June 27, 2021 9 min read

How To Choose The Best Bowie Knife? Complete Buying Guide:

There are many important considerations you should keep in mind while buying a bowie knife. Customers determine how they plan to use the knife; maybe as a survival knife, combating, decorating, hunting, and skinning purposes, or for self-defense. 

Some of the qualities are personal tendencies, but many of them are crucial for a specific purpose. Here is a complete guideline about the features, designs, and uses that will help you to choose the best bowie knives which are available in the market.

A Brief History Of Bowie Knife:

When most people consider a Bowie Knife, often they tend to picture a large knife with a heavy, clip point, blade since that is assumed to be the original design. However, the knife that James Bowie used to dispatch attackers during the notorious “SandBar” fight which took place on a sandbar in the Mississippi River near Natchez-Under-the-Hill on September 19, 1827, has been lost. There is no definitive, documented evidence to state exactly what Bowie’s knife looked like.

 

Rezin Bowie

 

However, according to history, in 1827, Rezin Bowie, who was James Bowie’s brother and an Arkansas plantation owner at that time, was attacked by a bull and, in self-defense, he was forced to draw his belt knife and attempt to stab the bull in the skull. But, the knife that he carried at the time proved ineffective for the job because it was unable to pierce the bull’s head. 

Fortunately, Rezin did manage to survive the attack and then he thought of manufacturing a more reliable knife. He commissioned a local blacksmith named James Black to grind down an old file to create a large, single-edged, knife with a blade that measured over 9″ in length and approximately 1 1/2″ in width which he then fitted with large quillons and a simple, wooden, grip.

Hence, it is believed that this is the knife (or one like it) that Rezin gave to his brother James before the infamous sandbar fight. This knife was much larger than was commonly carried by men of the time and was supposed to be very unique because most personal defense knives of the time were patterned after the European double-edged dagger.

Since the use of large knives for self-defense has been replaced by the handgun, Bowie Knives are now mostly used as tools rather than weapons. Thus, they are often chosen by both campers and wilderness survivalists who require a large, vigorous, and powerful knife to perform many different tasks such as clearing a campsite, making tools, traps, and primitive weapons for hunting, and several other outdoor jobs which require a large, heavy-duty, knife. 

Buying Guide:

Now let's discuss the fundamental characteristics which determine the quality and performance of the best Bowie knife. If you want to read more : HOW WE MANUFACTURE THE MASTERPIECE KNIVES?

Size Of The Blade:

While selecting a Bowie Knife, mostly outdoorsmen tend to choose a knife with a blade that measures 7 to 9 inches in length.

Since the blades of this length work well for performing light mincing, cutting tasks as well as batoning. They also provide enough control over both the tip and the edge of the blade to perform more tricky tasks such as sharpening stakes and cutting rungs to make ambushes and snares. They also help in removing the hide from harvested game animals.

Design Of The Blade:

The blade design is another important factor when choosing the right bowie knife. Clip pointblades are the best choice for good tip control. Clip point blades are better for penetrating and better controller. Drop points, and straight backs are important if the bowie knife’s primary use is for outdoor activities. For cutting purposes, a straight spine that extends from the handle and curves from below the spine provides greater control. 

The iconic and classic Bowie Knife features a Clip Point blade design which is characterized by a straight spine that extends forward from the bolster or handles and then integrates either a straight or concave drop to the tip of the blade which seems such that portion of the blade has been “clipped” off. 

And the goal of this design is to both lighten the tip of the blade for better balance and control and to position the tip of the blade below the spine which is close to the centerline, for greater control and increased piercing ability.

On the other hand, both Drop Points and Straight Backs are also considered good enough for big knives aimed at outdoor use. 

The Drop Point blade design is defined by a straight spine that extends straight from the bolster or handles and then incorporates consecutive, convex, curves from the spine of the blade to the tip such that it positions the tip of the blade below the spine and near the centerline of the blade for greater control while conducting precision cutting tasks. 

Whereas, the Straight Back is illustrated by a straight spine that extends straight from the bolster or handles to the tip and gives the least amount of control over the tip but also causes the midsection of the blade to have an extensive cutting edge which is beneficial for chopping.

Design Of The Edge:

The other factor to be considered while choosing a Bowie knife is the design of the edge. Most of the Bowie Knives feature a straight edge lengthening from the handle to the belly which is always the best choice for a general-purpose knife due to its both slicing and carving qualities.

But, it is not similarly well suited for mincing as a recurved edge. Hence, some Bowie Knives accentuate a recurved edge which can be either straight or slightly concave near the handle but then tumbles down into a convex curve. Then rises to the tip and, the objective of this blade design is to move the balance point of the knife significantly ahead so that it has more momentum during chopping.

Check The Blade Constructive Material:

Another key factor for the durability of the best Bowie knife is to check the constructive material of the blade. Traditionally, carbon steel was most often used as a blade constructive material but now after many experiments and tests, stainless steel is used mostly. 

