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Humans have field dressed four-legged sustenance since that first caveman chiseled a pointy tip on a downed tree branch. Did he, or the millions of hunters who came after, have a gut hook knife? Nope. Not for many millennia, until it showed up in the mid 20th century.
Its origin story is murky. Many folks say custom knifemaker Merle Seguine added a hook to his knife to lift a pot from a campfire, and later sharpened the hook for field dressing. Others say the gut hook was invented for hunting by Sid Bell (a silversmith, geologist, and outdoorsman), who gave a wooden prototype to Seguine to produce.
Regardless, the gut hook is used today to “unzip” a downed animal’s hide without piercing muscles or intestines.
Many designers misinterpret the gut hook knife by sharpening its top or messing up the geometry of its C-shaped opening. This can result in unintended cutting and difficulty in sharpening after use. Also, most gut hooks are on a blade’s spine, meaning the primary edge must face you as you split the hide; like a gun’s muzzle, it’s not ideal to have the business end pointing at you.
So, in this issue, we take a stab at gut hook knives to see if they're something preppers should add to our tool kits.
OAL: 7.5 inches
Blade Material: D2 tool steel
Weight: 5.2 ounces
If the SwingBlade is the oddball of folding gut hooks, then this Uncle Henry model is the nonconformist among the fixed blades in this buyer’s guide. It’s a hybrid of sorts, combining elements of the gut hook, a trailing-point fixed blade, and the Inuit blade called an ulu to produce a tool that’s made specifically for field dressing medium to large game. Old-school aesthetics in a unique package, it offers solid slicing abilities.
OAL: 8.3 inches
Blade Material: AUS-8 stainless steel
Weight: 7.2 ounces
Outdoor Edge is a Colorado-based company that makes a wide range of innovative knives and tools, and its SwingBlade is one such model. As the oddity of the bunch, it’s not a true gut hook knife. Instead, it’s a skinning blade that flips around to reveal a slightly curved gutting blade on the other end. Part folding knife, part straight razor, this two-in-one design frees up space in your kit while offering superior in-the-field performance.
OAL: 8.375 inches
Blade Material: 7Cr17MoV stainless steel
Weight: 8.8 ounces
Despite being made in China, this is a robust multi-tool consisting of three folding stainless steel blades: a gut hook, a bone saw, and a drop-point. Each are secured with a sturdy lockback and housed in a wide handle with grippy injection-molded scales. The gut hook’s tip is rounded to prevent accidental punctures. The saw has two rows of staggered teeth for effective sawing, while the drop-point blade is sharp and versatile.
OAL: 8.5 inches
Blade Material: 420HC stainless steel
Weight: 3.4 ounces
Designed as a midrange hunting knife, the 660 features a smartly designed gut hook on the spine of its folding drop-point blade. The gut hook’s opening is wider than most, and its sharpened edge is almost rectangular, allowing for a smooth slicing motion. Thanks to its performance, lightweight frame, durability, and portability, this U.S.-made folder is a serious contender. But we’d expect nothing less from the iconic Buck Knives.
OAL: 8.75 inches
Blade Material: 440 stainless steel
Weight: 4.4 ounces
Knife snobs might scoff at the 444’s Kraton (polymer) handle and 440 stainless steel blade, but both have proven themselves in real-world applications. Once upon a time, 440 was considered a super steel; even though other fancy steels have come along, it still provides strong rust resistance and edge retention. Speaking of which, both the gut hook and the primary cutting edge are crazy sharp. Made in the USA.
OAL: 9 inches
Blade Material: S30V stainless steel
Weight: 10.4 ounces
Some longtime fans have lamented that the quality control on Gerber knives have dropped in recent years. You won’t have that fear with the Gator Premium. From the S30V stainless steel of its full-tang blade and integrated gut hook to the comfy, rubberized Gator Grip handle that inspires its name, this 21st century reincarnation of Gerber’s bestselling lineup elevates this genre in aesthetics, performance, and craftsmanship. It has Best in Class written all over it.
OAL: 11.75 inches
Blade Material: 9Cr18MoV stainless steel
Weight: 1 pound
Utah Knife Works owner Mark Russon says his father, Robb, came up with the design for what would eventually become the Tom Brown Tracker knife, but never got credit for it. So, 40 years later, the younger Russon gave his dad’s model a modern makeover. Every section of this jack-of-all-trades blade has a different survival function, including the utility hook that’s promoted as being capable of processing game, among other uses.