Testing Ten Inexpensive Hunting Knives (Pic Heavy)

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I've put together some inexpensive (each is under $25) fixed blades for whitetail deer hunting. I'll have a thread up when I do the actual dressing, but I wanted to give my impressions of these knives.
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(Note: the wooden-handled knife is a Rough Rider Drop Point, but I don't have any additional photos of it. There will also be an overview of the Beretta Loveless Hunter, which is not shown in the photo above.)

First up is the Kershaw Antelope Hunter. 8" long overall and with black or orange rubber-like handles (the tang goes 3/4 down the handle) gives a secure grip. Cost is around $24. Made in China. Weight is 3.6 ounces.
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The blade is flat ground AUS-8A (newer models are 8Cr13MoV).
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In hand, the knife feels really good. It's not slippery at all, and it's just plain comfortable.
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The Antelope Hunter comes with a black leather sheath. It's a pouch style with a snap, and reminds me of the Buck Phenolic-handle series sheaths.
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The sheath has a fold-over belt loop, which is riveted in place. It fits most belts easily.
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Modifications: The jimping on the blade was perfectly spaced, but not deep enough. I used a Dremel to make the jimping deeper. I also drilled a lanyard hole, as the Antelop Hunter doesn't have one.

This will be a multi-parter, so please bear with me. If you have any questions about the knives, please ask. This isn't meant to be a series of full reviews, only a brief overview of each and how it's performed for me.
 
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The Paklite series of knives were introduced by Buck to be economic US-made skeletonized fixed blades. They each sell for around $15-$20 street price. All come with a nylon sheath with sewn-on belt loop. In addition to the Caper and Large Skinner, there's also a Guthook and medium-sized Skinner. All of the knives are available as shown with a polished stainless steel finish, or with black traction coating.

Large Skinner
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The Paklite Skinner has a 3-1/2" slightly recurved blade. It weighs 4.1 ounces. Material is 420HC, which Buck does a great job on. It came out of the box razor sharp. The knife is a little thicker than the others I'm reviewing, but that's not a bad thing. The top has some jimping and a swedge that's not sharp at all (good for when I'm using it).
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You'll notice that my Paklites all have a 550 cord wrap; this is necessary to thicken the knife up and make it more comfortable when in use. As for blood, guts, tallow, etc. getting in the wrap... I just run the knife under really hot water in the sink (soak the handle in hot water and dishwashing liquid for five minutes if it's really bad) then dry it in the oven at 150 degrees for ten minutes. As long as the temperature is under 400 degrees, the steel's properties won't be affected.

In use, the knife performs very well. It feels good in the hand, and I like the handle length.
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The sheath is good, considering this is a $20 knife. I'd love some Kydex, but that's not happening at this price. The sheath is black nylon with a snap. A plastic liner prevents the knife from cutting through. Retention is good. After wrapping the handle, I had to cut away some of the plastic liner.
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The sheath goes on a belt with a simple sewn-on nylon loop. It's large enough for my Dickie's belt, so I'm satisfied.
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Modifications: I added the cord wrapping to improve grip and comfort. I made the jimping on the spine deeper, as it wasn't grippy enough for me. The spacing of the jimping was fine, just not the depth. I used a black Sharpie to fade that silver thread on the sheath; a shot of black spray paint work better, but I didn't have that sheath with me at the time.

