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Each excels at larger tasks and each is a bit cumbersome for the smaller naturally. We're focusing on the hardcore stuff here like cutting and chopping and self defense.
Can each chop well? You bet they can, but when chopping for a long duration in camp, like chopping your firewood for the night, the kukri wins out. The shape of the blade concentrates an immense amount of power into its belly and the heavier weight does some of the chopping for you. It is an arm driven motion employing the larger muscles of the bicep and tricep, rather than the wrist and forearm work which is relied on when using the Bowie. Trust us, after 3-4 minutes of sustained chopping you'll feel the difference.
Another task we find can be a bit of fun is the multi-purpose role each of these monsters can be used for. That includes hammering and smashing things. The kukri generally edges out the Bowie due to the sheer weight advantage and the spine of the kukri is usually more stout at a 1/4" thick.
The fact is each is very good at what they do which is why each is still around and in effective use today. Still, what is our ultimate choice?
The Bowie is the classic American fighting knife since the 1800s. Its source has been attributed to Jim Bowie and his famous sandbar fight, hence the name. He brought the knife to what turned into a gunfight and he was shot many times but managed to make it out alive using his trusty knife. He was reported to have had one with him at his last stand at the Alamo. More like a modified butcher knife than the sleek blades we see today (think Rambo or Expendables), it was no less functional.
A kukri is approximate twice the weight of a heavy Bowie, making the Kukri a crushing, destructive blade. The cutting power of the weight forward knife is a force to take very seriously, once that motion is started it is hard to stop!
This also brings us to probably the only negative for the kukri. What if you miss your target? You're not stopping the swing easily without doing some harm to yourself in the process while leaving yourself open for a counter. The best thing to do is train with whichever knife you chose. Train a lot. Train for hits AND train for misses.
Still, if we could only have one in a combat situation it would be the kukri. It can strike down an opponent with one blow. Even a glancing blow can break bones. British Gurkha Regiments stationed in India still carry this famed weapon. There are stories of whole groups of soldiers throwing down their weapons in defeat to avoid meeting the destructive onslaught a Gurkha and his kukri could bring. We'll take that reputation any day.