What knife do you carry every day?

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Question from Reader: “You’ve written abut the best survival knife, the best EDC knife, the best hunting knife, fillet, pocket knife, etc., etc. Skip the options, the analysis and potential survival scenarios and answer this: What is the knife you have on you right now?”

Review: Check out the Zoe Crist Santa Fe – it may be the hunting knife you need

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Kniveshipfree is a sponsor of Survivalcommonsense.com, but I don’t get free knives from the company, nor do they have any input in any knife reviews.

by Leon Pantenburg

I’m always looking for a good hunting knife. So when the Zoe Crist Santa Fe became available last year, I got one and tried it.

There are many things I like about the knife, but the handle just wasn’t comfortable for my large hands. The handle rubbed between my index and second fingers, and for extended use, it wasn’t going to work.

Phil Brummett in his natural environment.

Phil Brummett in his natural environment.

In such cases, I pass the knife on to an experienced outdoorsperson and ask them to wring it out. (Check out Bob Patterson’s review of the Bark River Trakker Companion.)

Several months ago, the Santa Fe went to my friend Phil Brummett, a fellow Boy Scout volunteer, former scoutmaster and skilled wilderness survival guy.

Phil is also a Central Oregon fishing guide, and is on the water a couple hundred days a year. Any knife that can meet his standards has to be really good. And Phil’s hands are smaller than mine.

Here are the Santa Fe specs:

  • Overall Length: 9.5 Inches
  • Blade Length: 5 Inches
  • Steel: 1095 Carbon Steel @ 58-60rc
  • Blade Thickness: .174 Inch
  • Weight: 8.125 Ounces
  • Made in the United States of America

Here’s the good stuff:

Overall length is about right for a hunting knife. My favorite blade length in a hunting knife is about five inches. A four-inch length is fine, and six is very usable, but five inches just seems to work out best for Phil and me. (My go-to Ambush Tundra has a 4.5-inch blade.)

Steel: 1095 is a good, durable choice, and it won’t break the bank like some of the super steels. Phil commented the Santa Fe’s edge-holding ability is great, and re-sharpening is easy.

1095 high carbon steel will stain or rust if not cared for properly.

1095 high carbon steel will probably stain and may rust if not cared for properly.

A concern for some buyers is rust. Carbon steel can develop rust overnight if the humidity is high, the blade is put away wet, and the knife is ignored.

In Phil’s case, the knife is used in wet circumstances more often than not. Most of the time, that includes blood and fish slime. But Phil wipes the blade off after using it, and had no issue with rust.

Patina is another matter. Any carbon steel blade, over time, will develop some patina, or discoloration. Phil’s knife shows some, probably because it has cleaned a lot of fish and been used for a lot of bushcrafting. Both of us like the appearance – it shows honest use and wear. And it looks cool. Phil wouldn’t let me polish the patina off.

Spine: The spine is ground at a 90-degree angle, like an ice skate for the half of the blade next to the handle. It tapers down to a sharp point with the swedge.

This spine grind is useful for processing tinder or scraping a ferrocerrium to create firemaking sparks. The spine is one of those parts of a knife that is generally forgotten, but learn how to use it and it can be useful.

Grind: The Santa Fe comes with a full height convex grind, which is my personal favorite. I’ve had a couple of Tundras re-ground into full height convex, because that grind works so well for me.

Belly: The belly is from the tip, and includes the curve that blends into the straight edge. Though not designed to be a skinner, the Santa Fe would work fine. Phil commented that the blade design works well for cleaning steelhead salmon and other large fish.

Point: The clip point with swedge is outstanding. It combines two of my favorite designs. For field dressing big game, I like the clip point for that initial cut to open up the abdomen, without nicking the entrails. The swedge makes the under-the-tail work of field dressing a whitetail easy.

The handle is well designed, but doesn't work for my large hands.

The handle is well designed, but doesn’t work for my large hands.

Handle: Like I mentioned, the handle design isn’t the best for me. It could probably be reworked with some sandpaper so the finger grooves were more comfortable. That also means the Santa Fe might be perfect for you if your hands are smaller!

You can get your choice of handle materials. For a user, I generally opt for micarta, since it is apparently bullet proof. But I also love the natural look of wood, and have a definite weakness for desert ironwood and curly maple. Get what you want.

