Bowie Knives are the most popular combat knives you can find. The Bowie Knife has a long history dating all the way back to 1830 when James Black created the knife for its namesake, Jim Bowie. Jim Bowie went on to popularize the knife in his famous duel known as the Sandbar Fight.
The Bowie Knife is between 12 and 30 inches long with both a cross guard and a clip point. It is one of the most popular fighting knife patterns in the world. The best bowie knife that matches your needs is a great asset when you’re out there in the wild.
Things to consider when buying a bowie knife
The perfect size of your Bowie Knife depends on what you plan to use it for. If you are planning to use your knife like a machete or for actual combat situations you should consider a larger knife. Bowie Knives top out with a blade length of around 24 inches and a total length of 30 inches.
If you plan to use your Bowie Knife in the same style you would a camping knife you should consider a smaller blade. Bowie Knives are characteristically large, but can have blades as short as 5 inches and a total length of around 12 inches. The length of the blade may also be dictated by local legislation.
Many jurisdictions have rules to regulate the length of a blade you are allowed to own or carry. It is also worth noting that a handful of legislations restrict or ban Bowie Knives by name. These specific bans are dated and were passed as a way of controlling dueling decades ago.
The strength of your blade is very important. As an all-purpose knife the Bowie Knife needs to be made from a steel that can both hold and edge and withstand impacts. Sadly, those characteristics are mutually exclusive in a metal.
However, there are techniques that allow for both of these characteristics to be present in one knife. The best way to achieve this outcome is to laminate a hard steel over a softer tough steel. This allows your knife to hold its edge while also being able to withstand impacts when chopping.
It is also important to note that there are three different distinctions of blade steel: high carbon steel, stainless steel, and laminated steel. Each of these materials has their pros and cons. High carbon steel is very tough and can be easily sharpened to a very sharp blade. Unfortunately, they are susceptible to corrosion. Stainless steel can be brittle, but it is not susceptible to corrosion and can hold an edge better.
The designs of both the blade and edge are also important factors when selecting a bowie knife. By selecting a blade with the iconic clip point you will have more control over the tip of your blade. A clip point refers to the blade shape where there is a concave arc to the tip of the blade. It creates an affects that makes the blade look like a portion has been clipped off.
Other options include the drop point and straight back blade shapes. The drop point will also allow you more control of the tip of your blade, while the straight back shape sacrifices tip control for a longer slicing edge.
Speaking of edges, the edge design of your blade is important because it will dictate the chopping and carving abilities of your blade. Typically, Bowie Knives feature a straight edge that works well as an all-purpose knife. It does not stand out in any tasks, but it provides the best overall performance.
If you are looking for more chopping ability you should consider a recurve blade. This will allow your blade to move the balance point of your blade further toward the tip to increase the chopping power.
Larger knives are especially prone to breaking at the point where the handle and blade meet. It is important to verify that the construction of the tang is strong enough to withstand your use. A full tang runs the full length and width of the handle and is the strongest and heaviest construction method.
Following the full tang, a hidden tang is slightly smaller, it nearly extend the full width and length of the handle. Hidden tangs are slightly lighter and weaker. Finally the partial tang is the smallest and weakest of all tang types. Make sure you verify that your blade will be able to handle the tasks you throw at it.
Finally, on the topic of handles, the handle shape and material is another important factor. Handle shapes vary from person to person, but you should verify that the handle is not to large or small for you to get a proper grip on. Improper grip on a large heavy knife can spell disaster.
You should look for a handle material that is tough, won’t crack in cold or warm temperatures, and will not be damaged by liquids. You may also consider shock absorbing materials if you plan on using your Bowie Knife for chopping.
The top bowie knives
After going through the basics considering bowie knives and the features to consider, let’s see the top choices available on the market.
Super SOG Bowie Knife
Dimensions: 12.88 inch overall length, 7.5 inch blade
Features: Leather washer handle, sheath, lanyard, hardcased black TiNi finish
Best Use: Basic pocket knife or skinning knife
The Super SOG Bowie is the top of the line when it comes to bowie knives. This blade is both stunning and functional thanks to its great blade shape. The blade features a clip tip that makes it exceptionally easy to control despite its size.
The total length of the blade is 14 inches and the blade weighs just over a pound. The length of the blade itself is 7.5 inches which places at the smaller and generally more practical side of Bowie knives. The straight edge blade is coated with a black TiNi finish which makes the knife both more functional and attractive.
The full tang on this blade makes it incredibly strong while still maintaining great balance. The blade features a beautiful handle made of leather washers to provide an ergonomic grip that looks natural. This combined with the perfect gridlines and color will make all of your friends envious.
