Buck Model 364 Rival I Pocket Knife
By Gary Zinn
Buck Rival I (A) and Rival II (B) knives. Image courtesy of A.G. Russell Knives.
Full disclosure right now: this is a review of an inexpensive knife. I do not ordinarily pay much attention to "low end" knives, but there is a method to my madness that led me to acquire and review the Buck Rival I.
I have been a Whitetail deer hunter since I was big enough to shoot a .25 Remington rifle without it knocking me down. With experience, I settled on a comfortable package of cutlery that I normally carry into the field when deer hunting. This includes a medium-sized hunting knife in a leather or ballistic cloth sheath, a simple gut hook tool and a pocket knife.
I can field dress, skin and process any deer that ever dropped with a single tool, as long as it is a well designed fixed blade, or folding, hunting knife of suitable size. (See Choosing an Exceptional Big Game Hunting Knife.)
When simple, skeleton handled gut hooks became available, I quickly added one to my field kit. It makes opening the abdomen for gutting so easy, plus helps out when splitting the hide for skinning.
The pocket knife comes into play, because I prefer to not carry my hunting knife on my belt. Rather, I normally tuck it and my gut hook tool into a small backpack or fanny pack and only bring them out when it is time to field dress a deer.
However, I do not feel comfortable going into the field unless I have a knife readily at hand; hence the pocket knife. I have carried and used slip joint folders since I was six years old and they have become like an extension of my hand. The pocket knife I normally carry when hunting is a slip joint, such as a medium size (3-1/2 inch to 3-3/4 inch closed length) Stockman or Trapper pattern knife.
It occurred to me, though, that many young (at my age, this means anyone under forty) hunters and outdoorsmen (and women) may be more familiar and comfortable with modern style, easy opening, single blade knives. There are scads of these on the market, in all imaginable sizes, with a wide range of features and prices. This got me thinking, "If I want to carry a one-hand-opening knife as a pocket knife in the field, what would it be?"
I contemplated the specs for such a knife. A light weight knife with a closed length of about 3-1/2 inches would be just right for comfortable pocket carry. A knife of that size would have a blade somewhat less than 3 inches long, which is adequate for light cutting tasks.
This will be a utility knife, so it does not need to feature "super steel," or other high tech materials, nor does it need an opening assist mechanism. I do want the blade to be of a proven, if common, steel. Thumb studs or a thumb hole, to give purchase for one handed opening, and a simple liner or back lock complete the essential specifications.
I knew that a relatively simple knife like this could be found at a modest price and after some browsing I zeroed in on the Buck Rival knife line, specifically the Rival I. The Buck Rival knives are budget priced, with the added attractions of being made in the U.S.A. and carrying the Buck Forever Warranty. These latter two features are reassuring regarding the quality and dependability of the product. There are a number of other brands and models of knives that would satisfy my size and design criteria, but this one seemed as good as any--and better than many--for a test case.
Buck Rival I Specifications
The blade is 2.5mm (.10 inch) thick at the spine and has 2-5/8 inches of sharpened edge. It is 3/4 inches wide at the grind plunge, with the spine having a long, straight drop. The edge is straight for about half its length, then curves gently to the tip. Nothing fancy or complicated here, just a sleek looking, functional blade design.
The 420HC blade is hollow ground and satin finished. The factory edge, formed by a narrow micro bevel, was Extremely Sharp, my top qualitative rating of sharpness. This is the best factory edge I can recall ever finding on a knife priced this low. As a blade steel, 420HC may be as common as old socks, but it is performance proven and is as good as any steel that one is likely to find in a knife with a discount retail price of under $20.
Thumb studs provide a means of rotating the blade open. A back lock holds the blade in battery. Despite the inherent resistance of the back lock, the blade of the test knife cycles smoothly and locks open crisply. There is absolutely no play or instability when the blade is locked open and it takes only normal pressure on the lock bar tab to release the lock.
The handle is two slabs of injection molded nylon, held together by a pair of steel rivets and the blade pivot pin. There is not a lot to be discussed about a 3-1/2 inch knife handle. I will note that this one is stylishly shaped and feels as good in the hand as any small handle likely can.
The handle is molded with grooves and a textured surface, which is a good thing for maintaining a sure grip. The handle is neither long enough, nor has enough girth, to be hand-filling and thus truly ergonomic, but a knife this size likely will never be used long and hard, so handle ergonomics are not a huge concern.
Finally, there is the pocket clip, which any contemporary easy-opening knife must have. Buyers expect it, so a clip on a knife of this type is pretty much a given, from a marketing perspective.
However, I do not need a clip on this knife, for I will simply carry it in a front pocket of my jeans or field pants. Also, the loop near the base of the clip pushes uncomfortably against my palm when I wield the knife. The clip will go the way of most clips on knives that I own and use, into the trash.
In summary, the Rival I is better than I expected it to be, for the price. The design is simple and without frills, but the knife is well fabricated and very functional. The biggest surprise to me was that the opening action is quite easy and smooth, even though I doubt that there are any washers or bearings installed in the blade pivot area. I also did not expect the factory edge to be so keen on an economy priced knife.
I can totally see myself dropping this knife into my pocket when I next go deer hunting. I may also use it for casual everyday carry, for it has a size and capability that will make for a very satisfactory light duty utility tool.
The Rival I is one of four Buck knives of the same design. The Rival SS (Model 363, formerly called the Nano) has a 1-7/8 inch blade in a 2-7/8 inch handle. The Rival II (Model 365) wears a 3-1/8 inch blade in a 4-1/4 inch handle and the Rival III (Model 366) sports a 3-5/8 inch blade in a 4-3/4 inch handle. There are Rival series knives that, in size, should suit a wide range of needs and preferences for a budget priced utility knife.
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