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I’m sure you already know the importance of quality fixed blade hunting knives when in remote areas, whether it is your main skinning knife or a good solid camp knife the success of the trip may rely on the type of knife you choose.
Types Of Hunting Knives
- Skinning Knife: there are several styles of skinning knives each has specific pros and cons, the skinning blade I like the most is the Drop Point but you may find a Clip Point Blade more versatile if you only carry one knife.
- Boning Knife: Used for breaking down and boning out a larger game like Deer or Elk for easier transport, useful to carry if you put the processed meat into a backpack and walk it out, as I do.
- Gut Hooks: can be either a sharpened hook on the back of a skinning knife or a dedicated blade, as you would find on the Swingblade by Outdoor Edge.
- Caping Knife: These are smaller with fine blades used for carefully removing the head skin of trophy animals, a specialist knife in most cases, but you could use a good quality folding knife with a slim clip point blade.
- Camp Knife: This group could cover just about anything with a blade as they are used for a variety of tasks, Bowie Knives or Machetes are used the most for heavy work as they stand up to chopping wood…
My Favorite Hunting Knives
10 years ago I spent $70 on two deer hunting knives [Swingblade and a Fixed Blade Boning Knife] they have never let me down!
I have used the same two knives successfully for years, I wouldn’t want to hunt without either one – combined they would cost under $100 to buy today.
Knives Under $100?
My aim is to help you research and buy the best hunting knife for the job.
Whether you are looking for a 3″ clip point blade for cleaning birds and small game or a larger skinning knife-gut hook combination alongside a fixed blade boning knife, which in my opinion is the ultimate knife set for field dressing deer…
Buy The Best – But Don’t Pay More Than You Need To!
7 Best Hunting Knives [Compare]
|SwingBlade ||Read Our Full Review|
|Boning Knife||7 Boning Knives Reviewed|
|863 Selkirk||Read Our Full Review|
|Morakniv BushCraft ||Read Our Full Review|
|Steep Country 15008|
- Drop Point Blade
- Clip Point Blade
- Skinning Blade
- Gut Hook
These 4 blade options are mostly found on skinning knives.
They would be a good base to start with when deciding the best hunting knives for your style of hunting, whether you hunt small or large game, you will need a skinning knife of some sort.
If you choose to carry one knife then the more versatile clip point blade would be my recommendation.
But in saying that, I carry 3 knives that cover all 4 blade types including a boning knife – when deer hunting.
Hunting Knife Reviews
Below I review and compare 7 of the best hunting knives from popular knife makers.
Highlighting as I go, the key points you need to be aware of.
You don’t need to buy the most expensive knife with the hardest steel.
You do need the best hunting knife for the conditions and your intended use.
Good Hunting Knives Have…
In my opinion, in order to buy a versatile hunting knife that will last for years.
Your knife should look similar to this – 4″ to 6″ Fixed Blade made from Stainless Steel around [57-59 RC-Hardness] either a Drop Point or Clip Point Blade with a comfortable Non-Slip Handle…
To help with your selection of the “Perfect Hunting Knife!” check out the reviews below.
Best Hunting Knife – 7 Reviews…
SwingBlade – Review
SwingBlade by Outdoor Edge.
This is one of the best hunting knives I have owned – so versatile.
Two Blades In One Knife, both are very useful and sharp, made from Japanese AUS-8 stainless steel.
The blades alternately swivel into the handle with a simple click of a button.
I have owned my SwingBlade for almost 10 years as you can see from the photo’s it is still in great condition.
I mainly use it for gutting and skinning deer but it is a good all-rounder if you are looking for a camp knife.
Best Gutting Blade I’ve Ever Used
I had to clean a couple of deer before I started to like the gut hook.
Traditionally I’m not a fan of them, at least not those little hooks on the back of many skinning knives.
This gut hook is totally different – it actually works!
I wouldn’t want to use another type of knife now – if I lost this one I would buy another as soon as possible.
Smooth As A Zip
The gut hook is actually a separate blade, it’s slightly curved with a blunt bulb at the end, this bulb reduces the chance of cutting/puncturing the gut lining, avoiding a smelly mess, perhaps even tainting your meat!
