Everyone has heard of the Bowie Knife. It’s one of the most iconic tools of the rugged men and women who helped tame the American West. Large and capable hunting and utility knives, Bowie knives were as good in a fight as they were skinning a moose. Today we’ll cover 10 modern examples of this classic knife and help you find the best Bowie knife for your needs.
- 1 What is a Bowie Knife
- 2 Best Bowie Knives
- 2.1 Super SOG Bowie Fixed Blade
- 2.2 SOG Tech Bowie Knife
- 2.3 Schrade SCHF45 Full Tang Bowie Blade
- 2.4 Buck Knives 120 General Fixed Blade Bowie Knife
- 2.5 KA-BAR Bowie Knives Straight and Serrated Blade
- 2.6 Ontario Spec Plus Marine Raider Bowie
- 2.7 Cold Steel Marauder Knife
- 2.8 Condor Undertaker Bowie Knife
- 2.9 Tops Prather War Bowie
- 2.10 Spyderco Bradley Bowie Knife
- 3 Buyer’s Guide for Buying the Best Bowie Knife
- 4 Final Thoughts
What is a Bowie Knife
The Bowie knife is one of the most famous examples of frontier Americana still in use. Originally made for the celebrated frontiersman and Texas patriot James “Jim” Bowie, the Bowie knife came to be a symbol of Old West machismo and rugged utility.
Physically a Bowie knife is a large fixed blade knife. Its design is reminiscent of a butcher’s knife but with a large cross guard and clip point profile. They were originally made from polished high-carbon steel and have large wooden or leather wrapped handles.
The design of the Bowie knife made it a good tool for various hunting, camping, and outdoor activity. It has recently been eclipsed in popularity by smaller and lighter weight knives but is still widely available from excellent manufacturers.
Best Bowie Knives
Bowie knives are some of the largest knives you’ll find that aren’t actually machetes. In fact, many modern Bowie knives are actually marketed as brush clearing tools similar to machetes. The things that make such a large knife stand out are a lot different than the ones that affect a smaller blade.
These 10 knives represent a range of the Bowie knives on the market today. We tried to pull a few excellent examples from every type and price range you can find.
Super SOG Bowie Fixed Blade
The Super SOG Bowie knife is an updated version of the company’s original SOG Bowie. They designed the Super SOG to replicate the look and feel of traditional Bowie knives. It’s 12.88 inches long from tip to butt and weighs just 17.4 oz.
The blade is 7.5 inches long and made from AUS-8 stainless steel using a clip point profile with a black TiNi finish to prevent corrosion. It’s not quite as hard as other blade steel but for a knife this size it works well.
The Super SOG Bowie is a full tang knife with a beautiful leather wrapped handle. It comes standard with a black leather sheath and a whetstone. One thing we really liked was the lanyard hole at the base of the handle. It allows you to run a cord through them to help you hold onto it during heavy work.
The Super SOG Bowie knife is a high end product at an equally high end price. If you’re willing to pay for it you won’t be disappointed by the Super SOG’s performance.
SOG Tech Bowie Knife
The SOG Tech Bowie knife is a modern reimagining of what the Bowie knife can be. It keeps the classic form and function of the original but spices it up with high tech materials and excellent workmanship.
The first thing you’ll notice about the SOG Tech is its smaller size. From tip to butt it’s just 11 inches long. The blade itself is a mere 6.4 inches. It’s easy to see where SOG chose to make changes with this Bowie knife.
The handle is made from blacked out kraton rather than leather or wood. The blade itself has a slightly adjusted angle and is made from TiNi coated stainless steel. It comes in a black kydex sheath with a nylon lanyard attached to the handle. Like its larger cousin the Super SOG the SOG Tech is a high dollar product.
If you’re looking for a reimagined edition of the classic Bowie knife in all modern materials the SOG Tech is an excellent option.
Schrade SCHF45 Full Tang Bowie Blade
The Schrade SCHF45 is a full tang Bowie knife made from high carbon steel. It has a 10.4 inch long blade in a total body length of 16.4 inches. This puts the SCHF45 right at the upper limit of traditional Bowie knives.
