Interested in a Bowie knife? Bowie knives are a staple of American ingenuity and frontiersmanship. The knives are named after the great Jim Bowie, who was a renowned and somewhat notorious knife fighter. Bowie knives are considered fighting knives with fixed (as opposed to retractable) blades. Jim Bowie famously used his trademark knife during a duel. Bowie would ultimately meet his demise at the Alamo.
Bowie knives are formidable weapons, typically one to one and a half feet in length, from the base of the handle to the tip of the blade. The blades range anywhere from five inches to a massive foot in length. Bowie knives typically have three main components: a crossguard, a clip point and a sheath. Bowies are popular among hunters, collectors and knife aficionados alike.
By the mid 1800s, the Bowie knife and different iterations of the original became quite popular. The knife is considered to be a wearable sword, a portable weapon that could be carried on the belt. As such, Bowie knives gained popularity among soldiers and civilians alike. Various improvements were made on the knife, but the general design remained the same. Today, the Bowie knife remains a favorite among knife collectors, survivalists and outdoorsmen and women. A simple, strong, reliable and formidable weapon, there is nothing quite like an authentic Bowie knife.
In this article, 10 of today’s most popular Bowie knives are reviewed. The top qualities of each knife is detailed, along with the pros and cons of each, and some general remarks. Hopefully, after reading this article, you will be ready to select the Bowie knife that’s perfect for you.
In a Rush? The Winner after 19 hours of testing is:
- Ka-Bar Becker Combat Bowie Knife
- Buck Knives 124 Frontiersman Fixed Blade Bowie Knife
- Case Bowie Fixed Knives
- Fallkniven NL4 Fine Edge Fixed Blade Bowie Knife
- Mossy Oak Survival Bowie Knife
- Schrade SCHF45 Leroy Bowie Knife
- Cold Steel 39LSWB Marauder Bowie Knife
- Timber Rattler Western Outlaw
- SOG Super Bowie Fixed Blade
- SZCO Supplies Carbon Steel Bowie Knife
1 Ka-Bar Becker Combat Bowie Knife
Ka-Bar, a manufacturer of combat knives favored by the U.S. Marine Corps, is one of the most trusted brands of Bowie in the world. The Becker is a prime example of Ka-Bar’s careful work; it’s a strong, formidable, versatile weapon with a reliable blade and resilient handle.
The Becker is a great tactical or survival knife that would be perfect for any hunting expedition or extreme outdoors adventure.
The Becker features a superior, ergonomic grip. It is designed for optimal comfort and to reduce fatigue. The handle is made of nylon, making it strong and virtually indestructible, while still easy to hold steadily and securely.
The blade is made of incredibly durable Cro-Van steel. Even after extensive chopping, slicing, stabbing and digging, the blade stays sharp and strong. It can also be resharpened easily.
Cost and Value
The Becker falls right in the middle of the market in terms of cost. Considering how well-built it is, how well it performs and the various accolades it’s received, it’s a great value.
2 Buck Knives 124 Frontiersman Fixed Blade Bowie Knife
The Frontiersman boasts the classic look of the original Bowie knife. It is a formidable, impressive weapon that performs well and looks fantastic. It is sleek, sharp, well-built and all in all, a serious knife.
The blade is made of 420HC steel, an extremely heavy-duty material. The blade is made to withstand serious abuse and will not weaken, break, chip or corrode. Minimal maintenance and care is required in order to keep the blade in good shape. The blade is strong and offers amazing edge retention.
The Frontiersman features smart, advanced design. This includes an integrated finger guard, to avoid accidental cuts, full-tang construction (the blade extends all the way through the handle), and a deep choil. The choil is the space between the tang and the handle. This is a convenient feature that makes sharpening easier and safer to accomplish.
Cost and Value
The Frontiersman is competitively priced. It boasts many extra features, a high-quality blade, a comfortable handle and intelligent, careful design and construction. It’s a high-value Bowie knife and a fantastic choice.
3 Case Bowie Fixed Knives
The Case Bowie fixed knives are an innovative, futuristic iteration of the classic Bowie knife. The overall appearance is singular and sleek, featuring a surgical steel blade and high-polished handle. The blade is polished to a mirror sheen, and almost looks too ornamental to use. However, it is a fully functional Bowie knife, made to be used.
