How to Choose the Best Hunting Knife

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When it comes to hunting, accept nothing but the best. In this article, we break down how to find the best hunting knife for your needs.

If you found your way to this page, chances are you're looking for the best hunting knife ever made. But we're going to level with you. No single hunting knife trumps them all. The truth is a little more complicated.

There are countless fantastic hunting knives on the market with features that some people love and others hate. This guide will educate you on the features of a great hunting knife and give you enough knowledge to select the best hunting knife for your needs.

Later in the guide, we'll give recommendations on some of our favorite hunting knives.

buck

Know What Type of Game You're Hunting

It sounds like a no-brainer, but it's important to consider what type of game you'll be hunting. Hunting big game like bison will require a larger knife than smaller game like rabbits.

For whitetail deer, a good blade length is between 3 to 4 inches. If the knife is larger, you'll find it much more difficult to dress the deer. Use this general rule of thumb to scale your blade up or down depending on the size of your preferred game.

If you don't know what type of game you'll be hunting, we recommend a 4 inch blade (give or take a little). This is great blade length for general purpose hunting and for other unrelated tasks, since a hunting knife is often used for different tasks in the field.

Fixed vs. Folding

Unlike a survival knife blade, it's not imperative to have a fixed blade on your hunting knife. However, there are advantages to them. Since a fixed blade has essentially no moving parts, it's typically stronger and less likely to malfunction than a folder. The lack of moving parts also makes it significantly easier to clean because you don't have to worry about "gunk" getting on the inside.

On the flip side, a folder takes up less space and affords the convenience of easily fitting in your pocket without hassle. Another benefit is that some folders have more than one blade. For example, the SOG Revolver Hunter has a bone/wood saw in addition to a standard blade, making the knife more useful than a fixed blade.

Even though the majority of knives found in our comparison chart below are fixed blade, it's really a matter of preference. If you have the resources, we recommend carrying both a fixed and folding blade.

Gut Hook: Do I need one?

gut hook on hunting blade

No, you don't need a gut hook, but it's a feature many people like. A gut hook is a sharpened semi-circle added to the back of the spine that's used for field dressing an animal. You use a gut hook to essentially "unzip" the hide.

It's a convenient feature to have, but it's far from essential on a hunting knife. Some people swear by gut hooks while others hunt their whole lives without ever using one.

There are some disadvantages to having a gut hook on your hunting knife. The unique shape of a gut hook can be harder to sharpen, which is why many hunters use a round file to sharpen the inside. The action of a gut hook is not always smooth either. Occasionally, hair will clog the gut hook and stop you mid-gutting. It can also get in the way when using the knife for non-hunting tasks.

Again, this is a matter of preference. Many models are sold with and without the gut hook, so you can usually get the knife you want with or without the gut hook. If you are ambivalent about the gut hook, we'd recommend skipping it.

Top 5 Hunting Knives

Ready to buy a new hunting knife, but need a starting point? We've assembled a list of five of the best hunting knives based on recommendations and reviews from fans, customers, and bloggers around the web. To reiterate, there's no such thing as the perfect hunting knife and you many find more expensive custom knives better suited to your needs, but these are among our favorite factory knives.

Spyderco Bill Moran

Spyderco Bill Moran hunting knife

The late Bill Moran is a legend in custom knives with a resume that stretches as far as the eye can see. So when Spyderco was able to use one of his classic designs, you have an intersection of brilliance in the Spyderco Bill Moran Drop Point Hunting Knife.

The 3.88-inch drop point blade is made of quality VG-10 steel and features a flat grind. It has a very simple FRN handle with Kraton inlays that doesn't look like much but nicely fills out the palm of your hand with three-dimensionality. This makes it feel like the knife is custom designed to fit your hand. The price on this 8.06-inch hunting knife is not unreasonable for a knife of this caliber either.

Buck Model 110 Hunting Knife

Buck 110 Hunting Knife

No knife is more iconic than the Buck Model 110 Hunter. The classic has sold more than 15 million copies, making it the most popular knife of all time. Say what you will about the knife when it comes to hunting but millions of people can't be wrong.

