Bowie knives were in popular use during the 19th century, even before Jim Bowie used the knife during Vidalia Sandbar fight—a skirmish that resulted in the knife forever bearing his name. Due to their design, these knives were the go-to knives for both pioneers and soldiers alike. These knives were also extensively used during many American conflicts and wars during the 19th and early 20th century—most notably, incidents during the California Gold Rush, The Independence of Texas, and the Civil War.
Nowadays, these knives are used by hunters, survivalists, and outdoor enthusiasts all over the world. That’s because these knives are excellent for removing skin from a carcass or cutting meat. Its blade also makes it a good choice for self-defense as well. That’s why we’ve decided to review some of the best bowie knives available, so everyone can snag one of these knives for themselves.
Quick Summary of the Best Bowie Knives
- Best Overall
Schrade SCH45 Leroy Survival Bowie (Amazon) – Review
- Best Value
Ontario Knife Company Marine Raider Knife (Amazon) – Review
- Best Affordable
Mossy Oak 14-Inch Full-Tang Knife (Amazon) – Review
Best Overall: Schrade SCH45 Leroy Survival Bowie
Over the last few decades, the bowie knife has experienced somewhat of an evolution. Many of them have veered significantly from the “authentic” bowie blades of the past and have become more like K-bar knives. This is kind of funny considering that the K-bar knives manufactured during World War II were based on a bowie blade design that was made to be thinner and smaller than a traditional bowie so it could be used by Allied forces. Although K-bar knives are good for what they do, they’re not bowie knives in the traditional sense.
Fortunately, not all knives have made that evolution, and proof of that fact can be found in the knife before you. This knife is designed to be a true bowie knife. It’s designed with a thick, heavy blade that’s made out of 8Cr13MoV carbon steel that’s been coated in Titanium for durability and is equipped with black thermoplastic elastomer handle slab. It’s a knife with a full-tang that travels through the handle, too, so it’s as durable as it is intimidating.
The one thing that might put some people off about this knife is that it’s extremely large. Its blade length is 10.4-inches, and it has an overall length of 16.5-inches, so for some people, it might seem more like a short sword than a knife. It also has a good heft to it, weighing in around 1-pound and 7.6-ounces. This large fixed blade knife has a finger guard and choil that makes it easy to use, as well as a grooved TPE handle that prevents it from flying out of the hand during use.
Without a doubt, these knives were designed for bushcraft use, but they can also be used for everyday carry thanks to their black thermoplastic sheath. Regardless of how they’re used, however, we feel that these are some of the best bowie knives in this price range. These knives are great for hunters, survival camping, or for yard use. These are truly well-made knives that many people are going to love using.
Best Value: Ontario Knife Company Marine Raider Knife
This bowie knife is made by Ontario Knife Company, a company that’s been making quality knives since 1889. With its pronounced history, it should be no surprise to anyone that they make some of the best bowie knives for personal use around. After all, they have 130+ years of making knives of all different types. This company has been making kitchenware, fishing knives, hunting knives, cutlery of all sorts, survival knives, machetes, and of course, bowie knives. And this knife is one of their best knives they make.
This knife has an overall length of 15.2-inches and a blade length of 9.8-inches. It has a full-tang blade that’s made with powder-coated 1095 carbon steel that has a hardness of 57-59 HRc and has a plain edge. It has a full flat taper grind with bowie swedge, double guard protection, and its handle is equipped with a useful lanyard hole for attaching equipment or for attaching to a piece of paracord so it can be attached to the outside of a backpack.
This knife’s handle is 5.25-inches and is made from grooved Kraton. This knife also comes with a sheath, although we have to say that we didn’t feel that the quality of the sheath was on par with the quality of the knife itself. While we felt that this is one of the better bowie knives in this price range, we don’t feel that the sheath is going to hold up to frequent heavy-duty outdoor use. Sure, some people may think we’re being overcritical of this knife’s sheath, but we do feel that it is somewhat lacking in the durability department.
Keeping all of these knives’ features in mind, we have no problem recommending our readers to try it out. We feel that these knives are good for EDC, camping, hunting, or just about any outdoor activity. We’re very confident in these knives build quality and usefulness.
Best Affordable: Mossy Oak 14-Inch Full-Tang Knife
Before we get too deep into this knife review, we should probably address the elephant in the room. This main reason why this bowie knife is on our list is that it’s a great budget knife. It’s a knife that’s a fraction of the cost of other bowie knives but still maintains what we feel is a minimum standard of quality. We weren’t a big fan of this knife’s sheath because it has a cheap feel to it, and we’re not sure how long the blade is going last when it’s exposed to the elements, but otherwise, we think that it’s a well-constructed knife for its price.
