unusual tip with a very sharply angled blade belly. Tanto means short sword, consider it as such.
Very strong blade with an exceedingly sharp point.
Point is slightly harder to control.
Spear Point Knife
The spear point knives have a symmetrical shape. The edges are curved, long and convex. Usually very strong and durable, spear point knives are a preferable choice for many hunters.
Easily controlled blade with a supremely sharp point.
Must sharpen both edges. Not preferred for slicing.
Straight Back Point Knife
This type of blade is also known as a normal blade. The backside of the blade is not sharp, which means that you can push it to add extra pressure for cutting.
Its large cutting edge makes it good for chopping and slicing.
Usually heavier and harder to control.
Trailing Point Knife
The name comes from the blade’s design. Specifically, the tip “trails” higher than the generalized spine axis. It has a back edge that curves at the top.
Usually lightweight, perfect for skinning and slicing.
Point is sharp but weak.
Sheepsfoot Point Knife
Sheepsfoot blade is the opposite of the normal (straight-back) blade. The curved blade drops sharply to meet the cutting edge.
This usually means that the point has a reduced piercing ability. However, that makes these blade types more durable.
Has a long cutting edge. Good for cutting, slicing and chopping.
The point is not sharp, which makes it less effective for stabbing and piercing.
The clip and the drop point knives are both great and are well worth your consideration. The drop point is slightly more popular and is probably better for carrying out a wider variety of hunting tasks.
The blade and tip of the drop point are thicker, which adds to the quality of the edge. If aesthetics is your thing, it looks better too. Nevertheless, if none of the above feels right for you, check some of the other shapes available on the market.
If you’re buying a hunting knife for the very first time, it is probably better if you read this guide until the end. You can even go to a store, so you can hold it in your hand. Get the feel of it, the weight, and the balance. Never buy the first knife because you find it fancy. Try out several other similar makes and models, too. And remember, there’s no rule that says you can’t purchase more than one hunting knife.
Another crucial part of the hunting knife’s anatomy is the tang. In fact, the knife tang is the part of the blade that extends into the handle. Consider it as your knife’s backbone. Simply said, the tang brings the blade and the handle together.
There are several types of knife tangs. Every hunter should know some of them. Here are the most popular ones:
Many serious hunters prefer the full tang. They have every right to it. It’s probably the best option that is the most adequate for all hunting tasks.
Partial tangs can have various sizes and forms, all covered in the full guide.
When it comes to the tapered tang, one of the key features is the blade to be (almost) perfectly balanced. However, tapering the tang width can create a major weakness.
The main purpose of doing so is to reduce the amount of material, therefore the cost and the weight of the knife. These knives are good for throwing, however, a lot weaker than the rest.
Encapsulated tang knives are usually very strong. Many hunters prefer them. Their downside is that the tang depends a lot from the handle material.
Keep in mind that folding knives also have a tang. However, it’s just a little shorter. To learn more about knife tangs, please read the full guide.
The shape of the blade that forms the cutting edge is referred to as blade grind. Most of the knives use one of these blade grinds:
It’s one of the most common grinds when it comes to hunting knives. Both sides of the edge are concave. Therefore, the two sides of the blade meet at the narrowest angle. Thus, the hollow grind has the sharpest edge.
The flat grind is the simplest of all. The tapered sides meet evenly in the middle of the blade, thus creating a sharp edge. It has three grind adaptations: full-flat, high-flat and Scandinavian grind.
What differs them apart is the point where the taper begins. In a full-flat grind, the tapering begins from the spine. When it comes to high-flat grind, the tapered sides then meet evenly in the middle of the blade. The taper begins even closer to the cutting edge of the blade on the Scandinavian grind.
The saber (originally sabre) grind is another common grind. Although very similar to the Scandinavian grind, the main difference is that the saber grind has a secondary bevel.
The first bevel extends only at small parts of the blade. Then, both sides continue evenly to form a secondary bevel. The final taper then goes on to create the sharp blade edge.
Double (Compound) Bevel
The cutting edge takes a wider angle than the grind above it. The double bevel grind is less sharp than the other grinds. However, the result is a tougher and more durable edge. It will resist damage and keep its sharpness longer.
The convex grind is the opposite of the hollow grind. Both sides of the edge are convex. Although not as sharp as the hollow grind, it offers a decent amount of strength, yet still decently sharp.
Fixed vs. Folding Blade
The first thing you need to decide is whether you want a folding blade or a fixed blade. A fixed blade knife, as the name suggests, has a permanently fixed blade which is fully in the open position.
This type of is knife is generally considered to be reliable and strong since it has no movable parts.
A disadvantage of these knives is that owing to the openness, they have to be sheathed, making them bulkier and a little heavier.
Unlike the fixed blade knife, a folding blade knife exhibits a foldable blade, which can easily be folded back into the handle, making it easily portable.
A locking feature ensures that the blade doesn’t close back when you’re using it, preventing accidents.
Most folding knives are designed with more than one blade, so some people prefer them as they allow for a variety of blade options.
