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The Bark River Rouge Bowie Knife Review

By Bill Bernhardt

Bark River Knives is my new favorite knife company!

Formerly known as Bark River Knife & Tool, BRK is a family owned company located in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. BRK is run by veteran knife smith Mike Stewart who teaches and employs a number of skilled artisans that create some of the prettiest production knives on the market today.

One of my favorite Bark River designs is their Rouge model which is an interpretation of the “Natchez” style of bowie knife.


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This knife features an overall length of 12 1/4″, a drop point blade that measures 7 1/4” that is made of A2 steel that has been hardened to 58-60 Rockwell. The knife features a slightly tapered, stainless steel, bolster held in place by two miniature, stainless steel Corby bolt sets.

The knife is pictured on the BRK website with the classic coffin-shaped handle with black Micarta handle slabs. Speaking of which, one of the best things about the knife is that it comes with a wide range from different colors of Micarta for you they got everything from burl woods to  exotic hard woods.

Last, the Bark River Rogue Bowie is supplied with a heavy-duty, very traditional style, leather sheath with a dismountable belt frog.
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Personally, I have always been absolutely fascinated with the “bowie knife” and the legend that surrounds it. In fact,  I have read many articles on the subject of bowie knives and I have even visited the Alamo where I viewed the knife that is alleged by the State of Texas to be the very knife bowie used in his last battle with Santa Anna’s soldiers at the Alamo.

However, there is actually a considerable amount of controversy surrounding the design of this bowie knife. For instance, the first version is alleged to have been forged by Jessie Clifft (a local blacksmith) at Rezin Bowie’s request (Jim’s brother) and was said to “look like a large butcher knife”. In fact, the blade later described by Rezin Bowie was 9 1/2” long, 1/4” thick and 1 1/2″ wide with a straight back described by witnesses as “a large butcher knife having no clipped point, nor any hand guard (quillion,) with a simple, riveted, wood scale handle”.

However, what we do know is that: On September 19th, 1827, on a sand bar in the Mississippi River near Natchez, Mississippi, James Bowie participated in a famous duel now known as “The Sandbar Fight.” This fight started between two fellows named Samuel Levi Wells III and Dr. Thomas Maddox who apparently had a serious disagreement with each other.


Original Bowie Knife

After the two dualist’ had each exchanged shots at each other but missed their intended targets, a bystander named Alfred Wright drew a pistol and shot Bowie through the lower chest.

Then, according to an eyewitness, Bowie drew his knife and proceeded to chase Alfred Wright. But, turning on Bowie, Alfred Wright shot Bowie in the thigh and then, along with his brother Blanchard Wright, proceeded to stab Bowie several times with sword canes (which were very popular in the South at that time).

But as Alfred Wright bent over Bowie, Bowie plunged his knife into Alfred’s chest and then rose and slashed Blanchard severely.

Intriguingly, although none of the eyewitness agreed on all of the details of the fight, they did all remember Bowie’s knife which they described as a “big butcher knife”. Consequently, after countless retellings of the famous fight, reports of Bowie’s prowess came to the public’s fickle attention and he was unwillingly proclaimed the South’s most formidable knife fighter.

Thus, as both Bowie’s and his knife’s fame grew, both he and Rezin began to work with blacksmith James Black, Searles and Constable, and a couple of other smiths to refine and market the “Bowie Knife.”
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Consequently, as this type of large, heavy, knife gained considerable popularity in America (which never had an established sword culture) and therefore, certain styles of very distinctive, regional, Bowie Knife designs began to emerge such as the following:

  • Natchez Bowie (a Drop Point design)
  • Sheffield Bowie (a Clip Point design)
  • California Bowie (a Clip Point design)
  • Rio Grande Bowie (a Spear Point design;) and
  • Fowler Bowie (a straight-back design)

For this, the Bark River Rouge Bowie emulates what is commonly known as the “Natchez Bowie” style and in my opinion, it’s a gorgeous knife!

It has a very versatile blade design that would be very useful as both a dedicated survival knife and as a hunting knife for large game. In fact, with a blade that measures 7 1/4” in length and almost 1/4” in width, this knife has enough heft to perform light chopping tasks and the minuscule Ricasso makes it great for carving.

The drop point blade places the tip out of the way when removing the hide from harvested game animals and the false edge lightens the tip so that the knife balances just forward of the bolster. Plus, the blade is flat ground for the best possible combination of toughness and sharpness. The A2 steel used in this knife is, however, not a stainless steel and thus it does require more care than a stainless steel blade to keep it free from rust.

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The upside though is the steel’s composition. It contains 0.95% – 1.05% Carbon, 4.75% – 5.50% Chromium, 0.90% -1.40% Molybdenum, 1.0% Manganese, 0.15% – 0.50% Vanadium and 0.30% Nickel – these makes the A2 steel a very hard one.

In addition, I really like the traditionally shaped coffin handle with the stainless steel bolsters and no quillions since this design is an excellent complement to the graceful shape of the blade.

Finally, as I said, I REALLY like the  and in fact, the ONLY thing that I would change about it is the steel- I strongly prefer stainless steel than non-stainless ones. Otherwise, I honestly don’t believe that the design of this knife could possibly be improved upon!

All in all, I would be EXTREMLY pleased to carry the BRK Rouge Bowie as either a dedicated survival knife or as a large game hunting knife.