The folder is a fairly hefty knife, coming in at 8.63 inches overall when engaged and weighing 7.2 ounces. The 3.75-inch 420HC steel blade locks into place with a lockback mechanism and the Model 110 also comes with an included leather sheath.

The knife is darn near perfect, but it does have its downsides. The Model 110 is large and heavy, which aren't necessarily the best assets on a hunting knife you have to carry around. Still, the clip point blade makes it a great versatile knife.

Fallkniven H1z

Fallkniven H1z hunting knife

I've said it once and I'll say it again, Fallkniven knives are the best of the best. Whereas many companies have a weak link somewhere in their lines, Fallkniven only has winners. In terms of hunting knives, the Fallkniven H1z is the best they have to offer. The H1z has a deceptively simple design that's been perfected over centuries of knifemaking in Sweden.

The 4-inch blade on the knife is made of laminated VG-10 steel that extends all the way into the textured Thermorun handle that provides a firm grip even when things get slippery. The "z" of H1z stands for the included Zytel sheath.

Gerber Gator Fixed Blade

Gerber Gator Hunting Knife

For the hunter who's trying to stay within their budget, the Gerber Gator Fixed Blade is a great entry-level hunting knife that packs a punch. Gerber has a number of variations on this model, including a folding version and one with a gut hook, but we're sticking with the plain fixed blade version of the Gerber Gator.

This Gator has a 4.02-inch 420HC blade with a glass-filled nylon handle that's molded with rubber for a soft but tactile grip. It also makes a solid all-around knife when you're not using it for hunting.

CRKT Onion Skinner

CRKT Ken Onion hunting knife

Famed knifemaker Ken Onion takes his craft very seriously. Onion spent years conducting field tests by giving custom skinners to professional hunters and experts to get feedback. Thanks to his work, we now have the perfected Onion Skinner from CRKT. The knife is a bit unusual compared to other hunting knives, but it's won over many people.

Coming in at 3.75 inches, the Bohler K110 stainless steel blade features a "camel hump," which makes skinning an animal easier. The handle with a glass-filled nylon core and soft textured grip is unique in itself. It has a deep finger choil that improves the grip when things are wet, and the curves on the handle fit the hand perfectly.

Want more hunting knife info?

If all this information still doesn't quench your hunting knife thirst, check out our chart below or head over to our hunting knife section to see all the knives we have to offer.

Best Hunting Knife Comparison Chart

Name Price Type Total Length Blade Length Weight (Ounces) Blade Steel Sheath Handle
Gerber Moment Folder $ Folder 8.5" 3.5" 5.6 5CR15MOV Nylon Nylon & Rubber
SOG Revolver Hunter $ Folder 10" 4.75" 6 440A Nylon Glass-reinforced Nylon
CRKT Free Range Hunter $ Fixed 9.06" 4.25" 3.3 8Cr13MoV Nylon Molded Plastic
Gerber Gator $$ Fixed 8.86" 4.02" 3.8 420HC Ballistic Nylon Glass-filled Nylon
Browning Tactical Hunter $$ Folder 7.25" 3.25" 4 VG-10 N/A G-10
Buck 110 Hunter $$ Folder 8.63" 3.75" 7.2 420HC Leather Ebony
SOG Huntspoint $$ Fixed 8.2" 3.6" 3.7 AUS8 Leather Nylon & Rubber
CRKT Onion Skinner $$ Fixed 8" 3.75" 3.7 Bohler K110 Leather Injection Molded
Case Hunter 385 $$ Fixed 9" 5" 6.4 Tru Sharp Leather Leather
Buck Vanguard $$$ Fixed 8.6" 4.13" 6.3 420HC Leather Cocobola Dymondwood
KA-BAR BK2 Becker Companion $$$ Fixed 10.625" 5.25" 14.6 1095 Cro-Van Polyester GV-6H
Puma SGB Fox Stag $$$ Fixed 8.7" 3.7" 7 440A Leather Stag
Cold Steel Master Hunter $$$$ Fixed 9.25" 4.5" 6.4 AUS8A Concealex Kraton
Spyderco Bill Moran $$$$ Fixed 8.06" 3.88" 3 VG-10 Concealex Kraton
Fallkniven H1z $$$$$ Fixed 8.3" 4" 6.3 VG-10 Zytel Thermorun