Almost everyone, no matter where they grew up or what their interests are, has owned a Buck knife in their life. An American knife company, with old faithful knives like the 110, or more innovative specialty knives like the Paklite series, is what makes this a great company. So it was only natural of me to get excited when I heard that this great American knife company was teaming up with great American Wilderness guru Ron Hood!
Ron Hood needs no introduction here at Woods Monkey, and it goes with out saying that he will be greatly missed by all of us. I never had the honor of meeting Ron Hood, but I am thankful that he leaves his knowledge behind in the form of outstanding videos and publications. Another legacy that Ron leaves us with are the tools that he designed. I am honored to be reviewing one these tools in the Buck Hoodlum.
This large knife carries small, which is the first thing I noticed when holding this knife for the first time. The Buck Hoodlum is fifteen and a half inches long overall, with a ten inch blade of 5160 steel. That sounds like a hefty knife when you hear that, however it weighs only fourteen ounces. I have put myself in the one tool survival situation before with a small five inch bladed knife, and as I struggled doing large knife chores, I could only imagine if I suffered the extra weight on my hip I would have spared a lot of energy with a big knife. Now with the Buck Hoodlum I have that big knife without all the overbearing weight.
The knife came to me well packaged in a bright yellow Buck Knives box. I looked over the knife as I do all my new tools and took my notes on what I liked and disliked. Buck did a very nice job on the grind and finish. Looking close I noticed that the edge bevel on this full flat ground knife was thinner closer to the handle and got gradually thicker as it approached the tip. I like this feature. Most light carving work is done with the edge closer to the handle to give the user better control and a thin edge carves wood better than a thick edge. The thicker edge up top was for powering through wood while chopping. No one wants a chipped or rolled edge due to heavy work with an edge that is too thin. Buck knows that and made this knife with the user in mind. The knife did come sharp, however it could have been sharper. If I was not reviewing this knife, I would have worked the edge to a hair splitting sharpness before I took it out. I enjoyed choking up on the knife utilizing the oversized finger choil. I am not a big fan of choils on smaller knives, but on a knife with a blade over seven inches I appreciated it. However I wasn’t too keen on the thumb ramp in this knife. I didn’t see the point of it on a large knife, and I was worried about the position of the thumb ramp. It seamed to dig into my palm, when I choked up on the knife utilizing the choil. However, my hands aren’t soft by any means, so I figured it was something I could ignore for now. The oversized pommel with lanyard whole was very well designed and thought out. This key feature gives the user plenty of purchase when choking back on the handle to gain more leverage and weight forward while chopping. About three quarters of the way up the blade you will find a notch cut out in the spine. The notch is designed as a wire breaking tool, pot holder, and even for bone scoring. Remember this knife is designed to be a “Survival Knife”, so it of course will be designed to be one tool capable of doing the jobs of many other tools. With that said let’s talk about the handle. The handle is well contoured and pretty comfortable. I really like that quality in a tool. The micarta handle is held on by flat head screws making it easy to remove the handle. The tang boasts a Shock Mitigation System or S.M.S. I would no doubt be chopping with this knife, so I would see if the system worked soon enough. If you decided to take the handles off, you would find a chamber in the tang of the knife. It would work well to store a few fish hooks, and maybe some line or other small survival type items. More than that, with the ability to remove the handles, it would make lashing the knife as a spear very easy. Wouldn’t make the best throwing spear, but as a thrusting tool for hunting it would work fine.
The sheath is built of heavy duty nylon. It is fully M.O.L.L.E. compatible which would make attaching it to most packs very simple. It also has an oversized belt loop and leg strap to secure the knife to your hip. The knife is held snug in the sheath only by the retention strap. Otherwise it would bounce around and possibly fall out. Mid way down the sheath you will find a large pocket that will fit a sharpening stone, and/or other items.
Although I did not take this knife out in a simulated survival situation, I did work over thirty hours with the Hoodlum in an outdoors setting over a period of three weeks. I chopped small trees for shelter, sectioned large branches for fire wood, batoned through many pieces of large diameter wood, as well as smaller and lighter tasks. If I needed a tool in the outdoors for any reason, I used the Hoodlum for it.
