Best Bowie Knife Reviews in 2017 – Our Top Choices
The Bowie knife has been around for nearly two centuries; but do you really know how to pick the right one for hunting, self-defense, and survival? While the history of this fighting knife designed by James Black for Jim Bowie in 1830 has murky details; one thing is sure though—it is well-regarded for its cutting power and strength.
Although there are many variations of the Bowie knife there, are two essential features of this weapon. One is that it should have a full tang blade with a minimum length of six inces, and a clip point with a full false edge.
From 18th century accounts, the Bowie knife was designed to be versatile. It was described as being long enough to be used as a sword, and sharp enough to be used as a razor. It was also wide enough to be utilized as a paddle and heavy enough to replace a hatchet.
Almost 200 years after the Bowie knife was first used, it still remains a very popular subject among knife collectors. Hunters use it for skinning and butchering. With its typically 12-inch long blade, the Bowie knife is also a great self-defense weapon. It is also an ideal camping companion as it can be used for cutting sticks and creating a livable dwelling place in the woods.
You’ll realize that a Bowie knife is one of the most versatile tools in your collection. As a survival knife, it can be used for making shelter, batoning, cutting down firewood, cutting down saplings and making traps. It can also be useful for making hunting tools, prying things apart, and of course defending yourself. It can also be used domestically, from cooking to clearing bush to chopping small tree branches.
Best Bowie Knives - Our Choices
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Top 10 Bowie Knives
That said, here are the best bowie knives that you can take a look at:
United Cutlery UC2863 Marine Force Recon Sawback Bowie
This is a 16.5 inch long knife, just an inch short of a small machete. You can compare it to a mini sword because of its size. But you would be surprised that despite the size, this Bowie is relatively light with a weight of 1.5 pounds. It is something you’d want to bring for your next camping trip.
Plus it comes with a thick, black nylon sheath allowing it to be worn on a pant belt. With the sheath sitting just below the waistline, the tip of the knife would end near the knee for a six-foot tall guy.
The only thing that you may not like about this it is not a full tang knife. Still, that may be the only chink in the armor of this impressive Bowie.
Cold Steel Natchez Bowie 01 Steel Knife
This is an excellent knife to have if you’re into hunting thanks to its sturdy 11-inch long blade. The blade, made of SK-5 high carbon steel, is strong and can maintain sharpness over time. The handle measures nearly 5.5 inches long. It feels good in hand.
The knife weighs around 25 ounces, making it one of the lightest in its segment. It also has its own professional sheath. But like the United Cutlery Bowie, it is also not a full tang knife. If there’s any consolation, it is the fact that it does have a partial cable tang.
This is a great tool to have for camping and survival. As for self defense, this is also a nice weapon to have although the size may make concealment hard.
Ka-Bar Becker BK9 Combat Bowie Fixed Blade Knife
One of the more reputable makers of quality knives is Becker. Its knives are known for being durable and strong, aside from ergonomically designed. Just like this Bowie knife.
The BK9 comes with an Esta-Loc ergonomic handle, which is known for comfort. In fact, you can use the knife for long periods of time and you’ll likely not complain of hand fatigue.
Manufactured from carbon steel, the blade is around 3/16 inches thick and about nine inches long. Its thin edge and midsection facilitates ease in control and precise handling.Speaking of the handle, it has Givory slabs on both sides. The handle is made of nylon with fiber glass. It holds the blade securely with nuts and bolts, although these can be removed for cleaning.
This knife can be useful, too, for smashing glass with its extended tang. The full tang sticks out at the lower end of the knife handle. The main beef with this knife is that the handle can be slipper under certain conditions. Overall, the BK9 from Becker is a solid Bowie knife you’d want to have for your next camping trip.
Timber Rattler Western Outlaw Bowie Knife
One of the more affordable Bowie knives in this list, this is a 17 x 4.5. x 1.5 inch knife that is surprisingly well-built. It is a full-tang knife that is tough enough to take on the most difficult of tasks.