The blade is ground to such a degree of sharpness that, paired with the steel’s overall strength, it is an incredibly dangerous weapon. Of course, like all of the knives reviewed on this list, it is safe to own as long as all of the warnings, directions and instructions for safe care and use are followed. This is a knife that could do a lot of damage if in the wrong hands, so the correct storage and ownership practices for any dangerous weapon should be followed.
The overall appearance and look of the knife are quite striking. It doesn’t look like a typical Bowie knife, but it does meet all of the criteria from a functional perspective. It truly looks like it belongs in a display case. Fortunately, it is easy to keep the knife in pristine condition, even with regular use. It is scratch and chip resistant, and will not rust, even if exposed to moisture. It also comes with a genuine leather sheath that offers great protection.
Cost and Value
The Case Bowie is another moderately priced option. Considering its powerful performance, its beautiful appearance and its reasonable price, it’s a very good value.
4 Fallkniven NL4 Fine Edge Fixed Blade Bowie Knife
Fallkniven is a world-renowned knife manufacturer based in Sweden. All of Fallkniven’s knives are handmade by expert craftsmen. The Fallkniven NL4 is a beautiful, unique Bowie knife that boasts many features that set it apart from the crowd. From being aesthetically pleasing to its incredible power and performance, it would be the crown jewel of any knife expert’s collection. From a functional perspective, it holds its own among the ranks of the Ka-Bar, the Frontiersman and the other industry giants.
Laminated VG-10 Steel
The blade of the NL4 is, in a word, incredible. The blade itself is fashioned with incredibly resilient laminated VG-10 steel. The “G” in “VG” stands for gold, signifying that it is the gold standard of steel. It is imported from Japan, and used in top of the line cutlery, survival, tactical and Bowie knives.
The NL4 is handmade in Sweden by a team of expert craftsmen. Careful, detailed work is put into each knife, and it shows in the overall quality and beautiful appearance of each knife. Nothing could be further from the mass-produced, assembly-line sameness of other Bowies. From the hand-tooled sheaths to the oxhide handles, Fallkniven spares no expense in the precise, careful, handmade production of its knives.
Cost and Value
The NL4 is much more expensive than the majority of knives reviewed in this list. That said, it does have a lot of standout features that may justify the cost for true knife aficionados who appreciate the ornate details that make the knife so unique. From the materials to the craftsmanship, it’s worth the hefty pricetag for knife connoisseurs who are not on a budget.
5 Mossy Oak Survival Bowie Knife
The Mossy Oak Survival Knife is an incredible bargain, sold at a literal fraction of the cost of the other Bowies reviewed here. However, don’t let the price tag fool you; the quality is still fantastic. The Mossy Oak is a rare find, an affordable Bowie knife that is still well-made, durable, long-lasting, reliable and powerful. It is not a knife to be overlooked simply because it is budget-friendly.
The Mossy Oak is a formidable and respectable knife on its own merits. Additionally, it is packed with extra features that make it a fantastic choice as a survival knife. It includes a sharpener, so that the blade can always be kept razor-sharp, and a fire starter. Whether you’re going on a survivalist expedition or on a camping trip, having a knife with a built-in fire starter is incredibly convenient and useful, particularly if you are in a bind.
The knife comes with a reinforced nylon sheath that is just as, if not more durable, than its leather contemporaries. The sheath is heavy-duty and does an excellent job of protecting the stainless steel blade and keeping it sharp.
Cost and Value
The overall value of the Mossy Oak cannot be understated. It is incredibly affordable, without sacrificing quality or functionality. It’s an excellent value, a rare find and a smart purchase.
6 Schrade SCHF45 Leroy Bowie Knife
The Schrade SCHF45 Leroy is another great knife sold at a fantastic price. The blade is an impressive 10.4” in length; combined with the handle, it measures 16.5” and weighs almost two pounds, making it a heavy, sturdy, powerful knife.
