Buck Makes Too Many Great Hunting Knives

So I organized every hunting knife Buck makes that I could find, then organized them by series and type into tables so you can see the differences at an easy glance to find your best option.

Buck has been one of the biggest go-to knife makers for hunting and camping for decades. Whether you plan on hunting deer or duck, there’s a Buck knife you should take with you. On the one hand, that’s a nice, strong legacy. The problem is that any company that’s been around for that long has put out a lot of different products by necessity. Buck knives might be the American hunting knife, but which Buck knife?  They make too many variations of all their knives to keep track of… unless you spend too much time going through their catalogue specifically to start keeping track of them.

In the first half of this blog I’ve tried to categorize all these knives according their style or the collection they belong to. Not all of them fit so cleanly into a category so you might see outliers, but every Buck knife that seemed (to me) to be made especially for hunting is in the blog. In the second half I take some of the knives out of the tables that I think are the best for small or large game and talk about them in a little more detail.

Table of contents:

Part 1

Part 2

  • Which Buck Hunting Knives are the Best Buys
  • Buck Knives for Big Game
  • Buck Knives for Small Game

Buck Knife Features

You’ll see a few odd things attached to some of these knives that you might not recognize right away. I think most people know what it means when they see BOS 420HC steel, but what about DymaLux wood? I didn’t know either. Here’s what I’ve found about that kind of thing:

Edge2X Blade Technology: This is a whole “new” process of creating edges that Buck started in 1999. It involves laser-cutting machines and a different way of heat treating, but essentially it’s a reduced angle on the edge’s bevel from what had been around 45 degrees total to 30 degrees total (meaning a 15 degree bevel on each side of the edge). This makes the blade a lot better at slicing, and a little easier to sharpen, although it does require a gentler touch.

Crelicam Ebony: This is ebony wood bought from the Crelicam wood mill owned by Madinter (a wood supplier) and Taylor Guitars (a guitar manufacturer). The idea of the company is to promote and encourage legal and ethical sourcing of ebony wood, which has been a problem in the past.

DymaLux Wood: This is basically dyed birch laminate injected with resin. If you were ever familiar with the Dymondwood scales Buck knives used to have, it’s similar to that.

 

Hunters and Rangers: The EDC Hunting Set

These are the designs that made everyone fall in love with Buck knives, and probably knives in general. The 110s and 112s have been around for a long time now, and we’ve never stopped buying the crap out of them because they’re great EDCs, but hunting and general camping was their original intention.

Table of Buck 110 and 112 Variations

Recently the 110 and 112 models have seen a lot of upgrades recently. Buck updated everything in this series with different steels, handle materials, and carry systems. The clip point blade style and blade sizes remain the same throughout every versions, though.

SteelHandleOpen SystemCarry System Amazon Links
Standard420HCWood HandleNail Nick OpenSheath110 / 112
ProS30V VanadiumG10 HandleNail Nick OpenSheath110 / 112
LT420HCNylon HandleNail Nick OpenSheath110 / 112
Auto420HCWood HandleButton OpenSheath110 / 112
Auto EliteS30V VanadiumG10 HandleButton OpenSheath110 / 112
Slim420HCNylon HandleThumb Stud OpenPocket clip110 / 112
Slim ProS30V VanadiumMicarta HandleThumb Stud OpenPocket clip110 / 112

 

101 Hunter, the Fixed Blade Buck 110

  • Overall Length: 8.5”
  • Blade Length: 3.75”
  • Blade Steel: 420HC
  • Style: Clip
  • Grind: Hollow
  • Handle Material: Crelicam
  • Carry System: Leather sheath

Just what it says. The 101 Hunter is exactly the same as your standard Buck 110 except it’s a fixed blade. I don’t hear a lot of chatter about this little outlier, and I definitely don’t see many people carry it, but it’s a nice thought from Buck, whether or not it’s actually a good idea. A full-tang 110 seems like a neat thing to own.

