CAMPING & HIKING

Best Bowie Knife: A Comprehensive Guide to Buying Your First Bowie Knife

Bowie knives line up
Mark Foster
Written by Mark Foster

Are you looking for a new, reliable knife? Whether processing game or cutting up wood for kindling, you can use the best bowie knife the market offers, for an array of outdoor reasons that will help you in the wild.

Any self-respecting outdoorsman or survivalist knows the importance of adding tactical knives to their arsenal of survival gear. Many people have this popular notion that tactical knives are only for combat due to their rugged design which can be attributed to how they’re depicted in movies and television shows.

What most people don’t know is that the main purpose of tactical knives lies more on the utility side. When it comes to survival / tactical knives, the bowie knife is one of the most popular. Your chances in a survival situation are significantly improved just by having a bowie knife that meets your needs.

Image showing two original Bowie-knives

In this article, we are going to talk about bowie knives, their important features, and then show you some of which are already on the market. We hope you can choose a bowie knife that will work in your favor after you are done reading this. Now, let us get started!

Our top picks

Product NameWeightBlade LengthMaterialSpecific FeaturesPrice
Elite Survival16 oz7 inchesStainless steelABS sheath, lanyard cordCheck price on Amazon
Ka-Bar Becker BK916 oz9 inchesSteelGrivory handle, nylon sheathCheck price on Amazon
Puma Plain Stag9.3 oz6 inchesStainless steelLeather sheath, stag antlersCheck price on Amazon
Timber Rattler Western Outlaw38.4 oz11.37 inchesStainless steelLeather sheath, brass guardCheck price on Amazon
Cold Steel Natchez22.4 oz11.75 inchesHigh carbonSecure Ex sheath, sturdyCheck price on Amazon
Sog Creed Fixed Blade12.8 oz7.5 inchesStainless steelSatin finish, Kraton handleCheck price on Amazon
Gerber Winchester16 oz8.5 inchesStainless steelBrass guard, full tang, sheathCheck price on Amazon
Ontario Spec Plus Marine Raider22.4 oz9.75 inchesCarbon steelLanyard hole, Kraton handleCheck price on Amazon

Features to Consider Before Buying

Interested to buy your very first bowie knife? Not all bowies are created equal and it’s more than just having the sharpest blade on the block. Thus, you need to take into account several factors and features before you decide to buy one. Here are some features you should consider before buying a bowie knife.

Materials

The traditional bowie knife is made from carbon steel as it is instrumental in keeping the blade sharp. Over the years, stainless steel alloy production has advanced and enabled blade makers to create knives that could measure up to the quality of the carbon steel versions.

Image showing a bowie-knife on a table

Those who wish to go with the traditional bowie knife can still buy them in the market. It’s a good thing that both types of material are sufficient for both utilitarian and hunting purposes.

Blade Size and Length

When choosing the blade size for a bowie, one should take into account its intended usage. Large blades are for tasks that require power and smaller blades for precision jobs. Large blades are great for clearing weeds or chopping small pieces of wood.

Hunters and fishermen use smaller blades for skinning and cleaning meat. Overall, bowies are known to be large blades so evaluate your intended usage and choose the right knife for the job.

Image presenting the blade of Bowie-Knives

As mentioned, long blades are the trademark of bowie knives. The very first bowies had a standard length of 9.5 inches. Nowadays, bowie knives are manufactured in various lengths but they’re usually not shorter than 5 inches. After all, the length is required for tasks that regular knives can’t achieve. Again, you need to assess your intended usage to determine the blade length you want from your bowie.

Handle

Many people buy knives just by looking at their handle alone. It’s really not that hard to be impressed with a knife just by seeing its handle. For the most part, handles are made with aesthetic purposes in mind. However, it’s not strictly just to make the blade look handsome, but it’s for grip and comfort as well.

Image showing the handle of the Bowie-Knife

A bowie with a beautiful handle will not serve you well if it fails to provide a solid grip, it may even end up in injuries. Some handles also serve a special purpose like for example how antlers and stacked wood feel great in the hands during colder climates. The best rule of thumb is to take the grip yourself and determine how it feels in your hands.

Tang

Another thing that buyers should check when buying a bowie knife is the tang. The tang is the part of the knife that connects the blade to the handle. Bowie knives in general are large including the blade, so it needs a full tang to prevent the blade from breaking at the hilt, especially during intensive tasks.