Sheath: The knife comes with a sturdy leather dangler sheath that secures the knife well. Both Phil and I like this  setup – you can wear the knife on your belt, under a coat, very comfortably. You can also get in a car and fasten your seatbelt with it on. This becomes really nice when you’re getting in and out of a truck or drift boat all day.

So do you need a Santa Fe?

If you’re looking for a good hunting knife that can handle many hunting/survival tasks, the Santa Fe could be your best choice. The knife retails for $187.47. This is a good price for a solid piece of cutlery that will last for many years.

Any reservations I have about the knife are strictly personal, based on ticky, nit-picky opinions I developed from a life-long, obsessive-compulsive need to find that one perfect knife for everything.

But Phil needs a Santa Fe. I offered to swap him out another knife (and I have A LOT of high quality blades with different designs) for the Santa Fe if it didn’t do everything he wanted his knife to do.

Phil opted to hang on to his Santa Fe.  I think he made an excellent choice!

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Best hunting knife? We review the Cross Knives All Around Hunter

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Pete Winkler’s recent win on the History Channel’s “Forged in Fire” just proved what some of us already knew: Winkler, owner of Cross Knives, produces some excellent blades.

by Leon Pantenburg

Knivesshipfree is a Survivalcommonsense sponsor. I didn’t receive any free knives, and make no promises on any equipment reviews other than that I will be fair. Many of the knives I review are for sale at a reduced price.

I was a visionary (I claim) when it came to Cross Knives. Long before “Forged in Fire” show featured Pete Winkler, I thought his knives looked really good. I ordered a Little Gent because it was such a pretty knife, and specs showed it was made of top quality components.

The Cross Knives All Around Hunter is a well designed hunting knife.

The Cross Knives All Around Hunter is a well designed hunting knife.

When I opened the box, the workmanship proved to be impeccable. But the handle proved to be too short for my large hands, so I returned it.  (Knives Ship Free allows return of products within 30 days of purchase, no questions asked.)

I then ordered a Lil Whitetail Hunter and ran it through its paces. (Check out the review.)

After various whittling, carving, bushcrafting, etc, the finale came when I went deer hunting in October. I didn’t kill anything but time, but a youngster I was hunting with got his first buck.

The Cross Knives Lil Whitetail worked well for field dressing this mule deer buck.

The Cross Knives Lil Whitetail worked well for field dressing this mule deer buck.

I used the Whitetail on the mule deer very effectively, using it to gut the buck, split the ribcage and for some of the skinning. The knife performed flawlessly. Most people would have been happy to let it go at that.

But the Whitetail would be a better hunting knife, IMHO, if it had a little longer blade than the four-inch  version that comes with it.

Nit-picky, ticky and probably obsessive-compulsive. I know. But that’s how I am when it comes to hunting gear that might be needed for survival tasks. My favorite blade length for a hunting knife is about five inches, and anything less leads to a nagging concern that I might be happier with a different knife…

So when the All Around Hunter came out, I ordered one immediately.

The Lil Whitetail, top, and All Around Hunter show a strong family resemblance.

The Lil Whitetail, top, and All Around Hunter show a strong family resemblance.

It arrived, in stabilized mesquite. When I opened the box, it was love at first sight.

Here are the specs:

  • Model Name: All Around Hunter
  • Handle Material:
  • Overall Length: 9.26 (235mm)
  • Blade Length: 4.53 (115mm)
  • Blade Thickness: 0.15 (3.59mm)
  • Weight: 7.9oz.
  • Blade Steel: A2 Tool Steel
  • Made in USA

The good stuff:

Appearance: Don’t buy a knife because it’s pretty. Buy it because it will work well for you. The Hunter has the best of both worlds. The stabilized mesquite handle with the custom pins is drop-dead gorgeous. It’s the kind of knife you’ll be proud to carry. In fact, some people might decide it’s too pretty to use hard, and decide to keep it at home in the safe. Not me. And don’t you be one of those people.

The All Around handle works well for my large hands.

The All Around handle works well for my large hands.

Handle: At 4.73 inches, the handle fits my large hand very well. It is well designed, and the stabilized wood proves to be almost tacky when it gets covered with blood or other slippery fluids. I could use the similar-sized Whitetail handle with complete safety, even though I had to reach inside the buck’s abdominal cavity, through the blood, to cut the esophagus during field dressing.

