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Published Apr. 27, 2021

Is there a knife as iconic as the Bowie knife? With a clipped edge, fixed blade, and hand guard, the Bowie knife is a classic that’s been around for centuries now — and it’s the preferred knife of many. First created in the 1800s and named after notorious knife-dueling enthusiast James Bowie, this uniquely shaped knife has captured attention since the very first one was made. Ironically, though a Bowie knife is instantly recognizable today, this iconic blade was actually made in a number of different ways back in the 19th century. 

Today, the Bowie knife’s legacy lives on. Now used most commonly as a survival tool or weapon for hunting, camping, and other outdoor scenarios, the Bowie knife is especially handy for skinning, butchering, and even self-defense. With endless variations of Bowie knives available, you have so many different designs, patterns, and sizes to choose from and carry. You can discover some of the best Bowie knives available in our list below.

The Mossy Oak 15-Inch Bowie Knife is so much more than your basic Bowie knife — it takes its strength, its cutting capability, and its functionality a few steps farther. This 15-inch knife offers a 10-inch blade made out of stainless steel and covered in a protective, extra-durable black anodized coating. The blade is 5/32 inches thick and features a serrated spine, which gives you more opportunities to cut easily through all kinds of materials. The razor-sharp clip point at the end of the blade is hardy and keeps its edge sharp throughout use. A comfortable and easy to grip rubber handle provides just the right balance of friction to prevent slipping while you’re using your knife. In addition to all of these traditional benefits, this Bowie knife also includes a fire starter and sharpener so you’re always prepared, even if your blade becomes dull or you find yourself in need of a spark.

The Whetstone Clip Saber 16” Bowie Knife is a fantastic example of getting a good bang for your buck. This knife isn’t expensive, but it has a whole lot to offer. It measures 16 x 3 x 0.5 inches in total size, with an overall weight of 1.35 pounds. It’s composed of a 5-inch handle and an 11-inch blade made out of stainless steel. This Bowie knife is extremely sharp, even right out of its packaging, and the blade is coated in a protective layer of black material to increase its durability and protection against potential rust and corrosion. Attractive at first glance and easy to carve, jab, and otherwise cut with, this Bowie knife will withstand all kinds of different uses nicely. A nylon belt sheath comes standard with this knife, and while it’s a good fit, it isn’t the most durable material; you may want to upgrade the sheath over time. Another disadvantage is the handle’s grip. You may find that it isn’t very comfortable to hold, especially if you’re trying to use it functionally.

If you’re looking for a modern Bowie knife that offers impressive materials, standout quality, and a tech-savvy design, the SOG Tech Bowie Fixed Blade Knife is just the right one for you. A newer SOG model that utilizes technology and high-quality materials in its design, this knife does cost quite a lot, but it’s an investment that can pay off for those who want a top-tier product. The blade measures 6.4 inches and is made from stainless steel that’s made sleek with a satin finish. A layer of SOG’s unique Hardcased Titanium Nitride (TiNi) matte black coating makes the blade extremely hard, extra durable, and resistant to scratching and peeling. The entire knife is made sturdy and well-connected thanks to its anchors, which keep the Kraton rubber handle right in place. The grip of the knife’s handle is covered in a raised diamond pattern to prevent slips or accidents. Lastly, the Kydex sheath offers just the right balance of sleek and sturdy protection to keep your blade in its best shape.

It’s possible to carry a Bowie knife that’s as cool to look at as it is to use — just take the Mossy Oak 14-Inch Bowie Knife, for example. This knife is constructed with a wood handle that makes it sleek and classic in style. This formidable Bowie knife measures 14 inches in total length, with an 8.5-inch blade and a 5.5-inch handle. The blade, the central feature, is razor sharp and features a clip point shape. It’ll deliver a combination of strength and edge retention, keeping its cutting strength even as you use it over time. The blade can also resist corrosion. The handle is made out of rosewood, shaped just for comfort and nice, well-weighted balance while it’s in your hand. It’s a full-tang wood handle, which forges the blade and handle into one piece with a brass pommel between them. To round out this attractive wood-handled knife, a genuine leather sheath is included, with an integrated belt loop for easy carrying.

