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I don't know about you, but every year when hunting season rolls around, it's usually a mad dash to make sure I've got everything I need for the upcoming trip.
Because not having the right gear when you're hunting sucks...bad.
It's usually right about the time we need something, that we realize that we either forgot or neglected something.
If you've ever found yourself in that position (which I'm sure you have...), then you fully understand the importance of getting what you need and triple-checking your list before you leave.
While naturally this includes packing the proper attire and bringing along the hunting weapon of your choice, we often overlook one of the most important things- our hunting knife.
If your knife is no longer making the cut, and it's time to make a new purchase, you'll want to check out some gear reviews to find the best hunting knife for your needs.
That can be easier said than done.
More than likely, your local sporting goods store will have a few random knives on display, but without having access to hunting knife reviews it's hard to tell what you're buying.
While reviews can help you make a good buying decision, an online search may turn up more options than you can ever compare side-by-side.
That's where we come in. Rather than spending countless hours scouring the web, continue reading to check out our list of the Best Hunting Knives for 2020.
We'll show you all of our top recommendations for various types of hunting knives, their features, and the pros and cons of each.
Later on in the guide, we'll also teach you what to look for in a hunting knife, the different blade shapes, and also answering some of your pressing questions about usage.
Our Top Hunting Knives for 2020 Reviewed
There are a lot of great knives on the market today, all vying for the title of "best hunting knife ." In fact, there’s almost too many for one person to research and compare on their own.
Fortunately, you are an insightful and thrifty hunter who has chosen to use our handy guide. Regardless of your budget, we'll help you find a great knife to fit your needs.
If you have to choose just one hunting knife based on its overall quality and performance, we highly recommend the Buck Vanguard 192.
This fixed blade knife gets our vote for best hunting knife for its corrosion-resistant carbon steel blade, comfortable feel, and modest price tag.
Every Buck Vanguard is heat-treated using Buck Knive's award-winning method, popularized by the renowned Paul Bos. In short, the blade on the Buck Vanguard features a combination of great edge retention and corrosion resistance.
In addition to its blade performance, the Buck Vanguard is noteworthy for its balance and comfort in most hunter’s hands. This is made possible by the integrated finger guard and deep choil, both of which make each pass feel effortless yet still well controlled.
The Vanguard's gorgeous Dymalux walnut handle is for more than just looks. It also recreates the heft and durability of classic hunting knives from years past.
When you buy the Buck Knives 192 Vanguard, you get more than just a versatile cutting tool. You'll also get an attractive genuine leather sheath that helps keep your new favorite knife secure on your belt. You also get Buck Knive's Forever lifetime warranty, which covers it against defects for as long as you own it. That’s an impressive bargain, whether you use your knife for EDC or just for hunting outings.
• 420HC steel fixed blade is durable and corrosion-resistant
• Drop point edge holds well due to special heat treatment
• Integrated finger guard and deep choil allow for a balanced grip
• Dymalux walnut handle is comfortable and looks great
• Made in the USA and comes with a lifetime warranty
• Comes with a genuine leather sheath with belt loop
• The knife’s leather sheath could be better
• Customers have complained about not receiving the wood color they wanted
• Wood handle can be damaged if the knife is dropped
Shopping for a new hunting knife on a budget can be a bit challenging, especially as premium, high-priced knives flood the market. However, if you want a great budget hunting knife, you’ll find it in the Morakniv Companion.
This compact hunting knife packs a lot of value into its diminutive form while still providing the kind of performance a seasoned hunter can trust.
The first thing to note about the Morakniv Companion is its modest price tag. At only around $20, you could easily pick up a few of these to keep as backups or share with your hunting team.
The Companion also comes in an array of vibrant colors including military green, black, orange, and cyan. Everyone can have their own color, and if you accidentally drop it to the forest floor, it will be much easier to track down
In terms of construction, the Morakniv Companion utilizes a 4.1 inch fixed blade made from hardened Sandvik 12C27 stainless steel. This Sandvik blade is Swedish-made, and well-known for its durability when used for buck skinning or carving. In fact, this knife is durable enough that you can use it for cutting wood and sharp enough for food prep back at the campsite
• Affordably priced
• Comes in a variety of handle colors
• 4.1 inch fixed blade made from hardened Sandvik 12C27 stainless steel
• Patterned handle provides great control and safety
• Made in Sweden
• Comes with color-matched sheath
• Can be used for wood cutting, food prep, and carving
• Does not float in water
• Lacks a full tang
• Small in overall size
You’ve undoubtedly noticed how many so-called “premium hunting knives” are on the market today. Many of these models come with premium price tags, but lack premium performance in the field. That is certainly not the case with the ESEE Knives 4P, which is one of the best hunting knives available today.
