Before we can determine which few hunting knives out of all of the hunting knives available today are the best of the best, we must first determine what defines a good hunting knife. Then, we must determine what makes a good hunting knife a great hunting knife. Therefore, for the purpose of this article, I have chosen seven hunting knives that I feel are the best hunting knives on the market today based upon their blade design, blade steel, and the materials used to construct the hilt.
But, what makes a good hunting knife a great hunting knife? Well, the first step to evaluating a hunting knife is to examine the design of the blade. For instance, hunting knives generally fall into one of three categories: Drop Points, ClipPoints, and Trailing Points with numerous sub-categories such as the Canadian Skinner and the Nesmook. Also, while the Drop Point is arguably the most popular hunting knife blade design, both the Clip Point and the Trailing Point are especially useful in certain situations. But, before we can classify a particular knife as belonging to one of these three categories, we must first know what defines each of these blade designs.
- A Drop Point is defined as a blade that has a straight spine that extends forward from the bolster or handle and then incorporates a continuous, convex, curve from the spine of the blade to the tip such that it positions the tip of the blade below the spine.
- The Clip Point blade shape on the other hand, has a straight spine that extends forward from the bolster or handle and then incorporates either a straight or concave drop to the tip of the blade such that it appears as if that section of the blade has been “clipped” off.
- Whereas, the Trailing Point blade design incorporates a long, concave, curve along the length of the spine such that it positions the tip of the blade above the spine.
Another extremely important factor to choosing a top quality hunting knife is the steel the blade is made from. For instance, blade steels are first divided into two categories consisting of stainless steels and non-stainless, high carbon, tool steels and, while some carbon tool steels do make excellent hunting knives, most hunter have a distinct preference for stainless steels. Then, among the many different stainless steels, there are a few specialty steels that have been developed in recent years such as CPM S30V, Bohler M390, and Cronidur 30 which have been dubbed “super steels” due to their chemical composition, powder metal technology, and superior performance. Furthermore, a third important factor in choosing a hunting knife that should not be overlook is that of blade length. While it is true that the very large majority of hunters prefer a hunting knife with a blade that is 3 1/2″ to 4 1/2″ in length, the fact of the matter is that when field dressing and skinning a truly large game animal such as an Elk or a Moose, a knife with a blade length of 6″ to 8″ is often a very handy tool to have in hand. Then, last but not least, there are numerous different materials available to bladesmiths from which to construct the hilt of the knife and they range from very plain to highly decorative. Thus, while Micarta handle scales and stainless steel bolsters are functional, they are not nearly as aesthetically pleasing as highly figured exotic hardwoods and other natural materials combined with nickel-silver or high quality brass bolsters. Consequently, a careful evaluation of all of these factors was considered when choosing what I feel are the top seven hunting knives on the market today.
The Frey made by Fallkniven is part of their Northern Lights series and represents the pinnacle of semi-production knives available today. Constructed completely by hand, the Fallkniven Frey features hidden tang construction and a laminated steel Clip Point blade with a core made from premium, Japanese, VG-10 stainless steel (a modern “super steel”) hardened to 59 HRC welded to outer plates made from 420J2 stainless steel to provide the user with the strongest, sharpest, knife blade possible.
In addition, the Clip Point blade measures 5 1/8″ in length (with an overall length of 9 5/8″) and the flat grind provides a very keen cutting edge while the single, stainless steel, quillion prevents the user’s fingers from accidentally sliding forward onto the blade. Furthermore, the Fallkniven Frey features a beautiful stacked ox hide handle that not only provides an amazingly secure grip, it’s also impervious to moisture, oils, and solvents. Last, the Frey is supplied with a meticulously crafted, high-grade, leather, sheath.
For those of you who prefer hunting knives with somewhat shorter blades, the M3 by Lion Steel is an excellent choice. This beautiful knife features full tang construction with an extra wide, Drop Point, blade made from German Niolox stainless steel (typically hardened 58-63 HRC) which is a powder metallurgy stainless steel that contains the four key ingredients Carbon, Chromium, Molybdenum, and Vanadium with the addition of Niobium to further refine the grain structure (another of the modern crop of “super steels”).
