Eight Great Straights

Get "Fixed" For Field-Dressing Chores

The cutlery industry has been shifting toward an increase in hunting and sporting knives the past two years due in large part to the more firearms-friendly Trump administration. Tactical fare still rules the roost but hunting knives are coming on strong. Years ago, fixed-blades were called “straight knives” and many old timers still use the term. We present here a wide variety of straight knives from large to small, each geared toward game processing — and there are a nice range of budgets to boot.

Benchmade Pardue Hunters

Mid-Size Menu

The most popular fixed-blades among the hunting and sporting crowd are mid-size knives with a blade in the 4 to 4.5" range. A blade this size can be used to dress game and perform a wide variety of light to medium duty tasks around the camp — and they won’t bog you down. The most popular blade style is the slope-backed drop point, praised for its ability to glide under flesh without piercing organs. Others styles, however, such as the trailing and clip point varieties have fans as well.

Benchmade Pardue Hunter — If you sketched the ideal mid-sized hunter, it would look a whole lot like this one. This 7.96" drop point — designed by knifemaker Mel Pardue — has all the right stuff from its top-shelf 3.48" CPM-S30V stainless steel blade to its two-tone Olive Drab/Black Micarta handle. A hunter himself, Pardue knows how to process game and incorporated all the features he likes into this knife. The Pardue Hunter will also perform light to medium camp chores (sometimes that’s all you need). There’s a lanyard hole in the base and knife comes with a handsome buff-brown belt sheath. MSRP is $225.

Buck Open Season Skinner

Buck Open Season Skinner — Take a gander at the here and now. It’s called the Buck Open Season Skinner and it signals what’s happening in modern hunting knives. At 8.25" overall, the Open Season, with its 4.5" satin finished drop point blade, fits nicely into our mid-size group but its racy good looks make it a standout. The 4.5" blade is top-shelf S35VN stainless with a deep-bellied, recurved edge. The pistol-grip handle features green Canvas Micarta handle scales with a lanyard hole at the base. A black leather belt sheath is included. Buck offers a gut-hook version and other configurations are available in the “Open Season” line, including a folder. MSRP is $175.

Spyderco Bow River

Spyderco Bow River — For those who prefer a trailing point blade Spyderco delivers the Bow River up in spades. At 8.14" overall it’s striking in its clean looks and efficient design. A just-the-facts kind of knife, this fixer is a collaboration with custom knifemaker Phil Wilson. Sporting a satin finish, the 4.40" full ground 8Cr13MoV blade curves up ever so slightly toward the tip in true “trailing point” form. The 3.74" handle, a straight bag handle style, features attractive black/gray layered G10 scales with a tube lanyard hole in the base. The Bow River’s length leans to the slightly longer side in our mid-range groove, so in addition to processing game it’s able to tackle a wide variety of medium-duty field chores. A leather belt sheath is included. MSRP is an affordable $50.


ESEE-4HM — The ESEE-4HM is a reconfiguration of the company’s longstanding ESEE-4 model which, although very field worthy, had more of a tactical grip. The 4-HM model is streamlined in the handle and more geared for field chores — more typical of a Bushcraft knife. Overall length is 8.88". The company’s standard 1095 high carbon does the hard work. The flat V-grind on the 4HM’s 4.375" black powder-coated drop point blade makes it a nice package. A leather sheath with belt loop comes standard. At the same time ESEE was giving this knife its makeover they also made the same modifications on their ESEE-3, so if you want a shorter version of the 4HM, they’ve got you covered. MSRP is $178.36.

TOPS Backpacker Bowie

TOPS Knives Backpacker Bowie — One of the more unique fixers in our group is the TOPS Backpacker Bowie. A scaled down version of a modern Bowie knife, the Backpacker Bowie is 8.25" in overall length with 4.5" dedicated to its flared, clip-point blade. The blade is TOPS’ standard 1095 high carbon steel with a handsome tumbled finish and features a finger guard at the choil to keep the index finger safe. On the forward spine is a pot-lifter notch that can also be used to break wire. The handle features three finger grooves with green Canvas Micarta scales and there’s a lanyard hole at the base. In a nutshell, this is a knife that can wear a lot of hats. TOPS delivers the Backpacker Bowie with a Kydex sheath, replete with a rotating spring steel belt clip. MSRP is $150.

Gerber Spine

Gerber Spine — “Simple and effective” best describes the Gerber Spine. This affordable cutting and slicing companion is 8.4" overall with a 3.4" drop point blade, a great size for skinning small to medium game. The blade is 7Cr17Mov stainless steel with a deep hollow grind for added slice-ability. The “grippy” handle can be had in Flat Sage (shown) or Cyan Blue. The bag style handle is comfortable in the hand and the rubberized scales are impervious to blood and viscera, making cleanup a snap. There’s a welcome, oversized lanyard hole in the base. For carry the Gerber Spine comes with a unique glass-filled nylon sheath (color keyed to the handle) with a lengthy spring steel belt clip. MSRP is a very reasonable $40.

Small and Agile

Although not the mainstream, a respectable number of hunters prefer to carry a small knife solely for skinning and dressing game. Typically they carry a small knife dedicated to skinning and fine caping along with a larger knife for butchering and heavy field chores. Others, such as those on a guided outing, may simply want to skin their game and leave the rest to the staff. Whatever the reason, there’s a knife for that!

Battle Horse

Battle Horse Knives Frontier First — Small but packing a mean punch, the Battle Horse Frontier First is an extremely well built fixed-blade, 5.6" in overall length. We’re showing it here in a Scandi grind but Battle Horse also offers it up in a Saber (best for skinning) and full V-grind, giving hunters a choice. Designed specifically for skinning and dressing, the Frontier First has a 2.4" full tang drop point blade in 0.125" (1/8") thick O1 tool steel — stout for a knife its size. The Micarta handle is a bag style offered in a variety of color choices. The blade spine is squared, ideal for throwing sparks off a ferro fire rod, which O1 steel does particularly well. Order yours with the fire steel loop option on the standard brown leather sheath (see photo) and you have a superb fire-starting kit to go along with your Frontier First. These knives rival custom quality blades. MSRP is $75.

White River Model 1 Caper

White River Model 1 Caper — White River Knives has been around for years and, because the company is small, many hunters aren’t aware of them. The White River Model 1 Caper, with its bulged handle with deep finger choil, is a gem of a small knife designed for both game processing and fine caping work. The Model 1 Caper is 7" in overall length, 3" of the total in a premium CPM S35VN stainless drop point blade. The finger choil below the blade makes for excellent grip while skinning and the G10 handle is easy to clean after the chores are done. The White River Model 1 Caper checks in at a modest 3.2 oz. and a black Kydex belt sheath for this lightweight gem is included. MSRP is $150.









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