UK website that was selling the Buck Special (Model 119) at a tolerable price, so I made my order. Knife arrived within two days, so very quick service!
Way too many knives on the market are either overpriced, overweight or both, so unpacking the Buck was a very pleasant surprise.
This is just one really nice knife. First thing that strikes you is the reasonable weight. So many knives feel like they are made of lead and there is no way you'd want to carry one if hiking any distance.
The balance point is right on the guard so it feels as light and responsive as a conductor’s baton. The grip fits my hand like it was personally made for me.
The sheath is nice and light. I’m sick of sheaths that weigh more than the actual knife. While light in weight, everything else about the sheath is heavy duty. Big press stud, big rivets, 1/8th thick leather. There is a good-sized collar or keeper that fits round the handle and a nicely positioned belt loop so the knife doesn’t sit too low on the belt. The very tip of the sheath is thoughtfully provided with a discrete drainage hole.
My friend Ed pointed out another feature of this sheath. Part of the blade engages the sheath liner. If you unfasten the keeper and hold the sheath upside down the knife stays in its sheath. Unlike some retention features I’ve encountered you barely notice the resistance when you deliberately draw the knife.
Now to the knife: The Buck Special is a 6" blade of 420HC Stainless Steel about 3/16th"thick. The blade shape is what I’d call a “sensible bowie” design. The point is not too low and there is a nice curve up to the point, useful for practical tasks such as skinning. The bevel has a hollowgrind. Both sides of the blade have a short fuller, reminiscent of the marine Ka-bar. Among other functions, such a fuller gives a little extra grip should you need to choke up on the blade.
An Israeli architect I once met in Copenhagen told me “God is in the details”, and the more you look at the Buck Special, the more you see the thought that has gone into small details. The ricasso of the blade is concave, giving a little more purchase should you put your finger here for more control. The guard is of a useful design and size. The upper part of the guard is shorter, allowing the thumb to be placed on the back of the blade should the user need to do this.
When holding the knife, my hand seems to naturally assume the sabre-grip advocated by John Styers in “Cold Steel”. One of the finer points of this grip-method is that the thumb should not make contact with the guard, to prevent it being jarred or damaged by hard impacts. The Buck Special’s grip flares slightly as it meets the guard, so my thumb naturally tends to sit in the dip before this just before the guard. The handle-section flows smoothly into the pommel, which nests comfortably in the palm of my hand. On the lower side of the grip are shallow finger grooves. Shallow finger grooves are good. Hands differ, and if a knife has deep finger grooves that are not compatible with your hands they are more trouble than they are worth. Buck have gone for shallow grooves that work well and should suit everybody.
I went for the black phenolic handle (like in the TV series, yes, I am a geek!) but there is also a nice cocobolo handle version for a bit more money.
Unlike many knives you buy, the Buck comes already sharpened. You could take it from the box and put it straight to work.
The Buck Special 119 is apparently Buck’s best-selling fixed-blade model. Having handled and brought one, that is not really a surprise. In fact, given the quality and obvious value for money, it is more surprising that every knife-lover doesn’t own one.
The 119 is a quality design of useful weight, size and utility. What is more, it is priced so that you won’t be afraid to take it into the field and use it.
Negative aspects? Some users may think the phenolic handle a little on the smooth size. At the moment, I’ve not been able to gralloch a stag in a rainstorm with soap-covered hands, so I can’t really comment on this. Wrapping the handle section in fishing line and varnishing over this would address this, although it may be wise to try the knife out for a few days before doing this.
My only real complaint about this knife is that it is only available with a polished guard and pommel, making it less than ideal for military use. This could be addressed with a few coats of paint if you really considered this a problem. Buck really ought to consider a version with a non-reflective blade, anodized fittings and a khaki-drab or coyote-brown grip.
Will the Buck Special 119 build me a fire or shelter as fast as my kukri?
No, but if I was going somewhere where trees were rare, sand was plentiful and things can get up close and personal, I’d not be upset to have the Buck along. Just handling the knife inspires confidence that I doubt is misplaced.
It is not often I do product reviews or recommendations on the Scrapboard, but I’d advise you to give the Buck 119 a try. Shop around, because prices vary a lot and are generally cheaper in the US than the UK.
By the Author of the Scrapboard :
Attack, Avoid, Survive: Essential Principles of Self Defence
Available in Handy A5 and US Trade Formats.
Crash Combat Second Edition with additional content.
Epub edition Second Edition with additional content.
Crash Combat Third Edition
Epub edition Third Edition.