Bargain knives for the small game hunter

Back in the day there was no such thing as a decent cheap knife. Cheap knives had loose blades, came apart during use, and had no edge out of the box. Surprisingly, I’ve found some really decent knives under $20 in the past few years and wanted to share my findings with my readers. These aren’t for the knife snob or to hand down to posterity. I’m approaching this subject from the perspective of a small game hunter / fisherman / general outdoors forager on a budget.

A trio of budget knives

We’ll start from the left. That is a 4″ fillet knife from Wal-Mart, costing just under $7. Came out of the package shaving sharp and works well for its intended use. The handle has grippy inserts, a very nice feature when cleaning fish. In addition, it works really well for dressing small game. It is my knife of choice for deboning small game. It comes with a blade cover and is a great knife to throw in a backpack. I’ve been using it for a year and have been very happy with it. It holds a decent edge and is pretty easy to resharpen.

The middle knife is a Imperial Trapper I bought from Amazon for $8.29 about 3.5 years ago. These are made in China and have stainless steel blades – a major departure from their origin. In spite of that, it comes in super sharp and has been my favorite small game knife in the time I’ve had it. The blades don’t lock, so keep that in mind while using it. Again, it holds a good edge and resharpens easily.

The last knife I’ll admit seems like a gimmick. I got one as a gift a couple years back and was pleasantly surprised. The blade has a thumb opener, flicks open smoothly, and stays in place with the liner lock. There is no slop or wiggle in the blade. It comes sharp and features a strong pocket clip. The blade is a tad on the heavy side for small game dressing, but still gets the job done. The blade is great for wood carving, mushroom harvesting, and camp chores.

In addition to being a decent knife, it has a bottle opener, a flashlight with a magnet, seatbelt / cord cutter, glass breaker, and firestarter. The firestarter works very well, I use it when starting fires to cook over when camping and hiking. This knife has been an excellent sub $20 EDC knife and like the others, resharpens well. Check it out here.

Keep your knives up with a sharpening system

Just because a knife is cheap doesn’t mean it has to be disposable. I use a Lansky sharpening system to customize and maintain the edge on my blades. I also occasionally build knives for fun, so the above system combined with a 1″x30″ belt grinder comes in handy. You can do fine with just a set of stones, but a guided sharpening system takes the skill out of putting a good edge on a blade. A sharpening system like this pays for itself in 3 or 4 sharpenings, so it is a worthwhile investment. Works well on kitchen knives too!

Barra Cowboy Series 1866 Review

It has been awhile since we’ve seen a new multipump rifle hit the market. Barra Airguns has changed that with their new Cowboy Series rifle called the 1866. It is inspired by the old lever action rifles:

As you can see, the 1866 looks really sharp. Even though the receiver is plastic, the gold colored plating makes it look and feel metallic. The overall heft and balance of the gun makes it feel like the real deal. Looks are only part of the story, here’s my range video that demonstrates how well it can shoot:

I’ve gotten even better 10 shot groups when the weather was better, here’s a sampling of pellets shot at 25 yards:

Shoots really well!

Comparing these groups to the ones in my video leads me to my biggest complaint – the butt plate is slippery when held against my coat. My plan to remedy this is to get a leather recoil pad to slip over the butt stock. It will look good and should prevent slipping.

Power is excellent and it is one of the few multipumps that I have tested that could not only meet, but also beat the advertised claims. There is plenty of power for close range small game hunting and pest control.

There is no scope rail, so you will be limited to open sight shooting only. If I can find the time, I would like to develop a tang style peep sight for even more precise shooting.

At any rate, if you like multipump guns, I would highly recommend adding this one to your collection. In spite of the couple of drawbacks I mentioned, overall it is an excellent, quality piece. In addition, the all metal pump handle should lend itself well to power modifications. Stay tuned for more on this rifle, as I have been doing a bit of hunting with it.

UUQ 3.5×30 Prism Scope Review

My UTG 4×32 AO scope started letting me down. Something inside must have broke loose, as every time I would take a shot, I’d see some black chunks jumping around. In addition, there was a greasy smudge appearing on the inside of the eyepiece.

I decided to try a compact prismatic scope for the first time and settled on a UUQ 3.5×30 prism scope. It has a lot of features for being an entry level offering. It features a tri-colored illuminated glass etched reticle. A decent set of flip up lens caps are included. There’s an integrated Picatinny mount that seems to be fairly sturdy.

UUQ 3.5x30 Prism Scope
UUQ 3.5×30 Prism Scope

I attached it to my B3-3 by means of a dovetail to picatinny adapter. I’ve been using these adapters to securely mount my optics to rifles that have dovetail rails. They really anchor things down well and don’t cost much to boot.

The illuminated reticle works great and the reticle is perfectly visible without illumination. It features a very thin crosshair with lines for holdover. Here’s a picture I took of it with my cellphone:

UUQ Prism Scope Crosshairs
UUQ Prism Scope Crosshairs

The picture is a little washed out from the bright sunshine and cheap cellphone camera, but should give you a good idea of what it looks like. Unfortunately, there’s no real provision on the reticle for windage compensation. I adjusted the focus to give me a fairly clear sight picture from 10 to 100 yards. This is accomplished by loosening the front locking ring and rotating the front lens. Once the desired focus is achieved, tighten the front locking ring to save your setting.

I think it looks pretty good on my B3-3
I think it looks pretty good on my B3-3

I’ve ran a tin of pellets through it since mounting and sighting in. So far, it has held zero perfectly. The reticle is clear and the optics are pretty decent for being such a cheap device. The mounting is solid and the adjustment clicks are sharp with no slop. There are a couple little issues with this scope that you might want to consider.

First is the scope adjustment. You’ll notice that the direction on the adjustment screw does not agree with the direction on the body of the scope:

Which direction is correct?
Which direction is correct?

To save you some trouble, the direction printed on the scope body is the correct one. A minor nuisance, but definitely not a deal breaker for me. The other word of caution is the lack of eye relief – around 2″ worth. Perfect for air rifles, .22 LR, pistol caliber carbines, possibly light rifle calibers, but certainly not enough for topping your shotgun with. Lack of windage compensation is another consideration.

Overall, I’m very happy with this purchase and have been impressed with the clarity of the glass, laser sharp reticle, and ability to hold zero so far.  I’d highly recommend it if you want a compact optic for a reasonable price.


This scope has continued to be a performer. I’ve thrown it on my SKS and mid powered springers and it still retains its zero. The illumination continues to work, even with the original battery. It is one of the best scopes I’ve found to top my Beeman P17 carbine with.