At its core, this model’s full tang blade is constructed fully from 1095 carbon steel, which is a common mid-grade tool steel. This material alone makes it extremely durable.
The blade on ESEE 4p is .19” thick, which allows it to be extra durable without creating too much drag when cutting or skinning game animals.
Visually, this knife’s blade features an attractive black powder-coated finish that is both aesthetically sleek and helps to lock out corrosion across the blade surface.
This knife’s durability does not end at its blade, though. The ESEE Knives 4P’s Micarta handle is made to retain its textured surface through thousands of uses in the field. Better yet, this same texture remains easy to grip, even if the handle becomes wet during poor weather conditions.
Even small details like this model’s roundel pommel are noteworthy, particularly for its ability to give this knife a smooth motion while cutting through tough game.
As you may have gathered, the ESEE Knives 4P is proudly made in the US, as are all ESEE knives. The 4P is a popular option with hunters around the world. If you're willing to pay the price for it, this premium hunting knife is likely to become your favorite for hunting applications.
• Made from 1095 carbon steel
• .19” blade thickness is durable, yet still swift
• Micarta handle is extremely durable and easy to grip
• Powder-coated blade finish prevents corrosion
• Roundel pommel provides smooth action and space for a lanyard
• Comes with a molded sheath
• Made in the USA
• Molded plastic sheath material degrades a little too quickly
• Handle shape is different than previous models
• Cannot be used as a striker due to lack of space in blade coating
Even since the advent of the pocketknife, most hunters still prefer a fixed-blade knife. That makes a lot of sense given that these knives offer a greater deal of stability and durability across their lifespan.
Those traits certainly shine through with the Buck 119, which has become the flagship fixed clip blade knife for this storied hunting knife brand. That legacy provides this model with the kind of reliability that can only be found in an American made cutting tool.
The blade’s clip point design is as effective and resilient as those of premium hunting knives, at a lower cost. The Buck 119 has a 6” blade length that is as effective for making large cuts as it is making thin precision slices.
Seasoned hunters may also be attracted to the 119 Special’s classic phenolic handle, which both looks and feels like the best hunting knives of yesteryear.
However, this classic handle form has been retrofitted with some modern innovations, including an aluminum pommel. This allows the entire knife to be well-balanced without causing it to be overly heavy on your belt.
• 420HC steel blade resists corrosion well and holds its edge
• Special heat treatment ensures clip point maintains its shape
• Classic phenolic handle complemented by an aluminum pommel
• Comes with protective leather sheath
• Made in the USA
• Comes with a “forever” warranty
• Finish can degrade over time
• Less heft than the older design
• Shipping packaging may not protect the blade well
Folding knives are part of what made the Buck brand famous in the hunting knife industry.
As such, it only makes sense that their Buck 110 is one of the best hunting folders around these days. The Buck 110 might be slightly more expensive than many of its folding knife competitors, but for that price you get an impressive cutting tool that performs as well (if not better) than its fixed-blade counterparts.
This knife's performance starts with its 420HC stainless steel clip point blade, which has been optimized for performing detailed work in the field. To that end, this blade’s slight crescent tip allows a user to obtain more control while performing a delicate cut. Naturally, the tip is super sharp right out of the box and can be re-sharpened with ease.
Aside from its performance, the Buck 110 Folding Hunter is a sight to behold thanks to its genuine ebony handle inlays and brass bolsters.
These components are more than just stylish, they’re also quite durable and rare when it comes to folding hunting knives. Though it is out of sight, the handle features a unique Lockback folding mechanism. This component locks your blade into place to ensure that only an intentional act by the user can cause the sharp blade to shift.
