What is a bowie knife: definitive guide in 2021


For a survivalist, armature camper, hunter, a Bowie knife must-have tool because of its multi uses. If you want to love spending a lot of time on your vacation outdoors, then you know the importance of a good and perfect knife quite well. You need it for self-defense, setting a fire, hunting and so on. A bowie knife can do all these things, and many survivalists choose this for its unique design and usefulness. But what is a Bowie knife? Why do you need this? And what is the history of this knife?

Fine, this article will answer all these questions as well as describe its features and uses. Go through, till the end to know the a to z of a bowie knife. 


The History of the Bowie Knife

The Bowie knife became famous in 1827 during the “Sandbar Fight” in Mississippi. An incident related to Jim Bowie made this knife illustrious. In Sandbar’s fight (a one-on-one duel), he was shot by the opponent, but he managed to stab using his bowie knife. This fight incident became famous as well as the bowie knife. Hollywood movies also use this knife. These factors make this knife a desirable one throughout the world. And many people know this knife as the Jim Bowie knife.

The bowie knife, firstly designed by James Bowie and James Black, brings it to reality. But according to most historians, the design was gone through continuous evolution, and you can notice this evolution at present too. 

James Bowie was an expert at knife fighting and made this knife for fighting. And initially, people use it as a weapon. But after some time, people started to use this kind of knife for a good purpose. Now it is an essential and useful tool for hunting and camping. And you can find many versions of the Bowie knife, which is different in pattern, size and design to the actual one.

Bowie knife in Literature and Culture 

 This knife has become one of their signatures. And many ancient and present works of literature bring the bowie knife in their literary works. Moreover, Mark Twain, Jules Verne, Charles Dickens, Harriet Beecher Stowe featured Bowie knife in their classic literary works.   

The Bowie knife was first shown in “The Iron Mistress” in Hollywood. And after that, it was brought in many movies.

This particular knife is so prevalent in America that American Bladesmith society produces the Bowie knife more than any other knife. And the antique Bowie knife is subjected as a precious object. And sometimes area models are sold at about $200,000.    

The Bowie Knife Design

There is an evolution in Bowie knife’s designs. But the famous design was made by James Black. He was an Arkansas blacksmith. His knife’s blade is quite long, and it is about 12-inch.  In this version of the Bowie knife, there is a clip point, a sharpened edge and a handguard.

James Black then become an expert in making bowie knives. But after James Black, many people started to make Bowie knife with their design. And so why you can see a massive variety in bowie knives.

How can you define a knife as a Bowie Knife?

The Bowie knife has a unique design pattern because of its uses. Though you will find various types of the bowie knife, they are similar in some points. And based on this, you can say a knife is a bowie knife.  As per Merriam-Webster’s definition, “a Bowie knife is a stout single-edged hunting knife with the part of the back edge curved concavely to a point and sharpened.” 

 This definition stands for standard design and the initial design of a bowie knife. You can notice another signature mark in a Bowie knife like straight handguards or double hilt on the handle’s top. And usually, a bowie knife has a horn handle or stag handle. Moreover, you can see an almost straight blade. You can also have a custom Bowie knife for yourself.

Finding the Best Bowie Knife


As I mentioned before, you will find various types of Bowie knives, which may differ in size, pattern, design. They differ in their using purpose. For survival work, you can find saw-tooth backs including a bowie knife. 

Let’s see which things you will consider before collecting a Bowie knife.

  • Materials

The strength and durability of any Bowie knife depend on what kind of material is using to make it. So, bladesmiths use carbon steel because it is comparatively easy to sharpen the blade.

 Another type of material can be used for making this knife. You will find a knife made of anodized aluminum. But if you want an authentic knife, you should choose a carbon steel one. Moreover, using this material maintain a sharp edge for a long time. 

  • Weight

Weight also plays a vital role here. Because this knife is not used for edged weapons now but camping, hunting. In these situations, you need to perform some challenging tasks like cutting and chopping woods. So, you need a knife which is heavy enough to do this work; if not, your knife will break.  But your knife should not be too heavy that you can not move the knife smoothly.

  • Length

How smoothly you can work with your bowie knife also depends on the knife’s length. The Bowie knives have a standard length, and it is 9.5 inches. And having long blades is a part of the classic design of the Bowie knives. And this length is quite attractive too.

But you will find a bowie knife of different lengths in the market with increased multi-functionality. And the shortest knife’s length is 5 inches. You can not find any Bowie knife shorter than this.

  • Tang

Tang is the prong or shank which works as a connector between the blade and handle. If you want to use a Bowie knife for outdoor works, you need full tang. Because bowie knives are quite heavy, and you will do heavy outdoor works. Otherwise, it will break. But if you want to keep a bowie knife for display purpose, you need not think about it. 

  • Sheath

This is an additional point but necessary. It is better to collect a Bowie knife’s sheath when you take a bowie knife for you. This will keep your knife neat and clean and save you from corrosion. And it is better to have leather or synthetic sheath for your knife.  

Taking Care of Your Bowie Knife

Proper caring and maintenance are needed for a Bowie knife if you want to use it for a long time. You need to sharpen your knife’s blade from time to time. Otherwise, it’s blade will become dull. And dull blade will not be useful more, and dull is considered a hazardous object. 

Moreover, if your blade becomes dull, you need to put extra pressure and effort to do any task with the knife. But putting more pressure can break the knife, and this will cut your finger.

So, it is better to have a sheath for your knife, which I mentioned before. And keep your knife always clean and dry place. And clean it properly after using it. You can clean your knife by clean cloth or metal rubbing paste. This will prevent rust also.

Uses of the Bowie knife

You can use a Bowie knife for different purposes like hunting, survival, self-defense. Now I will describe why this knife is better to do these jobs.

  • Survival

In a survival situation, you need food and shelter at first. For making a primary level shelter, you need timber, sticks. You can do this easily with a bowie knife. And the bowie knife is heavy and hard enough to do this kind of task. And some Bowie Knives have saw-tooth backs.

In a survival situation, the primary food source is generally hunting. And this knife is one of the favorites among the hunters because of the blade length. The blade length gives the hunter extra cutting power for skinning and cleaning. Moreover, a comfortable grip gives more advantages to an awkward place.

  • Self-Defense

You can also use this for self-defense. If you have a 12-inch knife, the attacker will surely think for a moment. You already know that this kind of knife has become famous for self-defense incident. But before using this for this purpose, you should take proper training.

FAQs About What Is a Bowie Knife

What are Bowie Knives used for?

It is especially suitable for outdoor work and tactical and survival use. 

What to Look for When Choosing a Bowie Knife?

You should check several things before choosing a bowie knife. These are materials, length, weight and tang.

What is a Bowie Knife?

An ancient classic knife has a long blade, clip point, cross handguard and a sharpened edge.

Final Note

The Bowie knife is a legendary classic knife. It may be quite an ancient knife, but its long blade, clip point, sharpen edge, and cross handguard makes it a universal and demandable one worldwide. You may find various kinds of knives in the market, but this classic knife’s demand is growing faster for its unique feature. 
This multi-functional knife can indeed be an excellent tool for camping or hunting. And if you have it, you do not need any other tool more. So, that’s all about the bowie knife. And this whole description can answer what a Bowie knife is? You can keep one for outdoor needs or as a display.

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