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Want the best Bowie knife for camping and survival situations—this guide will help you find the right one.

It’s no secret that the knife is hands down the most important and versatile piece of survival and tactical gear there is. So you could say that I’m more than a little obsessed with them here at Survival Gearist.

In this article we take a look at the classic and uncompromising Bowie knife—best for hunting and combat.

If you are looking for the best EDC pocket knife, swiss army knife or butter knife, you’ve come to the wrong place.

best-bowie-knife-combat-sheath

Bowie knife with combat sheath

Today I take a look at the big daddy Bowie, the meanest, most massive knife on the market. It’s great for hunting, camping, skinning and when you really need it, close quarters combat.

If you’re in a hurry, check out my favorite Bowie knife on Amazon here. This knife has perfect balance between size and weight, plus it’s ultra-durable and sharp as hell.

Below, I will look in-depth at the top Bowie knives of 2017. I break it down with the pros and cons of each knife, plus take a look at how the knife performs for daily tasks. By the end, you’ll know exactly which one of these bad boys is right for your outdoor activities.

At the bottom, I will fill you in on all the important criteria to consider when looking at any Bowie knife. From the steel that’s used to the style you choose, even the history of the legendary Jim Bowie, by the end you are going to be an expert on all things Bowie.

best-bowie-knife-01

Once you’ve read up on the vast scope of Bowie knives on the market today, I reveal my top picks for the best Bowie knife in each of four categories:

  1. Best Bowie knife 2017
  2. Best budget Bowie knife
  3. Best combat Bowie knife
  4. Best hunting Bowie knife

Read on to find the best Bowie knife for your survival and camping expeditions.


Best Bowie Knives 2017


ModelImageOverall Length Blade Length/Handle LengthWeightBlade SteelHandle MaterialPrice ($$$$)Our Rating
Schrade SCHF45 Leroy16.49"10.35"/6.14"1.31 lbsTitanium coated 8CR13MOV high carbon stainless steelTPE$$
See here
Timber Rattler Western Outlaw16.5"11.38"/5.12"1.9 lbsStainless steelGrey hardwood$
See here
Ka-Bar Becker BK9 Combat Bowie14.75"9.25"/5.5"1.05 lbs1095 Cro-Van steelUltramid®$$$$
See here
Winchester Large Bowie Knife14.25"8.75"/5.5"1.7 lbsAUS 8 Stainless steelWood$
See here
Buck Heritage Series Frontiersman11.75"6.25"/5.5"0.83 lbs420HC steelMicarta$$$$
See here
Ontario Marine Raider15.125"9.75"/5.375"1.43 lbs1095 Carbon steelKraton $$$
See here
SOG Jungle Primitive15.3"9.5"/5.8"0.875 lbs8CR13MOV Stainless steelKraton$$
See here
Ka-Bar US Marine Corps Fighting Knife11.875"7"/4.875"0.7 lbs1095 Cro-Van steelLeather$$$
See here

Best Bowie Knife Reviews


Schrade SCHF45 Leroy Full Tang Bowie Knife

This Bowie blade is an absolute beast. At a staggering 16.49 inches long, the Leroy Full Tang Bowie Knife by Schrade makes short work of anything you need to chop, stab or slice.

But come on, what else would you expect from a Schrade Bowie knife?

Features & Performance

There’s no doubt that 10.35 inches of titanium coated high carbon stainless steel really speaks for itself. If you need increased control, the Schrade Leroy has a comfortable choil so that you can choke up on the blade.

The sheath is made of durable and attractive nylon fiber. I found it easily clips or lashes on to your tactical belt, pack, or person.

Who Should Buy It

This is the perfect large combat or do-it-all camping knife. True to it’s namesake, this Bowie knife is all power and ferocity.

If you want a close combat knife or a replacement for your hatchet when you’re in the bush, here you have it. The Schrade Leroy Full Tange Bowie Knife is an unstoppable force of nature.

User Feedback

Buyers love this knife. For such a low price, this is truly one of the best Bowie knives for the money.

