Whether you choose them for style, function, or an unmatched pedigree, bowie knives are a smart and classic choice.
Many of these blades are suspiciously closer to a sword than a knife, but sometimes you need that “bigger is better” tool in your arsenal.
Let’s take a look at some of the best Bowie knives on the market today. But first…
Bowie Knife Reviews: Comparison Table
Knife Full Length " Blade Length " Weight (oz) Tang
12 7.37 8.3 Full
15.12 10 14.6 Full
12.62 7.8 15.9 Full
17.62 12.25 23.8 Full
Bark River V-44
14.5 9 38.4 Full
Bear & Son
14.37 9 11.5 Full
Svord Von Tempsky
16.75 11 7.05 Full
How Do You Say “Bowie”?
Like the infamous po-tay-to, po-taw-to debate, there’s no right way to say “Bowie”. For what it’s worth I say “Boo-ie” and not “Bow-we”, since the knife was popularized and “invented” by Jim Bowie, and his name is pronounced as “Boo-ie”.
In the event you’re shopping for or displaying your knife to friends, let’s say the name the “Boo-ie” way and pay homage to the man who invented the knife.
Where Does the Bowie Knife Come From?
It’s a tough question with a very ambiguous response that we don’t need to get into here, but here’s a great scholarly presentation on the origin of the Bowie knife.
What Goes Into a Good Bowie Knife?
This is not a knife intended to pick out splinters or whittle a whistle.
Bowie knives are for heavy duty work that requires a big, sharp, and strong blade.
Like most knives its quality can be measured by assessing the materials in its construction, the blade size and length, and the tang.
Most of the time the Bowie knife will be made from high-quality carbon steel, but newer materials are flooding into the market all the time that promise better performance.
I’ve always been a carbon steel guy myself because of its durability, ease of sharpening, and its tendency to hold an edge.
Size and Length
Never shorter than 5”, Bowie knives have a variety of sizes and lengths to accommodate its intended purpose.
When you need a blade for clearing brush, chopping wood, and as a self-defense weapon in the field, the longer and thicker blades (anything over 10” long) are ideal.
However for the smaller and more precise duties it’s needed for, the small blades (less than 9.5”) are ideal. This would include various bushcraft duties and general utility.
The tang on a Bowie knife is almost always full.
This is because the large size and weight of the blade necessitates a full tang to prevent it breaking during use.
Some won’t be full tang, and while it’s generally best to avoid these purchases there are exceptions to the rule on a knife-by-knife basis.
Recommended Reading: See all our knife guides and reviews
The 7 Best Bowie Knives
Materials: 420HC (handle is a polymer and sheath is leather) | Overall Length: 12″ | Blade Length: 7″ | Tang: Full | Weight: 8.3oz
A good friend of mine has had his Buck 120 for years. It was probably the sharpest knife I’ve ever see outside of a kitchen and its strength and durability were outstanding.
The sheath is a nice one by itself and firmly holds the knife in place without the slightest hint of looseness.
Although I usually don’t like the slick handles like this one has, I make an exception for this sucker. It’s contoured perfectly and when I’ve used it I’ve never been concerned about slippage or anything of the like.
Truly a stellar knife and probably my favorite on the list.
Recommended Reading: Buck 120 In-Depth Review
- All Buck knives come with a lifetime warranty
- Ideal as a hunting knife
- Sharp as they get right out of the box
- Handle can be a bit slick
- Style of sheath is not for everyone
Ontario Spec Plus SP5
Materials: 1095 (handle is kraton and sheath is nylon) | Overall Length: 15″ | Blade Length: 10″ | Tang: Full | Weight: 14.6oz
This thing’d make Crocodile Dundee think twice! It’s got my favorite style; plain and non-descript, allowing the excellent craftsmanship to speak for itself without any bells and whistles.
Its blade is just great, wide and thick and perfect for all sorts of bushcraft operations.
That handle is something special too, nicely contoured and with deep ridges to ensure a solid grip.
My only hangup is the sheath and that’s purely out of personal preference; I don’t typically like nylon for a knife sheath.
- Great for chopping wood
- Relatively light to handle
- Simple Design
- Rather large for some everyday tasks
- Nylon sheaths tend to wear and tear faster
TOPS Knives Prather War Bowie
Materials: 1095 (handle is micarta and sheath is kydex) | Overall Length: 12.6″ | Blade Length: 7.8″ | Tang: Full | Weight: 15.9oz
This one has been on my wishlist for some time now.