This is a big knife by any definition, with its blade measuring 11 inches. The blade is sharp and can offer users good balance. Moreover, there is a plated brass guard to protect against any accidents.
Made of stainless steel, the blade is strong and easy to clean. It’s more of a tool for camping and survival.
The wooden handle mad of grey hardwood accompanies the blade. It provides a very comfortable grip. There’s also a leather holster included in this one; many users say it is well-designed and the knife fits snugly into it.
The major disappointment is that the blade is not easy to sharpen. Still, if you want to get an inexpensive but quality Bowie knife, you have to include this one from Timber Rattler in your short list.
SOG Specialty Knives & Tools SB1T-L Super SOG Bowie Knife with Straight Edge Fixed
This knife is not cheap at all unlike the Timber Rattler knife but you can be assured that you are getting your money’s worth. For starters, the knife is made of AUS-8 steel with a 7.5 inch straight edge fixed blade sharp enough to take on any task, from cutting wood, skinning hog, and even to opening a can of sardines.
The blade is around a quarter of an inch thick and 1 ½ inches wide. You’ll definitely have to love the beautiful lines of the blade, aside from how well it performs.
The stacked leather handle is also equally beautiful. Measuring 5 inches long, this should give a good solid grip even on people with very large hands.
The main issue that those who have bought or used this knife is its sheath. They argue that no thanks to the double concave back, the blade fits too tightly in the sheath. Thus you would have to exert a lot of effort in inserting and extracting the knife.
Overall, the quality of the knife is enough to justify its rather prohibitive price tag.
Ontario Spec Plus Marine Raider Bowie
At first glance, you will notice right away how ruggedly built this knife is. It has the classic, broad-bellied style that may appeal to collectors but not too much for those looking for a backpacking knife.
Yet one thing is sure, and that is Ontario designed this to deliver without caring too much for how it looks. The blade measures 9.75 inches and is made of 1095 carbon steel. It is sharp enough for cutting thin branches, building shelters, and for hunting. Plus, it has an anti-corrosion coating that can ensure this knife will last for a long while.
But there are certain things about this Ontario knife that you might get disappointed about. One is that the knife is quite heavy, with its weight nearly 1.5 pounds. Another problem is that the nylon sheath has multiple stiff snapping straps that can make retrieval or insertion of the knife quite problematic.
Aside from those design lapses, this Ontario knife is still a great buy.
Muela Magnum Fixed Blade Knife
This is another pricey fixed blade knife that originates from Spain. The company, Muela is known around the world for producing the best and sharpest hunting knives. It makes use of the latest industrial techniques and employs artisanal experts for artistic touches and finishes.
The blade is made of chrome-vanadium-molybdenum alloy martensitic steel that gives it the kind of sharpness you would want from a multi-purpose knife. Its hardness is from 54 to 58 degrees on the Rockwell scale.
While it is not a full tang knife, it has the lines and curves that blend beautifully for a fantastic visual masterpiece.
In terms of function, there are only a few things that you may not like about the knife. The sheath, with its buckle-style clasp, can cause inadvertent cuts. But go past that design flaw and you will love this export from Spain.
Poshland REG-215 Handmade Damascus Steel 14 inch Bowie Knife with Exotic Wood Handle
This is a full tang Bowie knife that is reasonably priced and of good quality. This is a 14-inch long knife with a 5-inch handle and a 9-inch blade. The latter is made of welded alloy steel and hand forged to an exquisite pattern. It has sharp cutting abilities and an excellent edge.
The long, wooden handle gives enough room for users regardless of the size of their hands. It is also ergonomically designed to provide good and comfortable grip to its users. Like most knives discussed in this article, the major complaint about this Bowie knife is its sheath with many users complaining about plastic lacing on the side that makes it look cheap. Overall, this is still a pretty decent Bowie knife to have.
