The Bowie Knife

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The Bowie knife specifically refers to a style of knife designed by Colonel James "Jim" Bowie and originally created by James Black, though is commonly used to refer to any large sheath knife with a clip point.The historical Bowie was not a single design, but was a series of knives improved several times by Jim Bowie over the years.


The version most commonly known as the historical Bowie knife would usually have a blade of at least six inches (15cm) in length, some reaching 12 inches (30cm) or more, with a relatively broad blade that was an inch and a half to two inches wide (4 to 5 cm) and made of steel usually between 3/16" and 1/4" thick (from 4.8 to 6.4 millimeters). The back of the blade often had a strip of soft metal (normally brass or copper) inlaid intended to catch an opponent's blade, and also often had an upper guard that bent forward at an angle, also intended to catch an opponent's blade. The back edge of the curved clip point, also called the "false edge," was often sharpened in order to allow someone trained in European techniques of saber fencing to execute the maneuver called the "back cut" or "back slash." A brass quillon was attached to protect the hand, usually cast in a mold. It is likely that the blade shape was derived from the Spanish navaja clasp knives carried in Spain and the Spanish colonies in the Americas.
The shape and style of blade was chosen so that the Bowie knife could serve usefully as a camp and hunting tool as well as a weapon. Many knives and daggers existed that could serve well as weapons, and many knives existed that could serve well as tools for hunters and trappers, but the Bowie knife was designed to do both jobs well, and is still popular with hunters and sportsmen even in the present day.

The curved portion of the edge, toward the point, is for removing the skin from a carcass, and the straight portion of the edge, toward the guard, is for chores involving cutting slices, similar in concept to the traditional Finnish hunting knife, the "puukko" (though the typical early 19th Century Bowie knife was far larger and heavier than the typical puukko). The blade is generally long enough and heavy enough that the knife can be used as a hatchet or machete, but not so heavy or long as to be cumbersome. Most such knives intended for hunting are only sharpened on one edge, to reduce the danger of cutting oneself while butchering and skinning the carcass.

Since the 1960s, Bowie knives with saw teeth machined into the back side of the blade appeared inspired by the Air Force survival knife NSN: 7340-00-098-4327. The saw teeth were intended to cut through the Plexiglas® canopy of a downed aircraft. During the Vietnam war the US Army issued them to helicopter crews for the same purpose.


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