This knife is approximately 14-inches long and has a blade length of 8.5-inches. Its blade is made from 3CR13 steel, which should give it good corrosion resistance and tensile strength, but is not as durable as other types of steel.
It has a full-tang construction, which is always nice to see on a knife, and it has a rosewood blade that’s comfortable to grip and is approximately 5.5-inches. This knife’s blade has a thickness of 3.7mm and a handle thickness of 21mm. This knife has an overall weight of 14-ounces, so it’s not too heavy nor is it to light for most purposes.
All things considered, we do think that this is a good budget knife. We just don’t think that consumers should expect a knife that’s 1/10th to ½ the price of professional bowie knives to be as durable as these other knives. However, we do think that it will work well for people who need it for light-duty work.
The Outdoor Enthusiast’s Guide To Bowie Knives
Now that we’ve listed some of the best bowie knives available, it’s time for us to turn our attention to giving our readers the information they need to select the right knife for their particular needs. Bowie knives come in a variety of different sizes and are made with a variety of different materials, so it’s quite helpful if people knew what they expected to get out of their knives before they make a final buying decision. Below are some of the things that consumers might want to consider before purchasing their next bowie knife.
Consider Blade Length
One of the first things that you’re going to want to consider before purchasing your next bowie knife is the length of the blade. As a general rule, most of these knives have a blade that’s between 7.5 and 10-inches in length, and their length will inform you of what they’re good for using. Smaller blade lengths are useful for skinning and cleaning game, and larger length blades are good for clearing brush and other bushcraft activities.
Consider The Blade Construction
Another thing that you’re going to want to consider is the material that’s used for making the blade. When it comes to blade construction, you have a lot of different choices available to them and not all of them are equal. For example, carbon steel knives tend to be stronger and sharpen easier than most other types of knives, but they also tend to corrode more quickly if they’re not coated. Stainless steel, on the other hand, doesn’t corrode easily, but they’re not as strong and can be difficult to sharpen. Below are some of the more common types of blade materials and what they’re composed of, so you can decide which one might be right for you.
8cr13MoV Steel: This is a Chinese stainless steel that’s very similar to Japanese stainless steel. It’s made from 8% chromium and contains nickel, molybdenum, and Vanadium for increased toughness, hardness, and wear resistance.
1095 Steel: This type of steel has a .95% carbon content, 0.4% silicon, and 1.2% manganese. It also contains trace amounts of molybdenum, nickel, aluminum, and copper. This steel is used in US military fighting knives and tends to have a high hardness and strength. It’s also a bit more brittle than some other types of steel.
3CR13 Steel: This Chinese stainless steel is made from steel that contains about 13% chromium and 3% carbon. It’s a relatively soft steel that only has an HRC of 52-55.
154CM Steel: This is stainless steel that has an HRC of 58-61 and contains 1% carbon, 14% chromium, .5% manganese, .3% silicon, and 4% molybdenum. It’s a material that’s suitable for knives that may be exposed to saltwater for long periods. As such its good for marine and/or survival knives.
Consider The Knife’s Tang
The next feature you should think about before purchasing your next bowie knife is whether it has a full-tang or not. And the answer to that question should be yes, you do want a knife with a full-tang. Full-tang means that the blade travels through the blade, instead of being merely attached to the blade. A knife with full-tang is stronger than knives that don’t have a full-tang, so it should be the default for anyone looking for a quality bowie knife.
The full-tang of the knife isn’t the only thing to think about, however. You should also consider whether you’re going to buy a knife with an exposed tang or a knife with a hidden tang. Hidden tang knives wrap the handle around the entire end of the blade, while exposed tang knives show the edge of the blade along the ridge of the handle. In most cases, hidden tang blades are superior as they absorb the shock of the blade as its being used and prevent it from traveling through your hand.
Consider The Knife’s Handle Length
The length of the handle is going to determine how useful it is going to be used for some jobs over others. For example, longer handles tend to be better in situations where extra leverage is needed for prying or chipping plants. On the other hand, smaller handles can make the knife easier to use for jobs such as skinning or gutting animals. There’s no wrong or right answer to which one is better suited to your needs, however, you’re going to have to figure out your own needs and then decide for yourself.
Consider The Knife’s Weight
The last thing the consumer is going to want to consider is the weight of the knife. Heavier knives tend to be better for chopping and/or clearing brush, while lighter knives tend to be better for cleaning game. If the knife is too heavy, however, it will be difficult to use, so of course, you’re going to have to weight that consideration as well to find a knife that’s just perfect for your needs.