The Bowie Knife is a staple of every western outlaw fantasy for a good reason. Modern bowies are similar to those of legend. Unfortunately, history is convoluted. The clipped point and cross guard make the style one with which most people are familiar. You’re probably thinking of adding one to your EDC or other survival gear. I highly recommend it. However, I also suggest learning how to use it well because a bowie is a sizeable and iconic knife. You shouldn’t blatantly advertise skills you don’t have.
Are bowie knives good for survival? Bowie knives are great for survival. The original bowie got its name from famed knife fighter James Bowie. Fortunately, that clipped point is more than just visually appealing. Moreover, there’s no doubt that these hefty blades can cut into and out of sticky situations.
What Makes a Bowie Knife
Although bowie knives are great for survival, so are many other knives. What makes this type of knife so helpful is tied to its history. Bowie knives are meant to be fighting knives, and their unique history adds to the function.
Being iconic is a two-sided coin. First, many people know instantly what they’re seeing. Second, anyone who knows the story behind bowies may assume you already know everything about them. Regardless of whether you face an enthusiast or enemy, this knife makes a statement.
I recommend picking up a high-quality bowie like the Bobcat Knives Custom Damascus Bowie. The full tang steel is sturdy and elegant. A custom knife is always better than mass-produced McJunk when survival is on the line. Moreover, the solid, one-piece walnut handle is more rugged than multi-piece handles. To check the reviews on Amazon, click right here.
Like all knife styles, the bowie has it’s defining characteristics. For one thing, they’re large knives. There’s no such thing as a three or six-inch bowie. Typically they are ten to twelve inches long, or more. Hence, you can’t hide your fighting knife easily.
Next, Bowies are knives with sheaths. You’re meant to carry a knife like this openly on your hip. The era they were invented was less refined than modern society. It was common for people to carry weapons openly. Moreover, you we’re a more prominent target if you went unarmed.
Next, a clipped tip is part of the package. A broader tip on a blade is useful for some things. However, the narrow blade tip is helpful in a fight. Wickedly sharp and slender, it’s meant to do harm with ease. When followed by the rest of the long thick blade, there’s no question about how bowies are used.
The long, heavy blade on this style isn’t for show. A sharp edge and serious weight make the bowie knife right for slicing. Resultantly, a single swipe will cut flesh and hyde. Yet, you still need practice and technique to do the job well.
Crossguards help protect the user’s fingers. Additionally, they’re useful for trapping another fighters blade. All bowies have this feature. A knife without it isn’t a true bowie. Although many knives look similar, a bowie has all these characteristics.
Myth & History
Sadly, the incredible story behind these knives may not be entirely accurate. Still, it’s worth knowing because a well-informed enemy will likely know their Bowies. This blade gets its name from the well-known knife fighter James Bowie who died at the Battle of the Alamo in Texas.
While the truth is that the style might have preceded him, it is James and his big knife that turned the bowie into what it is today. Regrettably, the documentation wasn’t fantastic, and his relatives disagreed after his death on precisely what happened.
What’s sure is that, true or not, James was famous for being a Sandbar fighter. He had a reputation as a successful knife fighter. Moreover, James wore a large knife in this style prominently on his hip. Additionally, he won at least one knife fight, but that might have been the extent of it.
Use What You Have
Even though we may never know the truth about James Bowie, you can learn two valuable lessons from him. First, carry a big knife that you know how to use. Hopefully, you’ll never be in a knife fight. However, once society crumbles, nothing is preventing it from happening.
Secondly, sometimes the truth doesn’t matter. In modern civil society, honor, and honesty often make a huge difference. Yet, in a world-ending scenario, or the old west, where your reputation can save your life, things are different.
If allowing people to spread the rumor that you have more skill or at least more success under your belt will help, then let them talk. Anything that makes a potential attacker hesitate is a benefit to you. Moreover, a solid reputation can prevent an attack.
It’s also noteworthy that, too good a reputation can bring out the up-and-comers. It’s best to have the actual skill behind the look. Hence, it’s a calculated risk to take more credit than you deserve.
Knife Fighting for Survival
Using a bowie for survival is all about cutting flesh and leather. Carrying a knife to cut rope is fine. However, you don’t need a bowie for that. These knives are meant for fighters. Furthermore, they’re incredibly useful for skinning animals, because they’re designed to cut through flesh.
How do you choose the right knife fighting technique? Well, the answer isn’t as cut and dried as you might hope. Although there are many styles, and proponents all claim theirs is ‘the best,’ in reality, what works best for you isn’t always what works for another person.
Here are my top three styles to consider when learning to fight with your bowie:
- Pencak Silat- This form is an amalgamation of various styles from the Malay Archipelago of Southeast Asia. This style comes from a need to defend against animals and humans alike.
- Kali Eskrima (Arnis)- A fighting style that teaches you to use your knife while also teaching you to use an empty hand is perfect for survival. This Filipino martial art transitions smoothly from armed to unarmed combat, so you’ll never be without a weapon.
- Tantojutsu- A Japanese martial art style used by samurai is entirely relevant for modern knife fighting applications. Choose this to learn outstanding footwork, and knife strikes that focus on the sharp point of your bowie.
Fight if You Must
Your best choice in any battle is to get away. It’s never worth your life to show off your skills. For this reason, I suggest avoiding a knife fight. However, there may come a time when you cannot walk or run from confrontation.