Shelter more times than not will be a priority in my neck of the woods. Many shelters require strong support beams and in rainy and wet New England. Most wood on the ground is rotted or on its way to being rotted. So chopping some small trees down was first on the list of tasks for the hoodlum. It made quick work of the small trees and the Shock Mitigation System seamed to do its job. Also on the list was fire. To procure good dry wood for a fire I tend to locate standing deadwood. Once located, I took it down by chopping through with the Hoodlum and sectioned it up the same way. The 10” bladed knife bit well. Although I have used other 10” knives that bit deeper, I didn’t mind the extra swings due to how light and fast this knife was in hand. With wood sectioned up it was time to start splitting. Of course I batoned and with the long length of the blade it was easy. The 5160 steel seams to be well tempered, and even when slightly bent going through the stress of some nasty grained Hickory, the knife came through just fine and returned to straight. If you are the type that wouldn’t risk your one knife in a survival scenario under this type of abuse, than you may carve wedges to split your wood. I did that as well and that’s when I came to my first hiccup with the knife. Not that it wouldn’t carve; it carved pretty darn well. The issue had been that thumb ramp. While choking up utilizing the choil and applying downward force to carve through the wood it was quite bothersome. After about thirty minutes or so of carving it was rather easy to see where the thumb ramp was digging in my hand leaving some soreness. With heavy leather gloves it was better, but definitely a noticeable discomfort.
The knife was still working well at its assigned tasks, so I decided to move on to some more abusive test. I like having a fire pit with a rock ring, and there is no shortage of rocks her in New England. However some rocks need to be dug out a little, and even pried up. Six large stones later the knife was certainly not as pretty as it started, but the edge was in good shape and the blade was still sharp. So far the knife has been holding up as well as I hoped. The powder coating as I suspected was rubbing off, leaving some shiny metal by the spine which is the norm for this type of coating. The coating is there to protect the steel from rust, but I find if you wipe the knife down well after use, rust is no issue. You can also coat it with mineral oil.
Fuzz sticks and shaving wood are things any knife should be able to do, and with the thinner edge near the handle this large knife did those chores well. I performed some control cutting utilizing the choil as I choked up on the Hoodlum while making a few figure four traps and the knife did very well. My palm was stinging where the thumb ramp would dig in under pressure. I pushed through.
One very nice feature of a good full flat ground knife is how square you can get the spine of the knife. Even with the powder coating the spine of the Hoodlum was able to throw good sparks from my ferrocium rod. Which in turn lit the fine shavings I made earlier with the knife getting my fire started.
I never sharpened the knife once in all of its weeks of testing. Each time it went out with me it performed different tasks. From chopping to cutting cord, the knife did its job. The edge held up great through out the testing I gave it. The knife didn’t keep its original sharpness, but that is to be expected after the type of use I gave it. The real beauty about the edge was how easily I got it to shaving sharp after my testing. With about twenty five minutes on my folding coarse and fine sharpener, and some stropping with my belt the knife was back and ready for more action.
In closing I’m very happy with Ron Hood’s large knife design. I think he and Buck Knives did a great job in creating a fifteen inch overall knife that is not only effective, but carries well. Many of my large knives do not accompany me on trips with long hikes incorporated in them due to their weight. But with the relative lightness of the Buck Hoodlum I do find myself taking this effective tool with me on these outings. My only real gripe with this knife is the thumb ramp, which I still have no use for and only find bothersome. I have plans to have it ground off by a professional. I am well aware that by altering the knife I am voiding the excellent full replacement warranty that Buck Knives offers, but after the rigors of the testing I gave this knife I am not worried about the knife failing. With all that said, the Buck Hoodlum is one more legacy the great Ron Hood leaves us with, and another reason why he will never be forgotten. MSRP on the Hoodlum is $230 but with some quick online shopping you should be able to score one for much less than that.
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