The intimidating and tactical look of this Schrade coupled with it’s distinct and indisputable power earn it five star reviews all around. And although it is not made from the strongest steel money can buy, you still get a great product and won’t break your bank.

Many people point out that for the price, this may be the best Bowie knife you can find.

> Get the Schrade Leroy <

– Specs –

Weight: 1.31 lbs (20.96 oz)

Overall length: 16.49″

Blade length: 10.35″

Blade thickness: 0.2″

Handle length: 6.14″

Features & Accessories: Nylon fiber belt sheath with grommet holes, limited lifetime warranty, two lanyard holes.

Blade Material: Titanium coated 8Cr13MoV high carbon stainless steel

Handle Material: TPE handle slabs with finger grooves


Timber Rattler Western Outlaw Bowie Knife

If you are looking for an affordable Bowie knife that can still do the job right, the Western Outlaw Bowie knife by Timber Rattler is undoubtedly the best Bowie knife for you.

One of the cheapest knives on the market today, this one packs a lot of quality into it’s lower price tag.

Features & Performance

The blade is full tang and clip tipped with a classic Bowie-style swedge. The grey hardwood handle is sleek and treated to prevent shrinkage and drying.

Just like the blade, the leather sheath is simple and effective. All-in-all, this knife is so big and solid, it’s hard to believe that the price is so low.

Who Should Buy It

This is the perfect purchase for anyone who wants a budget Bowie knife.

If you need an extra blade to take camping or an intimidating combat knife to wear to your next company ice cream social (kidding!), this is a small investment to make. Plus, with a lower price tag you won’t have worry about it like you would your favorite high-end knife.

User Feedback

Buyers point out the obvious with this knife and give it overall good ratings. Let’s face it, a knife so cheap won’t be the top of the line. However, the Timber Rattler Western Outlaw receives praise for its comfortable design and powerful profile.

Some users report needing to tune the edge upon arrival, which is a small price to pay for such a beautiful blade.

> Get the Western Outlaw Bowie <

-Specs-

Weight: 1.9 lbs (30.45 oz)

Overall length: 16.5″

Blade length: 11.38″

Blade thickness: 0.19″

Handle length: 5.12″

Special Features: Brass plated handguard and quillon, simple leather sheath.

Blade Material: Stainless steel

Handle Material: Grey hardwood


Ka-Bar Becker BK9 Combat Bowie Fixed Blade

Ka-Bar is one of the oldest knife makers in the United States. You’ll find out shortly when we review the most famous fixed blade knife in the world.

The Becker BK9 Combat Bowie was designed by Ethan Becker and is manufactured by Ka-Bar in their New York facility. It is large, and most certainly in charge.

Features & Performance

Becker’s signature ergonomic handle allows you to grip this bad boy easily and firmly. True to Ka-Bar knife standards, this Bowie blade has been repeatedly tested under rigorous conditions.

It holds a wicked sharp edge and is remarkably durable. That’s thanks to the cromium-vanadium composition of Ka-Bar’s signature steel.

Who Should Buy It

This is a tried and true Bowie knife. It’s price is mid-range and it’s quality is exceptional, just as you would expect from companies like Ka-Bar cutlery and Becker Knife and Tool.

For the Becker BK9 Combat Bowie Knife you will pay a little more than some of the cheaper blades on the market, but you will get the quality you payed for.

User Feedback

Many reviews on the internet complain of the sheath being of very low quality. But don’t fear, the knife now ships with a new and far improved model of the sheath.

This is a great example of a company being responsible to it’s customers and improving upon an already great product.

The one thing you should watch out for on this one is that the bolts holding the handle together are not loctited. Consequently, many people report them falling out after repeated use. So, just have a bottle of Loctite on hand when your BK9 arrives and solve that problem right away. Then, you are sure to be using this beast of a blade for decades.

> Get the Becker BK9 <

-Specs-

Weight: 1.05 lbs (16.8 oz)

Overall length:  14.75″

Blade length: 9.25″

Blade thickness: 0.188″

Handle length: 5.5″

Special Features: Trademark Becker ergonomic handle, heavy duty polyester sheath, handle lanyard hole.

