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Any serious hunter and outdoor survivor want to carry the best hunting knives out there. Whether it is to clean a fish, cutting some rope or skinning game, a good hunting knife is essential and good quality is paramount. Performance is primary but aesthetics are important as well.
In this article I have selected a wide variety of knives on the market in 2020 to provide you with the best hunting knives out there. I want to cover the different strengths and weaknesses of the knives and we will discuss the various components of the knives.
I hope this article helps you with your selection process.
What does a hunting knife consist of?
A typical hunting knife consists of a handle and a blade, sometimes accompanied by a sheath. The best hunting knives should serve multiple purposes, they are mainly used for skinning and dressing game but also for camping tasks, outdoor tasks, and general survival tasks.
The handle is the backbone of any knife. The best hunting knives should be strong and tough and offer the user a comfortable and good grip. There are many materials that are used for knife handles. You have synthetic handles, wooden handles, or handles made of bone. Durability and aesthetics are the factors why those materials are used. Some texturing or contouring helps with grip.
Wooden handles are the most common and often the cheapest options on the market. Wooden handles work fine but they may become slippery in wet weather, possibly causing you to lose your grip. Wooden handles do require some taking care of to preserve them.
Bone handles are durable and tough, but they do not provide a good grip when they get wet. The upside for bone handles is that they require little to no maintenance.
Synthetic handles are the best for skinning and field dressing tasks, they provide more grip in wet weather and require little to no maintenance.
Metal handles are becoming more popular in the hunting community these days. Titanium and stainless steel are used for these handles. Titanium handles are corrosion resistant but are not particularly lightweight. Stainless steel is a stronger, more lightweight but also the more expensive metal of the two.
Tang is a technical term, meaning that the blade continues all the way through the handle. The reason for this is the longevity of the knife. You also have reduced tang or stick tang build knives, where the tang extends all the way to the pommel but is hidden inside the handle.
Some folks suggest that best-hunting knives are full tang knives because they are supposed to be stronger but that isn’t necessarily true. The strength of any knife construction comes down to how much steel is actually in the handle and what the handle does to strengthen it, or not.
The end of some hunting knife has a built-in hamming part, which is termed as a pommel. When you have to fix something that requires a hammer and there is none available, a pommel will let you complete that task.
For the best hunting knives you want the sharpest and toughest blades. You have two main steel types used for knife blades, carbon steel, and stainless steel. Carbon steel knives are easier to sharpen and hold an edge longer but rust rustier. Stainless steel knives are sharper but do not hold their edge long compared to carbon steel knives. Carbon steel knives are preferred by those who want a sharp, long-lasting edge.
Serrated blade/non serrated blade
A serrated blade is a type of blade with a cutting edge. It is also known as a sawtooth, or toothed blade. By having less contact area than a smooth blade, the applied pressure at each point of contact is relatively greater. Cuts made with a serrated blade are typically less smooth and precise than cuts made with a smooth blade. Serrated blades can be more difficult to sharpen than a non-serrated blade. Serrated blades tend to stay sharper longer than a similar straight-edged blade.
A serrated blade has a faster cut but a plain edge has a cleaner cut.
A famous example of a serrated bladed knife is a blade with a gut hook, which can be handy to cut open the abdomen of a deer, however, the drawback of hunting knives with a gut-hook is that they can also ruin the game if not used properly.
The grind of the blade refers to the shape of the blade’s metal as it tapers to the cutting edge.
Good steel is most important. You have two main types of steel used for knives, carbon steel and stainless steel.
There are many types of hunting knives for different practices as well as more multi-functional hunting knives. There are three main types, clip-point, drop point and skinning blade.
Clip-point hunting knives have been around for centuries. It looks like a part of the blade is clipped off. The blade is ideal for puncturing. Mind that when you puncture your game while field dressing you risk rupturing the gut sack.
The drop point is a style of blade characterized by a convex spine that curves down from the handle to the tip of the blade. The drop point style blade is typically thicker, especially at the tip, compared to a clip point style blade. Drop point is the perfect shape for a general-purpose knife that needs to handle various butchering tasks like cutting, skinning, and carving. Because of that, many hunters out there are of the opinion that all the best hunting knives out there have a drop point style blade.
A skinner knife is a type of hunting knife with a very sharp edge, made for skinning animals with ease. Skinners are the best hunting knives to use when you want to keep flesh damage at a minimum.
Fixed vs. folding
Folding knives are more lightweight and can be carried in your pocket, however, fixed blades are more popular to carry in the hunting community. They are more endurable compared to folding knives and capable of doing almost any task.
What to use your hunting knife for?
The best hunting knives are multi-functional and should be able to be used for a variety of tasks. They are used for various outdoor tasks, camping tasks, survival tasks and of course skinning and field dressing tasks.