Steel: A2 and CPM 3V are my favorite knife steels, and frankly, I can’t tell much difference in edge-holding ability. CPM 3V is less likely to stain, but that doesn’t bother me one way or the other. A2 appears to be a little easier to re-sharpen in the field, but again, neither steel will probably need it.

All things considered, I generally give the nod to A2, just because of the lower initial cost.

Point: A drop point with a thin tip is a superior point configuration for a hunting knife. It allows the initial piercing of the carcass to get the field dressing started, and the lower point keeps it from hitting the entrails when making the cut that opens up the abdominal cavity. For skinning around the shoulders and neck, this configuration is hard to beat.

Blade length: A four-to-five inch blade is about perfect for my hunting needs. Like anything, this is subject to individual preferences.  (Does blade size matter?)

This 4.53-inch blade will do just fine.

Spine: I like a 90-degree spine. That allows you to scrape a ferrocerium rod to make firemaking sparks or to shred tinder. Save the sharp edge for other tasks.

Sheath: The knife comes with a sturdy leather sheath that is also handmade. Like the knife, it is good-looking.

Based on my experience with the Lil Whitetail, I have nothing but high expectations for the All Around Hunter.

My big game season was a bust this fall. I didn’t draw an elk tag, and because of various tasks associated with selling my house, I only got to hunt for deer on opening day. My usual hunting party had to get along without me this year.

But Oregon has a spring bear hunt, and I have a tag. There is also the potential for turkey hunting. I’ll be using the All Around Hunter. and I’ll let you know how the knife ends up working out.
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Check out my new ultimate EDC knife: Bark River Gunny/Bravo

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Sometimes,  a couple small tweaks can change something from almost perfect to WOW!

by Leon Pantenburg

Knives Ship Free is a Survivalcommonsense.com sponsor. I didn’t get free knives, and don’t get a special deal on any company’s products.

My favorite everyday carry knife kinda depends on what I’m doing and where I’m going. My L.T. Wright Genesis gets worked hard when I’m doing bushcraft stuff. The Ambush Tundra is my favorite hunting knife. But for day-in, day-out EDC carry, I tend to reach for my Bark River Gunny. It just works well.

I don’t get a special deal on any company’s knives, and I won’t use a knife that can’t be depended on. And I have a lot of really good, high-quality knives from different manufacturers. All of them get regular use.

The Bravo/Gunny, bottom, takes some of its design from the Gunny

The Bravo/Gunny, bottom, takes some of its design from the Gunny Hunter.

But those of us who wear size large gloves and bigger can’t use just any knife. Many otherwise excellent knives just don’t work because the handle ends up being too short.

That was the case for my favorite curly maple handled Gunny. It is a great knife for me most of the year. But when it gets cold, and I have to wear gloves while using it, the handle proves to be just a tinge on the small size.

Naturally, that lead to another quest for cutlery perfection.

When I’m testing a knife, and  something isn’t just right, I’ll sometimes loan it out to an experienced outdoorsperson and get their feedback. Frequently, what works for me, doesn’t work for others. (For example, the BR Trakker handle just wasn’t comfortable, so I sent it out for a second opinion.)

The Bravo handle fits me well, and is big enough to use safely with gloves on.

The Bravo handle fits me very well, and is big enough to use safely with gloves on.

I got a Bravo LT about three years ago, used it, and loaned it to my brother Mike, with no  other instructions than “Use it and tell me what you think of it.” (Mike has been my hunting partner for some 38 years. He got a Lon Humphrey Sterling for his 50th birthday.)

Mike gutted and skinned a buck with the Bravo, and was very complimentary about the edge-holding ability and overall design. But he mentioned that the tip needed to be thinner to skin around the front shoulders and head of a deer.

And both of us prefer a clip point with a swedge for a gutting knife.

Based on Mike’s feedback, and my own use of the Gunny and the Bravo, I decided I needed a Gunny with a Bravo handle.

Well, that isn’t a factory option, but BR has a satisfaction guarantee that is next to none. I contacted the company and asked how much it would cost to have my Bravo re-ground to resemble a Gunny Hunter.

That’s part of the satisfaction guaranteed warranty, I was told, so give a detailed description of what you want done, and send it in. Total cost = $15.