However, if you’ve made the right hunting knife choice, there should be no need for more than one.
Folding blade knives do have a few weak points. These are the hollow handle and the pivot point (which allows for the folding). This makes them weaker than a fixed blade knife of the same size.
These distinctive features should make it easy for you to settle on what knife best suits your hunting needs. Pursuing a dedicated hunting mission?
Then a fixed blade design would be the best choice for you. If you hunt only occasionally, then the folding/flexible blade is all you need since you can even carry it around in your pocket.
Pocket Hunting Knives
These are foldable knives designed with a variety of blades which can also be easily folded into the handle to perfectly fit into your pocket.
They can be used for various purposes including opening an envelope, slicing fruits, or for cutting twine. You can also use a pocket knife (jack-knife) as a self-defense weapon.
The size of the blade is between five and fifteen centimeters (two to six inches). Most of the light duty-pocket knives have slip joints – which implies that the blade doesn’t lock.
When you open it, the flat bar tension (the leaf-type back spring) holds the blade in place thus making it foldable when some force is applied.
It’s interesting that England produced the very first spring-back knives around 1660. However, they weren’t widely available until the Industrial Revolution when machinery development enabled mass production to take place.
Most locking knives are designed with only one blade that folds back into the handle. It locks courtesy of a spring located along the blade’s back.
Top Hunting Knife Brands Review
Numerous knife manufacturers exist out there. Some claim to be all-purpose knife manufacturers while others market themselves as specialists when it comes to the manufacture of hunting knives.
Regardless of all the hype that comes with the various brands of hunting knives, it’s important to assess if the knife brand is going to suit your needs out in the field.
This, of course, is easier said than done. Тhere is so much information available online that it becomes difficult to make the right choice and can even make the whole process overwhelming.
We’ve tried to make it easier for you by compiling a guide to the best brands of hunting knives, enabling you to make informed decisions.
Before we dive into that though, here are five factors that will remind you of what to look for when shopping for a hunting knife:
- Are the blades made of durable materials capable of withstanding the wear and tear associated with hard use while hunting?
- Is the brand manufacturing blade shapes that are suitable for the field-dressing game?
- Are the handles capable of maintaining their grip even after exposure to rain, viscera or blood at any temperature?
- Is it easy to maintain the knives after they’ve been used on the game?
- Are the knives affordable considering the features incorporated in them?
In line with the above five factors, the following brands perfectly fit the definition of excellence when it comes to the manufacture of hunting knives:
Elk Ridge Hunting Knife
Elk Ridge is an emerging brand representing excellent build quality and hence giving you good value for money.
Most of their knives are comprised of 440 stainless steel and exhibit well thought out designs. If you’re looking for a working man’s tool at an affordable price or are just out for a good-looking knife, then one of these will be the right fit for you.
Buck Hunting Knife
If you prefer an established brand, this company has been in business for way long.
In fact, the name Buck Knives now describes a very specific type of knife: a hunting knife with a wooden handle and a clip point blade. The company manufactures high-quality hunting knives which have been designed simply and which have few extra features.
They seldom utilize the latest technology, preferring to keep to what they know has worked in the past. In the same way that Swiss Army knives haven’t changed much over the years, so Buck hasn’t changed their tried and tested design very much over time.
Cutco Hunting Knife
These hunting knives are made in America, for American conditions.
They are capable of withstanding anything that the great outdoors may throw at you. You can select from a range of hunting and outdoor knives in their super-sharp range.
You’ll find one for any use from dressing and skinning your kill in the field to clearing a path or campsite.
Case Hunting Knife
As a trusted American manufacturer, Case has been manufacturing high-quality traditional knives since 1889.
Case hunting knives are the real deal because each knife has been designed with quality in mind and has been crafted expressly for hunting.
You can trust Case for all your knife requirements ranging from collectibles to fixed blade knives and folders.
Gerber Hunting Knife
It’s undeniable that Gerber makes high-quality hunting knives as it invests much time and effort into their design.
This guarantees that they are lots of fun and easy to work with when it comes to hunting.
Gerber is involved in the design and manufacture of an array of fixed, assisted opening, folding, and automatic opening knives. Which are, of course, meant for various different activities.
Kershaw Hunting Knife
Kershaw is one of the biggest names in the industry. They manufacture a wide variety of knife models – which are all perfectly crafted.
Like other top-rated hunting knives, Kershaw hunting knives are made with the hunter’s needs in mind, particularly with regard to the blade.
This makes them among the most innovative and popular in the industry. Carrying the legendary logo “shaving sharp,” Kershaw products command worldwide respect.
Benchmade Hunting Knife
Have you ever served in the military? If you have you must be familiar with this knife brand with its distinctive butterfly logo.
It formed part of the target kit for all the Green Berets. Known for their hardness and durability, Benchmade knives formed a special part of the Special Forces operators’ gear.
Under their use, these knives took a beating yet still performed optimally. Benchmade’s simple formula is to manufacture their knives using high-quality alloys for the blades.
