When it comes to hunting, there are basically two types of bladed instruments that are used: a hunting knife and a hunting dagger.
Between the two, you would be surprised to know that while one is used for killing animals, the other is used for post-hunting activities like skinning and cutting.
The question is: Which blade is used for which? In order to know, let us first ask the question: What is a hunting knife?
It is the one that hunters use to skin their game and cut them into pieces. If you search for it online, you will see that there are many styles of hunting knives that are defined by their blade and handle.
Others are straightforward and look very much like small kitchen knives. Others, though, are more elaborate and have arched bodies and fancy-looking handles.
If you search for “what is a hunting knife”, you will see that there is a question about which brands are the best in the world. Well, we have an answer to that in the form of a list and the list is quite extensive.
Here's Our Best Hunting Knife
Buck Knives 119 Special Fixed Blade Knife
Why is it better?
5 Best Hunting Knives
With that in mind, let’s now take a closer look at our top picks.
Let’s dive into the specifics and review each hunting knife individually. You can use the list below to jump and review specific models, or you can read along and go through all the information.
Best Overall: Buck Knives 119 Special Fixed Blade Knife
There’s not much in this life that a Buck Knife can’t get you out of.
Designed as the perfect aid to every hunter in America, the 119 blade comes with a smooth and simple design that cuts through all the noise.
They don’t rely on fancy coatings or unnecessary camouflaged handles, or anything of the sort. Buck Knives focuses on efficiency.
This 6” 420HC steel blade carries weight with it. It cleans fish and skins game like nothing else.
If you notice the slight divot in the blade around the 1.25” mark, it’s important to know that this is to break suction when skinning the flesh of a deer or a trout. Precision.
The clip point finish and ergonomic handle act as extensions of your own power.
Every time you hold the handle, you’ll be in the seat of power against prey and in self-defense situations, should they arise.
Buck Knives is the ultimate knife, especially for the price range.
- Lifetime warranty that goes back to the original warranty in 1902; Buck has you covered
- Clip point 420HC steel blade will take everything down
- Finger groove grip for ultimate dexterity and weight distribution
Mossy Oak Survival Knife
Now, isn’t this a bad boy?
When you’re holding onto the hardened rubber handle, you almost forget that it’s a full tang blade that runs the total length of 15” (10” of sharp blade).
It’s an intimidating item that packs plenty of serrated, sharp edges along the blade’s back end. Basically, if you had to use this in self-defense, you’re going to emerge victorious.
Made from 440C stainless steel, it’s durable and long-lasting.
Sharpening won’t be an issue, because the anodized coating will last for a few years before you really need to bring it to the grindstone.
The inclusive nylon sheath does a lot of the work for you in preventing damage, and the corrosion resistance keeps it looking new for years to come.
You’re also going to get a fire starter with this knife, which is just icing on top of the cake.
The thing is, this is a tactical, personal knife that you can use for hunting, but by no means can you justify it for EDC.
10” is practically a sword, so be careful about how you handle and carry it. Whether it’s sheathed or not, it has to be designated for specific use.
- Massive 10” blade with deep serrated edges
- Includes nylon sheath with a fire starter
- 440C stainless steel construction w/ full tang
MOSSY OAK 2-Pieces Bowie Knife
Mossy Oak is at it again. We just had to include this on our list, primarily because of the insane deal that you’re getting.
Bowie knives are dangerous, they’re useful, and overall effective at self-defense and hunting situations—and you’re getting two of them at once, both with high impact nylon sheaths.
You get a 4” and a 6” all-steel 3CR13 grade blade, each with a full tang and leather handle.
The handle cannot be overstated: it feels ridiculously good in your hand.
It looks smooth and sleek to the touch, but it gives you the right amount of traction (and weight distribution) to control where your blade goes.
Last btu not least, it’s all backed by a five-year warranty, but the only issue is that you have to request it from them before it can go into effect.
Once you get it, you’ll have to register your warranty with information that will be available with your product after it’s mailed out to you.
- Includes two knives w/ sheaths (4” + 6”) for a crazy low price
- Full tang w/ leather handle
- 3CR13 steel blade for excellent edge retention over time
Outdoor Edge Razor-Lite Folding Knife
Another two-for-one deal. Elk Ridge isn’t the first name that comes to mind when you think of hunting knives, but after this, they’re going to be in your crosshairs for a while.
This pack comes with one sheath and two knives.
The folding knife has a simple finger-activated trigger to fold it back in, and features the same slotted dots as the fixed blade.
But the fixed blade, that’s the one you’re going to fall in love with.
Made from thick steel for a longer lifespan, the fixed blade includes the fish hook backend on the tip, and a slightly longer handle.
We’re not crazy about the attempt at camouflage on the handle (since it’s not going to really do anything), but nevertheless the knife gets the job done.
This EDC and hunting-specific knife set has you ready to go. One on the hip, one in the ankle sheath; nothing’s going to stand in your way.
- 3” blade works under almost all state requirements
- TPR handle inserts for maximum grip
- Heat-treated stainless steel blades
Elk Ridge Outdoors Hunting Knife Set
AOFAR is arguably best budget brand of optics, and in this instance, their rangefinder really blew my expectations out of the water.
The price is right, the size is compact, but that’s not what I’m talking about.
They have a four-way scan mode that allows you to find the average of a distance rather than just the pinpoint spot where the laser lands.
At rangefinding, it provides a wider scope so you don’t have to manually check half-a-dozen spots before being happy with the results.
