BLADE Magazine

Best Hunting Knife: Four Fab Factory Fixed Blades

Avid outdoorsman/custom knifemaker Phil Wilson designed the Spyderco Bow River.  The trailing-point blade has a gentle sweeping belly that slices with abandon, along with a mirror-like finish that cleans up quickly and easily. Overall length: 8.1 inches.

Avid outdoorsman/custom knifemaker Phil Wilson designed the Spyderco Bow River.  The trailing-point blade has a gentle sweeping belly that slices with abandon, along with a mirror-like finish that cleans up quickly and easily. Overall length: 8.1 inches.

Planning for a backwoods excursion? Here are four of the best hunting knife options, the fixed blade variety, presently rolling off factory lines.

As the fall outdoor season approaches, it’s important to assess your gear and decide if you need to purchase new equipment—hunting knives included. It’s time to maintain what you have or buy brand new models that will assist in camp chores and/or dressing game.

Fixed-blade hunters play an important role on the hunt as they do a lot more than just field dress. They also help prepare meals, prep firewood for cooking, and any other cutting chores that crop up. 

Ontario Knife Co ADK Keene Valley Hunter

An example of one of the latest such edged tools is the ADK Keene Valley Hunter from Ontario Knife Co. The wide drop-point blade of 420HC stainless steel adapts to cutting or camp tasks easily. It offers plenty of belly to do the aforementioned chores and field dressing, too. Full-tang construction provide plenty of strength and balance. Interesting multicolor Micarta® scales supply a great grip in all weather conditions, and are highly resistant to cracking, chipping and peeling. The material’s highly stable nature and purchase qualities make it a favorite among users. The scales are tapered from the handle spine, allowing the knife to rest in your hand comfortably. The integral single guard and distinctive choil work in harmony to enable you to choke up on the handle for ever-greater cutting control and user confidence.

The best hunting knife? The deep-bellied blade of the Ontario ADK Keene Valley Hunter makes a case for it. It easily slices large cutting jobs down to size. ADK is short for the Adirondack Mountains, a range in Ontario’s home state of New York.

While 420HC is not my blade material of choice on such a knife, it has a good combination of both edge holding and ease of sharpening. Rounding out the package is a nicely sewn and riveted leather sheath that sports button-snap retention to hold the knife. Sheaths are often an area some manufacturers cut corners on to save money and hit the targeted price point, but not the ADK Keene Valley. The sheath is very nice in quality and holds the knife quite securely.

The handle feels a bit blocky but there are no crisp edges or anything to create hot spots. Micarta is one of my favorite handle materials due to its strength, light weight and color selection. It also has a nice grip-you-back quality. At 11.2 ounces the knife has a noticeable heft. The blade at its thickest is around .2 inch, which also contributes to the heavier weight but also plenty of thickness to withstand tough, unforgiving use. The flat grind thins it out nicely yet remains thick enough for strength. With its wide blade and generous belly, the knife slices really well—one of the traits to look for in a hunter.  

Kizlyar Supreme Caspian

Ten inches overall, the Kizlyar Supreme Caspian features a hollow-ground blade of D2 tool steel and a handle of hornbeam wood. The classic clip-point-bowie blade never gets old and has a defined tip along with a prominent swedge. The bowie shape does equally well in the tactical and outdoor genres, a great overall pattern for both a tool and weapon. The hollow grind thins out the edge and gives the blade an extremely good bite. D2 has respectable edge-holding ability and is widely used in the production knife industry as an upgrade to lower-grade steels. It is well known for toughness and high impact resistance, which makes it an ideal inexpensive steel for outdoor knives.

The 5.4-inch clip-point blade of the Kizlyar Supreme Caspian provides plenty of sharpened real estate to process camp tasks and makes it a top hunting knife. Overall length: 10 inches.

The ergonomic handle features multiple finger recesses, and the butt turns down to form a pinky catch to prevent your hand from sliding rearward. The tang helps form an integral single guard, resulting in a comfortable, smart, secure handle design. Largely flat, the scales are secured via two hex-head screws. The handle edges are contoured for comfort.

The leather sheath is a riveted, sewn fold-over design. As a nice visual touch, contrasting thread is used for the stitching. The belt loop is a dangler type, allowing the hunting knife to ride a bit lower when affixed to the belt, as well as promoting greater freedom of movement to accommodate you in a seated position. Not every fixed blade has this sheath design and it is a plus in my book. To top things off, the sheath is stamped with the Kizlyar Supreme logo and website address.

