American made knife manufacturer BUCK KNIVES has been in the game for longer than most people can remember. Since 1902 they have been slowly developing a reputation for providing some of the sharpest, strongest, and most stylish knives around, and doing it all with quality steel in the good old U.S. of A.
They’ve also become known for their impressive catalog of outdoor products, which includes literally dozens of the best knives on the market. Today we’re taking a look at the folding variety knife, by counting down the Best 8 Folding Buck Knives.
After that we are going to take a look at some of the big differences that set these knives apart from one another.
Best All-Around Folding Buck Knife
Buck Knives 112 RANGER Folding Knife w/ Leather Sheath
BLADE STEEL: 420HC
BLADE LENGTH: 3”
CARRY WEIGHT: 5.6oz.
We might as well start our list with a bag, and there is perhaps no better way to do that than to start with the RANGER folding knives from Buck knives. No matter what knife brand you might be loyal to, there is no denying that this is one of the best-selling knives on the internet, and has certainly garnered more than a few positive reviews.
The 112 RANGER model offers the features that Buck Knives has become popular for, including well-performing design and remarkably sharp steel. The blade here is sturdy and sharp, impressively sharp, dangerously sharp. It managed to keep an edge well through our testing phase, and was able to cut through dense rope as easily as thick leather.
The biggest problem with the 112 RANGER is that its folding process is not as snappy as we have seen with previous models. We like a good, comforting snapsensation that tells us that the blade is locked firmly in place, and that simply isn’t the case with this knife. The folding action is somewhat stubborn.
We did notice a bit of residue present inside the knife when it arrived. According to the manufacturer, this is likely just some excess polishing compound, but it seemed to be blocking blade movement and could have been the cause of some of this sluggishness.
Best Folding Knife for Fishing
Buck Knives 110 HUNTER Carbon Steel Folding Knife
BLADE STEEL: 5160 High Carbon Steel
BLADE LENGTH: 3 3/4”
CARRY WEIGHT: 10.4
We’ve had no problem with Buck Knives’ classic 420HC Stainless steel blades, which is by far the most widely used steel in their arsenal. That’s because the 420HC is light enough, sharp enough, and strong enough for most outdoor purposes, and so far it hasn’t really let us down.
Perhaps that’s why our team was taken aback when we experienced a knife with the updated 5160 alloy. Somehow it manages to be significantly sharper than the 420HC, and is a burly enough steel to hold that edge for use after use. We are not totally sold on this new alloy, but we will certainly be monitoring its performance with great interest.
One of the first things about this knife that we noticed was that it is heavy. At 7.5 ounces it is nearly a half a pound, which can be a significant weight to be carrying around in your pocket all day. The extended 3.5” blade and added durability are nice features, we’ll give you that, but we are not sure that they are worth all the extra weight, at least not for an EDC folding knife.
However we could see the 110 HUNTER quickly becoming our favorite knife for extended fishing trips, where all that extra knife might actually come in handy. The blade on the model we received was installed slightly off-center. It doesn’t seem to be affecting performance but there is an aesthetic drawback to the defect.
Best Value Pick Folding Knife
Buck Knives 286 BANTAM BHW Folding Knife w/ Removable Clip
BLADE STEEL: 420HC
BLADE LENGTH: 3 5/8”
CARRY WEIGHT: 3.2oz.
Perhaps the greatest thing about BUCK KNIVES as a manufacturer is their ability to provide a line of products that extend from one side of the price range to the other, without having to sacrifice too much on quality or design. The entry-level knives in Buck’s catalog represent some of the most well-made budget folding knives on the market, and the 286 BANTAM is a case in point.
Even if we were to set aside the price point, the BANTAM is one of the best folding knives of its size, and its only 3.2oz. It is one of the only knives on our list that can deliver razor sharp performance in such a small, lightweight package, leading us to dub this the best folding knife for long distance hiking or backpacking.
Personally, we are big fans of folding knives with pocket clips, as it is simply the best way to keep track of the knife at all times. But we can understand the need of having a removable clip, as not everyone is going to want the knife blocking their pocket. However we wonder if the removable nature of the clip has anything to do with its tendency to become looser over time.
Best feature is perhaps the color availability. There are 9 different colors / styles so the personalization factor is quite high. Between that and the price this is possibly a good idea for a stocking stuffer for the whole family if you are the kind of person that likes to get their shopping done, like, super early.
Worst feature is the lockback security system, which has too much give for comfort. Not only did we see some side to side play, but some vertical play as well, which could lead to dangerous blade slippage.
Best Folding Knife Sheath
Buck Knives 279 ALPHA HUNTER Knife with Heavy Duty Sheath
BLADE STEEL: 420HC
BLADE LENGTH: 3 1/2”
CARRY WEIGHT: 8oz.
