10 Best Hunting Knives (Skinning Knives)
Having shot down the savage beast is only one part of the hunting game. Skinning and field-dressing the dead animal is how you take back home your freshly harvested meat along with the ‘fur trophy’.
But that comes with its own set of challenges. Skinning a dead animal is not everyone’s cup of tea after all. You need to have the ‘right’ hunting knife to get the job done neatly and effectively.
Choosing your go-to knife can get hard, especially with the overwhelming number of options available in the market.
Fret not! With over a decade long experience under my belt, I curated this list of the 10 best-hunting knives that I’ve used over the years.
Yes! literally, the best. So, without any further ado, let’s get right into it.
This Review Is Written After
Hours of Research
Best Hunting Knives Of 2022
The Ka-Bar BK2 is a multipurpose knife that comes with a huge blade and is really thick, weighing just over a pound. It is sized well at around 10″ in length, of which, 5 1/2″ is the blade itself.
The reason why I feel it’s the best knife out there is due to its versatility. If you’re looking for that one beast knife that can help you do anything from skin game to splitting the woods, this is the one you should go for.
Although a little too heavy, it discards the need of carrying 2-3 knives as it will serve all your purposes, justifying the extra weight. It is meant to withstand heavy abuse and if you ever manage to break this thing, you’re probably doing something wrong!
Overall, it’s a great knife for the experienced hunters, lads might not be able to take up its weight so look out for an alternative if you’re a novice.
I am a big fan of the ESEE lineup and 5P is no different. Made out of high-carbon 1095 steel, this clip-point knife has a nice heft to it and is loved by everyone in the hunting community. The prime reason for that is its handle, which is very grippy, all thanks to the Micarta canvas finish.
This knife is a thick and brute monster that can do everything you please to. The pommel serves as another functional tool that can break glass when necessary. Unlike the BK2, the quality of its sheath is amazing.
It is no less lethal than the BK2 but the only reason why I rank this lower is its hefty price tag. It is not the most affordable option, but totally worth your investment.
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Designed by professionals, the Gerber Myth knife sets a new standard for midrange knives. The full tang blade is attached to a soft rubberized handle for safe operation.
The sheath comes with a dual-lock mechanism which seems more like a marketing jargon to me but it does the job anyway. It comes with a carbide sharpener built-in but I find the conventional sharping methods more efficient.
I could not find more about the mystery metal used in the blade but it seems reliable to me and stainless, too.
If you’re buying a knife solely for the purpose of field-dressing, I’d highly recommend going with a gut hook knife like this one. A gut hook makes skinning more like opening your game with a zipper which is quite fun to do if you ask me.
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Buck is an American icon in the knife industry but the Ranger Skinner is a relatively new introduction in its lineup. This, by no means, makes it any less attractive of an offering. The knife brings to you the best from the 113 Ranger folding knife and their Vanguard series, combining them into one.
It comes with a well rounded 3 1/8” full-tang blade made out of HC420 stainless steel. The overall construction is ergonomic and the outer appearance is eye-catching, too!
The knife is specifically meant for skinning and it does the job well. You can easily skin a beefy pig at once without the need of resharpening it often. The fit and finish are near-perfect and it comes with a high-quality sheath for carrying around.
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You already know how big of a Buck fan I am. However, that doesn’t cloud my unbiased judgement. The quality of their knives is amazing and so is the case with the limited edition: Buck 0119.
It is a beautifully crafted knife with a 6″ long clip point blade made out of HC420 and comes with a concealed tang. The steel used is very durable and also corrosion-resistant. The weight distribution and center of balance are on point.
It has a beautiful cocobolo wrapping around the handle which makes it more of a collector knife but it’s equally worthy of being a hunting knife. The included sheath is made out of leather and has a plastic insert.
As mentioned earlier, the Buck 124 and 119 have a lot in common. What differentiates them is their overall build and especially, the weight. If you have bigger hands and want a knife that has some satisfying heft to it, go for the 124 Frontiersman. On the flip side, people with smaller hands might prefer the 119, which is also equally good.Y
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Benchmade’s Hidden Canyon Hunter is another great offering which I often find myself recommending to my pals. It’s for those who are in search of a compact knife as the overall length is about 6 1/3″ only with the blade coming at 2 2/3″.