The blade comes with a lifetime warranty and includes a very high quality black leather sheath with a belt loop attachment. The knife also has a lanyard option. Overall, this is one of the best blades you can buy. It will last forever, and if it doesn’t SOG will replace it for you.
Related: The SOG Bowie 2.0 is a great alternative. It has many similar features including the black finish and leather washer handle.
PUMA Stag Bowie
Dimensions: 11.6 inch overall length, 6 inch blade
Features: Handmade, hollow ground drop blade, stag handle, leather sheath
Best Use: Basic pocket knife or skinning knife
The PUMA Stag Bowie is one of the smaller blades on this list. Coming in at 11 inches in total length and weighing only 12 ounces it will be light in your hand and easier to control than the other blades on this list. The length of the blade itself is a very manageable 6.1 inches.
Thanks to the clip tip and light weigh this blade is easy to control in precise cutting situations. The blade also features a stunning stag handle and brass guard to make it one of the more attractive knives on the list as well.
The blade is made of stainless steel 440ºC which will give it a very sharp edge. As well as being sharp, this blade will holds its edge well no matter what you put it through. The choice of material is perfect for a blade this size since it isn’t quite big enough to be used for batoning or chopping wood. This blade features a hidden tang, which helps to balance it and provides plenty of strength for the undersized Bowie.
Related: The Han And Rooster 170th Anniversary Burnt Deer Stag Bowie is a similar alternative. It features a stag handle and brass styling.
Ka-Bar Becker BK9 Combat Bowie Fixed Blade Knife
Dimensions: 14.75 inch overall length, 9.25 inch blade
Features: Ergonomic handle, sheath, black coated blade
Best Use: Field work & batoning
The Ka-Bar Becker BK9 Combat Bowie is a fixed blade knife that looks as intimidating as a combat knife should. It is used by all branches of the military and service members. The black, epoxy coated, blade comes razor sharp and will hold its edge well.
The full length of the BK9 is 14 ¾ inches and weighs in at a well-balanced 1.05 pounds. The blade features a small clip tip that is both functional and aesthetically pleasing. The blade is very high quality and is manufacture in the state of New York. This knife will work well in the field and be less fatiguing to use than many other blades its size.
The all black blade features a matching, black, ergonomic Grivory handle to help stabilize your grip and minimize user fatigue. The 1095 Cro-Van steel blade will sharpen easily and is tough enough to handle anything you can think of out in the woods.
This blade is strong enough for batoning and will last years. Even after you’re finished out in the woods, you’ll find that your blade is still razor sharp. You get what you pay for with this high quality blade. You won’t regret a penny.
Cold Steel 16ABSJ Natchez Bowie
Features: Full tang, double guard, linen Micarta handle
Best Use: Field work & batoning
The Cold Steel 16ABSJ Natchez Bowie is a noticeably long blade. The length, slight curve to the blade, and noticeable clip tip make it eerily similar to a razor sharp short sword. The knife has an overall length of 17 1/8 inches and weighs in at a hefty 2 pounds.
The blade itself is 11 3/4 inches and is perfectly shaped to provide a balance of strength and leverage. The blade also features vacuum heat-treated VG-1 San Mai III blade construction. The workmanship of this blade is unparalleled.
The handle is made of linen Micarta which will provide a good grip and also dampen any vibrations to your hand. The shape of the handle is suitable for a wide variety of gripping methods which makes for easy chopping.
This blade does not feature a full tang, however the reason it doesn’t is to help balance this blade. One of the first things you’ll notice is how well balanced this blade is, especially for its size. It also comes with and holds an outstanding edge that will make any cutting easy. The quality of this blade is unmatched and when you hold and use the blade you can feel the benefits of the meticulous attention to detail.
Related: A great alternative at a slightly lower price is the Buck Knives 0120 Bowie. It features a similar style, handle, and length.
Ontario Spec Plus Marine Raider Bowie
Dimensions: 15 inch overall length, 9.75 inch blade
Features: Leather/Cordura sheath, lanyard, ergonomic grip, Kraton handle
Best Use: Combat & field work
The Ontario Spec Plus Marine Raider Bowie certainly looks like a fighting knife. This blade features a black epoxy powder coating to give it some added style and functionality. The SP10 is just a little bit over 15 inches in total length and weighs in at 1.4 pounds.
The blade itself is 9.75 inches and features a full tang for added strength. The blade is manufacture in the USA in New York State’s scenic Southern Tier and comes with a lifetime warranty from the Ontario Knife Company. The Ontario Knife company is also a supplier to the US Government and Military. This knife is the real deal.
The 9.75 inch blade is made from 1095 high carbon steel. The steel itself is hardened to 57-59 on the Rockwell Scale. The blade’s full tang combined with the size and toughness of the blade make it perfect for chopping wood or batoning in the field.