• 420HC stainless steel clip point blade optimized for detail work
• Crescent tip provides more control through the end of the blade
• Genuine ebony handle inlays and brass bolsters are both beautiful and durable
• Protective leather sheath includes an integrated belt loop
• Lockback folding mechanism secures the blade when being used
• Made in the USA
• Ebony finish may scratch
• Blade hardness can make resharpening more difficult
• Can be harder to clean than a fixed blade
The unfortunate truth of hunting knives is that they don't stay sharp forever. That can be a problem, especially if you haven’t had a chance to sharpen your blade before your hunting trip.
However, if you’d brought along a great replaceable blade hunting knife like the Gerber Vital, you wouldn’t have to worry at all. In fact, you’d be able to switch in a new scalpel sharp, stainless steel blade in seconds before you cut into some fresh game.
To do that, the Gerber Vital makes use of an innovative blade switching system known as Exchange-A-Blade. This allows it to be compatible with several other Gerber brand replaceable knife blades.
You’ll only be able to buy these replacements from Gerber, which could add to its long-term cost. But even so, this model’s Split-Sec technology allows you to replace your knife’s blade with just a single button press.
The Vital's handle is a breath of fresh air when it comes to usability, as well. Take its larger-than-average choil, for example. It will allow you to get a comfortable grip anytime you take this knife in hand. Should you need to set the knife down, you won’t lose track of it, either. That’s because the very same handle is a very visible shade of blaze orange.
As with other Gerber hunting knives, the Vital model is packed with considerable value. While a price tag around $35 may sound like a lot, that price includes 6 free replacement blades. It also includes a lifetime warranty that will surely pay for itself.
• Orange rubber is easy to spot and easy to grip
• Features larger-than-average finger choil
• Utilizes safe and easy Exchange-A-Blade system
• Split-Sec technology allows for blade release with a single button press
• Stainless steel blades maintain a surgical edge
• Comes with a limited lifetime warranty
• Comes with 6 extra blades
• A bit more expensive than average field knife
• Requires replacement with only Gerber blades
• Somewhat harder to clean
Field dressing can be a considerable hassle if you have to keep fumbling between several different hunting knives.
If you’re looking to cut that hassle out of your hunting experience then consider upgrading to the Outdoor Edge Swingblade Knife.
This is a 2-in-1 swing blade knife that consists of both a drop-point skinning knife on one end and a gutting blade on the other. Flipping back and forth between them couldn’t be easier. Simply push the conveniently placed button and you can toggle between the two knife blades with just a single hand.
Both of these blades are made from Japanese AUS-8 steel, which is impressively durable and able to retain an edge.
The skinning blade and gutting blade measure 3.6” and 3.2”, respectively. As such, they are long enough to cut down on the number of passes needed to make a successful cut without being so long that it becomes unbalanced in either orientation.
Regardless of which blade you have out, you’ll always be able to get a grip of the Outdoor Edge Swingblade via its rubberized Kraton handle. This handle adds very little weight to this knife, which weighs only 7.2 oz. overall. These handles also come in a variety of colors, including a bright blaze orange that is easy to pick out in the underbrush if the knife is dropped on accident.
• Push-button control to switch from drop-point skinner to a gutting blade
• Japanese AUS-8 blades are heat-treated for added durability
• Rubberized Kraton handle provides a no-slip grip
• Affordably-priced for a 2-in-1 knife
• Available in black, blaze-orange (AKA Swingblaze), and hot-pink
•Comes with a Nylon sheath
•Zero 1-star reviews on Amazon
• Customer service could be improved
Finding a good field dressing knife with a worthwhile gut hook can be challenging. Luckily, our friends at Gerber have come through again with the Gerber Moment.
The Moment's full tang, drop point design is truly unique, especially among gut hook knives. It allows for unparalleled control while remaining plenty durable from pommel to tip.
Speaking of durability, one of the Gerber Moment's best features is entirely invisible to the eye. That would be its glass bead blade finish, which reduces reflectivity while still allowing you to sharpen as many times as you need.
This knife also includes some built-in functionality in the form of a gut hook. This small addition alone puts this model leaps and bounds beyond its competition.