Skinning and field dressing
Skinning is a practice where you carefully cut through the animal’s skin without tearing muscles or abdominal tissue. Ideal skinning knives have a short thin blade that is curved.
Caping is the technique where you skin the head and neck of an animal like a deer or a bear for the purpose of creating a hunting trophy. The skin around the shoulder, chest and neck are cut away from the other flesh of the animal.
Gutting is the practice where you remove the organs of the animal. A gut hook knife can be used for this.
After the gutting and skinning process, it’s time to remove the meat of the bones.
Time to cut up the meat! There are many different techniques. You will need a knife that is really sharp to make good clean cuts.
What do you need to consider when buying a new hunting knife?
There are many factors to consider when you are looking for the best hunting knives out there. Below we will go through the main factors to consider.
You need to know what do you want to use your knife for, which tasks do you want it to perform?
What material do you prefer? This is also a budget question as some materials are more expensive. Generally, the best hunting knives out there are pricey, but worth it, for their outstanding quality. Knife blades are all made of steel, but the steel’s grade and quality vary. Softer steel sharpens easily, but dulls the fastest, while harder steel takes more effort to sharpen, but holds its edge longer. Determine your needs and preferences, and choose accordingly.
Some good steels I recommend:
- 420 AC
- 159 cro-van
- Crucible’s S30V
Whether you are skinning a dear or butchering a bear, you will need a sharp knife to make smooth, precise cuts. No matter what steel material you choose, you must maintain it once in a while to keep it sharp.
The best hunting knives should fit and feel good in your hand. It should match your hand size and strength. Compare knives of different sizes, grips and weights. A good grip is most important, an uncomfortable grip can cause you to slip and make mistakes. If a knife is to heavy for you it can cause arm strain or muscle fatigue.
What is your budget? What you want is a good price/quality ratio. Hunting knives can range from $5.00 dollars to hundreds of dollars. Most cheaper knives are less durable and perform poorly. If you want to use the best hunting knives it is advised to spend some coin, if the quality of the knife is worth the price.
There are some great brands out there that have provided the hunting community the best hunting knives for decades. Many out there have good warranties and outstanding customer service. Below follows a list of brands I prefer and recommend.
Our selection of some of the best hunting knives on the market in 2020 with reviews
Now that you are aware of the importance and essential aspects of buying hunting knives, let’s take a look at some of the best hunting knives on the market right now. All knives are reviewed in 2020.
3.4 x 13.7 x 2.5 inches
1.1 x 3 x 11.8 inches
Fixed blade, drop-point
6 x 1 x 1 inches
Fixed blade, clip-point
9.2 x 1.8 x 1.4 inches
Fixed blade, drop-point
2.2 x 10.6 x 0.4 inches
Fixed blade, drop-point
Overall length of the knife open is 7 1/4"
3 x 10 x 12 inches
Fixed blade , tanto
Ka-Bar Becker BK2
The Becker BK2 is a fixed knife with a strong full extended tang build featuring a thick high carbon steel drop point style blade. The BK2 is fit for any hunting or survival task you can think of, whether it is chopping wood or skinning game, BK2 does the job well!
The handle provided a great balanced grip and is comfortable to hold. It is very tough and durable. The comfortable handle’s coating is thick and has heavy texture.
The high carbon steel blade with a classic drop point shape has a high flat grind and a sturdy tip. The blade is powder-coated with a nonreflective, really nice looking, black layer of paint, which is very resistant and it avoids the oxidation of the blade. It also prevents sparks from being removed with a ferrocerium. It’s easy to sharpen the blade and it holds a nice edge. The knife weighs exactly 1 pound, which might be too much for some.
The BK2 comes with a, hard shell, glass filled, black nylon sheath, which is of decent quality.
It is an impressive knife for a good price. The build quality is fantastic and the feel inspires confidence and feels reliable.
The ESEE-5 is another fixed, full tang, versatile hunting knife of exellent build quality.
The Handle is made out of tan Micarta canvas which is quality material, it is tough and very durable. It features a glass breaker on the pommel. It is slightly textured and very hard. It is really comfortable to hold and has a good grip even when the handle gets wet.
The thick high carbon steel drop-point blade is really sharp and has a great looking black powder finish. It also features jimping on the spine for increased thumb grip. I was a bit skeptical about the steel used, but I have to say that the heat treatment is really well done, I had no difficulty sharpening this blade.
The knife comes with a basic but durable polymer molded sheath.
This knife not only looks great, but it is also is a knife that can handle even the roughest survival situations. I highly recommend it to any hunter out there!
Buck Knives 119
Buck knives’ 119 is a classic, high quality build, fixed hunting knife of excellent build quality.
