If the Bowie knife is not the most popular knife design globally, it is certainly near the top. Even if you are a complete beginner in the world of knives, I bet you’ve seen a bowie online or in a movie.
Bowie knives make an excellent addition to a bug out bag.
What makes a knife a “bowie”?
The bowie was originally designed as a fighting knife although, in recent times, it is typically seen as a survival knife. Over the years, the bowie’s potential for other uses such as butchering and bush craft became clear.
A bowie knife is a large fixed blade knife. Many have a brass guard, but other metals may be used. The blade is generally 1.5-2.5 inches wide. The first two inches of the blade point are often double-edged. The weight of the blade increases until the blade guard is reached. An S-shaped blade guard helps catch an opponent’s knife in combat.
The description above is general guidelines. Modern designs can vary quite a bit.
People sometimes argue about the bowie knife’s origin story. What we know is that it was made famous by Mr. Jim Bowie, a Texan frontiersman known for his prowess in knife fights. Did Jim invent the knife? Probably not, but he used it the best. The maker of the original bowie knife was either his brother or a knife maker named Pedro, who had a shop in New Orleans in the early 19th century.
Like any knife, you can pay a little or a lot. This article includes bowie knives starting in the lower price range. The further down the list, the higher the cost. Regardless of price, all the bowie knives included here are known to be reliable in the field. When deciding how much to spend, consider how much you’ll use your knife and what you’ll use it for the most.
The blade length on a bowie knife can vary a lot. I advise you to carefully consider blade length when making a purchase decision. A 14″ blade is more like a small sword than a knife to most of us. If this is your first bowie, definitely opt for a blade in the 7-10″ range. That is a much more practical and useful range for survival and self-defense.
Country of manufacturer
Many knife manufactures have changed where they produce knives. Just because a brand was 100% USA or German made 10 years ago doesn’t mean that’s true today. If you prefer to avoid knives made in certain countries, look closely at product descriptions. Some companies sell more expensive knives that are made in the USA or Germany but also offer less expensive knives that are made in China.
Puma makes knives in Germany as well as in Spain but using German steel.
Stag handles are beautiful, but they add a lot to the cost of a bowie knife. If you are looking for a utility knife, consider wood, leather, or plastic composites.
Overall Length: 16.5″
Blade Length: 10.4″
Weight: 1 lb. 7.6 oz.
This is a really large and basic bowie. Although I wouldn’t expect it to last for a decade, it is an affordable and heavyweight option. Schrade is a well-known brand, so I trust this brand more than some other brands that sell inexpensive bowies.
The Leroy is a bowie to consider if you want to do some bushcrafting without worrying about messing it up. It is hefty and can take abuse.
This bowie has a full tang blade made of titanium-coated, high-carbon stainless steel. The handle is black thermoplastic. The Leroy comes with a nice hard nylon-fiber sheath.
Overall Length: 11″
Blade Length: 6.75″
Weight: 8.5 oz.
I was surprised to find that Buck offers a knife in this price range. The Reaper is a mean looking tactical-style bowie. The drop-point blade is made of traction-coated 430HC steel. The steel keeps a good edge and is corrosion resistant.
An injection-molded black nylon handle provides a firm grip. The enhanced blade guard makes the knife safer than some. I never recommend a knife that does not have an adequate blade guard.
The Reaper comes with a nylon belt sheath.
Overall Length: 15.5″
Blade Length: 10.5″
Weight: 1.7 lbs.
This might look like a work of art, but it’s a high-quality large-blade bowie that can stand up to tough tasks and maintain a great edge.
The blade is made of over 200 layers of Damascus steel that is 58−60 on the Rockwell hardness scale.
The handle is made of rosewood, bone, and bull horn. It’s a pretty and unique combination that I have not seen on other bowie knives.
A simple leather sheath with a snap is included.
Overall Length: 15″
Blade Length: 9.75″
Weight: 1.5 lbs.
Ontario Knife Co. produces quality knives in the USA. In many ways, the Marine Raider is a larger and beefier version of the classic Kabar Marine Fighting Knife.