Blade Material: 1095 Cro-Van steel

Handle Material: Ultramid® (Nylon 6)


Gerber Winchester Large Bowie Knife

The Gerber Winchester Large Bowie Knife may be the cheapest Bowie knife for sale. The knife carries two name brands, which I found a bit off.

I wanted to do some deeper research and I found that this knife’s origin is a bit of a mystery, but it seems that it’s produced by Carolina Knife and Tool, supposedly a division of Gerber

This knife is an impressive looking piece but will certainly not stand up to the scrutiny of a knowledgeable knife enthusiast.

Features & Performance

At close to $20 this ‘Gerber’ knife could certainly come in handy in a fight, split some kindling or carve your meat. It is big and the blade is thick. But the real surprise here is that though the blade appears to be full tang, it is not, which is really disappointing to me.

The edge comes reasonably sharp out of the box but I wouldn’t expect it to hold up to significant use in comparison to a higher-end knife like the Buck 124 Frontiersman. So you had better be ready to whip out the old sharpener regularly. The sheath, like the blade, works but is nothing to brag about.

Who Should Buy It

This is a great knife if you just want a big, solid, but by no means high-end blade. It’s perfect to take camping on the weekend, hang with a collection or scare the crap out of someone.

If you’re budget is tight, you’ll get along with this Bowie beautifully. Just don’t expect state of the art manufacturing or five star performance from this one.

User Feedback

Overall, if you expect a work of art to be found at this price range, you will probably be disappointed. But, if you go for this one expecting to get what you’re paying for, this knife might just surprise you.

One thing’s for sure though, your bank account will hardly even notice you bought it.

> Get the Gerber Winchester <

-Specs-

Weight: 1.7 lbs (27.2 oz)

Overall length: 14.25″

Blade length: 8.75″

Blade thickness: 0.125″

Handle length: 5.5″

Special Features: Heavy duty nylon sheath, grip guard, Winchester logo engraved blade.

Blade Material: AUS 8 stainless steel

Handle Material: Wood


Buck Heritage Series Frontiersman Micarta Handle

They don’t call this knife the heritage series for nothing. This Buck Bowie knife has been around since the 60’s and it has always been one of the best Bowie knives on the market.

Like all Buck blades, the Frontiersman (also known as the 124 Frontiersman) is of the highest quality construction and will surely last you a lifetime. Though the Buck 110 has received more attention over the years, I personally think that this Buck 124 Frontiersman is the best Buck knife there is.

But hey, maybe I’m just a sucker for a big Bowie knife.

Features & Performance

Sleek, smooth and perfectly fit to your hand, everything about this knife is flawless. The design is far closer to a hunting knife than other Bowies on this list. In my opinion this is what makes the Buck 124 Frontiersman a lot more practical for more uses than chopping away at branches while camping. You probably know that the biggest criticism against Bowie knifes is that they are just too darn big for many uses and to carry around.

You will notice that the clip tip is minor and the blade is almost straight, they call it a ‘straight backed Bowie blade’.

Whether you strap this onto your hip the next time you go out, or display it proudly on your mantle, this original Bowie knife truly is that special.

Who Should Buy It

This knife is perfect for anyone, even if you have to save up to get it. Whether you are going hunting, brushing, camping or into the service, the Buck 124 is probably the best Bowie knife for sale today.

I don’t think I need to say anymore. But if you’re not convinced, head over to Buck’s website and read about the generational history of this family owned company. It will be easy to see why they are achieving quality far beyond nearly all other brands on the market.

The bottom line is that this is just an all-around solid choice for a large knife.

User Feedback

The feedback that this Buck blade receives really says it all. From war veterans who have owned theirs since the sixties, to kids who have had a Buck blade passed down through their family, these knives are legendary.

> Get the Buck 124 Frontiersman <

-Specs-

Weight: 0.83 lbs (13.3 oz)

Overall length: 11.75″

Blade length: 6.25″

Blade thickness: 0.157″

Handle length: 5.5″

Special Features: Buck’s forever warranty, genuine leather carry sheath, aluminum pommel and finger guard.