This knife will withstand any beating you put it through. The SP10 also features a Kraton handle which will provide a secure grip and decrease impact on your hand when using the knife. The blade comes with a sturdy combination leather/cordura sheath and lanyard. It’s worth it to spend a little bit more to get a blade of this caliber.
Related: The Ontario Knife 8320 SP5 Bowie is a great alternative at a slightly lower price. The main difference is that the shape of the blade is less suited towards combat.
Timber Rattler Western Outlaw Bowie Knife
Dimensions: 17 inch overall length, 11.375 inch blade
Features: Full tang, hardwood handle, brass guard
Best Use: Field work & batoning
The Timber Rattler Western Outlaw Bowie is a great knife for the price. It is very budget friendly, but still manages to pack a lot of features and extras. The first thing you’ll notice about this blade is the size. It comes in at 11 3/8 inches and 2.4 pounds.
The total length of the blade is 17 inches. It’s definitely not a shy blade. As you examine it further you’ll notice the classic gray hardwood handle and brilliant brass-plated guard. Together these features make it a blade your friends will surely be jealous of. The blade also includes a genuine leather sheath.
This blade will excel at chopping. It features a very sturdy full tang and the sheer size of the blade will make any chopping easy work. The blade is constructed from very tough TR65 steel from Pakistan. The blade is easy to sharpen, which is good because you’ll have to sharpen it out of the box to get it razor sharp.
You could easily replace a machete or hatchet with this ace. The intimidating size and style of this knife will empower you throughout your time in the woods.
Related: The Timber Rattler Sinful Spiked Bowie comes in at a slightly lower price and provides many of the same features along with a cool spiked blade shape.
Muela Magnum Fixed Blade Knife
Dimensions: 20 inch overall length, 14.5 inch blade
Features: Handmade, lifetime warranty, stag handle, full tang
Best Use: Field work & batoning
The Muela Magnum Crown Stag Bowie is a great knife that features a crown stag handle with a solid brass guard. The recurve shape of this blade not only makes it great for chopping, but also adds to its stunning appearance.
This is blade comes with a hand crafted full grain leather sheath and features a brass design on the bottom of the full tang that extends through the handle. The blades are handcrafted in Argamilla de Calatrava, Ciudad Real, Spain. The attention to detail on this blade is on a whole different level to its competitors. In fact, the blade features a lifetime warranty from Muela. This knife is very large and heavy weighing in at 1.8 pounds.
Thanks to its recurve shape, full tang, weight and 440 Chrome-Vanadium-Molybdenum Alloy Martensitic Steel construction this knife will excel when it comes to chopping down saplings. The steel features a hardness of 54-58 degrees on the Rockwell Scale so it is sure to withstand anything you can throw at it.
This knife is a perfect balance of production using the latest industrial techniques and artisan craftsmanship. This is a blade to be proud of. Whether you’re dressing a deer or chopping up wood this knife is a safe go-to for the avid outdoorsman.
Related: The Muela 23S Lobo Stag Bowie is a very similar style and size. The blade also features the same warranty.
Gerber Winchester Large Bowie Knife
Dimensions: 15.8 inch overall length,
Features: Brass guard, wooden handle, sheath
Best Use: Hiking, bushcrafting, EDC
The Gerber Winchester Bowie is a great deal. Its quality rivals more expensive knives at only a fraction of the price. The knife itself weight about 1 pound. The total length is 15.8 inches. As a sizable knife it can be used for anything from making precision cuts on meat to cutting rope and sharpening stakes on the campsite.
It features a strong full tang and wooden handle that is both strong and aesthetically appealing. The knife also ships with a simple and well-built Winchester sheath which will come in handy out in the woods. It also features a brass guard.
The knife is well balanced and sharp. In fact, it comes sharp enough to shave with out of the box. The knife is heavy duty enough for intense field work and any self-defense situations you might find yourself in. Surely it would fare well in a duel. The blade is made from AUS8 stainless steel which will prevent any corrosion and keep a very sharp blade.
Don’t let the price fool you. This blade is inexpensive, not cheap. This stunning blade will serve you well no matter what you throw at it. Be careful chopping wood with this knife though, the wooden handle can be slick and the stainless steel is slightly on the brittle side.
Related: The Elk Ridge ER-052 is a very similar blade in a slightly smaller size. It also comes in at a similar price.
All-in-all the right bowie knife for you depends more on what you plan on using for than anything else. The wide range of sizes, prices, materials, and styles mean there is a good option for anybody. So before buying a bowie, make sure that you determine your needs so you can buy a blade that’s right for you.
Are you a fan of bowie knives? Which bowie would you highly recommend? Let us know in the comments!