According to various Archeological evidence, it is suggested that humans have been making knives or knives-like tools for over two and a half million years. The knives made back then were used for hunting and general utility. The Adam of all blades was the hand-axe, which can also be considered as a Stone Age Swiss Army Knife.
With time, humans learned that different types of blade shapes and cutting edges are better suited for different tasks, such as a drop point blade for caping, a trail point for skinning, and so on. Latest hunting knives are not just designed to make tasks such as skinning and dressing an animal easy, but they are also accurate enough to produce precise cuts of meat for cooking.
If you are looking to invest in a hunting knife, you should be familiar with its uses, all its parts, blade and knife types, etc. to make the best decision. We have covered everything in this ultimate guide, so you don’t just go ahead and pick a random hunting knife from the market only to regret later. So, let’s get started.
Types and Uses of Hunting Knives
A high-quality hunting knife should be good enough to enable you to complete various tasks related to hunting efficiently, such as cutting, skinning, deboning, and slicing. Following are the types of hunting knives and their uses:
As the name suggests, this type of hunting knives are used for general purposes, including cutting, clothing, skinning, and more. These knives usually feature sharp double-edged blades with a very sharp point to stab the animal without applying much effort. General-purpose hunting knives are equipped with a blade of 4 to 5 inches in length. Its handle needs to be very comfortable, non-slip, and ergonomic to provide you with adequate control when hunting.
So, you have hunted the animal you were after, now is the time to skin it. For this purpose, you need to have the best quality knife that allows you to cut off the animal’s skin cleanly without damaging the flash. The best skinning knife’s blade should be short, sharp, and slightly curved for better control. It is also important that the handle has an excellent non-slip grip to avoid any accidents.
Gutting means removing the internal organs of the animal to preserve the meat. It is the first and most important step when processing an animal because it is easier when the body is still warm and fresh. For this purpose, you should have a special, high-quality gutting knife that is required to cut the animal open.
A majority of people think of a hunting knife as the type of knife used when camping. However, it is a different thing. Camping knives serve various purposes that also include a lot of hunting tasks. Therefore, it is designed to fill in for a hunting knife adequately.
A camping knife usually has a drop point style blade that can cater to various camping tasks.
Although this activity is seen as a sideshow, it has an important place in hunting. The art of throwing a knife is essential in order to scare away an attacker or to hunt a small animal that is right in front of you. You can’t just throw an ordinary knife to kill an animal. Therefore, a well-balanced knife is required for this form of sport.
Caping means to skin the head or neck of an animal, such as a bear, deer, or a boar to use it as a trophy. It requires a knife that is specially designed to serve this purpose. These knives are short and sharp and can also be utilized for various other tasks as well.
Once you have skinned the animal, the next important step is to remove the meat from the bones. For this purpose, a special boning knife is used that is very flexible and has a slim blade to debone effectively. This type of blade is similar to the one used for filleting a fish.
Parts of a Hunting Knife
It is a part of the hunting knife where the blade meets the spine, forming a sharp end that is used to tip or puncture.
The curvature of the edge is known as the belly of a hunting knife. The bigger the belly, the more convex curve it has. This gives a hunting knife more cutting length, which comes at handy when skinning.
It is the working part of the blade that does the actual job of cutting.
The back of the blade is known as its spine. This part supports the edge of the blade and provides strength, heft, and stiffness to the overall structure of the knife.
5. Bevel and Secondary Bevel
Most hunting knives feature a bevel of 22° to 30° – it is the actual cutting edge angle. You shouldn’t confuse the bevel with the sharpening angle, which is usually half the size of the bevel. The secondary bevel of the knife lightens the blade, allowing for a sharper Primary Bevel.
Guard or Hilt is a fitted crosspiece that helps keep your fingers from slipping down on the blade. Many hunting knives don’t have a guard as it can hinder your work when you are working inside the body of a large animal.
A choil is an indention on a non-sharpened part of the blade, near the hilt. It allows you to choke up on the blade for fine detail work.