The kraton handle is slip resistant and has a convenient lanyard hole. The double hand guard helps you stay safe when taking on tough tasks.
The blade features a flat tapered grind. Its coated 1095 carbon steel is easy to sharpen for a perfect edge each and every time.
A leather cordura belt sheath is included. This bowie is an exceptional value for a knife made in the USA.
Overall Length: 13″
Blade Length: 8″
Weight: 11.46 oz.
Damascus steel is beautiful. This bowie features a hammer-forged blade made with 288 layers of 15N25 and 1080 steel. The result is a blade that keeps a great edge.
The handle is made from a single piece of walnut and features an ergonomic pattern that provides a sure grip as well as a steel guard.
A finely made leather belt sheath with snap completes this beautiful bowie.
Overall Length: 11.82″
Blade Length: 7″
Weight: 11.2 oz.
This knife has been standard issue for the US Marine Corps for decades. The blade is made of 1095 cro-van steel. This steel contains chromium, vanadium, and carbon for a strong blade that remains easy to keep sharp.
A grooved leather handle helps keep the knife firmly in your hand under wet or sweaty conditions.
I’ve read a lot of reviews of the Kabar. The reviews reflect just how much abuse the Kabar can take. Would you use your knife as a screwdriver or hammer? I can’t say I wouldn’t, but I sure wouldn’t try it with some knives. Apparently, the Kabar can take it.
The quality of the Kabar is much higher than I would expect for a knife in this price range. Kabar Knives are made in the USA, although sometimes a Kabar comes with a leather sheath that is made in Mexico.
Overall Length: 16.5″
Blade Length: 10.875″
Weight: 1.8 lbs.
This large bowie knife really stands out for me. Its unique blade and handle design make it worth mentioning. The blade is made of 7cr13 stainless steel and features double blood grooves.
I am really impressed by the handle of the Honshu Conqueror. It has a really good blade guard. The main handle is made of injection-molded TPR. The grooves and ergonomic design give it a comfortable grip that won’t slip out of your hand when working in harsh conditions.
The included sheath is made of reinforced black leather. A snap keeps the bowie securely in place, and there’s a handy lanyard on the other end.
Overall Length: 14.125″
Blade Length: 9″
Weight: 12.4 oz.
This impressive bowie is named after Merrill’s Raiders, a US assault team in the Southeast Asian theater. Its extra broad blade features a continuously curved edge and a clip point. The steel is Japanese AUS8A stainless.
The handle is made of Kray-Ex. Customers describe it as a harder rubber-like material that offers a decent grip.
The Marauder is rigorously tested to hold up to a lot of abuse and tough conditions. The Secure-Ex Sheath is easy to strap on a bag or other gear.
Overall Length: 15.14″
Blade Length: 9.65″
Weight: 2 lbs.
The Uncle Henry Bowie features a large 7cR17MoV steel blade and a brass blade guard. It comes with a nice leather sheath too.
I’ve owned a few Uncle Henry knives over the years, and they’ve always performed well. This beautiful bowie has a real stag handle. It’s a great knife for those who want stag but don’t want to spend over $100 on it. The downside to the Uncle Henry Bowie is that it’s really big and heavy. For some tasks, this is a good thing. But for throwing in a bag for bushcraft or bugging out, it’s too big to be practical.
Overall Length: 12″
Blade Length: 7.375″
Weight: 8.3 oz.
This is a classic bowie knife with an excellent reputation. The 120 is still made in the USA for a fair price. Its sleek phenolic black handles are contoured to fit your hand perfectly.
The 120’s blade is heat treated and tempered to the perfect Rockwell hardness using a heating, freezing, and reheating process. This produces a blade that holds an edge well and has a longer life.
The metal is 420 HC, which offers the wear resistance of high-carbon steel and the corrosion resistance of high chromium steel.
Each bowie comes with a nice full-grain leather belt sheath with a clip.
Overall Length: 11.125″
Blade Length: 6″
Weight: 8.7 oz.
This bowie is designed for those who want a superior hunting knife. Field dressing, even large game, can be done with the right knife. The up-swept point is excellent for skinning, while the spine has a bone breaking edge.
