Best Skinning Knives Reviewed and Rated

Once the animal is down the hunter has their work cut out. Skinning game can make many people balk, but having the right equipment on hand makes the job that much easier. A good quality, sharp skinning knife puts the hunter in control and gets the job done neatly.

Our Top 3 Picks

Havalon Piranta Z
  • Havalon Piranta Z
  • 5 out of 5
    Our rating
  • Multiple Blades
  • Price: See Here
Victorinox Skinner
  • Victorinox Skinner
  • 4.6 out of 5
    Our rating
  • High Carbon
  • Price: See Here
Havalon Baracuta
  • Havalon Baracuta
  • 4.3 out of 5
    Our rating
  • Really Sharp
  • Price: See Here

Best Brands

A few old favourites still hold sway over the knife market. Names like Buck and Victorinox are well known and respected; and offer top quality. Innovative products from Havalon have also made an impact on the market, as well as home grown favourites like Bark River Knives.

Skinning 101

The most important detail concerning skinning, that many overlook, is to use the knife as little as possible. It’s actually quite easy to skin a mid-sized game animal with approximately twelve strokes of the knife! After hanging the animal by its hind legs, a good skinning knife opens up the hide and frees it from the extremities of the legs; at which point the skinner pulls the hide away from the carcass and works it loose with their fists. In this way most of the skin can be torn off the carcass; the knife used only where membrane holds tightly and to remove the head.

Certain species, such as wild boar, offer more challenge as the skin is strongly attached to the layer of fat underneath. In these circumstances a knife has to be used more – but pull first and cut when things stop coming off! Tearing the hide off saves a lot of time.

Small game like rabbits require almost no work. A single cut opens the gut cavity and the entrails are removed. Then cut the feet and head off, before working the hind legs out under the skin through the gut cut. Once the hind legs are out simply rip the rest of the hide off.

10 Best Skinning Knives

 

1. Havalon Piranta Z

1. Havalon Piranta Z
This is the baby brother of the Baracuta-Blaze and provides the smaller option for fine knife work and smaller game.

Replacement Blades Eliminate Dull Knives

Keeping a sharp knife is as easy as swapping blades with the Havalon Piranta Z. A no-fuss mechanism makes this easy. The Piranta Z comes with 12 replacement blades; keeping you in the game for longer.
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Features and Specifications

Folding 2 3/4” blade
Includes 12 replacement blades
Military grade polymer handle comes in either black or blaze orange
Nylon holster and removable pocket clip

Price/Value

The Piranta Z costs a little less than its big brother, the Baracuta, and won’t break the bank. Replacement blades can add up over time.

Verdict

Surgical performance is the intent of these knives. The short blades make the Piranta Z well suited to skinning smaller game; and fine work associated with caping out. Again, changing blades can pose some difficulty.
Pros

Multiple blades remove need for sharpening

Sharp out of the box

Small size makes it great for fiddly work

Cons

Changing blades is potentially dangerous

Blades have been known to fall off during use

2. 6” Skinner – Victorinox

2. 6” Skinner – Victorinox
Victorinox make some of the highest quality knives available in terms of steel. This economic knife makes light work of big game skinning.

High Carbon Stainless

The steel used in construction of Victorinox knives sets them apart. If you’re looking for a blade of ultimate reliability at the lowest cost of this list; then this is the choice.
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Features and Specifications

Fixed 6” blade
Fibrox handle

Price/Value

This is the cheapest knife in the list, but don’t let that fool you. These knives are cheap because they’re targeted towards professionals like butchers that aren’t looking for fancy items; simply top quality products.

Verdict

The best value for money around. Having a 6” blade, this knife can be awkward for small game but performs well for large animals and species that require lots of knife-work to skin – such as wild boar.
Pros

Made in Switzerland

Fantastic economy

Proven ‘working’ knife

Cons

Sheath not included

3. Havalon Baracuta-Blaze

3. Havalon Baracuta-Blaze
For anyone that has trouble keeping their knives sharp, Havalon produce skinning knives with replaceable blades. When one’s dull, simply swap it for another!

