The 5 Best Bowie Knives You Can Buy

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The Bowie knife has a long history that is surprisingly difficult to confirm. What we do know for certain is that it was popularized by the very man for whom it was named: Jim Bowie. Famous for surviving the Vidalia Sandbar fight and dying at the Alamo, this fabled knife fighter’s weapon of choice was a custom made, Spanish-inspired, butcher-style hunting blade that was not well documented. As a result, it wouldn’t be until after his death that a consensus would be reached on what a Bowie knife actually is.

Nowadays, these types of cutting tools are still very popular around the world – including wide usage as a utility and combat blade by the United States Military. The base characteristics of a Bowie knife include a fixed-blade that fits into a sheath (known as a sheath knife), a crossguard (a bar usually made of metal between the blade and handle of a knife), and a clip point (one of the world’s most popular blade shapes). Though, the truth is, a knife doesn’t require all of these in order to be considered a Bowie knife. If anything, they apparently only need to be large, intimidating, and bear the knife fighter’s name. Whatever the case, we’ve gathered together the best Bowie knives available on the market today in the following collection.

First introduced in the early 19th century, what we now know today as the Bowie knife was invented by Rezin P. Bowie, for his more famous brother, James “Jim” Bowie. Though engineered from the ground up for use as a fighting/dueling knife — with an extended length that gives its user ample reach — Bowie’s design borrowed elements from both butchers knives and hunting knives of the era while also drawing influence from Spanish blades of the day. This ultimately resulted in a knife with a long thick blade with a mostly flat edge/belly, that culminates in a clip-point profile that provides exceptional piercing power. Made famous by Jim Bowie’s use of the knife at the famous Sandbar Fight, this type of classically-styled fixed blade is still widely produced and carried today, namely being utilized for outdoor applications, though also carried by some for its defensive capabilities.

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Considering the Bowie knife was originally designed close to 200 years ago, it can admittedly be a bit tricky knowing what to look for when shopping for one in the modern age. As such, we’ve pieced together this condensed primer on what to look for when shopping around for a new Bowie knife.

Size & Shape: Traditionally, Bowie knives are rather large, even for outdoor fixed blades. With that said, these blades can still vary in length — typically clocking in at around 10” to 15” overall. Additionally, by their very definition, practically all Bowie knives boast a clip point blade profile, though these silhouettes can still boast some minor variations, with some being slimmer or beefier than others.

Blade Steel: As the backbone and main element of the knife, the type of steel used to construct a Bowie knife’s tang and blade are of extreme importance. Like most outdoor-leaning knives, Bowies are mostly commonly composed of 1095, 420, and other high-carbon steels, as well as sometimes cheaper tool steels like D2 and AUS-8.

Blade Thickness: On top of the type of blade steel used, one should also review how thick a blade’s construction is, as this will play a massive role in how the knife performs — especially under hard uses. Blade thickness is especially important if you plan on using a Bowie for self-defense applications, as thin blades are markedly more prone to bending or snapping off in CQC situations.

Handle: After the blade steel, the next most important element to review on a Bowie knife is undoubtedly the handle. This includes exploring the type of primary material used for the handle, as well as secondary constructions such as the material used for items such as a handle’s hilt or pommel. When coupled with the material used, how the handle is shaped (i.e. its ergonomics) will ultimately determine a knife’s level of grip. There are also some modern Bowie knives that have been bestowed with finger guards and/or integrated knucks.

Build Quality: The materials used to craft a Bowie knife’s blade and handle play a crucial role in its overall quality, but so too does how well said Bowie was pieced together. With these knives boasting long blade lengths and large and heavy components, the level of craftsmanship on display will play an enormous role in a knife’s overall longevity and performance.

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Sheath: Considering the immense size of a Bowie knife, it’s crucial to be able to easily carry the thing, which is why a Bowie knife’s sheath is of such importance. While these items pretty much all do the same job, they can vary in terms of performance — an area that largely boils down to whether the sheath is a modern, hard plastic or Kydex item, or crafted from more old-school constructions like leather.

Ontario Knife Co. SP-10 Marine Raider Bowie Knife

Ontario Knife Co Marine Raider Bowie Knife
Photo: Amazon

Best Modern Bowie: Nothing shy of menacing, the Marine Raider Bowie knife looks to us exactly how a Bowie knife should: big and scary. But that wouldn’t matter much if it didn’t have the quality backing it up. This made-in-America Bowie features a full tang high carbon 1095 steel blade measuring up at 9.75 inches. And its paired with a comfortable Kraton handle that offers excellent grip in just about any conditions. It also comes with a combination leather and cordura sheath for safe keeping. Best of all, this 15.125″ cutting tool has a limited lifetime warranty from the brand.

Buck Knives 119 Special Bowie Knife

Buck Knives 119 Special Bowie Knife
Photo: Buck Knives

Best USA-Made Bowie: Though it bears a much more “classic” look lacking in many of its counterparts, this Bowie knife is by no means a showpiece. The 6 inch clip blade is made from 420HC stainless steel, features a blood groove, and is superb for both edge retention and general toughness. Its crossguard and pommel are constructed from brass and the greater part of the handle is made of gorgeous cocobolo Dymondwood – a laminate of compressed wood that is more stable and wont warp like regular wood. It’s also made in the USA, comes with a leather sheath, and features the Buck Knives “Forever Promise” warranty.

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KA-BAR USMC Fighting Knife

KABAR USMC Fighting Knife
Photo: Amazon

Best Fighting/Combat Bowie: If this knife looks somewhat familiar to you, that’s probably because this is Ka-Bar’s most famous blade of all time. In fact, a version of this knife was used by U.S. Marines during World War II. And it is still one of the most common tactical knives used by service men and women both active and retired today. Marked by a 7-inch 1095 Cro-van steel blade and a leather wrapped handle, this is an incredibly reliable and durable knife that can be depended upon through years of hard use. And every one comes with a very handsome protective leather sheath.

Puma Plain Stag Bowie Knife

Puma Plain Stag Bowie Knife
Photo: Amazon

Best Classically-Styled Bowie: With a visage that is arguably the most classic looking of the Bowies on this list, Puma’s knife stands out for one very cool feature. The handle is actually carved – by master craftsmen – from naturally-dropped stag antlers. Not only does that mean that the handle is tough and beautiful, but their process is also respectful of nature and doesn’t create unnecessary waste in its production. The 6.1-inch clip point blade – the most common Bowie knife shape – is made from D1.4 stainless steel – which will keep from rusting during extensive use – and has a hardness of 57-59 on the Rockwell scale. If nothing else, this is certainly the most handsome high-end Bowie knife we’ve come across.

Cold Steel Marauder

Cold Steel Marauder
Photo: Cold Steel

Best Overall Bowie: While this offering from Cold Steel looks a bit more unique than some of the others on this list – thanks in part to the curvature of the blade and a secondary finger guard jutting from the handle – it’s no less functional. The unique full-tang 9 inch blade is made from incredibly capable Japanese Aus 8A stainless steel and it is married to a 5 1/8 inch handle made from Kray-Ex (a proprietary Kraton-like material used by Cold Steel). With it’s included Secure-Ex handle, this Bowie knife can be relied upon to be a superb hunting knife as well as a general-purpose utility blade.

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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>