The CPM-S30V steel blade is curved to some degree for the ergonomics as it helps skin through animals in a breeze. Not just skinning, the knife holds well in other field tasks as well.
The full-tang, fixed blade construction provides it with enhancing stability and better structural integrity. The edge retention is above-average and the steel used is corrosion-resistant. It is built for longterm use.
It is a compact knife with a slim profile. If that’s what you are looking for then definitely consider adding Benchmade Hidden Canyon Hunter to your collection.
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So far, I only covered fixed blade knives as I personally find them more practical to use while hunting. But, some of you may prefer to carry a secondary, folding blade knife as well.
For those of you looking for a folding blade knife, do have a look at the Havalon Piranta Z. It takes almost no space but comes handy when you’re on a small game hunt. It has a 2 3/4″ retractable blade with special emphasis on skinning and field dressing.
The fact that it’s so small yet so effective is overwhelming. It comes razor-sharp out of the box and can slice through anything with utmost precision. The blade retains its edge well and you get 12 replacement blades when it gets dull.
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The MTech USA Xtreme Knife is an entry-level knife that I highly recommend to every beginner. Although priced just under $30, the product doesn’t cut corners in terms of strength and durability.
It features a 5 1/2″ long 440C stainless steel blade which is a steal at this price point. It allows the knife to have excellent edge retention and hardness during prolonged periods of use.
The handle is quite grippy and I faced no problems even in when my hands were sweaty. The finger grooves make it even more comfortable to use and to grip.
It has a lanyard hole on the end if you look forward to attaching an additional para-cord. The included nylon sheath is of decent quality. However, many users complained about the leg strap is too small and that was the case with me, too.
Apart from that, the knife can stand the test of times and help you get into hunting without burning a hole in your pocket.
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Elk Ridge bags the last spot on this list, mainly because of the insane value it provides. For a fair price of $24.00, you get not one but two decent quality knives, serving different purposes
The knives are made solely for hunting and they work exactly as they should. You get a 7″ long straight edge knife for skinning and a 6 1/2″ gut hook knife for field dressing. Both of the knives form an essential part of any hunting kit. They come with a textured handle which makes it grippy to hold when in action.
Despite being priced so low, they haven’t made any compromise to the sheath, except for the fact that it doesn’t have pockets for replacement blades. You’ll have to carry them separately. I personally, however, recommend carrying an inexpensive pocket sharpener instead.
If you are just starting out with hunting and want to explore more without burning a hole in your pocket, the Elk Ridge knife set will be an excellent option to consider.
Buying Guide: Factors to Consider For Your Hunting Knife
You have the ability to choose from a host of respectable manufacturers when it comes to hunting knives.
I personally prefer knives from Gerber, Buck, Ka-Bar, and ESEE, but there are other equally good options available in the budget space as well.
Well, that is a hard thing to generalize and the best I can say is if you’re a beginner, start with the lower end ones and then gradually move up the ladder.
However, having a better quality knife will give you an advantage, provided that you have enough cash to invest and are serious about it.
The hunting knives that I’ve mentioned in my review are the best in their price segments and worth every penny spent.
When you look up online, there’s a lot to choose from in terms of blade shapes. However, Clip Point and Drop Point blades are by far the most common ones.
Clip point blades are ideal for tasks that require precision and detail. However, this type of blade is prone to breaking if used for tasks like prying things or opening a can.
The drop point, on the contrary, emphasizes on the durability and can withstand all the rough conditions you put it into.
Unless you have a specific need, these two blade types tend to work well, especially if you’re just starting out.
Which one works best for you? Well, you’ll have to decide upon that by yourself by doing some self-exploration and understanding your actual needs. Other, less known but equally good blade types include Talon, Sheepsfoot, Tanto and Spear Point to name a few.
A knife’s blade is a critical element which plays a key role in how the knife performs overall.
Alongside its geometry and design, you should definitely pay attention to the type of steel used. Blades are designed to cut and they all do the same job. However, the material used in the blade determines which one does its job the best.
As per my own experience, the following blade steels tend to work the best in their own price category.
420HC is an old-school high-carbon stainless steel which has been popular for longer than most of us hunting enthusiasts. It offers high resistance to corrosion but isn’t as hard as its counterparts.
On the other hand, sharpening it will be a breeze and even the unpolished back of a ceramic plate can get the job done. Buck and Gerber often use this steel type to their success.
