|Buck 110 Folding Hunter|
This is a current production standard model with
ebony handle scales and brass bolsters
One of the benefits of being a member of the Buck Collectors Club is that you get access to Buck's production numbers for specific models of knives. As I was poking around the club's website I hit on the numbers for the Buck 110 Folding Hunter. I was surprised to read that since it's introduction in 1964 Buck has produced over 10 million of the standard model Folding Hunter! When you consider that Buck also makes several other versions of this model - versions with special blade steel, fancy bolster and handle material and even a very popular plastic handled version (the BuckLite) total production is probably closer to 12 million. Buck claims that this is the most popular folding knife in the world, and I believe 'em.
This Buck was a ubiquitous knife in the circles I traveled in. Just about every Soldier carried a Folding Hunter of one style or another. If you held a formation and told everyone to lift their BDU blouses to show what they were wearing on their belt about half would have a Folding Hunter resting there. Me included. My first Folding Hunter was bought around 1979 and promptly lost. A year or two later, when this struggling second lieutenant could afford it, I went out to the PX and bought a replacement.
The Folding Hunter is one of those rare products that has both improved and gotten cheaper over time. The retail price of a Folding Hunter in 1965 was $16. Adjusted for inflation that same $16 dollar knife should cost $114 today. Yet you can walk into most Wal-Marts in the US and purchase this same knife for less than $30. High production volume, production experience and automation have made their mark here. Buck can crank out these knives at an incredibly low price yet keep quality very high.
As to quality - it is clear that Buck does a much better job of finishing these knives today than they did 30 years ago. My 1982 example has a very square, chunky profile and using it for hard tasks can be a bit uncomfortable. My 2011 example has a nicely rounded handle and frame and is one of the most comfortable to hold knives I have in my collection.
But just how well do they hold up in the real world? If my 1982 Folding Hunter is a fair example of the breed then I can say without hesitation they hold up very, very well. This particular knife has been used to cut manila rope, nylon webbing, and aluminum communications wire. It has carved tent stakes and aiming stakes. It was used more than once to dig small holes. It has cut up any number of Army issue slabs of ham, chicken (yes, in the Army even chicken comes in slabs) salisbury steak, blueberry cobbler and pumpkin pie. It has sliced open hundreds of MRE bags, cut parachute suspension lines and tent canvas, scraped carbon build-up off of M-16 bolt carriers and served as a pointer during briefings. It has sliced open hundreds of sandbags, a particularly tough test of a knife's edge holding ability. It has carved open aluminum soda cans to make strobe light covers and emergency cook stoves. It has been used as a paperweight and as a dead-weight to do river depth soundings. It has caved the husk off of coconuts and chopped bamboo. On more than one occasion it was used as a hammer. It carries the scars of 30 years of proud service; the blade is scratched and scuffed and the brass bolsters are dinged and gouged. It desperately needs a good edge re-grinding and sharpening, but it snaps open and locks up with authority and the blade is as tight in the frame as it was the day I bought it. It is an honorable veteran that has earned its retirement.
|Buck Folding Hunters|
From top to bottom - 1982 production Model 110, 2011 Model 110
and a Model 426 (BuckLite) with a composite plastic handle
The point here isn't that the Buck Folding Hunter is a good, cheap knife. Rather, it is a great knife that stands up to rough use yet is inexpensive enough that the owner doesn't feel he has to baby it. Thirty dollars buys you a whole lot of knife.
The Folding Hunter astounded the knife world when it was introduced. At first the Buck board of directors was very reluctant to approve production - they really did not see a market for the knife. I believe it was Chuck Buck that convinced them to give it a try. Chuck figured this knife would sell well with hunters who would use it just a few weeks each year. It turns out Chuck was flat wrong - but in a good way. The Folding Hunter took off in ways Buck never imagined. It proved immediately popular not just with hunters but with the military, policemen, firemen, tradesmen, and just about anybody that lived, worked or spent time in the outdoors. Demand exploded and caught the knife industry by surprise. Almost every other knife manufacturer scrambled to get their version of a large, single blade lockback knife into production. Most were very good in their own right, but none ever approached the popularity of the Buck Folding Hunter. It was there first and has stayed first for almost 50 years.
There you have it! The Buck Folding Hunter. A classic knife from an iconic American company.