A hunting knife is a knife that can be used to skin and dress game. Though styles vary, there are a few features experts look for in a quality hunting knife that set them apart from others on the market. Here are six things to keep in mind as you hunt for your ideal custom hunting knife:
1. Blade Design
A hunting knife should be able to pierce tough hide and perform basic cutting and slicing tasks, so a strong point and a good, convex curve to the belly are necessary. Also, make sure the knife has a full tang for added strength and durability.
The drop-point style of hunting knife has a curved spine that arcs down slightly to meet the edge just above the midline.
This design lends the knife a strong point, as well as good slicing capabilities, making it one of the most popular shapes available for all-purpose use. While drop points don’t pierce as well as other shapes, it can do the job when properly sharpened.
Clip points — like the Bowie knife — are another good choice. This shape features a fine point that pierces well and a significant belly. However, it is essential to keep in mind that the tip is thin and prone to breakage.
The spear point is similar to the drop point in function, but it has a stronger, sharper tip than the drop point that sits right at the midline. This shape is usually seen in double-edged daggers but can be found in custom hunting knives as well.
If the blade is too large, it can be difficult to control — too small, and there won’t be enough edge to work with.
Blades that measure 4 to 5 inches work best, and there should be enough space for a coil and guard as well as jimping on the spine in case you need to choke up on the hold and adjust your grip.
The handle should be ergonomic for a comfortable grip. If the grip is uncomfortable in your hand, it may lead to fatigue, which can cause injuries. The material the handle is made from is an essential aspect of ensuring a secure hold.
Wood is beautiful and provides a good grip, but it can also absorb blood and water, causing staining and warping. Antler and bone also look great and have excellent grip but are quite expensive and difficult to thoroughly clean.
Synthetic materials like G10, Micarta and glass-reinforced nylon are excellent choices for cleaning and sanitation purposes. Additionally, these materials won’t stain, and texturing options provide additional grip in wet or slick conditions.
Knife steel is judged based on edge retention, toughness, hardness, wear resistance and rust and corrosion resistance. It is essential that a hunting knife’s steel scores highly in all of these categories.
Premium quality steel works best, such as the Crucible Particle Metallurgy or the Bohler-Uddeholm ranges of super steels made with powdered steel technology.
M390, Elmax, ZDP-189, or any of the CPM range steels perform well under difficult circumstances, though other high-quality steels like the 154CM should not be discounted.
You will want a good-quality sheath to protect your custom knife investment. Choosing the right sheath comes down to a decision between the different materials that are used and where and how the knife is carried.
Stitched sheaths are made from nylon or leather, are usually excellent quality and will require a strap to hold the knife in place. Leather, if properly treated and cared for, can last a lifetime and may be stamped and decorated to suit your preferences.
Molded polymers like Kydex and Boltaron can hold a knife in place without a strap so that all it takes to free the blade is a sharp pull. The best part of a Kydex sheath is that it is specifically molded to fit your knife perfectly, allowing it to maintain a better grip on the blade.
6. Popular Hunting Knives
When it comes to hunting knives, custom fixed-blade knives are preferred. This is simply because folding knives have too many moving parts that can easily become clogged with mud, sand or blood.
However, when properly cleaned and cared for, a folding knife is a good companion for a long hunting trip and should have many of the same features as a fixed blade.
- Fixed Blades
One popular fixed-blade choice is the Emerson Government Mule. It features a 4.8-inch spear point blade made from 154CM and a G10 epoxy/glass laminate handle, making it perfect for easy cleaning and care.
Not to be outdone, the Microtech Custom Socom Alpha Mini is another great knife option more suited to compact use. With a 3.75-inch blade made from M390, the carbon fiber handle and Kydex sheath make maintenance a breeze.
- Folding Knives
The Jonathan McNees LG Tracker Jacker is a great folding option that has a 2.4-inch clip point blade made from CPM 154 and a titanium handle. If there was ever a folding knife to take on a hunting trip, this is it.
If you are dealing with smaller game, the Zero Tolerance 0460 is a great choice. It has a trailing point blade made from CPM S35VN and a titanium frame lock that lends itself perfectly to hunting purposes.
When looking for a custom hunting knife, it all comes down to properly assessing your specific needs and finding the right knife to suit them.