I know this is “Woods Monkey”, not “Tactical Monkey” but sometimes the uses can overlap. The Buck Bravo can be such an item with a slight lean toward the tactical end of its usage.
Buck Knives, an American icon. I’d say it’s right up there with baseball, Chevrolet, and apple pie. Don McLane missed out not mentioning it in “American Pie”. 1902 was when Hoyt Buck made his first knife from an old, worn out file. There were Buck knives used in WWII, a start to their tactical area of knife making. Then in 1947 Hoyt and son Al opened the doors to H.H Buck & Son in San Diego, CA and this was when things really got moving. Another keynote happened in 1964 when Al came out with the legendary Buck 110 lock back folder. I’m sure most of us have owned or used one. The Bravo series combines the tactical spirit of those WWII knives, with the lineage of the 110’s heavy-duty locking folder concept and turns it into a knife that you can bet your life on.
On the specification side of things here’s what we have in the Bravo. First off is a 3.5 inch blade made of 154CM steel. I really like this steel! I think it holds a great edge and easily comes back to life on a sharpening strop. I found the same thing with 154CM on the Leatherman Expanse I reviewed back in May. The Bravo may have the 110’s lineage as a tough American locking folder but this is no clip point. This is no drop point. You can’t even call it a tanto. It incorporates what’s called the “Besh Wedge”. The idea here is that the blade will be the same thickness, which is 1/8 inch, from pivot to tip. It’s stronger for prying, piercing, shoving, scraping, etc. things you probably shouldn’t be doing with a knife, but might have to in a tactical world. This blade is also heat treated by the famous Paul Bos Heat Treating. Paul has had a working relationship with Buck since the ’60’s and has done lots of work for them and many other custom knife makers.
I didn’t see on the web site that this knife comes in either a half serrated blade or smooth but it does. You’ll also find an ambidextrous thumb stud on the blade and, when combined with the reversible pocket clip, it makes for a knife equally at home coming out of the left or right pocket. I won’t say left or right handed, even though it works for this purpose, I’ll go with the different pocket idea. It’s common in law enforcement for the pocket clip knife to be used mainly for a defensive weapon during a gun grab attempt and so while your right hand might be trying to hold the gun in or fight off an attacker, your left hand might be reaching for the left rear pocket where you have stashed this little cutting machine. Pulling the Bravo out, opening it one handed, and laying it violently across your attackers hand or forearm I’m sure will make him think twice about what he’s attempting to do.
Back to the pocket clip; it’s stainless and reversible, but a small feature I like is the fact that Buck put an extra 3 screws to hold the clip on in the other side of the knife. This will keep dirt out of the threads and give you three more screws to secure it should you drop one or two while swapping it over. No extra trip to the hardware store! There is a thick set of liners too, 1/16 inch, to keep things feeling sturdy and solid. Bolted to those are the fantastic G10 scales that provide some great grip, wet or dry. A lanyard hole comes stock as well, right below the lower set of jimping for traction. This matches the upper set on the blades spine and they both help your grip no matter what hand grip your using. Also, at 5 inches closed, it takes up a little real estate in your pocket but it’s no bigger than most other “black knives”.
I have carried the Bravo for a couple months now and have used it for everything I can. I cut all the normal stuff I do each day at my job; boxes, tape, zip ties, rubber, paracord, and some wood. I did do more Woods Monkey things with it like make shelter stakes, and I even batoned it a little to see if it would hold up. It did of course. But, this being a little more of a tactical knife, the false edge spine made it hard on the thumb for pushing it through sticks and doing fine woodwork. It’s not really made for that chore so, no points deducted. I also found the liner lock to be a bit of a pain. It sits proud of the rest of the handle by about 1/16 inch and can start to dig into your index finger when you are doing lots of cutting. I will say that I never failed to get my thumb on it for closing of the knife and even with tactical gloves on it worked with no problems. It’s a personal choice whether you like it or not. I have another folder from a different company that has it’s liner lock catch just about flush with the scales and while more comfortable, it’s much harder to catch onto to close the knife. Dang near impossible with frisking gloves on. So, the Bravo does give you an edge with gloves on, even if it’s at the sacrifice of a bit of comfort during some tasks without them.
I think where this knife would come into more of a “Woods Monkey” role is on Search And Rescue (SAR) missions. While at home on the mean streets it will perform almost any task asked of it in the woodlands too. With the brass washers flanking the 154CM blade, it comes into play fast. For this reason I did move the pocket clip around like it was going in a left pocket but I keep it in the right. I have it so it sits in my right front pocket oriented in blade forward, tip up carry. So, when I grab it, I can flick it open and I’m in a reverse grip instantly. The weight of it is such that you don’t need the thumb stud for this opening style. So, back to the SAR role. Picture yourself in the woods looking for a wrecked car. You find its occupants locked in or held tight by their seat belts. In a flash this knife is on duty cutting the belt material quick, or you’re wedging it under the doorframe to get a better grip to try to get things opened up. What if you’re the one inside? Again, quick to the seat belt cutting role and possibly smashing the side window glass for escape. While talking about this, I have to mention the sister knife to this one, the Bravo Rescue.
It’s basically the same knife sans G10. It has rubber scales plus at the pommel end, a glass breaker tip and built in seat belt cutter. The Rescue will do these jobs more efficiently, but the Bravo will get it done too. Once out of the car, I can see this knife being used to cut clothing off a victim to get to the wounds faster. I have seen videos of firemen cutting through boots to help a victim and I know this knife would do it fast. This is no time for a flimsy knife. And again, with gloves on, this knife still works and functions as it should. Part of that is it being quick to put into action and quick to put away. You can tell just by flipping it open it’s quality. It clunks into that locked position and reassures you that it’s ready to work. Don’t forget though to maintain it. Since it’s so heavy duty it would be easy to just use it to failure and then have a problem. Keep a drop of oil on the pivot, walk the blade up and down the strop once and awhile, and keep an eye on the bolts. I always put a line across the bolt head and part of the scales with a silver metallic Sharpie so I can see at a glance if things are coming unscrewed. This one did and I knew it immediately. I took out the pivot bolt, cleaned off all the blue Loc-Tite, put red in its place, and paint marked it. It hasn’t moved since.
Overall this has been a real trooper of a knife. It’s performed all the tasks I have asked of it. The Bos heat-treated blade holds a good edge, and always come back hair-popping sharp with some strop work. This is one of the few knives that I have NOT caught the pocket clip on something else and bent it out. One of my favorite things though is the little USA stamped below the Buck name on the front of the blade. That is important. That tells me Buck is proud of its heritage, proud of its products, and proud of this knife. That makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside, in a tactical sort of way. If I were still working security, this would be my knife of choice. Made here, lifetime warranty upheld here, and I would be proud to carry it. Open and close it twice and you’ll know it’s quality. Buck sells it for around $135 but I have seen street prices of around $60-75. You can find similar street prices for the Bravo Rescue too. If you’re looking for a duty knife, something for SAR use, or just plain need a hard-core folder, go find a Buck Bravo.