Replacement Blades Eliminate Dull Knives

Keeping a sharp knife is as easy as swapping blades with the Havalon Baracuta. A no-fuss mechanism makes this easy, and the Baracuta is also compatible with serrated and filleting blades for a 3 in 1 knife.
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Features and Specifications

Folding 4 3/8” blade
Includes 5 replacement blades
Military grade polymer handle in blaze orange
Nylon holster and removable pocket clip

Price/Value

A mid-range knife in terms of cost, the Baracuta-Blaze won’t burn a hole in your pocket. Replacement blades can add up over time.

Verdict

Sharp straight out of the box, they perform well but can pose some difficulty in changing blades.
Pros

Multiple blades remove need for sharpening

Highly visible handle won’t get lost in the woods

Sharp out of the box

Cons

Changing blades is potentially dangerous

Fine gauge blades lose edge

4. 113 Ranger Skinner

4. 113 Ranger Skinner
You can trust Buck to deliver quality and performance backed by a lifetime warranty. As a skinner, this knife offers the ultimate in simplicity and practicality.

420HC Steel Takes an Edge and Keeps it

High quality 420HC steel used in the blade of the Ranger Skinner is a time-proven performer. Easy to sharpen and tough enough to retain its sharpness, this blade won’t let you down.
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Features and Specifications

Fixed 3 1/8” blade
American walnut handle
Leather sheath

Price/Value

This knife is very affordable. While not the cheapest on the market, it is great value.

Verdict

This is a great little knife for a variety of applications; and is best suited to skinning medium sized game such as deer.
Pros

Made in USA

Buck’s ‘Forever Warranty’

Elegant, timeless style

Cons

Requires skill to sharpen

‘Plain’ looks

5. Outdoor Edge SwingBlade

5. Outdoor Edge SwingBlade
A novel approach to multi-blade knife design; the SwingBlade offers a conventional skinning knife as well as a specialised gutting blade designed not to pierce internal organs when opening up an animal.

Two Knives in One

The design of the SwingBlade is great for keeping one blade sharp for specific uses. The gutting blade has a rounded blunt tip to lessen the chances of bursting internal organs while gutting an animal. Saving this blade for the task frees up the other, conventional blade for skinning.
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Features and Specifications

3.6” Skinner; 3.2” Gutting blade
Rubberized TRP handles for grip
Nylon sheath

Price/Value

This knife is another mid-range option. Two blades become very handy in a range of situations however, and greatly increase the value for money.

Verdict

A good choice for those who want the added safety of a specifically designed gutting blade. This blade design is a better choice than gut hooks as it’s far easier to sharpen.
Pros

Two specialized blades

Unique design

Sturdy construction

Cons

Effectively a fixed-blade in terms of total length

6. Onion Skinner – Columbia River

6. Onion Skinner – Columbia River
Designed by Ken Onion and put through its paces across North America; the Onion Skinner has proven itself in the field – for skinning game as well as many other tasks.

Smart Design

The blade design of the Onion Skinner is where this knife shines. A fine point makes detailed work easy while caping animals and the drop point design helps keep the point away from flesh and internal organs when slipped under the skin.
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Features and Specifications

Fixed 3.75” blade
PP/TPR handle with textured grip
Leather sheath

Price/Value

This knife is one of the more expensive options out there, but being made in the USA gives the customer faith in the product.

Verdict

A smartly designed knife that addresses the needs of hunters. Small and compact, this knife won’t make you regret your choice. However, there are more economic options available.
Pros

Smart blade design

Ergonomically sized blade

Cons

Sheath is a little bulky

7. 15001-2 Saddle Mountain Skinner

7. 15001-2 Saddle Mountain Skinner
The Saddle Mountain Skinner is a practically designed knife with simple good looks. It offers USA made quality.