The blade is made from 8Cr13MoV titanium coated carbon steel. This gives it excellent corrosion resistant properties while still maintaining high levels of hardness. The handle and sheath are both made from black thermoplastic elastomer.
The Schrade SCHF45 is a large and reasonably priced Bowie inspired knife made from the lastest materials. It’s large enough to be useful for just about any outdoor task.
Buck Knives 120 General Fixed Blade Bowie Knife
The General is one of the most iconic knives Buck has ever produced. A 12 inch long Bowie style knife, its size and blade angle were designed with gutting and cleaning game in mind.
It’s made from 420HC stainless steel. This gives its 7 ⅜ inch blade excellent hardness and corrosion resistance. The handle is made from either Dymalux or a composite material. The Dymalux creates a beautiful dyed birch appearance that’s smooth to the touch but grips your hand well. It also looks really sharp.
The General comes with a genuine black leather sheath and can be personalized through engraving.
The Buck 120 General is a classic Bowie style hunting knife. It’s made from quality materials by a trusted manufacturer and provides good value for your money.
KA-BAR Bowie Knives Straight and Serrated Blade
The KA-BAR Marine fighting knife is one of the most iconic knives in world history. It was first issued in the opening days of WWII to American Marines fighting in the Pacific and has since been used all over the world.
It was inspired by the original Bowie knife with a few modifications. Nowadays it’s available in either straight or half serrated blade styles. The KA-BAR Fighting Knife is just under 12 inches in total length with a blade length of 7 inches. It’s made from 1095 Cro-Van steel. This gives it a good mix of corrosion resistance and hardness.
The KA-BAR is a full tang knife with a handle made from compressed leather washers. This gives it a great combination of durability and slip resistance.
The KA-BAR Marine fighting knife is legendary for a reason. It’s a large and highly capable knife that works just as well as a utility knife as it does as a self defense tool.
Ontario Spec Plus Marine Raider Bowie
The Ontario Spec Plus Marine Raider Bowie is a military inspired bowie knife made from modern materials. It’s just over 15 inches long with a 9.8 inch blade.
It has a full tang design and is made from 1095 carbon steel. If you look at the blade itself you’ll immediately notice its extraordinarily deep belly. This makes it perfect for chopping through brush and other utility tasks around camp.
The handle is made from black kraton. This gives it excellent gripping properties and makes it quite durable under hard use. The sheath is made from black nylon and is fully MOLLE compatible.
The Marine Raider Bowie is more suited for wilderness exploration than many of the smaller knives on this list. It’s right in the middle of the pack price wise and is made from high quality materials.
Cold Steel Marauder Knife
The Cold Steel Marauder Bowie is an all modern recreation of the classic Bowie knife. It has the classic deep bellied clip point blade of a traditional Bowie knife but uses updated steel and handle materials.
It’s just over 14 inches long with a 9 inch blade made from AUS 8A stainless steel. This Japanese steel has excellent corrosion resistance and blade hardness. The handle is made from blacked out Kray-Ex for maximum strength and grip retention.
One thing we really liked was the included ring grip. It slips over your index finger as you hold the blade and was a common feature of traditional Bowie knives.
It comes standard with a Secure-Ex sheath that can be attached to a backpack, bag, or slipped onto your belt. Cold steel is known for their quality products and excellent reproductions of classic knives and tools.
The Cold Steel Marauder is a value priced modern Bowie that gives you a lot of value for your money.
Condor Undertaker Bowie Knife
The Condor Undertaker is a classic Bowie knife made from natural materials. It’s 15.5 inches long from tip to butt and has just over a 10 inch blade.
The blade is made from 1075 high carbon steel. This gives it one of the hardest and sharpest blades of any Bowie knife on this list but does require careful maintenance and cleaning. The handle is made from beautiful burnished walnut for a classic grip.
It comes with a black welted leather sheath. We’ll be honest, the Undertaker looks really nice. It’s a great option for reenactors and others looking for a true period Bowie knife from a modern manufacturer.
