The Bowie knife has a long history that is surprisingly difficult to confirm. What we do know for certain is that it was popularized by the very man for whom it was named: Jim Bowie. Famous for surviving the Vidalia Sandbar fight and dying at the Alamo, this fabled knife fighter’s weapon of choice was a custom made, Spanish-inspired, butcher-style hunting blade that was not well documented. As a result, it wouldn’t be until after his death that a consensus would be reached on what a Bowie knife actually is.
Nowadays, these types of cutting tools are still very popular around the world – including wide usage as a utility and combat blade by the United States Military. The base characteristics of a Bowie knife include a fixed-blade that fits into a sheath (known as a sheath knife), a crossguard (a bar usually made of metal between the blade and handle of a knife), and a clip point (one of the world’s most popular blade shapes). Though, the truth is, a knife doesn’t require all of these in order to be considered a Bowie knife. If anything, they apparently only need to be large, intimidating, and bear the knife fighter’s name. Whatever the case, we’ve gathered together the best Bowie knives available on the market today in the following collection.
Ontario Knife Co. Marine Raider Bowie Knife
Nothing shy of menacing, the Marine Raider Bowie knife looks to us exactly how a Bowie knife should: big and scary. But that wouldn’t matter much if it didn’t have the quality backing it up. This made-in-America Bowie features a full tang high carbon 1095 steel blade measuring up at 9.75 inches. And its paired with a comfortable Kraton handle that offers excellent grip in just about any conditions. It also comes with a combination leather and cordura sheath for safe keeping. Best of all, this 15.125″ cutting tool has a limited lifetime warranty from the brand.
Ka-Bar U.S. Marine Corps Bowie Knife
If this knife looks somewhat familiar to you, that’s probably because this is Ka-Bar’s most famous blade of all time. In fact, a version of this knife was used by U.S. Marines during World War II. And it is still one of the most common tactical knives used by service men and women both active and retired today. Marked by a 7-inch 1095 Cro-van steel blade and a leather wrapped handle, this is an incredibly reliable and durable knife that can be depended upon through years of hard use. And every one comes with a very handsome protective leather sheath.
Buck Knives 119 Special Bowie Knife
Though it bears a much more “classic” look lacking in many of its counterparts, this Bowie knife is by no means a showpiece. The 6 inch clip blade is made from 420HC stainless steel, features a blood groove, and is superb for both edge retention and general toughness. Its crossguard and pommel are constructed from brass and the greater part of the handle is made of gorgeous cocobolo Dymondwood – a laminate of compressed wood that is more stable and wont warp like regular wood. It’s also made in the USA, comes with a leather sheath, and features the Buck Knives “Forever Promise” warranty.
Cold Steel Marauder Bowie Knife
While this offering from Cold Steel looks a bit more unique than some of the others on this list – thanks in part to the curvature of the blade and a secondary finger guard jutting from the handle – it’s no less functional. The unique full-tang 9 inch blade is made from incredibly capable Japanese Aus 8A stainless steel and it is married to a 5 1/8 inch handle made from Kray-Ex (a proprietary Kraton-like material used by Cold Steel). With it’s included Secure-Ex handle, this Bowie knife can be relied upon to be a superb hunting knife as well as a general purpose utility blade.
Ka-Bar Becker BK9 Combat Bowie Knife
Featuring a distinctly unique silhouette, this Bowie falls a little outside of the knife type’s definition. Still, it exhibits enough resemblance and functionality to deserve the title. The blade is crafted from 1095 Cro-Van steel and is attached to an ergonomic-shaped thermoplastic Grivory handle – one that has been shown to help reduce user fatigue better than most other knives in its class. And just the fact that Ka-Bar is the company that produces and put their name on this blade is reason enough to trust it for whatever you may need.
Puma Plain Stag Bowie Knife
With a visage that is arguably the most classic looking of the Bowies on this list, Puma’s knife stands out for one very cool feature. The handle is actually carved – by master craftsmen – from naturally-dropped stag antlers. Not only does that mean that the handle is tough and beautiful, but their process is also respectful of nature and doesn’t create unnecessary waste in its production. The 6 inch clip point blade – the most common Bowie knife shape – is made from D1.4 stainless steel – which will keep from rusting during extensive use – and has a hardness of 57-59 on the Rockwell scale. If nothing else, this is certainly the most handsome high-end Bowie knife we’ve come across.
ESEE Junglas Bowie Knife
ESEE Knives is one of those brands that we feel deserve a much bigger spotlight than they’ve been given. Their products are superb both in their design and construction materials, as can be seen in their Junglas Bowie knife. Designed to survive in the Latin American jungle and for use by Counter-Narcotics Operations, this knife features a 1095 high carbon 10.375″ blade. And the handle scales are made from incredibly durable micarta, which also offers superb grip in any conditions. The one thing to keep in mind if you’re looking at this blade: the steel requires regular maintenance to keep from rusting.
SOG Super Bowie Knife
Built by the brand that got their start reviving a U.S. Special Forces blade, it’s no surprise that SOG offers an incredibly useful, beautiful, and badass Bowie knife. In fact, this one is actually an adaptation of that original tactical blade. And it’s certainly a solid offering. The 7.5 inch blade is made from TiNi finished AUS-8 steel and it is mated to a treated leather handle. It also comes with a black leather sheath with a belt loop attachment. All in all this knife is gorgeous, well-balanced, easy to maintain, and will offer superb functionality through years and years of usage.