The Buck 110 Folding Hunter
This knife and its locking system may be the most significant event in the history of knives since the invention of carbon steel!
In 2014 Buck Knives celebrated the 50th anniversary of the most significant event in the history of folding knives since carbon steel! They also celebrated because this innovation may well have been the salvation of the company, and possibly even the salvation of the industry!
The Buck 110 Folding Hunter Back Lock
What was this monumental innovation? It was a locking system which upon opening the knife to the fully open system, locked it down tight and rigid like a fixed blade knife. This invention, when used with a large sharp knife could keep you from chopping off some fingers with an accidental closure, and made it possible for a knife of the type and size needed for hunting and defense to be placed inside a pocket, or in a small scabbard on a belt without getting all that unwanted attention one might get when carrying a fixed blade hunting knife. Of course, the knife I refer to is the Buck 110 Folding Hunter!
Al Buck’s design revolutionized the industry and is the most copied lock design in history! Every back lock design you see owes its origin to the initial Buck design.
I have read modern outdoors and knife writers who seem to think that liner locks and cross bar lock with coil springs, or spring loaded ball bearing locks, or even frame locks (not a bad locking system) are superior to the Buck back lock system, to which I politely say: bull hockey! This system has been tested for 50 years, probably 20 million Buck knives and hundreds of thousands of copies by every knife company in the world, and everyone seems pretty much satisfied with the outcome! I have never, ever, heard of one failing! I can not say the same for any other locking system, so stop pretending!
What was this back lock knife?
It was known as the Buck 110 Folding Hunter, and like I said, it changed the industry! The locking mechanism was enough to do that, but there were other Buck innovations that made this knife, and their other quality knives a hit.
The other factors
The simple wooden handles, the brass bolsters, and the stainless steel blades that worked almost as well as tool steel, as well as the simple and straightforward design, all have a part to play. So does the price!
The handles (scales if you like)
The handle scales have always been well made, and made of good materials. Today’s handles are made from Macassar Ebony Dymondwood. This is an increasingly rare wood stabilized with a phenolic resin and fused under high pressure. It is harder and more wear resistant than wood and is mostly impervious to moisture. It looks great, wears well, and is impervious to the elements!
Bolsters and liners
The brass bolsters and liners of the 110 are aesthetically pleasing and serve well with the other components. Brass is a bit more “lubricious” than steel, marrying well with both the wood and the high-quality stainless steel. It looks great, and it works great!
The Buck 110 folding hunter blade is a masterpiece! The design leaves a strong tip, a pleasing shape, a durable edge, and a thick top ridge above a nicely hollow ground concave. Blade shape is great, but what about the steel?
If memory serves me well, the original 110’s were made with 440 steel with higher than the normal carbon content. The material changed a few years later and then changed again more recently. All of the blade materials served well, and the current 420 HC is no exception. It is highly corrosion resistant, as well as being very good for retaining an edge.
To be honest, the only way to really control the hardness and toughness of stainless steel of almost any type is heat treatment, and buck had mastered this back in the days of its founder Hoyt Buck. Bucks heat treatments turn corrosion resistant metals into stainless steels which are hard and strong like tool steels. You may have to work a little harder at getting it sharp, but it will stay that way a long time.
The Buck 110 folding hunter is perhaps the most innovative and useful knives ever to be made. The price is great and the product is great. It costs me no more to buy the knife today than it did in the early 70’s. You would be insane not to have one, or more!