The Legendary Blade: Bowie Knives' History and Craftsmanship

Few items carry the historical weight and iconic status of the Bowie knife. With its roots deeply entrenched in the American frontier, the Bowie knife symbolizes rugged individualism and practical craftsmanship.

At BigHorn Steel, we celebrate this legacy by offering a selection of Bowie knives that honour their storied past while delivering the performance demanded by modern users.

What is a Bowie knife?

A Bowie knife typically features a long blade with a clip point, making it instantly recognizable. This design is attributed to James Bowie, a 19th-century American pioneer and knife-fighter who popularized its use. This large fighting knife played a prominent role as a survival knife in the great outdoors and many other contexts.

Bowies are iconic blades known for their versatility in hunting wild game, camping, and self-defence, making them an indispensable tool for the most adventurous outdoors enthusiast. Quite frankly, this is not a kitchen knife.

The original Bowie knife

An original Bowie knife is rare, with historical records of the blade often dating back to the early 1800s. These sharp point cold steel knives carry stories of survival, combat, and everyday life from a bygone era. They are treasured for their age and the craftsmanship that went into making each one by hand.

The evolution of Bowie knives

BigHorn Steel black-grey handle Damascus steel bowie

Though they have a rich history, Bowie knives have evolved. At BigHorn Steel, we offer diverse knife styles made with Damascus steel, ensuring our customers can access a wide range of knives. Each has unique attributes and uses, from the traditional Bowie blade to the Jim buoy knife and the Bui knife.

Some manufacturers opt for a stainless steel blade. However, the perfect Bowie knife is typically made from Damascus steel given its strength and renowned edge retention. Whether a large Bowie knife or a baby Bowie, this clip point blade makes for a a great hunting knife made from premium materials and ready for various tasks.

For grip comfort, you might find Bowies with a stacked leather handle, Micarta handle, or hardwood handle. Bowie knife handles from top brands like BigHorn Steel also use natural walnut handles for their durability.

Bowie knives in modern times

Today, a Bowie knife is a collector's item and a practical tool for outdoor enthusiasts. Questions like "How much is a Bowie knife worth?" often arise, highlighting the knife's value as a functional tool and a piece of history. The worth of a Bowie knife can vary widely, from affordable replicas to high-end custom pieces that reflect the skill and time invested in their creation.

BigHorn Steel's expert bladesmiths manufacture Bowie knives American frontiersman Jim Bowie would be proud of. Our large sheath knives feature a high carbon steel blade, large overall length, and are in high demand. Our survival Bowie knives are a popular choice as a first purchase for an aspiring trail master.

Design and technical specifications

The Bowie knife's design is a study of balance, power, and utility. It is characterized by its distinctive clip-point blade, which offers a sharper and more precise tip for piercing. This feature, coupled with the long cutting edge, provides a versatile tool capable of stabbing and slicing actions.

The crossguard, which protects the hand, and the substantial heft of the knife give it a formidable presence in the user’s hand, whether used for detailed work or more robust tasks.

From a technical perspective, Bowie knives often feature a blade length ranging from 5 to 24 inches, with a typical thickness of around 1/4 inch, providing substantial durability. The clip point allows for a quicker and deeper puncture when thrusting, and the curved edge lends itself to efficient cutting and skinning motions.

Modern Bowie knives like those crafted by BigHorn Steel also incorporate advanced Damascus steels and handle materials, optimizing them for longevity and ergonomics. The full tang construction, where the blade steel extends into the handle, is a common feature that ensures maximum strength and control, making it a reliable tool for demanding tasks.

Combining Bowie design with Damascus steel power

Damascus steel is renowned for its exceptional qualities, making it an ideal material for a Bowie knife. The steel is characterized by its distinctive patterned design, a result of layering different types of steel and iron. This process makes it visually striking and serves a functional purpose.

This method of forging creates a blade that is resilient and flexible, retaining a sharp edge while resisting shattering. The intricate process of folding and forging inherent to Damascus steel also distributes carbon evenly throughout the metal, enhancing its hardness and ability to hold a keen edge.

For a Bowie knife, which is often used for demanding tasks, Damascus steel's toughness and edge retention ensures a durable, long-lasting tool that combines historic craftsmanship with cutting-edge performance. BigHorn Steel prides itself on utilizing high-quality Damascus steel to provide customers with Bowie knives that are as robust and efficient as they are beautiful. One of our knives' key features is that our steel is folded 512 times, making them one of the most robust blade design in the world.

Bowie knife specialties

The unique draw of the Bowie knife lies in its size and power. But why are Bowie knives so big? The answer is simple: functionality. A larger blade allows for more versatile use, from chopping wood to skinning game. The size also makes it a formidable weapon, as it was in the days of Jim Bowie.

The Kabar question

Is a Kabar a Bowie knife? While KA-BAR—the brand famously associated with military knives—does produce knives with a clip point like Bowie knives, they are not traditional Bowie knives. However, they embody the same spirit of durability and reliability.

Replica Bowie knives: Preserving history

Replica Bowie knives serve as a bridge between the past and the present. They offer knife enthusiasts and historians a tangible piece of heritage. BigHorn Steel’s Bowies are crafted to the design and weight standards of historical Bowie knives, providing an authentic experience to our customers.

BigHorn Steel's Bowie Knives

BHS walnut handle Damascus steel Bowie edge from front angle

At BigHorn Steel, we pay homage to the iconic Bowie knife by offering a range of options, from bow knives that follow the traditional design to unique takes like the David Bowie knives, which may not be historical but carry a modern flair. We focus on quality and authenticity, ensuring each knife is a tribute to the original's legacy.


From their storied past to their continued relevance today, Bowie knives represent a fusion of art, utility, and history. Whether you're a collector or historian or appreciate fine craftsmanship, a Bowie knife from BigHorn Steel is more than just a blade—it is a legacy that stands the test of time.

If you’re visiting Jasper National Park, we’re always happy to show you our collection and chat about each of our designs. We take customer service seriously and regularly stock new products. Alternatively, you can shop our clip-point blades online today. Our entire collection is carried in-store and online, and it is also simple as adding items to your shopping cart. We also offer free shipping within Canada and the United States.

Frequently Asked Questions

We’ve compiled and answered some commonly asked questions about Bowie knives.

What was special about the Bowie knife?

The Bowie knife, initially designed by James Bowie in the 19th century, was notable for its size, strength, and unique design. It featured a large clip-point blade, ideal for self-defence, quickly becoming synonymous with rugged individualism and frontier survival.

How old is an original Bowie knife?

An original Bowie knife dates to the 1820s, with the design attributed to James Bowie. The infamous Sandbar Fight popularized it in 1827, when Bowie used it in a duel, and it has since been a part of American folklore.

Why are Bowie knives so big?

Bowie knives are big to maximize their utility and effectiveness. The large size allows for various uses, from chopping to carving, making it a versatile tool for frontiersmen. Their size also lent a psychological edge in combat, a critical factor during the era in which they were first made.

Is a Kabar a Bowie knife?

A KA-BAR is not traditionally considered a Bowie knife, though it shares some features like a clip-point blade. Kabar refers to knives made by the American company KA-BAR Knives, Inc., famous for its military utility knives rather than traditional Bowie knives.