It Is Possible To Get A Good Budget Bowie Knife Without Spending A Lot of Money
The most iconic survival knife in America sees a lot of attention from every knife company. Not all are created equal of course, and more importantly, not all of them cost the same. Some of them cost a lot. Like, more than any rational person would pay for a knife that is meant to be taken into the woods and beaten to hell in the name of hunting, skinning, building a shelter, and fighting bears.
Thing is, a knife needs to be pretty well made in order to make it through all the things a Bowie design is meant for. It’s always a gamble to go cheap on them, because you really don’t want a handle to come loose or the metal to chip, or for the for the whole blade to come out while you’re chopping or butchering in the field.
We’re left with the problem of deciding if we want to drop a hundred on a nice hunting knife we will inevitably tear up, or take a chance on a $20 Bowie that might fail when we need it most. So in the interest of supporting the few rational knife buyers out there, I put together a list of Bowie knives for around or under $50 that you can actually count on. Most of the time.
- Cold Steel Black Bear Bowie – 12″ Blade | 1055 Steel | Polypyrene | Read More…
- Winchester Bowie – 8.75″ Blade | 420J2 Steel | Wood Handle | Read More…
- Timber Rattler Western Outlaw Bowie – 11.38″ Blade | Stainless Steel | Hardwood Handle | Read More…
- Ridge Runner Renegade – 9.75″ Blade | Stainless Steel | Pakkawood Handle | Read More…
- Browning Battle Bowie – 8″ Blade | 8Cr Steel | G-10 or Carbon Fiber | Read More…
- Schrade SCHF45 Leroy – 10.25″ Blade | 8Cr13MoV Steel | Molded Polymer | Read More…
- Ontario Raider Bowie – 9.75″ Blade | 1095 Steel | Kraton Handle | Read More…
- Buck 102 Woodsman – 4″ Blade | 420 Steel | Phenolic Handle | Read More…
- Frost Cutlery Quicksilver Bowie Knife – 10″ Blade | 3CR13 Stainless Steel | Rubber Handle | Read More…
Cold Steel Black Bear Bowie
This thing right here is the reason I even started writing this blog. Cold Steel is nothing if not a spectacle of well-priced functionality. If they make it, it’s tough. But it’s still going to make me laugh a little.
The Black Bear Bowie is technically a Bowie, but is really more of a machete in practice, and I love it. I love the scandi grind and the comfy polypropylene handle. I love the oversized design more than anything, even though I’m almost certain to never use it for anything practical. I’m less excited about the 1055 steel. I like it. It’s tough as hell, and it’s probably a big factor in how Cold Steel keeps the price so low, but I’m generally partial to 1095 where carbon steel is concerned. All in all, the Black Bear Bowie is just a neat thing to have for very very little money.
At $20 you should really expect this thing to fall apart eventually. This isn’t Cold Steel, and Winchester just doesn’t make knives like they used to. This is a starter knife to maybe get a feel for the style, or to just take on a rough trip you don’t expect it to come back from. It’s made with soft steel, it’s poorly balanced, and the handle is glued on.
But it’s still a full-tang bowie for twenty bucks. Please understand that’s the only reason I would recommend this knife, and if you want it to last a while you really need to take care of it. Sharpen and clean it frequently. The other upside to this knife, though, is the sheath. Unusually good for being on a cheap knife.
Timber Rattler Western Outlaw Bowie
This thing is… absurd, to put it simply. I put it up there with the Condor Stratos as one of the more difficult knives to justify owning, because it’s just so much knife that you can only use it for so much.
The blade alone is nearly twelve inches long, to say nothing of the height of the blade. I don’t know if you would want to skin anything with it, but you could definitely count on it for chopping. I think the true appeal of it, though, is that it’s just fun.
It’s huge and ridiculous. It’s something to show your friends and laugh until one of you dares the other to try chopping up the fence with it. Well, guess what, it will work for that. The leather sheath is also neat, but not as functional as it should be for a knife this large. You might need to use your own cord to wrap it to your leg, or just get a custom sheath for it.
Ridge Runner Renegade
We’re still in the ridiculous-over-quality range with this thing. Don’t get me wrong, it will get the job done, but that job is probably going to be scaring away children more than anything. The construction of the the Renegade isn’t necessarily bad, though.