The Schrade Leroy is a heavy knife. Schrade has taken careful measures to ensure that it is comfortable to grip and carry. The knife’s handle is ergonomic and offers optimal comfort. It is easy to maintain a steady grip and the design reduces the risk of accidentally dropping the knife.
Compared to other Bowies, the Leroy is massive. It is therefore extremely important that the knife is balanced to ensure proper safety and performance. Otherwise, the knife would be completely unstable and unreliable due to the inability to maintain control. However, the knife is well-balanced, with the weight evenly distributed and the handle easily supporting the weight of the blade.
Cost and Value
The Schrade Leroy is a bargain-priced survival knife that is a very good value. It is a solid buy; a well-made knife made with high-quality materials. It may be inexpensive, but it does not fall short in any category, making it an impressive and extremely useful Bowie knife.
7 Cold Steel 39LSWB Marauder Bowie Knife
The Marauder is a throwback to the combat Bowie knives favored by the military circa World War II. The name itself is an homage to Merrill’s Marauders, also known as Unit Galahad. Merrill’s Marauders was a unit of the U.S. Army that carried out special ops missions in the jungle during 1943-1944. The unit was known for being fierce, fearless and ruthless, defeating enemy troops even when greatly outnumbered.
Cold Steel has done a great job of honoring Merrill’s Marauders with this particular Bowie knife. Tactical, precise, strong and reliable, it’s a fantastic combat and survival knife, well-designed, carefully constructed and fairly priced.
The actual blade is imported from Japan. Japan is known for manufacturing some of the highest-quality, strongest steel in the world. Specifically, the blade is Japanese AUS8A stainless steel, and it is razor sharp. The edge is continuously curved, making it an extremely intimidating knife.
Perfect for Hunting
The Marauder is ideal for game hunters. It is perfect for killing prey, as well as skinning animals in a clean, easy, effortless manner. For survivalists and hunters who need to dress their prey quickly, efficiently and neatly, the Marauder is ideal.
Cost and Value
This particular Bowie knife is on the inexpensive side of the spectrum. It is affordably priced, yet in no way is quality sacrificed for cost. Rather, Cold Steel has done a great job of designing a fantastic knife that even the elite combat forces of World War II would be proud to use, without going outside of anyone’s budget.
8 Timber Rattler Western Outlaw
The Western Outlaw is massive. It looks more like a machete than a knife, making it an extremely intimidating and dangerous weapon. The stainless steel blade alone is over 11” in length. It is a tough, balanced, powerful and reliable full-tang knife. The Outlaw hacks, chops, slices and skins, making it an incredibly reliable workhorse.
Beast of a Knife
The Western Outlaw is considered to be a beast of a knife due to its length, heavy weight, sharpness and durability. It is a serious weapon and can do a lot of damage. All of the manufacturer’s cautions, safety warnings and directions should be followed, as with all weapons. It is a good survival knife, serving general utilitarian and defensive purposes.
The knife features a brass-plated guard, which is a nice touch. It is both functional and aesthetically pleasing. The brass adds a touch of brilliance to the knife’s overall appearance, and it is also strong and reinforced.
Cost and Value
The Western Outlaw is one of the most affordable knives reviewed here. It is economically priced yet high-quality, made with a strong blade and a reinforced handle. Even the leather sheath is dependable and strong, protecting both you and the blade at all times. This particular Bowie knife is an excellent value and is absolutely worth purchasing.
9 SOG Super Bowie Fixed Blade
The SOG Super Bowie is a modern adaptation of a classic. It’s a very precise, better, improved version of SOG’s original Bowie knife, which was known for its strength and excellence. SOG took its original design and made it even better. The blade measures approximately 7.5” in length, making it a relatively small model compared to the other knives on this list. However, it is an incredibly powerful and compact knife, clean and well-built.
The handle, which is a rich tan color, is made of leather washers. The handle is therefore quite “grippy,” allowing the knife to be securely held and wielded. Even if your hands become wet, the knife can be held steadily, with great control. The handle is also ergonomic, reducing fatigue and discomfort.