So my instructions were explicit. Don’t touch the handle. Shape it like Gunny Hunter: Swedge, clip point and full height convex grind.

The end result is just a bigger Gunny, with a large enough handle for people with “ham hocks” hands.

To say I like is a tremendous understatement!

Most people won’t understand the difference between the Gunny/Bravo and the Gunny or the Bravo. They might wonder why I’d bother with a re-grind when both knives are stellar performers.

Well, it probably wouldn’t matter. But there are some things I don’t compromise on, and at the top of the list is outdoor equipment I depend on. When a knife of piece of outdoor gear is just right, it makes the intended task easier and safer.

I’ll let you know. But right now, it feels like the Gunny/Bravo is going to be “just right.”

Check out our other survival knife reviews.

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Five knife fads and fashions that need to go away

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Cutlery goes through fads and fashion cycles just like anything else. Here are a few that need to fade into the sunset.

by Leon Pantenburg

Everybody has opinions. These are mine from working with knives for many years. I’ve seen fads come and go, and here are five (mostly related to rigid blade knives) that seem to be going strong right now.

Thick blades: As best I can tell, thick blades – say over 1/8-inch – are a recent innovation. Check out historic fighting knives in museums, and you’ll find that for the most part they are pretty thin. There’s a reason for that – most of the knives used for fighting on the frontier, or in earlier times were utility knives of some sort.

These authentic trade knives are on display at the Museum of the Mountain Man.

These authentic trade knives are on display at the Museum of the Mountain Man.

Steel was expensive, and a settler, trapper or longhunter might only have one knife. It would be handmade to his specifications by the local blacksmith, and the knife owner would get something that worked for the most tasks.

Since the knife might be called upon to butcher game, cut vegetables, whittle sticks, fight with etc. the most cost effective and useful thickness would be chosen.

Check out the original mountain man and trade knives from the 1830s – thin was in. And the colonists in the mid-to-late 1700s – they were called “Long knives” because of the long blades they carried. The best representation of these tried-and-true designs is in your kitchen knife rack.

IMO, the idea of thick blades goes back to World War II when quality steel was at a premium. In 1942, the Ka-Bar was adopted by the Marines Corps, and many other service branches. This iconic blade was thick for extra strength because good steel was scarce and needed for other things.

With today’s super steels, there is no particular need for a thick blade. If you anticipate doing a lot of prying or twisting with the blade, get a crowbar.

The guthook ruins the looks and uses of this Case knife.

The guthook ruins the looks and uses of this Case knife.

Gut hooks: A really quick way to ruin a good knife design, IMHO, is to add a guthook. I’m not sure exactly where this idea came from, but a guthook is one of the most specialized grinds imaginable.

Originally, I guess, the idea was to use the hook to make a specialized cut down the belly of a downed big game animal without piercing the entrails.

This guthook uses replaceable blades and costs about $20.

This guthook uses replaceable blades and costs $20.

Other than that, there is no reason for that grind. One cut per big game animal is not enough reason to permanently screw up a blade.

And don’t overlook this – the hook is a dangerous accessory that might pierce a hand or clothing or get hung up on a sheath. And field dress a bear or late season elk – you’ll find that the hook gets easily jammed with hair.

Sharpening that guthook takes skill and a specialized file you might not have along in the backcountry. If you must have a gut hook knife, get a dedicated one for about $20.

This Columbia River Knife and Tool folder would be more effective with a fine edge.

This Columbia River Knife and Tool folder would be more effective with a fine edge.

Serrated edges: The best way to screw up the most useful carving part of a blade is to get one with about an inch of serrations right next to the hilt.

The serrated portion might be handy if you’re cutting a lot of zipties or  anticipate cutting seatbelts, like an EMT might need to do.  In those cases, you need a specialized first responder knife, with a blunt tip and full serrations on the blade.

The only serrated knife I currently own is the bread knife in the kitchen. It works well for cutting bread, and that’s all it’s ever used for.

Choils: I love historic cutlery, and I’m the type who hunkers down next to a display case to study the details. I have never seen a choil on a historic knife, and don’t see the need for one. Like serrations, the choil takes the most useful carving section of the blade out of commission.

Proponents claim a choil allows the user to “choke up” on the blade to do fine carving or other tasks best suited to a smaller blade.

