October 25, 2006 - Admin
Choosing the Perfect Hunting Knife
When you’re planning to invest in a hunting knife, there are several factors to consider. First, what kind of hunting you plan to do?
Do you go after big game?
Are you a “trophy hunter” meaning you hunt only for the trophy or show aspect?
How large an animal do you plan to use the knife on?
Do you plan to hunt for food or to retain the animal skin for display?
Your answers to these questions will determine what kind of hunting knife you might consider.
Now that you’re clear on what you’ll be using the knife for, it’s time to start narrowing down your options to find the perfect knife for you. Knives come in two styles: fixed or folding. The fixed knife, as it sounds, is a knife that is permanently in the open position. These kinds of blades require a sheath in order to be handled and carried safely.
The second type of knife, folding, refers to blades that fold away when not in use. This kind of knife does not require a sheath and can be transported (folded) in your pocket. It locks closed by a lock and pivot mechanism which keeps the blade in place when not in use. (Be careful when folding the knife; sometimes the blade can rebound and cut your palm or fingertips).
Fixed knives are generally sturdier than folding knives because in fixed knives, the blade usually runs into the handle, making this knife stronger. On folding knives, the blade may simply be attached at the handle, creating a tension point for breakage if the knife is used with excessive force, especially twisting.
Once you’ve decided on fixed or folding style, your next decision is the type of blade. There are three main types of hunting knife blades:
The skinning blade
The clip point
The drop point blade
Let’s look at each of these blades styles in more detail.
The skinning blade is used primarily to remove the skin from big game animals. The skinning blade is at its best when used in a wide sweeping motion to remove flesh from skin. It can save a great deal of time when butchering hunted game. Skinning knives, in general, are able to perform many of the same game cleaning tasks as their cousins, the clip point and drop point blades.
Drop point knives are the best for big game hunting. They have a wide, curved blade of thick steel. They, too, can be used to separate flesh from skin, but also can be used to gut and split game; however, these tasks are best be handled by a saw or hatchet if you will be doing a lot of game cleaning and gutting.
Clip point blades tend to be flatter and more multipurpose than drop point blades. Clip point blades are good for those who hunt occasionally, or who wish to use the knife for other purposes outside of hunting. Clip point knives will perform the same actions as the drop point, only less efficiently.
In general, you will want to look for a hard blade stainless steel blade and note that serrated blades will cut more deeply and more easily than non-serrated ones. The best choice might be a partially serrated one, so you have more options. Blades coated in titanium nitride will be easier to sharpen than blades which are not.
Blade manufacturers rate hardness of their blades on the Rockwell C scale. A low C scale rating means the blade is too soft, and may flex or bend with use. A very high C scale rating means the blade may be too stiff and may break under heavy pressure or robust twisting. A C scale rating in the mid-fifties will be ideal for most hunting applications. It’s important to remember, no matter what kind of blade you get, you need to keep it sharp. Consider adding a sharpening tool or simple whetstone to your hunting equipment supplies.
Finally, the third thing to consider when buying a knife is the handle. Knife handles have traditionally been made of wood, bone, or leather; and newer knives are made of rubber or composite materials. Traditionalists may always favor the “usual” knife handles, but the rubber and composite handles are worth examining. The newer handles can provide greater grip and better hand traction when the knife gets bloody or wet. This greater grip can mean the difference between a successful hunting trip and one that ends with the hunter in the hospital. The rubber or composite grips may also be easier to clean since they will be less porous than either wood or leather.
Once you have determined whether you need a fixed or folding knife, a skinning blade, drop point, or clip point blade, and a rubber, composite, bone, or wood handle, your knife buying choice is made. Or maybe not, choosing the right knife for your purposes will make hunting and game cleaning easier and more efficient, something every hunter can appreciate. From my point of view, knives are very much like guns – buy them all, use them often!
Wesley Slade ownes and operates the popular outdoor site, WWW.Slades.Biz. He writes about hunting, camping and outdoor gear.