If you’re going to camp, hunt game or spend time outdoors, don’t settle for anything less than the best hunting knife. Don’t even think about using a kitchen knife as they are not powerful enough for these tasks. With a high quality knife you’ll be able to dress game, cut twigs and perform other activities.
Deciding which one to buy can be difficult, so we went over the top hunting knives, compared them and chose the following. Whether you’re a novice or a long time hunter you’ll find the following knives useful and even an essential companion while you’re out there in the woods.
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There are a lot of hunting knives to choose from, and it’s easy to get confused if you have never bought one before. The first thing that people think about is the budget, but there are factors that come into play apart from cost. Here are the primary considerations.
A hunting knife is designed for animal skinning and dressing game. Dressing means cutting the cartilage and bone and splitting the ribcage. If a knife can do that, it’s a good hunting knife.
Bigger is not always better as it depends on how you’re going to use it. If you dress and hunt small game, there is no point using a long hunting knife. You cannot use the same knife for deer and rabbit: for small game, use a small knife, and for big game hunting, a bigger hunting is necessary. A small hunting knife should have a 2 inch blade or so, while a medium or large knife should be 4 inches or so.
There are many types of blades used in hunting knives: the skinning blade, drop point and clip point among them. The clip point is the most flexible, but the other two are solid too. You should choose based on your preference and hunting style.
Clip point blades have a fine point and a concave back. These are used for to create punctures. This is useful if you have to create openings in an animal for dressing purposes.
Drop point blades also have a concave back but are better suited for skinning because they minimize the risk of hide punctures. However you can use it to make punctures provided the tip is the right shape. Spear / Drop / Clip point blades are known as hybrids. They’re often found in folding knives and offer many of the best features found in drop and clip point blades.
A spey blade has a bunt tip and makes for a great skinning knife because there’s little chance of unwanted punctures. However it’s not that efficient for game field dressing. The pen blade has a pen point like shape, which makes it an ideal choice for skinning. Pen blades are also ideal for gutting rabbits, birds and other small game as they’re precise.
The sheepsfoot blade is found on regular pocketknives. It has a straight edge and a rounded point and is ideal for cutting on even, flat surfaces. However the sheepsfoot point is not effective for cleaning game.
Some hunting knives are sold with gutting hooks so you can “unzip” the animal without cutting yourself or puncturing its organs. The gutting hook is often used after you’ve made an incision with your knife. Other hunting knives are equipped with a saw blade and do the same thing.
Full Tang: full tang means the blade and the handle are made of one-piece steel. These knives are durable and virtually indestructible if handled properly. There are good partial tang knives, but they won’t stand up to heavy duty game dressing and skinning.
There are several choices available including carbon steel, stainless steel and high carbon stainless steel.
Carbon steel is affordable, durable and made of rugged materials. Carbon steel hunting knives are easy to sharpen but are susceptible to rust.
If you’re going to use carbon steel, oil it on a regular basis to prevent rust. You can also apply silicon wax. If you only hunt on occasion, a carbon steel hunting knife will do. However, it is high maintenance, and since hunting knives will get dirty, stainless steel may be more practical.
Stainless steel blades don’t require as much maintenance as carbon steel. They are also more difficult to sharpen than carbon steel and the edge isn’t kept as well. But overall, stainless steel is more durable and dependable than carbon steel.
High Carbon Stainless Steel: high carbon stainless steel offers the best features of carbon and stainless steel. However, it is also the most expensive.
420HC: this carbon requires regular treatment to avoid rust and keep its edge. Its edge retention is decent and sharpening is easy. However its hardness level is lower compared to other materials. 420HC blades are also have a high resistance to corrosion.
44O-A/B/C: this is a type of stainless steel. It is resistant to corrosion, but treatment is needed to maintain its edge well.
AUS-6/8/10: this is the Japanese version of the 440 steel. The two have similar properties but the AUS-6/8/10 is a bit more durable.
