Is a Bowie Knife a Good Survival Knife: Everything you need to know.

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Just like anything, knives come in all shapes and sizes. Each knife has a very specific purpose and a Bowie knife is no different. A pocket knife is designed for every day tasks, a survival knife is designed as an all purpose survival tool, and a Bowie knife has its own design.

So is a Bowie knife a good survival knife? While its possible to use a Bowie knife for survival, it is not a good survival knife. Bowie knives are heavy and tend to be a little bulky. A good survival knife will be light enough to comfortably carry yet heavy enough to perform more demanding tasks, such as chopping.

If you’re in the market for a Bowie Knife, check out this great one on Amazon.

The History of the Bowie Knife

The history of the Bowie knife is rather complicated and surrounded by murky definitions. However, admits all the confusion regarding the Bowie knife, one thing is for certain. The Bowie knife was made popular by Colonel James Bowie, also known as Jim Bowie, who died at the Alamo.

Colonel James Bowie was known for his notorious knife fighting skills. James Bowie became widely known for his knife fighting after a fight where he killed the sheriff of Rapides Parish with a large knife while admits suffering from gun shot and knife wounds.

Although it’s not known for certain, Rezin Bowie, James Bowie’s brother, claimed to be the one who designed the first Bowie knife. It is said that Rezin Bowie designed the knife and gave it to James for protection after the fight in which James Bowie was shot and stabbed.

What is a Bowie Knife Exactly

A Bowie knife is not just one knife, there are many different types of knives that fall under the Bowie category. Just like pocket knives, Bowie knives all look different. Some Bowie knives are big while other are smaller.

The top of the blade on the traditional Bowie knife was actually straight. Many Bowies now days have a clipped blade or a blade that tapers down to the edge of the knife.

Most later versions of the Bowie knife had a blade of at least 8″ in length, some reaching 12″ or more, with a relatively broad blade that was an inch and a half to two inches wide.

The early Bowie knife had a straight hand guard, however now days, the hand guard differs from knife to knife. Most Bowie knives today will have some form of hand guard because the Bowie knife was designed for fighting. And in a knife fight, it’s very important to have that hand guard for protection.

A Bowie Knife vs a Survival Knife

A Bowie knife is actually very different from a survival knife. The differences primarily lie in how the knives were individually designed. The Bowie knife was designed to be a large knife for fighting. While the survival knife was designed to be an all purpose survival tool.

Many outdoorsman feel completely confident in bringing only their gear and a survival knife with them. A survival knife can be used as an axe, as well as a knife. But the benefit of a survival knife is it’s size. A survival knife is large enough to handle demanding tasks such as chopping, batoning, and cutting down small trees while yet small enough to perform small tasks like whittling, crafting, and shaving feather sticks.

Using a Bowie Knife as a Survival Knife

Although you can definitely choose to use a Bowie knife as a survival knife if you’d like, it won’t perform as well as a dedicated survival knife. Bowie knives can quickly become very bulky and heavy. And when surviving in the wilderness, you want a knife that is light, yet durable.

To learn what to look for when buying a survival knife, read my article: What Makes a Good Survival Knife: How to Choose the Right One

Is it Better to Carry a Bowie Knife Instead of a Survival Knife and an Axe

Many people like to carry an axe in addition to a survival knife. And because of this, some might say that it’s better to carry a Bowie knife instead of carrying both a survival knife and an axe.

While this is a good idea, it can soon become impractical. Having to use your Bowie for small tasks will be frustrating and a Bowie just doesn’t cut as well as an axe.


Bowie knives are not the best survival knives, even more so if you’re going to be backpacking into the wild. They’re heavy, bulky, and designed for fighting. If you’re looking at buying a survival knife, read my article, What Makes a Good Survival Knife: How to Choose the Right One.

A survival knife is the most important tool you’ll carry with you into the wild and because of this, you’ll want a knife that will last and get the job done correctly. Many people’s lives were saved because of their survival knife, make sure you choose the right one.

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