Are you looking for a great Bowie Knife? A Bowie knife is a knife that is longer than 6 inches with a sharp, wide blade. It was designed by Col. James Bowie to be a portable fighting knife. It should be longer and heavier than a dagger but shorter than a saber. Historians stated that a Bowie “must be long enough to use as a sword, sharp enough to use as a razor, wide enough to use as a paddle, and heavy enough to use as a hatchet.” With all these features, it is no wonder why the Bowie is a very popular knife from the 19th century onwards.
What to Look for in Bowie Knives
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There is no real definition of what a Bowie knife is. Jim Bowie made several variations to his Bowies over the years and the original history has been lost. However, accounts from the time state that the Bowie knife looks like a large butcher knife with a clip point. The clip point is used to improve the Bowie’s stabbing ability.
Today, you can find a lot of Bowie’s from many manufacturers. Some include a saw-tooth back to use in survival situations. Others are modernized with composite materials. However, no matter what specifications are made, the following would always remain important in a Bowie:
- Blade-the blade must be razor-sharp. A dull blade would do no good during a survival situation or during a fight. The Bowie was used as a slashing and stabbing tool. Carbon steel or stainless steel are both fine for Bowies.
- Length-the knife must be at least 6 inches long. Anything shorter than this would make it something else besides a Bowie. Longer knives are usually heavier and give you a good amount of power; however, longer knives usually make it harder for detailed work.
- Weight-the Bowie must be heavy enough to assist in camping chores such as cutting wood. You can not have a lightweight Bowie. However, the weight cannot be too much in that it would decrease mobility.
- Tang-since the bowie is so heavy, it must have a full tang or else the knife would snap in half after some use. Non-full tang Bowies are only good as wall hangers and display knives.
- Sheath-the sheath of a knife is just as important to the knife itself. Leather, synthetic, or anything in between is good if it is well designed.
The PUMA Stag Bowie
PUMA is a German knife maker who is known for the quality of their steel. PUMA knives are custom forged in the factory and, before shipment, are individually tested for their hardness. Only knives who have passed the Rockwell hardness tests are sold to consumers.
The PUMA Stag Bowie has been known among knife enthusiasts for its quality but, however, this model is a remake of the original and the knife has many downgrades.
The steel was downgraded from D1.4 stainless to 440A stainless. D1.4 is the traditional steel used by PUMA whereas 440A is the steel used for mass-produced knives. It still passed the hardness test but the knife is much less special because of the downgrade.
The knife is still 6 inches and full tang but the rivets was changed from nickel/silver to brass. There used to be 3 rivets in the knife but the knife now only has 2 rivets. Also, there used to be a lanyard hole between the middle and last rivet but that has now been removed. The knife is still made with a Stag horn. The sheath went from a leather sheath to a nylon sheath.
The knife weights 8 ounces and, because of the changes mentioned above, the market price dropped from $135 to $60. If you are looking for a good knife in the market, I would either look for the 3 rivet version of the PUMA Stag Bowie or find another knife. This two rivet version is now worth it.
Ka-Bar Becker BK9
Ka-Bar is a company that was renown for their USMC fighting knife. If you are looking for a good all around knife, I highly recommend the USMC knife. In fact, the USMC knife was loosely based upon the Bowie knife for its design.
The BK9 is Ka-bar’s big Bowie knife. It is a whopping 9 inches long and weights 1 pound. This knife is definitely a large knife.
The BK9 is made of 1095 Cro-Van steel. 1095 is a very common type of carbon steel used in knife making. Carbon steel holds an edge very well and is easy to sharpen. The downside is that it rusts easily. 1095 Cro-Van is 1095 steel with chromium and vanadium added. Chromium aids in rust protection and vanadium increases blade retention. What you get is a very good, solid knife that will keep an edge and not rust easily.
Like all Ka-bar knives, this knife comes razor sharp and is proudly made in the USA.
The knife features a full tang construction with two Grivory handles. Grivory is a composite material that is basically layers of nylon glued together. It makes for a very light handle but some users find it to be slippery. I didn’t see it like them but you can also buy these really cool Micarta handles for the BK9. Micarta is super slick. The knife also has a pommel that you can use to nail things or break safety glass.
The sheath is nylon and, even though nylon is not the best material for a sheath, the sheath does not feel cheap at all. I’m sure Ka-bar chose to use nylon because of issues with moisture for leather. Also, most tactical gear today are made of nylon or some other plastic.
This knife received a 4.5 star rating on Amazon out of 97 reviews. It is also one of the top-selling Bowie knives on Amazon. It retails for $134 but you can buy it for $78 on Amazon. Check it out here.
Cold Steel Natchez Bowie with Micarta Handle
Cold Steel is another big knife maker in the US. The Natchez Bowie is named after the region where the Bowie knife was first used. There are several versions of this knife but the Micarta version has to be the best in my opinion.
The blade is a little short of 12 inches, making this the longest knife in the review. It is a monster! It weights almost 20 ounces and is a little more than 17 inches total in length.
The blade uses VG-1 San Mai III steel. San Mai is a type of steel often used by Japanese knife makers. VG-1 is believed to have a much better edge retention than comparable stainless steels but it is also believed to chip much easier. When I received the blade, I noticed it was razor-sharp and that it was very slick. I can’t say anything bad about it.
The handle is made of black linen Micarta. Micarta is a popular knife handle material made up of glued layers of fiberglass. They are very cool and have good grips. This handle is no exception to that and features a cool wave design on it. The knife is a full tang.
The sheath is a leather sheath. It will absorb moisture over time but, since the knife is so pretty, I’m sure no one is going to go camping with this baby. It retails for $700 but you can buy it on Amazon for a whole lot less!
Conclusion on the Best Bowie Knife
So, which Bowie knife should you get? If you are thinking about buying a Bowie for hunting, camping, or for tactical reasons, I highly suggest the BK9 by Ka-Bar. It features a great carbons steel that won’t rust easily. It keeps its edge very well and can easily be re-sharpened–making it perfect for tactical use. The colors will not give you away to snipers and it has great features like a pummel and nylon sheath.
If you are a collector looking for a beautiful knife to add to your collection, the Natchez Bowie from Cold Steel is the Bowie you should get. It features super high-quality materials as well as a great looking design. $349 is expensive but is normal for a collector’s knife. The steel is out of this world as well.
I’m not a huge fan of the PUMA Stag. It used to be a great knife but the current revision made it a terrible knife. If you can still find the 3 rivet model, buy it. Avoid this 2 rivet model, however.
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