S30V: this is high quality high vanadium steel, providing rust and wear resistance as well as toughness. These blades aren’t as easy to sharpen, but their edge retention is better compared to other blade materials.
154CM: this material is known for its high resistance to wear and tear. It also has excellent edge retention. However the blade is a little more brittle compared to others so it is more effective on smaller blades.
VG-10: this stainless steel is highly resistant to wear. It is similar to the 154CM but has better edge retention and greater resistance to corrosion.
The handle must be comfortable and offer a good grip even if it’s wet. It must also be made of strong material so it holds up under trying conditions. Some tips:
Avoid wood, bone and leather handles. They are attractive but can’t stand humid temperatures and will wear out quickly. They’re also difficult to grip when wet. The best materials are plastic, rubber, nylon, polymer and other synthetic materials. The handle on a hunting knife needs to be heavy, strong, solid and nonslip.
One of the most important things to remember is the handle must be durable. As we have mentioned, leather, bone and wood look nice, but they’re only for light work or display. If your hunting knife is going to see a lot of action, look for materials like ABS, Kraton or Zytel as they’re ergonomic and offer a solid grip.
Apart from a sure grip and ergonomics, the handle must be lightweight. It should also have a contour, finger stop or some other guard between the blade and handle. This is a safety feature that keeps your hand from slipping onto the blade.
The most durable handle is worthless if it wears you out quickly. Make sure the handle fits right in your hand and won’t tire your forearm when you exert pressure.
A good hunting knife is going to last a lifetime. As long as it is properly maintained it should be fine even if used for heavy duty hunting. Remember to clean the blade thoroughly after each use. Store the knife in a cool dry place. There are also cleaning products, protectors and lubricants available too.
There are basically two types of hunting knives, fixed blades and folding knives.
Fixed blade knives are preferable because they are more affordable, reliable and stronger. The reason for this is a fixed blade does not have any moving components unlike a folding knife. The drawback is they’re not as portable. If you’re carrying a large fixed blade it’s going to take up a quite a bit of room on your pack. If you’re going to hunt big game and do a lot of heavy duty work, a fixed blade is the best option.
Folding knives are not as strong as fixed blades, but they are easier to carry around, more flexible and easier to store. If you’re going to buy a folding knife, get the best one you can afford. A cheap model won’t last, so buy one with a good locking mechanism and from a reputable company.
The ideal folding knife has a solid grip, a thick blade and lock back design, and a serrated blade can increase its strength. If your folding knife has a serrated blade, it’ll be very effective in cutting tendons and cartilage.
The Aqua Salt Black Knife has a 4.7 inch blade and 9.33 inches long overall. It has the typical Spyderco cutting edge, and its handle is comfortable and light.
Designed for hunting and outdoor use in general, the Aqua Salt blade is made from H-1 steel that has been coated with titanium carbonitride, making it rust proof and on reflective.
A multi-position G-Clip is included as well as polymer sheath for storage. Other features include FRN handle scales and hollow grind geometry, all of which combine to give you a versatile hunting knife. The belt clip on the sheath can be moved or removed, making it easy to store the knife where you want it.
The durable blade and nonslip handle make the Aqua Salt especially useful when you’re in the water. For serious hunting and survival outdoor adventures, this is one knife you’ll want to bring along.
The Morakniv Garberg Knifee has a 4.3 inch blade, with a total length of 9 inches. The fixed blade is full tang stainless steel for balance and power.
Two versions are sold, a multi mount system and one with a leather sheath. Both versions have the same 14C28N Sandvik stainless steel, giving it extra sharpness.
The knife is resistant to corrosion, and it has been treated for extra toughness, hardness and sharpness. If you buy the multi-mount MOLLE system, you’ll be able to fasten it to other MOLLE compatible backpacks and equipment. The ground spine has also been designed so you can use it along with a fire starter. Together you’ll be able to start a fire with a grill, tinder or grass.
