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Best Hunting Knives: 7 New Fixed-Blade Sheath Knives Tested and Reviewed

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September 12, 2013
Best Hunting Knives: 7 New Fixed-Blade Sheath Knives Tested and Reviewed - 4


Photo by Nick Ferrari

Living and hunting in Alaska has taught me many things. Near the top of the list is the importance of having a high-quality, do-all hunting knife. In the last year alone, I’ve skinned brown, grizzly, and black bears, and field dressed Dall sheep, mountain goats, blacktail deer, and moose. The variety of those animals requires a knife with several key characteristics.

First, it has to be sharp and easily resharpened in the field. Second, it has to be tough enough to handle some serious abuse. A blade must be strong enough to work through a moose hip socket, but nimble enough to skin a black bear without leaving the hide with more holes than a welder’s overalls.

Finally, it has to be easy to handle in the dark, cold, or pouring rain, and when it’s covered in blood while I’m elbows-deep in a caribou carcass. I set out to pick apart some of the best new fixed-blade sheath knives. I’m confident they all have what it takes to hack it in Alaska, but some definitely outperformed others.

Editor's Choice: Puma Coyote Stag


Photos by Kyle Thompson

The Coyote Stag is the epitome of the classic hunting knife. With a shaving-sharp German steel drop-point blade and real stag-antler handle, it is as pleasing to the eye as it is in the hand. Its deep, stout blade will stand up to any elk shoulder and is the right size to handle a wide variety of game with ease. The antler handle didn’t slip when it became wet. The knife fits securely in its high-quality leather sheath. 

Overall: ★ ★ ★ ★
Price: $110 / pumaknifecompanyusa.com
Sharpness: A
Edge Retention: A
Sharpenability: A
Tip Durability: A+
Design: A+
Ease of Use: A+
Price/Value: A
Blade Length (in.): 3.8
Overall Length (in.): 8
Steel: 440A

Final Word: Good looks and a high-quality blade make this knife an instant classic.

Great Buy: Gerber Moment

Gerber is known for quality at an affordable price. The Moment continues that tradition and will find favor with nearly any hunter. It’s extremely sturdy, with great ergonomics and a wonderfully grippy, textured rubber handle. The only area where this drop point is lacking is in out-of-the-box keenness, so you’ll want to sharpen it before using. The nylon sheath is rigid and durable. All in all, this is an excellent value—a knife that will serve its owner
for many seasons.

Overall: ★ ★ ★ 1/2
Price: $25 / gerbergear.com
Sharpness: C+
Edge Retention: B-
Sharpenability: B+
Tip Durability: A+
Design: A
Ease of Use: A-
Price/Value: A+
Blade Length (in.): 3.63
Overall Length (in.): 8.63
Steel: 5CR15MOV

Final Word: A solid blue-collar knife. Just make sure to sharpen it before you use it.

Spyderco Puukko G-10

The unique blade design of the Puukko, a traditional Finnish belt knife, immediately catches the eye. Looks aside, this knife is a workhorse, with a stout, scary-sharp blade that is excellent for any field-dressing task. The handle has no finger guard, so a cold, tired hunter could easily cut himself badly, but the non-slip G10 handle is sure and comfortable in the hand. The leather sheath is handsome but lacks a retaining strap.

Overall: ★ ★ ★ ★
Price: $390 / spyderco.com
Sharpness: A+
Edge Retention: A+
Sharpenability: A+
Tip Durability: A-
Design: A
Ease of Use: A-
Price/Value: A-
Blade Length (in.): 3.33
Overall Length (in.): 7.85
Steel: S30V

Final Word: Handle this pricey knife with extra care and it'll do it all.

Browning Russ Kommer

This knife is an all-around excellent pick. The drop-point blade is an ideal shape for big game. It’s not only razor-sharp out of the box, but it is easily resharpened. The rubberized handle provides a good grip in the most slippery conditions, and it’s stout enough to split sternums, although the handle is just a hair on the short side for doing that. At this price, you’d expect a better sheath, which is serviceable but fairly pedestrian.

Overall: ★ ★ ★ ★
Price: $142 / browning.com
Sharpness: A
Edge Retention: A
Sharpenability: A+
Tip Durability: A+
Design: A
Ease of Use: A
Price/Value: A-
Blade Length (in.): 3.875
Overall Length (in.): 8.25
Steel: AUS-8

Final Word: A workhorse that's as utilitarian as it it handsome.

Buck Harvest Caper

The Harvest Caper’s Micarta handle is made to withstand the toughest weather conditions and is extremely slip-resistant. Although the gut hook is small for thick-hided game, the blade shape more than makes up for that and is great for long skinning strokes. The caping-style blade is dainty enough to skin around a ram’s horns but durable enough to handle the rest of the animal, too. The nylon belt sheath features a flap that fits over the handle to help keep it dry and scratch-free.

Overall: ★ ★ ★ 1/2
Price: $65 / buckknives.com
Sharpness: A+
Edge Retention: B
Sharpenability: A
Tip Durability: B-
Design: A-
Ease of Use: A-
Price/Value: B+
Blade Length (in.): 3.5
Overall Length (in.): 7.12
Steel: 420HC

Final Word: A great choice for skinning duties, though the gut hook is anemic.