The choil on this ESEE-3 blade is not necessary or useful.

The choil on this ESEE-3 blade is not necessary or useful.

So let’s think about this: I’m going to “choke up” on this sharp blade to do fine carving or something. I’m supposed to put my trigger finger next to a razor-sharp edge, negating the protective hilt and handle.

In decades of small game, deer and elk hunting, I’ve never choked up on a blade to gut or skin an animal. I’ve also never needed a choil for wood carving or cleaning fish. Or anything.

I got an ESEE-3 a couple years ago to see if I had maybe been missing out, and to try using a choil before condemning them outright. Didn’t work. I wish the ESEE-3 didn’t have the choil at all.

A better choice than a choil would be to get a knife suited for the task, with a well-designed handle.

Saw blade spines: These never work. For a saw to cut, the tips of the teeth have to be offset from each other, and protruding from the side of the blade surface. Otherwise, teeth will clog up with saw or bone dust and have to be cleaned about every couple strokes. This also means the teeth will cut into the sheath every time the blade is pulled out or put back in.

Any of these lightweight saws are a better choice than a saw blade spine.

Any of these lightweight saws are a better choice than a saw blade spine.

In addition, a three-to-four inch saw surface will have a stroke of about and inch or two. It will wear out the user and be really ineffective.

Both saw teeth and a gut hook make the spine of the knife dangerous, and keep you from using it to process tinder or scrape ferro rods.

Again, rather than screw up your knife, get a folding saw and take that along.

Black blades: So the idea behind a black “tacticool” blade is that no glimmer of light will reflect off a polished surface to give the user away. This presumes, I guess, that said knife will be used for fighting. (Incidentally, stats show the rarest form of modern combat is knife fighting. It usually means the combatant has run out of ammo.)

And a knife has to have a black blade to look badass at the militia meeting, right?

This Cold Steel SRK has served me well for more than 20 years.

This Cold Steel SRK has served me well for more than 25 years. It started out with a black blade.

The first thing I did to my Cold Steel SRK some 25 years ago was to take that black paint off the blade. While the coating may offer some protection from rust, proper maintenance offers complete protection. The coating inevitably wears off, it affects the slicing ability and looks awful.

IMHO, a more likely scenario is you will drop the knife and have trouble locating it. If you’re in mud or the dark, this worsens the situation.

So.

If you’re considering investing in a knife, think first about what you might be using it for. Consider the handle, and what it’s made of; the quality of the steel, the grind, blade length and the point configuration. Don’t forget to consider spine configurations. It should have a sturdy sheath.

Once you’ve considered these aspects, you are ready to choose a piece of cutlery. Then you can decide how fashionable your knife needs to be!
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10 reasons your venison tastes “gamey” (and what you can do about it)

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Don’t like venison? It tastes gamey? Solve these problems and enjoy the feast.

by Leon Pantenburg

My kids were raised on wild fish and game meat. So imagine my surprise when my daughter Mary came home after her first semester at college and announced she was now a vegetarian.

The reason for the diet change, Mary said, was the hormones, chemicals, antibiotics and pesticides used in commercial meat raising and processing. And the inhumane, crowded, unhealthy living conditions in chicken houses, feedlots or hog confinement pens. Plus, she didn’t want any GMO-fed flesh.

I was dressed entirely in wool on the cold November day I harvested this bull elk.

This elk was killed on a cold day, and was skinned and hanging two hours later. The meat is superb.

Then she announced she wanted chicken-fried elk strips and mashed potatoes for dinner.

It is her favorite meal because it tastes so good, she said, and she knew the elk had been harvested humanely.

How many people do you know who won’t eat venison because it tastes awful or “gamey”?

Here are ten reasons your venison tastes bad.

Poor shooting: Good shot placement means the animal drops dead in its tracks or runs a very short distance before expiring. A poorly-hit animal may run for great distances, suffer greatly and be under stress for a long period of time. This will affect the taste, smell and toughness of the meat.

You owe it to the animal and yourself to be a good shot with whatever tool you use for the harvest. My Remington 7mm-08 has killed 13 whitetail deer with 13 consecutive shots. It’s not that I have “American Sniper” shooting ability, but that I wait for a sure shot.

Wrong animal was harvested: When I go hunting, my instructions from my wife and daughter are to kill a meat animal. A trophy bull or buck is old and tough and  doesn’t taste as good as a younger male or  a cow or doe.

