When it comes to the fixed blade, the Buck 120 General reigns supreme with hunters.
The Buck 120 General knife came out in the 1960s and since it has developed an almost cult following amongst collectors.
Now, there are a few variations of the knife available – all of which are made in the USA. Here’s my review of the Buck 120 and what you need to know to pick the right model.
Review of the Buck 120 Knife
The Buck 120 General knife has a blade length of 7 ¾ inches. When you add on the handle length, the total length is 12 inches. It seems more like a short sword than a hunting knife.
Twelve inches is way too long for everyday carry (EDC). But, if you are a serious hunter, don’t be put off by the long blade. It really comes in handy -- especially if you are after large game. It takes the hassle out of deboning.
I like that the handle is long . Most knife handles are too short and can cause your hands to cramp up after extended use.
It’s worth noting that the Buck 120 knife was really popular with bikers. I guess they liked having a long, sexy knife. The length made it ideal for fighting/stabbing too (not that I’d recommend it for this purpose!).
Weight and Balance
For such a long hunting knife, the Buck 120 weight is still low (8.3oz). You can slice through game quickly and easily, without feeling like you are being weighed down by the knife.
The extra length on the handle helps balance out the knife. I wouldn’t recommend this knife for most campsite tasks. However, it is comfortable enough to use for more than just skinning and deboning game.
The Buck 120 has a clip-point blade with a very prominent sharp point.
I generally prefer drop point blades because they are stronger and can thus have more survival uses. However, there are times when you’ll appreciate a good clip-point blade, like when you want to cut a new hole in your belt.
Depending on the model you get, the blade material is either 420HC steel or 5160 steel (more on this below). Both of these are very strong and hold an edge well. You can skin an entire buck without having to stop to resharpen.
Fun fact: The Buck 120 knife was used by the killer in the 90s movie Scream. It’s obvious why they chose this knife. The long blade looks damn sexy, especially with the flow of the finger guard.
It isn’t all just looks though. The Buck 120 actually has a comfortable grip and the finger guard prevents cuts.
Differences between Models
Blade Material Options: 420HC vs. 5160
Not to be confused with normal 420 steel, 420HC is a stainless steel with added carbon (HC = high carbon). The extra carbon makes the blade harder.
420HC also has a high chromium and vanadium amount compared to the 5160.
The chromium helps protect against corrosion and adds some strength. However, it decreases the toughness of the blade.
Usually you won’t see 5160 steel on a hunting knife. It is typically found on swords and daggers. It has a low carbon amount compared to other carbon blades.
Even though 5160 steel is slightly less hard than 420HC (Rockwell hardness 57-58 vs. 58), it better resists breaking – especially during chopping actions. You’ll also find that it holds its edge longer.
The downside of any non-stainless blade though is that it will require a lot more maintenance.
If you will be using or storing the knife in a damp environment, I’d go with the 420HC. But if you will be using the knife for chopping I would go with the 5160.
The Bottom Line?
The classic Buck 120 knife comes in either a silver or black Phenolic handle. This is the cheapest option and is comfortable for most work. If you use your knife for longer periods of time, it might be worth it to pay more for a wood handle.
Not only does wood look better, but it causes less slippage. The Buck 120 knives with wood handles also have sexy brass finger guards that look amazing.
Some of the Buck 120 knives have blood grooves. The purpose of these grooves is to reduce the suction that occurs when thrusting a blade into a body.
Truthfully, I don’t feel any difference between the Buck 120s with and without blood grooves. If you can thrust your way into an animal, you can pull out just as easily.
Science backs this up too: the supposed suction never actually occurs. Basically, the blood groove is there to look sexy.
Don’t confuse a “blood groove” with a “fuller.” Even though the terms are often used interchangeably, a fuller has a completely different function. Fullers were used to lighten swords. Thus, fullers will be much wider than a blood groove.
Best Buck 120 Knives Reviewed
Buck 120 General 5160 BOS
There’s two things to pay attention to with this model of the Buck 120.
First off, it has a dymondwood handle, which adds style to the knife.
Secondly, this Buck 120 has 5160 steel. It’s a good choice for people who need toughness for campsite tasks but who are also diligent about drying their knife before putting it away.
Buck 120 Sheaths
The Buck 120 knife comes with a leather sheath. Usually, you are going to get the black leather sheath. Some models come with a slightly different sheath. The Buck sheaths are great quality and will hold up well.
Replacement sheaths are readily available on Amazon
If you want something a bit different and don’t mind paying for custom work, then here are two Buck 120 sheaths worth checking out.
They are made by a USA-based artisan named Carl J. Thomas, Jr.
10 Oz. Water Buffalo Leather Sheath
The pictures should speak for themselves – this is a beautiful sheath with expert stitching. Two things worth noting:
- The sheath is HORIZONTAL. Great for wearing along the back of your belt, especially if you find that the Buck 120’s length gets in your way when worn vertically.
- Left or right handed. My wife is left-handed, so I know how difficult it is to find knife sheaths for lefties.
More pictures and prices on Amazon here.
Oak Leaf Leather Sheath
Like the sheath above, this one is also made out of 10oz of buffalo hide. Buffalo hide is very pliable and durable. I like drawing/returning a knife from buffalo hide better than other leathers. Note that this sheath is:
- Vertical draw – it will fit most belts but probably not a wide gun belt.
- Right handed – Yep, right-handed people get the most options when it comes to knife sheaths!
More pictures and prices on Amazon here.