One to Watch: Buck 101
Tony Sculimbrene 11.09.17
Its hard to find a more iconic knife than the Buck 110. It is one of the oldest folders still being made and it is the knife that really cemented Buck’s position in the knife business. After all these years, the 110 is still being sold. In fact, the last few years have seen a number of high end variants. There was the S30V version from Best Made, a carbon fiber and copper bolstered version, and just recently an automatic version. More than 50 years after its release, the 110 still has legs.
Given the design’s age, it is a bit out of step with modern trends in knives. It has neither a framelock nor a flipper (yes, they still make knives without either of these “features”). It is a big knife, a really big knife, but it still has a nail nick opener. And it is as heavy as a kettle bell. In fact, the 110 comes with a sheath, a tacit concession that this is not REALLY a pocket knife. Oh, and there is no clip. But the design is so solid, despite its incongruity with modern trends, that it sells well.
So it is pretty nuts to think that after al of these years, after all of the 110s that have been sold, and after all of the different variations, that in 2017 Buck would finally release a fixed blade version of the 110 called the Buck 101. And this knife, unlike its predecessor, is perfectly in line with fixed blade trends. Thanks to companies like Bark River, ESEE, and Bradford small fixed blades have really launched into the knife-buying public’s consciousness as a viable alternative to an EDC folder. The 101 hits that mark perfectly, which is odd given how much the 110 struggles as an EDC folder.
The 101 is a full tang construction knife. It runs the same brass bolsters and dymondwood handles as the 110. It also has the same distinctive clip point blade. Finally, there is the Buck 420HC steel. The knife has basically the same dimensions blade and handle-wise, but is thinner and lighter than the 110. It comes with a tube style, leather sheath. Overall, this is a very solid package.
A quick side note about the Buck 420HC steel. Over the years I noticed that this steel consistently performed better than other 420HC steels. Buck uses a proprietary heat treat developed by Paul Bos. His track record with heat treats for 420HC, 154CM, and S30V has long been known in the knife business, but to me its the 420HC that is the most interesting.
Then, by happenstance, I stumbled on Cedric and Ada’s YouTube channel (its great, go take a look). He and I talked a lot and then he came on the podcast. Without knowing it we were both fans, but unlike me, he had numbers to back up his fandom. As it turns out Cedric does very sophisticated cut tests, and documents then on video and tracks the numbers over time. Doing this has shown that Buck’s 420HC performs much better than normal 420HC, coming close to the performance of a much more expensive steel–VG-10 (Buck’s 420HC scored a 67, while VG-10 scored a 75). You can find Cedric and Ada’s steel chart here.
For the price, around $70, you get an excellent fixed blade in a size that is quite useful. If you have the ability to daily carry a fixed blade, the Buck 101 looks like a good choice. Plus, it is 100% made in America. And in 50 years, who knows, maybe they will release a balisong version of the 110.