Buck Knives 124 Frontiersman Fixed Blade Knife with Leather Sheath
If you’re looking for a knife made by a reputable maker, then this one from Buck Knives should be in your list. The company has been in the business for more than 100 years. It uses the latest technology in knife making as well as the best in craftsmanship.
The blade measures 6.25 inches and is made of 420HC steel. It has a good looking satin finish. The blade is then held together by a 5.5 inch handle. The handle and blade are almost similar in terms of length, and for good reason: it is designed to provide more power to the tip of the blade. The handle is also intended to add to the durability of the knife itself.
There should be a low chance of getting injured with this knife as the handle has a guard. The black sheath, meanwhile, is sturdy and made of genuine leather. Again the sheath feels a bit tight so you may have to get used to pulling the knife out of it.
Ka-Bar Heavy Bowie Knife
This is a powerful knife that is used in many braches of the military, proof of how well-made this one is. Its dark appearance displays its dangerous profile, with a 9-inch long blade and a 5 inch long handle. There’s enough room to grip the knife well with such a long handle.
Made of 1085 carbon steel, the blade is extremely sharp. Most reports suggest that it can maintain its sharpness over time. Again, the main complaint about this knife is its poorly designed sheath.
What to Look for in a Bowie Knife
When you start to shop for a Bowie knife online, you might get confused with the many Bowie knife models out there. You just can’t base your buying decision on the price because you’d want a knife that perfectly suits your needs.
In buying this kind of knife, you should consider the following factors:
The bigger the knife, the longer cutting edge it provides. However, it comes with a disadvantage, too. A large blade becomes heavier that controlling it gets harder. Bowies with blades that are 18 inches long are very capable for hunting and survival, but it can be a challenge to wield them properly.
Traditionally speaking, Bowie handles are made of carbon steel. If you are buying one simply to add to your knife collection, you’d want to get a knife made of welded carbon steel. But if you are to use the knife for hunting or camping, you might want to go with those made of stainless steel alloy which is a lot more durable than carbon steel.
The first Bowie knives were 9.5 inches long. However the more modern variations are no less than 6 inches. If you are to use the Bowie for hacking weeds or trimming trees, you definitely need a long knife. A long knife is also better suited for cutting things such as wood and bone.
But if you are to use it for self defense, you will have to buy one with a shorter blade. Moreover, a shorter blade is ideal for tasks where precision is important like cutting skin or fat.
Bone, antler and wood are ideal handle materials particularly under cold conditions. These materials are also the most attractive, if you are to buy a knife for your collection. But in terms of durability and grip, synthetic blends like rubber, kraton polymer and micarta are the best.
This pertains to the shank or prong that connects the blade with the handle. Ideally, the best Bowie knife features a full tang so that the blade won’t break when in use given that a Bowie knife is usually heavy. But if the knife is intended for display only, a full tang may not be a necessity.
The sheath or the close-fitting cover of the knife is just as important. You’d want a knife that fits snugly into its sheath, and allow you to quickly retrieve or store the knife. Sheaths are often made of leather or synthetic materials.
Other Things to Keep in Mind
Aside from the material used, you should also hold the knife so you’d have an idea how comfortably it fits in hand. Does it feel well-balanced? Do you think the knife can be used safely and comfortably? These are questions that you should ask yourself when shopping for a Bowie knife at a retail store.
Care and Maintenance
Once you have bought a Bowie knife, you should know basic care and maintenance to ensure its long shelf life and reduce safety hazards.
One basic maintenance tip is to sharpen the knife regularly to prevent the blade from becoming dull. A dull knife can slip while in use, causing injury to you in the process.
You should always keep the Bowie knife clean after use. This would prevent rust and debris from building up and which can damage the blade. Make it a habit to clean the knife with a clean cloth and a metal rubbing paste.
So go online now and find a Bowie knife that suits your preferences. It can be the tool you need for your next camping trip.