Image showing the tang of a bowie knife

For knife collectors intending to display their knives, a full tang might not be a necessary feature, but if you plan on using it regularly, then a full tang would be a smart choice.

Sheath

You need something to protect your knife from the elements as well as to keep it sharp so it’s also important that you invest in a good sheath. Not much can be said here except to make sure you get a good quality sheath, preferably something that’s made of leather or synthetic material.

Image showing the Sheath of Bowie Knife

Again, buying a bowie knife is not just about picking the sharpest or the most eye-catching one. You have to take several factors into account to ensure you end up with a knife that best fits your needs.

Best Products on Today’s Market

Now that you are aware about which features to look for in a bowie knife, we’ll take the liberty of recommending some of the best blades that money can buy. Regardless of your needs and requirements, we guarantee that these knives are worth looking into. Without further ado, here are top bowie knife picks.

Elite Survival Bowie Knife Elite Survival Bowie Knife

Price: Approx. $15

Weight: 16 oz

Dimensions: 7 inches (blade), 5 inches (handle)

Specific features: 7.5 inch black anodized stainless steel blade, ABS sheath, lanyard cord

Best use: Outdoor survival, fishing, hiking

Description: Let’s start off with something affordable. The Elite Survival Bowie Knife is a perfect product to start a knife collection. For a fairly cheap product, this knife ticks all the checkboxes of a good survival knife.

It is sharp and feels well-constructed. The handle provides decent comfort and grip. It certainly doesn’t disappoint when it comes to the looks department. Plus, it comes with a plastic sheath that provides good protection for the blade.

Although it’s labeled as a military knife, it’s best use for hunting and survival applications. Based on the pictures alone, one might get the impression that the knife is somewhat smaller in size, but, you will be pleasantly surprised that it’s actually quite a large knife.

As mentioned, the best part about this knife is the price. For $15 approximately, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better value.

PROS:

  • Includes sheath and lanyard cord
  • Affordable
  • 5 inch blade

CONS:

  • Not sharpened well
  • Plastic construction
  • Sheath doesn’t hold blade tightly enough

Related: If you hunt with a partner, having the Uniden Camouflage Walkie Talkies is a great idea so you won’t lose each other and can stay in contact. This includes headsets and carabiners and it has a 37 mile range.

Check the price on Amazon

Ka-Bar Becker BK9 Ka-Bar Becker BK9

Price: Approx. $100

Weight: 16 oz

Dimensions: 16 x 4.8 x 2.6 inches

Specific features: 1095 Cro-Van steel blade, Grivory handle for reducing fatigue, 9 inch blade

Best use: Camping, outdoor survival, hunting

Description: Ka-Bar is a name that is synonymous with high quality tactical and utility knives. The Ka-Bar Becker BK9 is yet another excellent product from this company.

One look and you’ll see that it’s a really good looking knife, rough and utilitarian as opposed to being elegant. We especially love the no-nonsense approach to its proven design. It’s not the flashiest knife out there, but it can handle anything you’ll throw at it. The 1095 Cro-Van steel blade is very sharp out of the box.

The knife only weighs about a pound, but it feels surprisingly solid. The Grivory handle provides the much-need ergonomic feature that actually minimizes user fatigue, which should come in handy for long, intensive tasks.

It comes with a nylon sheath that gets the job done plus it looks rather nice. Overall, this is one of the best bowie knives that money can buy. Definitely a worthy addition to anyone’s bowie collection.

PROS:

  • Quality tested for reliability
  • Long blade length
  • Used by service members

CONS:

  • Pricey
  • Handle feels too small

Related: If you are concerned about eliminating the human scent from you, consider the Dead Down Wind Trophy Hunter Kit which is a great value, safe for the skin and comes with 10 pieces.

Check the price on Amazon

Puma Fixed Blade Bowie Knife Puma Fixed Blade Bowie Knife

Price: Approx. $150

Weight: 9.3 oz

Dimensions: 11.6 x 1.6 x 2.6 inches

Specific features: Hollow ground drop blade, true naturally-dropped stag antlers, custom proofed 57-60 Rockwell Hardness, includes leather sheath

Best use: Camping, hiking, outdoor survival

Description: If you are in the market for a bowie knife with an antler handle, you should take a look at this product from Puma Knives. The idea for the Puma Fixed Blade Bowie Knife is to have a simple, well constructed tool that can withstand a good deal of punishment.

