How to Choose a Hunting Knife – Foundry Outdoors
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How to Choose a Hunting Knife

     Although some hunters find the task somewhat unpleasant, the fact is that field dressing a game animal and later removing the hide and then butchering the meat is every bit as much an integral part of hunting as scouting, sitting in a tree stand, and taking the shot to harvest the game. Therefore, for many avid hunters, a good hunting knife is every bit as important as a good firearm or a good bow. However, with so many different brand and models of hunting knives on the market today, the task of choosing the right hunting knife can be somewhat daunting and thus, some hunters simply opt to purchase a hunting knife without putting much thought into the various aspects of hunting knife design. But, the fact is that choosing the right hunting knife can make the task of field dressing and skinning a game animal far easier. So, how does a hunter choose the right hunting knife? Well, the answer to that question lies in three main aspects of hunting knife design consisting of the type of steel the blade is made from, the type of blade design is has and, the type of blade grind it has.

      So, the first step in choosing a hunting knife is to choose a blade steel. Thus, you need to be aware that blade steels are divided into two categories consisting of high carbon Plain Tool Steels and Stainless Steels and each has advantages and disadvantages. For instance, most Plain Tool Steels such as SAE 1095 lack the addition Chromium and thus, they do a very poor job of resisting corrosion. However, also due to their lack of Chromium, Plain Tool Steels are significantly easier to sharpen than stainless blade steels are and, they have a very fine grain structure which allows them to take a very fine edge. But, they do not hold an edge nearly as well as stainless blade steels do.

      On the other hand, stainless blade steels such as 440C and ATS 34 contain a high degree of Chromium which makes them significantly more corrosion resistant than Plain Tool Steels. But, Chromium also increases the size of the grain structure in the steel while also increasing its wear resistance and thus, most stainless blade steels will not take as fine an edge as non-stainless blade steels and, they are more difficult to sharpen. But, they also do a far better job of holding an edge than Plain Tool Steels do.

      Thus, once you have decided on either a Plain Tool Steel or a Stainless Steel, the next step in choosing a hunting knife is to choose a blade design. For instance, most blade designs are categorized by the type of tip they have such as a Clip Point, a Drop Point, or a Trailing Point although, there are several other less popular designs such as the Spear Point and the Nessmuk. However, the Drop Point seems to be the most popular design among avid hunters because it positions the tip of the blade near the blade’s center line although, it also limits the depth of the blade’s belly. Therefore, drop point blades are often chosen by deer hunters because they are a good design for a skinning technique called “nicking” in which the hunter first pulls the hide away from the muscle tissue and then uses the tip of the blade to slice the thin membrane that connects the two.

Drop Point Hunting Knife

Drop Point Hunting Knife

On the other hand, some game animals such as Feral Hogs have hides that are very firmly attached to the carcass and thus, they must be carved off instead. Thus, for this type of skinning, most experienced hunters choose either a Trailing Point or Nessmuk blade design because they both have deeper bellies than a Drop Point does and thus, they have a longer cutting edge near the tip of the blade.

Trailing Point Hunting Knife

Trailing Point Hunting Knife


Nessmuk Hunting Knife

Nessmuk Hunting Knife

Consequently, the Clip Point blade design is somewhat of a compromise between a dropped point and a deep belly and thus, some hunters consider them to be the best all-purpose blade design.

A. G. Russell Clip Point Bowie

Clip Point Hunting Knife

      Last, when choosing a hunting knife, you should also make note of the type of blade grind it has. For instance, the three main types of blade grinds are the Saber Grind, the Flat Grind and, the Hollow Grind. Thus, while the Saber Grind creates a very strong edge geometry, it does not produce a very sharp cutting edge and thus, it should be avoided when choosing a hunting knife.

Saber Grind Hunting Knife

Saber Grind

However, the Hollow Grind can produce an extremely sharp cutting edge but, it’s also significantly weaker than a Saber Grind.

Hollow Grind Hunting Knife

Hollow Grind

Therefore, the Flat Grind represents a compromise between the strength of a Saber Grind and the sharpness of a Hollow Grind.

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Flat Grind

Thus, when choosing a hunting knife, you should choose one with either a Hollow Grind or a Flat Grind.

      So, when choosing a hunting knife, you first need to decide between a non-stainless Plain Tool Steel and a Stainless steel. Also, you should be aware that blade steels have a very wide range of costs but, as a general rule, cost is commensurate with performance. Consequently, because edge retention is a major factor when choosing a hunting knife, stainless steels are a better choice than non-stainless steels are. In addition, when choosing a hunting knife, the type of blade design you choose depends on both your personal preference and the type of animal you will be field dressing and skinning. Thus, you should choose between Drop Point, Trailing Point and, Clip Point blade designs accordingly. Last but not least, choosing the proper blade grind is every bit as important as choosing the right blade steel and the right blade design because, while a Hollow Grind will take and extremely fine edge, it will not hold it quite as well as a Flat Grind. But, at the same time, while a Flat Grind will hold an edge somewhat better than a Hollow Grind will, it will not take quite as fine and edge. Thus, when choosing a hunting knife, you should carefully consider each of the three aspects of hunting knife design mentioned above and then choose the knife that best suites the type of game animal you will be field dressing and skinning.




Written by,


Bill Bernhardt

Outdoor Professional

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