Hunting Knife Buying Guide
If you are in the market for a hunting knife, you should get the best hunting knife for performing the tasks it’s needs to do, such as skinning a deer, field-dressing, or serving as a multipurpose tool. A quality knife will last you years if taken care of and you don’t skimp on quality.
Our Top List: The Best Hunting Knives
- Best Fixed Blade Hunting Knife: Buck Knives 0119 Special Fixed Blade Knife
- Best Folding Hunting Knife: Gerber Freeman Guide Folding Knife
- Best Hunting Knife for the Money: Buck Knife Folding Hunting Knife
Scroll down to read our detailed reviews on each of these items, but you can check out the current prices and read customer reviews on Amazon by clicking the links above.
Fixed Blade or Folding Blade?
Hunting knives have either fixed blades or folding blades. Folding blades tend to be more ideal for everyday general use and convenience while fixed blades are for cleaner skinning jobs and other heavy duty work.
The benefits of folding blades are that their small size allows for easy portability. The blade also isn’t exposed, so they’re safer to carry more than fixed blades.
The cons are that folding blades aren’t as strong or durable as fixed blades. The small locking device isn’t nearly as strong as the solid blade material. It can become pretty annoying when you have to use the release-latch on locking-blade versions while you’re using your other hand..
The big advantage behind fixed blades is that they are stronger. Since the blade runs through the handle they are less likely to break or become loose. This makes them great for bigger tasks like skinning and cleaning. They are durable and reliable and are also much easier to clean than smaller folding knives.
The disadvantages of fixed blades are usually carried in a sheath hung from your belt since they’re too big (and unsafe) to put in your pocket, making them bulkier and less portable compared to folding knives. Something hanging 8+ inches from your belt tends to get in the way when sitting or climbing, making for a more frustrating hunting session.
Once you’ve thought about the type of knife you want, you want to choose the size of the knife that best correlates with the type of game you usually hunt and how often you’re planning to use it.
Many believe that the bigger the knife is, the better, but that’s not necessarily the case.
Bigger hunting knives are usually for bigger game (think elk, buffalo, etc) and smaller hunting knives are better for smaller game.
If you are hunting big game, consider a blade length of 6+ inches.
If you are hunting medium sized game such as deer, look for a blade length in the 4 inch to 5 inch range.
If you are hunting smaller animals like squirrels and rabbits, look for a blade length of 3 inches to 3.5 inches.
Keep in mind that these are guidelines only and ultimately it’s personal preference.
Along with the size of your hunting knife, the type of blade point also matters.
Types of Blade Points
The three main blade designs are drop point, clip point, and skinning (note that there are a few others). Consider a drop point hunting knife if you regularly hunt big game since this type has a thick curved blade that’s great for skinning food in a flash.
The clip point blade is thinner and flatter with a more defined point, better used as a general use knife other than skinning or gutting.
Lastly, skinning knives are specialty knives that are specifically used for skinning medium to large prey. With this, they also do as good a job as clip point blades and drop point blades and virtually serve the same function.
The steel in a blade counts towards how it performs in the field, so the following are some of the best steel materials you can find in a blade.
S3OV steel is a high end material that has great resistance against wear and rust, and it retains sharpness better than most other blades with different materials.
VG-10 is a high-wear stainless steel that has a lengthy edge retention and corrosion resistance, belonging in the same class as 154CM.
154CM also has a high wear resistance, but is one of the more thinner blades. It’s a more ideal stainless steel for smaller knives.
420HC is a medium-carbon stainless steel that’s highly resistant to corrosion but isn’t as hard as other types. This makes it easier to sharpen and it has a medium edge retention.
Price Tends to Equal Quality
The last thing to think about is how much you’re willing to spend on a decent hunting knife. Your budget can often affect the quality of the knife you choose to get, so it’s important to include all the factors involved in the knife of your choice when thinking of a price you want to pay for one.
For instance, a $50 hunting knife is likely a higher quality option than the cheaper $15 knife. Price usually equals quality, so a cheap knife could mean sub-par effectiveness in the field and typically a much shorter life. Investing in a good knife can save you money in the long run.
