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Buck Knives was founded in 1902 and since that time has gone on to become one of the more iconic American knife brands. The company is best known for making durable, well-made knives that are razor sharp out of the box. In addition, their “Forever Warranty” covers the knife for its lifetime against defects in materials and workmanship.
At a Glance: Our Choices for The 8 Best Buck Knives
Click on one of the links to go directly to our overview, opinion, and features of each knife.
About Buck Knives
Hoyt Buck was the founder of the company, making his first knives in Kansas at the age of 13. Later, he and his son Al began H.H. Buck and Son in San Diego, CA. The company has stayed in the Buck family ever since, passing from Al to his son Chuck, and now to Chuck’s son CJ. The plant remains in the U.S., located in Post Falls, ID.
In this article, we will try to give you a good overview of what Buck has to offer. We’ll look at some EDC’s, hunting knives, survival knives, as well as military knives.
Most of these picks have blades composed of 420HC stainless steel. This is a grade that might be looked down upon in some circles—and there may be some justification for that. But the truth of the matter is that not all 420HC is created equally.
Buck implements a heat-treating process for its 420HC that was developed by Paul Bos, a well-known figure in the knife industry. The operation involves heating, freezing and reheating stages to achieve the appropriate hardness, as measured using the Rockwell Scale. The result is a blade that is wear resistant, and also much more corrosion resistant than your typical 420HC.
Our EDC Knife Picks
Buck Bantam BBW
The Buck Bantam, as the name suggests, is a lightweight pocket knife at 1.5oz (42.7g). The blade is a 2.75” (6.99cm) drop point, meaning that it is full-bellied but tapers down toward the point for more detailed work. It is heated treated to a Rockwell Hardness (Rc) of 58. The closed length of the knife is 3.75” (9.53cm).
The Buck Bantam has an injection molded handle that is Moss Oak Break-Up camo. It also features a lanyard hole at the bottom. There is no liner inside the handle, which contributes to its lighter weight. The knife has a mid-lockback design and the blade has thumb studs on both sides for one-handed opening.
Overall, this is a solid EDC that comes in at a reasonable price point. It arrives from the factory very sharp and is also easy enough to re-sharpen. One thing you will notice, however, is that the lack of a liner makes the handle feel less solid. The handle is also not extremely grippy, which may hinder use in wet conditions.
Another issue in handling is that the blade rises above the height of the top jimping, which makes the jimping somewhat useless. The blade is also riveted and cannot be tightened, although it is still very solid and does not wiggle when new. It is a Made in the USA knife.
Buck Vantage Force Select
(+) Ergonomics are nice with the finger choil and thumb ramp
(+) Deep carry and low profile pocket clip
(+) Highly durable
(-) Handle is not the best in terms of grip
(-) On the heavy side for an EDC
The Buck Vantage Force Select is an American made pocket knife with a handle clip for deep carry. It is longer and significantly bulkier compared to the Bantam. The blade is 3.25” (8.3cm) and the knife weighs 4.30z (122.4g).
Like the Bantam, the Vantage Force has a drop point blade. This gives it a strong, thick point for heavier tasks. Also, the taper at the top of the blade is designed to prevent puncturing when used for skinning. The knife comes in both a plain blade and a serrated model.
The handle on the Buck Vantage Force is glass-reinforced nylon, and the closed length is 4.37” (11.1cm). It has a bead textured finish, but again it is not the grippiest surface you will ever encounter. The blade also features a hole for one-handed opening and has a very tight lockup system.
Like the Bantam, the jimping on the Vantage Force almost seems to be a decorative feature. It is quite shallow and serves not much of a purpose in terms of function. That notwithstanding, the knife does have a very good feel with both a thumb ramp and finger choil to give it solid ergonomics and handling. The only question is how well it works if your hand happens to be sweaty, or you are in a wet environment.
Our Hunting Knife Picks
Buck 110 Chairman
In many ways, the 110 is the classic Buck folding knife. The Chairman edition is big and solid and comes razor sharp out of the box. It weighs a hefty 7.2oz (204g). The blade is 3.75” (9.53cm) and features a clip design. It is treated to an Rc of 58.