Handmade in Germany, the 6 inch D1.4 German stainless steel blade is truly a thing to behold and is super sharp out of the box. If you wish to sharpen the knife, you’ll be pleased to know that it’s quite easy as well.

Of course, you can’t talk about this knife without mentioning the stag horn handle which is absolutely beautiful. To top off its classic look and feel, it comes with an elegant leather sheath. Those who love 70s classic look for knives, will surely love this Puma product. It’s just a world class cutting tool for hunting and other outdoor applications.

PROS:

  • Tough leather sheath
  • Handmade
  • Drop blade

CONS:

  • Edge isn’t that sharp from the factory

Related: Be sure you have survival gear, such as the Paracord Bracelet which has a long paracord, comes in a 2 pack and has a compass and fire starter attached.

Check the price on Amazon

Timber Rattler Western Outlaw Bowie Knife Timber Rattler Western Outlaw Bowie Knife

Price: Approx. $30

Weight: 38.4 oz

Dimensions: 17 x 4.5 x 1.5 inches

Specific features: 11.37 inch razor sharp stainless steel blade, brass plated guard, hardwood handle, full tang construction, comes with leather sheath

Best use: Hunting, fishing, camping

Description: The Timber Rattler Western Outlaw Bowie Knife is another highly rated bowie knife that any survivalists and collectors should check out. The 11.37 inch razor sharp stainless steel blade is set to surprise in person.

True enough, you might get shocked at just how large this knife is. It weighs nearly 2 lb and it really feels solid and well-built.

The hardwood handle, really wraps up its classic look, and it provides decent grip and comfort as well.

The handle can be small, especially in relation to the knife’s overall size, but experience should depend on the size of the user’s hands. It comes with a brass plated handguard, to protect your hands from potential injuries. This knife features a full tang and a leather sheath.

We gave this knife a spin and it really holds up in terms of toughness. For $20+, you really can’t go wrong with this bowie.

PROS:

  • Hardwood handle is tough
  • Leather sheath is durable
  • Affordable

CONS:

  • Tip can break
  • Edges are not smooth
  • Hard to cut with

Related: In the winter, you can use the knife to gather wood and make a fire, but you should also keep your face covered away from the wind. The Thermal Fleece Face Mask is about $10 and is made of thermal fleece to keep you warm.

Check the price on Amazon

Cold Steel Natchez Bowie Knife Cold Steel Natchez Bowie Knife

Price: $190 approx.

Weight: 22.4 oz

Dimensions: 18.5 x 4 x 2 inches

Specific features: SK-5 High Carbon, blade Length: 11.75 inches, handle: 5.37 inches, black thick: 0.31 inches, Secure-Ex sheath

Best use: Camping, hiking, fishing, hunting, outdoor survivalist, tactical training

Description: As far as production bowies go, the Cold Steel Natchez Bowie Knife is tough to beat. The SK-5 High Carbon steel blade ensures sturdiness and precision which could handle tasks of survival and tactical nature. The carbon steel also gives it a great sharpness over time, which means you’ll spend less time sharpening it.

Like most bowie knives, this thing is quite massive with its 11 3/4 inch blade and its sharpness is something else. However, despite how large of a knife this is, we were surprised at just how lightweight it is.

This is good because you can put more strength into using the blade than carrying it around. The knife comes with Secure-Ex Sheath which, unlike leather, doesn’t hold moisture and won’t leave scratches. When it comes to large, high quality bowie, this product comes with our highest recommendation.

PROS:

  • Made of high quality products
  • Durable sheath
  • Sturdy and reliable

CONS:

  • Not full tang
  • Sheath is plastic, not leather
  • Poor packaging

Related: To make sure you are not seen by animals, you can wear the OutderDo Camo Suit which is under $30. It is a body suit that has 3D leaves attached for a realistic look.