In a way, it works a bit like a zipper, as you can very quickly make the leg and belly cuts opening up the animal for skinning and gutting.
When I do the opening cuts along each leg and belly the gut hook cuts the skin from the flesh side out, ensuring the gut hook blade never comes into contact with deer hair.
So The Gut Hook Blade Stays Sharp Longer!
Drop Point Skinning Blade
At [3.6″] almost 4″ the beefy drop point blade is ideal for skinning larger game animals.
Both blades have shown they are made for hard work, I use the SwingBlade a lot for gutting and skinning deer.
The knife feels great to hold and use, whether it is raining, or it is covered in blood, it, feels secure in my hand, thanks in part to the non-slip rubberized Handle.
The whole package has a nice balance, for such a cheap hunting knife.
To me, good edge retention and balance, is important, as it ensures the knife is comfortable to hold and fast to use…
Gut Hook /Skinning Knife
My SwingBlade is now 10 years old, but still works flawlessly, still swivels smoothly, still works like new, though the blade is a little stained after dressing out a lot of deer.
I Wouldn’t Want To Be Without This Knife!
OutDoor Edge obviously has confidence in their knives, as I do…
– They offer a Lifetime Warranty.
Boning Knife – Review
Boning Knife by Victorinox
Its full name is a bit of a mouthful…
“Victorinox 6 Inch Curved Fibrox Pro Boning Knife”
As with all Victorinox fixed blade knives, it is very easy to maintain, sharpen, and use.
Its made from “Quality European Stainless” popular with butchers and professional cooks who successfully test these knives every day on the job…
Normally X55CrMo14 or 1.4110 is used in Swiss Army Knives as well as Inox blade steel used by Victorinox as they don’t state exactly the steel used in this knife I assume it is either Inox blade steel, X55CrMo14 or 1.4110
The amazing versatility and value of a good quality boning knife is the reason I use a similar knife when deer hunting.
Recommended For Hunting
If you combine it with a skinning knife as I do, you will have the perfect budget hunting knife set for most game animals or butchering farm animals.
Victorinox Swiss Army recommends washing all knives by hand. For best results, hand wash your knives with a soapy cloth and dry immediately.
Made in Switzerland by Victorinox since 1884 with a lifetime guarantee against defects in material and workmanship.
119 Special – Review
119 Special by Buck Knives
The 119 Special is a fixed blade 6″ Clip Point hunting knife made from 420HC steel this has excellent strength, edge retention, and corrosion resistance that will last for years.
Classic phenolic handle with polished aluminum guard provides both style and good balance when in use.
This one of Buck’s top-selling knives.
The 119 Special is a knife that’s often handed down from generation to generation.
Included is a high-quality leather sheath.
I Want One
I remember this knife from way back when I first started hunting in the 80s, I always wanted one but like most young hunters starting out, I had to settle for what I could afford…
With a Lifetime Warranty, the 119 Special is a rugged timeless hunting knife with the popular clip point fixed blade.
Made In The USA
119 Special was first created by Buck Knives in 1942 from 420HC steel and all credit to them as it is still Proudly Made In The USA.
863 Selkirk – Review
863 Selkirk by Buck Knives
Buck Knives Made For Hunters Since 1902
The design and build of all Buck Knives benefit from its long history of knife making.
Buck Knives was first established in 1902.
Like all Buck Knives,
863 Selkirk is made from quality stainless and sold with an impressive lifetime warranty.
The Selkirk is a light, well-balanced, fixed blade skinning knife it is also suitable for general use around camp.
It is not heavy enough to cut firewood! buy a chopper or a small axe for that.
Best Blade Shape For Skinning
I especially like the Selkirk blade shape not only is it pleasing to my eye, drop point is my preferred blade style for skinning large game like deer.
Drop Point Blades
If you have skinned anything at all?
You will know the main benefit of a well-designed drop point blade like on the 863 Selkirk is the curved blade speeds up the skinning process as well as reduces the chance of cutting an ugly hole in your “once in a lifetime” Trophy Skin.
Over the years Buck Knives has put a lot of work into improving their heat treatment.
