On September 19, 1827, a fight broke out on a Mississippi River sandbar. What started as a formal duel between two notable Louisiana families ended in a skirmish in which Jim Bowie, originally just a supporter on the sidelines, was shot and stabbed before drawing out a large knife and killing a man named Norris Wright. Bowie survived his injuries, took up the knife as his trademark weapon and became an American folk hero.
The fixed-blade knife has been steeped in hyperbole ever since. Large blades loom massive in pop culture — Rambo’s massive serrated spine knife and Crocodile Dundee’s giant clip-point are two notable examples. Such slabs of steel present a satisfying flash in front of a camera lens but don’t offer more in the way of utility. In fact, their unwieldiness probably makes them less adept at performing the simple, everyday tasks that a fixed blade is most commonly used for.
When used to its best purpose, a knife is a multipurpose tool. (Who really wants to be in a knife fight anyway? Bowie barely survived his first one). A sharp blade is near limitless in its functions, from filleting a freshly caught fish to making an emergency repair on a ripped tent.
Who says bigger is better? The Eldris has a high-quality 12C27 stainless steel blade that’s just 59mm long, which is great for tasks that call for a little more finesse, like carving and repairing. While it does look a bit like a consumer-model shiv, the Eldris has the undeniable benefit of less carry weight — so it’ll be less noticeable in your pocket, pack, or on an accessible neck loop.
Blade: 2.2-inch Sandvik 12C27 stainless steel, plain edge, partial drop point
Overall Length: 5.6 inches
Weight: 2.8oz (80g)
Features: click-lock sheath, lanyard loop
Boker Plus U.S. Air Force Survival Knife
In the late 1940s, General Curtis LeMay and the U.S. Air Force commissioned a lightweight survival knife for long-range bomber crews. The result is this fixed blade, now reissued with SK-5 carbon steel and a leather and aluminum handle. Its original purpose was to be a general survival tool capable of field dressing game and cleaning fish — duties it continues to live up to.
Blade: 4.5-inch SK-5 mirror finished carbon steel, plain edge, clip point
Handle: leather, aluminum
Overall Length: 8.3 inches
Weight: 3.6oz (102g)
Features: aluminum and brass spacers and pommel
KA-BAR has teamed up with distinguished knife maker Jesse Jarosz to produce the nimble and functional Globetrotter. The full-tang knife blade is forged from 1095 Cro-Van steel and secured to an Ultramid handle. This simple yet expertly crafted tool is accompanied by a nylon sheath for any Molle-compatible gear you may have in your kit.
Blade: 3.5-inch 1095 Cro-Van steel, full tang, plain edge, flat grind, drop point
Overall Length: 7.6 inches
Weight: 6.4oz (181g)
Features: lanyard loop
Buck Abyss Fillet
The six-inch 420HC stainless steel blade on this already-popular knife is flexible and adept at cleaning whatever you manage to reel in. The ergonomic nylon handle is stylized with nautical camo patterns and rubberized in order to maintain grip even when wet.
Blade: 6-inch 420HC stainless steel, full tang, plain edge, spay point
Overall Length: 12.25 inches
Weight: 3oz (150g)
Features: glass-reinforced, rubberized handle
Condor Tool and Knife Huron
Naturally finished 1095 high-carbon steel meets real walnut in the Huron. The spine traces one uninterrupted arc from point to butt in a drop-point style both classic and understated. But this knife isn’t just about style — the blade, while requiring more upkeep than true stainless steel, is razor sharp and fully capable of taking on even the most delicate of bushcrafting tasks.
Blade: 4.25-inch 1095 high-carbon steel, near-full tang, plain edge, drop point
Overall length: 8.6 inches
Weight: 6.4oz (181g)
Features: natural finish, lanyard loop
Origin: El Salvador
White River Knife and Tool Backpacker
Trekkers who might fret over the added ounces of a fixed blade will take to the aptly named Backpacker from White River Knife and Tool. The versatile knife uses a full-tang skeleton construction and a woven paracord handle, which makes it both lightweight and ideal for survival scenarios. The plain-edge drop point is small enough for wilderness carry yet well suited to anything from light bush crafting to meal prep around the fire.
Blade: 3-inch CPM S30V stainless steel, plain edge, drop point
Overall Length: 7 inches
Weight: 2.5oz (71g)
Features: removable paracord handle measuring 5 feet
Sheath: custom Kydex
Folders are great for your EDC and reliable in a pinch, but if you’re looking for a serious tool that’ll stand up to the toughest tasks — processing firewood, building a shelter, field dressing an elk — opt for a fixed blade knife. Here are the pros that elevate fixed over folding:Strength and Durability: A good fixed blade is full tang, meaning the metal used in the blade extends all the way to the end of the handle as one solid piece. No joint, no locks, no moving parts — no point of failure.