Blade Material: 420HC steel

Handle Material: Micarta


Ontario Spec Plus Marine Raider Bowie

Now, I probably don’t need to tell you that this is one badass Bowie knife. You can see the picture; this is no pocket knife.

The Ontario Marine Raider Bowie knife is one of the biggest and most beastly Bowie blades out there. The blade is a rat tail tang and a quarter inch thick. That means a lot of weight in the blade is driving every cut for maximum power.

Features & Performance

Although advertised as a survival and combat knife, the Ontario Marine Raider Bowie makes an excellent chopper. It is so large and powerful that unless you are strong and well trained, you could find it slow and unwieldy in a combat situation.

That being said, no one is going to mess with you when they see you packing this. Even grizzlies are going to take one look and run the other way.

Who Should Buy It

For the style minded woodsman, this tactical Bowie knife is the perfect blade. It is enormous, stylish, and irrefutably dangerous.

Whether you come face to face with wild animals, enemy combatants, or dense foliage, the Ontario Marine Raider will cut them down easily.

User Feedback

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; the most important part of deciding which blade to buy comes down to reading countless reviews. Nothing is as valuable as the diverse experiences of thousands of other buyers. This knife is a great example.

Most reviews of the Ontario Marine Raider Bowie are excellent, people love the feel of this knife and sing its praises high-and-low. You will find no shortage of five star reviews and satisfied customers.

However, you will also find a couple examples of imperfections in the steel Ontario has used on this product. I can’t confirm, but it is possible that they powder coat the blade to intentionally hide defects in their steel.

All things considered, it is likely that most of their blades are of excellent quality. However, this Bowie won’t give you the tried and true, hand tested quality of a Buck knife.

> Get the Ontario Marine Raider <

-Specs-

Weight: 1.43 lbs (22.88 oz)

Overall length: 15.125″

Blade length: 9.75″

Blade thickness: 0.25″

Handle length: 5.375″

Special Features: Grooved grip, epoxy powder coated blade, leather/cordura sheath, lanyard hole, limited lifetime warranty.

Blade Material: 1095 carbon steel

Handle Material: Kraton


SOG Jungle Primitive Fixed Blade F03TN-CP

SOG took one from the jungle playbook when they made this tactical Bowie knife.

The serrated spine and blade segment allow for sawing in addition to powerful slashing. Starting a fire in the woods certainly won’t be a problem with one of these bad boys around.

The best part is that you won’t have to save up to get this survival Bowie knife. It is both practical, and affordable.

Features & Performance

The soft Kraton grip on the SOG Jungle Primitive Fixed Blade makes it easy to control. And that’s good, because this knife will tear, slash and saw through just about anything.

The tang of the blade protrudes through the pommel in a nice grooved end which makes it great for hammer striking an opponent or driving a steak into the ground in lieu of a hammer.

If you are looking for a more traditional Bowie knife from SOG, you’ll want to check out the SOG Jungle Warrior Fixed Blade which comes without the back-edge saw.

Who Should Buy It

This Bowie is built for the woods so if you spend time off trail or in the backcountry, this is a great all purpose knife to carry. The combination of saw-toothed spine and Bowie blade make this an ideal camping knife.

User Feedback

The SOG Jungle Primitive Fixed Blade is truly a standout product and enjoyed by many, but if you look closely enough you will find a few issues with this blade.

Although most of the reviews are entirely positive, there are a few reports of bent blades. That’s a sure sign that the steel SOG is using is less than top quality. However, who knows what these users were actually doing to bend their blades. In either case I wanted to point this out.

Of course, based on the lower price tag you shouldn’t expect the best-of-the-best steel on this model. However, if you know how to use and care for a blade properly, you shouldn’t have a problem with this one. For what you pay, this is a great knife.

