Buck Knives 501 Squire Lockback Folder
By Chuck Hawks
Illustration courtesy of Buck Knives.
Hoyt Buck began making knives in 1902, after experimenting with tempering steel so that it would better hold an edge. Today, the Buck Knives reputation is carried on by third and fourth generation family members.
The 2014 Buck Knife line is massive, including both fixed and folding blade types. Most Buck knives are still made in the USA, but some of the least expensive models are now sourced overseas. Be sure you know what you are getting before buying. It is worth paying a bit more to get a Buck knife made in the USA.
The Buck 501 Squire that is the subject of this review is a single blade, lock back, folding knife made in the USA. I think of it as a mini folding hunter. It comes with wood scales (grip panels). The bolsters, liners and pins are nickel silver. The blade and locking mechanism is fabricated of 420HC, a high carbon stainless steel. A carrying pouch is included with the knife.
The overall shape of the 501 is patterned after the famous Buck 110 folding hunting knife, but the 501 is a considerably smaller and lighter package that can reasonably be carried in a pocket. In fact, I have often carried it as a pocket knife when hunting. The hollow ground blade has a gentle curve to the cutting edge and (unlike the Model 110) a drop point. The blade stock is 0.094" thick. The blade measures 2-3/4" long and the knife is 3-34" long when closed. Through the handle the 501 is only 0.399" thick. It weighs three ounces. A nail notch is provided for opening the blade, which is normally accomplished with two hands.
Heat treated 420HC stainless steel is hard stuff, so if you let it get dull it is a chore to sharpen. Touch it up after use to keep it sharp and you will not have a problem. Buck says this about their 420HC blades:
"This is Buck’s standard blade material, because it combines the excellent wear resistance of high carbon alloys with the corrosion resistance of chromium stainless steels. Add our exclusive heat-treat process for superior corrosion resistance and you have excellent tensile strength, hardness and wear resistance. 420HC Steel is a High Carbon (HC) version of standard 420 martensitic stainless steels – they can be can be hardened to a Rockwell hardness of Rc 58."
I have owned and used Buck pocket knives since the middle 1960's and can attest to their quality and durability. I find the size of the 501 makes it a bit long and a touch heavy for daily pocket carry and a bit too small to justify belt carry in its supplied pouch sheath. Of the two carry methods, however, I prefer the pocket, as its thinness keeps it from seeming bulky. It is just the right size for daily carry in a fanny pack or a woman's purse.
The wood scales are easy to grasp, feel good and look good. The handle's concave curve helps keep the hand from slipping.
The lockback gets its name from the rocking lock plate visible on the back of the handle. Opening the blade causes the rocker to lock against the blade, holding it open. To release the lock, push down on the rocker at the back of the handle.
A lockback mini folding hunter like the Buck 501 can be a versatile tool for general cutting, cleaning trout size fish and small game. You could even use it to field dress a deer. The tempered 420HC blade holds its edge well, much better than more pedestrian pocket knives, and the tip of the 501's drop point blade is stronger than a clip point blade. Despite its slender good looks, it is a durable knife.
The 501 isn't cheap, but the price is quite reasonable for a knife of this quality. You are not paying for gimmicks with a 501, just quality and craftsmanship, and you get more than you pay for.
This mini hunter is either a big pocket knife or a small folding belt knife. Whatever you call it, the Buck 501 is a handsome, well made knife with a single locking blade. With reasonable care it will provide a lifetime of service. It is proudly made in the USA and covered by the Buck Forever Warrantee.
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