I did not want a Buck knife.
Yes, the Buck 845 Vantage Force knife, with half of the blade edge serrated and a military camo handle, did end up being the folding knife I chose as my Happy Birthday To Me gift when my 70th birthday rolled around. That’s true. But I fought to resist. I really did.
See, I’ve long been aware of the Buck company’s sterling reputation in the knife industry, but as a long time owner of a Buck fixed blade survival knife, I’ve also had one serious complaint: The steel in that hunting knife is so hard, it’s a real bugger to sharpen. In fact, I’m not 100% certain it’s not made of tougher stuff than the bastard file in my toolbox.
Still, it was my birthday and a new folding knife was definitely in order. The folder that’s been at my right hip for the past couple of years was almost perfect…except for being a cheap no-name hunka hunka clunky junk. A month or two ago, the thumb-flipper screw came undone, fell out, and disappeared forever. About a week after that, the blade suddenly developed a major wobble from side to side when it was locked open. The red fake-wood plastic handle was (to me) stunningly beautiful from every angle but not quite long enough to truly fit my oversized hand.
And so on and so forth.
I’ve usually owned a folding knife of some sort, at least since around age seven or so. On the other hand, an amazing number of those pocket knives were lost over the years, too. During childhood, a new Case or Boker or even a mostly worthless Imperial knife could count on disappearing within days.
Back then, the Tree Brand (Boker) was considered top of the line. My father carried a Tree Brand in a little buckskin case on his belt for decades, using it for everything from cutting baling twine to castrating bull calves on the ranch. I inherited that one and keep it tucked in a storage tote in my bedroom…but no longer see it as the end all and be all of knives. I’ve grown to appreciate a larger blade with a bit of serration, a lockback mechanism, and a handle that more or less fills my fist.
Not for a pocket. Being retired and living off grid in rural Arizona, I can carry a folding knife in a case on my hip without members of the public thinking a thing about it.
All I have to do is remember to leave it in the car before going into the County Courthouse.
So…what brand did I want? Eh? Eh?
First choice (or so I thought): Kershaw.
Somewhere in the early 90’s, I bought two Kershaw pocket knives. One, called a Silver Spur, was so tiny you could tuck in a shirt pocket and forget it was there. The other was bigger, perhaps two thirds the size of those I carry today.
Both of them were razor sharp right out of the box and super-easy to keep that way.
Besides, the name sounds cool when you say it aloud. Kershaw. Kershaw. Kershaw.
Buck. Buck. Buck. Nope; it’s just not the same. Sounds like a hen bragging about just having laid an egg.
In the end, though, Amazon reviews soured me on every other brand and sold me (decisively) on Buck. The 845 had 12 Five Star reviews, all of which made sense to me. Not a single negative review had been posted.
There was only one thing I didn’t like about the new knife–other than price, which came to $85.71 with tax. (Arizona has succeeded in forcing Amazon to collect sales taxes on items sold to Arizona residents.) The other negative was the inclusion of a pocket clip. In my book, those are worthless and frustrating at best.
Fortunately, that was not much of a problem. As soon as a tiny little set of screw extractors arrived (also purchased from Amazon), the pocket clip was removed. The Buck, being a bit longer than the old red handled junker, rides a bit higher in the leather case and is therefore easier to draw without having to think about it.
The knife blade itself came out of the box razor sharp and ready to rock. It easily shaved a bit of hair from the back of my left wrist. Every cutting task it’s been asked to perform so far has been accomplished with ridiculous ease.
Frankly, though I’ve never spent that much money for a folding knife before, neither have I handled a blade that came anywhere close to this quality. As Crocodile Dundee would say, “That’s a knife!”
One remarkable feature that illustrates the wisdom of the old KISS acronym (Keep It Simple, Stupid) is the thumb flipper. Most ordinary lockback folding knives use a screw for that which, as mentioned earlier, can come loose and fall out. Plus, even when such a screw is set firmly in place, it does jut out to the side of the blade. On the Buck 845, however, the company has made things both easier and better by simply carving a long oval hole–which is definitely workable. My thumb tucks in there just right, just enough to make one handed operation a done deal with no muss or fuss.
This is a way better design.
Now…what about self defense? It’s not a Gatling gun, but short of facing a loaded firearm, could the owner of a Buck 845 use it effectively to save his (or her) life, should the need arise?
The short answer is obviously yes. Anything can be used as a weapon.
The long answer is also yes. That is, if you’re competent with edged weapons, you might prefer a katana, broadsword, or battle axe for serious combat. Duh. But if a short folding knife is what you have to work with, you want it to possess several specific characteristics:
1. It should fit your hand like it was part of your body, something you can “set and forget” without having to think about it.
2. It should be rock solid and extremely strong so that there’s no wibbly-wobble going on and very little likelihood that an opponent can break your weapon with a move of his own.
3. It should be seriously sharp.
Fortunately, the Buck knife we’re reviewing is all of the above, at least for me. If your hand is smaller, that might not be the case. I once owned a copy of the Bowie knife used by Sylvester Stallone in one of his Rambo movies (Rambo III?) but discovered to my dismay that Sly apparently has a seriously small hand. The guard and tang on that fighting blade’s handle pinched my hamfist something fierce.
Ah! Before I forget: The specs on the Buck say the handle is “glass reinforced nylon”, done that way for “added strength”. The texture is good (not slippery), and the blade locks open with a truly audible -Snick!- (or maybe more of a -Thwack!- ) sound. There’s no discernible free play; the opened knife feels as solid as a fixed blade.
Obviously, with all this praise, our rating for the Buck 845 Vantage Force Knife (serrated, in military camo) can only be a full FIVE STARS. It’s the most expensive knife I’ve ever owned, but without a doubt it’s also the best.