Perhaps the most famous American-made blade is the bowie knife. This symbol of the American frontier has historical ties to the old west and modern fixtures in hunting. It’s no wonder it’s been a favorite among outdoorsmen for generations.
Bowie knives are also a favorite weapon featured in Hollywood movies and spaghetti westerns, but what exactly qualifies a bowie knife isn’t always clear. Over the years, so many knives have been called Bowie knives that it has almost become a generic term for any large sheath knife, and part of that confusion comes from its foggy–yet very interesting–past.
Knife-Fighting 101 with Jim Bowie
You may think Jim Bowie is the original creator of the Bowie knife, while others will say it was really his brother Rezin. Some believe it was Jim’s friend and blacksmith James Black, while still others claim it was someone else entirely. The original creator of the Bowie knife is still disputed, but Jim Bowie can be credited with its fame.
Designer or not, Bowie’s outrageous fighting exploits earned him an infamous reputation that follows the knife’s history. His first major exploit with a blade similar to today’s bowie knife was in a battle known as the Sandbar Fight. What started as a civilized duel between two Mississippi citizens escalated into a feud-riddled bloodbath. Clubbed, shot, impaled, and wounded at least seven different times, Bowie somehow made it out alive with quite the reputation thanks to his unique, large knife.
Afterward, Bowie’s name was featured many times in the press for his hand-to-hand combat skills and deadly knife. One newspaper reported that after being attacked by three assassins in Texas, Bowie fought back in brutal success. “With his terrible blade,” they reported, “He decapitated one, disemboweled the second, and split to the shoulders the skull of the third.” This set the rough-and-tumble men of the west scrambling to get their hands on a “Bowie blade”. Later, then Jim Bowie (by that time, Colonel Bowie) would meet his historic end at the Battle of the Alamo.
Features of Today’s Bowie Knives
While no one knows for certain which features Jim Bowie’s blade really held nearly 200 years ago, Bowie knives of today carry a few distinguishing features. The first and most recognizable is the longer-than-average blade. Bowie knives are anywhere from 8 to 12 inches in length with a board 1 ½ to 2 inches width.
Bowie knives also feature a characteristic heavy guard to protect the users’ fingers. Often, this guard is attached to a coffin-shaped handle. Perhaps the most recognizable feature, however, is the clipped edge. This blade shape–though common on many knives–is critical to the characterization of a bowie blade.
American Edge Knives offers a selection of classic, collectible, and contemporary Bowie blades. Whether you are an avid outdoorsman looking for a reliable hunting knife or a history buff adding to your collection, browse our selection here.