This means that you get an extremely durable, reliable and long-lasting knife.
Browning Hunting Knife
These are finely crafted knives and exhibit high standards when it comes to the design. It is a fact that can be easily confirmed by closely comparing any your previously owned knives with one of these.
Browning knives’ precision “fit and finish” feature not only enhances their look but also enhances the overall performance. Browning knives are made with high-quality materials which include high grade, durable stainless steel, hence putting them a cut above the rest.
Spyderco Hunting Knife
These knives first became popular with kayakers and first responders such as emergency medical technicians who required knives that could be used to cut ropes and seat belts quickly and efficiently.
Among Spyderco’s most popular blades are the serrated blade type. It has since become the preferred choice for those who’d like blades with few to no sharpening needs, which is often the case with a straight-edged blade.
Spyderco has experimented with a variety of alloys and shapes. This has resulted in knives of exceptional sharpness and durability, making it an excellent brand for hunters.
Red Deer Hunting Knife
Red Deer has a collection of knives with a combination of wood handle knives, skinning knives, bone handle knives, and gut hook knives.
The full-tang blades are razor sharp to the touch and are made of 440 stainless steel. The knives’ sheaths are manufactured from leather. They are highly attractive and durable.
Puma Hunting Knife
Although included as a bonus on my list, they are still worth the mention. Puma’s knives have been specifically designed and crafted with the hunter’s needs in mind.
Puma offers the most German bladed knives on the market – with all their hunting knives featuring 1.4116 German Cutlery Steel (Rockwell tested at 55-57) – where each knife is subjected to a hardness test and marked with a proof mark.
The beautiful handles are varied, being made of genuine micarta, white bone, stag, jacaranda wood, brown jigged bone, and zebrawood. The company offers various combo sets comprising caping and skinning knives together.
Which Brand is Best?
That’s a good question. Unfortunately, I don’t have an answer. I know plenty of huntsmen who will swear blind that Buck produces the best hunting knives ever made.
Others will loudly praise the virtues of Cutco, Benchmade, or Puma, for hours on end.
From my own experience, I can tell you that finding a brand of hunting knife that you can learn to trust and rely on is a matter of trial and error.
What you can be sure of is that all the brands on this list have been chosen for their high-quality and superb functionality. The choice is yours.
Rest assured that discovering which brand, or brands, of hunting knife is the best for you can be a whole load of fun. Enjoy!
How to Choose the Right Hunting Knife
A knife is a vital part of a hunter’s gear, especially when it comes to the clean breakdown of an animal. It’s therefore important to select the right knife.
You’ll have to choose the blade design that best suits your needs. There are various styles – some having been designed for a specific purpose while others are more multi-purpose tools.
Some hunters prefer to use a single knife for everything while others prefer executing different tasks with separate blades. You also need to decide if you prefer a fixed blade or a folder.
Overall, the most important thing is the quality of craftsmanship you invest in. Good quality blended with proper maintenance mean a strong, durable, and efficient hunting knife.
Most hunters prefer a four-inch blade for field knives since it’s difficult to be precise in tight spaces with longer blades. Tasks that involve long, deep cuts, crucial in the separation of the large muscle groups or quarters, mean that blades shorter than 4 inches may be less effective.
Specialty Knife vs. General-Purpose Knives?
Specialty blades are available in various designs depending on the intended task. For instance, some drop points exhibit a gut hook to prevent any punctures to the internal organs while you make abdominal incisions.
On the other hand, caping blades are short, shallow, and sharply pointed for skinning around the animal’s head, feet, and antlers.
If you prefer not to use these specific blade types and instead choose to utilize your all-purpose knife, make sure that you keep it sharp and pay special attention when carrying out the skinning and gutting procedure in the field.
The right knife makes the entire field processing work easier and safer as opposed to using a dull blade or one that is the incorrect length. Cheap folding knives are prone to locking mechanism failure which can lead to injuries.
The use of drop points and skinners is common among experienced hunters. They also prefer to possess a folding clip point for their everyday use. These also come in handy for bird hunting activities as well as fishing trips.
Time to fill your freezer? Go for a good quality field knife that guarantees a quality end-product.
Keep it Sharp
Taking good care of your hunting knives, particularly the blades, by maintaining them regularly is the best way to ensure a smooth, safe field dressing and butchering process. It will also ensure that your knives last a good long time.
What exactly happens when your knife becomes dull? The thin, sharp edge of the blade gets folded during the cutting process. The continued use of the knife in the dull state will make it even blunter and will wear the blade down because you’ll now begin to break away the rolled over steel bits from the blade’s edge.
Look out for the following signs to establish when your hunting blade begins to dull: when it no longer cuts quickly and cleanly through the hide and flesh; and when it requires more effort to cut.
You can also test the blade’s sharpness on a piece of paper. When it’s sharp enough, it’ll slice the paper cleanly rather than tearing it.
The best way of testing is to try using the blade to shave some of your arm hair. If it turns out to be ineffective, then the blade is dull and it is time to sharpen it.