Jimping is a roughed up area on the spine of the blade, near the hilt. It provides a non-slip surface for your thumb to rest on when you need to choke up on your knife for fine detail work.
The pommel isn’t often seen in outdoor knives. This part is an enlarged, or reinforced section at the but-end of the scales. It can be used to crack the skull, bones, ribs, and other tasks that require percussive force.
Note: Not all the hunting knives have all these parts mentioned above. It is up to you to decide whether you need a hunting knife with a special feature or not. However, one thing to keep in mind is that it is better to have a part on knife and not need it, instead of not having a part on a knife when you need it.
Types of Hunting Knife Blade Shapes
1. Drop Point
If you want one blade that can take care of all your hunting tasks, then a drop point knife is what you should look for. Its sharpened edge is thick and pretty robust. It has a slightly curved blade that provides enhanced control.
Its cutting edge has a bigger belly, which makes it an ideal choice for slicing and cutting. However, compared to the clip point knife, this one doesn’t have much of a sharp tip. Therefore, it isn’t the right choice for the stabbing game.
2. Clip Point
People who are looking for a more traditional hunting knife should invest in a clip point. It is available in both curved and straight blades so that you can choose the right type according to your requirements. This type of design is commonly used in fixed knives, Bowie, and pocket knives. However, it is quite narrow and doesn’t provide as much control as a drop point.
3. Spear Point
These type of knives are symmetrical. Their edges are curved, long, and convex. Spear point knives are usually extremely robust and durable, making an excellent choice for many hunters. However, it isn’t recommended for slicing.
4. Tanto Point
This type of knife has a slightly unusual tip with a sharply-angled blade belly. The word tanto means short sword, so consider it as a short knife-looking sword. Although it is a robust blade with a sharp point, it is slightly harder to control compared to most other types.
5. Trailing Point
A trailing point knife is usually lightweight and has a back edge that curves at the top. It is a recommended choice for slicing and skinning. However, its point is sharp but quite weak.
6. Straight Back Point
Also known as a normal blade, this one has a large cutting edge that makes it a perfect option for slicing and chopping. The backside of this blade isn’t sharp, which means you can exert extra pressure for cutting. The only drawback of a straight back point knife is that it’s usually heavier and harder to control.
7. Sheepsfoot Point
It is the total opposite of a straight black point blade. It has a curved blade that drops sharply to meet the cutting edge. Although this type of blade is more durable, its point isn’t sharp. Therefore, they are less effective for piercing and stabbing.
Types of Knife Tangs
Knife tangs is another crucial part of a hunting knife’s anatomy. This is the part of the knife that extends into the blade, hence your knife’s backbone. In simple words, a tang brings the handle and the blade together.
1. Full Tang
Full tang, as the name suggests, extends all the way back to the handle. Hence, it provides more grip, and this is the reason why it is the top-recommended choice of many serious hunters.
2. Partial Tang
Partial tang, unlike full tang, doesn’t fully extend to the handle. Therefore, knives with partial tangs might be lighter than the ones with the full tang – but nowhere near as strong. They can have various forms and sizes.
3. Tapered Tang
Tapered tang decreases along the length of the knife’s handle. There are different variations of a tapered tang, with the most common variation being where the edges taper towards the middle.
The best thing about a knife with a tapered tang is its blade having a perfect balance.
4. Skeletonized Tang
Skeletonized tangs have portions cut out from the center of the tang, removing materials and leaving holes to make the blade lightweight. Although these type of blades are a lot weaker than the rest, they make an excellent choice for throwing knives.
Types of Blade Grind
The shape of the blade that forms the cutting edge is known as blade grind. Most of the hunting knives use one of these blade grinds:
1. Hollow Grind
Hollow grind comes first in the mind when talking about the most common grind in a hunting knife. In this grind, both sides of the blade’s edge are concaved. Hence, the two sides of the blade come together at the narrowest angle. Therefore, the hollow grind has the sharpest edge.
2. Saber Grind
Originally sabre, saber grind is quite similar to the Scandinavian grind. However, the only major difference is that the saber grind features a secondary bevel. The first bevel in this type of grind extends only at small parts of the blade. Then, both sides continue in an even manner to form a secondary bevel. The final taper forms the sharp blade edge.
