December 2021 Fixed Blade of the Month

a knife on a red cloth with a black handle.

Like a great song, great tools need to stand the test of time to earn their place, and when it comes to time there are few knives that can boast the longevity that the Buck 119 Special has had. Hoyt Buck, the founder of Buck, began making knives in 1942 and the original fixed blade design that was birthed during World War II continued to be refined and sold at select knife stores for almost half a century afterwards. The Buck 119 has survived plenty of war, peace, cooking, and cutting as the generations have gone by, and you likely know several people over the age of forty that own a Buck fixed blade. Although you may find a knife similar to this tucked away in a grandparent’s knickknack drawer, the Buck 119 Special continues to earn status as a classic fixed blade around the world.

The Buck 119 Special is outfitted with a black phenolic handle that cleanly transitions into an aluminum pommel and hand guard, no doubt a key piece of the iconic Buck style. The phenolic is a tough polymer that does the job of a handle well, without the material driving the overall price of the knife up. Both the pommel and the hand guard extend a generous amount so you can grip the knife confidently in various positions without risking contact with the blade. At the pointy end of the knife is a 420HC (High Carbon) Stainless Steel clip point style blade with a satin finish, perfect for detail cutting work. While it is not as fancy as other steels you might see on this site, for the price point 420HC delivers stellar performance, with toughness comparable to 1095 Stainless Steel. Buck also uses an exclusive heat-treating process on it’s blades, which delivers a final product that is durable, easy to sharpen, and has a Rockwell hardness rating of RC 58. This blade paired with the almost full length tang construction makes it easy to see how this knife became prolific.

If you like your knives a little more premium, Buck has improved upon the classic design with the Buck 119 Special Pro, a modernization of the 119 a century in the making. The Buck 119 Special Pro features a green canvas Micarta handle with the original aluminum pommel and hand guard, giving the look of the 119 some new life and texture while providing enhanced protection from oils and the forces of nature. Likely the biggest upgrade is the implementation of a CPM-S35VN blade, a steel with strong edge retention and corrosion resistance that is widely used and appreciated by knife users. The upgraded blade is also treated with Buck’s exclusive Paul Bos Heat Treat, producing a finished blade with a Rockwell hardness rating of RC 59-61. This thing doesn’t look completely different, but the combination of these materials is a serious advancement for the 119 and certainly earns it the Pro title.

Buck knives are widely used and well liked for good reason, they deliver a premium knife at a price point that is practical for most and will stand up to years of hard use if cared for correctly. That is not to say Buck 119 knives are indestructible, but certainly more than tough enough as a camping companion or outdoor every day carry. If you want something you can put through hell, the 119 Pro should be your move, but either option will not leave you disappointed. Classics are classics for a reason. Lastly, both knives come with decent leather sheaths but if you would like something unique, beautiful, and custom made for your kit, contact our online knife store team at Grommet’s Leathercraft for more information on how to order a sheath for your Buck 119.