Best Bowie Knife (& Key Features) To Survive Like Rambo

By Just In Case Jack | Last Updated: July 13, 2022

Best Bowie Knife For SurvivalLooking to add a Tactical Bowie Knife to your survival gear? Then you’ve come to the right place!

Why? Because many people consider a Bowie Knife, the ideal knife for survival. And nowadays, there are countless makes and models on the market.

But that creates a problem of having too many choices.

With the overwhelming number of options, how do you decide which Bowie Knife is “best”? Which one should you get?

Or, more importantly – which ones should you avoid? How can you tell an excellent tactical bowie knife from a cheap one?

That’s why today I’m going to share everything I know about Bowie Knives to help you zero in on the Best Bowie Knife For YOU!

Specifically, I’ll be covering the following topics in detail:

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Best Bowie Knives On The Market Today

1 Our Top Pick
Ka-Bar 1282 D2 Extreme Fighting Knife
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2
Cold Steel 81B Wild West Bowie Knife
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3
Buck Knives 124 Frontiersman Fixed Bowie Blade Knife
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4
SOG Bowie 2.0 Fixed Blade Knife
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5
Ka-Bar Becker BK9 Combat Bowie Fixed Blade Knife
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6
Mossy Oak Survival Hunting Knife with Sheath
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7 Our Budget Pick
Schrade Leroy Fixed Blade Bowie Knife
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8
Ontario Knife Company Marine Raider
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9
Cold Steel 88CSAB 1917 Frontier Bowie Knife
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10
Timber Rattler Bowie Knife (Outlaw)
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What IS A Bowie Knife, Anyway?

Unless you’ve been living in a cave over the past few decades, you’ve heard the term “Bowie Knife” before today.

Why? Because they’ve been prominently featured in several popular movies.

For example, Rambo and Crocodile Dundee both used Bowie Knives.

And they became an essential tool for their survival in the wild and to defeat their enemies.

Bowie Basic Specifications

A Bowie knife is a style of fighting knife that features a large, heavy fixed blade. They generally have a blade 5-12 inches long, with an overall length up to 18″ including the handle.

So shorter than a survival machete but longer than most EDC knives.

The blade itself features a distinctive clip-point profile. A clip point starts with a wide blade at the base that tapers to a narrow swept tip. But it’s much different than the other popular fighting knife shape of a karambit.

The blade can be either a full-tang or partial tang (but avoid “rat-tail tangs).

Full tang knives are more expensive, but you get higher durability for your money.

Bowie Combat Features

As a fighting knife, the clip-point provides a long blade edge for slashing and a sharp point for stabbing.

It also features a blade guard that serves to protect your knuckles and deflect an opponent’s blow.

Another common feature is a small notch at the very base of the blade. This notch may not seem like much, but it’s useful for:

  • catching an opponent’s blade
  • cutting and repairing rope
  • and it acts as a strain relief to prevent the blade from snapping

The Jim Bowie Knife Origin Story

Jim Bowie

American Frontiersman – Jim Bowie

The original Bowie knife was made popular by an American frontiersman named Jim Bowie.

He used this style of knife in the early 1800s after the famous “Sandbar Fight” knife duel in Mississippi.

There are several descriptions of the knife used during the Sandbar Fight – ranging from something close to a chef’s knife to a blade approaching a small sword.

In the years following the Sandbar Fight, Bowie made alterations to the design. He even worked with blacksmith James Black in Arkansas in 1830 to perfect the design.

He continued to use the same type of blade for the rest of his life until meeting his fate at the Alamo.

A famous Arkansas historian, Russell Johnson, sums up the Bowie Knife in this way:

“It must be long enough to use as a sword, sharp enough to use as a razor, wide enough to use as a paddle, and heavy enough to use as a hatchet.”

That quote pretty well sums up what a tactical Bowie Knife should be.

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Best Bowie Knife On A Table

Reasons Why You Should Get A Bowie Knife

Perhaps the origin story of the Bowie knife wasn’t enough to convince you of its usefulness as a survival knife and combat weapon.

Then how about the fact that the US military issues a similar Bowie-inspired blade?

Military Operations

USMC Fighting Knife

The famous USMC Ka-Bar fighting knife is mainly based on previous Bowie designs.

Not to be outdone, the USAF issued flight crews a Bowie survival knife to flight crews.

These bowie knives had the added feature of a sawtooth design machined into the top edge of the blade.

This addition provides a tool to saw through the acrylic canopies of downed aircraft.

Example Of A Bowie Hunting Knife With Sawtooth Spine

Of course, the hunters and trappers of the American Frontier would have NEVER carried a knife made solely for combat alone.

Hunting and Skinning Techniques

The long, swept blade provides a lot of blade edge, great for skinning animals for furs.

And the straight edge section of the blade near the base also works well as a cleaver for chopping meat.

Plus, it can even break bones to get to the marrow inside.

Survival Skills

The heavy blade efficiently chops wood, while the flat back or pommel can act as a crude hammer.

Models with a saw blade back are great for processing firewood and cutting up poles for wilderness shelters.

Knife Throwing

Now there is one thing the Bowie Knife is not great at – being thrown.

Despite the famous scene in Crocodile Dundee, a Bowie is not the best choice as a throwing knife.

Why? Because Bowie Knives do not have the proper weight balance. They have a relatively long blade (compared to the handle) and a fine tip.

Yes, there are Bowie-shaped knives designed for throwing. But they tend to have a wider tip and are smaller than other versions.

Plus, it takes a lot of practice to throw a knife that’s made to be thrown, it’s even harder to do so with a Bowie consistently.

