Buck Knives is among the most historic manufacturers in the county. We attempt to pick the best knives it has ever created.
The famous 110 Folding Hunter was introduced to the market in 1964. This was a significant point for Buck Knives, and a significant point for the knife industry as a whole.
Buck did not start in spirit in 1964, it began much earlier at the turn of the century, and was the culmination of over half a century of Hoyt Buck’s knifemaking experience. Several generations of the Buck family worked to build the company, and the result was nothing short of extraordinary. Buck Knives are one of the most recognizable brands in the country, and they have a well-earned reputation for quality. It is currently in its fourth generation of family ownership, an amazing feat in today’s fast-paced corporate environment.
Buck knives are exceptionally well-made and will hold up for a lifetime if properly maintained. The knives also carry one of the best warranties in the industry which guarantees their products against any defects for life. This whole segment has nothing from him about how Hoyt formally started and built the company.
History Of Buck Knives
While it was not technically a company, Hoyt buck began making knives around 1900 and developed a way to temper steel that he deemed to be superior to what was being done at the time. It may seem a bit uppity of an apprentice blacksmith to take on something that had not been done in all of the history of man’s knife-making, but Hoyt Buck was not to be deterred.
Sure enough, his methods became well-known and he made knives one at a time for decades afterward. His knives had superior edge retention as a result of his tempering process and to this day Buck knives are well-known for their ability to hold an edge.
While the seeds of Buck Knives were planted thanks to Hoyt and his skill on the anvil, the company’s journey is so much more than that. Hoyt had six children, and his oldest son Al would eventually play a key role in the company’s growth.
By 1941 Hoyt and his wife were now living in Idaho, and he was a church pastor. However, the attack on Pearl Harbor roused his patriotism. As a way to help the war effort, he opened a small blacksmith shop in the basement of his church and began making knives once again. His knives became extremely popular on the military bases on the Pacific Coast and soldiers would come from all over to get one of his blades.
By the time the war ended in 1945 Hoyt and his wife Daisy decided to move south to San Diego and live near Al. In 1946 Hoyt opened his first manufacturing plant, really just a small lean-to attached to Al’s house, with his son. It was then that Buck Knives was officially born.
Al took over the company when his father passed, and today the company remains in the family as CJ Buck is the fourth-generation CEO and Chairman of Buck Knives.
Hoyt’s Tempering Process
Hoyt Buck was 13 years old and an apprentice blacksmith in 1902. According to the company’s own history, Hoyt was dissatisfied with the edge hardness on common farming implements. Farmers seemed to be bringing in their tools far more often than he liked to see and thought of some solutions to make the edges stronger and able to hold their sharpness longer. He began experimenting with these tools and eventually figured out a quenching method to achieve his desired result.
Essentially, the secret Buck discovered was quenching the entire blade when it was all precisely the same temperature. Not an easy task, especially in the day and age he came up with the process. However, overcoming the technological challenges reaped impressive benefits. The uniformity of the tempering process ensured the metal had no soft spots–weakness that could eventually lead to damage. Furthermore, the even tempering–when applied to knives–resulted in blades that were extremely hard and were capable of retaining an edge.
How To Date A Buck Knife
Unlike many knives across the industry, Buck knives are marked in certain ways to identify them based on the year they were made. The original Buck knives from 1961 to 1967 or simply stamped with ‘BUCK’.
From 1967 to 1972, the knives featured the mark ‘BUCK, USA’. The 1972 to 1986 period had the knives labeled with ‘BUCK 110, USA’ with additional model information. From 1986 onwards, each year of manufacture has a unique symbol that is added to the blade. You can very quickly and easily identify this and match it to the model year on the Buck website.
Buck knife collectors tend to have some of their own methods for identifying early knives. While it comes down to a degree of pseudoscience, there is demand for Buck knives that retain their original packaging, and even original receipts that can prove the age of the knife. Typically, the older the knife, the more it is worth.
Vintage Buck knives do not tend to sell for all that much by comparison to other knives, but there is a healthy following all across the country. Most people do not sell their Buck knives at all, and they are passed down generationally.
Best Buck Knives
Whether it’s a contemporary knife or a classic, these 10 knives from Buck continue to be top sellers and beloved by knife aficionados around the world.
110 FOLDING HUNTER KNIFE
This is the one that started it all. The 110 Folding Hunter needs no introduction here. It is one of the most storied and respected knives in American history. What is remarkable is that the price is relatively low, even for Buck’s lineup. The price of this knife sets it apart because it is well-known for its durability and sharpness. At under $70, you can easily buy this knife without breaking the bank.
