Knife Review – Winchester 8.6in Double Barrel Bowie Knife.
The Winchester Double Barrel Bowie Knife is a large fixed blade knife, with the distinctive Bowie clip point. A wooden handle and stainless steel blade, over 14 inches in length, it is a big knife. I wanted to review a large chopper, but a tool smaller than a machete or kukri, but big enough for processing small firewood and helping construct debris huts and general bushcraft use. For the knife review, I am trying to objectively test the knife as best as I can. As I generally like the Winchester brand, I will try to put my biases aside. (I have used several Winchester firearms and fired plenty of various Winchester ammo over the years. The gear has always performed solid for the price. Nothing fancy, but does the job.)
Above: Here is a picture of the Winchester Bowie, to put it into size perspective compared to the; Cold Steel Frontier Hawk Tomahawk, (Cut down to 18 inches.) Cold Steel Kukri Machete and Mora Companion Heavy Duty Knife.
Quality, first appearances of the knife.
Upon getting the Bowie out of the package you can’t help to notice the size. At around 14 inches length, the knife looks solid. While I would generally prefer a full tang knife for bushcraft use, the Winchester Bowie looks solid for a hidden tang model.
Looking at the wooden handle, I spotted a fine crack down the handle one side, in line with the rivets and the Winchester logo plate. I couldn’t tell how deep the crack was. Initially I did think about returning it, but the knife was on sale and thought it was probably a fairer test to the knife as this is straight out of the box, as is so to speak. In my dull wishful thinking, I also thought the crack might be just a fine scratch, more than a structural crack.
Specifications. Knife dimensions. Full length: 14.2” 36.1 cm. Blade length: 8.5” 21.8 cm
The Bowie blade. The blade is a clip point with 7Cr17MoV stainless steel. It has the trade mark letter “W” for Winchester, stamped on the blade and a serial number. The knife is made in the USA. Out of the box it was sharp, not scary razor sharp, but not bad for a mass produced knife out of the package.
The handle. The wooden handle was a light brown and had a nice grain through it and a lanyard hole. The handle surprised me little bit, when I initially was looking at it, I thought it was going to be too large and bulky and for my hands, (I would say I have medium size hands.) but found it comfortable. For smaller hands I think the handle would be too big, but it is a large knife, so a small handle might not work in proportion for this model.
Sharpening. As mentioned it was reasonable sharp out of the box, but not hair shaving sharp. I put it on the wet stone and then a leather strop with a little bit of effort got it shaving sharp. After using it, it was resharpened and the edge come up with a little bit of work.
The field test. I initially tested it chopping on about 1/2 inch (1.27 cm) sticks to about 1inch, just to get the feel of the knife. In the hand it felt reasonable balanced and handled well. The weight wasn’t too heavy for a larger knife and I enjoyed using it.
Eventually to test it, I worked my way up to about a five or six inch green sapling. After a few chops, I heard and felt some rattling in the knife, initially I thought the small crack line in the wood handle had split and come loose. However it wasn’t the handle it was the guard that was loose. I was disappointed that in only about probably ten minutes of chopping on smallish wood the guard come lose. (As in image below on left. Crack in handle on right.) A week later I then tested out the Bowie again. I done some more chopping with it about a three inch bit of wood, the fine crack in the handle then developed more.
Batoning and chopping.
A big heavy knife generally does okay in batoning wood and the Bowie blade done well, even up to bigger size wood. However with the crack in the wooden handle, batoning and chopping wasn’t ideal for it. Obviously an axe or even a hatchet will do a better job at processing and chopping up firewood. But if you only had the Bowie, then it chops smaller wood just fine. It could be used for larger wood but it is not really practical and would take too long and too much energy to process larger wood.
I used the knife to make some feather sticks and it worked okay considering the thicker blade thickness. I should have sharpened the knife a bit more before doing the feather-sticks.
Carving and finer blade work.
While certainly a smaller knife is easier to do more delicate work like carving, but after a bit of getting used to the larger size blade, it can work.
Fire-lighting with the ferrocerium rod.
The knife doesn’t come with a ferro rod, but I always like checking what type of sparks I get from the spine, when using a new knife for the striker. I could get some sparks from the spine of the knife and a few more sparks from the choil part of the blade with the ferro rod. Not great sparks, but maybe enough to get you by for a secondary scraper for a survival situation. Because of the size of the knife, drawing back the ferro rod (And holding the knife stationary.) is probably a safer and more efficient manner for fire-lighting.
The knife sheath.
The Winchester sheath is okay quality, nothing fancy, but it does the job of protecting the blade and securing it well. It has an inner plastic insert and holds the knife firmly, even upside down without the clips. I gave it a few slight shakes and it secures the knife without it moving.
The knife sheath is black and will appeal to some people who like the tactical black look. It had a few end threads sticking out, but more of a cosmetic quality control issue in manufacturing.
A Winchester logo is sewn onto the sheath. The sheath is a synthetic material and made in China.
Because of the size of the knife, the sheath has two retaining straps, which I don’t like un-clipping two straps to unsheathe the knife. (Although obviously this makes it more secure to hold it the knife in.) The extra strap takes a touch more time to fasten. If you are doing field craft, a lot of the time you are constantly taking out you knife, putting it back in the sheath, etc. So unbuttoning two straps is a pain.
A simple solution was to put the top strap and button it up behind the belt loop, out of the way. This then allowed for the one snap fastener to secure the knife but un-clip it quickly. If traveling or going through thick bush, the top fastener could be snapped back on around the knife.
The BABK knife nickname.
Hey, it’s intimidating and big, so BABK is the nickname I have coined for this knife. Which stands for Big Ass Bowie Knife.
Knife review summary.
It was disappointing that the guard come loose after such a very short time in the field and with minimal use.
Cosmetically it had a few quality flaws right out of the box. The second session I used it for chopping the fine crack become bigger and the guard looser. I am assuming after a lot of work it will crack through most of the handle. While initially this Bowie knife could have been that one out of a thousand on the manufacturing line that turns out to be a lemon. However, my feelings are for the price of the Bowie knife, the quality control and maybe quality materials are probably lacking before it goes out the door. I hope I am wrong.
I have used some Loctite flexible glue (Which will hopefully be more flexible and shock resistant.) to secure the rattling guard for now. If the glue doesn’t hold, some solder will be used later on. Maybe a new DIY knife handle down the track as well.
While a lot of bushcrafters don’t like the stainless steel blade and if you can look past it’s, “Out of the box quality.” it is a reasonable solid blade. It can be used for bushcraft to help build shelters, process smaller firewood or for hunting and fishing. Big enough for a chopper, but still smaller enough to handle well after getting used to it. For the price it is not going to be top quality tool compared to say a custom made knife. However the Winchester Bowie should have performed a lot better, the review and field test of the knife was disappointing due to the guard and handle.
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