Think carefully before choosing your hunting knife
Anyone who loves to go hunting must have a hunting knife. Whether it’s a fixed blade hunting knife or a folding hunting knife, you’ve got to have at least one. Even better is to have a few hunting knives.
However a good hunting knife isn’t necessarily cheap, and the best hunting knife that you can get is quite expensive. So you’ve got to spend some time analyzing exactly what it is that you need before you purchase. There are some wonderful custom knives and handmade knives available, but you can spend a lot of money.
So how do you determine exactly what your needs are before you purchase your hunting knife? Let’s take a look.
Do you want a folding hunting knife or a fixed blade?
Of course like everything there are pros and cons to both, nothing is perfect.
The advantages of fixed blade hunting knives
- A fixed blade knife, as the name suggests, has a blade fixed to the handle all in one piece, and this produces considerable strength. In fact a quality fixed blade knife should be virtually unbreakable unless you seriously abuse it. A full tang knife in particular is very strong.
- Because there is no hinge, or joint, in the middle of the knife, thereby creating the strength of one length of steel, the knife is much more versatile. It can handle a lot more stress than a hinged pocketknife, and you can use it for a much wider range of tasks.
- A fixed blade knife, because you don’t need to use 2 hands to deploy it, is much quicker, in any situation where you need to have your knife out quickly. It is unlikely, when hunting, that you will need to deploy your knife super fast though.
- Whilst a folding pocketknife needs to have a blade designed to fit within the handle a fixed blade does not. So you can have a longer blade than the length of the handle or a blade that is a shape that is wider than the handle. You’re not limited in the length or width or shape of the blade.
- The fixed blade knife just looks sexier.
- Because there is less work involved in a fixed blade, as there is no hinge to create, it’s often possible to get a much higher quality hunting knife for a similar price.
- A fixed blade has no cavities and so is easier to clean.
The disadvantages of fixed blade hunting knives
- They are obviously bigger, harder to carry unobtrusively and easier to spot. And in places where carrying a knife is an issue they are also more difficult to conceal.
- A fixed blade can be dangerous, particularly if very sharp, unless carried in a quality heath. It is therefore much bulkier than a folding knife. It is also usually necessary to wear the sheath, for example on your belt, rather than being able to put it in your pocket.
The advantages of a folding hunting knife
- Obviously a folding knife is smaller, and therefore easier to carry and more unobtrusive.
- Because the blade of a folding knife folds back into the handle it can be carried without the need for a sheath and therefore is more practical.
- Whilst not all folding knives have a choice of blades many do, and therefore you can choose from more than one blade choice.
- A folding bladed knife is totally safe to carry with or without a sheath.
The disadvantages of a folding hunting knife
- A folding knife is full of all sorts of nooks and crannies. If you’re using it for gutting or skinning a deer, for example, it can get quite messy and difficult to clean. It’s not easy getting the mess out of all of those little spaces. A fixed bladed knife on the other hand is easy to clean.
Custom Bushcrafter fixed blade hunting knife
- A folding knife, because of the hinge, is necessarily weaker than a fixed blade.
- Even though a good folding knife should come with a lock it’s not unknown for a user to start using the knife without the lock fully engaged and have it close on their hand.
- A folding knife is generally more expensive because more work is required to produce it.
Of course there is always a compromise
There’s lots of discussion online, including here obviously, about the differences between fixed blade and folding blade knives. However there is absolutely no reason why you can’t carry both a lot of the time. Both have their uses and neither are all that large, and it usually perfectly possible to carry both at the same time.
What exactly will you be hunting?
Are you going to be shooting deer or shooting rabbits or ducks? Because the hunting accessories you choose, including your knife, depend on exactly what you will be hunting.
Gutting and skinning a deer is a little different to gutting and skinning a rabbit. Whilst many people think that the size of the knife will be different that’s not necessarily the case. A large knife is not necessarily better than a small knife, even for an animal such as a deer.
So for example on any large animal you might be better with a knife with a drop point blade which is better for skinning, and an edge on the knife that is handy for separating bone. On a bird, however, you might need a fowl hook for gutting the bird.
So you’ve got to pay attention to exactly what it is you will be hunting.
What purposes will you use your hunting knife for?
Of course it is rare when you’re hunting that the only task that you need your hunting knife for is skinning or gutting. Most people will be using a knife for a range of other purposes. For example they might be whittling timber for building a fire or maybe cutting up food. Most people, when they have a good knife, tend to use it for quite a few different tasks.
Of course, as observed, you might find that carrying more than one knife is useful if you plan on using it for a range of tasks, so that you have several knives each perfectly equipped for the task you needed for.
What type of blade do you require?
Of course there’s a wide range of different blades available, however the basic types are a clip point blade, a drop point blade and a skinning blade.
The clip point blade has a well-defined point and is a relatively thin flat blade. This is a good knife for a range of general chores around camp and can also be used successfully for field dressing and skinning. It’s a great all-around knife.
The drop point, on the other hand, is a much more specialized type of knife and is much more suitable for hunting rather than more general jobs. It’s a great knife to skin and dress an animal but is more limited as a general knife.
A drop point knife has a thick curved blade, and this curved blade makes it much easier to use for dressing and skinning. It doesn’t have such a defined point and so is unlikely to tear into the skin or the meat of the animal while you’re working. It is a tough working blade.
And the skinning blade is one which is specifically designed for skinning larger animals, mainly big game animals. It is very efficient at skinning but less so for general tasks. It has a very fine blade.