I love when a finger guard is integrated as part of the blade. Add a bit of a thumb guard to the back of the blade for precision control and a blade that could cut and chop as well as it whittles.
Doesn’t hurt that it’s a handsome devil to boot!
The sheath is nylon, not my favorite, but it includes a whetstone and an emergency whistle and seems to be a relatively secure and sturdy sheath.
It was designed by a former Special Forces and DEA agent so it’s built specifically for combat-style encounters, making it perfect as a self-defense weapon if the SHTF.
- Designed by somebody with extensive knowledge of what does and doesn’t work
- Good size blade for most projects
- Sturdy enough to handle heavy duty projects
- Focused as a self-defense knife means it’s less than ideal for bushcraft
- Although pictured with a lanyard this knife is not sold with one
Cold Steel 1917 Frontier Bowie
Materials: 1085 (handle is wood and sheath is leather) | Overall Length: 17.6″ | Blade Length: 12″ | Tang: Full | Weight: 23.8oz
This thing looks more like a short sword than a knife, and it’s a beauty.
I’d almost be afraid to put it to use because of its beautiful form and quality, but if I did I know it’d perform with the best of ‘em.
The “S”-shaped handle practically guarantees you won’t bash or bang your hands while using the knife and allows for a bit of control not normally afforded in a knife this size.
The little notch on the blade is for your index finger and allows for even greater mobility. The sheath itself is a work of art and promises to hold up to a beating.
- A great knife for self-defense and hunting
- Interesting and unique design all around
- Excellent control
- Far too large for everyday projects
- Almost impossible to carry discreetly
Bark River V-44 Bowie
Materials: A2 (handle is stacked leather and sheath is leather)| Overall Length: 14.5″ | Blade Length: 9″ | Tang: Full | Weight: 38.4oz
Be still my heart! I haven’t seen this blade before researching the best knives on the market, and now that I have… well, let’s just say it’s what I want for Christmas.
This is a serious knife meant to do some serious work, and look pretty darn fine doin’ it.
The thick blade is made from tool steel so it is intended to take some major abuse. Its handle is made of stacked leather and will slowly contour to your hand and style of grip as you put it to use.
- Handle cap and finger guard are brass
- An excellent knife for heavier bushcrafting projects
- Extremely durable and beefy design ensure its reliability
- It’s not cheap
- Might be too much for smaller projects and finer uses
Bear & Son American Bowie
Materials: Damascus (handle is stag bone and sheath is leather)| Overall Length:14″| Blade Length:9″| Tang:Full | Weight: 11.5oz
I admit to liking this knife very much for its style more than anything else.
Every knife will be a unique creation because of the high-quality Damascus steel and the stag bone handle held to the tang with brass pins. I’m a sucker for stag bone handles because of their durability and comfortable grip.
The blade is sharp and durable and has a no-nonsense design while still being a gorgeous tool.
I’d recommend this knife for general utility more than anything and would caution people to think twice before using it to chop wood or perform heavier tasks.
- Brass finger guard and pins
- Heavy in the hand is a good feeling
- Handle has great holding power
- I’d be hesitant to employ it for heavier chopping projects
- It’s almost too handsome and begs to be put on display
Svord Von Tempsky Bowie Limited Edition
Materials: High carbon (handle is wood and sheath is leather)| Overall Length: 16.75″ | Blade Length: 11″ | Tang: Full | Weight: 7.05 oz
Our final entry approaches the size and utility of a short sword.
This knife packs a wallop and means business, and although it could be used for a variety of uses it screams self-defense and heavy blade utility work.
It also looks a heckuva lot like the original Bowie knife, so that helps too.
The wooden handle is an iffy one for me; if it’s cared for the handle is reliable, but I tend to abuse my knives and tools and have never been happy with the performance of wood.
That said, it’s great for some people, and a bit of care and maintenance makes it far more reliable. Love the oversized finger guard this one has!
- Nicely detailed and sturdy sheath
- Option to attach a lanyard to base of handle
- Excellent for self-defense
- Wooden handles are unreliable in my experience
- The sheath has too many pieces and could be better as one solid piece of leather
Cutting to the Chase
We’ve got plenty of Bowie knives for you to peruse here, but maybe you’ve got a suggestion on one you’ve used and loved?
We’d love to hear all about it in the comments below.
Born and bred in rural Pennsylvania, Matt embraced the backwoods lifestyle. An early exposure to knives, firearms, gardening, and foraging developed him into the outdoorsman he is today.
Matt is fueled almost entirely by beer and hot sauce. Learn more about Matt here.