Check the price on Amazon

SOG Creed Fixed Blade SOG Creed Fixed Blade

Price: Approx. $120

Weight: 12.8 oz

Dimensions: 12.1 x 2.2 x 0.9 inches

Specific features: Satin-finished stainless steel blade, sturdy Kraton rubber handle with white washers, durable leather sheath, straight edge, 7.5 inch AUS-8 steel fixed blade, Kraton handle

Best use: Camping, fishing, hunting, everyday carry

Description: We have always been a fan of SOG because of their high quality specialty knives so we didn’t hesitate to include this knife on the list. If you are looking for a bowie that’s both sharp and tough, the SOG Creed Fixed Blade is an easy recommendation.

One thing we’ve noticed right away is the thickness of the blade which is almost twice as thick as most army knives. Combine that thick profile with the AUS-8 steel sharpness, you get a formidable tool for chopping and piercing.

The handle is made from synthetic rubber material and it does a great job of providing a no-slip grip and ergonomic comfort. The black leather sheath is also included in the package and it complements the overall look and feel of the knife. For the quality and build alone, this knife should have no trouble performing well, even in the most adverse conditions.

PROS:

  • Satin finish
  • No slip grip
  • Limited Lifetime Warranty

CONS:

  • Pricey
  • Sheath is thin, feels cheap
  • Strap on sheath will not hold

Related: Keep your hands warm outdoors! The Under Armour Men’s Camo HeatGear Liner are under $20, made of polyester and elastane and are a great pair of liner gloves.

Check the price on Amazon

Gerber Winchester Bowie Knife Gerber Winchester Bowie Knife

Price: Approx. $55

Weight: 16 oz

Dimensions: 15.8 x 3.5 x 1.2 inches

Specific features: Rugged and reliable design, 8.57 inch surgical stainless steel fixed blade, durable finger grooved wood with brass cross guard, full tang construction, includes a ballistic nylon sheath

Best use: Fishing, hunting, outdoor survival

Description: Looking for an every day carry knife that won’t break the bank? The Gerber Winchester Bowie Knife should be more than enough to meet your needs. This knife features an 8.57 inch blade which makes it the smallest one featured in this article. However, don’t let the size dissuade you because this bowie packs quite a punch.

The knife is not only made with strength and reliability in mind but also precision. The smaller blade gives you that precise control and stability that you might not find in larger blades.

We have used this knife for tough tasks like skinning carcasses, stripping wires, repairing ropes and nets and it just won’t quit. The wood and brass combination for the handle really gives it a stylish and classic look.

Even when wet, we didn’t have a hard time holding on to the grip. The overall quality definitely exceeds the price.

PROS:

  • Reliable and strong
  • Affordable
  • Field tested for strength

CONS:

  • Too big for some
  • The sheath will lose the threading
  • Not for heavy workloads

Related: Be sure you have utensils to eat with while outdoors. The Ka-Bar Utensil Combo Set has a spork, knife and bottle opener and is under $20, and very durable.

Check the price on Amazon

Ontario Spec Plus Marine Raider Knife Ontario Spec Plus Marine Raider Knife

Price: Approx. $75

Weight: 22.4 oz

Dimensions: 18 x 3 x 2 inches

Specific features: 1095 Carbon Steel, 9.75 inch plain edge blade, Kraton handle, piped lanyard hole, includes leather Cordura sheath

Best use: Camping, hiking, hunting

Description: Last but certainly not the least, we have a mid-range product from Ontario Knife. The Ontario Spec Plus Marine Raider Knife feels a little bit on the heavier side, but what can you expect? This knife is a juggernaut with its 9.75 inch blade that’s made from 1095 carbon steel.

It’s also ridiculously sharp out of the box and didn’t require sharpening for the longest time, edge retention is definitely top-notch. Corrosion is also less of a concern due to its anti-corrosion powder coat.

The Kraton handle is made from synthetic rubber materials and comes with finger grooves for a more secure grip. The leather sheath is not the nicest one out there, but it’s plenty functional and decent. At the end of the day, this is a solid knife that can handle any tasks from outdoor survival to tactical applications. However, it’s not for those who are looking for a lightweight bowie knife.

And there you have it, the bowie knives that come with our highest recommendations. Hopefully, these products can help set your bowie knife shopping on the right track.

PROS:

  • Made in the USA
  • Limited Lifetime Warranty
  • Comfortable and secure grip

CONS:

  • Grind is not great
  • Gets dull fast
  • Sheath can unravel

Related: Keep all of your items for outdoors taped up with camouflage tape. The Hunting Tape, Camouflage will hide the appearance of your guns, knives and other items so deer or other game won’t catch on.