I don’t trophy hunt, and don’t need any more antlers in my garage. For control hunts, my first choice is always a female or spike.

The right knife can make all the difference when handling a downed big game animal.

The right knife can make all the difference when handling a downed big game animal.

Wrong tools: It’s amazing  how some people will invest thousands of dollars on licenses, guns and bows, cammo clothes and expensive hunts, and have a junky knife. A knife that won’t hold an edge is dangerous, and doesn’t work effectively. A poorly-designed knife handle is dangerous, especially when it gets covered in blood and other body fluids. A good hunting knife is an investment you’ll be glad you made.

Field dressing: Kill an animal in warm weather and it is a race to take care of the animal. Look on Youtube for field dressing techniques, or better yet, learn from an experienced hunter.

Meat cooling: The sooner the meat is cooled, the better it will taste. In warm weather, get a good, big cooler, and ice down the meat as soon as possible. I like one of those huge 65 to 100 gallon coolers – they will hold a lot of meat and ice.

Improper aging: If meat warms up, it starts to rot. Keep the carcass in a cool place. In hunting camp, hang the meat in the shade and cover it with newspapers and a sleeping bag to keep it cool during the heat of the day. Or if there is room, quarter and ice the meat down.

Dirty knives and power saws: One of my pet peeves is unsanitary meat handling. In my hunting group, everyone wears latex gloves, aprons and baseball caps when cutting meat. There is little time saved by using power tools. A Sawzall is quick for splitting a hanging carcass, but bone dust, dirt and hair may get in the meat.

Cut rate processor: If you must take a carcass to a processor, make sure the place is legitimate. It should have USDA certifications posted.  The guy working out of his garage may do a wonderful job, but he may also have cracked hands and a runny nose because of the cool weather.

These two knives were all I needed to completely process a whitetail buck

These two knives were all I needed to completely process a whitetail buck.

Do your own meat processing: I like cutting and processing meat. It’s simple and anyone can do it. All you need are several knives, a picnic table and some time. Everything else you need – cutting boards, bowls, etc – is in your kitchen.

My brother Mike and I can take a whitetail buck from a hanging carcass to neat white packages in the freezer in about two hours. Generally, though, a meat cutting party after a successful hunt is a work party, with music, beer and conversation.

Process your own meat, and you’re guaranteed getting your own animal back. You don’t want pieces from that rutting big buck that was wounded in hot weather, chased down and shot several times, and then was hauled home in a hot pickup bed.

Bad packaging: I double wrap each cut, first with cellophane to seal it from the air, and then in butcher paper. Tightly wrapped this way, there will be no freezer burn, and the meat will last until you’re ready to eat it. In one case, I deliberately kept a double-wrapped venison steak in the freezer for three years. It tasted fine. I wouldn’t recommend this as a regular practice, but it shows how properly-wrapped meat can last.

Two years ago, I killed two bucks in Mississippi and flew to meat home to Oregon. I deliberately used see-through Ziploc plastic bags so the TSA people could see what was in the cooler. Even so, they rummaged through the neatly-packed cooler. They could have unwrapped every one to check it out.

The good part comes after you’ve properly field dressed, skinned, quartered, cut up and wrapped the meat. Now comes the feast.

But no feast is complete without some good marinades and venison recipes. Follow the directions and enjoy!
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Review | The Bark River Gunny Hunter – Perfection in a practical knife?

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by Leon Pantenburg

I was not paid to do this review. KnivesShipFree.com is a SurvivalCommonSense.com sponsor, but the company did not supply either of the knives used in this review and field testing.

I learn a lot from readers and conversations about gear. I ran into a Texas big game guide a few years back. The guide said his working knife was a Bark River Gunny rampless.

The Gunny Hunter comes in a variety of steels and handle options.

The Gunny Hunter comes in a variety of steels and handle options. I like curly maple.

The guide said he’s been using his Gunny for several years, often to process multiple kills of different animals, one after the other.

“The design is great, and it holds an edge,” he said. “After seeing my knife, the other guides got Gunnys, too. When you’re using a tool several times a day, you don’t have time to screw around.”

I’d never heard of the company, model or variation. I wasn’t looking to replace my old reliable Cold Steel SRK, so I filed the info away.

