My favorite everyday carry knife is a Ka-Bar Lightweight Folder. And any job that lock-back, drop-point folder can’t handle, my replaceable-blade Havalon Piranta can. Both are constant companions in my pocket or my hunting pack. Both cost under $50. Which made me wonder: What other hardworking knives can be had for a song? Turns out, there are plenty of options. But just as the world of affordable hunting blades is full of great deals, it’s also littered with junk.

I spent a season with the crop of knives you see here, field dressing, skinning, and butchering deer and game birds. This roster is not intended to be comprehensive, but rather representative of the sort of blades available at this price point.


Case XX

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It’s a rare knife that retails for under $50 and is made in America, but W.R. Case has delivered a stout, useful drop-point hunter with the classic “Case XX USA” proof mark. The deep-bellied, 4 ¹⁄₈-inch blade is large enough for big jobs like splitting the pelvis and sternum of a deer, but it’s also nimble enough for precision work like skinning and jointing birds. $44 |


Bear & Son

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My favorite of this crowd of knives, this 3-inch clip-point is a hard-wearing caper and meat-trimming marvel. The synthetic Delrin stag handle is easy to grip and adds a nostalgic look to this made-in-America knife. A well-executed rendition of a classic belt knife, the 440-steel blade is configured for precision work, and the oiled leather sheath is first-rate. $45 |



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The best thing I can say about this knife is that its lock-back action is super strong. But the 3 ¼-inch blade is also overly heavy and too bulky for a walkabout folder. The Ross Kommer–designed blade, though its metal is Sandvik 12C27, is nothing special. The handle’s black G-10 synthetic scales offset the silver of the metalwork nicely. Comes with a nylon sheath. $39 |



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Camillus has worked around one of the liabilities of the replaceable-blade systems—which is that the flimsy, flexible blades are prone to breaking—by shrouding the surgical blade in a heavy support sleeve. The replaceable blades are held in place by the thumb screw. Loosen it, pivot the blade up and out of the shroud, and you can trade in a fresh, sharp blade. $49 |

5. CRKT Free Range Hunter

Another Kommer-designed blade, this super-light (2 ounces) and super-strong drop-point skinner fit my hand comfortably, and it quickly became my sheath knife of choice for the deer season. Its high-carbon blade held an edge through four deer before needing a touch-up. The knife’s nylon sheath comes wrapped in paracord and includes a pocket for a whetstone. $45 |

6. Gerber Vital Fixed Blade


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Featuring perhaps the smartest, safest blade-transfer mechanism of any of the newer replaceable-blade systems, the Vital also has a comfortable, non-slip handle and ships with six extra blades (but no sheath). Depress a tab behind the blade to disengage the locking block, push the blade forward, and remove. No more pliers or sliced fingers. $43 |



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If you’re shopping for Kershaw blades online, be aware that the Lonerock name covers all kinds of different models. I tested two: the replaceable-blade RBK (below) and this fixed-blade version. With wonderful balance and a deep-bellied, 3.2-inch nitride-coated blade that can handle gutting, skinning, and butchering chores, this is a quality tool. $50* |



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The RBK is a decent alternative to the Havalon. It features scary-sharp surgical blades that can be traded out when they dull. The blade is held in place by a strong, simple mating block, though it requires pliers to remove safely. An additional 15 blades and an extra skeleton “buddy” handle add value to the package. $40 |

9. Rapala Clip-Point Knife


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Rapala’s birch-handled fillet knives have been fixtures at fish camps for 80 years, but the Finnish company that makes them introduced Rapala-branded hunting knives just this year. I caped, quartered, and butchered a Wyoming mule deer with the 4 ½-inch clip-point model and marveled at its sharpness and ability to retain an edge. $35 |



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This unlovely set promises much more than it delivers—namely, that each of the three knives will handle a different part of the big-game dressing process, from skinning to caping. Unfortunately, the blades are poorly balanced and configured, and the black-oxidized 420 stainless steel dulls easily. $40 |


11. Sog Fielder XL



Sog Fielder XL

Finally, an affordable knife that has organic material in its handle! So many budget blades rely on synthetics for scales that the open-grained wood of this SOG looks almost extravagant. The clip-point, liner-locking blade is a little big for everyday carry, but the 4.13-inch blade made with 7CR17 steel is sized right to take apart game animals. $35 |