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Orphan Hunting Knives

There are a few good hunting knives by Buck that aren’t part of a series and don’t quite fit cleanly into any category beyond “hunting”, so this is where they go. I’m putting them up here at the beginning so they don’t get missed, because some of these really are fantastic knives.

Overall / Blade SizeSteelCarry SystemHandleBlade StyleFolding / Fixed BladeCheck Price On Amazon
Alpha Hunter8.125” / 3.5”420HCNylon pouchRubber HandleDrop pointFoldingAmazon
Omni Hunter 10 pt7.75” / 3.25”420HCNylon pouchRubber HanndleDrop pointFixed Blade & FoldingAmazon
Omni Hunter 12pt9.75” / 4.0”420HCNylon sheathRubber HandleDrop pointFixed Blade & FoldingAmazon
401 Kalinga10.0” / 4.75”420HCLeather sheathDymalux wood HandleSkinnerFixed bladeAmazon
103 Skinner8.25” / 4.0”420HCLeather sheathPhenolic or Dymalux HandleSkinnerFixed bladeAmazon
Vanguard8.5” / 4.25”420HCLeather sheathRubber or DymaLux HandleDrop pointFixed bladeAmazon
Zipper8.5” / 4.125”420HCNylon sheathRubber or DymaLux HandleGuthook drop pointFixed bladeAmazon

 

 

Buck Bowies: The Survival Set

By all rights, these should probably be included in the Big Game knives category, but Buck’s bowie knives are a little more versatile than that. Many of these are the kinds of knives you could take into the woods with nothing else. They all have pretty long blade, but many are thin enough to work with smaller game in a pinch, and they can handle some bushcraft and survival jobs a lot better than the skinning-oriented knives that dominate this list.

Many are customizable, and Buck offers a decent range of handle and blade materials, but for the most part these are all 420HC with phenolic or DymaLux wood handles that could stand to be a little grippier.

Overall SizeBlade SizeBlade StyleS30V VersionCheck Price On Amazon
102 Buck Woodsman7.75” Overall4.0” BladeStandard Clip pointNo S30V VersionAmazon
105 Pathfinder9.125” Overall5.0” BladeModified Clip pointNo S30V VersionAmazon
118 Personal8.5” Overall4.5” BladeModified Clip pointNo S30V VersionAmazon
119 Special10.5” Overall6.0” BladeStandard Clip pointHas S30V VersionAmazon
120 General12.0” Overall7.375” BladeStandard Clip pointNo S30V VersionAmazon
124 Frontiersman11.75” Overall6.25” BladeSlight Drop pointNo S30V VersionAmazon

 

 

Open Season Knives: The Dedicated Hunting Set

This is Buck’s dedicated hunting series. Whatever you’re planning on doing or hunting on your next trip, Buck has tried to make a knife under this name that will be perfect for the job. Right now, there are two versions of these knives made: the regular Open Season knives which are mostly BOS 420HC Steel and DymaLux scales, and the Pro versions, which have S35V steel and Micarta scales.

NOTE: I left out the 550 Selector 2.0 here and put it in the Multi-tool section.

Overall / Blade SizeSteel: Standard / ProHandle: Standard / ProBlade StyleGuthook VersionCheck Price On Amazon
535 Moose Skinner11.2” / 8.0”S35VNMicarta HandleSpear PointNo Guthook VersionPro
536/537 Skinner8.5” / 3.75”420HC / S35VNDymaLux / Micarta HandleDrop PointHas Guthook VersionStandard / Pro
538/539 Small Game7.63” / 4.25”420HC / S35VNDymaLux / Micarta HandleDrop PointHas Guthook VersionStandard / Pro
541 Boning10.25” / 6.5”S35VNMicarta HandleBoningNo Guthook VersionPro
542/543 Caper7.0” / 3.5”420HC / S35VNThermoplastic / Micarta HandleCapingNo Guthook VersionStandard / Pro
556/557 Folding Skinner8.5” / 3.75”420HC / S35VNDymaLux / Micarta HandleDrop PointNo Guthook VersionStandard / Pro

