Bowie knife

Mar 11, 1999

I want to know about the Bowie knife more.
How do you think it about;
1,What for you use Bowie knife?Is it have porpose in the outdoor field now?
2,What Bowie knife you think best?Both in massprodction makers and in custom makers.
3,What do you think about Bowie knife?
4,What is your Bowie knife?Or do you have it or not?

1,I always practice knife fighting with ColdSteel trailmaster.I think it very good to fight.
And if a petty gangster pretect me in street,if I take a stance with trailmaster,they will ran away.
It is bluff,but not kill is bettre I think.If I can't prevent fighting,trailmaster is good wepon.
2,I don't know which Randall is custom or factory maker.If they are factory,the Randall M12 series are the best.
If not,now there is only Bowie knife by mass production maker I know,ColdSteel trailmaster.
I don't have custom made Bowie knife if under 9" is not Bowie knife.My Sazi 6"skelton drop knife is pretty good.
3,I love Bowie knife.
But in Japan,Bowie knife is not said to be a good choice.It is too large and heavy to carry,they say.
Bowie knife is proof of youth that don't know about knife,only yearn and vanity in Japanese expert.
4,ColdSteel trailmaster.
Mr. Ishida, there is a book by Raymond Thorpe, "The Bowie Knife". It is the original history of the knife and still one of the best, if you can find it. I have a Randall #12, 6" Hunter's Bowie that I have had for some 40 years, almost. It is far and away my favorite knife. I have hunted with it, camped with it, and, on one or two occasions, carried it for defense. It is a wonderful knife. It is not, however, a fighting knife. It has only one lug on the guard and is not sharpened on the false edge. If you wish a Randall Bowie, they make several big ones, all in the $350-$450(US) range. These are good for historical interest, but if you wish a Randall fighter, may I suggest their #1 Fighting Knife. This is a modified Bowie type and is their original model. It has stood the test of time. I think that it now runs about $225 -$250(US).

Walk in the Light,
I don't know if a Bowie is a practical knife, but they're beautiful.
This is the way I see knife collecting.
If you love it (as you seem to) BUY IT.
It's like a wife, nobody else has to love her, only you.
To me, one of the best production bowie knives ever made is the Cold Steel Bush Ranger in Carbon V. It's far thinner, lighter, and more generally useful to my needs than the CS Trailmaster. I'm particularly fond of 'bowie' knives made thin and light like the originals. The big thick ones have their place, but for real world carry on hikes and hunts, the light, wide, thin ones get carried while the big thick ones get left behind.

If you're interested there's quite a thread on bowies going on over in rec.knives. The poster called Chas is an interesting one to read. He's not only largely historically accurate, but apparently has some good knowledge about fighting qualities of knives. Me, I wouldn't know much about that aspect. My knowledge of knives is strictly limited to things I've experienced and knife fighting isn't one I hope to ever experience.

For me, in my real world use of camping, hunting and fishing, the ideal bowie is one that bridges the gap between folders and machetes, or between small fixed hunters or filet knives and bowsaws. To me, the bowie knife should have a blade between 6-9" and not be over 1/4" spine thickness. It should be so easy to carry that it causes no concern, should be useful as a kitchen knife for camp and kitchen, should be useful for hacking through undergrowth and brush, and should be a stellar defensive knife, should that need arise. In a word, my choice in bowie knives is just about exactly as the original bowies. Nothing fancy, just a good workhorse knife that also happens to be a good fighter. (or so I've read)

Now I realize that I've just outlined a knife, and a selection of uses that are quite different from what you may have had in mind, but to me, they are the requirements for a 'Bowie' knife. To me, a bowie knife that's too big to comfortably carry when needed, is just too darn big to be really considered. Actually, one could make the argument that in today's world much of any "bowie" shape is too darned big to carry for any but the most remote outings, and I'd not disagree. Still, I have a fondness for the original shape and design.