In most cases, the entire reason behind the fact that the outdoorsman prefers to carry large Bowie Knives is that they need a general-purpose knife that is competent in conducting several different tasks which may include slight chopping as well slicing and piercing.

Thus, large knives should be made from a blade of stainless steel that is capable of resisting the impact of using a baton to divide firewood or knocking over a sapling without breaking. And also still being able to hold an edge when excavating or slicing. 

Therefore, they need to be made from tough steel and, at the same time, they should be made from hard steel. Unfortunately, in the world of metallurgy, these two properties are mutually exclusive, and thus, can't be funded. 

In many cases, bladesmiths have to select a steel that depicts the best possible settlement depending on the intended use for the knife. 

However, there is a procedure in which a layer of hard steel is fused to a layer of softer steel on either side which then establishes what the best possible blade steel is. As the thin and hardcore holds an edge incredibly well and on the other hand the outer softer layer provides flexibility and shock resistance.

Lastly, the toughest stainless steel and hard Damascus are the best blade constructive materials that will provide durability and the best aesthetics to the knife at the same time. 

Check The Construction Procedure:

As large knives are mostly used for heavy-duty tasks, it should be pointed out that the most vulnerable point of the knife is the joint where the handle or bolster stops and the blade begins. 

Therefore, the construction of the tang (the portion of the knife where the handle is attached to the blade) is also of great importance while choosing a Bowie Knife. 

Full Tang, Hidden Tang, Or Partial Tang:

They can feature one of the various designs such as a Full Tang, a Hidden Tang, or a Partial Tang. For example, a Full Tang is characterized by a tang that extends the full length of the handle as well as the full width, and thus, it is the strongest of the three types of knife tangs. 

Whereas a Hidden Tang is relatively narrower than a Full Tang and expands nearly the full length of the handle so that the handle can be slid over the tang and hence secured with either epoxy or pins or both, and that is why it is not quite as strong as a Full Tang. 

However, the Partial Tang is considerably thinner than a Hidden Tang and is also remarkably shorter and weaker than either a Full Tang or a Hidden Tang.

Material Of The Handle:

The other important factor for selecting the best Bowie Knife is the handle material and also its design which at first you may overlook but then you would realize that both handle design and handle material are important factors to consider when choosing a Bowie Knife. 

For example, the handle should be designed in such a way that it is ergonomic to provide you control over both the cutting edge and the tip of the knife. And also enables you to retain the knife in your hand when cutting or chopping and, have greater control when the handle is wet.

Thus, it should be noted that although Full Tangs are the strongest, they make sure the blade smith attaches two scales to either side of the tang to manufacture a handle that is quite comfortable but cannot provide any protection from the shock that was created during chopping or batoning.

However, as both the Hidden and Partial Tangs completely enclose the blade, handles for this type of tangs can be made with hard cores covered by shock-absorbing materials such as Kraton or Hypalon which also provides an excellent grip when wet.

Regardless of what type of tang you choose, you should look for a handle material that is very tough, impenetrable to immersion in water, and will not tear when subjected to extremes in ambient air temperature. 

Therefore, the most popular handle materials for large knives are linen Micarta, canvas Micarta, G10, Zytel, Kraton, and Hypalon.

Cutting and Strength Considerations:

Previously, in the 1800s advertisements for the bowie knife stated that it was long enough to be used as a sword, wide enough to paddle down the river, heavy enough to use as a hatchet, and sharp enough to use as a razor.

The minimum strength and cutting requirements require the blade to be at least 6 inches long, should have a full tang, a clip point, and a full false edge for use as a rugged knife. While most people use the bowie knife for hunting and skinning, the average size should be a 12-inch blade, it is also useful as a weapon of self-defense.

In the times of Jim Bowie, guns were questionable, and a good knife was a more reliable weapon. When the blade and handle have similar lengths, the resultant will be an increase in power at the tip of the blade.If you want to know about 10 BEST BOWIE KNIVES IN 2022

Effectiveness Of A Bowie Knife:

While buying a bowie knife, the customer should evaluate how effective the knife is for the desired purpose. Some people love to buy a knife with a big blade, full tang, and a wooden handle for survival and camping outdoors.

The handle should be comfortable during the procedures of cutting, slashing, peeling fish, skinning animals, or hunting, or any other purpose. A hook at the end of the handle for better control and a brass finger guard makes for easy handling. The weight of the knife needs to be well-balanced and easy to hold for effectiveness.

Wrapping It Up:

So, as you can see, there is quite a lot to consider while purchasing a Bowie Knife for outdoor use because the blade needs to be large and tough enough to execute all of the tasks that you are likely to ask of it while retaining the ability to take and hold a fine edge. 

Also, both the blade and the tang need to be strong and tough enough to combat the impact developed when chopping or using a baton and the handle should be impervious to immersion in water and extremes in temperature. 

Plus, it is helpful if the handle has an ergonomic shape and a positive grip, as well as a handle design that enables you to retain the knife when chopping. Therefore, you should carefully consider all of these factors when choosing a Bowie Knife for any given purpose.


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