 

 

PackLite Knives: The Backpacking Set

These are stripped designs for longer trips. If you plan on packing gear through the woods for an extended period, PackLite blades are made to be as light as possible and still offer the same degree of function you get from other Buck knives. They aren’t the most comfortable knives, but that can be helped a little if you have some paracord to spare. There’s a similar range of selection here to the Open Season knives, including blades for small and large game, plus a few for dressing game in the field.

Overall / Blade SizeBlade StyleHandleGuthook VersionS30V VersionCheck Price On Amazon
135 PakLite Caper Knife6.75” / 2.5”CaperSkeleton HandleNo Guthook VersionS30VStandard / Elite
136 PakLite Boning Knife9.25” / 5.25”BoningSkeleton HandleNo Guthook VersionS30VStandard / Elite
140 PakLite Skinner6.625” / 2.875”Recurve drop pointSkeleton HandleNo Guthook VersionNo S30VAmazon
141 PakLite Large Skinner8.0” / 3.5”Recurve drop pointSkeleton HandleHas Guthook VersionNo S30VAmazon
143 PakLite Skinner Black7.75” / 3.875Recurve Drop pointSkeleton HandleNo Guthook VersionNo S30VWalMart Exclusive
673 BuckLite MAX Small Knife7.75” / 3.25”Drop pointRubber HandleNo Guthook VersionNo S30VAmazon
679 BuckLite MAX Large Knife8.75” / 4.0”Drop pointRubber HandleHas Guthook VersionNo S30VAmazon
684 BuckLite Max II Small Knife7.5” / 3.25”Drop pointRubber HandleNo GuthookNo S30VAmazon
685 BuckLite Max II Large Knife8.875” / 4.0”Drop pointRubber HandleHas Guthook VersionNo S30VAmazon

 

 

Buck Hunting Multi-Tools

There are a handful of nifty Buck, especially if you’re into bowhunting. None of these are Leatherman-style multi-tools with ten different kinds of bottle openers tucked inside the handle. They’re task-driven designs boiled down specifically to cater to hunting.

It should be noted that the 550 Selector 2.0 is technically part of the Open Season series. Its overall design is the same as the 556 Open Season Folding Skinner, but the Selector’s interchangeable blade feature puts it in a different class for me.

ToolsHandlePurposeCheck Price On Amazon
183 Alpha Crosslock3.0” spear point blade

Saw blade w/ guthook

Anodized Aluminum HandleMulti-purpose huntingAmazon
737 Bow Tool11 allen hex drivers

Scissors

2.0” blade

G10 HandleBow maintenanceAmazon
738 Bow Tool TRX8 torx drivers

2.0” blade

Phillips head

Scissors

Broadhead wrench tool

G10 HandleBow MaintenanceAmazon
550 Selector 2.0Interchangeable blades:

Drop point

Drop point serrated

Guthook

Thermoplastic HandleMulti-purpose huntingAmazon

 

Now Which Buck Hunting Knives are the Best?

It’s all well and good to compile all the hunting knives and organize them, but they aren’t all made equal, even if they’re all made by Buck. So I’ve combed through the selection and picked out what seemed like the actual best buys and done my best to separate them into knives best for using on big game and knives best for using on small game so we can all lead happier lives.

Buck Knives for Hunting Big Game

The rule of thumb as I understand it is that a knife should have a fairly thick blade, a good curved belly, and a short tip if it’s being used for big game. I’m not here to tell you how to skin a deer, but I need a simple way to organize all these damn knives, so here are all the Buck hunting knives with thicker blades around or over 3 inches.

103 Skinner

The Buck 103 Skinner is a great choice forskinning large game.

