Elk NetworkChoosing the Right Knife

Gear 101 | February 15, 2019
Choosing The Right Knife

Selecting the Right BladeAn essential to any hunting trip is a dependable knife. Whether you have a successful hunt or not, knives play many key roles in any outdoor experience. This article focuses on hunting, however, any outdoorsman will tell you the most important basic outdoor survival tool is the knife.

When determining the right type of hunting knife for you to carry, you first need to identify what type of animals you plan to hunt and what other limiting circumstances your particular hunt may dictate to you.

  • Will you be deep into the field where skinning and quartering will be necessary before transporting your game, or will you have road access right to your kill?
  • Will you be caping out your trophy or delivering directly to the taxidermist?
  • Will you be involved in dozens of wilderness situations where heavy-duty chopping may come in handy?

A final key thought to keep in mind is how you wish to carry the knife. The above questions will suggest the blade shape, size, weight, fixed vs. folding and blade steel advantages/disadvantages so you can make an informed decision.Fixed vs. FoldingFirst, you must decide between a fixed blade or folding blade. Fixed blades are heavy duty, easy to clean and easily accessed with a sheath. Folders are very safe; most lock open and won’t accidentally open in your pack or close on your hand. They may be harder to clean and you have to be careful of keeping the folding mechanisms clean, but they are easier and more convenient to carry and conceal. Whether you decide on a fixed blade or folder, you also need to pick a blade shape and steel that best suits your needs.Blade shapesAll blade shapes have pros and cons, so Buck Knives recommends these basic blade shapes. Usually a combination of knives with these shapes will best suit your needs.SkinnerBest suited for skinning game. The tip is narrow, while the wide curved belly gives a nice skinning sweep that aids in getting through thick layers. The downward angled, more blunt point makes it harder to make an accidental slice through the hide by mistake. The blade grind leaves a thicker point which can be a leveraging tool when popping joints for quartering. The skinner’s wide blade is not suited for fine detailed work.Drop Point This blade is full bellied with a strong, thick point for heavier tasks. It does not have the same belly width as the skinner and thus can be used as a general work knife. The top of the blade drops down toward the tip, which provides a nice thick tip and minimizes accidental puncturing while skinning. The drop point blade is strong and very versatile. The negative is that the thicker tip makes fine tasks a little more difficult.SerrationsBy adding serrations, your blade has greater cutting power. Especially useful when cutting line and/or cables. Available on several Buck Knife models.CapingSmall slim blade, almost scalpel like in shape. It has a mild drop point, with nearly a spear tip shape that is used for the delicate removal of the hide of the face of a trophy animal. The shape makes caping knives perfect choices for birds and small game. Caping knives tend to be slim and very light duty so they are not always a right choice if you only intend to carry a single knife.ClipThe front end of the blade is concavely ground to a crescent tip which makes it thinner with a sharper point. This shape provides good control for detail work and cutting in tight places. It is also well suited for intentional punctures like new holes in your belt, etc. While the point of the blade is effective for detail work, it’s not as strong as the thicker points on drop points and skinners. You have to be very careful of putting too much side pressure on the tip, or you could break your blade.Gut HookThe guthook is meant to “unzip” the hide and can be used as an amazing aid to skinning, as in opening the hide on the legs as well as to avoid cutting into the entrails while gutting. Buck’s patented guthook design is unique because the cutting edge of the guthook hits the skin of an animal square and keeps the skin or hair from bunching up in the process. Contact with the hide or hair of a fallen animal will dull a blade edge very quickly. The guthook helps preserve your other blades. Used in tandem with a sharp knife is the best way to field prep your animal.Blade SteelBlade steel is also an important factor to keep in mind when choosing the right knife. When in the field, performance qualities such as edge retention, corrosion resistance and ductility are very critical. As a general rule, the harder the knife the better it will hold an edge, but it will also be more brittle (less ductile). Therefore, it is more liable to break or shatter if impacted sharply. The steels that have the best hardness with ductility are high carbon steels, but they also tend to rust the worst. Sometimes a softer, but more corrosion-resistant steel will stand up better to the harsh conditions in the field. If you are the kind of person who cleans and oils his tools every night, then a high carbon steel is a fantastic choice. Otherwise we would suggest a better balance between edge retention and corrosion resistance.

It is important that the steel is properly heat-treated to the appropriate Rockwell Hardness for maximum results. RC numbers are the degrees of hardness according to the Rockwell “C” scale. The Rockwell scale provides a measurable numeric value that allows us to compare the hardness of different steels. The higher the rating number, the harder the steel. We know how the different steels underperform if they are too hard or too soft, so we track hardness numbers very consistently. Please refer to the chart on the right to better understand what Buck Knives does to its steel for maximum performance, and also for a breakdown of our recommended steels to help you make a decision.
Buck Knives – A Proud Partner and Supporter of RMEFLike most things, when it comes to knives, what you end up with, in large measure, is determined by what you start with. Buck Knives feature this technology in their steel.

Edge2x™ Technology
– Buck’s proprietary technology creates the right combination of edge thickness and angle for sharper blades
– Tests show superior edge-holding ability over standard edges
– Is easier to re-sharpen

Heat Treating
– Proprietary heat treatment by Buck
– Buck’s heat treating process makes their steel stronger and more durable than the competition
– Perfectly balances the hardness and toughness of Buck steel
– Heat Treatment Facility on-site
– Paul Bos perfected the art of hardening, freezing and tempering blades