A Bowie knife is a wide knife between the length of seven and nine inches. This size of knife allows the user to wield it for tough outdoors activities for very long periods of time.
When searching for a Bowie knife, your first item to consider is the length of the tang. The tang of the knife is what allows the Bowie knife to remain so durable and allows to handle such difficult work.
Other consideration should be for the handle, as it is important to be able to maintain a good grip on the knife for a long period of time.
There is no one specific type of handle material which is better than another, it is simply about the ergonomics of the handle.
Read our reviews of the top five Bowie knives here.
The 5 Best Bowie Knives
1. Ka-Bar Becker BK9 – Best Bowie Knife for Sharpness
This knife is a 14 ¾” knife with a 9” blade. Because a traditional Bowie knife is used for outdoorsman activities, such as clearing plants or making traps, it is important that the knife be longer and wider than a traditional knife.
The blade on the Ka-Bar Becker BK9 is made from a 1095 Cro-Van carbon steel blade covered with a black epoxy powder. This carbon steel blade is incredibly strong and has a sharper edge than stainless steel, but it also is can corrode more quickly.
The handle is made from nylon and includes lanyard holes and a black nylon belt sheath. Additionally, this handle is ergonomic, which means that it comfortably pads and shapes to the hand, keeping the hand from growing tired after an incredible amount of use.
Additionally, the BK9 has a full tang. This means that this knife is incredibly strong and the blade will not break off during even intense use.
The weight on this Bowie knife is a full pound. While this is decently lightweight, it is still heavier than many Bowie knives. Keep this in mind if you plan on using the BK9 for long periods of time.
2. Buck Knives 124 Frontiersman Knife – Best for Long Uses
Buck Knives developed the 124 Frontiersman knife. This knife’s length is 11 ¾” overall and a 6 ¼” blade. This length of blade is on the shorter end of traditional Bowie knives, so keep this in mind as you are considering various knives.
This blade is made of 420HC stainless steel. 420HC is an incredibly high level of stainless steel, which is unlikely to corrode, especially as this steel is coated with additional corrosion resistance.
However, keep in mind that stainless steel does not sharpen to as fine of an edge as carbon steel does.
The handle on the 124 Frontiersman is made of black micarta and molds specifically to the hand. Additionally, there is a belt loop on the handle, which allows the user to attach the knife to his or her belt.
As far as the tang on this knife is concerned, the tang is a full tang. This provides the best strength for the blade and ensures that the user will be able to use the knife even for challenging work.
Lighter than the Kar Becker BK9, the 124 Frontiersman is only 13.3 oz. This makes this knife much more easy to manage, saving the user approximately 4 ounces every swing.
3. Puma Plain Stag Bowie Knife – Best Traditional Bowie Knife
The blade is made from 440c stainless steel, which is another excellent type of stainless steel. Keep in mind, stainless is less likely to corrode, making this blade incredibly sturdy.
The handle on this knife is made from stag horn, which was naturally dropped by stags, and has brass bolsters holding in it place. This makes for a very solid knife handle, but perhaps not an ergonomically friendly handle. There are also holes for a belt loop.
Once again, we have a full tang on this knife. Any knives without a full tang are simply not as strong, and must only be considered if they have additional benefits.
This knife weighs approximately 8.8 ounces. Because of this lightweight, this knife is easy to use for long term projects or for quick activity while you are camping.
4. Cold Steel 39LSWB Marauder Knife – Best for Tough Work
Once again, this is a stainless steel blade. Remember that these stainless steel blades are less likely to corrode, but not nearly as thin as the carbon steel blades.
This means that the blade will not cut as well as the Ka-Bar Becker.
Additionally, this blade is a 8A Stainless Steel. This is not one of the most popular steels for Bowie knives on the market.
The handle on this knife is a double quillion sub hit Kray-Ex handle. In other words, this handle does not wear down easily over time and it is also incredibly ergonomic for the hand.
Once again, this is a full tang blade. Any blades with a shorter tang simply are not as strong and durable. As this knife was designed after combat knives from WWII, it is incredibly necessary that this knife have a full tang.
Finally, the weight of this knife is 11.2 ounces. This is a touch heavier than the Puma, but lighter than all of the other knives on this list. This particular knife is durable, lightweight, and incredibly dangerous.
5. Case Cutlery Bowie Knife – Best Large Bowie Knife
This knife is another stainless steel metal, but is a touch different than the other stainless steels on the list. This is a surgical grade stainless steel, which makes the knife incredibly safe, even if you would accidentally cut yourself while using it.
Meanwhile, the handle is an ABS thermoplastic. This material is not as durable as many of the handles on our list. However, the handle is incredibly malleable and fits any hand well.
Once again, this is a knife with full tang. While we encourage you to choose a knife from this list, it is incredibly important to ensure that any knife you select will have a full tang.
The major downside to this knife is its weight. This knife comes in at a whopping 20 ounces, making it incredibly heavy and difficult to use for long, repetitive activity.