In the clip design, the back of the blade runs straight from the handle to about midway through and, like the drop blade, tapers toward the point of the knife. The clip blade makes for a thinner, but sharper, point compared to the drop blade, and is very good for piercing.
The Buck Chairman has a leather sheath that has a snap enclosure. Its handle is cherry Dymondwood (very durable hardwood laminate). The closed length of the knife is 4.87” (12.37cm).
It has to be said that this is a very handsome knife. In fact, even though it is well built and rugged, you will find yourself almost unwilling to put it through anything too rigorous.
It also should be noted that the Buck 110 Chairman is a hunting knife. It is not tactical and is definitely too big to be a pocket knife or EDC. As a hunting knife, though, it is very high quality. Also made in the USA.
Buck 192BR Vanguard
The Vanguard might be thought of as Buck’s all-purpose, workhorse field knife. It is a US made fixed blade knife with a drop point design. The length of the blade is 4.25″ (10.8cm) and the overall length is 8.5” (21.6cm). It weighs 6.3oz (179g).
The blade is composed of 154CM DLC (diamond like coating) for durability, sharpness and corrosion resistance. A little harder than Buck’s 420HC stainless, it is treated to an Rc of 59-61. For a more in-depth description of 154CM and other steels used in Buck knives scroll down here.
The handle on the Buck Vanguard is Cherrywood laminate and it comes with a black leather sheath. The handle has a brass butt and finger guard. The sheath features a well thought out wrap-around snap design that makes for a secure carry and easy access.
Like most Bucks, the Vanguard comes in very sharp and holds an edge well. The blade thickness (.14”/3.6mm) is sufficient that it can stand up to batoning small pieces of wood, but is also sharp enough to handle jobs like feather-sticking.
This knife makes for a great hunting and camping knife. It is neither too heavy nor too light. In addition, the Buck Vanguard has very good ergonomics and is well balanced. It is not, however, a chopping knife, or a heavy-duty bushcraft knife.
Our Survival Knife Picks
Buck 119 Special Fixed Blade Knife
(+) Very well balanced, great handling knife
(+) Versatile and durable
(+) Great skinning knife
(-) Aluminum pommel not suitable for emergency situations
(-) Clip blade design means the tip is less rugged
This fixed blade knife features a clip design with a blood groove to help lighten it. The blade length is 6” (15.2cm) and it is made of 420HC stainless steel. You will find this knife to be very easy to sharpen and maintain.
The handle material on the 119 Special is Phenolic (a hard plastic made from the resin phenol), which is extremely durable, lightweight and smooth. The knife also comes with a leather sheath.
Like the Vanguard, the Buck 119 is a great camping and hunting knife. However, with a blade thickness of .175” (4.32mm) and a weight of 7.5oz (213.5g) it is more of a heavy-duty knife and a better wood processor. It can just as easily handle jobs like making tent stakes and is also a very good skinning knife.
This 119 Special has remained virtually unchanged in overall design (excluding blade composition) since 1955. There is a good reason for that. You will notice when you pick the knife up that it has an extremely even and intuitive feel. It is also a solid, hefty, and durable U.S.-made knife.
Buck Knives 0863BRS Selkirk Survival Knife
Okay, for those of you skimming through looking for a full tang, you can stop here.
There are a lot of great features to like about the Buck Selkirk as a survival knife. It comes with a very nice injection-molded nylon sheath that is MOLLE compatible, and can also be configured for horizontal or vertical carry. In addition, the sheath features a combination fire steel/whistle that has an easy-to-negotiate locking mechanism.
The Buck Selkirk has a MICARTA handle, which is a Phenolic laminate like the 119 Special. The steel bolster at the end of the handle can also be used as a hammer. Another cool feature is that the small notch in the blade that looks like a finger choil is actually designed for striking your fire steel, so the spine does not need to be sharpened.
The blade’s design is a drop point design and a length of 4.62” (11.9cm). It is a full grind with a slight hollow to it. The blade width is .125” (3.2mm), so not quite as massive as the 119 Special. The weight of the Selkirk is 7.6oz (216g).