- - - - -

Caper
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The Caper has a 2-1/2" blade. Weight is 1.1 ounce. Blade steel is 420HC, and it came pretty sharp. A quick stropping got it popping hairs. There's jimping on the small thumb ramp and on the handle.
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I thought the jimping on the thumb ramp was nicely-spaced, but not deep enough. I fixed that with a Dremel.
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However, I use a caping knife as shown below. Some jimping farther towards the tip would be nice.
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The sheath is the same type and quality as the other Paklites, just sized for the Caper. Retention is great. I had to remove a lot of the plastic liner to get the cord-wrapped knife inside.
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The belt loop is just a tad smaller than the Large Skinner's, but it still fits on my Dickie's belt. I prefer carrying this in a back pocket though.
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Buck Bucklite Max Fixed Blade (Large)
This is probably one of my favorite hunting knives of all time. The Bucklite Max is available in both folding knives and fixed blades, with or without a guthook, with several sizes, and in two colors. Whoa! This one is the black-handled large drop point fixed blade. The Bucklite is made in the USA. Cost was $24.
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The Bucklite has a 4" hollow-ground blade of 420HC, which came razor sharp. The knife has a full tang and a lanyard hole. The blade has jimping up top, which I didn't need to modify in any way. The handle is Alcryn rubber, which is grippy without snagging on clothing. The handle has some flat spots in it near the blade so you can scrape away flesh comfortably.
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In hand, this knife feels great. I'd almost say "perfect".
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The sheath is Buck's black nylon with plastic insert. The knife stays in just fine with the snap.
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The belt loop is the folded-over variety, and is wide enough to fit on a pistol belt.
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Modifications: The only thing necessary was the addition of a lanyard.

- - - - -

Mora Craftsman (Carbon Steel)
Almost everybody on BladeForums knows what a Mora knife is. This model is the Craftsman, which has a hard plastic handle and a 4-1/8" blade. The blade is carbon steel, and sports a Scandi grind. Cost is around $13, and the Mora is made in Sweden. You'll notice that mine shows a patina; this was accumulated over time. The blade came shiny when I first got it.
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The handle has a small guard and a wide lanyard hole. The handle is the right size for me, but I think it's a little too round.
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Using it on deer, the knife performed just fine. After shooting these photos, I added jimping to the area covered by my thumb here...
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The stock Mora sheath is just really a snap-on blade guard. I've had several fall apart on me, so I just get a cheap $3 leather sheath when I order a Mora. As such, I have no photos right now of the stock Mora sheath.

The Mora makes a good outdoor knife, but I needed to add jimping and I'll have to flatten the handle down to improve grip if I'm using it to dress out a deer.
 
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Schrade Blade Runner (US Made)
This was my very first hunting knife. It costed about $13, and is still around that price, although the newer ones are made in China through Taylor Cutlery. I should add that I removed the guthook and added jimping, so this resembles the Blade Runner very little, but that's what it is. The blade was 4-5/16" long when new; through guthook removal, it's about 1/4" shorter. Blade steel is 420HC with a hollow grind.
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The handles are green (also available in blue or orange for the US models) Safe-T-Grip, which is Schrade's brand of hard rubber. A lined lanyard hole is provided. The tang goes all the way to the lanyard hole, but is a stick tang.
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In use, I hated the guthook. I've never seen the use of a guthook; it seemed like something necessary only for "hunting noobs". I added quite a bit of jimping, along with my in-jimping that I use on my custom knives. The blade keeps its edge for about two deer, and resharpening is rather hard considering this is 420HC steel.
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The sheath is black ballistic nylon with a hard plastic liner, and the knife can be put in either direction. A simple snap keeps it in. A small grommeted thong hole is located in the bottom of the sheath.
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The belt loop folds over and will accomodate a full-sized military pistol belt.
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Modifications: The back of the blade was jimped and the guthook was removed. A lanyard was added. I took advantage of the thong hole in the sheath to add 25 feet of parachute cord.

In general, I love this knife for hunting. After removing the guthook and adding jimping, it's really comfortable and easy to use. I'm really confused as to why this is so hard to resharpen, considering the blade is 420HC. It's not a huge deal and can still be done quite quickly, but it's still odd.

- - - - -

Schrade Outfitter (US Made)
This is (for me) even better than the Blade Runner. Everything - the handle type and colors, blade material, sheath - are the same. The only difference is the blade shape and size. The Outfitter's blade is 4-3/4" long with a nice drop point. The new China-made Schrade's are just a tad longer.
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The back of the blade has a thumb ramp. It has no jimping, but it's not necessary on this model. Blade is hollow ground.
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The sheath is identical to the Blade Runner's. I show mine here for completeness and to show my pretty lanyard.
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Modifications: I added a lanyard and added 30 feet of 550 cord to the sheath.

