The name Buck has always been associated with quality, made in the USA knives. Their knives are classic and timeless and have always given good value for money. The new BuckLite MAX Series that we are reviewing today continues this tradition quite nicely.
I was given a BuckLite Max and the BuckLite MAX Small to test for this review. Other than size, they are the same. This seems to be such a popular knife with Buck consumers that there are no less than 10 versions of it including models with black scales, a few of orange handled Boone & Crocket Club versions, a couple of folders of different sizes, and models with and without a gut hook. Whew! And with retail prices around $30 to $40, they’re knives that you can afford to have a couple of. So, an American made knife, with a good variety to choose from, a nice sheath, and all at a great value: who else but Buck Knives to come up with a package like that? Let’s get to the larger one first, which is confusing because they call it the “Large”, but it’s the same size as the regular MAX. It just happens to have a gut hook. Get that? Yes, it’s odd.
Anyway, the BuckLite MAX is made with a blade length of 4″, 1/8″ 420HC Stainless Steel with a satin finish, in fact all the knives in the MAX Series use this steel. The 420HC is a staple steel for Buck and they know how to heat treat it properly. This version of 420 steel has a higher carbon and chromium content, hence the HC suffix. It is designed to boost hardenability and corrosion resistance, respectively. This should be a great knife if you think it will get ridden hard and put up wet. The scales are quite comfortable and use an Alcryn MPR rubber. Alcryn MPR, Melt-Processable Rubber, retains its original performance properties for years and is quite resistant to harsh weather conditions such as rain, heat, and UV. It also has superior resistance to chemicals and oil swell.
Any of the BuckLite Max fixed blade knives could be a great mechanic’s knife along with all their hunting duties. This is a full tang knife that has been completely covered in the MPR rubber. The lanyard hole has been retained though. Molded into the scales on all of the MAX knives is a finger groove on the bottom, side finger reliefs and some jimping on the spine. The jimping continues on into the steel and gives good traction in a multitude of hand holds. There is a small Buck logo on the side of the scales but more prominently displayed, stamped into the steel is a “USA”. Nice to see that! These BuckLite drop point knives are hollow ground as is common for Buck products. They both came good and sharp and the edge retention was above what I would expect of a knife in this price point.
I took both of these knives with me into the woods on a few occasions, mainly when I was working on the iPhone article. I did not spend a night in the woods making shelters and fires with the knives but they did get a workout. Right off the bat, these are very light knives. You have no idea you’re carrying them. I kept the bigger of the two on my hip and the smaller one in my pack. The Small has a 3/32 inch blade 3.25 inches in length so it’s even lighter than it’s big brother. I wanted to get to a certain area in the woods for working on the iPhone article and I haven’t been back there for a couple months and things were starting to get over grown. The bigger MAX worked well for clearing the way. Not as good as a machete of course but it did perform without problem.
I took down small trees, I cleared overhanging vines, and smoothed out some good shelter sticks for a later project. The scales worked really well. They were very comfy and slip resistant. This is my first experience with this MPR rubber and I like it. They gave great traction and comfort after at least a straight half hour use of each one. Both were used on and off through the day but I made it a point to have a “timed use” test for comfort. They passed with flying colors. I have seen other knives in this lower price point with very cheap scales, so I was glad to see that Buck went the route they did. I put on a pair of leather work gloves out of my field bag and used them, along with a lanyard, to see how the MPR would work with this setup. The leather stuck like glue, and along with the lanyard, it was fantastic. This could be a small way to reduce fatigue and save some strength. If you don’t have to put a death grip on a knife to make sure it doesn’t slip that’s a real plus. It’s especially good when your tired, cold hands are trying to start a fire, or are trying to get some sticks cut to help build the shelter.
Another excellent part of these knives is the sheaths. At first glance they look like just a cheap, flimsy nylon hunter sheath. But they are not what they seem. Even though the sheath has a tag that professes “sheath made in China”, they are again, more than I expected in this price range. The biggest feature is it’s hard plastic liner to keep the blade from cutting into the nylon. Not only does this keep you from sticking the blade out the back of the sheath and into your hip, it gives it a sturdy, solid feel. The snap than goes around the handle to retain the knife is sized correctly and sewn twice to keep it attached securely. Belt loops are sized to work with almost anything you might be wearing sans a full size duty belt. The embroidery work with “BUCK” and the anvil is a nice touch too.
I’m not sure which one I liked better, they both worked so well. I think at these prices, I’d like to have both with me! I used the small one to practice my figure-4 deadfall trap construction. It definitely is better for fine work compared to its big brother. In front of the finger groove on the bottom is a slight choil. This in conjunction with the thumb jimping gives a good purchase when choked up on the knife. I discovered when choked up on the big one that it’s just about the same length as using the small one when used in a full handle grip. Good to know if you’re undecided about which one to buy. I batoned with both of them and each worked well when paired with appropriately sized sticks. I did have my ferro rod with me and tried each out as a striker; they both threw sparks quite well and created more than enough spark to get a fire going. The spine on both was sharp enough for this chore or for scraping bark so you could save the blade edge for other tasks.
Overall, the BuckLite MAX knives performed quite above their pay grade and wanted more. There is some really good value here with these made in the USA knives. Expertly heat treated stainless, great scales, and a good, durable sheath. All for well under $50. In fact, a quick online auction search turned up BOTH for around $50. Now that’s a deal. If I had to change one thing it would be the addition of a small pocket on the sheath for a fire steel, small sharpening stone, etc. And of course, rounding off the spine just a tad, out by the edge. Okay, that’s just my personal preference on that one. The BuckLite MAX series is just one more feather in Buck’s cap, having these fine blades to offer to the consumer at such a great value. Either one of these would make a great gift, a first “real” knife for junior, or just a fantastic backup knife. They’d make another great piece of kit for the B.O.B. too. One last thing: the Buck “Forever Warranty”: The Buck Knives Forever Warranty is pretty much what it says. A Buck Knife is built to last. If for some reason your Buck is defective due to materials or workmanship, return it to them for repair. No matter where you bought it. That’s it; I’m going out to buy another BUCK!