Buck’s Model 105 the right fit

Damien Edwards

The Buck Model 105, sometimes referred to by its name ‘Pathfinder’, is a simple 5" fixed blade knife with a modified clip point. It’s a knife which has been around for a long time. The Buck Company was incorporated by Al Buck in 1961. This was the year that the company began factory production of knives in California.

The knife which was to become the Model 105 was certainly in production at the handmade level prior to that and was almost definitely available from the late 1930s. Since 1961 it has undergone a few slight cosmetic changes but the basic shape and style has remained the same. Knives made from 1961 until the end of 1966 were stamped simply with ‘Buck’ on the blade. From 1967 until 1971 ‘Buck USA’ was the stamp. In 1971 Buck finally introduced model number stampings on blades, albeit inverted and from 1972 onwards the stamp was the correct way up. As with all Buck models, from the start of 1986 to present, all knives have been stamped with a date code as well.

The item itself was kindly sent by Rachel Rogers and CJ Buck of Buck Knives, Idaho. It features a black phenolic handle with attractive spacers incorporated into both the handguard and pommel. On knives made prior to 1981, two more additional spacers were found at each end of the phenolic material as well. Buck dropped the top handle spacer in early 1981 and the bottom one later that year. Both handguard and pommel are made from aluminium. The knife is a rat tail design whereby the blade itself tapers down and extends through the handle. This adds strength and although it is not really what you would refer to as a full-tang knife, this rat tail design is still adequately strong for the knife’s intended purpose.

So, what is its intended purpose? Lighter use outdoor tasks. It’s not really a larger game butchering knife, although it will certainly do in a pinch. This knife will shine for breaking down larger cuts of meat, removing flesh from bone and rudimentary camp area chores. It can double just fine as your dinner knife but can also be used for splitting smaller tree branches for fire building. With a blade thickness of .12" or just over 3mm, it won’t remove buffalo ribs from the vertebrae, but it will most certainly make easy work of smaller game in the class of wild dogs and goats.

Being a modified clip point blade design, it’s not really a supreme skinning blade. That sloping serpentine blade culminates in a small, yet still obvious clip. Looking at knife blades will reveal their maker’s purpose. Clip points have a sharp yet controllable blade for piercing purposes. Buck sensibly offer the model 105 with a 5^ blade which, due to its shorter length, aids in making more detailed work manageable. The longer the blade, the more difficult it is to control.

The helpful choil milled into the 105 between the base of the blade and the handguard serves as a finger groove for detailed work. When sharpened to a wicked edge (and Buck knives do have a very wicked edge), the handle can be gripped so that your trigger finger presses down into this choil. Your thumb is now positioned so that it can be slid back and forth along the spine of the blade. This gripping position allows supreme control over the blade for detailed work such as skinning. The sweeping motion of your thumb permits shallow but precise cuts. While it’s a fact that most true skinning blades are of drop point design with a large belly, using a clip point in such a fashion has its advantages for skinning.

The handle ergonomics are pretty small. I’m 6ft 1" (1.85m) and have large hands. It’s a bit of a squeeze to fit all four of my fingers between the base of the handguard and the bird’s head of the pommel. But that’s okay because I wouldn’t work a knife of this style and size hard. When holding the 105 in a pinch grip, with your trigger finger and thumb at the base of the blade, the user can slice accurately while keeping a good controlled hand purchase on the knife.

When I go out on extended hunting or camping trips, I’ll often take two knives and the 105 serves extremely well as a back-up to a larger, heftier blade. The bird’s head pommel is a real standout as it helps with grip comfort. I’ve always liked a pommel of this style on my hunting knives and Buck incorporate this feature into a lot of their fixed blade knives.

Functional finger grooves also help align my hand where it needs to be for ease of use. A lot of folk prefer to not have grooves of this type on their knives, instead choosing to allow their fingers to rest naturally where they lay when gripping or holding. I can’t say I’m one of them. The majority of my knives feature finger grooves, it’s a good selling point for me. In fact when I ordered a custom Buck Model 110 folding hunter, I expressly stipulated that it be furnished with grooves. I know it’s impossible to adopt a ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to handles of this type (or handles in general), but I find the small grooves of the 105 to be perfectly placed and functional. Comfort with a knife is important.

Let’s talk steel! On current production knives 420HC is primarily used. It’s easy to sharpen to a fine edge. Buck’s heat treating process pioneered by industry leader Paul Bos helps to extend edge life. They make the most out of 420HC by heat treating to a Rockwell hardness of 58. This is certainly a good balance of corrosion resistance and edge retention.

If you’re looking at harder use, the 105 is also available in premium S30V in limited production quantities. This is one of my favourite blade steels and is hardened by Buck to an impressive 61 Rockwell hardness. Edge retention even with extended use is phenomenal and if I could choose just a single blade steel to use for the rest of my days, S30V would be at the top of the list. You’ll pay more for a premium steel but it’s worth it. Sharpening takes a bit longer on account of the supreme hardness, but edge life is greatly increased.

The 105 has also been offered recently for a limited production run in 5160 spring steel. Buck treat 5160 to a hardness of 57-58. It’s not a stainless steel, so it will patina with little use. I have both a 119 and 110 in 5160 and I can attest to it as being a fine steel which can be resharpened in the blink of an eye. To match different steels, the handle can also be had in either Cocobolo Dymondwood or red micarta as well. Hardware can be either aluminium or brass and the model comes with a leather sheath as standard.

Due to its convenient size, the 105 is just as handy around the home for food preperation as it is in the woods. It will slice up your roast just as well as it will process a hare or magpie goose. In a pinch, it will work just fine for slicing the fillets off a barramundi too. It isn’t an unwieldy knife to carry around all day in your pack and at a mere 4½oz (128 grams), you will hardly even notice it. It would make an ideal addition for your camping pack, hiking backpack or even tackle box. It’s easy to clean, care for and a cinch to sharpen, even in S30V. For its price point, it’s certainly one of the better knives around.

At a glance

Model: Buck 105 Pathfinder

Blade length: 5" (12.7cm), modified clip, satin finish

Weight: 128g (Phenolic handle model)

Blade material: 420 High Carbon (Standard model)

S30V and 5160 on certain variants

Approx retail: $150 (Standard model) comes with sheath

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