The following is a guest post by Brandon Cox, of StayHunting.com. It is not an entry in our “Reader Submission Contest” as he contacted me prior to the contest announcement and this is being shared to help promote his website. Not that there is anything wrong with that. We are always happy to share relevant content and offer exposure to other niche sites. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in submitting a guest post. Or, if you are “only” a reader, why not submit a contest entry?
How to choose the right hunting knife.
by Brandon Cox
A hunter’s knife is the most important tool he can carry.
If his knife is not up to the task at hand, the entire hunt will be a waste. If you’re looking for a quality hunting blade, a little guidance along with some personal preferences will give you the cutting edge in knife performance.
Design & Function of a Hunting Knife
A knife should be able to do a few things, it needs to be durable enough to last a long time while resisting bending, corroding, and just falling apart at the handle. It also needs to hold an edge the entire time you’re using it, or be made of steel soft enough to put a good edge on quickly.
For a purpose made hunting knife the most common blade shape is the drop point. The reason being is that the spine of the blade is higher on the knife than the point, making it less likely you’ll puncture the stomach wile skinning game.
The drop point shape also leaves plenty of room on the spine for a gut hook. Only choose a gut hook for knives made from softer conventional steel like 440c or O-1. This is because the gut hook of the knife is difficult to sharpen and almost impossible to do on the new super steels some knives are being made of.
The drop point blade shape is easy to sharpen, has plenty of thickness all the way to the blade, and can be had in just about every grind style. If you’re looking for an all-around knife, especially for a hunting knife that’ll be used to butcher game in the field, it’s hard to beat the drop point.
For a serious use hunting knife, only consider a full tang fixed blade knife. Nothing else. The newer blades that take the replaceable razor blades are cool, but extremely hard to clean and aren’t nearly as strong as a fixed blade knife. I just see too many things that could go wrong with those knives to recommend their design.
Things to Look for
- A well rounded, multi-use blade profile
- A drop point or other hunting specific
- Easily sharpened blade shape and thickness
- Comfortable handle made from durable materials
Things to avoid
- Serrations of a knife primarily used for butchering game
- Handles that have definite finger grooves
- Clip point, needle point, or sheep’s foot blade that’ll make it difficult to skin game without nicking hair or the gut cavity
Every year new “super steels” hit the market. Good steels like 01 and 440c have been surpassed by exotic and new steels like s30v and vg10. These milder “super steels” offer an upgrade without going down a rabbit hole of specialized tools and steel that is going to culminate in an extremely expensive blade that is hard to sharpen.
On the mass production market for a hunting knife good choices include: 440c, s30v, D2, and many of the softer tool steels.
Custom blade scan be had in a few odd steels that are still good like: s90v, vg10, carpenter steels, and crucible steels as well as just about any stainless exotic steel on the market.
The thing to mainly stay away from with these steels is how hard they are to put an edge on. Yes, many of the super steels like s110v can hold an edge good for several elk, but they are just simply too difficult to sharpen in the field should you hit too many bones, or dull your blade by dropping it.
Handle materials generally fall into two different categories, either decorative or durable. There are materials like g10 (also called garolite), micarta, other tough polymers, and textured metal scales, that are virtually maintenance free. Soak it with blood, and then drop it into a bleach solution and hose it off and you’ll have nothing to worry about.
Other materials like stabilized wood, burl, mother of pearl, antler and leather are out there and in many cases, look fantastic. There’s nothing quite like a handmade hunting knife with a antler handle and brass bolsters!
The downside to these materials is that you’ll have to be much more careful with washing, storing and maintaining the knife. Especially if the knife is made from carbon steel, it may cause a reaction with the blade and you’ll be scrubbing and polishing patina off before every hunt.
Nice to Have Features
Lanyard Hole– for a hunting knife that isn’t going to be used for delicate butchering, this is a nice to have feature so you don’t drop your blade
Blade Gimping– small ridges cut into the spine of the blade so you can choke up on the blade for more control without the blade slipping
Bolsters– Many knives these days leave them off, bolsters are an important safety feature and protect less durable handle materials from wear and tear. If they’re an option get them.
Mirror Finish- Most guys in the woods won’t want a mirror finished blade because it’ll eventually get marred, but a mirror polished blade resist corrosion much better than an uncoated blade-even stainless blades will benefit from this
Best Hunting Knife Brands
Most hunting knife brands are very similar. They all offer decent blades at varying costs. Custom makers however, can charge very high prices for essentially the same performance as a knife bought from a big box store.
If you buy a knife from a big box store, expect to spend around $50-$75. That is about the sweet spot for performance, quality and a good brand. A custom maker for a full size, fixed blade knife the sky is the limit.
Use good judgment but know that a knife that costs as much as a rifle, won’t perform that much better than a mass-produced knife. It’s a sentimental and status mark more than anything to have a custom knife from a prestigious maker.
Hunting knives aren’t complicated tools, but sifting through all of the jargon and designs is. Look around for knives you can live with and depend on to serve you a lifetime. Don’t be that guy who can’t dress his deer with the cheap dollar store knife he bought on the way to the camp!
About the Author:
Brandon Cox is the founder of Stay Hunting, who is passionate about all things of hunting and fitness. Through his hunting website, he would like to share tips & tricks, finest tech that will excite all of the intricacies of hunting whether you be an amateur or a professional.