I managed to get my hands on one of Buck Knives’ almost impossible-to-find Ron Hood series, the fixed-blade Thug. In reviewing this product I find myself taking a longer time than usual. It is partly because the Thug (despite its awkward naming) is a pleasure to use. The other factor that drew out the review process was how in the world I could write about it without making it sound like a Rambo-esque, Zeus-forged, red-tinted ninth wonder of the world that once made Chuck Norris cry tears of joy. Which retroactively created the eighth wonder of the world, vodka.
Less than a hundred words in and I’ve already ruined this review with a Chuck Norris joke. Oh well, let’s begin. The Buck/Hood knife is named in honor of the late Ron Hood. Hood was a survival expert, member of the Army Security Agency and a knife designer. This was man deeply respected by the outdoor industry and for years produced the Survival Quarterly Magazine. Buck’s latest push into modern knives could not have found a better godfather.
Below are the Specs for the Thug:
- Blade Length: 7″
- Blade Steel: 5160 steel
- Blade Thickness: 0.185″
- Overall Length: 13″
- Weight 11.6 oz.
- Handle Materials: Removable Black Linen Micarta handle scales
- Sheath: Heavy-duty nylon
- Made In the USA
The Thug’s 5160 spring steel construction is rare among knives under $400. It is for the most part comparable to 1095 high carbon steel with some minor differences all around. The largest difference between the two materials is that 5160 can be much more expensive depending on who makes it. It should be noted that 5160 spring steel is a popular choice for sword construction and is used commonly in forging the legendary Nepalese Khukri. It does have a small amount of chromium in it, which makes the blade slightly more resistant to rust than the 1095. The 5160 is also reputedly tougher and forged in the fires of Mount Doom, but these are just rumors. Both steels are excellent, top-grade materials I would be glad to carry.
Now I’ll stop my nerd rant and get on to the meat of the knife.
- Straight out of the box it’s hair-splitting sharp. 1 point.
- Keeps its edge well and is a pleasure to sharpen. 2 points.
- Bolo-shaped cutting edge allows for deep chops while not effecting slicing or penetration ability. 3 points.
- Buck’s Forever Warranty. A gazillion points.
Although I’ve personally never abused a Buck knife to the point of needing to send it in for repairs or a replacement, for years I was vaguely aware of the company’s all- encompassing Forever Warranty. It’s pretty much exactly what it sounds like. If for whatever reason your Buck knife breaks, chips, dings, or cracks, you could always send it back for repairs or replacement no matter where you buy it or how many years it sat on your belt. There’s a caveat for mistreating the blade, but they charge you a few bucks and that’s that. I once heard a story of a man shipping back a Model #119 after 40 years of use because the blade had broken off. Buck sent him back a new one free of charge.
Then again, I’ve had my Model 110 (possibly the most popular Buck knife) for years without any signs of wear and tear. The Thug also boasts a 57-59HRC on the Rockwell scale for hardness.
Maybe they really are forged at Mount Doom.
MOLLE compatible and robust as German ale, this sheath gets the job done and looks good while doing it. A small pocket is available on the front to store additional equipment, such as a flashlight. There are a few minor design issues that I hold against it. The sheath is rather box-shaped and meant to fit the Thug loosely, which while having its merits, I personally prefer a snugger hold on the blade. This leads into the next point, which is the single strap holding the Thug in place. Because the strap lies across the knife’s cutting edge when being drawn, it will be cut off unless careful attention is paid. Eventually this will leave the Thug rattling loosely in an ill-fitting scabbard. Fortunately this is mitigated by the fact that cords – included with purchase – can be looped around the knife for a more secure hold.
A good solid choice to carry the Thug when it’s not out and intimidating Kodiak bears.
I’m a big fan of G10 handles. In my experience there are a few factors that raise the G10 over its traditional rival in the knife world, Micarta handles. However, the Thug is winning me over slowly. The knife comes with linen Micarta scales, and they’re probably as indestructible as treated linen gets. There are three common types of Micarta and in order of toughness they are: canvas, linen, and paper. Canvas is durable but rough and often considered to be ugly. Paper is more decorative. Linen provides a good middle ground between style and practicality. Used properly, Micarta is better looking than G10 while still retaining a comparative durability. As for environmental stresses, Micarta should be superior to G10 in a few respects as it’s less synthetic. During my first heat test (leaving it outside all day under the July sun) the handles seemed to have loosened but I am unable to replicate the same results in subsequent attempts. I’ll write it off as a one-time, break-in thing.
At first glance, the Thug’s scales didn’t look especially grippy.
My problem was, “what if I got this wet?” I can imagine any number of roles that would lead to me reprising Kevin Costner’s role in Waterworld. I wanted to make sure should the polar ice caps melt and the world be submerged in water and mediocre acting – this was popular before zombies came along – my knife would come with me for the ride. Sure enough, I ran the handle of the knife under the faucet for a few minutes and went to blaze an impromptu trail through a thicket of quackgrass. It did not go flying off my hand, so that’s a bonus. In fact, it seemed to mold to my hand better when wet. Also, Buck touts a shock mitigation system in the handle meant to reduce shock from chopping. I believe there is a noticeable difference, but it may be a result of wishful thinking.
For the past few weeks I’ve been using this knife to do just about everything. From chopping onions, opening boxes, and everything else in between, I’ve probably used this knife more than enough to make my other knives feel inadequate and develop attachment issues. Although Buck calls it a “mid-size” survival knife, the Thug is big, but in all the right ways. There should never be a task that you would consider the Thug too small for. Unless its harvesting a mammoth, but current research speculates that they might be extinct. In the case that they’re not or if you invent a time machine, you can always remove the Thug’s handles, lash it to a long stick and go spearhunting with it, at which point you’ll probably wonder why you haven’t brought something useful, like ray gun. That said, the Thug is useful enough that I would probably take it on any adventure that could end up in a one-way trip kind of scenario, which is probably the best praise I can give a knife.
For my tactical-minded readers, the Thug is comparable to a super-lightweight, single-edge short sword. Make of that what you will.
Over the last month or so I’ve probably used this knife enough to make my right forearm noticeably larger than my left. This might explain my why I felt so lopsided the last few sessions at the gym. The Thug is a rugged, dependable and frighteningly efficient knife that is a bargain at a suggested retail price of $200. It’s definitely earned a place in my heart, and a spot on my belt.
Images courtesy Daniel Xu