The knife has a Scandi grind, providing a sharp and durable edge. This helps prevent slippage while giving it enough power to bite onto tough surfaces. Whether it is batoning, carving or other activities, the Garberg is capable. Finally, the knife has a nonslip handle so you’re always in control.
The Gator line has been around for a quarter of century, and this version takes all the classic elements and improves upon them. The knife’s design puts emphasis on durability, and the grip doesn’t change whether it’s dry or wet. If you have spent any time hunting you know that the weather can change anytime so a nonslip knife is essential.
The blade is made from CPM-S30V steel, and because it is full tang you get maximum balance and strength. Whether you’re hunting or camping, the drop point blade design ensures you get the best results when using it. The blade has been machined for precision and it is as stylish as it is functional.
The knife has an ergonomic handle, making the knife not just comfortable to hold but also giving you a strong grip. The Pro Knife is also lighter than most knives, yet the blade is sharp and durable. The tool makes for a great hunting knife, but it’s also ideal for camping and doubles up as a utility tool.
As a hunting / outdoor knife, the Hunter Pro is also a good choice for an EDC. It is compact, easy to use and does a lot of good things. It might feel a bit stiff at first, but over time it’s going to loosen up. For a lot of users though, the one hand opening and durability are the most attractive parts about it.
The Buck Knives 102 Woodsman has a 4 inch full tang blade. 7 ¾ inches long overall, it is made from 420HC steel for additional strength and durability.
The blade is sharp and tis edge retention is sufficient for hunting and dressing. Because it is a full tang blade, you can apply a lot of force without worrying about damaging the blade.
A finger guard is built into the knife so you’re protected while using it, and at just 2.5 oz. it is easy to carry. A knife’s weight is something we don’t think of often, but if you’re carrying a lot of gear, you’ll appreciate a light hunting knife. A light knife will also do your hands a favor especially if you have to dress game often.
The 102 Woodsman comes with a leather sheath, and its fastener lets you attach the knife where you want it. Buck knives have long been known for versatility and this is no exception. With the Woodsman you can skin, dress and clean everything from catfish, panfish, rabbits, squirrels and other animals with ease.
As the name indicates, the Gerber Bear Grylls Knife is more than just a hunting knife as it is also for outdoor survival. This 10 inch knife has a fixed, stainless steel blade, just what you need for gutting and dressing game.
The blade is also durable enough for starting a fire, cutting twigs and tough materials for shelter building.
The Grylls comes with a nylon sheath which serves as protection and storage for the knife. The nylon is high quality and can withstand the diverse conditions that it could be subjected to. A diamond sharpener is built into the sharpener so you never have to put up with a dull blade.
A fire starting rod is included in the package and as well as rescue tips. A lanyard emergency whistle is included. But even without these extras –which are really useful – the Grylls stands out thanks to the high carbon stainless steel blade. The edge retention is superb and the handle is textured rubber so it’s nonslip.
With two knives and a sharpening steel, the Morakniv Two Sandvik Stainless Set is the ideal companion when you’re out hunting. One of the knives is for skinning and the other is for boning.
If you have spent any time hunting, you’ll know that these are the kinds of knives you’ll need to get the job done.
Both knives are made of stainless steel (Swedish, cold rolled) so it will last longer. The grip has high traction grip and the rubber handle is ergonomic. The knife also has finger protectors so you don’t have to worry about injuring yourself. The inclusion of the two knives is really a bonus as it makes your tasks easier.
Even if you use the knives heavily, it’s going to take a while before the blades get dull. But when it does, you have the sharpening steel. It’s basically a steel rod with a rubber handle so you can sharpen up those knives in comfort. Lastly, you get a carry case to store all three.
There have been scores of imitators, but Victorinox is still the king when it comes to Swiss Army Knives. The Victorinox Swiss Hunter XT is designed specifically for hunters and outdoor adventurers.
Its stainless steel blades have been engineered for hunting game, and it is built with typical Swiss engineering accuracy.