Your q of the relevance or place of the bowie knife in the modern world is a good one. There's almost nothing camp-wise that a good bowie can do that a good folder combined with a small machete can't do better. The one possible exception is that a good bowie combines defensive use with utilitarian at the price of some compromises. From what I can tell almost all of the compromises are on the utilitarian side, not the defensive side. In fact, a good thin bowie would be one of my first cutlery choices in a defensive knife.

The original Bowie was thought to be in the range of 12" in blade length, at least according to Thorpe. My #12 Hunter's Bowie is 6" in blade length and I also have a #1 Fighter with a 7" blade. I have never had the misfortune to use the #1 for its intended purpose, but I have used it as a general utility knife. The #12 is a better choice for that, in part because it does not have a top lug. Both knives are forged from 1/4" stock. They are NOT made by stock removal. My experience with the #12 is that it keeps an edge better that any knife, including a CS Trailmaster that I bought. The forging is very labor intensive which is the reason for the cost of Randall Made Knives. In my opinion, if you can afford the best, go for it!

Walk in the Light,
Hey, if it floats you boat then go for it. Bowie knives are alot of fun to have. Since eveyone has different defensive needs I couldn't really make any good comments on that. Heck, my first defenesive tool isn't even a knife. But one word of advise. Having carried a large knife concealed for long periods of time can get really annoying. And for as much money as a Busse/Cold Steel bowie would costyou could go with a custom made with some thinner stock to make it easier to carry all day.

Hope it helps


Mr. FullerH,
Thank you many nice infomation!
I have read it in shop but not all, without bought.I remenber the name Raymnd Thorp in Randall M12.

You have Randall M12,it is great I think.It is too expensive to have for me now.But someday I get it.
Randall M1 is very great knife too,But I can't say defference of these.

Thank you Doc,
I think so.I love Bowie knife!

Thank you for your opinion!
I know ColdSteel Bush Renger, I verified it too thin,you said it strong point!It is supriseing for me.I think thicker is better,as it's toughness.As sometimes I wish 1/2"stock 11"length blade knife as Japanese old YOROIDOUSI means armor pirceing.

Your opinion about origin of Bowie knife is very interesting for me.I think in field I should have exchange blade hand ax,shovel,sickle,and pickax.Not too thick Bowie knife you said is good bridge to handax and hunting knife.You can mind,in Japan,it is said that we need not knife in the field,small kitchen knife and hachet is bettre.
I'm grad to hear there are a lot of Bowie knife fan.In Japan,only a little know What is bowie knife.Almost all think it as Ranbo knife.
What is your first defensive tool?My first is Gerber Applegate combat folder.If it is time,I draw Bowie from bag.
And thank you for your advise.


Mr. Ishida,
Don't thank me for my opinions on historically accurate Bowie knives, rather, thank such esteemed noted knife historians as Bernard Levine, Anthony North, and Frederick Wilkninson.

In his 3rd ed of "Levine's Guide to Knives and Their Values" the pre-eminent Bernard Levine goes into some great detail about the specifics of what is known about the original Bowie knives. He points out that the original shape was likely far more akin to a Meditteranean dagger, (which to modern eyes might most resemble a French Chef's knife) than the monsterstrously thick and clumsy blades that Hollywood embraced some 120 years later, after the book by Thorp in 1948. Levine dismisses Thorp, (and I think quite rightly) as a "wild eyed fanatasist" whose portrayal of the Bowie knife simply doesn't jibe in any way, shape or fashion with known period examples from the early to mid 1800's.

In their part of the collaborative effort that resulted in the most excellent "Swords and Hilt Weapons", both Anthony North and Frederick Wilkinson _independently_ concluded that the original Bowie blade was 9"/23cm long by 1.5"/4cm wide. I think where some rather sloppy historians get screwed up is that they see a reference to an *overall* knife length and assume it's a blade specification.