Factors to Consider Before Purchasing a Bowie Knife
When purchasing a Bowie knife, there are many considerations to be had. First, you must understand what style of tang your knife has. This can completely change your experience with your knife.
Another consideration must be the weight of the knife. If you are planning on using your Bowie knife for long periods of time, you should choose a lightweight Bowie knife.
Aside from these two key features of a Bowie knife, many of the other options are just that, optional. Read on to learn more about Bowie knives.
Below are things to consider before buying a Bowie knife.
This is a tricky concept for those using Bowie knives. A traditional Bowie knife is between 7” and 9” in length. However, not all Bowie knives need to fit this exact measurement, and it can be incredibly important to choose the correct blade length for your activities.
If your knife is between 6” and 8”, the knife will be more ideal for sharpening sticks or cleaning hunted animals. These shorter length blades give you much more control over them and allow you to pay close attention to details.
Meanwhile, a longer knife, such as a knife longer than 8” and shorter than 10”, gives you the ability to use it for more aggressive behaviors. For example, it can be much easier to use the knife for chopping back plants and other growth affecting your campsite or hiking trail.
There are two main blade materials used for Bowie knives. One of them is carbon steel and the other is stainless steel.
When you are purchasing a Bowie knife, it is important to understand how your use of the knife will impact the metal you are using. If you are using the knife in wet conditions, regularly, you must understand it is easy for your knife to corrode.
It is much easier for a carbon steel to corrode. However, a carbon steel has an incredibly strong advantage over stainless steel. This advantage is that carbon steel can create a much finer edge, and thus a much sharper edge which is easier to maintain.
The stainless steel does not corrode as easily. However, the stainless steel knives do not sharpen as easily and their edge is not as fine as the carbon steel, making their cut much weaker.
Handle Shape and Material
When choosing a Bowie knife take the time to consider the shape and material of the handle. It is incredibly important that the handle be ergonomic. You should also consider purchasing a waterproof handle.
An ergonomic handle simply means a handle which is comfortable for the hand, often one which molds to the shape of the hand. That being said, the handle does not have to be made from one specific material. There are many options.
However, if you choose a handle which is not comfortable, it can make your work incredibly tedious. This can cause pain your hand from long periods of work with a stiff handle.
An extra feature to consider is the handle’s relationship to the tang. It is incredibly important for a tang to be a full tang. This allows for the blade to be as strong as possible.
However, when the tang is a full tang and it is exposed on the edges of the Bowie knife, it can cause significant shock waves to pass through the users arms. This can be resolved by the way that the handle is designed.
This resolution is called a hidden tang. Hidden tang is when the handle completely wraps around the tang. This prevents any of the extra shock from passing through the arm.
Another benefit of a hidden tang is that the handle completely protects the knife tang from becoming corroded. This means that with proper care of the blade, the knife often will last longer than those without a hidden tang.
The handle length is an interesting thing to consider as you purchase a Bowie knife. Obviously, handles come in three lengths, typically of long, medium, and short.
There can be many reasons to choose a long handle. A long handle can provide better leverage with which to swing. It can also fit larger hands much easier than a medium or small handle.
If you are using your knife for a variety of activities, try to choose a knife with a medium length handle. A medium length handle allows you to have the leverage need to chop hard at plants, etc, while still giving you the comfort of a small handle.
A small handle can be ideal for those who are using their knife for only small activities. In other words, activities when you are merely cutting lightly, not chopping at plants or defending yourself from animals.
This is a very important feature for a Bowie knife. Consider choosing a more lightweight knife if you are going to be doing an extreme amount of vigorous work with your knife.
If you will be using your knife for a variety of activities, or not for an extended period of time, then you should not let your decision be swayed by weight. This can give you a much broader style of Bowie knives to choose from.
A tang is a truly intriguing piece of the knife which proves how strong the knife is. There are many types of tang, from a half tang to a narrowing tang, from a narrowing tang to a skeletonized tang.
A full tang is the strongest type of tang, and the one that most outdoorsmen prefer. A full tang means that the blade actually runs the full length of the knife, even through the handle, and the handle pieces are merely attached to the blade.
A skeletonized tang is the second strong type of tang. This tang has holes in the blade inside of the handle, making the blade not quite as strong as a full tang.
Meanwhile, narrowing tangs run the full length of the knife. However, as the blade runs down the knife handle, it slowly narrows.
Partial tangs occurs when the blade only runs about half of the length of the blade. These blades are often considered the weakest of all knife blades.
There are two important takeaways as you consider purchasing a Bowie knife. The first is that your knife must absolutely have a full tang. This allows the knife to be incredibly durable, no matter how you are using it.
The second takeaway is that you must choose a knife which is lightweight and has an incredibly comfortable handle. These two features can completely change your experience with a knife, especially as you may be using it for long periods of time.
Leave us some comments about your favorite Bowie knives below!