  • Overall Length: 8.25”
  • Blade Length: 4.0”
  • Blade Steel: 420HC
  • Style: Skinner drop point
  • Grind: Hollow
  • Handle Material: Phenolic or Cocobolor DymaLux
  • Sheath: Leather

It’s hard to beat Buck’s dedicated skinning knife. The 103 Skinner has an extra wide blade with a big curvy belly. This is easily one of the best knives for big game on this list just based on its simple design and tough build. It does have a couple odd issues, though. For example. The handguard seems like a weird feature when they could have had a much larger and more comfortable finger choil without it. And the leather sheath, as nice as it is, can only be a drop carry. That said, if you’re intention is dressing deer or boar in the field, you won’t regret having the 103.

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141 PackLite Large Skinner Knife

The Buck PakLite 141 Skinner is lightweight and durable.

  • Overall Length: 8.0”
  • Blade Length: 3.5”
  • Blade Steel: 420HC
  • Style: Recurve skinner
  • Grind: Hollow
  • Handle Material: Stainless steel
  • Sheath: Nylon
  • Variations: Guthook blade

The PakLite knives aren’t for everyone, but they carry a lot of potential for a very small price. The PakLite Big Game Skinner is skeletonized to reduce weight and features a pretty generous recurve. Buck actually came out with this model because people kept saying they wanted a bigger version of the 140 (which will come up later). Common practice is to run paracord through the handle so you have something comfortable to hold onto and have some extra rope on hand in case you really need it. There’s also a guthook version if that’s your style.

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Omni Hunter 12pt

The Omni Hunter works well for large game.

 

  • Overall Length: 9.75”
  • Blade Length: 4.0”
  • Blade Steel: 420HC
  • Style: Drop point skinner
  • Grind: Hollow
  • Handle Material: Rubber
  • Open System: Thumbstud
  • Carry System: Nylon sheath
  • Lock Type: Liner
  • Variations: Folder, Omni Hunter 10pt.

The Omnihunter 12pt is around the same length range as the Esee 3 and 4. I’ve listed this over the Omnihunter 10pt for that reason. It makes pretty strong competition in the 4-inch blade category. It’s comparatively cheap but still manages to provide plenty of durability and comfort. Its handle material comes in a much wider range of patterns (if you’re into that sort of thing), and Buck makes it as a folder. The materials are arguably a downgrade from Esee stuff, but I haven’t heard a lot of hunters complaining about Bucks 420 steel or rubber handles.

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401 Kalinga Knife

The Buck Kalinga is unique and practical.

  • Overall Length: 10.0”
  • Blade Length: 4.75”
  • Blade Steel: 420HC
  • Style: Upswept skinner
  • Grind: Hollow
  • Handle Material: DymaLux redwood
  • Carry System: Leather Sheath

This is a materials update of an older model Buck came out with back in the 60’s which unfortunately puts it in collector’s territory. It’s high-priced compared to a lot of other knife on this list, and most people who buy just like to have it sit around and look pretty. That’s a shame because as a big-game skinner and all-around camping task knife, the Kalinga is a great blade. That huge upswept design and high grind make it good for skinning, but it’s also viable for carving and chopping thanks to the generous finger choil and the thick spine.

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535 Open Season Moose Skinner

The Open Season Moose Skinner is an ideal skinning knife for large game.

  • Overall Length: 11.18”
  • Blade Length: 8.0”
  • Blade Steel: S35VN
  • Style: Spear point
  • Grind: Hollow
  • Handle Material: Micarta
  • Carry System: Leather Sheath

This is one of the few Open Season knives that only seem to come in the S30V Pro version. I’m not sure what Buck’s reasoning is for that. But people who hunt moose have something against 420HC. Whatever the reason, it’s still a great knife designed for carving up exceptionally large game (like moose, I guess). The length of the edge provides plenty of room for angling the slice, and the spear point plenty sharp to get the work started, and good strong base for when the work gets heavier.