As with any optics, protection is required. AOFAR includes a coating on these lenses to grant them full waterproofing and fog proofing, so you won’t be left wondering if the conditions are too bad to go out in—you’re covered in all scenarios.
Distance is half the game. Anything over 300 yards is usually insanely difficult for the naked eye to differentiate. At some point, everything just looks far, and numbers escape you.
AOFAR gives you up to 1,800 yards of distance with this rangefinder, which by all accounts is pretty impressive. That’s over a full mile away—think of all that you could do with that information.
- Extremely thick blade means it’ll last longer, through more sharpenings
- Comfortable finger inlay for better dexterity
- Includes sheath and additional folding knife
Hunting Knives FAQ
WHAT ARE HUNTING KNIVES USED FOR?
The devil is in the details. They are used for hunting, and should not be purchased for the sole purpose of self-defense.
When you buy a hunting knife, the intention is to scale fish and clean game after you’ve hunted/caught them.
Hunting knives are usually between 4” and 10” long, which are all in a range of illegality in most US states.
In most instances, 3.5” is the longest blade you can carry and claim it is for utility, EDC, or self-defense within reasonable means.
Hunting knives can also be used in a utility way on a campsite, whether it’s to peg down tent poles or stakes, or simply help with gathering tinder for a campfire.
There are justifiable reasons to have them, otherwise you wouldn’t be able to get them on Amazon.
WHAT ARE HUNTING KNIVES MADE OF?
Hunting knives should be made out of steel when it comes to the blades. Stainless steel is nice, but it’s traditionally used on cutlery—kitchen knives.
When something is used for hunting and utility, like these knives, you need a higher grade steel.
Sometimes those blades will be coated in black powder, porcelain, or an additional layer of straight carbon.
These are there to ensure the edge stays nice and sharp, and reduces the number of initial sharpenings that you will need to perform.
With those coatings, you can usually forego your first sharpening for up to one year. The second sharpening will have a similar time span to it as well.
After that point, the coating has worn off, and you’re just down to the steel.
Then we get to the rest of the knife. If you have a fixed blade knife, it should be what’s called a full tang.
This means that the metal for the blade is cut from one single piece. Imagine that the handle of your knife is just a strip of rough steel, then put rubber around it.
It makes knives stronger and almost impervious to total damage under normal circumstances.
HOW LONG ARE HUNTING KNIVES?
Hunting knives range from about 4” up to 10” on average. Anything over that, and you’re beyond daggers—you’ve gotten to swords.
Simply put, big knives are for big game, small knives for small game. You don’t need an absurdly long hunting knife, though.
There are many hunters who use under 2” blades for cleaning game. It’s up to you. If it’s sharp and honed, and it does the job, then you’re well equipped.
You aren’t necessarily safer with bigger knives, except in the rare event of a bear attack or prowling coyote.
HOW MANY KNIVES DO YOU NEED?
No more than two. It’s okay if you simply like knives and want to have a few; nobody’s stopping you.
However, you don’t need more than a couple of good knives to get you through a hunting trip.
One for big game. One for small game. Choose whichever one you’d prefer to be your go-to self-defense weapon.
Hunting Knives General Information
TYPES OF HUNTING KNIVES
It’s the most common type of knife that you’ve already seen a dozen times before.
There’s a light curve at the tip of the blade, just like most fixed blade knives have. It’s versatile for skinning and self-defense.
Clip points basically have thinner edges to them. The tips aren’t as strong. They have their place, such as light skinning or cleaning fish and defending yourself against wild animals.
Clip points aren’t usually the go-to among hunters or tactical gear enthusiasts.
Skinning knives have a large drop from the center of the blade, where it starts to become an edge, to the edge itself.
This allows for better gliding beneath the flesh of an animal, and as it sounds, lets you skin them much easier.
Skinning knives won’t do all the work for you, but they definitely put the odds in your favor when you’re trying to successfully get the pelt off of a kill.
WHAT TO PAY ATTENTION TO WHEN PURCHASING A HUNTING KNIFE
Steel is the way to go, every single time. The thing is, there are well over fifty different grades of steel.
It can be daunting when you’re trying to decide what you should pick. Look for 304L, 420 and 440 grade steel for excellent and durable blades.
These generally have a very little amount of trace metal elements in them (nickel, magnesium, etc.) which make them quite literally solid.
They’re better for knives, while other steel grades are used in construction and decor/appliances.
Look up your local laws. Most states have a 3 ½” maximum rule, unless you can explicitly prove that your knife is for hunting only.
Truth be told, you don’t need an absurdly long hunting knife, just one that you’re comfortable with.
Bigger knives are better for bigger game, so keep that in mind when deciding which knife to buy.
This is where your center of gravity on the knife is. Your hand rests on the grip, and you know how it’s going to move and where the weight is going to shift while you use it.
It’s important. A dextrous grip gives you solid control over the entire knife without worrying about it slipping in your hands.
Look for finger inlays, textured grips, and ergonomic designs that contour to the natural shape of your hand for better dominance over your blade.
Flip knives have their place, but they’re nothing compared to full tang fixed blades. These are combat-esque knives that you see marines use.
A full tang means that the entire knife, though it doesn’t look like it, is cut from a single piece of steel.
The blade runs down to the hilt on the center of the grip.
This means less possibility of breakage, better control, and more even weight distribution. Full tang knives feel different in your hand.
Loaded For Bear And Ready To Go
In this sense, that could be literal.
Hunting knives act as self-defense against predators, and aid you in cleaning fresh game.
With any of these five knives, you’ll be fully equipped for your next hunting trip.
Hunting Knife Video
Here is a video discussing how to choose a hunting knife: