The Bowie Knife was made famous by American frontiersman James 'Jim' Bowie in the early 19th century when the fighting knife that he carried (manufactured by James Black) was used by him in the so called 'Sandbar Fight' which took place on a sandbar in the Mississippi River River. During the altercation Bowie was said to have killed one man and severely wounded another with his knife.
Today Bowie Knives are prized by both collectors and those who know the true value of an exceptional cutting instrument for outdoor use, especially skinning and butchering larger game species. Users praise versions with longer blades as they make it easier to reach awkward areas while butchering game.
What are the different types of Bowie Knives?
Although there are many different models of Bowie Knife that are both mass manufactured and custom designed they all share some features. The Bowie Knife is a sheath type knife, with a clip point and a crossguard. The blade lengths of Bowie Knives can vary from between 5 inches and 24 inches with some of the most striking examples boasting the extremely long blades which has made this type of knife one of the most iconic in the world.
How are Bowie Knives Used Today?
Aside from being used by outdoors man the Bowie Knife has also gained a reputation as a self defense weapon and is also used by various branches of the military in one form or another. As a self defense weapon the Bowie Knife with the longer blade length relies firstly on intimidation, secondly of very finely honed blades that can cause serious injury and deter even the most determined of attackers. Use of the Bowie Knife in the military has a long history - in fact during the Vietnam War U.S. chopper pilots were provided with Bowie Knives with a serrated edge to cut through the acrylic canopies should their chopper be downed.
Survivalists also favor the Bowie Knife due to its robust design and sheer toughness. The length of the longer knives also provides a cutting edge and leverage which allows the knife to be used in constructing shelters as well for hunting and other survival purposes.
What Makes a Good Bowie Knife?
Although personal style and taste play an enormous part in which Bowie Knife an individual chooses for either collecting purposes or lifestyle pursuits there is some agreement on what makes a good Bowie Knife.
Firstly the blade should be razor sharp. It should be manufactured from either carbon steel or stainless steel - both materials have their champions in the Bowie Knife community. Those interested in outdoor use favor heavier and longer blades. The weight of the Bowie Knife makes it necessary that it has a full tang - otherwise there is a risk of the knife snapping under hard use. As an aside a high quality sheath is essential- it can be made of artificial or natural material.
If you choose to purchase a Bowie Knife, either for collecting purposes or as a tool you can rest assured that you will be in possession of a true icon of the American knife making tradition.