- Crucible’s S30V
Regarded for being one of the finest steel blades for optimum performance, S30V steel is designed by US-based Crucible for a remarkably high-quality life.
It has excellent edge retention with great resistance against rust. The quality of the blade is unmatched in its category but you will have to pay a premium for that.
Another great blade steel is the VG-10, sharing many of its characteristics with the 154CM, which I will talk about in a bit.
On top of that, the steel offers long edge retention and resists rusting very well. It’s a well-balanced steel type that I enjoy using all the time.
As said earlier, 154CM is more like a distant cousin to VG-10 but is comparatively thinner. It is not so corrosion-resistant but the sharpening process is quite easy. This would be an ideal blade companion for smaller knives.
I’ve listed only three but you may as well find other equally good blade steels. Make sure to do a brief online check about your knife’s blade before making a buying choice.
Almost all the hunting knives that you come across are going to be full tangs.
If you’re wondering what that means, it is a technical term meaning that the blade continues all the way through the handle till its butt without any interruption.
The sole reason for this is to maintain the knife’s longevity. This is because hunting knives are always put into harsh conditions which can make the blade come loose if they were simply gummed on the handle. By extending it further, the blade holds firmly with the handle. What you get is a robust, reliable, and steadfast knife.
A knife tang is one of the most critical structural components of a knife and must never be overlooked.
Another important aspect to look at while buying a hunting knife is its handle. You must accurately select the material of your knife’s handle for a smooth and safe operation.
The 3 common types of handles available in the market are- wood, micarta, and metal, each having its own set of pros and cons.
Wood has been a traditional choice of material when it comes to knife handles. It is quite popular among the collectors as it can be carved easily which adds to the beauty of a knife. It is also used in hunting knives mainly because of its durability. It also offers a superior grip and is comfortable to hold.
A wide variety of wood types are available, a choice must be made depending on your usage and budget. Common types include ebony, cocobolo, and rosewood. The pricing also varies according to the wood used.
However, maintenance is the biggest downside of a wood handle. Wood handles are difficult to clean and can be damaged easily when subjected to wet conditions.
Micarta is a brand name of composites of Phenol which is a type of resin. It is a synthetic material which is lightweight yet strong and looks more attractive than its counterparts.
Today, it is one of the best materials to use in knife handles. This is why you’ll often find manufacturers including ESEE and Buck, using Micarta in their more expensive knives.
The only downside with Micarta is its price. Micarta in itself is not expensive. However, due to the nature of this polymer, the final product is very slippery and hard to grip. The carving process (to give some texture and grip) requires some hand labor which in turn makes it pricey.
Metal is also turning out to be a popular choice among hunting knives. It adds to the durability and strength of the knife. Commonly, titanium and stainless steel are used for this purpose.
The stainless steel knife handles are corrosion resistant but are not particularly lightweight. They aren’t much grippy either unless etched or ridged to provide friction. Heavy-duty users must avoid it.
Titanium, on the other hand, is a stronger, more lightweight and more expensive metal of the two. It is also more prone to scratches than a stainless steel handle.
Do you know what’s common between a professional hunter and a girl in her early twenties?
Yes, size matters to both of them. The only difference being, for a hunter, bigger is not always better and something under three inches can also work just as well. 😉
There’s no hard and fast rule as to what size knife should you buy. That has more to do the type of game you usually hunt and how often you plan to use the knife.
Bigger hunting knives (6 inches and beyond) are reserved for bigger games like elk, buffalo, etc.
However, for a deer, a blade length of 4-5 inches should suffice.
If you are just beginning and prefer to start with small animals like rabbits or squirrels, an ideal blade size should be anywhere between 2.5 and 3.5 inches.
It not only has to do with the game size but also your personal preference so keep that in mind as well.
Not many companies put in efforts in manufacturing an optimum sheath as that is the area where they tend to cut costs.
However, a sheath is to knife what a house is to you so you make sure your knife is always well-sheltered.
The sheath should fit snug for swift insertion and removal of your knife. Your knife is likely to fall out if it’s loose. A loop is a nice extra addition that you should look for so that the knife can be strapped on your belt or leg. Make sure to check that out before buying a hunting knife.
If available, go with MOLLE compliant straps and pouches.