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Bark River reviews

Review | The Bark River Gunny Hunter – Perfection in a practical knife?

Review | The Bark River Gunny Hunter – Perfection in a practical knife?


by Leon Pantenburg

I was not paid to do this review. KnivesShipFree.com is a SurvivalCommonSense.com sponsor, but the company did not supply either of the knives used in this review and field testing.

I learn a lot from readers and conversations about gear. I ran into a Texas big game guide a few years back. The guide said his working knife was a Bark River Gunny rampless.

The Gunny Hunter comes in a variety of steels and handle options.

The Gunny Hunter comes in a variety of steels and handle options. I like curly maple.

The guide said he’s been using his Gunny for several years, often to process multiple kills of different animals, one after the other.

“The design is great, and it holds an edge,” he said. “After seeing my knife, the other guides got Gunnys, too. When you’re using a tool several times a day, you don’t have time to screw around.”

I’d never heard of the company, model or variation. I wasn’t looking to replace my old reliable Cold Steel SRK, so I filed the info away.

Then, I came across Bark River Knives, remembered the conversation, and was unable to resist ordering a Gunny Hunter with a desert ironwood handle. Come to find out, the Gunny is one of Bark River’s most popular models, second only to the Bravo. Essentially, the Gunny is a smaller, more compact Bravo.

I’ve been using a Gunny for more than two years now, and it is the knife I use for just about everything. The Gunny has helped field dress and skin out a whitetail buck, clean small game and fish, been used for cooking at camp and whittling sticks and processing pitchwood and just about anything else you might need a knife for.

Here are the specs:

  • Overall Length: 8.375″
  • Blade Length: 3.775″
  • Steel: CPM 3V or A2
  • Blade Thickness: .156″
  • Weight: 5.63 oz.

I sent my original Gunny back to the factory to get it ground into a clip point with swedge, and to have the scandi edge modified into a full convex grind. I ended up giving it to my sister Karla Moore, knowing the Gunny would go to a good home. Karla is an expert homesteader-type, who cards, spins and knits wool:  makes soap and teaches soap making at Iowa State University, butchers, cans and gardens. My pet Gunny is appreciated and used a lot.

Karla said the Gunny has become one of her go-to knives, for everything from boning and dis-jointing chickens to processing vegetables from the garden. During canning season, a knife will be used for several hours at a stretch, so for any knife to get this kind of endorsement from Karla is pretty impressive!

After I gave away my pet Gunny, I ordered another, with a curly maple handle and swedge point. It gets a lot of day-to-day use.

Here’s what I like about the Bark River Gunny Hunter:

The Gunny handle fits my large hands very well.

The Gunny handle fits my large hands very well.

Handle: I have big  hands – my right palm measures four-inches. Many otherwise excellent knives don’t work for me. I think short handles can be dangerous, and cause a lack of control. The Gunny fits my hand just right, and I like how it handles when doing messy fish cleaning or field dressing small game.

Spine: The Gunny has a 90-degree angle on the spine, which makes it an additional edge for shredding tinder or scraping a ferrocerium rod to create sparks for firemaking. In a pinch, this could be very useful.

Grind: The Gunny comes with your choice of a Scandi or convex grind. The Scandi is a good choice for a bushcraft knife, and it makes a superior choice for a wood carving knife. But I’ve been spoiled by the Bark River convex grinds. I find a convex to be the best all-around choice, and when I’m not field testing a new knife, I’ll carry a convex blade.

Steel: The Gunny comes in A2 or CPM 3V, and either is a fine choice. I use both, and truth be known, can’t really tell the difference as far as edge-holding ability and ease of sharpening.

Probably neither steel will require sharpening in the field. A couple seasons ago, I used my Kalahari in A2 to completely gut, skin and  quarter a whitetail buck. At the end of the process, the knife was still shaving sharp.

This Bark River Sahara worked well in all aspects of field dressing whitetail deer.

This Bark River Sahara worked well in all aspects of field dressing and processing a whitetail deer.

The next day, I used my A2 Sahara to process another buck. Same story. I later used that Sahara to carve the Thanksgiving turkey. The desert ironwood handle looked classy in the formal dinner setting.

My Ambush Tundra in CPM 3V was used hard on a bull elk last November. Same story.

After a lot of use, A2 will eventually build up a patina. CPM 3V is a stainless, so it should be fine.

I don’t care. I like seeing the evidence of use in a tool – it gives credibility to the knife and the user. You will be happy with either steel, though CPM 3V costs more.

Point: The standard Gunny comes with a well-designed drop point. I like a drop point, but for what I’m using this knife for, I like a clip point with a swedge. It’s strictly personal preference. Either works fine.

Size: The 3.77-inch blade is a great choice for a deer hunting blade, and it is not too big for use on small game. The blade is also small enough for whittling and wood carving.

Sheath: The Gunny comes with a Sharpshooter leather sheath. This is one of my favorite designs. The Sharpshooter holds the knife safely and securely. I added a D-ring to make the sheath a dangler and IMO, safer.

I have a hard time finding anything wrong with the Gunny and that’s why I ended up getting two. After using a Gunny extensively, for a multitude of knife tasks, I find it to be just about perfect. As far as I’m concerned, this knife is a keeper, and should be on your short list for a survival/prepper/hunting knife.

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Bark River reviews

Leon Pantenburg is a wilderness enthusiast, and doesn't claim to be a survival expert or expertise as a survivalist. As a newspaperman and journalist for three decades, covering search and rescue, sheriff's departments, floods, forest fires and other natural disasters and outdoor emergencies, Leon learned many people died unnecessarily or escaped miraculously from outdoor emergency situations when simple, common sense might have changed the outcome. Leon now teaches common sense techniques to the average person in order to avert potential disasters. His emphasis is on tried and tested, simple techniques of wilderness survival. Every technique, piece of equipment or skill recommended on this website has been thoroughly tested and researched. After graduating from Iowa State University, Leon completed a six-month, 2,552-mile solo Mississippi River canoe trip from the headwaters at Lake Itasca, Minn., to the Gulf of Mexico. His wilderness backpacking experience includes extended solos through Yellowstone’s backcountry; hiking the John Muir Trail in California, and numerous shorter trips along the Pacific Crest Trail. Other mountain backpacking trips include hikes through the Uintas in Utah; the Beartooths in Montana; the Sawtooths in Idaho; the Pryors, the Wind River Range, Tetons and Bighorns in Wyoming; Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado, the Catskills in New York and Death Valley National Monument in southern California. Some of Leon's canoe trips include sojourns through the Okefenokee Swamp and National Wildlife Refuge in Georgia, the Big Black River swamp in Mississippi and the Boundary Waters canoe area in northern Minnesota and numerous small river trips in the Midwest and Pacific Northwest. Leon is also an avid fisherman and an elk, deer, upland game and waterfowl hunter. Since 1991, Leon has been an assistant scoutmaster with Boy Scout Troop 18 in Bend, and is a scoutmaster wilderness skills trainer for the Boy Scouts’ Fremont District. Leon earned a second degree black belt in Taekwondo, and competed in his last tournament (sparring and form) at age 49. He is an enthusiastic Bluegrass mandolin picker and fiddler and two-time finalist in the International Dutch Oven Society’s World Championships.

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