One of the blades is sharper, but both can be folded one-handed via the thumbhole. This means you’ll be able to keep your other hand free to attend to other tasks. The larger blade is suitable for a wide range of hunting and camping tasks. The smaller, serrated blade on the other hand, is more applicable for gutting.
Other tools include a lanyard, Phillips screwdriver, bone saw, one-hand serrated gut hook and one-hand locking blade. A nylon belt pouch is also included. The Hunter XT doesn’t just have a lot of tools, as the grip is solid. The bright orange color makes it highly visible so it’s easy to find in case you drop it.
The CRKT Mossback Bird and Trout Knife's drop point tip is 2.8 inches, and its black powder coating gives it extra durability that is needed for hunting and dressing game.
The Mossback also has a solid grip thanks to the G10 handle. When you’re out there hunting or camping, your hands will get slick due to sweat or rain, which is why a nonslip grip is necessary.
The Mossback comes with a nylon sheath to store the knife. The sheath ensures the knife is protected when not in use, and it will help prevent injuries or accidents. You can also hook up the sheath to your belt or your backpack for convenience. The Mossback also excels when it comes to cutting thanks to the sharp blade.
The drop point is designed specifically for North American game, and as a hunting knife it lives up to expectations. The knife is compact but powerful, and it’s the kind of tool you will need not just for hunting but other activities while you’re in the woods. As one might expect from a reputable company, the Mossback knife has an ergonomic handle.
The Morakniv Companion Heavy Duty 8.8 inch knife is built for hunting, camping and bush crafting, and its 4.1 inch, high carbon fixed blade is both sharp and durable.
It has an ergonomic and larger than usual handle, and this gives you extra grip. Aside from being large, the handle’s high friction, patterned grip gives you extra control.
The high carbon stainless steel blade provides extra hardness, and it is more durable than the typical hunting knife. The Morakniv also has the Scandi grind so sharpening is easier compared to other survival hunting knives. A versatile knife, you can use the Morakniv for batoning, cutting wood, tinder and carving.
The Kershaw 1085 Diskin Hunter Knife has a 4.4 inch blade and is 9.5 inches long overall. The blade is made from Sandvik 14C28N steel with stonewash finish.
Its length and weight is a good compromise between compact hunting knives and the extra-large ones. Featuring heavy mid-spine jumping and a thumb recess, the Diskin is all about control.
Kershaw's G-10 scales ensures the handle won’t slip, and the knife is built according to the highest standards for dressing and hunting. One of the advantages of the knife is its size, not too long and not too short. Edge retention is good and makes maneuvering around easy.
Even though the blade isn’t that thick, it is a very capable utility and hunting knife. The blade is sharp and holds up nicely even when used extensively. The sheath is also surprisingly tough despite its small size. The Diskin is light but durable, and you can even use it for bushcraft.
SOG makes a lot of quality knives, and the Trident Folding Knife is one of the better ones yet. With its 6.4 inch blade, it can handle almost anything you throw at it.
The knife has an overall length of 11 inches and it is .24 inches thick. Made from AUS-8 stainless steel, this is the type of blade you can rely on for carving and batoning.
The Trident uses the SOG proprietary opening mechanism so it’s easy to use. This anniversary edition is also notable for its stripes, giving it a nice finish suitable for hunting. The Trident isn’t just looks however, as it is sharp, durable and ideal for different occasions.
The Trident also comes with a slot cutter and with this you cut webbing, belts or ropes. A leather sheath is included for storage and protection, and the knife is especially effective when it comes to carving, dressing game, etc. There are a lot of hunting knives yes, but this is one of the top models.
A hunting knife needs to be more than just for hunting. It must be an all-around tool that you can use to hunt, dress, cut and carve. Each of the products we reviewed, in our list of best hunting knife, have been chosen because of their versatility. Regardless which of these knives you buy, you’re assured of having a dependable companion while you’re hunting.
A passionate blogger! Editor at Chooserly, and a regular author at HuffingtonPost, LifeHacker & Forbes!