You have decent pins holding the scales in place and full tang stainless steel. Some of the machining is less than perfect, but what you have here, like the last three knives, is a decently strong knife for the price of an expensive pizza. If you like taking giant strong knives into the woods, this is probably worth putting on your list.
Browning Battle Bowie
|Handle Material:||G-10 or carbon fiber|
|Sheath:||Injected molded polymer|
I’m hesitant to put this on the list because it would be easy to argue the Browning Battle Bowie isn’t a true Bowie. There’s no clip point, and the sweep of the blade shape almost makes it more of a scimitar than anything. It’s cool though, and it falls under the fifty dollar mark, so if Browning is willing to call it a bowie then so am I.
I like the way the whole thing looks. The recurve on the long handle, and the roughly 3:1-inch blade ratio make it pretty spectacular to look at and gives it a solid action for brush chopping. The way the handle curves back against the hand makes for a good grip too. The whole design just makes you want to swing it around. For better or worse.
Browning has also put a fair amount of effort into the sheath, which can be adjusted for horizontal carry. Overall the sheath is really impressive for a knife at this price point, and the fact that it ships with a Tek-Lok is a much appreciated bonus.
Schrade SCHF45 Leroy
|Handle Material:||Molded polymer|
Normally I’d snub my nose at a knife using 8Cr13MoV steel unless it’s in the $20 range, but the Schrade Leroy justifies its comparatively high cost with pure mass. This is a full tang sixteen-and-a-half inch knife with a blade width of almost a quarter inch. Maybe the steel is soft, but essentially what you have with this thing is a sharp club.
That also means it’s going to be incredibly heavy, but with that weight comes a certain guarantee of endurance. No matter what gets chipped away on this thing, it can be ground down and modified to your heart’s content. Even the tip of this thing, which is pretty aggressive, has a stout structure that should be more than enough to compensate for any steel issues. Just keep it sharp and you’ll be fine.
Ontario Raider Bowie
Ontario Knife Company is one of those knife makers you should default to when looking for a solid survival knife. They’re the new house name for campers and hunters across America now, and they’re usually pretty decently priced. Usually.
The Raider Bowie is just enough of a new variation on the bowie to make it exciting while still using the elements of the classic bowie to make it a functional survival blade. You have a severe clip point with a mean tip, miles of cutting edge in 1095 high carbon, and a handle material that’s fairly new, but comfortable and cost effective. You also have a quarter-inch spine backing a flat grind, so they’ve definitely created a simple structure here for extended trips in the wilderness.
Buck 102 Woodsman
Buck makes a lot of great Bowie knives, but most of them bottom out around $70 on a good day. The 102 is the reasonable alternative in a lot of ways. Of all the bowies on this list, it’s probably the most practical size, if we’re being honest.
I can’t imagine needing more than 4 inches of blade for almost any survival uses short of chopping away brush. And with this, of course, you get that sweet Buck 420HC steel and a pretty decent sheath. The major downside for me is the phenolic handle. It’s an okay material for endurance, and certainly an easy option for maintenance.
Most of the time you’ll just need to wipe off the grime and you’re good to do. But it’s not the most comfortable stuff for a handle and has a tendency to get slippery in my hands. I’m pretty sure you can get this knife with a wood or bone handle, but that will likely add about $30 to the price. Regardless, this is the cheapest bowie-style Buck you can get, and it’s also the smallest and (if we’re being honest) the best on this list for most anything. But maybe I’m biased.
Frost Cutlery Quicksilver Bowie Knife
|Blade Steel:||3CR13 Stainless Steel|
The Frost Cutlery Quicksilver Bowie knife is a well balanced large knife with a really comfortable handle. In fact it has by far the most ergonomic handle of any knife listed in this article. Unfortunately Frost Cutlery used 3CR13 steel which is a sub-par steel even in the budget knife category. In spite of this fact the great design and comfortable handle of the Quicksilver Bowie make it well worth it’s bargain bin price tag.
If your primary purpose for buying a budget Bowie is self defense the grippy handle of the Quicksilver make it worth a second look. However, if your in the market for a budget Bowie to use on a regular basis as a camp tool or for general outdoor tasks you may want to look elsewhere unless you really like sharpening and honing. The Quicksilver Bowie does not hold an edge long when it’s used regularly.