One thing that most Buck Knives have in common is how comfortable they feel in the hand. If the company is doing one thing right, it’s ergonomics. While we love the feel of a wood handle, we think that the rubber, like the one presented here on the ALPHA HUNTER, is simply more comfortable. In addition it provides far greater slip resistance than wood, which is a pretty handy feature for an implement of possible destruction.
The ALPHA HUNTER is both large and heavy, perhaps too large for many to consider a proper knife for everyday carry. However the big problem is that it is not suite sturdy enough to be a go-to hunting knife, as the locking mechanism is not strong enough to stand up to more vigorous use. The result is a knife that is somewhere in between EDC and a hunting knife.
That isn’t to say that this isn’t a high performance knife. Once again the 420HC steel proves to be one of the most versatile user steels on the market, providing a good ease of sharpening and a balanced hardness. As usual, the 420HC never arrives as sharp as it is possible of becoming, so it is a good idea to spend some time sharpening your knife right when you get it. We noticed a small amount of side-to-side sway on the blade installation, which was something of a disappointment considering our great respect for BUCK KNIVES and everything they make.
Best Folding Buck Knife for Hunting
Buck 398BK OMNI HUNTER 12pt. Guthook Lock Back Folding Knife
BLADE STEEL: 420HC
BLADE LENGTH: 4”
CARRY WEIGHT: 144.6 g
The only reason that Buck would include a Guthook on the OMNI HUNTER folding knife is if they thought that the knife itself was both sturdy and sharp enough to handle some serious field dressing application, and although we were unable to test this for that specific purpose, our tests indicate a knife that is indeed strong enough to take with you on the hunt to help you the job done.
In order to accommodate the extra versatility of a hunting knife that can also fold down, Buck Knives has paid special attention to the ergonomics of this model, offering both an index finger support and curved grip ridges. That means that even after hours of use, this knife will remain comfortable in your hands.
Another feature that makes this knife quite well-suited for hunting applications is the mid lock back mechanism, which is perhaps one of the strongest locks on all the Buck products that we looked at here today. Whether or not this lock will stand up to years and years of use, we cannot yet say, but it is a surefire bet that this knife will be able to handle a dressing or two before becoming dull on you.
Best Style Pick Buck Knife
Buck Knives 501 SQUIRE Folding Pocket Knife w/ Leather Sheath
BLADE STEEL: 420HC
BLADE LENGTH: 2 3/4”
CARRY WEIGHT: 3.0oz.
There’s nothing like Rosewood to make a knife really pop when you pull it out of its sheath. That’s why the SQUIRE wins our prize for the most stylish folding knife for EDC carry. While it is true that this knife cannot offer the same level of slip-resistant grip that other, Dynaflex-handled knifes can, the SQUIRE is an elegant knife with a stylish flair, and the included leather sheath is an added touch that puts it over the edge.
Of course any good knife owner will tell you that looks aren’t everything. The way the knife performs is going to be the most important aspect of a knife used for carrying.
The SQUIRE is not lacking in this department. It is simply one of the sturdiest and most well-constructed knife that we reviewed. This is because we observed little to no movement either laterally or longitudinally between the blade and the handle, filling us with confidence that the SQUIRE, which is an update of an old classic, can offer the same kind of longevity as its predecessors.
We were somewhat disappointed with the handle construction. The rivets do not seem to be totally secure, and the finish / polish of the wood handle is less fine that what we would expect for a price like this.
Overall this is a great little knife, however it would be even better if it were priced towards the lower end of the price range, where a product like this belongs.
Best Buck Knife for EDC
Buck Knives 830 MARKSMAN Folding Knife w/ One Hand Opening Action
BLADE STEEL: 154CM
BLADE LENGTH: 3 1/2”
CARRY WEIGHT: 4.0oz.
It is no secret that Buck Knives offers both affordable, “entry-level” folding knives as well as more deluxe, premium-priced models with additional bells and whistles. The MARKSMAN lies somewhere in between these two categories, being both more expensive than most of the knives on our list, but also not quite as expensive as some of Buck’s ultra-premium products.
Of course the price isn’t just for a pretty face. There are plenty of features on the MARKSMAN that truly make it worthy of its price tag. For one, the SLS Strong Lock System is truly one of the most reliable and well-performing locking systems available, and in itself it is plenty of reason to go with something like the MARKSMAN over one of the more affordable knives.
In addition to a great locking action, the blade is designed to be flicked open with one hand. This is a feature that is hard to find on a knife anywhere below $100, but the real blade enthusiasts out there will tell you that the ability to use the knife one handed can be a life saver in certain situations.
However the MARKSMAN seems to fall victim to some of the back-and-forth quality control that we have seen with Buck’s more affordable knives. This means that some blades may be installed off center, or the locking mechanism will need adjustment before it is working properly. Overall this is a great knife, but for the price there are more user-friendly products available that you might want to look at.
Best Premium Folding Buck Knife
Buck Knives’ 295BLS TEMPEST CUSTOM BUILDOUT Blue Assisted Folding Pocket Knife
BLADE STEEL: 420HC
BLADE LENGTH: 3.2”
CARRY WEIGHT: 4.5oz.