They now manage to treat 420HC to Rockwell Hardness of 58.
Resulting in a knife steel that is strong but easy to sharpen, and retains its edge.
Freeman Guide – Review
Freeman Guide by Gerber
Founded in 1939, Gerber Knives is constantly innovating as they produce new and better knife designs.
Based in Portland, Oregon, USA.
An Iconic American Brand whose products have a global reach.
Fixed Blade Skinning Knife
The Freeman Guide is a result of those innovations, It comes with a popular drop point fixed blade made from stainless steel – The blade shape and length make it ideal for skinning deer and general camp use.
Stylish To Look At
I really like the look of this knife, I almost brought it 5-6 years ago because of its simple no-nonsense style, plus it feels really nice in hand.
Keeping Costs Down
They are similar to Buck in that some knives are imported as the Freeman Guide [China] to keep the costs down, other knives are still made in the US.
Though I only own one knife and a meat clever from China at the moment, I find their knife steel sharpens really easy and stays sharp.
After all, they did invent steel so that shouldn’t surprise anyone…
Recommended – Yes
Gerber is a popular trusted US brand with a strong following of “Outdoor Types” who totally rely on Gerber knives.
Morakniv Bushcraft – Review
Morakniv Bushcraft by Morakniv
If you are looking for the best hunting/survival knife combo the Swedish made Morakniv Bushcraft stainless steel 4.3-inch Fixed-Blade Survival Knife with Integrated Fire Starter and Sharpener is an excellent option.
Survival Or Hunting
Its multi-purpose sheath adds huge value to a well built durable knife, its integrated fire starter and diamond sharpener make it the ultimate bushcraft knife.
Quality Blade Steel
The stainless blade is specially ground so that it can be used with the fire starter.
The knife’s Hi-Vis Orange color is a nice touch, no more searching blindly for your knife every time you put it down.
Sandvik Stainless Steel
The versatile Sandvik Steel, used in the Morakniv Bushcraft is rated for marine, fishing, outdoor, and construction applications…
Where knives see hard use, exposed to dirt, rain, blood, or saltwater this fixed blade knife would be the right choice.
15008 Steep Country – Review
Steep Country 15008 by Benchmade
The Steep Country 15008’s drop-point fixed blade is a well-balanced versatile hunting knife proudly made in the USA.
CPM-S30V Blade Steel
CPM-S30V stainless steel offers superb edge qualities and rust resistance, so you can be confident your Steep Country Knife will not let you down even when hunting in adverse conditions far from home.
Experienced hunters will know a fixed blade, full tang knife provides greater strength and reliability, this simplicity in design also makes the knife easy to clean.
If you like to carry your knife on your belt there numerous carrying positions to choose from, thanks to the fully adaptable molded Kydex Sheath.
Best Knife Steel?
Do you need the best steel? Well, it depends…
What I find when cleaning deer, all I need is AUS-8 or even the “softer” stainless steels like 420HC [RC 57-58] popular for its ease of sharpening and toughness. [hard steel can be brittle]
Both my current hunting knives are AUS-8 stainless with a carbon content close to 0.75%.
When buying hunting knives I try to view them as tools to perform a task, as boring as it sounds, they need to be “fit for purpose.”
One of the main requirements for me is will it survive harsh conditions with minimal maintenance?
Keep It Simple
Though I do like the look of Custom Hunting Knives with Damascus Steel or High Carbon blades and Wooden Handles…
Years of experience and a few disappointments, have taught me Stainless Steel Blades with G-10, Plastic or a Rubberized Handle is the best choice for Hunting Knives, then you can confidently rely on the knife you buy.
In order for steel to be considered stainless, it must have a chromium content of at least 10.5%.
Sharpening Hunting Knives
How Often and What to Use?
What to use? It depends on the hardness of your knife steel, for most production knives 57-60 HRC.
I use a double-sided 1000/6000 Aluminium Oxide Whetstone, 1000 Grit I consider to be a medium stone used to obtain a good working edge, 6000 is my fine stone, good for maintaining and polishing an edge.
If you have splashed out and have a custom knife in K3-90 steel around 67 HRC you will need a Diamond Stone to keep an edge on that beauty – but sharpening will not be required that often, I suspect.
