The USA Knows How to Make a Large Fixed Blade Survival Bowie Knife
For all the controversy around the origins of the first Bowie knife, almost everyone agrees that it was an American design. Over the years it became the American knife ideal, and now it’s the natural comparison for any large knife made for survival or fighting now.
In honor of that tradition we decided to find some of the best Bowie knives made in the USA and put them here in one place so we can capitalize on the helpless patriotic drive of all rednecks to buy American knives… I mean, to celebrate the tradition.
If some of the stuff here is a little too rich for your blood, you should check out our list of cheap Bowie knives. Those aren’t all American made, but they’re all at least decently made, and well priced.
Here are top picks for the best American made Bowie knives:
- Buck 916 Bowie – Read More…
- Ka Bar Bowie Single Mark – Read More…
- Buck 119 – Read More…
- Buck 119 Special Pro – Read More…
- Ka-Bar Becker BK9 – Read More…
- Ka-Bar Becker BK7 – Read More…
- Spyderco Respect Bowie – Read More…
- OKC SP2 – Read More…
- Ontario Knife Co SP5 Survival Bowie – Read More…
- BlackJack Model 7 Bowie – Read More…
- TOPS Knives Longhorn Bowie – Read More…
- Case Bowie Knife – Read More…
- Bear & Son Cutlery American Bowie – Read More…
Buck 916 Bowie
This used to be a collector’s item, but Buck finally came to its senses and made it available for the less ambitious knife swingers of the world.
This knife is a lot of things that are appealing to the kind of person who already likes Buck knives. It has a prominent clip point and natural materials for the handle. The sheath is a nice thick leather that’s bound to make the whole thing an awkward hip companion (although it’s fortunately not a dangling sheath). The blade is the ever-revered BOS 420HC steel, and the whole thing just screams “take me into the woods and do a lot of irresponsible things”.
As a bowie knife, this was designed for hunting and survival, but as a high-priced Buck knife with a few dozen handle materials to choose from and the option to add a display box and an engraving it makes a pretty stellar gift and display piece. Not that I advocate getting a knife for the sole purpose of making it collect dust in plain view. Especially on a piece like this that’s clearly asking to get into a tussle with a bear.
Ka Bar Bowie Single Mark
Some things are classics for a reason. Ka Bar’s Single Mark Bowie has been the form of the true American Bowie knife since World War II. The original model has been updated quite a bit since then. Ka Bar makes about 50 different versions of this knife, mostly just with decorative variations, but Ka Bar makes a lot of Bowie knives in this style with little changes in handle shape and blade length.
The Single Mark has always felt like the most true to form to me, though. And with the modern upgrade of Ka Bar’s 1095 Cro-Van steel it’s quite a bit tougher than the original combat knife that’s been a staple of US culture for over 60 years.
Buck sets the standard for modern Bowie designs as far as I’m concerned. Their 420HC steel is just about a perfect balance between corrosion resistance, hardness, and affordability for survival knives, and the design looks nice without coming off as frivolous decoration. I’m not a huge fan of the actual handle material, though. I’ve said before that it never quite feels secure, whether its phenolic or wood, because they pack it so full of some kind of resin that the handle always feels too smooth and slippery.
Buck does offer it in a few different materials at a premium if you feel like customizing the thing yourself, but honestly I’d prefer something with more of a rubber texture like on the Ka-bar Beckers. Handle aside, the knife as a whole is a solid design for dressing game and general camping chores.
It doesn’t have the same heft as a lot of other Bowie knives. It certainly won’t do vine chopping like one of OKC’s Spec-Plus blades will, and even if you move up to the Buck 120 you only get another inch or so in length. But it will slice better than most of the other knives on this list, and it could still stand its own in terms of toughness.
Buck 119 Special Pro
The design and dimensions of the Buck 119 Special Pro are exactly the same as the classic Buck 119 mentioned above. However, the Special Pro version is made of upgraded materials. It has an S35Vn steel blade and a canvas Micarta handle.
These upgrades resulted in a blade with far better edge retention, and a somewhat more grippy and durable handle (although they’re still clinging to that smooth feeling). These material updates pad the price quite a bit, but they do give the 119 a lot more longevity.
Ka-Bar Becker BK9
If you’re going to compete with Buck for recognition on the Bowie or survival front, you better be Ka-Bar. The BK9 (and the whole BK series as a whole, really) is a pretty sweet evolution of the Bowie style, and pretty widely used in practical fields, although you do kinda have to squint to see the Bowie aspect of it.
You’ll notice that interesting little non-word “Cro-Van” next to 1095 on the steel. If you’re not up with Ka-Bar lingo, that basically means it’s 1095 with a little bit of chromium and vanadium mixed in. Essentially that means this steel is a little tougher and might be slightly more rust proof (but not much), and it can take on a sharper edge.
In function, the BK9 Bowie is a chopper. This is what you take with you to the jungle to clear away miles of unsuspecting brush and vine. It’s made to be comfortable, although it’s probably more so for larger-handed people and tall people as this thing is almost 15 inches long, and isn’t horizontal carry.
Ka-Bar Becker BK7
The BK7 is the smaller but maybe more combat oriented brother to the BK9. It doesn’t have quite as much length to chop with, but it does have a more severe clip point and a slightly longer hand guard, which makes it a pretty good poker.