Black TiNi Finish
The SOG’s blade has a unique matte black finish, giving the knife an attractive overall appearance. The dark blade stands in stark contrast next to the tan handle, for a striking and sophisticated look. The finish is made of Titanium Nitride, or TiNi, which makes the blade hard and tough. The blade is not just painted to look good; it’s treated to be exceptionally tough.
Cost and Value
The Super Bowie is on the more expensive side of the spectrum. However, it’s incredibly well-made and comes with a manufacturer’s warranty. The knife is carefully constructed with advanced features that make it well worth the cost. The high value matches the considerable price; it’s absolutely justified.
10 SZCO Supplies Carbon Steel Bowie Knife
The SZCO is another budget Bowie knife. It may not have the bells and whistles that some of the other models reviewed here have, but if you are looking for a basic, reliable Bowie knife, it certainly serves its purpose. Including the handle, it measures an impressive 15” in length, with a strong, carbon steel blade. The SZCO may be a basic model, but it is still a serious, dangerous weapon, and needs to be handled with the same degree of care and caution.
The blade is made of high-grade carbon steel. The fixed blade is full-tang, extending all the way to the handle. The wooden handle is sturdy, providing more than adequate support for the weight of the blade.
The SZCO features a brass guard that adds appeal to the knife’s overall look. It also provides a functional purpose, acting as a safeguard against accidental injury.
Cost and Value
This is one of the least expensive and most affordable knives reviewed in this list. While it may not have some of the advanced features and high-end details that other Bowie knives have, it’s a sturdy, well-made, heavy knife that offers reliable performance, superior control and manageable balance. It’s a great, budget-friendly knife and is a fantastic value.
When selecting a Bowie knife, the materials used to make the blade, handle and sheath must be considered. The blade has to be strong, durable, sharp and able to be sharpened. The are intended for serious use; they’re not ornamental. Therefore, carbon steel and stainless steel blades are by far the best materials to choose from. Avoid blades that are made of lesser quality steel. They are more likely to develop rust and corrosion.
The best Bowie knives, without a doubt, have wooden handles. The majority of Bowie knives are full tang, so the handles need to be strong enough to support the blade. A lesser material, such as plastic, runs a high risk of cracking and falling apart. Look for a knife with a treated handle so that the wood does not become porous and susceptible to water damage. Water damage can also cause cracking.
The handle also determines the grip, which is of huge importance. Bowie knives need to be held steadily and comfortably at any given moment, so the design and materials that comprise the handle are paramount.
As for the sheath, many knife aficionados will not settle for anything less than genuine leather. A leather sheath protects the integrity of the blade, while allowing the knife to be carried on a belt safely. A leather sheath is robust, durable and long-lasting, with very little maintenance required.
Almost all are full tang. Fixed blade knives such as these allow the knives to be used with greater stability, steadiness and strength. Bowie knives are made to withstand the exertion of power. High quality Bowie knives can be used with a degree of superior control.
There is enough weight to Bowie knives that they can be held steadily in your hand, but not too much weight that it becomes a struggle to support and maneuver the knife. There is much less risk of the blade breaking, chipping, or missing one’s target. This is one of the many reasons why Bowie knives are ideal survival knives.
Bowie knives are designed to serve more than one purpose. They are intended for self-defense, hunting, camping, and general outdoors-related chores. They are excellent fighting knives, if need be. They are also quite powerful, making them superior tools to use if in close quarters.
Throughout history, Bowie knives have been carried by soldiers. This is not just because they are effective weapons. They can also be used to accomplish tasks from opening cans to digging in the ground. From chopping to stabbing and slicing, the Bowie knife is quite effective at doing it all.
There are many reputable brands that manufacture and sell knives. However, there are some stand-out sellers that are among the most trusted in the industry. Some of the brands that truly excel are Ka-Bar, Schrade, and Cold Steel, all three of which are included in this buying guide. Ka-Bar is perhaps in a league of its own, manufacturing several Bowie knives which are used by various branches of the military, including the U.S. Marine Corps. Ka-Bar has a long history of manufacturing combat knives.