CRKT Free Range Hunter

Thanks to its beefy finger-grooved handle, this knife (which, like the Browning above, was designed by legendary knifemaker Russ Kommer) will make short work of skinning and quartering, but the clip point makes gutting a little trickier than with a drop point. (A drop-point model is available, but it has a gut hook, which I’m not a fan of.) The blade is rather easy to sharpen, and the high-quality nylon sheath has a pocket for a sharpening stone and a length of 550 paracord incorporated into it.

Overall: ★ ★ ★ 1/2
Price: $50 / crkt.com
Sharpness: B
Edge Retention: C
Sharpenability: A
Tip Durability: B
Design: A-
Ease of Use: A
Price/Value: B+
Blade Length (in.): 4.25
Overall Length (in.): 9.06
Steel: 8CR13MOV

Final Word: Resharpens easily, which is a good thing since it doesn't hold an edge very well.

SOG HuntsPoint Boning

The ergonomics of the HuntsPoint are very good, and the slight drop-point blade is just the right size and shape for skinning, gutting, and quartering; however, the blade requires frequent resharpening. The rosewood handle scales become a little slippery when wet, and will be more so when bloody. The black leather sheath looks nice, but the snapped retaining strap doesn’t do a good job of holding the knife in place.

Overall: ★ ★ ★
Price: $140 / sogknives.com
Sharpness: B-
Edge Retention: C+
Sharpenability: A-
Tip Durability: B
Design: B
Ease of Use: B
Price/Value: C+
Blade Length (in.): 3.6
Overall Length (in.): 8.2
Steel: S30V

Final Word: Rosewood handle is pretty but dangerously slippery when wet.


How We Test

There are several attributes of a good hunting knife, and I did my best to test them all. To evaluate each knife’s design and ease of use, I spent time handling them warm, cold, dry, and wet, and with the handle covered in dish soap to simulate the slickness of blood. Consideration was given to jimping, finger guards, how the handle filled my hand, and how easily I could manipulate the blade for a number of field-dressing tasks. I also considered how well the tip would hold up over time. Grading in these categories was based on years of experience processing a variety of game species in nearly every imaginable weather condition.

To test the blade quality, I first checked how easily the knives would shave hair off my arm right out of the box (all did, but some more easily than others). Then, to test edge retention, I intentionally dulled the blades by swiping them across a 2x6. I counted the number of swipes it took before the blade was unable to cut (using consistent force and motion) a rubber band under medium tension.

I resharpened the blades using a small fine-diamond stone and a piece of cardboard as a strop, and repeated the shave test. All knives regained an edge sharp enough to shave—but again, some did so more easily than others.

Comments (4)

Top Rated
All Comments
from Slappy7 wrote 30 weeks 5 days ago

Hard to imagine a CASE hunting knife doesn't make this list. Mine have stood the test of time with plenty of use year round. Some of the original designs from companies like Case and Buck are still the best in this humble hunter's opinion. I'm sure all the blades you chose for your list are quality pieces in their own regard. Thanks for your diligent reviews of gear gents. Keep up the good work.

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from eidsvolling wrote 30 weeks 5 days ago

A review that lists among the seven best knives a Gerber rated C+ for sharpness and B- for edge retention and a $395 American knock-off of Finnish puukkos that are world-renowned for their utility and quality – this is easily the funniest thing I've read on OL ever.

Finns, Norwegians and Swedes all make excellent hunting knives that are copied more and more these days. There's a reason people like me treasure the originals. Some more homework should have been done before publishing this piece of tripe.

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from Scott William Hassan wrote 30 weeks 5 days ago

You've done yourself and your readers a disservice by not reviewing the CRKT "Onion Skinner" by Ken Onion. This is a VERY good knife for North American game field processing. I have used others on your list and found Kens design to be superior to some of those reviewed. Clearly it's not possible to review every knife from every manufacturer. if you have a chance, please check out this knife. It's awesome!

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from Kong1965 wrote 30 weeks 5 days ago

You guys usually get slammed in the comments for testing knives that that require a credit app, so I'm going to be the first to commend you on testing knives that someone with bills to pay can actually afford.

Thanks for the article. Good stuff.

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from Kong1965 wrote 30 weeks 5 days ago

You guys usually get slammed in the comments for testing knives that that require a credit app, so I'm going to be the first to commend you on testing knives that someone with bills to pay can actually afford.

Thanks for the article. Good stuff.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Scott William Hassan wrote 30 weeks 5 days ago

You've done yourself and your readers a disservice by not reviewing the CRKT "Onion Skinner" by Ken Onion. This is a VERY good knife for North American game field processing. I have used others on your list and found Kens design to be superior to some of those reviewed. Clearly it's not possible to review every knife from every manufacturer. if you have a chance, please check out this knife. It's awesome!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from eidsvolling wrote 30 weeks 5 days ago

A review that lists among the seven best knives a Gerber rated C+ for sharpness and B- for edge retention and a $395 American knock-off of Finnish puukkos that are world-renowned for their utility and quality – this is easily the funniest thing I've read on OL ever.

Finns, Norwegians and Swedes all make excellent hunting knives that are copied more and more these days. There's a reason people like me treasure the originals. Some more homework should have been done before publishing this piece of tripe.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Slappy7 wrote 30 weeks 5 days ago

Hard to imagine a CASE hunting knife doesn't make this list. Mine have stood the test of time with plenty of use year round. Some of the original designs from companies like Case and Buck are still the best in this humble hunter's opinion. I'm sure all the blades you chose for your list are quality pieces in their own regard. Thanks for your diligent reviews of gear gents. Keep up the good work.

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment (200 characters or less)

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