Avid hunters will know that the most important selling point for a great hunting knife is versatility. From helping you kill small or big game to preparing it to be eaten, hunting knives can be classified in several categories, according to their size, blade types and functionality. A hunting knife that is suitable for hunting small animals like rabbit will definitely not be up to par for hunting bigger prey like a deer or moose. Let’s take a more in-depth look at various types of hunting knives and what purposes they each serve.
Folding and Fixed Hunting Knives
The jury’s still out on which one of the two is the best choice. Some seasoned hunters swear by fixed hunting knives, claiming they couldn’t hunt without one. Others, on the other hand, only depend on a reliable pocket knife. Each of the two types of knives has its advantages and choosing which one of them to take hunting is an entirely subjective decision. A folder is compact, easy to carry around, pack up and take out whenever you need it. And with the latest advances in design, materials and fabrication, folding hunting knives are not as flimsy and unreliable as they used to be. Some experienced hunters still doubt their sturdiness, questioning their light weight, their strength and their lock’s holding capabilities against cutting pressure. These hunters prefer the fixed blade, which is highly unlikely to give in under strain. There is also the question of cleaning the knife. Killing, boning and skinning an animal regardless of its size will cover the knife in blood, fat and hair, which could clog the folding up mechanism, making it difficult to clean. Fixed hunting knives will raise no difficulties in being cleaned up quickly.
Hunting Knife Blade Shapes
If you thought choosing between a folding and fixed blade hunting knife was a difficult task, there are also many blade shapes out there competing for your attention. They all have their pros and cons and address different needs of the hunter. Two of the more popular varieties among hunters are clip point blades and drop point blades.
Clip points are very popular due to their versatility. The clip blade has some of the blade material from the spine removed which makes it one of the pointier blade shapes. This makes for very deep and efficient piercing action, allowing a hunter to easily puncture skin and tissue.
Drop points are another favorite of hunters who are in need of an all-purpose blade. With a highly versatile shape, the unsharpened edge is slightly curved and drops below the plane of the spine. These are very easy to control and offer more tip strength than a clip point blade.
More experienced hunters have plenty more blades to choose from:
• Tanto blades have extremely sharp and strong points, which makes them excellent for piercing tough surfaces. They also have a relatively flat edge profile, which allows for high cutting pressure
• Sheepsfoot blades have a very distinctive shape consisting of an unsharpened back, which curves to the straight edge in order to create a false point. This shape is designed to avoid unintentional puncture when field dressing an animal.
• Needle or dagger point blades are double edged and are the best tools for stabbing and cutting both ways. The extremely sharp and very thin points makes it ideal for piercing, however the point can break when piercing tough surfaces.
• Trailing point blades curve upwards and are very much the opposite of a drop point blade. The generous cutting area makes this knife great for skinning and slicing.
• Gut hooks’ purpose is to field-dress game. The hook of this knife acts like a zipper, pulling the skin away without damaging the muscles. The disadvantage of using gut hooks is that they can be cumbersome to maintain.
Having tackled the basics, we can now take a close look at 5 excellent hunting knives available today.
SOG SE38-N Force Knife
Boasting a full tang, a thick blade and a sleek, attractive design, the SE38-N Force Knife is very versatile and strong. This clip point knife has an all matte black finish and performs excellently. The handle is made out of glass reinforced nylon that can withstand high abrasion and impact. The lifetime warranty, which should inspire confidence in itself, speaks volumes about its durability and efficiency. At 11.25 inches total length with a 6 inch blade and weighing 10.5 ounces, this knife is spot on with the ergonomics. Be aware that the blade is 0.24 inch, which has the positive of being able to take serious abuse but is also too thick for some people’s tastes. The heat treat on the blade is excellent. As for the sheath, no qualms there. It’s high quality, simply put. Finally, the pommel on the knife doubles as a glass breaker which is a nice added feature. Overall, it’s a great knife and can be had for a skosh under 100 bucks.