Again, this knife is great for hunting. Even for general outdoor tasks, it will get the job done. I've not used the China models, but I have handled them and they seem just fine.

- - - - -

Schrade Sharpfinger (China Made)
I had a US-made Sharpfinger, but gave it away. The new Sharpfingers are made in China by Taylor Cutlery, and from what I remember, quality is about the same. The blade is 3-1/2" long with a high hollow grind. Blade steel is listed as "400 series" but a call to Taylor says it 440B. Cost is $13.
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The knife has a fully-exposed tang, and the handles are sawcut Delrin. A lanyard hole is provided. The blade came really sharp, and had a nice polish.
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In my size XL hand, the knife feels okay. Not great, but not horrible either. I could use another 1/2" of handle length. The thumb ramp is "okay" as well, but is so smooth that I had to add jimping.
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The sheath is brown leather and comes with a light wax coating. Retention is ideal; not too loose and not too tight. A snap keeps the knife from falling out.
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The belt loop folds over and will fit on any belt you have. Stitching throughout is adequate, with no missing stitches or fraying.
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Modifications: I added a lanyard and some jimping to the thumb ramp.

This is the ideal hunting knife for a lot of people. It's a tiny bit too short for me, but is comfortable with a great blade length and shape. It's definitely worth the $13 price tag.
 
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Last part!

Rapala Bait Knife
I found this for $4 at my local knife shop. It's made in China and is branded Rapala, marketed as a bait knife. I figured I'd give it a shot.
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The blade is 420J2 and 4" long with a Scandi grind. It's stiff; not thin or flexible at all for a bait knife. The back has a scaler, but it's so sharp that it could be scalloped serrations. The handle is white plastic and it has a lanyard hole. In the photo below, my thumb tip marks where the tang ends.
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In use, this knife is okay. Keep in mind it was $4. There's no way to use the knife in a saber grip (as shown below) without cutting your thumb open. The scaler is just too sharp and the area behind it too smooth.
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The sheath is white skeletonized plastic. This design allows water to shed easily. The knife simply snaps in with the small plastic lip on the underside of the sheath. There's no belt loop, but there is a hole in the bottom of the sheath. I used this to attach some shoe string.
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This knife is a piece of crap in any real "knife sense". Edge retention is horrible, but it will take a sharp edge. Blade design is dangerous. Sheath design is crap. However, for a $4 knife, it's better than Frost Cutlery or Rite Edge.

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Cold Steel Pendleton Lite Hunter
Arguably the best hunting knife of the bunch. This knife is made in Taiwan and sells for $14-$17. The blade is 3-5/8" long with a high hollow grind. It's made of 4116 Krupp, which holds an edge about the same as a Swiss Army Knife. The blade has a nice satin finish, and mine came razor sharp. The tang ends halfway into the handle.
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The handle is black polypropylene with a very light cobblestone texture. A lanyard hole is provided, and the sides of the handle have flat (like the Bucklite Max does) spots for scraping. The butt has a groove in it, presumably for your thumb while stabbing.
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In hand and in use, the Pendleton is pretty nice. It's quite comfortable when dressing game, and slippage is not a problem. I'd put some jimping on the back of the blade. The blade will take a razor-sharp edge, and once it's lost, it's easy to bring back. I'd call this a one-deer knife; one you have to resharpen between bucks if you're dressing more than one.
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The sheath sucks. When mine came, the rivet near the opening hole was so tight that I couldn't get the knife in. I sent it back to Cold Steel and am awaiting a replacement. I can tell you that it's black Cordura, stiff, and has a sewn-on belt loop. It's a pouch-style sheath with no snaps, but it looks like the knife will sit deep enough in the sheath to make this a non-issue.

I love the Pendleton Lite for hunting. Everything about it (the knife itself) is great. I'd like jimping on the back, but for the $14 price tag, I can add my own.

