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Preparing the game after your hunt takes a lot of time and work. Though skinning is usually the most annoying part, luckily, there are many options for a skinning knife. Generally speaking, you can use any knife to skin your game – as long as it is sharp. But doing it with a specialized tool makes everything so much easier.
Choosing the best skinning knife could be a bit difficult. Any knife with a sharp blade could be described as a skinning knife. However, these things come with a few particularities. Make sure you do not get the wrong item, always go for a reputable manufacturer and a knife with lots of positive reviews and recommendations. Furthermore, the knife should match your personal hunting preferences. So, what kind of options do you have?
2021’s 5 Best Skinning Knives
Benchmade Saddle Mountain Skinner – Best Fixed Blade Skinning Knife
Cutting and skinning – Benchmade’s best skinning knife is suitable for a plethora of applications. It can also be used as a hunting knife. It will cut through meat with no issues whatsoever. When it comes to gutting, it has a wide “belly” and provides lots of control when going through your game.
Blade – The 4.17-inch long blade is made of CPM S30V steel, which is one of the best types of steel for hunting knives. It is razor sharp out of the box – careful when you unpack it. At the same time, it will retain its sharpness for ages and sharpening it is a piece of cake. It is stainless and you can tell it was built to be abused.
Handle – The handle is not to be overlooked either. You have two different options for the handle – gray pattern or brown. Not only does it look stylish, but it is made of a composite of wood and finished with synthetic resin. It is incredibly strong and has a contoured shape for an exquisite grip.
Full package – Benchmade thought about everything upfront. You will not have to browse the market for a sheath for protection, carrying, and storage. A leather sheath is included in the package and fits fine.
Care and maintenance – The blade is made of stainless steel, so it will not require too much cleaning. When you clean it, make sure you do it manually. You can also use a bit of soap – not so common if you are in the wilderness. All in all, never clean it in a dishwasher or it might get dull.
- A durable and sharp blade
- Excellent grip on the handle
- Comes with a leather sheath
- Made to last
- It feels like the sheath could be a bit tighter
Havalon XTC-60AZ Piranta Z – Best Folding Skinning Knife
Versatility – Havalon’s best skinning knife has been specifically built to skin. While other knives can be used as general outdoor knives or hunting knives, this one is specialized in skinning. However, it makes a good outdoor option as well. It folds and features interchangeable blades. What else could you ask for?
Blade – The blade measures 2.75 inches. It is incredibly sharp – one of the sharpest things you can find out there. It is made of stainless steel. It cuts through meat like hot knives through butter. It is not just sharp, but it also retains its edge sharpness in the long run. It is not so suitable for hard things though.
Handle and folding mechanism – The Zytel handle is super strong and perfectly balances the knife. Moreover, it is textured, so you have a good grip – less likely to slip out of your hand. You have a liner lock design and a nylon holster. Furthermore, there are ambidextrous thumb studs, so it makes no difference if you are left or right-handed.
Sizing features – Each blade measures 2.75 inches. When fully open, the knife measures 7.25 inches, so it is relatively large. The best part about it? Compared to other knives, it is two or three times lighter. It weighs less than three ounces. Blades are lightweight too, so you can carry them around.
Package and maintenance – The package comes with 12 additional steel blades. It is worth noting that the knife fits all Piranta blades out there. The holster clip is removable while changing blades is a matter of seconds. You no longer need to carry extra knives or sharpeners with you. Just throw another blade in. In terms of maintenance, clean it manually.
- Easy to use and change blades
- No need for sharpening
- Great edge retention
- Superior handle and ambidextrous thumb studs
- Costs of extra blades will increase its price over time
Reputation – Ka-Bar is one of the most reputable knife manufacturers on the market. Such knives can be taken and used in the most aggressive and severe conditions with no problems whatsoever. The 2-1234-5 skinner makes no exception either. It is made from quality materials, it will take lots of abuse and it benefits from an impressive reputation.
Blade – The blade will never let you down. It measures 3.25 inches in length and it is quite wide for its size. It is sharpened at 20 degrees and made of DIN 1.4116 stainless steel. It is hollow ground and a 55 to 57 HRC value. It is extremely sharp out of the box, but it is also one of the best options on the market in terms of edge retention.
Gut hook – The gut hook is a plus. Featured on the superior side of the edge, the gut hook is excellent to open the belly of your game, whether it comes to small or large game. It makes the whole purpose easier. Just like the edge, it maintains its sharpness over time and does not require too much sharpening.
Handle – The handle is traditional for Ka-Bar. Just like for other knives, Ka-Bar has implemented a leather handle on its best skinning knife. Leather provides a unique feel. It ensures a perfect grip and it lasts for ages with a bit of maintenance. At the same time, it looks good and will draw some positive attention.
Extras and maintenance – It is worth noting that the knife comes with a butt cap and a guard. They are both made of brass. Also, you have a specifically made sheath made of leather. It fits like a glove. As for maintenance, water will do. The leather may not specific treatments for rejuvenation now and then. Never clean the knife in a dishwasher though.
- Excellent grip for the handle
- Comes with a gut hook, a butt cap, and a guard
- Made to be abused without losing its sharpness
- Beautiful finishing for both the knife and the sheath
- Leather handle may require leather rejuvenation treatments every now and then
Mossberg All In One Skinning Knife – Cheap Skinning Knife
Specialized uses – This could be a hunter’s favorite knife. It benefits from an impressive amount of reviews and great ratings. It is specifically built to skin game. It is great against deer, but it is just as handy for other types of games. From many points of view, it is Mossberg’s best skinning knife.
