I frigging love Cold Steel. Their products range from top of the line slicers of finesse and art to cheap, effective choppers that you can beat senseless. The breadth and scope of their product line is enough to make a weapon nut like me squeal with delight. So it was that recently I purchased their Bowie Machete. Now, this will come as a great shock to those who know my love for the Wild West, but I've never owned a real bowie knife. Okay, I owned one, but it was a piece of junk that didn't cut well and had only a partial tang. When I smack the flat of the blade I can hear something in the handle twang. So I know that when the going gets tough this blade is going to go flying and I doubt it will end up anywhere safe, knowing my luck.
I've been looking around high and low for a bowie that's both affordable and meets my standards. I've seen plenty hanging up in outdoor places, but they keep screaming "Partial Tang" at me, which turns me off mighty fast. I learned in my teens that if I need a big bladed chopper, there is no substitute for a full tang. Then Cold Steel, the cutlery equivalent of Santa's Workshop came through and produced the Bowie Machete. Their machete line consists of what are essentially economy-grade workhorses. No bells or whistles, just a chunk of sharpened leaf spring steel with a coat of paint and a handle. With price tags usually ranging within 30 dollars, you can afford to run these through a gauntlet of punishment and not mind if they bust. They aren't pretty, but they are ruthlessly functional and reliable. Perfect for a penny pincher like me!
Normally I prefer a chopping knife to have a little more belly to it, but I was impressed at the finesse this twelve inch long blade had. I managed to give it a bit of light testing on some mesquite brush and cut through a two and a half inch branch with minimal effort. For those of you lacking context, mesquite wood in the Mojave desert is some of the most parched and hard wood you can get. It's baked in the kiln that is the desert there and usually requires a chainsaw to process. But as you can see, what little I was allowed to do with witnesses around was promising.
For such a thin blade this thing chopped like a champ. The steel is relatively soft, meaning that it can take a royal beating without breaking and can take a nice toothy edge. Unique to this variety however is that the clip point lacks a false edge, unlike most bowies. That back portion is indeed very sharp, which took some getting used to, but found it to be very useful. I actually touched that up to a more delicate but much sharper edge than the rest, using it for jobs that required more finesse. So I can use the main edge for cutting through brush, branches, doors, tax collectors and the like, while using the back for opening letters, shaving and whittling.
I managed to test it out on some nasty thorny scrub too. Those branches are long and thin with a deceptively peaceful look, but will grab onto you and bit deep with their thorns. Where a hatchet or axe would have failed, this little champ excelled. Light and quick I was able to slice through the light but hard branches with deft flicks of my wrist. For the more stubborn ones the backside availed wonderfully, cutting through like a laser. I haven't had any experience in tropical regions unfortunately, but I imagine that this would excel as a brush chopper if one finds themselves in jungle or similar terrain. Much lighter and faster than a traditional South American machete, this boy will make quick work of any vines or pesky branches barring your path.
Normally my favorite fixed blade is a good kukri. Nothing can match those knives when it comes to raw chopping power, but now that I've given a real bowie some handling I can see why both are touted as among the best knives in the world. The kukri packs more brute chopping power, but the bowie has better balance and capable of more gentle tasks. I hope to give it a more thorough testing in the future. As of now the only thing for it to chew on is yuccas and joshua trees, hardly fitting for such a splendid blade.
I highly recommend acquiring one for either a bug out bag or heavy duty cutting work. You can get one for a song and it'll keep for a good long time.
You can buy one here!