by Staff Writer
Every hunter needs a good hunting knife. You may bring down your game with your bow or rifle, but you'll use your hunting knife for everything else. From skinning your trophy elk and dressing a clutch of quail to splintering firewood and cutting limbs from your tree stand, you'll spend a lot of time using your hunting knife. Your hunting knife is an important piece of hunting gear, which is why it's important to choose the right one. Hunting knives come in a bewildering variety of different styles and qualities. This hunting knife buying guide will provide you with information on different characteristics found in common hunting knives, which will help you decide which style of hunting knife is right for you.
Fixed blade knives and folding knives: The first thing you will want to decide as you are shopping for a new hunting knife is whether you want a folding knife or a knife with a fixed blade. Folding knives, also known as pocket knives, are popular because they're so compact. The blade folds into the handle, reducing the size of the knife by half and eliminating the need for a sheath. Folding knives also lock when they're open so that you won't cut yourself by accidentally closing the knife. Fixed blade knives have their own advantages. For one, fixed blade knives can be much larger and heavier than folding knives, which is something that hunters often prefer. Also, since fixed blade knives have one piece of steel that runs from the tip of the blade to the butt of the handle, they are stronger than folding knives. A hunting knife is often used for heavy-duty cutting and various odds and ends tasks around camp, making a strong and sometimes even large knife a handy piece of hunting equipment to own.
Hunting knife blade shapes: Hunting knives have three main blade styles: drop-point blades, clip-point blades and skinner blades. Drop-point blades receive their name from the way the dull spine of the blade drops to meet the cutting edge, resulting in a relatively obtuse point. The dull point, wide curve and typical thickness of drop-point blades make them well suited for skinning big game. A clip-point blade looks as though a piece has been clipped from the spine of the blade near the point; it results in a very sharp point, great for piercing. Clip-point blades are usually thinner than drop-point blades, and between their light weight and sharp point, they make a fair skinning knife and a very good general knife for miscellaneous camp activities. Skinner hunting knives feature wide, sweeping blades, great for skinning, and often a sharpened hook above the tip of the blade that lets a hunter skin big game without piercing the organs of the animal. While they make skinning much easier, skinner blades aren't as useful for around-the-camp activities.
Hunting knife blade materials: There are dozens of different varieties of steel that are used to make hunting knives, each with its own unique properties. While there are too many different types of hunting knife steel to outline in this article, knowing some of the properties of different steels can help you know what to look for. Steel hardness refers to how much a blade will bend. Hard steels will bend little and can take a very sharp edge; however, hard steel hunting-knife blades can also be brittle, making them less than ideal for activities that require you to twist your hunting knife or use it as a lever. If you plan on using a hunting knife to cut through bones when you're skinning big game, you may not want to choose a hard steel blade. Softer blades lose their edge quickly, but they are easier to sharpen than hard blades, and they are durable. Another factor to consider is a steel blade's corrosion resistance. Some steels are made with traces of other metals, like vanadium, that help the blade maintain a shine and resist rust. When you're shopping for a hunting knife, consider what you plan on using it for. If you only plan to use it for skinning and you want a keen edge that will last a long time, choose hard steel. For a more general purpose blade, choose steel with more all-around properties for your hunting knife.
Hunting knife handles: Hunting knives come with a variety of different handles. Traditionally, hunting knife handles were made from bone, antler, stacked leather and wood. These materials are still used today, and it's hard to beat the look of nice hunting knife with an antler handle. However, modern materials like rubber, micarta and kraton polymers offer an unbeatable grip, which is important considering that there is a good chance that you will get blood on your knife handle. If you are most interested in looks, go with the classic hunting knife materials. If performance is paramount, choose modern handle materials.