Getting a grip on this model’s textured rubber handle is a non-issue, as well. In fact, even if you have a tighter grip, you won’t feel weary after using this Gerber hunting knife for a few hours. Your hand will be in full control with this knife in hand, too. That’s because its guard is placed so that its traction-adding jimping is still fully accessible.
Good luck getting your hands on the Gerber Moment. This is a very popular hunting knife right now, so supplies both online and in-store may be limited. But at only around $25 in price, you can certainly afford this model if you are looking to upgrade your field dressing capabilities.
• Textured rubber handle provides a solid, comfortable grip
• Full tang adds stability in use
• Well-placed guard and thumb jimping add traction
• Blade tip includes a gut hook
• Glass bead blade finish reduces reflectivity
• Comes with a limited lifetime warranty
• Could be sharper out of the box
• Limited availability due to popularity
• A bit weightier than some field dressing knives
The Outdoor Edge Wild Pak certainly packs in a lot of value as one of the best hunting knife sets out there.
This set comes with 8 vital tools that you can use to field dress and prep your game at home, or in the field. This includes all of the usual caping, skinning, and boning knives, as well as a bone saw that can tackle any job with ease.
While this set may be affordable, its manufacturers certainly have not cut corners in its production. Each knife features a full-tang 420J2 stainless steel blade that can withstand multiple instances of re-sharpening.
That kind of durability is ideal in this case because this set also comes with a tungsten carbide sharpener. This alone makes it easy to keep these knives in proper conditions between hunting outings.
Each piece in the Outdoor Edge Wild Pak also makes fine use of rubberized TPR handles. These handles have orange accents, making them easy to distinguish from the natural environment around you. These handles also include elk horn inlays that act as an indexing point for maximum per-pass control.
Admittedly, carrying around a complete game processing knife set like this isn’t ideal for the trail. But for those that want to have every necessary tool at their disposal, the Outdoor Edge Wild Pak may be worth purchasing to keep back at camp.
• Great price for an 8-piece set
• Caping, skinning, and boning knives all feature full-tang 420J2 stainless steel blade
• Comes with a reliable tungsten carbide sharpener
• Rubberized orange TPR handles are easy to spot on the ground
• Elk horn inlays offer indexing point for added control
• Also includes various bone saws
• Bulkier to carry entire set at once
• Edge retention could be better
• Case can be dented on hard impacts
Finally, we come to the Benchmade Altitude, which may not look or feel like any hunting knife you’ve ever used before.
That’s because this model is the best lightweight hunting knife you can buy today. At a remarkable 1.67oz. in total, this knife feels like a few paperclips in your hand. But when it comes to slicing and cutting through game, it is just as capable as its heavier counterparts.
The Benchmade Altitude’s lightweight frame and productivity are made possible by its top-notch CPM-S90V stainless steel throughout its blade.
This metal, while very lightweight, is also able to retain an edge exceptionally well without sacrificing any structural durability. At the same time, this model’s drop point is noteworthy for its versatility and balance, despite its lack of counterbalancing weight in its handle.
That being said, this knife’s handle is made up of more than just bare metal. In fact, it is coated in carbon fiber and microscales, which give it a unique texture that won’t slip in your hand. As a result, it is easy to grab the Benchmade Altitude effortlessly and withdraw it from its Kydex sheath in a single swift motion.
The Benchmade Altitude will set you back a few bucks, but for backpackers and minimal gear hunters, this knife’s biggest asset – its weight – makes that a price worth paying.
• CPM-S90V stainless steel blade retains edge effectively
• Drop-point blade is versatile and well-balanced
• Comes with Lifesharp guarantee for repairs, lubrication, and re-sharpening
• Weighs only 1.67oz.
• Carbon fiber and microscale handle provides unique grip texture
• Ideal for backcountry backpacking and travel
• A little spendy
• Orange color finish can fade over time
• Lacks the heft most hunters are used to
So, as you can see, there are a lot of different options to consider when looking for the best hunting knife for your needs.
While the category of hunting knives as a whole may feel broad on the outside, there are lots of specialized types that can make your hunting experience all the more seamless. There are even a wide number of affordable models on the market today that provide outstanding functionality and durability in a single package.
In the end, it’s tough to pick just one single hunting knife, but we hope that this post helped you narrow it down.