The biggest disadvantage of a Bowie knife is its large blade size and length — but if you’re looking for something more portable, the Defender Xtreme 12” Tactical Bowie Knife will meet your needs. This knife measures just 12 inches long in total, offering a shorter blade and a shorter handle. The 7-inch stainless steel blade offers just the right amount of reach for all kinds of cutting jobs, and the 5-inch knurled-grip handle makes it easy to wield. It’s a great option if you’re working with wood, carving or skinning game, or performing other close-range knife work. Built with a fixed blade shaped into a clip point with a compound bevel cutting edge, the knife can cut through just about anything. A double saw edge spine gives you a bit of flexibility, and the included hard composite sheath will keep both the spine and the blade’s sharp edge securely protected. The sheath’s easy-open fastening system also makes it easy to draw as needed with a moment’s notice.

The Timber Rattler Western Outlaw Bowie Knife is a standout product — both in its appearance and its effectiveness. This knife looks wonderful, with a bit of style that other Bowie options can’t offer. But it’s no display-only knife; you can put it to work, and it’ll deliver quality cuts. The knife measures 17 x 4.5 x 1.5 inches in overall size, with an 11-3/8 inch stainless steel clip point blade and a wooden handle. It’s a full-tang design, too, which offers you added reliability and sturdiness. A standout brass-plated guard keeps your fingers out of the fray. Along the hardwood handle, a series of dark blue accents and brass bolsters set against sharp corners and a slight curve make the Bowie knife really pop. The brass end accent finishes off the sleek appearance. This knife comes with a genuine leather sheath to keep your blade safe, too. There’s just one potential drawback you’ll want to keep in mind: a lack of consistency. While some knives arrive in excellent condition, others may have scratches or cracks.

If you want to turn heads with your Bowie knife, you’re going to love what a standout the Snake Eye Tactical 17” Bowie Knife is. This large and imposing knife is more than a simple blade and simple handle. It offers a traditional clip point blade and serrations along the blade’s spine. This increases its versatility, but it also makes for a seriously tough-looking knife when you wield it. With an 11.5-inch stainless steel blade and a rubberized, grippy handle, you’ll love how this knife feels in your hand. It includes a nylon sheath, which is critical for a Bowie knife of this size to protect both sides of the blade. However, there is a significant drawback: With a fixed blade instead of a full-tang design, this knife can snap or become weak right where the blade and handle attach. It’s best for lighter tasks rather than heavy-duty or survival use, just to err on the safe side.

Few Bowie knives look like the Poshland Reg-215 Handmade 14-Inch Bowie Knife. This knife isn’t simple or basic in its construction — it’s made with a Damascus steel blade, which gives the knife its swirling, enchanting patterns. Damascus steel, which is used to create blades in layers upon layers of steel, offers an exotic sense of style, and it’s quite tough, too. Made from an alloy, this Bowie knife offers a wonderfully sharp cutting edge and an HRC 58 to 60 hardness rating. Hand-sharpened after it’s finished, you can trust that this blade will last you throughout many uses. The knife blade measures 9 inches and the wooden handle stretches 5 inches, giving you nice balance and plenty of room to grip. The biggest complaint about this knife? Some can arrive with a coarse, unfinished edge that needs proper sharpening and fine-tuning before it can really make proper, crisp cuts.

There’s no mistaking the Snake Eye Tactical Fixed Blade 16.5” Bowie Knife once you see it. This knife has one big blade — even though it’s half an inch shorter than the other Snake Eye model on our list. With a stainless steel 10.5-inch blade and a 6-inch wooden handle, the blade carries quite a lot of weight. It is hollow in construction, but you’ll notice as you maneuver this knife it can feel a bit unwieldy. The full-tang design carries the blade all the way through the handle, but be cautious — this knife can cause injuries or serious harm if not used with care. It’s so large that it’s difficult to carry; you can attach it to your belt with the included nylon sheath that features a belt loop, but it’s likely to get in your way. Despite these drawbacks, this Bowie knife does arrive quite sharp and ready for use. Ideal for cutting and chopping, it’s a good one to have if you don’t require a heavier-duty model.

If you need a Bowie knife that can withstand more than your usual wear and tear, the Ontario Knife Company SP10 Spec Plus 9.75” Bowie Knife is a fantastic choice. This well-balanced knife is built to tackle all types of cutting needs, and it’s durable enough for military and rescue purposes. With an overall size of 14 x 4 x 3 inches in size, the blade is made out of extra-durable carbon steel with an HRC 57 to 59 hardness rating. It’s covered in a protective powder coating to prevent corrosion and issues like rust, even with frequent use and limited oiling. The full-tang construction ensures you can trust the blade and handle to stay in one solid piece, even with harsh use. And the handle itself, which is made out of Kraton, is also tough. A leather and Cordura nylon sheath offers protection plus a convenient belt loop for carrying. If you’re planning to use your Bowie knife heavily, this is the product that’ll stand up to your needs.