3. Flat Grind
This one is the simplest of all the type of blade grinds. The tapered sides of the blade meet evenly in the middle of the blade, creating a sharp edge. It further has three grind adaptions:
- Full-flat: Tapering begins from the spine.
- High-flat: The tapered sides meet evenly in the middle of the blade.
- Scandinavian grind: The taper begins very closer to the cutting edge of the blade
4. Convex Grind
This one is the total opposite of the hollow grind. The two sides of the edge are convex. Although convex grind isn’t as sharp as hollow grind, it provides a decent amount of strength.
Things to Look for When Buying a Hunting Knife
Now, you know the anatomy of hunting knives and all its parts in detail – let’s go through the things that you should consider before investing in a hunting knife.
- The Blade Shape
There are several different types of blade shapes, as we have already mentioned above. Although the most common ones are drop point and clip point blades, you can opt for the one that aligns well with your requirements. Other less popular blade shapes include spear, tanto, and trailing point. However, if you are just starting out, we recommend that you get a clip point or a drop point blade.
- Type of Steel
Two types of steel are used for making a hunting knife: stainless steel and high carbon (HC) steel. Stainless steel is cheaper than high carbon or standard carbon steel. It is also durable and low maintenance. On the other side, a blade made of high carbon provides more perks for your hard-earned money. Although HC steel is more expensive, it is a lot easier to sharpen, resists the corrosion well, and holds an edge better than stainless steel.
However, it all comes down on your budget and requirements. If you don’t mind putting more effort in sharpening your blade, then you are good to go with a stainless steel blade too. Otherwise, HC steel is there for you.
- Type of Tang
As we have already covered the types of tang in a blade, you should be able to choose the right one among them. If you want a full-fledge hunter’s knife, then you should opt for the one that has a full tang. Otherwise, other types also aren’t bad and work quite well in various hunting scenarios.
- The Handle
A better grip is important when you are skinning the animal or deboning it. Therefore, ensure that the knife you are buying has a firm, non-slip grip handle. Go for a knife that has a rubberized handle or the one made of Micarta and G10. The handles made of these materials are comfortable and look great as well.
- The Sheath
Most hunting knives come with a sheath for the same price, or you might have to buy a high-quality sheath if the package doesn’t include it. Although an accessory, sheaths are actually quite essential as they play an important role in carrying your knife.
There are various types of sheaths available in the market, but all are made to secure your knife. The bottom line is that you want a sheath that allows you to carry your knife securely without any inconvenience.
Elk Ridge - Outdoors 3-PC Hunting Knife Set - Satin Finish Stainless Steel Blades, Black Nylon Fiber Handles, Includes Combo Sheath - Hunting, Camping, Survival - ER-252
Our Top Picks for Hunting Knives
Note: The following list is in no specific order.
Elk Ridge is known as an emerging brand, representing top-notch build quality. Hence, it gives you good value for money. This one is a 3-piece hunting knife set by Elk Ridge, made of 440-grade stainless steel. The handles are made of black plastic that provides a comfortable grip.
The package also contains a nylon pouch in which you can store the 7 and 9-inch knives, and the 8.25 inches saw.Both the knives are full tang.
All in all, if you are looking for a hunting knife set at an affordable price, you cannot go wrong with this one.
Who isn’t familiar with Bear Grylls? He is known for his amazing survival skills and utilization of available resources in the wild. He teamed up with Gerber and developed a pretty decent knife. It is equipped with a molded rubber grip that provides enhanced control when you are using it. It features a drop point blade that is made of Serrated High Carbon Stainless Steel. An ideal choice for edge retention and cutting ropes.
Along with the high carbon stainless steel blade, it also has a stainless steel pommel for hammering. Moreover, it features a fire starter that comes in handy to start a campfire when you are exploring the wild in a chilly night.
The knife’s overall length is 10 inches and weighs about 11.2 oz.
Also, the package contains a lightweight, military-grade nylon sheath that is mildew resistant.