Then, I came across Bark River Knives, remembered the conversation, and was unable to resist ordering a Gunny Hunter with a desert ironwood handle. Come to find out, the Gunny is one of Bark River’s most popular models, second only to the Bravo. Essentially, the Gunny is a smaller, more compact Bravo.

I’ve been using a Gunny for more than two years now, and it is the knife I use for just about everything. The Gunny has helped field dress and skin out a whitetail buck, clean small game and fish, been used for cooking at camp and whittling sticks and processing pitchwood and just about anything else you might need a knife for.

Here are the specs:

  • Overall Length: 8.375″
  • Blade Length: 3.775″
  • Steel: CPM 3V or A2
  • Blade Thickness: .156″
  • Weight: 5.63 oz.

I sent my original Gunny back to the factory to get it ground into a clip point with swedge, and to have the scandi edge modified into a full convex grind. I ended up giving it to my sister Karla Moore, knowing the Gunny would go to a good home. Karla is an expert homesteader-type, who cards, spins and knits wool:  makes soap and teaches soap making at Iowa State University, butchers, cans and gardens. My pet Gunny is appreciated and used a lot.

Karla said the Gunny has become one of her go-to knives, for everything from boning and dis-jointing chickens to processing vegetables from the garden. During canning season, a knife will be used for several hours at a stretch, so for any knife to get this kind of endorsement from Karla is pretty impressive!

After I gave away my pet Gunny, I ordered another, with a curly maple handle and swedge point. It gets a lot of day-to-day use.

Here’s what I like about the Bark River Gunny Hunter:

The Gunny handle fits my large hands very well.

The Gunny handle fits my large hands very well.

Handle: I have big  hands – my right palm measures four-inches. Many otherwise excellent knives don’t work for me. I think short handles can be dangerous, and cause a lack of control. The Gunny fits my hand just right, and I like how it handles when doing messy fish cleaning or field dressing small game.

Spine: The Gunny has a 90-degree angle on the spine, which makes it an additional edge for shredding tinder or scraping a ferrocerium rod to create sparks for firemaking. In a pinch, this could be very useful.

Grind: The Gunny comes with your choice of a Scandi or convex grind. The Scandi is a good choice for a bushcraft knife, and it makes a superior choice for a wood carving knife. But I’ve been spoiled by the Bark River convex grinds. I find a convex to be the best all-around choice, and when I’m not field testing a new knife, I’ll carry a convex blade.

Steel: The Gunny comes in A2 or CPM 3V, and either is a fine choice. I use both, and truth be known, can’t really tell the difference as far as edge-holding ability and ease of sharpening.

Probably neither steel will require sharpening in the field. A couple seasons ago, I used my Kalahari in A2 to completely gut, skin and  quarter a whitetail buck. At the end of the process, the knife was still shaving sharp.

This Bark River Sahara worked well in all aspects of field dressing whitetail deer.

This Bark River Sahara worked well in all aspects of field dressing and processing a whitetail deer.

The next day, I used my A2 Sahara to process another buck. Same story. I later used that Sahara to carve the Thanksgiving turkey. The desert ironwood handle looked classy in the formal dinner setting.

My Ambush Tundra in CPM 3V was used hard on a bull elk last November. Same story.

After a lot of use, A2 will eventually build up a patina. CPM 3V is a stainless, so it should be fine.

I don’t care. I like seeing the evidence of use in a tool – it gives credibility to the knife and the user. You will be happy with either steel, though CPM 3V costs more.

Point: The standard Gunny comes with a well-designed drop point. I like a drop point, but for what I’m using this knife for, I like a clip point with a swedge. It’s strictly personal preference. Either works fine.

Size: The 3.77-inch blade is a great choice for a deer hunting blade, and it is not too big for use on small game. The blade is also small enough for whittling and wood carving.

Sheath: The Gunny comes with a Sharpshooter leather sheath. This is one of my favorite designs. The Sharpshooter holds the knife safely and securely. I added a D-ring to make the sheath a dangler and IMO, safer.

I have a hard time finding anything wrong with the Gunny and that’s why I ended up getting two. After using a Gunny extensively, for a multitude of knife tasks, I find it to be just about perfect. As far as I’m concerned, this knife is a keeper, and should be on your short list for a survival/prepper/hunting knife.

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