No matter if you are an experienced hunter or you are just starting out, a good hunting knife is essential in the field. What factors should you consider when buying a hunting knife? Besides a long standing brand, what else is a guarantee of quality? Those are good questions. Here are a few critical features that you should consider.

Material/Steel Type

There is no doubt that your hunting knife should have a blade that is made of a quality stainless steel. A few variations are dependent on the knife model and type (folding/fixed). Your best bet is to look for Japanese or 420HC stainless steel blades that have been heat-treated and feature good edge retention; this will ensure durability and longevity.

Carbon Steel

Carbon steel is affordable, durable and made of rugged materials. However, carbon steel hunting knives are susceptible to rust but can be easily cleaned and sharpened. So a fair trade off.

If you’re going to use a carbon steel blade, you will need to oil or silicon wax it on a regular basis to prevent rust and corrosion. If you will occasionally use it for hunting, a carbon steel hunting knife will suffice. However, keep in mind that it is high maintenance. As such, stainless steel materials may be more practical.

Stainless Steel

My favorite feature is that stainless steel blades don’t require as much maintenance! They are more difficult to sharpen and the edge doesn’t kept as well. But in general, stainless steel is more durable and, as a result, more dependable.

High Carbon Stainless Steel: is a high carbon stainless steel that offers the best features of carbon and stainless steel blades. Unfortunately, it is one of the most expensive.

  • 420HC: is a stainless steel that contains a bit more carbon than regular stainless steel. This helps it to avoid rust and keep its edge. However its hardness level is a bit lower than other materials. 420HC blades are also fairly resistant to corrosion.
  • 44O-A/B/C: is a type of corrosion resistant stainless steel. Proper care is needed to maintain its edge consistently.
  • AUS-6/8/10: is the Japanese version of the 440 steel. The two have similar properties but the AUS-6/8/10 is a bit more durable.
  • S30V: is high quality high vanadium steel that provides rust and wear resistant. The S30V blades aren’t easy to sharpen, but they retain their edge better than other blade materials.
  • 154CM: is known for its high resistance to wear and tear. It also has excellent edge retention. However the blade is a little more brittle compared to others so it is more effective on smaller blades.
  • VG-10: is similar to the 154CM but has better edge retention and greater corrosion resistance.

Razor Sharpness

Razor sharpness probably is the most important feature out of all. Without a sharp blade, you will not be cutting, slicing, piercing, or any other hunting task. The blade material and what sorts of tasks you do with your knife will have a major impact on how long the blade stays sharp. As you are aware, the steel material is a major factor in that ability. Don’t forget–a good knife sharpener to go along with your knife

Fixed vs Folding Blade

fixed blade hunting knife

This is really a matter of preference. A fixed blade knife has a blade that’s permanently affixed in the open position. Because there are no moving parts, they’re considered stronger and more reliable. However, there are downsides since the knife is always open, you have to carry it in a sheath and wear it on the outside. This makes it bulkier to carry around.

A folding hunting knife has a break point and typically folds back into itself to protect the blade and to make it more compact. This type isn’t as bulky to carry and you typically don’t need a sheath as it can fit easily in your pocket.

Folding knife

Overall Length/Blade Length

Yes, size does matter! Ok, when it comes to blade length, keep in mind the length of an open knife as well as the length of the blade itself. Most pocket knives have an overall length of around 7.5 inches with the blade being approximately half of that–3.5 inches or so. When it comes to fixed-blade knives, a blade of 4 to 4.5 inches in more common. When looking at a knife, keep in mind the handle length so that if fits properly your hand.

Blade Thickness

Blade thickness depends on what task you need to do. The thicker the blade, the better it is for slicing, cutting, or gutting bigger game and thicker meats. Thinner blades are excellent for finese tasks such as filleting fish. Thinner blades are also prone to bending.

Knife Handle

Overall, knife handle materials can be separated in 3 categories:

  • Metal: metal handles are widespread in the knife industry. They are strong and durable, and are therefore a great option for outdoors equipment.
  • Synthetic: these are becoming more common because of their durability.
  • Natural: these are the more vintage materials like bone, wood, leather, mother of pearl, and antlers. Most of these have been used throughout history.


Last but not least is the carry system or sheath storage for your knife. While maybe not as important as the above-mentioned key points, you would still want to look for a hunting knife that comes with a durable and protective sheath. If it includes a belt clip/loop, even better, as that reduces the risk of losing the knife.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it legal to carry a hunting knife? How do you clean a rusty hunting knife?
Your best bet is to mix half a cup of apple cider vinegar or a dissolving agent with two to three cups of water. Rub the solution over the stainless steel blade with a regular cotton cloth. Keep rubbing until all the rust is removed. Never scrub the blade with a brush with hard bristles. Doing so may leave scratches on your blade.

How should you care for a hunting knife?
This can be summed up in two simple statement. First, sharpen it periodically–a dull knife is a dangerous knife. Second, make sure to properly store you know. If you have invested in a proper hunting knife with a fine or serrated edge, that has rust-resistant and features a thick blade, the only thing that you will need to do is to sharpen it from time to time. Also, carrying it in a sheath will protect it from external damage and thus prolong its lifetime.

What is the Difference Between a Hunting Knife and a Skinning Knife?

The blade design is the difference. The hunting knife is a thicker and often longer blade used for more vigorous activities such as gutting and cutting through smaller bones. The skinning knife is a wide but short blade and the edge is strong and does not have much flexibility or spring. It also has scalpel like sharpness and is easy to maneuver when removing the skin or hide off of an animal.

Why are Hunting Knives Curved?

Hunting knives are curved because this provides more control over the knife as you cut and also adds to the durability of the blade.

Final Thoughts on the Best Hunting Knife

We hope this article has helped you understand the critical features of a proper hunting knife. Now take a look at all that we have to offer.

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