If you are looking for one of the best hunting knives currently on the market, look no further and get your hands on this fixed blade knife by Ka-Bar. Along with excellent quality, it provides you with the ultimate survival, hunting, and camping blade that you cannot go wrong with. Since it is designed by a famed mountain climber and survivalist Ethan Becker and carries his seal of approval, you can blindly trust its quality and performance.
As far as the looks go, it won’t ever disappoint you – even after years of buying this. Its handle is made from Grivory, providing a firm grip that feels solid and heavy in hand. Hence, better control. Its drop point blade is made from 1095 Cro-Van steel that keeps it sharp and edgy for longer than most of the blades in the market.
The package also contains a hard shell black nylon sheath. From chopping onions and cutting wood to skinning the deer you have just hunted, this knife can pretty much do anything. All in all, KA-BAR Becker BK2 Campanion Fixed Blade Knife makes an excellent hunting knife, given its serious sharpness and versatility.
Featuring a lifetime warranty, the US-made Buck Knife 119 is equipped with a large six-inch clip blade made of 420HC steel, which ensures longer retention of its sharp edge and outstanding strength. The knife has an overall length of 10.5 inches, allowing you to do problem-free cutting and maneuvering without any limitation.
Designed for outdoor use, this knife doesn’t have any weak joints that may render the blade incapable of doing its job. Weighing 7.5 ounces only, this knife won’t feel heavy at all while you are carrying it in a knife holder on your belt. Moreover, its black phenolic handle features an aluminum pommel/guard that you can use for driving applications and hammering.
The leather sheath that comes with the knife is a bonus that enables secure and safe portability in a bag or on your belt. You can also opt for its wood-handle version if you are a fancy guy.
The Gerber Myth Fixed Blade Pro hunting knife is an outstanding product from a company that makes some of the best outdoor knives in the market. Equipped with a rubberized, gently contoured handle, this knife ensures to provide you with a sure grip in any conditions. With its full tang blade made of HC stainless steel, the overall balance it offers is excellent.
With a little practice, opening a deer using this fixed blade knife would be a lot convenient. Moreover, the blade is corrosion-resistant and very easy to sharpen. And you won’t have to sharpen it anytime sooner since it comes razor sharp out of the box. On top of everything, the puncture-resistant sheath that comes in the package has a built-in knife sharpener. It weighs only 4.9 ounces.
Indeed, an excellent choice for serious hunters.
If you are looking for a high-quality skinning knife, you can’t go wrong with this one by Havalon. It is a pocket-sized beauty having a retractable 2-¾” blade, which is made particularly for dressing and skinning. Although its looks won’t appeal much, you will definitely see eyebrows raising when your buddies will see how effective it works when it comes to skinning the animal.
Its razor-sharp blade slices through material like butter and allows you to peel the skin away with incredible precision, without wasting your time. The interesting thing about this knife is that when its blade gets dull, you don’t need to sharpen it – all you have to do is replace it with one of the 12 extra blades that are included in the package.
However, those who are looking for a traditional hunting knife experience should look at the other hunting knives that we have mentioned in this list.
If you are looking for a truly compact knife, you should consider buying the Hidden Canyon Hunter Fixed Hunting Knife. It has an overall length of 6 1/3 inches and is equipped with a stainless steel blade that is 2 2/3 inches long. The blade has a long curved radius that allows you to take nice clean passes when skinning.
The blade fashioned from high carbon steel provides stout performance and better corrosion resistance compared to those made of stainless steel. Its stabilized Dymondwood handle offers enhanced grip and comfort so you can skin the animal without losing control.
The leather sheath it comes with is a bonus that you will love. All in all, this knife by Benchmade is the perfect addition to your camping backpack, survival kit, tackle box, and more.
We have tried covering all the aspects of hunting knives in this guide that are essential to make an informed buying decision. Now, it is your turn to choose the right type of hunting knife you need for the field.
However, no matter how good of a knife you purchase, it is as good as the person using it. So, you should practice knife skills at home and become proficient rather than learning how to use your knife in the field. Happy hunting!