Buck Model 550 Selector 2.0 Folding Knife
By Gary Zinn
Illustration courtesy of Buck Knives.
In 1990, Buck introduced their first interchangeable blade folding knife, the original Selector. I bought one of those, but then "lost" it just a few years later; I used it to help a grand nephew field dress his first deer and I gave him the knife to commemorate the occasion.
Buck offered the Selector in a number of variations, with several blade pattern options and combinations. It remained in production for only a couple of years and it was not until 2016 that Buck reintroduced an interchangeable blade knife, which they call the Selector 2.0. Thanks to having an in with the customer service manager at KnifeCenter, I was able to acquire the new Selector 2.0 for evaluation.
The pedigree of the Selector 2.0 is obvious. It uses the handle design of the Buck Open Season Folding Skinner (BU-546BKS). The liner lock mechanism of that model is changed to a back lock in the Selector 2.0, so that blades can be slipped in and out of the handle.
Changing blades is easy. The blade half stops when cycled and that is the position for changing blades. Open (or close) the blade to the half stop, press down firmly on the back lock tab, and slip the blade out of the end of the handle. Be careful of the blade edge when doing this, or sheathe the blade in one of the blade guards (described below).
To insert a blade, hold down the lock tab while slipping the notch in the blade tang onto the pivot pin. Release the lock tab and cycle the blade fully open; this confirms that the blade is properly seated in the handle. (If it is not fully seated on the pivot pin it either will not move, or it will pop out of the handle when you try to cycle it.)
Cycling the blade on the Selector 2.0 is like doing so on any other large, lock back knife. To open the blade, grasp the sides of the handle, pinch the blade between the thumb and a finger of the other hand and rotate the blade open. To close, depress the lock tab, use the other hand to rotate the blade toward the half stop position, then release the lock tab and finish closing the blade.
There is a rudimentary "thumb hole" in each of the blades. However, do not infer from this that the knife is designed for one-handed opening. (I saw one brief promotional review, not from Buck, that incorrectly claimed one-handed opening capability.) The back lock puts too much tension on the blade tang for one-handed opening to be practical or safe. The holes in the blades have another function, which is explained below.
As is clear from the image above, the Selector 2.0 comes with three blades. I consider the plain edge drop point to be the main blade and the partly serrated drop point and gutting blades to be the secondaries. All three blades are 3-5/8 inches long overall (measured mounted in the handle). The drop point blades have 3-1/4 inches of sharpened edge, while the sharpened edge of the gutting blade is 2-5/8 inches. The factory edges on all blades were very sharp, which is what I expected from Buck.
The blade steel is 420HC stainless, satin finished and hollow ground. Love it or hate it, 420HC blade steel has been a mainstay in the Buck product line for a long time. I have never found it wanting in any of the several Buck knifes I have owned.
Each blade weighs 1.15 ounces. The handle section weighs 5.25 ounces, so the weight of the knife with a blade installed is 6.4 ounces. The knife comes in a sturdy semi-rigid belt pouch that holds the knife with a blade installed, plus the extra blades. The total carry weight of the knife and extra blades in the sheath is 11 ounces. (All weights were read from my digital postal scale.)
The extra blades stow behind the folded knife in the sheath. A divider keeps them in place when the knife is removed from the pouch and each extra blade is also sheathed in a plastic blade guard. Each blade guard has a tab that latches into the thumb hole in the blade. This is a nice detail that adds a measure of safety in stowing and handling the blades.
To me, it is the handle section that makes this knife exceptional. It is 4-3/4 inches long and weighs 5.25 ounces, but this is size and weight with a purpose. The handle is built around robust (2mm thick) steel liners. These hold a sturdy blade pivot pin (about 6mm diameter), plus the back lock mechanism and a steel spacer behind the lock tab, between the liners. The materials and construction of the handle frame should make it very durable.
No-nonsense thermoplastic handle scales are secured to the liners with Torx head screws, three on each side. The scales have molded finger grooves with anodized aluminum inlays covering the flats. The handle is a palm filling 3/4-inch thick, with a subtle saddle horn shape. The handle is ergonomic and feels very secure. With a blade opened, the knife is well balanced in the hand, with no tendency to tip forward.
Sometimes little things say much about how well a knife is designed and built. Two of these strike me favorably regarding the Selector 2.0. First, I noticed right away that the main blade locked open with a reassuring clunk and had absolutely no play in any direction. I checked with the other blades installed and found the same. All three blades felt the same when cycled and all locked up securely, with no wiggle or slop.
Second, there is a small choil milled into the junction between the tang and sharpened edge of each blade. When the blade is closed, this choil comes to rest against a raised and rounded portion of the lock bar. This matchup serves as a stop when the blade is closed, so it does not bottom-out against the sharpened edge of the blade.
The blades live up to the heavy duty design of the handle. All three have spines that are 3mm thick. The drop point blades maintain that spine thickness for most of their length, before tapering to the point. The gutting blade has a uniform spine thickness for its entire length. The two drop point blades are one inch wide at the belly, with edges that have a slight recurved shape between the belly and the choil.
Not only are the blades sturdy, but also they have a very useful working length. I have been using both fixed blade and folding knives for over half a century and I can think of very few instances in which I needed a blade with more than a 3-1/4 inch cutting edge in the field.
The drop point profiles of the two conventional blades make them very versatile. I expect to mostly use the plain edge blade, with the partly serrated one available for rough work. It is easy to think of a gutting blade as a single purpose tool, but it can be used for other things in addition its obvious purpose. This blade can be useful anytime one wants to cut something without risk of stabbing something else with a sharp knife point. I sometimes use this type of blade to open large packing boxes or cut plastic binding straps, for instance.
I generally expect to be unimpressed by synthetic knife sheaths and pouches, so the pouch for this knife was a pleasant surprise. The material is heavy enough to be semi-rigid and it is shaped to securely accommodate the folded knife and extra blades. The flap is secured by a large metal snap that looks and feels like it will stand up to long use.
The pouch does have one downside feature. The belt loop on the back of the pouch lies tight and is not generously sized. Any belt that is over about 1-1/2 inches wide and is very thick will be a tight fit in the loop. Be aware.
I can see a lot of marketing potential for the Selector 2.0 design. If the basic knife is a commercial success, other blades might be offered for it (as happened with the original Selector). The ones that come immediately to mind are a straight-spined filet blade and a skinner profile blade. Clip point, fully serrated and saw tooth blades might also appear. Buck could follow the model options in their Open Season knife line, going upscale to offer the Selector 2.0 with S30V blade steel, Dymondwood handle scales, and a leather belt pouch.
Folding field knives with interchangeable blades have never been a big hit in the market. The only notable knives of this type that have been around for a while are the Case XX-Changer and the Savage Hunters Edge. Time will tell how the Selector 2.0 fares in the market.
The Buck Selector 2.0 is a heavy duty design with three sturdy, useful blades on board. Anyone who wishes to carry only one knife for hunting or other outdoor activities could do much worse than to strap on this knife package.
Copyright 2017 by Gary Zinn and/or chuckhawks.com. All rights reserved.