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Best Hunting Knives

Updated April 2018
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. Read more
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How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

  • 16 Models Considered
  • 68 Hours Researched
  • 1 Experts Interviewed
  • 135 Consumers Consulted
  • Zero products received from manufacturers.

    We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

    Shopping guide for best hunting knives

    Last Updated April 2018

    A good hunting knife is indispensable, and there are hundreds to choose from. That's great because it means there is a perfect tool for every outdoor pursuit.

    However, all those choices can make things confusing. That's where BestReviews comes in!

    We run lab tests and field trials. We consult experts and evaluate owner feedback. Independent advice from BestReviews is invaluable – we never take free samples from manufacturers, so you know our findings are unbiased and honest.

    The five hunting knives shortlisted are those we recommend. Each offers best-in-class performance and value, with something for every user.

    The following shopping guide looks at the elements we considered.

    Don't be tempted buy the biggest knife available. If you're skinning small game, a large knife is too unwieldy to be effective.

    Choosing a hunting knife

    There are many edge tools, but we're focusing specifically on finding the best knives for hunters. Some are specific to certain tasks. Others can be used for many purposes. When choosing, look at three key areas:

    • Knife Steel

    • Blade Length

    • Blade Style

    Knife steel

    Manufacturers of cheap hunting knives often tout "carbon steel" as a benefit, but all steel is made of iron and carbon, so the term doesn't mean much. "High-carbon steel" is an equally vague description unless a specific number is included. There are too many variations in steel for us to detail them all, but the following are the most common in hunting knives.

    • Steel labeled 420HC (high carbon) and 440 are types of stainless steel often found in good-quality hunting knives.

    • Steel labeled 7CR17MOV is a variation of 440 that includes vanadium for additional hardness.

    • High-end hunting knives use S30V and 154CM steel. These are very hard, so they retain their edge well, but these knives can be difficult to sharpen. Technically, both of these types of steel are more brittle, but that's seldom a problem in the field. Hunting knives made with these types of steel are more expensive.

    It's vital to have a guard between the knife blade and handle to keep your hand from accidentally sliding down the blade. A secure grip is particularly important on a large hunting knife.

    Staff
    BestReviews

    Blade length

    While blade length is largely a question of personal preference, there are some specific points to consider.

    • Short

    A short knife (three to five inches) is easy to carry and offers more finesse if you mostly hunt small game. It isn’t as useful as a general-purpose tool.

    • Medium

    A medium knife (five to eight inches) is a good choice for the occasional hunter, but those who are more committed to the sport might want to buy two knives, so you have the right tool for each job.

    • Long

    A long knife (eight inches and longer) gives you power and leverage, useful if you're doing more with your hunting knife than just preparing game. Of course, the longer the knife, the more awkward it is to carry.

    A knife sheath is vital for protecting you and your gear. Look for a sheath with a belt loop, lanyard, or both.

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    BestReviews

    Blade style

    At first glance, there seems to be an endless variety, but blade styles can be narrowed down to just three.

    • Drop Point: The back of the blade curves down toward the sharp end. These blades have a thick spine, making them rigid and ideal for heavy work.

    • Clip Point: The blade tilts up at the end. This classic Bowie knife design gives a useful point for piercing and offers more precision. The blade isn’t quite as strong as a drop point, but the clip point knife is the most versatile.

    • Skinning/Trailing Point: These blades are narrower than the others, with a pronounced upward curve at the end. It's a specialist tool. The blade is unsuitable for general-purpose game processing or campsite work.
       

    You might also want to consider these two blade features.

    • Serrated Edge: This runs along part of the cutting edge or spine. It’s useful for cutting bone.

    • Gut Hook: This sharpened hook is cut into the back of the blade, near the tip. It’s used for slicing skin. Some hunters like it; others get by just fine without it.

    Many find traditional bone knife handles attractive, but they can be uncomfortable for prolonged use and hard to grip when wet or cold. Modern non-slip composites are more practical.

    FAQ

    Q. Should I choose a hunting knife with a fixed or folding blade?

    A. We recommend a hunting knife with a fixed blade. It’s more rigid and easier to clean, and it doesn't have small parts that can fail. A folding general-purpose knife is versatile, but it isn’t what you need to cut brush or process game.

    Q. Knife blades can be shiny or matt. Is one better than the other?

    A. Blade finish is largely cosmetic, though it can help prevent rust. The type of steel is important, not the color.

    Q. How do I keep my hunting knife sharp?

    A. Cleaning it after use and keeping it sheathed will prolong the edge. When the knife starts to dull, use a manual stone, not a powered grinder. The latter generates too much heat and can damage the blade. There are a number of good videos online that demonstrate proper sharpening technique. Practice and patience are key.

    The team that worked on this review
    • Amos
      Amos
      Director of Photography
    • Bob
      Bob
      Writer
    • Branson
      Branson
      Production Assistant
    • Bronwyn
      Bronwyn
      Editor
    • Devangana
      Devangana
      Web Producer
    • Eliza
      Eliza
      Production Manager
    • Kyle
      Kyle
      Writer
    • Melissa
      Melissa
      Senior Editor