Tactical Knives vs. Hunting Knives

Hunting KnifeTo the knife greenhorn, all blades look alike. Until a person becomes more experienced at using knives in various applications, it’s difficult to tell a tactical knife from a hunting knife from a fishing knife.

However, closer inspection shows that there are different categories of knives, grouped according to their purpose. For instance, a fillet knife, used for preparing fish, is flexible and has a slight upward curve to it. This design allows the person cleaning the fish to neatly slide the blade of the knife between layers of tissue and skin. Each type of knife is designed for a specific purpose, from skinning game to defending oneself against a human assailant.

Below, we’ve outlined the major differences between hunting knives and tactical knives. The first consideration is how each type of knife is used – this dictates design choices. Next is a look at the physical differences between the two categories of knives, so you can quickly distinguish hunting knives from tactical knives on your next trip to the knife shop.

Tactical KnifeTactical Knife Applications

Traditionally, tactical knives are used by soldiers, often in wilderness situations. Before the development of guns and explosives, a soldier’s knife and sword were his main tools. Especially in close combat, soldiers lived and died according to their knife skills.

Nowadays, soldiers no longer use tactical knives as their main weapons, but they are still issued tactical knives for cooking, cutting through brush and completing other daily tasks. Additionally, tactical knives are still handy for self-defense.

Tactical Knives: Design Features

Tactical knives are light, easy to handle and strong – the perfect qualities for a knife that was originally designed for use in hand-to-hand combat. Longer and stronger than a pocketknife, a tactical knife typically features a stainless steel blade. Higher quality blades will be made of 400-series stainless steel, which is naturally rust resistant and may be hardened. Tactical knives may feature folding or fixed blades. Folding varieties should include a lock to prevent the knife from falling out of the fixed position during use.

The “bells and whistles” one finds on tactical knives are intended to make them faster and easier to use. For instance, many tactical knives have a thumb-stud for one-handed blade opening. Other modern tactical knives feature steel handle liners with cutouts along the grip. The cutouts both increase traction and make the overall knife lighter.  Finally, some tactical knives have built-in belt clips.

Hunting Knife Applications

Hunting knives are not used in combat situations – instead, they are used to kill and prepare game. From skinning deer to cutting open partridges, hunting knives serve many purposes depending on the type of game that is being hunted. If a hunting knife has a section of serrated blade, it may also come in handy for cutting back branches and brush.

Although they all serve the same general purpose of cleaning and preparing game, there are several varieties of hunting knives. Some hunters prefer to use one versatile knife for all their hunting needs. Others prefer a folding Swiss army-style hunting knife with several different functions. This kind of hunting knife can easily be carried in one’s pocket.

Hunting Knives: Design Features

Since hunting knives are primarily used in the great outdoors, they must be able to endure rough conditions. The handle of a hunting knife should be easy to grip and sturdy. A versatile, generalist type of hunting knife will often feature a wider midsection, or “belly,” to make it easier to skin and dress game.

Some hunting knives include a gut hook, usually on the non-sharp side of the blade. A gut hook is used to open game up in a motion much like unzipping a coat. Hunters who go after large game will appreciate this hunting knife feature.  Like tactical knives, hunting knives may have folding or fixed blades, and folding blades should include a strong lock for safety purposes.

By looking at the types of materials used, the shape of the blade and handle, and other features, you can distinguish a hunting knife from a tactical knife. The main thing to remember is that every knife is designed according to how it will be used. Lighter, sleeker knives that are better suited for combat are usually tactical knives, while heavier, sturdier knives with strong handles are usually considered hunting knives.

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