I've had the enormous good fortune to examine some very limited collections of knives from the period of roughly 1830-1880 and have never seen one that would have been over a very approximate guesstimate of about 3/16" thick. (I admit that is a total guess, as I have never "mic'ed" a period piece. --- Although I may see if I can arrange that this summer.
I've seen some that certainly exceeded the very specific parameters set by North and Wilkinson, but never have I seen one that would be the weight or heft of the CS Trailmaster.

In fact, Levine makes the most amusing point that the original Randall "Raymond Thorp Bowie" was commissioned in the early 1950's by King Faisal II of Iraq. What a Cold War Era Iraqi King would know of early 1800's American knifemaking is totally beyond me, but yet there are folks that are completely convinced that the Randall "Raymond Thorp Bowie" is historically accurate. Quite simply, it is so demonstratably not accurate that nearly anybody with a library card can disprove it in an afternoon.

Hopefully this helps clear some of the confusion.

Well, My weapon of choise right now is a baton. Nothing fancy, just 25 inches of good hard wood. In my mind its quicker and offers more non-leathal solutions than a knife. And because I'm very very poor, I can't really afford anything more.

Adamantium, in my state a baton is a felony and a knife is not. I agree that it is nice to have a non lethal alternative, but the anti-weapon wacko's want everything to go in CA. Pretty soon they will be banning Pizza's since they will be making rolling pins illegal.
Oh, and by the way, mps, Chicahiro, is correct about the Bush Ranger. It is way to thin at the end for real serious survival work. The Recon Scout or Trailmaster are much better as survival tools and weapons. But the bush ranger may suit you for your purposes. I consider it an excellent knife also, just not in the same league as the other two. Also, weight has never bothered me.
Hey, guys, I was looking at the prices on CS products today, and the MSRPs are not that much lower for most knives than Randall. Of course, you can probably get CS at a discount, while you will get on a waiting list for most Randalls, but, for the price difference, I think that there is no comparison between a stock removal made knife and a forged blade. I have both and keep coming back to the Randall.

One other thing, guys, please don't be too nasty about Raymond Thorpe. He, the movie "Iron Mistress", and the Jim Bowie Show turned a whole generation on to knives, especially Bowie Knives. "Jim Bowie, Jim Bowie, He was a brave adventuring man, Jim Bowie, Jim Bowie, he battled for right with a powerful hand. His blade was tempered and so was he, indestructible steel was he. Jim Bowie, Jim Bowie, He was a brave adventuring man."

Walk in the Light,
Oh, I don't know Fuller, I think that the full thick tang construction of the CS bowies is probably tougher than your Randal. Also, I don't think Randal makes a 5/16 inch thick knife. I'd be willing to bet that the Trailmaster would out endure the Randal.
Having never, EVER, heard of a Randall failing in some 60 years of production, and I don't want to think of how many wars, I stand by my choice.

Walk in the Light,
Fuller, don't get me wrong, the Randalls are an excellent product with an excellent reputation. I never heard of a Trailmaster or Recon Scout failing also, though, and they hav been through some serious tests. Cliff is doing some tough knife testing, it would be interesting to see if a Randal can survive that testing.

Thanks!I'm very suprised for your infomation.
You are right.After reading your opinion,I think there were a stick which have bayonet attachment.It can be a short spear,greater weapon.If don't want leathal result,I can use sinple stick.Bayonet is good knife alone of course.
Or if you want non-leathal weapon,you may choose chain hammre,called Mannrikisa in Japanese jujutu.It is compact and powerful.

Sincerely be safe,
I'm suprised your report.What is your state? I want to abroad in Ma.
You can't practice baseball in road?I sometimes listen to anti-weapon movement.Japanese do something about it I think,with sadness.I know the U.S.if some movement is go,doing horrible thing.I like it,but in this case,I feel horror.
Your opinion about the CS Buth Ranger is right.It is like kitchen knife I think.Yes,for such purpose,thin blade is much useal.I think if it is thin blade,as it is not needed toughness,folding style as big marbles safety hunting folder is better.
It is unexpected for me that stock removal and forged blade is not so deferente.But I can notice that I have not use both of CS trailmasterar and Randall M12 Smithsonian Bowie hard to break.
I heard "Iron Mistress" is J,N,Cooper and Randall M12 Smithonian Bowie are used.

