Buck Hoodlum Trek Knife Review: Is It Worth It?

Buck Knives was started by a young Kansas blacksmith’s apprentice named Hoyt Buck who was looking for a better way to temper steel so it would hold an edge longer. Through trial and error, he was able to come up with a way of heat-treating steel which enabled blades to hold an edge longer.

Hoyt’s unique approach produced the first buck knife in 1902, and the rest is as they say, history.

Hoyt made each knife by hand; using worn-out file blades as raw material and his handy work was greatly appreciated during World War II. After the war, Hoyt and his son Al moved to San Diego and set up shop as H.H. Buck & Son in 1947.

Then, in 1964, Al Buck revolutionized the knife industry by introducing the iconic Model 110 Folding Hunter (which is still available for sale to this day by the way, check it out here). His popular folding “lockblade” knife made Buck a leader in the cutlery industry.

Although Hoyt and Al Buck’s ingenuity may have put the company on the map, it is their ongoing commitment to developing innovative new products and improving what they already have by third and fourth generation Buck family members that have made Buck the successful knife maker it is today.

Consequently, the Buck “Hoodlum” is an outgrowth of this tradition of innovative thinking.

The Buck “Hoodlum” is designed to be an outdoor/survival/adventure knife that can handle even the most rugged and tough conditions. Based on late die-hard survivalist Ron Hood’s design and built to Buck’s quality standards, the “Hoodlum” helps ensure survival in some of the world’s most extreme conditions.

Not only is it tough enough for any hard core task, the handle incorporates Buck’s Shock Mitigation System (SMS) to reduce shock and wasted energy during use.

The knife also features a small groove which is cut into the spine for scoring bone, bending wire, or removing scorching hot pots from a camp fire and an integrated hammer and lanyard hole in the butt of the handle.

In addition, it has a large finger choil for providing control while whittling or other detailed activities. It is also designed such that the secure and comfortable handle slabs can be easily removed so that the knife can be lashed to a stave to form a makeshift spear in the event that you find yourself threatened by predatory animals.

Thus, the Hoodlum will serve all your survival needs from protection to food prep while out in the wilderness. There’s also a heavy duty M.O.L.L.E. compatible nylon sheath with storage pouch that you can buy on the manufacturer’s website (the provided leather sheath is not that great in my opinion).

This survival knife features a 10″ clip point blade made from 5160 alloy steel with a flat ground, matte, finish that incorporates a large choil for your index finger to provide greater control over the blade when performing delicate tasks along with a raised hump on the spine of the blade to provide the user with more leverage when carving.

In addition, it also features a very ergonomic full tang handle with a finger groove, a small sub-hilt, black, textured, Micarta slabs, and an exposed lanyard loop.

Although I am not personally a big fan of Buck knives, I have to admit that the Buck Hoodlum is a well designed knife for the stated purpose of outdoor survival/adventure.

With a 10″ clip point blade, it is long enough to perform well as a light chopping tool and the full, flat, grind on the blade allows it to obtain a very sharp (if not particularly tough) edge while the matte finish prevents corrosion.

However, the 10″ blade length is a bit too long for detailed work and thus, I feel like this knife would be an excellent tool to combine with a shorter knife such as the Buck Hood/Punk because a longer blade is more difficult to control when performing precise cutting tasks with the tip.

In addition, I personally do not care for the large finger choil ground into the edge of the blade because it places the back of the edge farther from the user’s hand which reduces leverage when carving with the knife.

But, I do like the small groove ground into the spine for removing hot pots from the fire without burning your fingers. Also, the use of 5160 alloy steel has both good and bad aspects. For instance, alloy steels exhibit higher strength, hardness, and wear resistance (toughness) than carbon steels do and thus, they are used in a wide range of industries.

Therefore, 5160 alloy steel creates a knife with excellent edge retention that is also very tough so that it will resist chipping and breaking under hard use. However, since alloy steels contain less than 4% chromium, they are not stainless steels (requires greater than 12.5% to qualify as a stainless steel).

Therefore, they do require extra care to prevent corrosion unless they are coated with a non-corrosive finish.

Closeup of Hoodlum’s handle.

In addition, the shape of the handle does demonstrate considerable forethought concerning the ergonomics of the knife. But, I am a bit uncertain about the efficacy of the raised hump on the spine of the blade and it seems to me that the small sub-hilt is completely unnecessary (although it does look good).

Also, I like the downward curve at the back of the tang which enables the user to retain a positive grip on the handle when using the knife for light chopping tasks.

In addition, I also like the textured, black, Micarta slabs on the handle since Micarta is an extremely tough material that will not chip, split, or crack under extreme duress and not only is it is impervious to changes in temperature, it also waterproof and thus, it will not absorb moisture the way non-stabilized wood slabs will.

Also, I am of two minds concerning the fact that the handle slabs are removable and are only secured to the tang with two screws (I would prefer three).

On the one hand, removable slabs do allow the knife to be lashed to a stave for use as spear but, not having the handle slabs permanently affixed to the tang means that they can come loose on their own or be lost if purposely removed from the tang.

Last, I really like the design of the M.O.L.L.E. compatible nylon sheath since nylon is also an extremely tough material that is both waterproof and impervious to moisture absorption and designing it such that it is M.O.L.L.E. compatible provides numerous different options for attaching the knife to your gear. I just wish the M.O.L.L.E. sheath were sold with the knife, not separately.

To Wrap It Up

So, while I am pleased with the overall design and construction of the Buck Hoodlum and I would certainly feel like I was well equipped if I were carrying it into the field, there are a few minor details that it lacks.

For instance, it doesn’t shine that bright in the bushcraft department which could be very risky in a life-and-death situation. But all in all, it’s a solid survival knife and you could do far worse than this pick from Buck.

This post was first published on January 10, 2018 and last updated in July 2020.

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