Blade Basics: What Is a Fixed-Blade Knife, and Why Get One?
Knives were a key part of our survival and success throughout human history. How we use knives today comes down to our more modern, albeit no less important, needs and tasks – hunting, self-defense, and practical everyday purposes. Each of these uses is best served by task-specific blades.
In order to best know what knife you need, you first have to understand some of the basics about blades in general. Today’s topic will dive into fixed-blade knives and the ideal reasons to have one. I’ve even included some of our favorite fixed blades from the Guns.com Vault. Let’s get cuttin’, pun intended.
What is a Fixed Blade?
As a broad generalization, there are two major categories of knives – fixed blades and folders. The blade, of course, is the business end of the knife. It can either be stationary (fixed blades), or it can fold into its handle (folders). Fixed blades are the old standby. They're the quintessential definition of a knife. Think of a fixed blade as a piece of sharp steel with a handle attached.
Full or Partial Tang?
With many fixed blades, that solid piece of metal runs the entire length of the knife. Where the actual blade meets the scales, or handle, the metal can either narrow or continue as a full-sized tang – the portion of the metal that forms part of the handle. Partial tangs are also not uncommon. In that case, the metal tang extends only partway through the handle. Such construction saves both cost and weight, but also comes at the non-monetary expense of potentially sacrificing strength and balance.
The Beauty of Fixed Blades
At its root, a knife with a fixed blade seems to be of a simpler construction method. However, bladesmiths and custom knife builders through the ages have perfected the art of creating not only useful tools and weapons but aesthetically beautiful and detailed ones as well. Fixed blades can be had from $20 to thousands of dollars. Delving into the world of bladesmithing and knife collecting is a joyous rabbit hole that’s filled with practicality and craftsmanship.
All these descriptions of fixed-blade knives are quite general, as this is intended to be a more common-sense definition of these knives for those building a basic understanding. We all start somewhere, and learning about knives is the basis for becoming a more well-rounded and prepared citizen.
When Are Fixed Blades Used?
There is literally no end to the uses for a good fixed-blade knife. There are many types and styles of these pieces, with hunting and survival being perhaps two of the most common. But there are also diving knives, throwing knives, boot knives, fillet knives, bushcraft blades, and rescue fixed blades. The vast majority are worn on the belt inside a leather or Kydex sheath. Some are neck knives, and still more are meant to be packed away until needed. Heck, even those knives you find in your kitchen butcher block or drawer are certainly of the fixed-blade variety.
The most common discussion about fixed-blade knives here at Guns.com centers around the outdoor lifestyle. The majority of hunters own and use them as a tool to gut, cut, and butcher freshly harvested game. Quality fixed blades are simple, reliable tools that last a lifetime when properly maintained.
Though fixed blades do not conceal nearly as easily as one that folds in half, some folks choose to carry them for personal protection and everyday use. For those who camp, hike, and venture into the backcountry, it’s difficult to beat a fixed-blade knife for all kinds of tasks. Many fixed blades actually cut their teeth in military service as combat and general field tools that were called upon for all sorts of survival uses.
Fixed blades have long been seen as the most durable and capable. The world of fixed blades is immense and filled with variety, so here are some of our favorites here at Guns.com to save some time on your own hunt for a blade:
CRKT Hunt 'N Fisch
With an overall length of 7.25 inches, this baby blade is larger and heavier than a traditional bird-and-trout style, yet smaller than the usual fixed blades used by those who hunt big game. Features like ornate rivet pins, spine jimping, and a heartfelt backstory involving late designer Larry Fischer add to the knife’s appeal. In addition, the leather sheath is unique. Instead of sitting vertically, it runs horizontally through the belt loops, keeping the compact blade out of the way but still at the ready.
The bowie design is one of America’s most recognizable, having earned its keep as a fighting knife and excelled further for field survival. The Ka-Bar Bowie uses a classic stacked leather handle, brass guard, aluminum buttcap, and comes with the company’s traditional leather sheath. Its blade is 6.9 inches of stainless steel with a hollow grind and ready for business.
Browning Buckmark Hunter
From the brand known for firearms, Browning’s Buckmark Hunter is a compact fixed blade that serves as an example of a general hunting knife. It features a 3 1/8-inch stainless blade with a drop-point style, full tang, two-tone hardwood handle, and leather belt sheath. It is proof that a knife can be at once lovely, useful, and affordable.
It’s more of a stretch to consider the Kershaw a fixed-blade knife because it bridges the gap between a knife and machete. Though slightly smaller and wieldier than a traditional chopping machete, Kershaw’s Camp is indeed a fixed-blade tool with a 10-inch blade and glass-filled nylon handle. The Camp lives up to its name, making short work of clearing a campsite, building a hunting blind, or shaping hiking trails in the backwoods.
HME Game Processing Kit
This nine-piece set is intended to be a complete butchery kit for the casual hunter. It stocks four fixed-blade knives, including a butcher, boning, gut hook, and skinner knife with the addition of a bone saw. Packed in a hard carry case, this set keeps all the essentials in one place and even contains a sharpener and rib spreader.
Ka-Bar USMC Fighting Knife
There’s a real case to be made that the original USMC Ka-Bar is the most popular fixed blade knife of all time. Designed for American troops in WWII, Ka-Bar continues production today. The modern USMC knife uses a 7-inch flat-grind blade with a clip point and traditional leather handle. The knife is still made in America and includes a USMC-stamped leather sheath as a reminder of its roots.