Everyone knows what a “buck knife” is — it’s become a generic term for hunting knife. But it may not be very obvious to everyone that the Post Falls, Idaho, brand wasn’t always a shorthand term. Nor is it immediately obvious that Buck Knives is only a knife maker. It doesn’t make multitools because multitools make lousy knives — a philosophy that tells you a lot about Buck and the fourth generation of family members who keep Buck private and want to do so forever.
If any single product is Buck’s signature, it’s the folding Model 110.
The 110 was born in 1963, after two years of tinkering by C.J. Buck (who now runs the company), his father, Al, and an 85-year-old toolmaker named Guy Hoosier. It took two years because the 110 had to be perfect. The goal was to make a folding knife that performed as well as a fixed-blade knife, something that hadn’t yet been done. Oh, and on top of that, the knife had to be so popular it would save Buck from financial ruin and pull it out of the deeply red hole it was in.
Well, the 110 did its job and then some — to the tune of 18 million sold and counting.
Use one and you’ll understand the enduring popularity. The spring effort to open it is light and easy. A lot of folding knives don’t hold firmly open; put pressure on the back of the blade and the lock gives a hair. The 110 locks firmly enough to skin a deer, a task this knife was specifically created to do. Also, the nearly half-pound (7.2 ounce) 110 is weighty for a reason, since a lighter knife is actually more difficult to manipulate deftly. Even the crescent curve of the wood handle mates to the round hollow of your palm.
C.J. Buck said the knife has been altered slightly over the years. The brass handle had been sand cast, then machined from bar stock, but both processes were imperfect. Today the handles are made from brass powder and then formed, which prevents pitting. And the handle shape is slimmer and more hand friendly. But the original 110 was pretty bomber already. Buck passed along dozens of notes from happy customers who’ve had their knives refurbished by the company (there’s a “forever” guarantee that covers either restoration or replacement), including one from a Vietnam vet who’s had his 110 since 1968 and still swears by it.
For more stories from our Made in America series, go here. For a list of companies that make their gear in the U.S. and Canada, check out this page.