The knife performs very well. It has the power to slice through various media with ease. It’s somewhat large for a hunter but does multiple cutting jobs, including camp chores and some food processing. The hornbeam scales are not stabilized so extra care might be required, such as but not limited to drying off the handle immediately after you wash the knife.

Spyderco Bow River

The FB46G Bow River is one of Spyderco‘s latest fixed blades. The design by custom knifemaker Phil Wilson is based on his experience as an avid hunter and fisherman. Spyderco has produced several of Wilson’s fixed-blade designs but those were always higher-end knives in terms of materials and price—until now.

The Spyderco Bow River is tailored for fine precision work such as field dressing and food prep in camp. It would make a great kitchen knife as well. (Spyderco image)

The Bow River is designed for the budget-minded outdoor enthusiast who demands performance and superior design in an edged field companion. Starting with the blade, 8Cr13MoV stainless steel is used for a good balance of edge holding and ease of resharpening in the field. The 4.36-inch blade is big enough to tackle most hunting chores but small enough to easily manipulate, as well as carry comfortably in a belt sheath.  Wilson selected a trailing point blade design due to its generous sweeping belly that tackles slicing chores with ease. The full flat grind and distal taper enable the blade to sail through media easily.

The handle is rounded, contoured black-and-gray G-10. The alternating colored layers form a wood-grain-type pattern that is very eye-catching. The hunting knife rests in your hand comfortably and has no hot spots or crisp edges. The way the end of the handle is rounded off tucks into your palm snugly. Some with larger hands might find the handle a bit lacking but for me it’s just right. The surface finish is slick and devoid of texturing, though with the way the handle is shaped you can always get a secure hold no matter what. There is a large hole in the butt for a lanyard. The leather sheath is a sewn and riveted fold-over design with belt loop. It’s simple and executed very well, just like the Bow River. The knife fits inside the sheath well.

As for performance, it is definitely one efficient cutting tool. It is a well-designed fixed blade regardless of price. It is tailored for fine precision work such as field dressing and camp food prep. It would make a great kitchen knife as well.

Case Winkler Kyle Lamb Hunter

The Case Winkler Kyle Lamb Hunter salutes the design expertise of Daniel Winkler and military service of retired U.S. Army Sergeant Kyle Lamb. The 5-inch spear-point blade’s saber grind leaves enough material for strength—the full .195-inch thickness runs to the tip—but removes enough to thin the blade out for effective cutting. The choil and pronounced thumb rest help exert extra control when choking up on the blade.  The 80CrV2 carbon steel is extremely tough and sharpens easily.

The Case Winkler Kyle Lamb Hunter serves well in outdoor or tactical settings. The 80CrV2 carbon steel blade provides the horsepower to tackle a variety of cuts. Overall length: 9.5 inches.

The black canvas Micarta® handle offers a great grip in most all weather conditions. It is rounded for comfort and has no hot spots. Two thong-tube pins secure the slabs, and there’s an extra-large oblong hole in the butt for a lanyard.

The hunting knife is a substantial tool. It has a good heft that conveys a solid feel and instills user confidence. It is equally at home as a tactical or outdoor knife because it has the features of both: great user blade shape, ergonomic handle and superior-grade materials. The blade is scary sharp out of the box. It dispatches large cutting jobs easily and quickly. Because the handle accommodates most hands very well, you can easily bear down and power through media. And when finesse is needed, you can choke up on the choil and thumb rest. The spear-point blade adapts to a wide range of tasks.

One word of note: some might find the gimping on the thumb rest and choil a bit harsh. It does bite into flesh just a bit but that can be a good thing, especially when your hands are wet, covered in animal blood or freezing. The gimping also works well if you wear gloves. They do a great job of biting into the glove material to keep the knife positioned in your grip.

The Kydex sheath is top-notch. Instead of a typical fold-over design it is a riveted one that incorporates a phenolic spacer material. The interior is lined with a felt-type material to reduce clatter. The exterior sports a laser cutout of Lamb’s Viking Tactics logo, a very nice touch. On the reverse side is a heavy-duty metal clip that affixes the hunting knife to belts up to 2 inches wide. The knife fits firmly inside the sheath with absolutely no play and no fear of falling out whatsoever.  

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