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Open Season Skinner

The fixed blade Open Season hunting knife is popular, because it works really well.

  • Overall Length: 8.25”
  • Blade Length: 4.5”
  • Blade Steel: 420HC or S35VN
  • Style: Drop point
  • Grind: Hollow
  • Handle Material: DymaLux, Micarta, or Thermopalstic
  • Open System: Thumbhole
  • Carry System: Polyester sheath
  • Lock Type: Backlock
  • Variations: Folding, Pro, Guthook

This is the larger version of the Open Season skinners (you’ll find the smaller version farther down). It also comes in a folding version, which is great if you want a more compact way of carrying this knife. The polyester sheath for the folding Skinner is definitely a lot easier to carry than the drop-carry of the fixed blade. It’s great all around once the blade is out, though. It has just enough recurve to make slicing a lot easier, well placed jimping along with a finger choil and a tough handle material that’s easy to clean. As one of Buck’s latest hunting knife designs, it’s evidence of a pretty healthy direction for the company.

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685 Bucklite Max II Large Knife

The 684 BuckLite Max 2 is a great fixed blade for hunting large game.

  • Overall Length: 8.875”
  • Blade Length: 4.0”
  • Blade Steel: 420HC
  • Style: Drop point
  • Grind: Hollow
  • Handle Material: Rubber
  • Carry System: Polyester
  • Variations: Guthook

First off, easily one of the best features about the BuckLite Max series is the cost. This Large and Small knife are pretty incredible blades for the money. It’s a sturdy knife with decent materials in the kind of design that you don’t mind getting dirty and is easy to clean up anyway. You can also get the knife with a gut hook on the back of the blade. I have to assume there are people out there who actually use that thing since Buck keeps making knives with it. Gut hook or not, though, this is a great knife for beginning and experienced hunters.

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Vanguard Knife

The Buck Vanguard sports a classic design and tough leather sheath.

  • Overall Length: 8.5”
  • Blade Length: 4.25”
  • Blade Steel: 420HC
  • Style: Drop point
  • Grind: Hollow
  • Handle Material: DymaLuxWalnut
  • Carry System: Leather sheath

Buck can make all the updates and modern designs it wants to, it’s really hard to beat the Vanguard for function and looks. The shape of the blade is versatile enough to use for bother small and large game, and the knife itself is so tough and well balanced it ends up getting used for just about everything when you’re in the bush. The handle can get a little slippery, and the sheath isn’t exactly optimized for long hikes, but those are pretty monior issues in the face of overall design. The Vanguard is not perfect, but it’s the kind of knife that makes you love its flaws.

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Zipper Knife

The Buck Zipper is an excllent skinner with a gut hook.

  • Overall Length:
  • Blade Length: 4.25”
  • Blade Steel: 420HC
  • Style: Guthook drop point
  • Grind: Hollow
  • Handle Material: Rubber or DymaLux Walnut
  • Carry System: Leather or Nylon sheath

I suspect the Buck Zipper was intended to be the gut-hooked version of the Vanguard, which I disapprove of on principle. The Vanguard design is still good though, and if gut hooks are what you go in for, the Zipper is definitely worth a look. It has essentially the same handle and blade besides the hook on the back. The hook might make the tip fo the knife a little weaker, but it’s still great for skinning, and you really shouldn’t be stabbing with this thing too much anyway.

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Buck Knives for Hunting Small Game

Again, I’m not about to tell you how to dress a bird or a rabbit, but the common line separating small game knives from big game knives is a thin blade and a long sharp point. It should also probably be a little smaller so it’s easier to maneuver the blade around all the tiny bones and parts that come with smaller game.

Folding Alpha Hunter

The Buck Knives Folding Alpha Hunter is popular and practical.

