There has never been a better time to purchase a quality hunting knife. Advances in metallurgy coupled with remarkable strides in design have created new knives that hunters just a few years ago could only dream about.
The line between mass-market knives and custom, handmade blades has also thinned thanks to collaborations between big brands and cottage-industry experts. Most recently, we’ve seen Buck team up with Dr. Larrin Thomas of Knife Steel Nerds for “The Larrin” and Spyderco work with Shawn Houston, AKA Triple B Handmade, for a custom heat-treat sprint runs.
With so many great designs to choose from, however, how do you decide what hunting knife is best? The answer lies first in determining what your purpose is. Are you strictly a small-game hunter, big-game hunter, or are you in the market for a blade that will serve well for field-dressing but also handle survival knife tasks like whittling up a quick fuzz stick to light a fire?
When trying to choose a “best” product in any category, there are always compromises, but to help you find a hunting knife that’s just right for you, we’ve divided some of today’s top choices into categories according to use case. We’ve also included descriptions from some of the knifemakers to make choosing your favorite easier.
Montana Knife Company (MKC) Stonewall Skinner: “Designed to take on any task a hunter may face, the Stonewall Blackfoot Skinner is truly a do-it-all hunting knife. Perfectly curved for skinning, sharp enough for cutting, and stout enough for chopping, the Stonewall blade is as all-purpose as it gets.”
Benchmade Raghorn: “This lightweight hunting knife bares CPM-CruWear steel with ultra-sharp SelectEdge® for exceptional push-cut performance and edge durability. Hi-vis orange Cerakote® and lightweight carbon fiber add up to an uncompromised, pack-ready hunting knife perfectly suited for field dressing elk, caribou, or moose.”
Benchmade Hidden Canyon Hunter: This small-framed, fixed-blade design is ideal for precision cutting tasks. “Despite its compact profile, this knife provides ample real estate throughout the handle and cutting edge, making it just as effective on big game as it is on smaller species.”
CRKT Biwa Fixed: The three-inch fixed-blade Biwa™ /bee-wah/ features a black micarta handle, a full-tang blade with upgraded Sandvik 12C27 steel, and a stitched black leather sheath—perfect for handling all of your small-game needs. And it weighs just 1.6 ounces so it’s easy to carry on those long days in the field.
Casstrom Safari Mini Hunter: The Casström Safari Mini Hunter is lightweight, compact, and easy to carry—”ideal as a small skinner or food prep knife.”
Havalon Piranta Edge: This knife features interchangeable blades (Havalon makes a bunch of them for various purposes) for quick-and-easy field-dressing chores. Just match the blade size/type to the game and you’re good to go. A Montana guide friend swears by these for surgical, precision field-dressing.
MKC Speedgoat: This handy blade from Montana Knife Company is one of the lightest ones out there at just 1.7 ounces making it ideal for deep, backcountry hunting when every ounce counts. MKC will also clean, sharpen, repair, and even reshape your blades when necessary, as well as rewrapping handles free of charge.
Spyderco Para 3 Lightweight: “Almost 30 percent lighter than its G-10-handled counterparts, the Para 3 Lightweight boasts linerless, open-backed construction and Spyderco’s high-traction Bi-Directional Texture™ pattern for a secure grip…while keeping the overall weight to an absolute minimum.”
Benchmade Flyway: Upland and waterfowl hunters will love the scalpel-like design of the Flyway’s 2.7-inch blade for breasting out birds. And Benchmade will re-sharpen your knife to a factory edge for free, for the life of the knife.
Fallkniven F1x Elmax: Featuring Elmax steel, a Thermorun handle, and Zytel sheath, the 102mm (4-inch) X-knife is sharp and strong, and the sheath is smart and safe—a perfect compromise between a knife that’s sturdy enough to handle any survival chores yet compact enough to wield easily and safely.
Morakniv No. 1/O (C): When it comes to quality and value, few knifemakers can touch Morakniv. Made in Sweden, the classic No. 1/O (C) features a 3-inch blade, a barrel-shaped, red-stained birch handle and a 2.0 mm-thick carbon steel blade. And they retail for right around $35.00—a steal!
Helle Mandra: Designed in collaboration with famed survivalist Les Stroud, the Norwegian Mandra is the smallest in Helle’s series at just 2.72 inches, making it an ultra-versatile survival tool that’s built really tough. And the curly-birch handle is truly handsome.