The blade is made of VG-10 San Mai, a steel unique to cold steel. VG-10 San Mai is laminated steel. The blade edge is very hard, so it holds an edge well.
The handle is heavily textured and ideal for wet conditions, like butchering game.
Overall Length: 15.5″
Blade Length: 10″
Weight: 1.5 lbs.
Condor produces this beast of a bowie in El Salvador using quality materials. The blade is made of 1075HC steel, and the handle is brown walnut with a stainless steel hand guard.
This is a massive knife that can be used for bushcraft if you can handle its weight.
The sheath is made of full-grain leather. The biggest complaint about this knife is that some report that the sheath is simply too small for the knife.
If you want a really big bowie, this is an affordable option.
Overall Length: 14.75″
Blade Length: 9.5″
Weight: Around 1.5 lbs. (It’s difficult to find an accurate weight for this knife.)
Gil Hibben is famous among bowie knife fans. He designed the Rambo III bowie that was made famous by Hollywood.
The Legionnaire II takes a more classic approach in the looks department. The handle is made of packwood and features ergonomic grooving for a tight grip.
The blade is made of highly polished 7cr17 stainless steel.
If you like the idea of a wood-handled bowie with a finger-grooved grip, this is an excellent choice. Its overall length makes it a beast to carry, but it does come with a nice leather sheath.
Overall Length: 14.75″
Blade Length: 9″
Weight: 20.5 oz.
The Cocobola Gold Rush Bowie has an old fashioned look that I love. The blade is smooth and simple. The brass hand guard is impressive. The blade is made of premium Sandvik 12C27 stainless steel, offering a good balance of edge retention and corrosion resistance.
The handle is made of pure cocobolo wood. The bowie comes with a D-ring leather sheath.
Bear & Son Cutlery make all their knives in the USA at a fair price.
If you want a classic bowie that’s made right, add this one to your shopping list.
Overall Length: 10″
Blade Length: 5.7″
Weight: 7.7 oz.
I really like Puma knives. This bowie stands out because it’s a little smaller and lighter than the others in this article. It also has a very nice smooth stag handle. The steel is 1.4116 German steel. Since the introduction of the Puma SGB Buffalo Hunter in 2014, it has been the bestselling Puma knife. That says a lot considering just how many styles they make.
Brass finger guards and pins adds safety and strength to this knife.
Because I prefer a smaller bowie knife for bushcraft and everyday use, the SGB Buffalo Hunter is my choice for a high-quality bowie in the upper price range. This would be a great knife to wear on a belt. It’s not so large that it would flop or drag too much.
Overall Length: 12.88″
Blade Length: 7.5″
Weight: 17.4 oz.
For those willing to pay a little more, there is the impressive SOG Super Bowie. I don’t have a lot of experience with SOG products, but I’ve spoken with many who highly recommend them.
The blade is made of TINI-finished AUS-8 stainless steel that sharpens easily. The clip-point blade easily punctures even tough surfaces.
The leather handle is actually made of leather “washers” that form an ergonomic grip that feels great in the hand. There is a lanyard hold on the end.
The SOG Super Bowie comes with a high-quality full-grain leather black belt sheath. You also get a sharpening stone that fits in the sheath too.
Overall Length: 11″
Blade Length: 6.5″
Weight: 9.6 oz.
I chose this Puma because I think it’s one of the best examples of their 100% made in Germany line. You get a full tang blade made of D-1.4 stainless steel. The fully riveted stag handle features a lanyard hole. The built-in finger and blade guard is what I expect in a knife with superior craftsmanship.
The blade is guaranteed to be 57−59 on the Rockwell hardness scale, so it’s fairly hard. I recommend a diamond sharpening stone to keep a good edge on this high-quality bowie.
Bowie knives are great for survival, hunting, and bushcraft. With a little strength and skill, they can be a formidable self-defense weapon. However, the disadvantage of a bowie is that they are quite difficult to conceal.
Finding the right bowie for you may require trying a few sizes. When starting out, avoid going for the biggest bowie you can find. A bowie with a 7”-10″ blade is adequate and practical for most needs.