The Buck 119 is almost confusing to some, using the same materials that have been used for years and yet still delivering plenty of capable performance for the modern hunter.
When you’re looking for the perfect outdoor knife, it can be hard to choose. Fortunately, there are knives like the Buck 119 that offer basic, versatile outdoor use from a reliable brand. With no extra frills or fancy features you don’t need, this knife gets the job done and then some, and still looks much the same as it did years ago.
How is that possible? In doing our research, we were as surprised as you are– of all the modern technology, fancy blades, and “bells and whistles” out there today, the Buck 119 consistently ranks at the top of the list time and time again. In this review, we’ll help you learn all about how to choose the best knife as we go over the detailed features of the Buck 119 and all of its benefits.
The Buck 119: An In-Depth Look
This knife doesn’t look like much at first, but it certainly feels like something once you get it in your hand. Although it’s been around for almost 50 years, this knife is anything but dated. After all, many who grew up around hunters and outdoorsmen still recognize that famous black handle and tell you that anyone who has one must be a hunter.
A Buck knife is just that– unapologetically Buck. The brand doesn’t bother to keep up with trends or follow the competition, choosing instead to stick to what they know works. Their customers love the 119– why would they change it now?
Naturally, a blade that comes with such a reputation has a lot of benefits to consider. Here are some of the highlights.
Features and Benefits
This knife features a six-inch blade and measures 10.5 inches overall, with a blade made of premium 420HC steel that’s used by Buck in most of the knives that they make. It’s fairly durable steel, and while it isn’t the hardest on the market, it holds up well and can be resharpened if you’ve got the skill. Buck uses a hollow grinding to create the blade, with no visible imperfections to be found. The size of the knife is also pretty perfect for a standard outdoor knife.
While it might seem so at first, the knife handle isn’t slippery. The smooth finish is easy to grip and the butt and guard are both made of aluminum to create a nice contrast and offer durability in construction. The slightly-thicker design has this blade somewhere between a chopper and a slicer, but you would be hard-pressed to complain about it being the only knife you have because it is a versatile in-betweener.
One of the biggest features that you want to look for is the leather sheath. Although every Buck 119 Special used to come with a leather sheath, the company has started shipping a lot of them with a standard nylon sheath instead. If you do a little digging, you can still find the premium leather sheath sold separately at a reasonable price.
The knife is also almost perfectly balanced. The added blood groove may be what throws it off from being spot-on, but overall, it’s balanced enough to make you feel good about using it. If you are looking for perfection, there are others that do a better job in the balance department, but it’s not a dealbreaker if you’re choosing the Buck 119.
While this knife is sold as a hunting model, it gets the best functionality reviews for being a general use knife. People find it great for camping, carrying, trapping, and other outdoor activities. It is great at trimming branches and helping start fires and can stand up to a lot of use and abuse. The blade is a little too wide and thick to be used for dressing unless you’re experienced with a blade, but typically you’d want something closer to 3-4 inches with a drop point, not a clip point.
People love that the Buck 119 is easy to hold, regardless of the size of their hands. It is designed to be ergonomic and fits large hands nicely without being too much for smaller hands. There is a slight complaint among some users that you can’t choke up as much on the blade because of the guard, but this typically doesn’t hinder much use and you still get decent power and leverage for cutting, trimming, and more.
The knife is great at slicing and creating details in wood, such as for notching branches and other needs. This isn’t a knife that’s much good for chopping, but it can get the job done when you are in a tight spot and need to baton. Most people prefer to use convex blades for this, but if you’re in a jam the Buck 119 will get the job done. The edge bites in a bit too quickly, but if you work carefully and deliberately, you can get a great cut.
The clip point is a thick, dull edge that can chew up your baton if you’re not careful. The squared-off spine makes it ideal for pushing along with the assistance of another stick or tool, so you can do just about any work that you need.
This knife is repeatedly boasted as a “classic” and an “essential” for anyone who appreciates a good all-around knife. The Buck 119 is one that you don’t need, but you should have because it can do a lot of different things for a lot of different situations. When it comes to function, it does exactly that and it does it flawlessly, as you’d expect from a brand like Buck. Sure, there may be something to be said for the super steels and futuristic materials used in many brands today, but there’s nothing like the legacy, pride, and sense of tradition that comes from owning a classic like the 119.
What About the Grips?
The Buck 119 can handle most standard grips– although, as we mentioned, it’s not great for choking up. Here’s a rundown of the different knife grips and how this model fares for each:
- Pinch Grip: It’s not really a viable option, since the guard will dig into your palm and there’s not a choil big enough to protect your fingers from the blade.
- Reverse Grip: It’s comfortable enough, and although most wouldn’t choose this as a tactical blade it will work in the event of an emergency.
- Standard Grip: As we discussed, the handle is ergonomic and sized so that it fits well into hands of all sizes for various tasks.
The function of a knife includes how well it works in your hands. After all, if you can’t hold it properly, you’re going to be playing with danger or at the very least, struggling to complete routine tasks and cuts that should be simple. The Buck 119 offers grips that prove it isn’t a detail tool, but a full-service field and outdoor knife.
Carrying and the Case
This knife comes with its own sheath that protects it and offers a snug hold. While the classic models came with leather, as mentioned above, most today come standard with a nylon sheath. Check the details before you buy to be sure. If you want, you can find custom and universal leather sheaths online to upgrade your carrying. They’re not that expensive and it can be worth the investment for the added protection and style.
The sheath does include a large belt loop, making it easy to fit on any belt. There is a loop that snaps over to hold the knife in place, as is the case with most sheaths. The knife is reasonably sized and thanks to its composite/resin and aluminum handle, it’s lightweight enough not to pull your pants down when you’re out on the hunt. The leather sheath also includes a handy drainage hole, by the way, to ensure that any water has an escape to prevent damage to the leather or the knife itself.
The Final Verdict
The Buck 119 lives up to the brand expectations. Although it hasn’t changed much over its nearly five decades on the market, that’s precisely the reason it remains so popular. Anyone looking for a reliable knife for everyday use can count on this to deliver plenty of cutting power, a lightweight carry, and premium performance in any situation. That’s what Buck does, after all—they make great knives, and that’s why they don’t need to change them or get rid of “outdated” models—their knives never go out of style.