Easy Maintenance: No moving parts means no jamming and no rusting mechanism.
Safety: A fixed blade will never fold back on your hand during use.
Case Buffalo Horn Hunter
Family-run W.R. Case & Sons has been crafting knives for more than 100 years. All that experience has lead the brand to identify genuine buffalo horn as an ideal handle material for its line of hunting knives. The concave clip point on this model allows for more blade control when field dressing an animal, despite its length of five inches.
Blade: 5-inch Tru-Sharp surgical stainless steel, plain edge, clip point
Handle: buffalo horn, brass, fiber
Overall Length: 9 inches
Weight: 5.5oz (156g)
Features: aluminum end cap
The ESEE-4 is ESEE’s do-it-all survival fixed blade and it’s enjoyed continuous popularity since its inception. The muted drop-point blade is forged with full-tang design using 1095 carbon steel; at just eight ounces, it’ll barely make itself known in your pack or sheathed at the hip. The ESEE-4 is available in a variety of finishes and handle options for those looking to customize, and it comes with an injection-molded polyethylene sheath.
Blade: 4.5-inch 1095 Carbon Steel, full tang, plain edge, drop point
Overall Length: 9 inches
Weight: 8oz (227g)
Features: rounded pommel, lanyard loop
Spyderco Enuff Sheepfoot Salt
Sometimes a plain-edge blade just won’t cut it (literally). And while a partially serrated edge can seem like the smart, multipurpose option, teeth that run the full length of the blade will always give you the most power and control for tougher sawing tasks. The Enuff Sheepfoot Salt is small, yet it caters to tough tasks like cutting through thick rope and webbing in a pinch. It’s made with rust-resistant H-1 steel and a blunt sheepsfoot blade tip that’s safer to use around inflatable vessels, both of which make it a great tool for fishing and river trips.
Blade: 2.74-inch H-1 steel, serrated edge, sheepsfoot blade
Handle: fiberglass-reinforced nylon
Overall Length: 6.75 inches
Weight: 3.9oz (111g)
Sheath: injection-molded polymer
Norwegian brothers Steinar and Sigmund Helle founded their forge on a simple yet oft-ignored concept in the age of large-scale production: “Quality craftsmanship is best preserved by quality craftsmen.” That idea holds true for Helle to this day and is displayed in the four-inch Utvær. The knife is named for the group of islands where Norway meets the North Sea and is constructed with a Sandvik 12C27 stainless steel blade and a curly-birch handle.
Blade: 4-inch Sandvik 12C27 stainless steel, full tang, plain edge, drop point
Handle: curly birch and Vulcan fiber
Overall Length: 8.25 inches
Weight: 5.64oz (160g)
Chris Reeve Nyala
The curved-horn Nyala is an iconic game animal in the South African forests and a favorite of Idaho-based knifemaker Chris Reeve. Reeve’s designs blend elegance and function, exhibited in the Nyala’s grooved handle and Crucible S35VN stainless steel drop-point blade. Careful serrations on the spine improve knife handling for this modern skinner.
Blade: 3.75-inch Crucible S35VN steel, full tang, plain edge, drop point
Handle: natural canvas Micarta
Overall Length: 8.5 inches
Weight: 4.96oz (140g)
Features: partially serrated spine for grip, titanium hardware, lanyard loop
Fiddleback Forge Camp Knife
At just under six and a half inches, this is easily the closest knife on the list to something Jim Bowie might appreciate. But the Camp Knife is more at home splitting firewood and prepping shelter than being wielded in a brawl. Fiddleback Forge assembles the Camp Knife by hand with CPM 3V tool-grade steel to ensure that no matter how much timber you go through, this knife will be something you can hand down one day.
Blade: 6.4-inch Crucible CPM 3V Tool Steel, full tang, plain edge, flat grind, drop point
Overall Length: 11 inches
Weight: 14oz (397g)
From the GP Store
Brass and steel achieve a balanced harmony in this nautically inspired fixed blade from Horse Brand. The drop-point blade is forged from corrosion-resistant 440c stainless steel and finished with a Scandinavian Grind that runs the length of the blade and is easy to sharpen and maintain whether in the field or at sea. Buy Now: $240