Best Whetstone for Hunting Knives
For my run of the mill production knives, the 1000/6000 Whetstone works great, I can quickly recover a working edge using the 6000 grit.
If your knife has been damaged such as chips in the cutting edge, or if you feel the need to change the bevel angle, you would need a course whetstone to speed things up, 320 grit is what I would use initially to repair a damaged blade, then progress through 1000 to 6000 to recover/polish my working edge.
If I’m away hunting for a day or the weekend… I seldom need to resharpen my knives in the field, but I do carry a spare folding knife just in case.
For the most part, my Swingblade and Boning Knives keep their edge well enough to dress-out more than one of large body Red Deer that I normally hunt.
Out of habit and the fact I like sharpening knives, I do resharpen my knives after each hunting trip, if I use them.
Best Whetstone Sharpener
I soak the whetstone for 15minutes then touch up each blade [with the 6000 grit] once I get home using an Aluminium Oxide sharpening stone similar to this 1000/6000 Whetstone available on Amazon.
What Blade Angle Is Best, To Sharpen Hunting Knives?
If you shop around, some whetstones come with an angle guide, this can speed things up and add consistency when you are first starting out using whetstones.
I don’t use a sharpening guide as my stone didn’t come with one, but I probably should buy one, they only cost a few dollars, a guide is a good way to maintain an accurate, consistent blade angle.
Consistent Blade Angle Is Key!
Over the years I developed my muscle memory to the point I can maintain a consistent blade angle without a guide, but it would be sensible for me to use one anyway, as a consistent angle is key to correctly sharpen any knife.
I sharpen my hunting knives to about 13-16°.
For general-purpose knives, I normally follow the existing bevel angle as it came from the factory.
Hunting Knives Must Have…
For some hunters, the hardness of their knife steel is very important.
For those of you unsure about the different steel types, below I list 10 popular types of knife steel along with their uses and a few well-known Brands who use each type.
For me, it is not so important, when working in the real world – which is gutting, skinning, and boning out deer in the field.
Best Hunting Knives…
Rather than steel hardness, my hunting knives have to be Well Made, Light, Well Balanced, Comfortable To Use.
Most Important – A Good Hunting Knife Must Hold Its Edge Until The Job Is Done!
Both of my cheap and cheerful AUS-8 Stainless Steel Hunting Knives live up to expectations, whatever the conditions or I wouldn’t own them.
If someone says you must have this…! or must have that…? Test It, For Yourself, then buy the knife that works for YOU! at a price you are comfortable spending!
10 Popular Types Of Knife Steel
- 420HC is tougher than the standard 420, the HC stands for high carbon, 420HC is used by many knife makers including Gerber and Buck as it is resistant to rust, easy to re-sharpen, with good/average edge-retention
- 154CM is custom steel also used by Buck Knives with high carbon content and higher hardness rating giving it better edge retention than 420HC.
- S30V Stainless Steel has a high vanadium content giving it even higher edge retention.
- X55CrMo14 or 1.4110 used in Swiss Army Knives as well as Inox blade steel used by Victorinox.
- ZDP-189 by Hitachi Metals, used by custom knife makers and a few factory makers including Spyderco and Kershaw.
- VG-10 is widely used in Japanese kitchen knives, several manufacturers use it in various folders and fixed blade knives like Spyderco, Cold Steel, and Fallkniven.
- AUS-8 (8A) is comparable to 440B with a carbon content close to 0.75%. Outdoor Edge uses it in their SwingBlade hunting knife also SOG knives use AUS-8 extensively.
- 440C is considered high-end stainless steel. It is very resistant to corrosion and is one of the most common stainless alloys used for knife making.
- Böhler n695 is equivalent to 440C
- CPM S125V High wear resistance, difficult to process, and machine for knifemakers mainly used in custom knives, though it is used by larger manufacturers in very limited quantities.
Ask The Experts!?
If you ask any 3 hunters “what is the best knife steel?”
You will most likely receive 3 different answers and possibly a heated explanation of why it is so!