> Get the SOG Jungle Primitive <

-Specs-

Weight: 0.875 lbs (14 oz)

Overall length: 15.3″

Blade length: 9.5″

Blade thickness: 0.15″

Handle length: 5.8″

Special Features: Partially serrated blade, saw-toothed spine, nylon sheath with accessory pouch, lanyard hole.

Blade Material: 8Cr13MoV Stainless steel

Handle Material: Kraton


Ka-Bar Full Size US Marine Corps Fighting Knife

The KA-BAR Full Size US Marine Corps Fighting Knife is bar none the most famous fixed blade knife design in the world. It has been remade in video games, used in movies, and of course been into combat on nearly every continent. There is a good reason why.

Ka-Bar is one of the top names in American knives, since 1897, and this knife is probably the best example of why. If you like, Ka-Bar has a more complete telling of the story behind this knife on their website.

Features & Performance

A comfortable leather handle keeps your grip firm while striking with this combat Bowie knife. It was standard issue in WWII and is still manufactured to uncompromising quality standards today.

This is the most tried and tested fixed blade knife in the world and you will immediately see why.

Who Should Buy It

The KA-BAR Full Size US Marine Corps Fighting Knife is perfect for anyone who is or has been in the service. Hell, you might already have one if you were.

It’s simple design also makes it a great skinning knife or hunting knife. However, the tang is not full and this knife is not generally designed for processing wood or chopping brush.

User Feedback

When it comes to user feedback, this military knife’s popularity says everything. After all, the whole world can’t be wrong about it.

> Get the Ka-Bar US Marine Corps <

-Specs-

Weight: 0.7 lbs (11.2 oz)

Overall length: 11.875″

Blade length: 7″

Blade thickness: 0.165″

Handle length: 4.875

Special Features: Grooved leather handle, USMC stamped leather sheath, powder coated finish, over 70 years of combat history.

Blade Material: 1095 Cro-van steel

Handle Material: Leather


Our Verdicts

Best Bowie Knife 2017: Buck Heritage Series Frontiersman Micarta Handle

Best Value Bowie Knife: Timber Rattler Western Outlaw Bowie Knife

Best Combat Bowie Knife: Ka-Bar Full Size US Marine Corps Fighting Knife

Best Hunting Bowie Knife: Schrade SCHF45 Leroy Full Tang Bowie Knife


Bowie Knife Buying Guide


History of the Bowie Knife

James 'Jim' Bowie

James ‘Jim’ Bowie

Named for Jim Bowie, a real life legend of the Mexican American war, the Bowie knife was born in combat.

The story started at a formal pistol duel fought on a sandbar in the middle of the Mississippi river. Though all the shots fired in the duel missed, combat broke out afterwards due to a misunderstanding.

Though Jim Bowie was not there to duel, in total he was shot three or more times (depending on the telling), had a pistol broken over his head, and was stabbed twice.

While his opponents sword was lodged in Bowie’s sternum, he impaled the man on his knife. Bowie was shot and stabbed again, but still cut off part of another man’s arm before the brawl ended.

Somehow, Bowie survived the fight and immediately became a knife fighting legend. Since then, the clip tipped cleaver that he began wearing at his side became immortalized as the Original Bowie Knife. Bowie himself developed many subsequent models, and knife makers have been improving upon the design ever since.

 

A historic Bowie knife on display

If you want a fuller telling of this insane story, check out the Wikipedia page here.

What is a Bowie Knife?

A modern Bowie knife is any fixed blade with a clip tip, usually of a medium to large size. Most Bowies are big, and many have a choil at the base of the blade.

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As you may have realized by now, the definition is loose and therefore there is a wide variety of Bowie knife designs.

Bowie Knife Uses

Jim Bowie used his for combat, and he made it famous by doing so. These days, Bowies are taken camping, hunting, brushing as well as into combat just like the original Bowie knife was.

Do you Need a Bowie Knife?

Let’s be honest, the only person who ever NEEDED a Bowie knife was Jim Bowie himself, and he had lots of them.

So can you survive without one? Maybe, but I certainly wouldn’t want to.

If you spend any significant amount of time in the wilderness or in less than safe situations, a Bowie is an indispensable sidearm.