Sizing standards and build – The blade measures 3.5 inches. Overall, the knife is 6.75 inches, so the handle is smaller than the blade. It is nicely arched for a comfortable grip. Moreover, the blade has a built-in finger guard, so the knife is extremely easy to hold. It feels like an extension to your hand. Other than that, it is quite lightweight – around three ounces.
Solid blade – The blade has a super-wide “belly”, which is highly recommended for easy skinning. It is made of stainless steel. It can be used for a few hunting trips without requiring any sharpening. Edge retention is great and the unit is sharp out of the box. It is also finished with anti-glare coating.
Extras – In terms of extras, there are two aspects worth being mentioned. First, you get a solid and super sharp gut hook. It is great when skinning large game. There is also a large hole on the blade for a better grip. Moreover, the knife comes with a sheath specifically designed for it. It fits perfectly.
Handle and maintenance – The handle is quite small, but the guard and the hole in the blade make the grip a breeze. It is extremely convenient. It would never slip out of your hands, yet Mossberg has also textured it to make sure. When it comes to maintenance, avoid dishwashers and you should be fine.
- Comes with a sharp gut hook
- Super comfortable grip – an extension of your hand
- Textured handle
- Wide “belly” for easy skinning
- Handle might need tightening after too many uses
Buck Knives 113
Built to deliver – You could never go wrong with Buck Knives. The brand is known for simplicity and basic designs that get the job done – simple as that, no bells, no whistles. This is its best skinning knife and it makes no exception either. It features a simple design and is efficient in skinning games.
Durable blade – The 420HC drop point blade is built for skinning. It measures 3.12 inches in length and will resist rust and corrosion. It is strong and durable. Edge retention is out of discussion too. When it comes to sharpening, the knife can be conveniently done with any professional sharpener you can get.
Sizing standards – The blade is averagely sized for skinning and hunting – not too big, but not too small either. Overall, it measures 7.25 inches, so the handle is large enough for all kinds of hands. Altogether, the knife measures 5.2 ounces. It is a bit heavier than other units in this range.
Ergonomic handle – The handle is basic, but it feels comfortable and ensures a good grip. It is made of ebony. It has a brass bolster and while it is not textured, it fits safe and less likely to slip out of your hands. It is 4.13 inches in length and also comes with a belt loop for various carrying possibilities.
Package and maintenance – The package also includes a sheath. The sheath is made of leather. It is specifically built for this knife, so it fits like a glove. There will be no moving inside the sheath. When it comes to caring for this knife, you should clean it manually and never put it in a dishwasher.
- Simple, yet efficient design with no bells and whistles
- Excellent edge retention
- Comfortable to hold
- Comes with a leather sheath
- The tip feels a bit fragile when abused
Frequently Asked Questions on Skinning Knives
Choosing the best skinning knife is not difficult if you know what to look for and you are aware of your personal needs. An inexperienced hunter might still have some questions though.
Is a gut hook useful in a skinning knife?
Gut hooks are specific features (or actual knives) used in skinning. They are also used to slice through the belly of the game without destroying the internal organs. This gut hook slices through the skin without affecting the rest. However, it is not mandatory in skinning and you could get the job done with a classic skinning knife as well. It will make the operation easier though.
Should I get a curved or a straight blade?
Generally speaking, the best skinning knife should have a curved blade. It is not a general rule, but the best-rated knives come with this type of build. You will also find skinning knives with straight blades. At the end of the day, it is up to your personal preferences. Curved blades will make the job easier though. It is more important for the edge to stay razor-sharp for a long time.
Does the skinning knife brand matter?
In this industry, it does. You will find skinning knives from unknown manufacturers costing 10 or more times less than a skinning knife from a reputable brand. Indeed, you do pay for the brand too, but the brand name underlines quality and reputation. If a brand has an immaculate reputation for most of its knives, chances are the skinning knife you get will follow the same standards. On the same note, an unknown manufacturer will compromise on the quality to keep the price low.
What makes a good skinning knife?
A good skinning knife must have a super sharp blade. A bit of width will also help in the process. You are likely to get it soiled, so the handle will get wet too. Therefore, make sure the handle has a great grip. Overall, the knife must be lightweight, easy to maneuver, and agile. Getting the wrong unit could lead to lots of headaches when skinning game.
Are skinning knives used as hunting knives too?
Some skinning knives can be used as hunting knives too and vice versa. It is not a general rule. After all, skinning knives are specialized in this operation, but given their sharpness, they can be used in hunting too. On the other hand, hunting knives are not always suitable for skinning. For instance, you would struggle skinning with a bowie knife.
Does size matter in skinning knives?
Absolutely. This is why you need to research your options before deciding on the best skinning knife. You need to know what kind of game you normally go for, as well as the game in the surroundings. For example, it will be difficult to use a skinning knife for rabbits to skin a deer. On the same note, skinning knives for deer might be too big for rabbits.
Figuring out the best skinning knife depends on more factors. Any of the above-mentioned options are great for a wide variety of uses, but at the end of the day, you need to consider your personal needs as well. What works for some people may not work for everyone else. Think about your unique needs, as well as the game you go for before making a final decision. Also, stick to a reputable brand for higher quality standards.
Hi, I am Jay. I am the creator of Knife Guides, your one-stop site for everything related to knives. I am a computer engineer by profession, knife aficionado by passion. Here I work with a group of people who’ve always had a passion for knives and blades. Over the years we’ve kind of become experts and decided to share our knowledge and ideas. I am also an avid hiker and enjoy offshore gamefishing.