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A Guide to Hunting Knives - Skin Like a Mad Man and Look Good Doing It

Aug 17, 2007
Hunting knives are more than a tool for most hunters. A hunting knife is a conversation piece and whether the rugged hunter will admit it or not, it is part of the stylish wardrobe.

You will find that most avid hunters own five to ten guns. But, no hunting kit is complete without the skinning knife. The hunter will have another five to ten knives to compliment his/ her gear.

There are so many hunting knives on the market these days. The prices and quality can vary so much that the task of finding a knife can be overwhelming.

To begin with, the hunter should look for something that visually appeals to him/ her. Let's face it, we like something that looks good hanging on our belt line. Knife makers and manufacturers know this so they absolutely cater to this fact.

The hunting knife will be used predominately for skinning. So, keep the task in mind. Skinning and cleaning game can be quite the chore without a good blade to do the job. And I assure you, there is more to cleaning game than the actual blade.

The handle of the knife should be very comfortable to grip tightly. A good way to test the grip is to clench the handle with the knife still sheathed. Push the blade against a hard surface to simulate pressing and pushing. How does this feel on the wrist?

Ok, so we've established that the grip should be comfortable. Next, you will want to find a handle material that suits you. There are a slew of materials out there so I'll just go over a few of my preferred.

You will find the Kraton handle to be quite versatile. This is a flexible polymer that is plastic-like and rubber-like at the same time. This material is comfortable to grip and practically indestructible. Fallkniven does wonders with the Kraton handles on their knives.

Many hunting knives utilize a stacked leather handle that looks very nice. The leather is treated repeatedly and hardened to the point that nothing is going to ruin it. This can be a comfortable handle if done properly. Take a look at some of the Marbles knives on the market to see an example.

The bone handled knives are very popular. They bring a bit of a nostalgic feel to the knife. These are tricky to implement into a comfortable grip. But, if done correctly, bone can be very ergonomic as well as downright pretty to look at.

The list of handles goes on and on so I'm not going to exhaust the fingers trying to give my take on every one. Just remember, go with what you think looks good combined with a good grip and feel.

The blade steel is very important in a hunting knife. Weather can cause the blade to rust quite quickly if you are not careful. A simple method to slow down rusting is to lube up the blade with oil and then run it into the sheath repeatedly. This keeps the inside of the sheath oily and your blade can rest in that. Every time you remove and replace the knife into the sheath, it gets a quick lubing.

Knife steels are simply high carbon stainless or non-stainless steel. High carbon stainless is rust resistant though harder to sharpen. Non-stainless high carbon rusts easier but is easier to sharpen. Pick your poison.

You will find that 440 steel holds a better edge and is easier to sharpen than the lower 400 series steels. Yes, all of these numbers do mean something.

ATS-34 steel is superior when it comes to keeping a sharp edge and it is definitely stronger than 440 steel so breaking the tip on this steel will be less likely. This steel is more common in hunting knives than most.

The strongest steel used commonly in knives is 420 steel. The drawback is that it doesn't cut that well and can be a task to sharpen. However, your forearm will make Popeye envious. You will find this type of steel in more rough use knives like throwing knives.

There are the 440 series of steel. You will find the 440A, 440B and 440C. Each steel gets a bit better at holding an edge as the steel is improved. So, the 440C will require the least amount of sharpening to maintain bragging rights on that blade.

CPM-440V is the best stainless steel blade on the market in my opinion. You can find CPM-440V in many hunting and pocket knives. But, be prepared to pay for the quality.

Last but not least is G2 steel which you will find in most knives. This steel is much like 440C but is a bit stronger. Why do I say that it's stronger? Because that is what everyone else says. And why make waves? Actually, in my experience, I don't hesitate to do any prying with G2 steel, within reason.

Well, that's my two cents on hunting knives. So remember...

*Buy one that looks good. A man's got to be able to brag.
*A comfortable grip is a must. Arthritis is not.
*Steel is important. The easier it is to sharpen, the more you'll have to sharpen it.
About the Author
William "Cole" Doggett is an expert in knives and owns a successful Internet based website, Knife & Supply Company, LLC at www.KnifeSupplyCompany.com. His website is devoted to all things tactical law enforcement, military, outdoors and of course, Knives.
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