Overall, the Buck Selkirk makes for a very good entry-level survival knife and is a great value for the money. Full tang means that it is going to be able to endure some punishment, but it might be a little lightweight for constant, heavy-duty bushcraft.
Our Military Knife Picks
Buck Knives 0822BKX Sentry
The Sentry is a fixed blade knife that features a clip design and, like the Selkirk, has a full grind that is slightly hollow. Also like the Selkirk, it is a full tang knife.
The Buck Sentry makes for very good tactical use. At 6.6oz (188g), it is light enough to be easily maneuverable. The blade is 5” (12.7cm), has a .125” (3.2mm) spine, and features serrations for jobs like cutting through webbing, sawing, etc. (No plain blade version available). Also, the blade is ground at a 13-15° sharpening angle, which is what allows Buck knives to be so razor sharp. The overall length is 9.5” (24.13cm).
The knife also comes with a heavy-duty nylon sheath that is MOLLE compatible. It features a Velcro belt loop that can be fastened without having to remove the belt. Additionally, it has a hard plastic liner to keep the knife stable and is open at the bottom for drainage. The front of the sheath features a small elastic pouch where a leatherman or pocket knife could be stored.
You will also notice that the Sentry has an exceptional feel to it. The black handle is injection-molded nylon that is textured and features two lanyard holes. It has a palm swell for secure and comfortable gripping. The thumb rail allows the thumb to be secure for stabbing action, while also allowing it to rest comfortably when high on the spine for more detailed work.
The Sentry may be Buck’s answer to the Sog SEAL Pup. It is very similar to it in weight, feel and features. Both are very solid knives. It should be noted that the Buck Sentry is without question designed to be a military knife and not necessarily an all around survival knife. The clip blade is great for stabbing and piercing, the serrations are for tactical purposes, and the thinner spine makes for a light and agile blade.
Buck Knives 680 CSAR-T-Liaison
(+) Versatile multi-tool knife
(+) Can be used as a reliable secondary knife
(+) Lightweight, but substantial enough to be durable
(-) Bottom pry bar does not quite taper enough
(-) Zirblast handle is not completely non-reflective
The CSAR-T-Liaison is a neck knife that is lightweight and also functions as a multi-tool. It weighs in at just 2.3oz (65.5g) and features a 3.5” (7.6cm) blade. The overall length is 6.75” (17.1cm).
The blade design could be described as a modified Tanto. It features multiple profiles, with a flat grind along the belly and a Tanto tip that has some hollowness to it. The tip allows the knife to better stand up to prying, scraping and piercing.
As was mentioned earlier, this knife is also something of a multi-tool. The handle has a hex hole at the end for use with the 15-piece bit set that comes with every CSAR. The blade also features an Oxygen wrench that can be used for opening small cylinders. The handle tapers down to a pry bar at the end, similar to what you might have seen with the Kershaw Shuffle.
The handle itself is skeletonized for weight considerations and is treated with Zirblast (a ceramic bead blasting material), which makes it non-reflective. It is full tang and has jimping along the base and top for a secure and comfortable grip when using as either a knife or other tool.
The Buck CSAR also features a very cool Kydex (thermoplastic) sheath that securely holds the knife in place. The sheath has several riveted eyelets, so you can attach it in a variety of ways.
All in all, the Buck CSAR-T-Liaison is a rugged and highly functional knife. Its lighter weight makes for a comfortable carry as a neck knife. It has great balance and handles very well across a range of uses. Another Made in the USA Buck.
With the resources and experience of Buck, the company is able to put out a broad range of quality knives with great design for their intended functions. They often come in at a reasonable price point too. While maybe not as rugged and heavy-duty as some of the more boutique brands of survival knives, these are solid workhorses that will not let you down when used for the purposes they’re built for.
We realize there are a lot of Buck enthusiasts out there. And maybe there are some detractors too. That’s okay, we’re here to stimulate a little conversation and for everyone to share their experience and know-how. We would love to get your input or questions in the comments section below.
Image by James Case