A better option than “debating with friends” is to visit this page on ThoughtCo and Compare 20 Grades of Knife Steel.
Steel For Hunting Knives
When choosing a hunting knife, if it’s made by a well-known brand with a Stainless Steel Blade, I don’t worry too much about steel types when buying a “Working Knife” – Why Is That?
Simple, all knife steel used by Established Knife Brands is durable enough for hunting use and will hold an edge. Their Reputation Totally Relies On It!
Buy any knife from well-known brands like…
- Buck Knives
- Outdoor Edge
Your knife will serve you well, as long as you use it for the “intended purpose” and don’t abuse them – a knife is not an Axe or a Spade!
Buck Knives uses 420HC
Buck has a long history of knife making for “Hardcore Hunters” dating back to 1902 along with a Lifetime Warranty.
Buck uses 420HC in a lot of their best-hunting knives it is durable, tough, easy to sharpen, and fit for purpose…
If it’s time tested since 1902,? and good enough for Buck Knives, then it’s good enough for me!
3 Common Types Of Steel Used By Good Solid Knife Brands
- 420HC – used in a lot of Buck Knives.
- AUS-8 – used in SOG Knives and Outdoor Edge.
- VG-10 – use in knives by Spyderco, Cold Steel, and Fallkniven.
There are many one-off knives created by “Custom Knife Makers,” one day I would like to collect a couple of these unique hunting knives made from amazing hard steel…
But this article is about finding the best hunting knife for the best price.
Not Who Makes The Coolest Custom Knife With The Best Carbon Steel!
Frequently Asked Questions…
Q. How To Choose A Hunting Knife?
- Knife Size: The game you expect to hunt will dictate your knife size, cleaning and skinning small game like fox or rabbits requires an easy to maneuver slim blade 3-4″ long, a good folding knife from Buck Knives would suit.
Larger game animals like deer I would use a 4-6″ fixed blade knife.
- Best Blade Shape: Drop point for skinning/cleaning game, Clip Point for general use and skinning/cleaning game, Skinning Blade as the name suggests is best for skinning, Swingblade is unique for its skinning blade and excellent gut hook, a great choice if you choose to carry only one knife. [For Cleaning Deer, I use this Swingblade combined with a Boning Knife]
- Best Knife Handle: Non-Slip Rubber or Plastic Handles last the longest… Composite, Wood, Bone looks the best, comes down to what floats your boat. For hunting knives, I go with synthetic scales like G-10, as well as Rubberized or Plastic handles as they last for years.
- Best Knife Steel: I love Stainless Steel – 420HC stainless steel as used in many of Buck or Gerber Knives.
AUS-8 stainless as used in my Swingblade and Boning Knife, AUS-8 is my favorite hunting knife steel at the moment – I can testify, both knives sharpen easily and hold an edge all day.
VG-10 is another popular steel used in folding and fixed blade knives Made By Spyderco, Cold Steel, and Fallkniven.
- Don’t choose a hunting knife just to impress… or looks pretty, choose a Knife that will do the job for you – It is a tool.
Q. Best Whetstone For Hunting Knives?
- What I use is a two-sided stone like this one 1000/6000 Whetstone available on Amazon. This is a great grit combination to start with when your knife is new. Now I’m happy with the edge on all my knives, I would be better with a slimmer, lighter, single-sided Whetstone around 6000 grit, just to touch up my knives after use.
Q. Best Boning Knife For Deer?
- The Victorinox Boning Knife is my first choice, they are a great price, made to last, they are popular with butchers and chefs as they stand up to hard professional use,
You have several blade types to choose from, my preference is this Curved Flexible Blade for boning out deer
Q. Best Skinning Knife?
- I admit to a strong bias, The knife I currently own is the best skinning knife – the Swingblade by Outdoor Edge, If you read my review you will understand why I like it so much…
Skinning Knives will have a curved point in various blade sizes, the larger the curve the more specialized to skinning the blade is. If you want a good “all-rounder” skinning knife then choose a drop point or clip point blade.
For caping [skinning trophy head skins] a slim longish clip point blade around 4″ would suit, Boker or CRT Knives sell a few nice folding skinner knives, I would be happy to use for caping.