Also the beautifully designed Drop Point blade measures 4 1/8″ in length (with an overall length of 9 1/4″) and the flat grind provides a very keen cutting edge. In addition, this knife is available in your choice of textured linen Micarta, textured Olive Wood, or textured Santos Wood handle scales that have been machined using a 3-D milling machine and which are secured the tang using two Torx T8 screws. Last, the knife is supplied with a well crafted, heavy-duty, leather sheath.
Solingen Germany has long been a recognized center of fine cutlery production and Puma is a name that has long been associated with fine quality cutlery. Thus, it should come as no surprise that the Puma Skinner is one of the finest examples of a Tailing Point blade design available on the production knife market today.
Featuring full tang construction and a very graceful 4 3/4″ blade made from 440C stainless steel hardened to 57-60 HRC with an overall length of 9 3/8″ and a bolster/single quillion made from aircraft grade aluminum complimented by genuine, naturally dropped, stag antler, handle scales, the Puma Skinner is one handsome knife that any hunter should be proud to own! Plus, it is supplied with a high quality leather sheath.
For those of you who hunt large game species such as Elk or Moose, the Magnum Fox River made by Bark River Knives is quite possibly the ultimate large game processing tool. Also manufactured on a semi-production basis like the Fallkniven Frey mentioned above, the Magnum Fox River is the larger version of BRK’s popular Fox River hunting knife.
Featuring full tang construction and a gorgeous Drop Point blade design made from A2 tool steel (which is a non-stainless, high-carbon, tool steel) hardened to 58-60 HRC that measures 6 1/4″ in length (with an overall length of 11 1/4″) and a flat grind provides a very keen cutting edge, the Magnum Fox River is also available in your choice of numerous different handle scale materials ranging from canvas Micarta to Stag antler. Last, this excellent hunting knife is also supplied with a handcrafted leather sheath made by Great Lakes Leatherworks.
Although not quite up to par with the other knives listed here, the Buck Ranger Skinner is such a fine design that it deserves mention in this article. Designed as a hybrid version of Buck’s extremely popular Ranger folding knife and their classic Vanguard fixed blade knife, this is such a pretty knife design that it is difficult to not want one! Featuring a 3 1/8″ Drop Point blade design made from 420HC stainless steel hardened to 58 HRC by Paul Bos with a high quality brass bolster and Macassar Ebony exotic hardwood handle scales (the most expensive wood in the world), the Buck Ranger Skinner makes an excellent compliment to a larger hunting knife for fine jobs such capeing or for field dressing and skinning small to medium sized game species. Last, the Buck Ranger Skinner is supplied with a sturdy leather sheath.
Arguably the most famous and most copied Folding Hunter design ever made, the Buck model 110 is truly a timeless classic. Designed in 1964 by Al Buck, the Buck 110 Folding Hunter is every bit as functional as it is aesthetically pleasing. Featuring a 3 3/4″ Clip Point blade design with a semi-hollow grind made from 420HC stainless steel hardened to 58 HRC by Paul Bos with high quality brass bolsters and Macassar Ebony exotic hardwood handle scales (the most expensive wood in the world), the Buck 110 Folding Hunter is hard to beat when you would rather carry a folding knife instead of a fixed blade design. Also, because this knife was specifically designed to be carried in a belt pouch instead of in a person’s pocket, the handle design is man-sized and comfortably fills the hand when in use for a very positive grip. Last, this knife is supplied with a sturdy leather belt pouch.
Queen Cutlery Premium Skinner
For those of you who like to hunt small to medium sized game species, the Queen Cutlery Skinner makes an excellent companion. Featuring full tang construction and a unique Straight Spine blade design made from D2 (a semi-stainless tool steel) hardened to 58-59 HRC that measures 3 1/4″ (8″ overall length) with a flat grind for a very keen edge, this is an excellent knife for small to medium game species. Also, although it lacks either bolsters or quillions, it does feature fossilized Spalted Maple Burl handle scales secured to the full tang. Last, it is supplied with an embossed leather sheath.
So, this concludes my article on The Top 7 Hunting Knives and I hope that you found it informative. Also, I hope that you have enjoyed reading it even if you disagree with my choices. However, I also hope that you understand why each knife was chosen so that even if you do disagree with my choices, you will have enough information to make an informed decision when choosing your own top hunting knives. Or what ever type of knife you choose for that matter, you may find your needs suited for another type of knife and instead search for the best survival knife that you can find or a a more practical EDC. Last, be sure to check back with us regularly for more interesting and informative articles on the fascinating subject of cutlery.