Hunting Knives 101: Folding vs. Fixed-Blade Knives

C244305 Damascus FolderChoosing a hunting knife can be a difficult decision, and opinions vary widely as to which types of sporting knives are best. In particular, beginning outdoorsmen are often stymied by the question of whether to choose a folding or fixed-blade knife.

Some sportsmen swear by their folding pocket knives, while others say only a fixed-blade hunting knife will do. While the type of knife you carry is largely a matter of personal preference, it’s a good idea to consider the pros and cons of each type of hunting knife and choose the tool that best fits the situation. Following is a look at the strengths and weaknesses of folding versus fixed-blade knives.

Fixed-Blade Hunting Knives

When you think of a typical hunting knife, chances are you’re visualizing a fixed-blade knife. Unlike a folding knife, these sporting knives are permanently affixed in the “open” position.

Because fixed-blade knives have no moving parts, they’re generally considered to be stronger, sturdier and more reliable than folding knives. They often feature much larger blades, as well; a fixed blade is usually twice as long as a folding blade. For a dedicated hunting knife, a fixed blade is often recommended.

On the downside, because they’re always open, fixed-blade sporting knives are bulkier than a pocket knife and not as convenient to store and carry. You’ll need to keep it in a sheath when transporting it.

A fixed blade hunting knife is typically recommended for serious hunters and for outdoorsmen who enjoy rugged camping and hiking in remote wilderness areas. When field dressing large game, the additional strength of a fixed blade will help make cutting and skinning easier and safer. When embarking on a multi-day backpacking trip or any other activity that could place you in a survival situation, a fixed-blade knife is a more rugged tool to keep in your emergency arsenal. In a pinch, it can even be used to make other survival tools.

Folding Sporting Knives

A folding knife, also commonly called a pocket knife, has a folding blade that tucks into the handle so it can be safely carried in a pocket, backpack or purse. Many folding sporting knives offer multiple blades to choose from, and many even come in the form of a multi-tool, which is a pocket knife that also includes basic tools such as pliers, screwdrivers, saw blades, wrenches, files, can openers and many other optional conveniences.

Folding sporting knives are popular for their convenience and versatility. They’re easy to carry when hiking or backpacking, and they work well for outdoorsmen who use their knives for multiple purposes. Multi-tools can provide a lot of utility in a compact package.

The main weaknesses of a folding knife are its hollow handle and the pivot point where the blade folds. A typical folding knife will have less strength than a fixed-blade hunting knife of similar size. When choosing a folding blade for rugged use, it’s best to look for a high-quality model. Folding knives are also harder to clean, as fur, wood slivers and other materials can become lodged in the handle.

Folding knives or multi-tools shine in casual outdoor situations, such as camping or light hiking. A sportsman who only hunts occasionally can get by with one. They’re also useful around the home, in the car and anywhere else you may need to slice through rope or make a quick cut.

Ultimately, the best hunting knife is one that feels good in your hand and has a blade capable of accomplishing the tasks you need done. When choosing a fixed blade, examine the area where the blade and handle connect to ensure that it’s well-constructed. With a folding knife, look for a blade that folds easily into the handle and doesn’t need to be forced. For both blade types, a heavier handle is usually an indicator of quality.

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