With that said, like most survival skills, it can be mastered with enough practice!

But throwing knives is more of a hobby than a serious fighting technique. Why? Because if your knife misses the mark, you’re now unarmed and just gave your opponent your knife. Not a wise move.

But in general, it’s a strong performer as both a combat and hunting knife. That’s why it’s no surprise a Bowie makes a great choice as a survival knife.

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How To Use A Bowie Knife (Grips and Techniques)

With such versatility, a Bowie is perfect for many unique tasks.

And there are several ways to grip a large knife for combat purposes. And mastering each grip is essential for success.

If you plan to learn close-quarters combat with a knife, it’s worth getting some one-on-one instruction. There are so many small details that can drastically improve your success.

The good news is there are plenty of videos online that can help you learn the basics.

For example, the hour-long instructional video below works through a lot of techniques in slow-motion. The slow-motion footage helps to gain a deeper understanding of how each technique works.

They also use oversized, blunted Bowie-style practice knives. These practice knives also allow you to see exactly how the blade lands on each strike.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zUymQeGGw6c

Similarly, there are specific ways to hold and use a Bowie Knife for tasks such as chopping wood.

For the most part, a standard hatchet-style grip is best as you swing the blade in a downward motion.

And while you CAN chop with Bowie, the wider blade and shorter handle make for less efficient cutting than a hatchet or axe.

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Best Bowie Knife Features You Want

As with any other survival tool, there are a lot of key features to look for in a quality tactical Bowie knife.

High-Quality Steel

Any edged tool must use high-quality metals. You need a metal that allows you to sharpen it to a fine edge AND hold that edge through use (and abuse).

But that’s the problem; the more durable steels are harder to sharpen while any steel that’s easy to sharpen is too mild to hold up to heavy abuse.

That’s why most Bowie knives use high carbon steel for their blade. High carbon provides a good balance between durability and sharpness.

There are plenty of different grades of carbon steel, but A2, O1, 1095, 1055, and 5160 alloys are all high quality. Here’s a debate over A2 vs. 1095 steel toughness for those who want to delve deep into this topic.

In general, I avoid stainless steel blades, and I’m fine with most carbon steels.

Why? Because, while stainless steel has great edge retention and won’t rust; it’s way too hard to sharpen after the edge receives damage.

Blade Design

Most Bowie knives feature a similar design, with a long, straight edge for slicing and carving.

Other variations have a slightly concave design. This concave design puts some of the weight forward toward the point and makes chopping tasks easier.

The long, clip-point tip allows you to put maximum cutting pressure down on a small point at the tip. A long blade also provides a longer cutting edge, which is handy for cutting tasks.

It also puts the point in line with the handle. Such an in-line design gives you better performance for thrusting and stabbing tasks.

Full-Tang

While a full tang design isn’t necessary, it results in a far more durable design.

Of course, there are plenty of popular designs that don’t feature a full tang. So a partial tang design shouldn’t rule a knife out if it checks all the other quality boxes.

However, I avoid any knives with a rat tail design – unless you only plan to use them for delicate activities. Rattail tangs will not hold up to chopping, hammering, or combat.

Uncle Henry 153UH Golden Spike Rat Tail Tang

Here’s an example of a knife that features a rat tail tang.

Handle Design

A real Bowie knife should have a blade guard and a solid grip.

Remember, it should never break during high-impact tasks such as chopping, stabbing, or swinging.

That’s why maintaining a solid grip is crucial. Slip prevention is necessary for both your safety and anyone who happens to be around you.

Size

While you can find a Bowie knife anywhere from 4 to 18 inches long (or even bigger), most people prefer a blade between 7 to 9 inches long.

This length provides a good balance between:

  • Long enough to chop and baton firewood.
  • Small enough to maintain control over the tip and to be nimble in a knife fight.
  • Short enough to wear on your hip belt or in a survival backpack or bug out bag.

Now that you know what constitutes quality, let’s dive into some reviews and try and find the best bowie knife for sale.

As A Way To Introduce You To Skilled Survival, We're Giving Away Our Ultimate Survival Gear Checklist. Click Here To Get Your FREE Copy Of It.

How To Sharpen A Bowie Knife To Get A Razors Edge

Using a water or oil stone to sharpen a knife is a skill that takes time to learn.

It takes time to master the smooth stroke and edge control necessary to get a razor-sharp edge.
There are plenty of videos online that can help you learn the basics.

But practicing with an old kitchen knife is a good idea before moving on to your good ones.

If sharpening stones are intimidating to you, use a honing guide to maintain a precise angle.

These can be indispensable when you have a new knife and want to set a specific grind angle.

 

As A Way To Introduce You To Skilled Survival, We're Giving Away Our Ultimate Survival Gear Checklist. Click Here To Get Your FREE Copy Of It.

How To Make A Bowie Knife From Scratch

Making a knife is a great way to learn about all the things that go into a successful knife design.

You can make it as involved as you want, from assembling a kit to forging your blade from a saw or file blade.

There are plenty of resources online, but the one below goes through the ENTIRE process – all the way from selecting the proper steel to finishing the handle.

It is the most complete and comprehensive tutorial I’ve ever come across.

Final Thoughts

A Bowie knife has been a mainstay of the American frontier culture for nearly 200 years.

If the Winchester Model 1973 is “The Gun That Won The West,” the Bowie Knife is its partner!

For everything from chores to combat, it’s an excellent choice for a vast range of situations.

Jason K.

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There are a lot of natural nuclear shelters in the US that are absolutely free. And one of them is near your home.

Click on the image above to find out where you need to take shelter.

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