Knife collectors are going to want to pay attention to the availability of the TEMPEST knife by Buck Knives, as it is a limited buildout and it is quite likely that you won’t be able to find it anywhere after 2019. In fact, they might go even quicker than that.
There is a striking visual design to the TEMPEST that sets it apart from its brethren. The open “cross-section” style design not only cuts back on weight but makes it look really cool, one of the best looking knives on the market.
The three-rivet pocket clip features one of the best holds in its class, and it makes us quite confident that you won’t have to worry about this thing falling out of your pocket. Anodized aluminum handle offers what is perhaps the best balance of strength, stability, and weight out of any of the knives on our list, sending this knife right to the top of the charts in terms of overall performance.
We knew that we were going to have a good time reviewing all the knives on our list, and we certainly weren’t disappointed. Buck Knives has been one of our very favorite knife manufacturers for several years now, and it has been one of the most popular US-based knife maker for far longer than that.
If we had to pick one of these knives to keep and not send back, it would probably be the TEMPEST custom buildout knife. There is simply no denying how beautiful this knife is, and it features some of the best construction materials and techniques out of all the knives in Buck’s catalog.
However we normally wouldn’t spend that much on an EDC knife, so we might have to look elsewhere for our “Best Of” choice. For this reason we cannot recommend the BANTAM highly enough. It’s affordable enough to keep one on you for all occasions, and after all, it’s still a Buck. And that means quality.
Folding Knife Blade Steel: A Comparison
Although there are dozens upon dozens of different kinds of blade steel available on the knife market these days, the ones on our list can be narrowed down to just two. Because all the knives on our list were made by the same manufacturer, it is perhaps no surprise that they decided to stick with the same varieties over a number of different products.
As far as the knives on our list are concerned, there are three basic types of steel, 420HC, 154CM, and S30V.
• 420HC is perhaps the most popular choice when it comes time for a manufacturer to select the steel variety for blade construction. That’s because it offers the most affordable balance of rust resistance, ease of sharpening, and edge retention. It’s what you might call the best all-around knife steel.
• 154CM has a significantly greater carbon content than 420HC, which gives it a higher hardness rating as well as increases dramatically the amount of time the knife will hold an edge. Because of the additional carbon content, knives made with 154CM tend to be slightly more expensive.
• S30V features greater amounts of vanadium, which is a sturdy but malleable transition metal that has become more popular in knife construction because it offers even greater edge retention capabilities than 154CM. For this reason it is usually only used in premium or top-of-the-line knives.
Clip Point Knives vs. Drop Point Knives: What’s the Difference?
The next time you are hanging out with a group of pocket knife enthusiasts, you might be asked the question, “Do you prefer clip point, or drop point?”
We admit that we were not familiar with these terms at first. It wasn’t until we really became interested in knives that we took the time to understand the difference between the two.
Clip Point Knives
As the name might suggest, Clip Point Knives are designed to be used for thinner knives that can be more easily stowed in a pocket or on a belt. They tend to be quite popular for EDC applications as opposed to bushcraft activities because they are more stylish while also lighter and smaller generally.
Drop Point Knives
These tend to be the preference of hunters, as their shape is intended to make a stronger blade for field dressing applications. They tend to have a sharper point and are good for skinning or carving divots into a plank of wood.
What’s the Easiest Way to Sharpen Your Buck Knife?
For anyone looking to become a pro at keeping your folding knife as sharp as possible Buck Knives has provided us with a specially made video on the subject, “What’s The Easiest Way to Sharpen Your Buck Knife”.
Also, if you are interested in keeping your knife performing at its peak, you should check out this awesome HuntingNet discussion on Cleaning Your Folding Knives.
Frequently Asked Questions
All Buck Knives products come with a sheath, because the manufacturer wouldn’t have it any other way.
When it comes to knife sheaths, there are a number of different styles and materials available that usually vary depending on the price of the knife itself. While leather is a stylish and comfortable option, nylon tends to be more popular because it is lightweight, weatherproof, and more affordable.
The principal difference between the 110 and the 112 Buck Knife is the blade material. The 110 features 5160 Alloy while the 112 goes with 420HC. While the difference between these two materials is often debated, many people prefer the reliable ease of sharpening of the 420HC to the longer edge retention of the 5160.
So the real answer to your question? They’re about the same; it all comes down to personal preference.
For game gutting and animal processing, there is perhaps no better folding knife than the OMNI HUNTER. It has a built in guthook on the back side of the blade, which makes it perfect for getting in there to get those dirty jobs done. In addition, it is far more ergonomic than some of the other knives, meaning a more comfortable grip for those long and involved cleaning sessions.
While both types of edge grind work very well, flat grinds are for the most part less fragile and will not chip as much over time. However the concave shape of the hollow grind leads many to believe that it cuts better through a number of different materials.