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Beretta Loveless Hunter
The Beretta Loveless Hunter is made by Moki and rebranded Beretta; Moki makes some very nice knives. This is also the most expensive knife I'm looking at, with a street price of $43. It's made in Seki City, Japan. The blade is 3-7/8" long with a deep hollow grind that goes all the way to the spine. Blade steel is AUS-8, although a VG-10 model has been long discontinued. The blade has a very nice satin finish, and came extremely sharp right out of the box. It's Bob Loveless' classic design, and he collaborated and gave his "okay" to make this knife.

(Apologies, PhotoBucket is giving me problems. I'll add photos ASAP, but I'll still finish the overview.)

The handle is black Zytel with nice checkering towards the front. The handle is very ergonomic. It has a lanyard hole and a small guard. The tang goes to about the halfway point. This sort of reminds me of the AG Russell Deer Hunter, hard black Zytel handle, nice blade size and shape, great fit and finish.

The sheath is black leather and is of the pouch variety; there's not a snap to hold the knife in. The belt loop will fit any belt you have. Finish is excellent, although fit is poor. The knife simply won't sit in the sheath the right way. The leather front is pressed to fit the knife, and has a large opening that accepts the handle. The guard is supposed to slide all the way to the end of this opening, and it doesn't. I could force it, but that would cut the sheath. Carrying the knife in the tight-fitting sheath makes extraction very hard, and is a two-handed deal. I'm calling Beretta USA and I'll see what they can do about this.

After using the Loveless for a while, it easily became my favorite. However, I have to consider price here. Is it that much better than the Bucklite Max? If we're looking at just performance, then no. But it's easily the best-looking of the bunch.

- - - - -

In summary, I liked the Bucklite Max and Beretta Loveless the best. Here's my list, ranked from best to worst...
1. Buck Bucklite Max Large fixed blade.
2. Beretta Loveless Hunter
3. Cold Steel Pendleton Lite Hunter.
4. Kershaw Antelope Hunter.
5. Schrade Outfitter.
6. Buck Paklite Caper.
7. Buck Paklite Large Skinner.
8. Schrade Sharpfinger
9. Schrade Blade Runner.
10. Mora Craftsman.
11. Rapala Bait Knife.
 
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This should be good...

Please could you name the knives in the first top picture?
 
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This should be good...

Please could you name the knives in the first top picture?

Top to bottom...
Buck Paklite Caper, Schrade (China) Sharpfinger, Buck Paklite Skinner large, Rapala Bait Knife, Cold Steel Pendleton Lite Hunter, Rough Rider Drop Point (my camera died before I could get any more photos of it), Kershaw Antelope Hunter, Mora Craftsman in carbon steel, Buck Bucklite Max Large fixed blade. The knife on the left is a US-made Schrade Outfitter, and the one on the right is a US-made Schrade Blade Runner with the guthook removed.

Thank you for having patience with this. The photos are all shot, but they still need to be edited (cropped, adjusted for brightness and contrast) and a write-up is necessary. I'd like to get this all done in one sitting as I don't like leaving things unfinished, but right now I'm sick and I don't want to get my soup in the keyboard. Again :rolleyes:
 
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Complete! Let me know if there are any questions.

EDIT: Not complete. I just remembered that I have a Beretta Loveless Hunter in Zytel, so I have to photograph it and do a write-up. In short, it's an excellent hunting knife for $42. I'd put it at #1 or #2 on my list.

EDIT again: Beretta Loveless added to Post #5. Photos coming soon.
 
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Codger_64

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I would be interested in a direct comparison between the original Sharpfinger and the TBLLC copy, but I understand that you don't have one.

I did "OOPS" one when they were first imported from China in 2005 and it seems there have been some design improvements between those first ones and yours. Here is a link to that review I did of the TBLLC knife back in August of '06. The pictures have been deleted by the host, but I'll attempt to restore them when I get time.

http://www.bladeforums.com/forums/s...harpfinger-Copy-Review?highlight=TBLLC+review
 

sodak

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Mar 26, 2004
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Great review, and very interesting. Thanks! It's nice to see less expensive knives get some review time as well.
 
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Great review. I have a boatload of knives i wanted to test on some deer this year, but they were smarter than me this year.
 
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