The Buck Knives 119 special comes in two versions with different types of material used for the handle. You can choose a Buck 119 with a black Phenolic handle, which is a type of high density quality plastic, or a high-gloss polished Cocobolo handle. Cocobolo is a type of central American hardwood. The handle is treated with some sort of very hard clear polyurethane that makes it nearly indestructible. A solid brass pommel extends downward to prevent backward slippage of the hand while gripping. Finger grooves on the belly of the handle allow for a firmer grip. A brass bolster/finger guard prevents forward slippage.
The clip-point style, high carbon, steel blade has a sharp edge and is perfect for skinning and field dressing tasks. It’s not the hardest knife steel out there, but it holds an edge really well and is quite easy to resharpen.
Buck knives 119 comes with a high quality genuine leather sheath, a big plus!
This classic, high-quality build knife is a must-have for any hunter or knife collector! It might be a little expensive for some that have a stricter budget.
Morakniv Companion Knife
The Morakniv Companion knife is a solid heavy duty fixed knife that comes with a fair price for the quality you get.
The handle is well designed and sits comfortably in the hand, even in wet and cold conditions it holds its grip.
The Morakniv companion’s stainless steel, drop-point blade is razor-sharp and exceptionally tough. Its edge makes it incredibly easy to sharpen.
It loses a couple of points for not being full tang, but overall this a great knife for a great price. Good job Mora!
Benchmade – Hidden Canyon Hunter
Benchmade’s Hidden Canyon Hunter is a compact, fixed hunting knife that is perfect for those who are looking to save space.
The dymondwood handle is of high quality and durable. The shape is nice and comfortable, but the handle can get a little slick in wet conditions. There is a little bit of texture to help with that, but it still doesn’t seem to be enough in wet situations.
The full-tang blade has a great balance of durability, edge retention, and ease of sharpening. The blade is designed really well for keeping your finger on the tip of the blade so that you can guide it through your cuts. It’s a short blade so the belly is a little deep for some applications, but it’s great for skinning.
The knife comes with a pressed leather sheath of pressed leather which is a bit of a let down.
It’s a great blade, lies very comfortable in the hand, is very durable and holds a great edge.
Benchmade offers great warranty, it can be sent back to have the edge repaired for only the cost of shipping.
Havalon Piranta Z
The Piranta Z is a great versatyle pocket knife that comes for a cheap price.
The knife’s has a long, wide, easy-grip handle, which holds fine but gets really slippery in wet weather.
Saying this is a razor-sharp blade is an understatement. It’s ultra-sharp stainless steel 60XT blade, which is as sharp as a scalpel, is ideal for skinning and other field-dressing tasks.
Blade removal is exactly like changing blades on any exacto knife, a solid pinch-grip and good technique can remove or attach the blade without mechanical assistance.
It comes with a nylon holster and a set of 12 spare 60XT blades.
I would highly recommend this knife for skinning and field dressing tasks. This is surely the sharpest Knife you’ll ever use, season after season.
MTech USA Xtreme MX-8054
The awesome looking USA Extreme MX-8054, heavy duty, tactical/hunting knife from MTech, is a single piece of steel, fixed, serrated blade.
The handle is comfortable to hold and offers fantastic grip because of the finger grooves the handle offers.
The stainless steel tantō-style blade is sharp and looks amazing with a good weight to it. The tantō style Blade has a sharply angled tip. The chisel tip angles can vary between very steep and more swept back. Tantō style blades come from Japanese inspiration. The blade has saw back serrations along the spine and a blood groove. This knife comes with good weight, which is maybe to much for some to handle.
The knife comes with a low quality black nylon sheath.
A great price for a great looking and well performing knife!
Bonus: FREE neck knife
As a bonus I included a free neck knife offer in this article. This stylish and discreet hunting/defense tool makes a perfect every day carry! It’s lightweight and has a convenient neck chain yet. Get your free neck knife here!
How to take care of your knives
Taking good care of your knives is most important if you care about the knives longevity and lasting performance.
How to sharpen your knives
There are many different practices out there to sharpen blades. Sharpening with stone, electric sharpeners, using leather. Each practice takes some effort, time and practice to learn properly. For beginners I recommend this basic premium knife sharpening stone. For seasoned knife owners I recommend the edge pro apex 1 knife sharpener.
How to store your knives
Properly storing your knives is important, especially fixed blades. If you hold them in their sheets they can and will hold moisture and after a certain amount of time your blades will show corrosion. Ideally, you’d have a specific space to store your knives, like a dry cabinet. You even have hunters that store their best hunting knives in cabinets with moisture regulating tech build in.
There are so many great hunting knives out there, multi-functional hunting knives and more specialized hunting knives. There is no such thing as a “perfect” hunting knife. In the end it is also a matter of preference and style. Budget comes into play as well, some people don’t need a very expensive knife while others prefer something of high quality.
I hope this article assisted you in your search for the best hunting knives out there.
Take good care of your knives and good hunting!