A Robust Knife that Covers All Bases

The Saddle Mountain Skinner combines high quality steel with durable handle materials to make a knife that’ll get the job done. Blade shape makes this a versatile addition to the hunter’s kit.
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Features and Specifications

Fixed 4.17” blade
Option of Dymondwood or G10 handle material
Option of Kydex or leather

Price/Value

It is one of the more expensive knives. These blades are produced in the USA and are known for their quality construction.

Verdict

This is a nice knife, being versatile and built on a proven design. It would perform well for a variety of skinning applications.
Pros

Versatile, all-rounder blade design

Strong construction

Quality components

Cons

Sheath can be a poor fit

Handle on the thin side ergonomically

8. Mini Tac Skinner

8. Mini Tac Skinner
The Mini Tac Skinner offers a long cutting edge for the length of the blade, coupled with a secure handle design.

Plenty of Cutting Edge

The Trailing Point blade design of the Mini Tac gives a long cutting edge to the blade. This is great when lots of knife-work is needed during the skinning process.
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Features and Specifications

Fixed 3 3/8” blade
Neck sheath

Price/Value

The Mini Tac Skinner is an economic option for those after a modern knife design and plenty of cutting surface length.

Verdict

The Mini Tac Skinner is a good option for anyone after increased cutting surface. This design is well suited to animals that require a lot of knife-work to remove the hide. It may not be the most ergonomic choice for extended work.
Pros

Trailing Point blade design

Thin blade easy to work

Snug-fitting sheath

Cons

Handle ergonomics compromised by shortness and narrowness

9. Fox River Hunter

9. Fox River Hunter
The Fox River Hunter is an elegant knife that will perform to the highest degree under any circumstances.

Simple Design, Choice in Looks

Several handle material options are available for the Fox River Hunter. Underlying the cosmetic appearance, though, is a well-crafted knife of top quality.
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Features and Specifications

Fixed 4 1/4” blade
Handle material options
Leather sheath

Price/Value

The Fox River Hunter is the most expensive option in this list. It does, however, offer the peace of mind of being made in the USA, and comes with a lifetime warranty.

Verdict

This is a high quality knife in terms of components, design and looks. The cost of the knife is prohibitive, but considering the product itself it may be a worthwhile investment for anyone who really likes their knives.
Pros

Versatile skinning knife design

High quality craftsmanship

Made in the USA

Lifetime Warranty

Cons

Cost

10. 0103 Skinner – Buck

10. 0103 Skinner – Buck
This knife has long been a favourite by many sportsmen. Solid, simple construction makes for a reliable working knife well suited to skinning game.

Blade Design Gets the Job Done

A nessmuk blade design allows for more cutting surface over the blade length, while controlling the tip point to reduce chances of puncturing a hide.
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Features and Specifications

Fixed 4” blade
Phenolic resin handle
Leather sheath

Price/Value

The 0103 Skinner is another affordable knife. Buck’s ‘Forever Warranty’ gives peace of mind when purchasing.

Verdict

This is a relatively heavy-duty knife. While it can take some practice to keep the blade razor sharp, it’s well worth the effort. Hunters looking for a deer skinning knife need look no further.
Pros

Made in USA

Buck’s ‘Forever Warranty’

Rugged construction

Cons

Can take effort to sharpen

Criteria for Evaluation

Blade Design

Blade design is the main distinguishing feature of a skinning knife. Traditional skinning knives are built on the ‘trailing point’ design; having an upward-curving blade with its point extending above the spine of the blade. This gives an increased cutting area along the curve of the blade; meaning fewer strokes are needed. While this is well suited to working on an animal that’s already been ‘opened up’; a traditional skinner can be awkward in the initial stages of skinning. ‘Drop point’ blades are well suited to performing the initial cuts when skinning and opening the animal up. These blades are also useful for fine knife-work associated with caping animals for mounts.

Fixed blade knives are traditionally preferred for skinning. This is due mainly to personal preference as a folding knife offers reduced size and increased safety when not in use. A knife with a blade locking mechanism is the safest choice in folding knives.