124 FRONTIERSMAN KNIFE
This knife harkens back to the old days in appearance but is all modern in terms of execution. The Frontiersmen knife is just about the perfect size if you prefer to carry a fixed blade. The design of the knife is completely functional and you should be able to accomplish just about anything you need to accomplish out in the woods or around the farm.
055 ‘THE 55’ KNIFE
The 55 gets its name for being half the size of the famous 110. It is a popular and common pocket knife that is just as strong as its big brother. While it lacks many of the features of modern assisted-open knives or other types of more complicated designs, it makes up for it by being exceptionally durable and easy to use. Much like the larger 110, this is a knife that you will keep for life and pass down to your kids.
120 GENERAL KNIFE
There are very few knives that are as recognizable as the 120 General Knife. This Buck design is a classic, reminiscent of the military Ka-Bar. It is a bigger knife than what most people use for their everyday chores. The General Knife will be a companion for hunting, skinning, and preparing wood near the campfire.
103 SKINNER PRO KNIFE
Back in the old days, a skinning knife was part of a larger set that you would take into the field. This knife profile saw its heyday during the decimation of the buffalo herds. Buck has an excellent skinning knife in the form of the 103 Skinner Pro. It is a fine tool and is exceptionally attractive in appearance. If you like to have separate tools for your various hunting chores, you would do yourself well to equip this knife alongside the larger 120 General Knife.
102 BUCK WOODSMAN KNIFE
For many young men, the Woodsman was the first serious knife they ever received. This is a classic design and is among the most popular and well-recognized American fixed-blade knives ever made. It is not the largest knife Buck has made, but this medium-sized Bowie profile blade has seen more use than most knife models could ever hope to achieve.
This is an excellent knife for the aspiring outdoorsman. It can be used in just about any setting that requires medium lifting. It is a bit too thin to be used for wood splitting but can be used easily for making kindling by scraping. It is also an excellent small game knife and can be used for all sorts of camp chores. If you think about the knife that you would have in the Scouts, this would likely be as close to that knife as you can get.
BUCK ZIPPER KNIFE
The Buck Zipper knife is arguably one of the most popular gut hook knives in the country, and it is fair to say that it is in more deer hunters’ hands than it’s not. As far as traditional designs go, the Zipper knife is not just well-made, it is also a symbol of the trade for many hunters that take to the field every fall. Gut hook knives do have other utility, they can be used in fishing settings for cutting line and for gutting as well. For a general-use hunting knife, you really can’t go wrong here.
863 SELKIRK KNIFE w. FIRE STARTER
Bushcraft knives are all the rage these days. There are a plethora of TV shows dedicated to the topic, and it seems that every knife company out there is making something that fits the bill. The Selkirk knife is a nicely priced addition to the Buckline. The knife is well equipped and comes with a durable micarta handle and a sheath-mounted fire steel. The kit you get is able to function right out of the box. You can pretty easily get started with practicing right in your yard. MSRP $80
The knife does have a couple of downsides, though, from a Bushcraft perspective, it is relatively thin. A blade really needs to have some meat to it to be able to make it through the tanning for kindling You’ll never really get much life out of a thin blade if you snap it off in use. Even though Buck has a good warranty, you should take care to not treat a thin blade like this as a dedicated tool for splitting. The knife can, however, be used for making tinder out of smaller pieces of wood, and it should have no problem getting them to light.
841 SPRINT PRO KNIFE BURLAP MICARTA
Another modern design, the Sprint Pro is a sleek looking folder that also has some classic lines. The knife is available in a couple of forms, most interesting is the burlap micarta model. Burlap micarta is made through an interesting process that suspends fabric in a resin base material. The result is a unique, very durable, and highly functional grip material that looks as good as it performs. This is a flipper-style knife and can be operated easily with one hand. The locking mechanism is a standard liner lock. Overall, it is a well-reviewed and well-designed knife that, while not the most visually striking, will give years of use.
417 BUDGIE KNIFE
The Budgie is a very compact EDC knife that can go just about anywhere. The tiny design is minimalistic yet functional. It is a frame-like design that is available in a couple of colors, most notably natural green G10. This is a new design that does not necessarily have much in common cosmetically with the classic Buck lineup. That said, it is just about all the knife the average person needs for their daily life, and it can be kept on the person quite easily. While it is a bit more costly than the average mini pocket knife, the Budgie is backed by the same warranty extended to all Buck products and is going to last you for quite some time performing light and medium-duty tasks.
- First Look: Buck 842 Sprint Ops Pro
- First Look: Buck 149 Hookset Breaker
- First Look: Buck 263 HiLine
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