CHic Stone
I have read various articles over the years saying that, with modern steels and tempering methods, it does not make much difference whether or not you forge a blade, especially given the differential in labor cost. I have tried knives made both ways, and some forged knives are just junk, but my experience shows that a quality forged knife, say a Randall, will outperform a quality stock removal knife such as a CS. But please understand that this is my experience only. There are many, I am sure, who disagree. I know that some knife smiths do, as I have read their articles.

Walk in the Light,
Forging is a good thing, no doubt. In fact it is one of the best ways to make small, high strength parts. It is basically a form of hot Working as it is normally called. There are several other forms of Hot Working; Rolling, Extrusion and Drawing. Rolling is the next most common way to make high strength parts. In this process, the metal is passed between two rolls with a resulting reduction in thickness from the stresses imposed by the rolls.

The reason I mention this is because when the metals use industry talks about strength of forging and it's advantages, it's usually in comparison to Casting, which is relatively inferior.

However, Fuller, I seriously doubt that you could tell the difference between a rolled or forged metals performance in the typical knife useage. The difference in strength between these two processes is miniscule and not worth discussing. The reason why I mention this is because the Carbon V steel is Hot Rolled not cast and thus is extremely tough, in fact as tough as a good steel can get.

The difference in strength for a knife comes in the overall construction of it. Randals are high quality knives, no doubt, but, are they full large tang? if you stick that knife in a crevice in a wall and do a pull up from it, will it snap at the handle juncture? I know the Trailmaster and Recon Scout won't. And these knives were designed for much more than just one person hanging from the handle.

your observations are interesting, but that is all they are. By the way, is the Randal guaranteed against breakege? If so, Cliff is doing a comparison and CS is sending us a Trailmaster to abuse, because they believe in their product.
Cobalt, I don't know what I have done to anger you or what your interest is in the forged vs stock removal or the Cold Steel vs Randall questions, but I thought that I have been very clear that my statements reflect only my opinions. Especially, I thought that the last one did that. You are attacking my opinions rather strongly. Have you ever used a Randall knife? As I said, I have 2 Randalls, both full-tang, and I have a Trailmaster Bowie, a Gerber Bowie, a Case Bowie, and the knives that I find the best in day to day use have been the Randalls. No, I have never tried to do chin-ups with any of the blades, but where I find the Randalls better is in edge-holding and other, more common uses. I do not know a great deal about arbitrary testing, but, as I said, in 60+ years of making knives used in three wars and countless other skirmishes and such, I have never heard of a Randall breaking or letting its owner down in any way. What more could you ask of a knife?

Walk in the Light,
Fuller, sorry if I sounded antagonistic or angry in any way. I did not intend my writting to come off like that and I apologise for that.

I just wanted to point out that those two methods of making steel are very good and there is not as much difference in them in overall strength. As I have said earlier, I have always admired the Randal made knives and they are of unquestionable quality, at least the ones I have seen. I have never had the opportunity to test one hard and so cannot speak of their strengths or weaknesses. I do know about CS knives, however, and although ergonomically they are not as comfortable as a Randal and many other knives out there, they are a serious workhorse. I have not heard of one breaking yet(trailmaster) although I'm sure it can happen, as it can with any knife.

Now for a question of your Randals. You say they are full tang. Are they visible full tang, ur enclosed by the handle completely, but full tang nontheless? If they are then that is very good in my opinion. I thought that most of them were a much reduced in width full length tang. Although this kind of tang is strong, it is not as strong as the much larger in width tang as on some of the other bowies or fighters available. Also, what is the thickness of the blades on your knives?