Features

Knives that included a sheath ranked highly. As a lot of work is undertaken in the field, a sheath is vital for containing the knife and keeping the owner safe when not using it. Belt sheaths are most practical in a range of situations; but require that the knife is held snugly or fastened in place by a lanyard or clip – so that there isn’t a risk of losing the knife when pushing through obstacles or through bouncing out.

Size

Shorter blades are preferred for skinning knives. These are most practical as they are easy to use and are very manoeuvrable. They offer good control for fine work around joints and when caping animals. Shorter blades also require less work in sharpening and honing. For skinning big game, longer blades become more useful as it isn’t practical to make many small cuts with a short blade. The longest blade choices in the list are best suited to big game.

Components

Quality steel is the most important consideration for any knife. Poor quality steel may never attain great sharpness; may become dull quickly; or may be so hard that sharpening is nigh impossible. Quality High Carbon Stainless steel is a good choice for most situations as it takes a fine sharpness and holds its edge well; and isn’t prone to rust or blemishes. High Carbon steel, while softer and easier to sharpen, will not retain its edge for as long and may rust if not properly cared for.

Replaceable blades are enjoyed by many hunters for their skinning knives. This option allows the user access to razor-sharp blades without the effort of sharpening and honing them. Replacement blades are easily purchased when old ones are spent.

Support and Customer Care

Choosing a knife from a well regarded manufacturer is a sensible purchase. Many fixed blade knives and well constructed folding knives have little in the way of parts that can malfunction. Faults most often occur in handle materials and sheaths; or from heavy-duty work. Manufacturers like Buck and Victorinox are highly regarded for their product quality and reliable support. Buck Knives offers a lifetime warranty; along with such companies as Bark River Knives. Knives manufactured in countries like the USA and Switzerland are also supported by the quality inherent in the production process.

FAQs

What knife brand is best?

There are many well regarded manufacturers that produce great knives. For quality and economy, companies like Victorinox provide a range of knives aimed at the professional market. Buck is a long-standing American manufacturer who retains production of most of its knives – but check before purchase. Smaller scale production companies like Bark River offer a good, but expensive, product.

How do I keep my knife sharp?

Apart from learning the techniques involved in sharpening and honing knives, there are a few simple steps that can be taken to ensure a sharp knife. Do all cutting on a wooden or plastic cutting board to protect the blade edge. When skinning an animal, insert the blade under the skin and cut outwards – cutting through hair quickly dulls a blade.

What’s the best skinning knife design?

For most small to mid-sized game, an all-rounder drop point blade with a fair amount of belly (blade depth) ensures adequate cutting surface on a relatively short knife. This design allows the user to complete fine knife-work as well as generalise skinning and slicing. For big game, a longer knife is required.

What’s the best knife-sharpening tool?

Ask any professional and the answer will be a whetstone and a quality steel. A whetstone is the best choice for sharpening a blade as it’s lubricated by water. Oilstones do the same thing but require the user to have suitable oil on hand – which is an extra thing to forget. Different grades of whetstones are available. A good choice is a stone with two faces – one moderately coarse to quickly sharpen the edge; and a fine face to begin polishing the edge. The final part is the use of a steel to polish the blade to a fine degree of sharpness. It’s common to spend more on a quality steel than the knife you sharpen with it. Many other sharpening tools exist on the market and offer varying success.

What should I look for in a sheath?

A good sheath keeps you and your knife protected. Generally, it should be snug fitting so that it takes a little effort to insert and remove the knife. When inserting the knife, it should slide ‘home’ with a positive grip – if it just drops in it’s likely to fall out. Deep sheaths that only expose the end of the handle help keep the knife secure. A shallow sheath holding mainly the blade is fine if there is a wrap-around clip to secure the knife in place. A belt sheath is the most practical but can get in the way when sitting down.

The Final Choice

Choosing a skinning knife comes down to the type of animals you’ll be skinning and the amount you’re prepared to pay. For anyone that simply wants a working knife there are plenty of rugged options available. Knife connoisseurs also have the choice of skinners at the top of the market.