Related: The best hunting knives for the modern-day Jim Bowie

Why should you trust us

I have nearly a year of experience reviewing products for Brookline Media’s websites, including The Drive and Car Bibles. My past reviews include best ATV bags, best solar chargers for backpacking, and best waterproof tents. I’ve also written historical articles for War History Online, how-to articles for WonderHowTo, and the nonfiction book Fidget! for Adams Media.

Like we mentioned earlier, a Bowie knife is a classic kind of knife. It’s one that’s iconic and instantly recognizable, thanks to its popularity and its long history. Yet while Bowie knives come in many different designs, sizes, patterns, and even colors, there’s only one type of this renowned knife.

All Bowie knives share the same basic characteristics. Each one has a fixed blade that fits into a protective sheath, a crossguard for hand or finger protection, and a clip point blade shape. Some knives do vary a bit — for example, it’s now common to come across many Bowie knives with a serrated spine for increased versatility. No matter what varied hallmarks a Bowie knife might have, however, it’s always intimidating and carries a large blade.

Most Bowie knives do feature blades made out of carbon steel. This material can maintain its sharp cutting edge very well throughout use. Some newer knives may be made with anodized aluminum, which is lighter but less traditional.

To determine if you’re buying a true Bowie knife or something completely different, you’ll want to make sure you’re getting a knife with a blade that’s fixed and long. Most Bowie options have an average length of 9.5 inches, but they can stretch even longer. Typically, a Bowie blade is no shorter than 5 inches in length.

What to consider when Buying Bowie Knives

Because there are so many different Bowie knives available, it’s important to think about how you plan to use your knife before you pick one out. Bowie knives are pretty versatile — but different features can make certain models better for specific tasks. An extra-long blade isn’t ideal for cleaning game or working with wood, for example. 

Make sure to assess a Bowie knife’s durability first and foremost. You want to make sure your investment is going to last, especially if you’re using it often. Consider the metal the blade is made out of and take a look at the handle. Micarta is a popular handle choice, while plastic won’t offer you the same level of long-term durability. And steel is always preferable when it comes to your blade. Full-tang knives tend to be stronger than those that aren’t, since you don’t have to worry about weak welds at critical points.

You’ll also want to consider any Bowie knife’s blade length. Choose a knife that’s too long — say, over 6 inches long in the blade alone — and you’ll likely run into challenges. It’s easier to injure yourself when you’re working with a very long blade. However, the alternative can also be difficult to work with, as a knife that’s too short can leave you struggling to cut large items. 

Do you need a Bowie knife?

A Bowie knife is, above all else, one very versatile knife. Opt for one of these long and imposing-looking knives, and you’ll be able to tackle a whole lot of different tasks. But versatility isn’t the only advantage of one of these knives.

Many people opt for a Bowie knife because they want an intimidating tool in their arsenal. Others are drawn to these knives because they look cool — and they have quite the history of being involved in historic knife fights. But ultimately, a Bowie knife is great for slicing, chopping, stabbing, and piercing. They make great survival tools, as you’ll be able to use your Bowie knife in a wide range of different settings.

The advantages of Bowie knives don’t end there. They also offer:

  • Good accuracy, thanks to their balanced blades and handles with a point at the end.
  • Sturdy construction that can handle everything from splitting logs to carving wood to using the end of the handle as a makeshift hammer.
  • A curved shape and tip that allow you to do more than merely cut, like skinning game or burrowing into items. 
  • The ability to carry extra features built into the blade or handle, like fire starters or strikes.

Pricing ranges for Bowie knives

  • $30 or Less: If you don’t want to spend a lot, there are plenty of affordably-priced Bowie knives priced at $30 or less. They may not be the highest level of quality, but you can find a variety of different blade sizes and styles within this range.
  • $35 to $75: Step up to this price range, and you’ll find even more options. For $35 to $75, there are a wealth of higher-quality Bowie knives in all sizes available. And many even include extras, like extra-grippy handles or fire starter capability.
  • $75 and Up: The highest level of quality and the most customization is available if you’re shopping for knives priced at $75 and up. These knives are made with top-tier materials, available in different designs, and offer the highest level of durability.

How we chose our top picks

To create our list of the best Bowie knives, we took a look at the highest-rated and most-reviewed knives available online. We assessed the knives’ price points, size and shape, and what real-world users had to say about their durability and performance out in the field. 

Related: The best survival knives worth carrying

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