Things to Consider when Choosing the Best Bowie Knife

Blade Material

Blade steel is a complicated beast, or at least, it seems complicated. But the truth of the matter these days is that most blade steels are just marketing gimmicks.

So when a company advertises it’s newest, high-tech steel, it is usually no different than other steel that knife makers have been using for a long time, they have simply treated it differently.

best-bowie-knife-steel

Forging an old fashioned Bowie knife the traditional way

Creating truly new steels is an incredibly complex molecular science that the average cutlery company just doesn’t have the tools to do.

What I mean is that NASA makes new types of steel, but Winchester does not.

After all, steel is an incredibly complex material and there are A LOT of kinds of it out there. For a more in depth look at what this means check out this blog post by Thomas Xavier at More Than Just Surviving.

best-bowie-knife-sharpen

 

However, what does set different brands of knife steel apart is the heat treating and grinds applied to them. This has a huge effect on the hardness and edge qualities you will experience.

Blade Size

Size comes down to your preference or intended use, so think about what this knife is likely to be doing for you. Do you want a beastly chopper to lop off grizzly heads in one swipe (not an activity I recommend trying) or a fine and precise blade you can use as a multi purpose camp tool?

No one can tell you the right size for your Bowie, that’s going to be up to you.

Knife Weight

Much like the blade size, the weight is a matter of preference and intention. The heavier the blade, the harder you can make the knife work.

Take into account the knife’s tang when buying a heavy blade. If the knife weighs a lot but has a weak tang, you might be in for a broken Bowie.

Tang

bowie-knife-tang

Full tang knife blanks

So what is tang? Well, simply put, the tang of the knife is the amount of blade material that extends into the handle.

Full tang knives are basically one big piece of steel with handle pieces attached to either side. Partial tang knives protrude partway into the handle and are attached by bolts or glue.

And of course, there are pros and cons to each style. Here is a quick and easy guide to help you understand.

Handle Material

Handles really only come in two basic categories, synthetic or natural, and both can be of high or low quality.

Synthetics tend to be rubbers and polymers by various brand names while natural handles are most often wood or leather. You should look them up on sites like Wikipedia if you’re interested in all the details.

In order to decide what you prefer, I suggest going to your local outdoors store and holding a couple of their knives to feel various materials in your hand. You will have a unique preference and there’s nothing like touching the real thing to make a decision.

Price Range

I can’t tell you how big your pocket book is, but I  can tell you that you won’t get a really quality Bowie knife for under $50. However, don’t be fooled by marketing, a higher price does NOT always mean a better product.

best-bowie-knife-for-combat

A wide bellied combat Bowie knife

 

Style

The primary variation you will see in style when it comes to Bowies is the shape of the blade and the size of the clip.

Wider, bowing blades often have added chopping and slashing power while straighter, more clipped blades make faster, more deadly stabs.

Features/Functions

Most Bowie knives are really only designed with two functions, cutting and stabbing. After all, I think old Jim would agree that that’s all you need your Bowie to do.

A bowie style blade on a bayonette knife.

A Bowie style blade on a bayonet knife

 

However, you can find some with serrated segments, special sheaths and other accessories to add functionality to your life. Just beware of any feature that might get in the way of the two primary purposes of this blade.

Sheath

With a knife this big, you need a sturdy sheath, so don’t settle for a poorly made piece of junk. Leather and synthetic can both be great materials.

Best Bowie knife sheath

 

However, the most important parts are a snug fit, with an easy draw that sits comfortably on your hip. You may also like slots and holes for lashing your blade to your pack or elsewhere.

Wrap Up

So, now you know the unbelievable story that gave this knife it’s name.

By now, you also know all of the features, functions and materials to look for in the best Bowie knife.

You are armed with a solid list of top quality knives to choose from.

Next time you are in the woods, go prepared. Leave your hatchet at home, the thing was always a little clumsy and only had one use anyways. Take a a tactical tomahawk or a Bowie with you instead.

You can thank me later.

Photo credit: Flickr.com – Michael Pollak