Check the price on Amazon

Wrap Up

Bowie knives are some of the most reliable hunting and survival tools that you can find. However, even the most expensive and highest quality knives can fall victim to rust, corrosion and the good old wear and tear. If you know how to take care of your bowie knife properly, it can potentially serve you for many years, not to mention minimized safety hazards. So, here are a couple of tips for caring for your bowie knife:

Clean up after use – Another surefire way to lengthen the lifespan of your knife is to keep it clean at all times. This means that you need to clean both the blade and the handle. Keeping it clean will keep away harmful bacteria from the blade. Just use running water and dish soap on the blade and handle.

Keep it lightly oiled – To prevent friction, oil your knife on a regular basis. Oil provides a protective coating that prevents rust from forming on the blade. Be wary about oiling the handle because it can get slippery. Bowie knives with wooden handles can be treated using linseed oil. Just keep in mind that a little oil can go a long way.

Image of Conflict Forge bowie knife 2

In extreme critical situations, a good bowie knife can mean your very survival. When shopping for your first bowie, make sure you don’t buy the first product you come across regardless of how impressive it is. You need to consider many factors to ensure that you can wield it properly and fulfill its intended usage. Shopping around for bowie knives can be a lot of fun, so feel free to compare and contrast.

Are you a fan of bowie knives? What’s your favorite model? Let’s get that discussion going in the comment section. Also, make sure to share this article with folks who are looking to start or expand their bowie collection.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mark Foster
Mark Foster

Mark Foster loves to push his limits when it comes to survival in the wilderness. He might go for a 30-days adventure without any food or equipment except for a survival kit and a knife. We should mention that his survival kit has 122 items in it, so he know what he is doing. Mark is working on his book to share with the world all his experience gained during those brave adventures.

  • Tyler Johnson

    The BK9 “Combat Bowie” is a pretty big knife but it can stand up to some pretty heavy duty jobs. Extremely tough knife with a comfortable handle that can be used for hours straight. I took this on a weekend camping trip and battoned it through small logs and chopped down small trees for a total of about 5 hours. When I got home, the blade could still cut through paper smoothly. I still have not sharpened this knife. It is crazy how long this knife holds a sharp edge!

  • Walker John

    My favorite bowie knife is the Spec Plus Marine Raider. I like this knife even better than my RTAK II which is saying something. The handle absorbs shock and the deep belly of the bowie blade allows batoning wood beyond what the size of the blade would indicate. Yes, it will hold it’s own against an RTAK II and in my opinion will perform better than a Becker BK9 (which I also have and love). If you are going to have 1 “big knife” this is definitely worth consideration…for the price it’s a “best in class.”

  • Mark Foster

    Have you tried using this knife in cleaning and cutting fish? Smooth, sleek and ultra sharp. You’ll love how the blade seemed to glide! In one of my trips, we caught some fish on the lake and I’m glad that I have the “Combat Bowie”. It also helps that the handle grip is well designed for comfort. You won’t fear letting go of the knife while in the middle of a task. This is a no-nonsense knife and I like it that way.
    Thanks for dropping by Tyler!

  • Mark Foster

    Hi Walker! I wonder how the Spec Plus Marine Raider compares to your RTAKII? I was able to use it and what I found great about it is the blade (yeah, always the blade) 1095 Carbon Steel.The leather cordura sheath is not bad, either and provides just the right protection for the bowie knife. I guess the sheath counts a lot, too since you don’t want to accidentally hurt yourself. Overall, good choice Walker!

  • Jon Morgan

    I am glad that you included Becker BK9 on your list. I love it because it is sharp with a really excellent edge. It can cut through cardboard boxes like butter. In addition, it feels very well-balanced. It really feels good in your hand. It is also not very heavy, which is perfect for me.

  • Louis Stiltner

    I am very happy that I purchased SOG Creed Fixed Blade CD01-L because it has been very useful for my camping and fishing trips. I like that it is large enough to do its job. It also has a great balance because its weight distribution is perfect. It is truly a great buy!

  • Mark Foster

    Thanks for commenting on it!

  • Mark Foster

    It is easy to hold, isn’t it? We love the lightweight too!

  • Jerry Mueller

    Nice!

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