Not only should you make a choice between the different types of blades but you also need to consider whether or not serrations on the blade are handy. For instance serrations will make it easier to split a rib cage.
Serrations may be present on either a short part of the blade or the back of the blade.
One other feature of some blades is a gut hook. This can be very useful when field dressing large animals, however is a personal choice. Once an incision has been made the gut hook is used to extend the incision without the risk of puncturing any of the innards.
How about the handle on your knife?
Many people pay a lot of attention to the blade but not too much attention to the handle. And yet, as is obvious, it’s the handle that you have to grip and whilst there are some very fancy looking handles around, for example bone handles, some are not quite as useful as you might imagine.
For example some handles can become very slippery when wet or when all covered in blood. A bone handle might look great but can be very slippery.
However there are some very effective rubber and synthetic handles available which might not look quite as sexy as a bone handle but which are extremely strong and also very easy to grip, even when wet.
When researching hunting knives for sale it’s important to consider the handle. Often, when reading hunting knife reviews, the handle isn’t even considered. Many people fail to think about the handle.
Even better is to actually find a shop where the knife is available to pick up and hold. Actually picking the knife up and holding it gives your much better idea of how the knife will feel in your hand.
How about sharpening your hunting knife?
Of course like any knife a hunting knife needs sharpening. There’s a range of sharpening tools which you can use for your hunting knife and you should also consider, when looking for a hunting knife for sale, how you will sharpen it.
Different sharpeners work well on different shapes of blades. Some sharpeners will not work at all on some types of hunting knives, and some specialist blades, for example a blade with a gut hook, needs a very special type of sharpener.
You may already have a quality knife sharpener at home, and if this is the case then it’s cheaper to buy a knife that can be used on that sharpener rather than buying one which will require you to buy a new sharpener as well. Obviously this just increases the cost.
A stone is a good all round sharpening tool, but it won’t sharpen everything. Like a gut hook for example.
You should consider the steel the blade is made from
Different knives are made from different types of steel. The type of steel is important to consider, for example it can influence how well it’s likely to hold its edge after sharpening.
A softer steel will not hold its edge as long but will be easier to sharpen. A harder steel will hold its edge longer but be harder to sharpen. Your knife can have either a carbon steel or a stainless steel blade. Carbon steel will rust and stainless steel blades will not.
Of course it’s quite possible to stop your knife rusting provided you pay sufficient attention to maintaining it. A silicon based wax will help prevent rust on your blade. A carbon steel blade will be easier to sharpen than a stainless steel blade but will be much more expensive in many cases.
There’s many different types of material that can be used in the blade of a knife. It’s a very complex subject and one which is best to be the subject of an article all on its own, however as a general rule it’s important to choose a blade with sufficient quality so that is tough and resistant to rust and wear but retains its edge reasonably well.
As is always the case the knives made from steel which exhibits these qualities are more expensive than blades made from cheaper steel which do not exhibit these qualities.
There’s many different types of steel used in the blades. Far too many to list here. However much more common than some of the others are the following:
- S30V This is a quality steel with a high component of vanadium and demonstrates good wear resistance, good rust resistance and holds a reasonably tough edge. It is not Buck folding hunting knife entirely easy to sharpen. It has a very high level of Carbon and Vanadium. It makes a very high quality blade, and is considered by some to be the best steel available for making blades.
- 154CM This is a stainless steel with a high degree of carbon and retains its edge extremely well. It is slightly brittle and better for smaller blades. It has Molybdenum added to the steel and is less expensive than some of the other well-known steels. It retains its edge very well.
- 420HC is a slightly softer type of steel with slightly less carbon than some, but resists rust very well. It has reasonable edge toughness but not the best.
The above is really just an introduction to the different types of steel available in different knife blades. For most people it’s unnecessary to go into extreme detail about the different
Buck folding hunting knife
types of steel, you may well just confuse yourself.
As a general rule the top end hunting knives available on the market should all have good quality steel blades, but like everything it’s all a compromise, and there is no one perfect steel.
So how do you choose the best hunting knife for your needs?
Hopefully all of the previous information has not confused you, our intention is simply to alert you to some of the considerations you might wish to keep in mind when choosing a hunting knife. But at the end of the day the best hunting knife for you is the one which works best for you.
There is no one right or wrong. Eventually it comes down to a personal choice between all of those knives on the market. Other factors will intervene, for example price, and it’s extremely difficult to determine exactly what your requirements are and which is the best hunting knife to fit those requirements.
For that reason many people end up with more than one knife, and some have many of them. There’s nothing wrong with that, there’s no reason why you can’t have a number of knives and make a choice, on each trip, between each of them to determine which will be the best one to take away on that particular trip.
We will cover individual knives and offer some individual hunting knife reviews on our website over time.
A final word. Maintaining your hunting knife
Maintaining your hunting knife is important as well
One aspect knife ownership and is often overlooked is maintaining it.
It’s very easy to give your knife or wipe over when you finished skinning that deer and then to put it away when you get home. However the ideal way to keep your knife in tip top shape.
It’s important to give your knife a complete and thorough clean when you get home. Make sure, if it’s a folding version, that you clean out anything caught in any of the little fissures.
If your knife is a little dull then steel it or, if necessary, sharpen it.
And give it a wipe over with the group silicon based wax to avoid any possibility of rust.
And if you’re putting it away for any length of time then it helps to rapid in clean paper and add a little packet of desiccant to make sure that it’s totally dry and won’t rust.