Beyond that you have a knife that’s the same in materials. The comfort level should be about the same, although the balance will lean more heavily toward the handle. While this is made with pretty much all the same materials as the BK9, they are designed for different activities. Losing those two inches makes the BK7 a little less capable for trail clearing, but it does make it easier to handle for camping and hunting tasks that require a little more maneuverability.
Spyderco Respect Bowie
When I first saw this I thought it was a kitchen knife. But then I saw the clip point, the hand guards, and the Spyderco hole. This has to be the biggest knife Spyderco makes right now. I’m too lazy to fact check that claim, but the point is that this is a huge chunk of CPM-154 steel from a company that has a strong history of workshopping high-end steels and edge geometry into perfection.
It’s one of the pricier knives on this list, but that shouldn’t be surprising considering the amount of materials in it, and the fact that it comes out of Spyderco’s US factory. This is also a Sal Glesser design, which generally means a lot of thought has been put into the ergonomics and the edge. This knife will be comfortable, and it will have a scary edge.
Ontario Knife Co SP2
The proportions of this knife make it look (let’s be fair) stupid. But it’s hard to say much bad about a stout carbon steel blade on a Kraton handle. This has all the makings of a nice survival knife. It’s grippy with contoured hand guards, and has a 5-inch blade with a relatively thick blade stock. I wouldn’t say it’s the most remarkable knife on this list, but it has the benefit of a functional design that falls under $50. And that’s a rare thing in the fixed-blade world.
The Ontario Knife Company does a lot in the survival knife category, and my opinion has developed into the range of “good enough”. They are often the more affordable survival option, but you have to compromise for an edge geometry and heat treatment that’s usually not quite on par with ESEE or even Ka Bar. I realize that’s a lot of qualifying before I tell you their knives really are good, and the Bowie design is a good match for how they make knives, but on the whole they are the good budget option.
Ontario Knife Co SP5 Survival Bowie
As long as we’re including the middling stuff from OKC, we might as well talk about the bigger options.
The SP5 isn’t what I’d call pure Bowie, what with that curving tip. The SP5 comes off more as a machete, but it’s close. There’s clearly some heavy Bowie inspiration going on here with the handle and a somewhat different take on the clip point. One of the more striking features of this knife is that it has two sharpened edges, which gives it some interesting survival utility. The length paired with the Kraton handle make for a great hiking companion, and the length should give you plenty of room to baton logs without smacking the back edge.
The biggest issue with it, like with a lot of bowie knives, is that it’s just so long and comes with a pretty thin nylon sheath that it will be an annoyance riding on your hip while you try moving through woods or jungle unless you have some kind of strap or MOLLE system to keep it tight against you. But if you’re used to that kind of weight sitting on your hip, then OKC is a great company to go to for large survival knives.
BlackJack Knives Classic Model 7 Bowie Knife
Black Jack Knives is a small company, and anyone who’s tried to order something from other small knife companies like Bark River will understand that means long waits for things. I see these guys’ knives out of stock a lot, but they do a lot of cool stuff, and this Bowie design is probably one of my favorites.
It has a lot of style with the large handguards and the sleek Micarta handle with a palm swell, but it also has a 7-inch blade made of A2 steel with a convex grind. This thing is a survival beast. I want to chop down a tree with it, and then I want to fight a bear and skin it. I would die in the process, but I would die with a sweet knife in my hand, and that’s really more than I could reasonably ask for. If you can find this Bowie knife in stock it’s a great tool to have as part of a collection or out in the woods.
TOPS Longhorn Bowie Knife
The Longhorn from TOPS Knives features a practical design that makes this knife ideal for anyone who needs a versatile Bowie knife capable of multiple tasks. The blade is long enough for this knife to technically be considered a Bowie, but it is short enough at 6.75 inches to be serviceable as a field dressing knife. It would also make a great survival knife or even a camping knife for those who like camping with large fixed blades.
The contoured Micarta handles of the Longhorn Bowie make it easy to maintain a firm grip in all kinds of conditions which also adds to this knife’s qualifications in the tactical department.
The Longhorn is one of my all time favorite American Bowies due mostly to its versatility, but I also really like the fact that the Black River Wash coating varies slightly on every knife which makes each knife somewhat unique.
We are currently testing the Longhorn Bowie out and writing an in depth review. I will post a link here as soon as it is finished.
Case Bowie Knife
This is one of those things that really seems like it’s more for showing than using. It’s fun to look at because it looks like a damn cartoon. The gold trim and long hand guard make me half expect a pirate to come around looking for his sword so he can go kidnap Tigerlily. What’s really odd though is seeing a 14-inch knife come from a company that became famous for three-inch barlow knives.
That said, though, it’s nice enough. Case makes a soft 420HC steel (I think I’ve read it runs around 56 HRC), but it’s tough enough to take into the woods if you’re willing to tarnish the immaculately polished blade and gold-colored pins. When you put it next to the other knives on this list, it really comes off more as a decorative piece, but it is a very functional decoration.
Bear & Son Cutlery American Bowie 501D
The 501D American Bowie from Bear and Son Cutlery sports a classic design, a high definition Damascus steel blade and a stag bone handle. This has been an extremely popular Bowie knife in America for over eight years. This is primarily due to the fact that the knife looks great, but it is also tough enough to be used as a survival or tactical knife, assuming you’re the kind of person who actually uses a knife with a Damascus blade.
Bear and Son Cutlery used their highly respected 416 layer Damascus steel for the blade. This steel is apparently a combination of a high carbon steel and a medium carbon steel (likely mixed in with a high nickel steel) that offers a good range of flexibility and durability.