How to Take Care of Your Knife
Once you’ve chosen your ideal hunting knife, it’s essential that you take care of it to make sure it serves you well for years to come, and save some money.
Most of what’s behind caring for your knife is common sense, like keeping it stored and protected from the elements in a sheath. If you’re not using your knife very often, wrapping your clean knife in paper and storing it in a watertight container can serve as a long term storage solution.
If you want additional protection for your knife, you can also throw in some desiccant packets (the small bags that often come packed with new shoes) to help absorb any moisture that can come through the knife’s sheath or container.
Keeping Your Hunting Blade Sharp
Ultimately, you always want to keep your knife sharp, because what’s the point of a dull hunting blade? To get the best out of your knife, you should regularly whet it so it will do a good job for the next hunting session and another one after that.
Make sure you always clean your blade after using it since residue and dried blood can degrade the sharpness of your knife. You can wipe grime off your blade by using cleaning products meant specifically for knives.
It’s useful to use multipurpose cleaners meant for wood, leather, and metal. This way, you can clean both your blade and your knife’s handle all at once without worrying about either getting tarnished.
Best Fixed Blade Hunting Knife
This 119 special fixed hunting blade from Buck Knives certainly matches its potential to its price. The six-inch clip blade with 420HC steel makes for the blade’s excellent strength and edge retention with the industry standard hardening to an Rc 58 for the best performance. It’s overall length measures in at 10 ½” and weighs about 7.5 ounces.
The solid feel of this fixed blade should serve best for the outdoors since it’s great for detail work and cutting in constricted places, not to mention the handle is beautifully crafted from Cocobolo Dymondwood with a brass guard.
The blade’s steel has been given the nationally known Paul Bos heat treatment, which is why Buck Knives are famous for being sharp right out of the box and staying that way for a long time.
As a nifty bonus, the knife comes along with a sheath for easy storage and protection. The blade is paired with a Buck Forever warranty and is made in the USA.
The only main con mentioned about this knife were that it could be sharper than promised, but other than that, there were mostly positive views about this blade. Many favored the craftsmanship and quality that the knife brought, all while bring a classic aesthetic to the blade’s overall design.
Best Folding Hunting Knife
This folding hunting knife by Gerber can definitely become your best friend on the field with its multiple uses. What more can you ask for with a knife that’s part blade, part saw, and part bottle opener? This blade was obviously designed for many solutions that involve cutting, slicing, prying, and stripping.
The blade pops out at lightning speed with its spring assisted deployment for quick use on demand. Light, durable, and tough, the 5Cr15MoV stainless steel drop point makes for the ultimate pocket hunting knife.
The 3.62″ stainless steel blade and black stone wash coating gives the knife a low visual signature so you’re less noticeable in stealthy situations.
What many thought was great about this knife is its many functions which come in handy whether you know think so or not, and the blade seems to bring a lot more to the table than what people expect after what they payed for it.
The cons about this blade it’s extremely sharp and can cause accidents if you’re not careful enough, especially when you get playful with the assisted open.
Best Hunting Knife for the Money
If you want the best hunting knife that’s well worth the price, consider Buck Knives’s folding hunter knife. You can feel the Dymondwood handle’s excellent craftsmanship as you grip against the brass bolsters.
The 3 ¾ clip blade made with 420HC steel gives the crescent tip blade a sharp point that’s perfect for detail work. The lockback design of the knife allows for maximum strength and safety. When closed, the knife measures at 4 7/8″ and weighs about 8 ounces.
This blade comes with a genuine leather sheath that features a snap closure so you can carry it on your belt for easy accessibility. It’s quite an American icon, crafted in the USA with a Forever lifetime warranty.
The best things about this knife are the blade’s razor sharp edge for clean cutting and beautiful and comfortable handle. It’s a classic knife to use, and is also an ideal blade for beginning hunters so you can use it for field dressing, skinning, and cleaning all sorts of game.
Although the blade being sharp is a good thing, it can often mean accidental cuts if you have your fingers across the handle which was a noticeable issue among users. Other than this, this folding hunting knife by Buck Knives is one of the best choices for both a reasonable budget and a great quality hunting tool.