Buck Knives 0120 General Fixed Blade Knife with Leather Sheath
Buck Knives are designed with hunting in mind. Created to strike the perfect balance between a sturdy feel, excellent performance, and affordability, the 0120 General Fixed Blade Knife from Buck meets and exceeds all expectations. Suitable for a wide range of outdoor uses and built with high quality materials, this knife boasts a brass pommel and measures twelve inches. With a full tang construction and a thick blade, Buck didn’t make any compromises. The knife feels quite luxurious in hand with a Cocobolo Dymondwood handle. A brown genuine leather sheath is included, and it is also very nicely built. At first glance the knife looks like it would be equally at home in a collector’s case as it would in the field, but don’t let the looks fool you as this knife is a performer. For this reason, this is the kind of knife you use and then pass on to future generations to use afterwards. In addition to making a nice hunting tool, this knife is ideal for camping and backpacking as well if you like a knife on the larger side. Just to top things off, the lifetime warranty is quite nice as well.
While most people prefer fixed blade knives for hunting, some do use folding knives and we would be remiss not to include one in our list. This folding knife is small, yet incredibly strong and sturdy. The blade length measures 3.4 inches and the overall length reaches 8 inches. At only 4.8 ounces, this is far more compact than your average fixed blade. The pocket clip attached to one side of the handle makes it easy to slide the Kershaw Rake in your pocket. Made in the USA, the Kershaw Rake didn’t compromise on the looks or feel. The ergonomic build and appealing design paired with the multiple functionalities make this pocket knife simply one of the best. The unique combination of two steels grafted together on the Rake’s blade is particularly interesting. The Sandvik 14C28N used for the spine will offer extensive corrosion resistance. Conversely, the high chromium D2 used for the curved belly takes an unbelievable edge and retains it for quite a while. The Kershaw Rake is excellent for slicing and slashing, with the clipped point geometry making it easy to maneuver. The SpeedSafe feature allows users to swiftly open the blade by pressing the built-in thumb stud with either hand. This option makes it ideal and safe for fishing or hunting. Overall, this is an excellent folder and worth considering if you want something a little more compact, particularly if you are hunting small game.
Spyderco Bill Moran Drop Point Knife
Combining high quality materials with a stainless steel blade, the Bill Moran Drop Point Knife makes for a trusty blade on any hunter’s hip. With an ergonomic handle that offers a steady grip, this knife does an amazing job at skinning big game and performs great for other outdoor activities. The VG-10 steel cuts beautifully and takes one of the finest edges around out of any blade steel. Hunting enthusiasts might be familiar with the name Bill Moran. Considered by some to be the father of knife making, Mr. Moran (in this case in collaboration with Spyderco) brings out onto the market extremely high quality products that always seem to impress users. The handle is made out of fiberglass reinforced nylon and has very small rubber inserts that guarantee a good grip. The included sheath is made out of Boltaron, an acrylic-polyvinyl material that can withstand harsh weather. The knife easily snaps into the sheath and stays put even if you give it a good shake. While Spyderco may not be the first name that comes to mind when hunting, this knife is the dark horse of the bunch and is certainly worth giving a try.
Case Cutlery 00518 375-4 SS Drop Point Hunter
Designed with quality and durability in mind, the 375-4 SS is a must-have for any hunter who needs a tool for dressing game. Only top notch materials went into making the Case Cutlery 00518 375-4 SS Drop Point Hunter: the blade is made out of Tru-Sharp surgical steel, while the handle is genuine leather. Made in the USA, this drop point hunting knife comes with a lifetime warranty, which gives us an inkling about its durability. Measuring 8.8 x 0.9 x 1.5 inches, and weighing 6.4 ounces, the 375-4 SS is easy to carry around and does its job wonderfully. The reputation of the manufacturer precedes them: Case and Sons Cutlery Company produces hand-made beautifully crafted products that encompass unique techniques and only first rate materials. The brand is renowned and trusted especially because their tools vary from hunting pocket knives to weapons used by the American soldiers in World War II and the knife used by M-1 Astronauts on Gemini and Apollo. Most people who use these knives compliment the functionality and beautiful design. The size is very comfortable and full tang construction makes the knife rather robust. The Case Cutlery 00518 375-4 SS is a beautiful workhorse that will withstand the test of time, every time.
So there you have it, a list of great knives with excellent ergonomics, build qualities, and values. In the end, it all boils down to personal preferences so if you don’t see a knife on this list that piques your interest, click here to check out some more hunting knives to find one that does!