That is not to say that the other sellers included in this guide manufacture inferior products; nothing could be further from the truth. They all offer excellent, superior knives that are standouts in the industry. It should be noted, however, that brand recognition is important when selecting any sort of weapon due to the safety risks involved. Buying a no-name brand knife is risky. The construction and materials could be inferior, making the knife dangerous to use. The company could offer poor customer service and not offer returns or exchanges. While there are times when it is acceptable to purchase a product from a relatively unknown brand, buying a weapon is not one of them.
Bowie knives are intended to offer protection. They are ideal for self-defense. A Bowie knife allows you to defend yourself if you are in a perilous situation and find yourself in danger. Whether you are attacked by an animal or another person, a Bowie knife is a formidable weapon. Strong and steady, it allows you to safely wield off an attack. This is one of the many reasons why these knives are favored by the military; they help to keep you safe from harm.
While being frugal is a good quality, do not be tempted to buy the least expensive knife you find just to save money. The key to a good Bowie knife is the blade. Do not buy a lesser quality steel. Look for something extremely strong, like carbon or stainless steel. You do not want a blade that will come loose from the handle, bend, break, chip, or instantly become dull. You also do not want anything that is going to rust. The higher quality the steel, the better the blade, and the more superior the knife.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Do Bowie knives make good survival knives?
A: Absolutely, Bowie knives are favored by hunters and outdoorsmen alike. They are extremely rugged, versatile and dependable and serve a variety of survival-related purposes.
Q: What is the best blade material?
A: Industry experts favor reinforced carbon or stainless steel. Some high-end Bowie knives feature blades imported from Japan, considered to be the strongest in the world. This includes the Fallkniven NL4, discussed earlier in this guide. Use caution if you are considering buying anything less than high-grade carbon or stainless steel. These lesser blades may chip, break, rust, become corroded, or require constant resharpening.
Q: Is it legal to carry a concealed Bowie knife in public?
A: No, it is illegal to carry a concealed Bowie knife on your person. Additionally, the vast majority of Bowie knives exceed the length of weapons allowed to be carried on one’s person in the United States. The exact length that is allowed to be carried varies from state to state. Each state’s specific laws and statutes can be found online.
Q: What is the ideal length of a Bowie knife?
A: Industry experts recommend blade lengths of seven to nine inches. Several of the Bowies reviewed here, however, exceed that length. In fact, some Bowie knives exceed a foot in length when measuring both the handle and the blade. The ideal blade length depends on what tasks you will be using the Bowie knife to accomplish. For things like batoning wood, a longer blade would be helpful. For chopping and slicing, a shorter, yet sturdy blade might be more effective. Some Bowie knives are designed to replace machetes or even short swords. Others, like the original Bowie knife, are shorter and easier to control and maneuver with careful prevision.
Q: How old do you have to be to purchase a Bowie knife?
A: The laws vary from state to state. Some states are more lenient with age restrictions than others. In many states, you must be able to prove that you are at least 18 before you can purchase a hunting knife, including a Bowie.
Q: What are the best Bowie knives made in the USA?
A: The most well-known American manufacturer of Bowie knives is arguably Ka-Bar. Ka-Bar used to make combat knives specifically intended for use by the military. Another popular American manufacturer is Cold Steel, the manufacturer of the Marauder reviewed previously in this list. SOG is also an American manufacturer, with its headquarters based in Seattle, Washington. Other manufacturers are based in Sweden, such as Fallkniven, as well as Japan, China and Pakistan.
Q: What is the history of the Bowie knife?
A: It is widely believed that in 1838, Rezin Bowie, the brother of famed knife fighter James “Jim” Bowie, made the first ever Bowie knife as a gift for his brother. It was intended to be a hunting knife. Jim, who had a tendency to get involved in violent confrontations, had recently been shot. Rezin gave Jim the knife in order to protect him from further harm. Bowie famously used the knife to fight off his enemies during a bloody scene in Texas known as the Sandbar Fight. Bowie was shot and stabbed, and was unbelievably able to defeat his attackers using the knife that Rezin made for him. Jim Bowie died defending the Alamo on March 6, 1836. One of the earliest knives that Rezin Bowie made is currently on display at the Alamo today, honoring Jim Bowie’s legacy, and Rezin Bowie’s ingenuity and advancements in the field of weaponry.