Benefits of a fixed-blade hunting knife:
- Cleanliness: Fixed-blade knives are far easier to clean, versus a folder. No tight nooks and crannies to scrub.
- Strength: The material on a fixed blade knife spans the entire length of the knife, from tip the butt. Eliminating joints adds backbone.
- Durability: Fixed-blade knives are made for general purpose and heavy-duty work.
- Longevity: Due to no moving parts like closures, fixed-blade knives tend to be more reliable and have a longer lifespan.
Pitfalls of a fixed-blade hunting knife:
- Bulky: Fixed-blade hunting knives require a sheath to be carried, unlike their folding counterpart that safely fits in your pocket and aren’t for everybody.
- Inconvenience: Fixed-blade hunting knives can be a nuisance when sitting, bending over, or during rigorous climbs by poking you in the side.
- Safety: Unless your fixed-blade hunting knife is stored in its sheath, commonly leather, the blade is always exposed. Again, whereas a folder can be quickly and easily closed and stored.
Here’s what you should look for in a quality fixed-blade hunting knife.
- Look for a high-end blade made of S30V steel, or better, that is 3-to-5’’ in length. This steel offers exceptional toughness, durability and resistance. While it is a tad difficult to sharpen, it retains an extremely sharp edge even during high use. For blade styles and points, there are three primaries: clip-points have a concave back and fine point, drop-points feature a convex back and a modified clip/drop/spear-point offers the best of both worlds and is traditionally found on folding knives. I gravitate toward the drop-point blade that most skinning knives are designed around.
Handle Your Business:
- Don’t overlook the importance of a handle. For aesthetics, I prefer wood or bone handles. Yes, they can by slippery when wet compared to a synthetic handle, but they are far less prone to cracking and breaking, especially in cold temps. In addition, wood and bone adds a bit of heft to your knife, which helps with grip and more precise, fluid cuts. The handle should also feature a finger stop or a gradual contour that prevents your finger from slipping and sliding forward.
- For skinning, I rely heavily on the Cabela's Alaskan Guide Series 113 Ranger Skinner Knife made by Buck Knives. This knife has a natural rosewood handle, delivers the absolute finest combination of edge retention, 45% greater than 420HC, extreme flexibility and hardness of 59-61 Rockwell, a diamond-like carbon coating and high chromium content that provides oxidation resistance. It’s intended for medium to large game and effortlessly separates flesh and skin. The perk of this knife is that it can be used for gutting, skinning and processing, it’s a triple threat fixed-blade hunting knife.
- The gut hook is typically forged on the backside of the blade and it’s intended to cut a precise incision, to unzip, without puncturing the bowels or slicing off your finger. My Cabela's Alaskan Guide Series Alpha Fixed Knife is efficient and effective at doing so. I have also used this gut hook knife for lifting hot grates and coffee percolators off a fire, for cutting butcher paper, fishing line, rope, and for cleaning turkeys and larger upland birds. A gut hook could, as well, aid in safely cutting a seatbelt in an emergency situation.
- Your hunting style and knife demands will ultimately dictate if you need more than one hunting knife. As aforementioned, I carry two fixed-blade hunting knives outside of my everyday automatic pocket knife. For my everyday carry knife, I love the ease and one-handed operational aspect of the Benchmade Infidel, it’s perfect for what I do. Lastly, I wouldn’t expect to buy a decent fixed-blade hunting knife for under $100, you get what you pay for. However, it doesn’t matter how awesome, expensive or whether your hunting knife is made of extraordinarily scary-sharp Sandvik 12C27 Swedish stainless steel or obsidian, if you don’t know how to effectively use it. Become proficient at sharpening, honing and practice your cutlery skills at home. Then, when your educated hand meets a decent blade, your wild game processing skills will truly shine.