  • Overall Length: 8.25”
  • Blade Length: 3.5”
  • Blade Steel: 420HC
  • Style: Drop point
  • Grind: Hollow
  • Handle Material: Stainless steel w/ rubber scales
  • Open System: Thumbstud
  • Carry System: Polyester sheath
  • Lock Type: Liner

I’m not sure what you call a phobia of pocket clips, but Buck still seems to have to some degree. The folding Alpha Hunter is a great all-around camping and hunting knife. The handle is comfortable, the blade is straightforward, it has well-placed jimping, and a good grind. The action can get a little loose, but they make it pretty easy to adjust that with a torx screwdriver. As much as I would like to carry this in the pocket, it’s actually pretty nice to have it in the sheath. It rides tight to the belt and makes it easy to get at the knife, it just makes it weird to carry around town.

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113 Ranger Skinner

The Buck 113 hunting knife is a great choice for hunting small game like bird or rabbit.

  • Overall Length: 7.25”
  • Blade Length: 3.125”
  • Blade Steel: 420HC
  • Style: Drop point skinner
  • Grind: Hollow
  • Handle Material: Walnut
  • Carry System: Leather sheath and lanyard hole

If you’re into hunting bird or rabbit, the 113 Skinner is the knife that Buck designed for you. They very cleverly made the grind on this knife so high it disappears into the spine before getting to the tip. The result is a sturdy blade with a thin blade all along the edge so you can work on small game a lot easier. Actually carrying this knife might be the worst part about it. The leather sheath is nice, but it’s drop carry, and can make it a little harder to pull the knife out comfortably unless you put a paracord through that lanyard hole. It also could have done with a finger choil so you could choke the blade up. But that’s all nitpicking at a solid knife that has very few problems.

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140 PakLite Skinner

The PakLiteSkinner is pink and lightweight.

  • Overall Length: 6.625”
  • Blade Length: 2.785”
  • Blade Steel: 420HC
  • Style: Drop point recurve
  • Grind: Hollow
  • Handle Material: Stainless steel
  • Carry System: Nylon sheath

This is the original version of the 141 PakLite Big Game Skinner, so not technically designed for small game, but certainly usable for something like pheasant. It’s smaller size makes it easy to handle and the tip is long enough to work into smaller parts of the animal. The recurve is nice of course, but not incredibly important in this context. The big highlight of this knife, like the 141 skinner, is the skeletonized design. Run some paracord through that thing, strap it to your pack and you’ve got one of the most useful tools in your whole rig for the trip.

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539 Open Season Small Game Skinner

The 539 is Buck's smaller version of the Open Season hunting knife.

  • Overall Length: 7.625”
  • Blade Length: 4.25”
  • Blade Steel: 420HC or S30V
  • Style: Drop point
  • Grind: Hollow
  • Handle Material: Red wood DymaLux or Micarta
  • Carry System:
  • Variations: Open Season Pro

Now we’re into something truly dedicate to skinning smaller game. The Open Season Small Game Skinner has a nice long thin blade. It has a good sharp tip to work into fowl and large finger choil so you can choke up the blade comfortably for better control. The standard version comes in Buck’s BOS 420HC steel, which is really a gold standard for hunting, but if you’re more into premium materials, the Pro version features a pretty significant upgrade in steel in terms of edge retention and rust resistance.

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684 BuckLite Max II Small Knife

The Buck 684 is a smaller version of the BuckLite Max 2 folding knife

  • Overall Length: 7.5”
  • Blade Length: 3.25”
  • Blade Steel: 420HC
  • Style: Drop point
  • Grind: Hollow
  • Handle Material: Rubber
  • Carry System: Polyester sheath:

Again, this wasn’t made strictly for small game since it has a relatively blunt tip compared to other small game knives, but it’s one of those well-made all-purpose skinning knives that Buck is incredibly good at making. The BuckLite Max II is a low-cost blade with a sturdy full-tang build, a stonewash finish for corrosion resistance, and a comfy rubber handle. It’s the kind of knife that was made to get dirty and abused.

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