Tops Prather War Bowie
The Tops Prather War Bowie is a modern redesign of the classic Bowie fighting knife for the 21st century. It’s just over 12.5 inches long and has a 7 ¼ inch long blade made from coated high carbon steel.
The blade is coated with a traction and corrosion resistant treatment. The handle is a really cool part of this knife. It’s made from black linen micarta and uses a highly textured pattern called Rocky Mountain tread. It was designed by celebrated bladesmith Jeff Prather.
The Tops Prather War Bowie is a medium sized Bowie knife made from all modern materials. It’s beautiful in the way a spider is beautiful, sleek and deadly. It’s certainly not the cheapest knife on our list but it is well made, highly capable, and seriously nice to look at.
Spyderco Bradley Bowie Knife
The Spyderco Bradley Bowie knife was built to encapsulate the spirit of a Bowie knife in the body of a modern fixed blade utility knife. It’s just under 10 inches long with a 5.13 inch long blade.
The blade is made from PSF27, a high carbon stainless steel that’s easy to sharpen but still holds a nice edge. The handle is made from G-10 laminate for high strength and excellent grip characteristics.
The handle is made from custom molded Boltaron and gives you a variety of carry options. This is a high end knife at an equally high end price. If you’re looking for an excellent backwoods knife that’s smaller and lighter than similar Bowie knives this is a great option.
Buyer’s Guide for Buying the Best Bowie Knife
Bowie knives aren’t like other knives. They have a very specific set of characteristics that make them the knife they are. In today’s world there’s less demand for a practical gutting tool that doubles as a quality fighting knife.
Your needs if looking for a knife to carry will be different than if looking for a collectible or classic piece. To help you out we’ve put together a list of the things that really make a Bowie knife tick.
We aren’t going to lie to you, Bowie knives are expensive. To get one worth a darn in the field you’re going to spend well over $50. For a top of the line model you can easily spend $200+.
The biggest reason for this is their large size. They’re basically high quality knives built at the size of machetes. That’s a lot of quality blade steel.
Bowie knives have a very distinctive design. They use a clip point blade profile on a very large blade. The classic design includes a prominent cross guard and large squared handle with decorative touches.
New materials and styles have been introduced over the years, with many tactical bowie knives now being offered. Think corrosion coated carbon steel, polymer handles, and nylon sheaths.
Given the size of a Bowie knife full tang is the only way to go. This gives you maximum strength in the handle and blade. It also allows you to use the knife for heavy tasks without fear of damage or breaking the blade.
If you want a traditional Bowie knife expect it to be made from carbon or stainless steel with a wooden handle and steel crossguard. Nowadays the old school blacksmith steel is usually replaced by corrosion resistant blade steel.
It will most likely come with a leather sheath that is highly decorated. Common touches include silver fittings on the handle and decorative patterns either inscribed or embedded in the grip.
Bowie knives were conceived of as large fighting knives. Most are between 12 and 18 inches long from tip to butt. This gives them the reach for use as light machetes, gutting knives, carving tools, or batoning wood.
These are large and capable knives built to a classic design.
The blade on a Bowie knife was quite large. It’s at least 2 inches wide and generally between 6 to 12 inches long. Most traditional examples were at least 8 inches in total length.
Handle and Grip
Traditional Bowie knives had wooden or leather wrapped grips with a square profile. The handle itself was large enough to hold with both hands for heavy chopping but still comfortable with single hand use.
Modern versions often use high tech materials like kraton, glass filled nylon, or other polymers. The grip is generally highly textured or treated to aid in knife retention
If you want the full package with a classic bowie knife you should get a sheath made from leather or buckskin. These exemplify the materials used by the American trappers, frontiersman, and Indian fighters who were contemporary with the Bowie knife.
If you just want a Bowie knife for the practical purposes you can choose from modern materials like nylon, kydex, or other polymers.
A Bowie knife is a piece of American history you can hold in your hand and use every day. It’s also one of the largest fixed blade knives you’re ever likely to come across.
Make sure you know what you’re looking for before starting your search for a Bowie knife. If you want a practical tool you’ll have significantly different needs than someone looking for a collectors version.