Buck 110 Folding Hunter Pro Knife
By Chuck Hawks
Illustration courtesy of Buck Knives.
The classic Buck Folding Hunter Model 110, introduced in 1963, may not be the first folding hunting knife ever made. However, it was undoubtedly the early example that combined all of the key features, including a single, 3-3/4 inch, stainless surgical steel blade and a strong, positive back lock to keep the blade from closing accidentally if you hit bone. The handle had a comfortable curve that tended to keep fingers from sliding forward onto the sharpened edge of the blade.
The original Model 110 was an expensive knife for the time, but it looked the part, with wood handle scales, brass liners, pins and bolsters. Its success made Buck a "major" knife maker. It is still in the line and remains one of the best selling knives in the US.
The Folding hunter Pro that is the subject of this review is a new for 2018 variation of the classic original that preserves all of the original's best features, while introducing some modern improvements. The overall shape of blade and handle remain the same in the 110 Pro, but the materials have been upgraded, as follows.
The handle scales are durable, black G10, a premium scale material. They have a very fine checkered pattern for an improved grip. The handle is slightly thicker than my 1969 Model 110, making it more comfortable in the hand. It is hard to beat the look of the Macassar ebony wood used in the handle scales of the standard Model 110, but the new 110 Pro still looks good and feels better.
The liners, bolsters and pins are nickel silver, stronger than brass and very tarnish resistant. (The brass bolsters of the original quickly tarnish with handling and turn green if stored in the supplied leather sheath.) Nickel silver, also called "German silver," is a copper alloy typically containing about 60% copper, 20% nickel and 20% zinc. It is the color of sterling silver (and also polished stainless steel), but does not contain any actual silver.
The integral bolsters and liners are very thick and heavy, providing great mass in which to anchor the stronger pins of the 110 Pro. Few folding knives are this massively strong.
The back lock has also been subtly improved. It works the same way from a user perspective, but the shape/angle of the engagement surfaces has been modified. The locking mechanism is extremely strong and virtually impossible to force.
The clip point blade pattern of the original remains, but the blade material has been upgraded from 420HC stainless steel to S30V super steel. This is the most important (and expensive) upgrade. S30V is expensive to buy and work from the manufacturer's perspective. However, it was developed in the US specifically as a blade steel and provides the ultimate in performance. It is very hard, with excellent wear resistance, toughness, edge retention and corrosion resistance, but it is more difficult to sharpen than ordinary blade steels. Diamond or ceramic sharpening stones are the way to go with S30V. (See Sharpening S30V and Similar Super Steel Knife Blades.) Buck Knives describes S30V steel this way:
"We consider this the absolute best blade steel available, and it is made in America. S30V contains carbon as well as high amounts of Chromium, Molybdenum and Vanadium. This steel combines fantastic edge retention and high ductility combined with corrosion resistance. Double-tempered, it can be hardened to a Rockwell hardness of Rc 59.5-61. However, it is difficult to resharpen yourself, but we do offer sharpening services for a nominal fee."
(For more information about S30V steel, see CPM S30V and CPM S35VN Knives- A Rising Market Force.)
This is a hunting knife, not a pocket knife. Carry it in the supplied sheath, as you would a fixed blade hunter.
Like all Buck Model 110 knives, the Folding Hunter Pro is made entirely in the USA. Even the S30V steel is American made. The supplied black leather sheath, however, is made in Mexico. Regardless, it is a heavy duty pouch that should last for many years.
The clip point blade is nearly straight for about half of its sharpened edge with a moderate curve toward a sharp tip. The sharpened edge measures 3-3/8 inches. It is a good general purpose shape that is excellent for field dressing a big buck, yet delicate enough for field dressing small game and cleaning trout. The fine, very sharp point is excellent for detail work, although not quite as strong as a drop point. (Drop point and clip point are my favorite blade shapes for hunting and general purpose knives.)
Buck's Folding Hunter is normally opened and closed with two hands. (One hand opening is flashy, but a dead deer isn't going anywhere while you open your hunting knife.) There is a nail notch on the blade, although enough blade is exposed when closed that it really isn't necessary. When the blade is open and locked, there is absolutely no play.
The blade is closed by depressing the back end of the rocking lock plate, typically using the thumb of the strong hand. This frees the blade to be closed (pivoted into the handle). Considerable force is required to unlock the blade for closing. You must overcome the force of a powerful spring bar that keeps the lock plate engaged, making this back lock a real "thumb buster."
It is possible to open the blade with one hand in an emergency. (If the other hand were disabled, for example.) I do it by gripping the exposed back of the closed blade firmly in the fingers and then swinging the heavy handle downward. A drop of gun oil where the lock plate contacts the blade and considerable use will make the Folding Hunter Pro slightly easier to open, but not by a lot. This is a serious hunting knife, not a tactical toy.
If you must have easy one hand opening, and are willing to pay about an extra $100 for it, Buck has you covered. Also introduced in 2018 is the Buck 110 AUTO Elite Folding Hunter, essentially a one-hand opening automatic version of the 110 Folding Hunter Pro.
The 110 Pro is very sharp out of the box. (VS+ on Gary Zinn's sharpness scale and just shy of "shaving sharp.") The hollow ground blade came with a more aggressive edge than I remember my old 110 Hunter having. I would guess it should be sharpened at about a 20 degree angle. At least, that is the angle I used to touch it up with my crock sticks and it worked okay.
Double heat treated S30V steel is extremely hard (around Rc 60) and holds an edge extremely well. Touch it up as needed and do not let it get dull, or you are in for a chore. If it gets really dull, you are probably well advised to take advantage of Buck's sharpening service.
I used the 110 Pro to slice a single magazine page, cut thin curls from a nine inch economy paper plate and cut-up a cardboard box. It easily performed these common chores with very little effort and without noticeable wear on the edge.
Deer season is over where I live and the rainy season is in full swing, so I did no hunting and had no game to field dress for this review. (Why does it seem I always get hunting knives for review when it isn't hunting season?) However, I know from decades of experience with my old Model 110 that the blade is well designed for its intended purpose. The Model 110 Pro, with its S30V super steel blade, will do anything the standard model will do, only longer and better.
I have used name brand folding hunting knives for over five decades and most have been good knives. Many have been reviewed in the Cutlery section of Guns and Shooting Online. I dislike calling any product "the best," as uses vary (the best for what, exactly?) and such statements are always a matter of opinion. However, I can testify that this Buck Model 110 Folding Hunter Pro is my new favorite folding hunting knife. If I were allowed to carry only a single folding hunting knife on an important big game hunt, this is the one I would choose. (In reality, I normally carry both a fixed blade hunting knife and a folding hunter on big game hunts.)
Hoyt Buck began making knives in 1902, after learning how to temper steel so it would better hold an edge. All of Hoyt's knives were made individually, by hand. His son, Al Buck, introduced the famous Model 110 Folding Hunter in 1962. Today, the Buck Knives reputation is carried on by third and fourth generation family members. It is fair to say that after 116 years the generations of people making Buck knives have learned a thing or two. The Model 110 Folding Hunter Pro provides ample evidence of this; it is a superior product in every way.
Copyright 2018 by Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.