For this reason, what matters most is practice, not the specific style you choose. Drill with your bowie daily. Take a class or three on knife fighting styles. Choose moves for blocking and slashing that feel right in your hand from every angle.
The key to being a proficient, successful fighter is practice. If you don’t drill with your knife, then you won’t have the muscle memory you need when the time comes. Working on footwork, body position, slashes, stabs, and blocking are all essential to surviving a knife fight.
Choosing the right bowie makes all the difference. The Timber Rattler Western Outlaw is a classic, no-nonsense example of everything a bowie should be. The nearly foot-long blade will help you reach any attacker. It’s easy to see James Bowie carrying a knife exactly like this on his hip. You can find a Timber Rattler for your EDC by clicking here.
Does Size Matter
Does the size of your survival bowie knife matter? In humans, size can be a disadvantage. Too small, and you have to work harder to accomplish some tasks. Meanwhile, large people have much higher fuel needs; they don’t fit in small spaces and have difficulty with super-close fighting.
Alternately, there are advantages to being smaller or larger than average. A bowie is more significant than most knives. Yet they range in size by a few inches. To decide what works best for you, it depends on how you’ll use it, and what you can handle best.
If you’re average or less in size, then start with a bowie that’s closer to ten inches. A smaller, less weighty knife will usually be more comfortable for you to handle. Taller people or those with more training and practice may want a twelve-inch or longer option with more weight. Realistically, proper handling is everything. Hence, size matters because you need a good fit.
When you’re seeking a large bowie, I strongly suggest that you consider the Rambo Bowie Machete from Snake Eye Tactical. This sixteen point five-inch blade is one of the larger bowies you’ll find. Whether you have long arms or want a knife that’s made to do big jobs, the Rambo can cut to the chase for you. To check prices and availability on Amazon, click here.
Where Will You Use Your Bowie
It’s best to pick a knife that you can use everywhere, and a bowie is ideal for multiuse. The sharpness and weight of this style blade is excellent for a fight, but that’s not all. You can skin animals, and cut through tough hyde. Additionally, you can get through brush or thick rope with a heavy bowie blade.
A well-made bowie can cut through a slender tree, or help you dig into the ground. Although you may not think of your knife as an alternate for shovels and saws, you should. You need to prepare for any situation, including when you don’t have specialty tools for a job. Improvisation is one of the best survival skills you can have. Undoubtedly, carrying the right knife will help.
Any knife that’s too specialized isn’t as useful for survival. However, the bowie is meant for everyday use. Or at least it was in the 19th century when people expected to carry weapons openly. Don’t ever buy a knife because of looks or specialty for survival. Instead, choose a multiuse tool or a general-purpose blade.
You can use a bowie knife for survival, but only as long as you take care of it. A chipped, rusty blade won’t work the way you expect. Plus, a too weathered blade that’s poorly cared for will break. There’s more to knife care than cleaning a dirty blade off. Here’s what you need to know to keep your bowie in good condition for a lifetime.
- Clean- You may think that wiping grime and blood off is all you need, but that’s not true. A dirty blade needs hand washing. Use a mild detergent and rinse thoroughly.
- Dry- One of the most important things to do for your knife is to keep it dry. I like to pack knives and essential papers in with spare silica gel packets. (That’s the “Do Not Eat” stuff you find in shoe boxes and other packages)
- Oil- Storing a knife for survival isn’t tricky. Oiling the blade to seal out water will help prevent rust and problems with your blade.
- Sharpening- Learning to sharpen your knife is vital. However, I suggest picking up some cheap, disposable blades for practice until you get good. After that, a sharpening stone and a decent leather strop are all you need.
Wooden Handles & Carbon Steel
Some parts of your bowie knife need extra attention. For example, carbon steel is excellent for blade making. However, this type of metal is uniquely susceptible to acids. Even cutting a lemon can damage the blade if you don’t clean it thoroughly and immediately. Realistically, that’s a good habit regardless.
Wooden handles are a whole care-issue by themselves. You always need to know what your blade is made from. Standard wooden handles need a drop, or two of oil rubbed into them with a clean, dry cloth regularly. Too much will cause your hand to slip. A couple of drops is usually enough.
Handles made from wood don’t always need oiling. Painted and polished handles don’t generally need oil, and it can damage the paint in some cases. Furthermore, a stabilized wood handle is sturdy, and it doesn’t need oil. In fact, it won’t absorb the oil in the first place, leaving your blade slick and hard to handle.
A Word on Sheaths
Leather sheaths are standard fare for knives, especially bowies. However, there are two things to keep in mind when choosing a leather sheath. Firstly, they need oiling. If you allow your leather to dry out severely, it will crack and flake.
The second consideration for leather sheaths is whether you should use one at all. The advantages of good leather are many. It’s easy to maintain, and won’t crack when adequately oiled. Furthermore, the soft leather won’t wear on your blade’s point or edge.
The downside to leather sheaths is that they absorb moisture. If you live somewhere especially damp, like the southeast USA, you may want to get a plastic sheath instead.
Despite its complicated history, a sturdy bowie knife will see you through tough survival situations. A quality blade is worth searching for. Luckily, assuming you have the skill and strength to wield it, this is a knife created for dangerous situation survival.
Keep in mind that, as concealed weapons go, a bowie is a poor choice. The size and style are both instantly recognizable. Instead, carry this knife openly as a deterrent when the SHTF.
Fortunately, good bowies are easy to keep sharp. Make sure you take care of your knife, and it will take care of you.