Four of the newest tactical knives from Buck.
Buck Survival / Tactical Fixed Blades
By: Tactical Response Staff
For 2013, Buck Knives has introduced four fixed blades in their Survival / Tactical series oriented to police use: the 620 Reaper™, the 625 Intrepid-L™, the 626 Intrepid-XL™ and the 822 Sentry™. One is as cool as any Zombie knife. Another one got promoted to our web gear. Yet another one is a great option for those who want a clip point and a partially serrated blade, as opposed to a Tanto point and a full edge.
420HC Blade Steel
As a guide to potential buyers, Buck uses a Good-Better-Best rating system with all their knives. Buck places all four of these new fixed blades in their Better category. Since all four knives use 420HC blade steel, they probably belong in the Good category.
Buck describes 420HC as a “standard steel that is easily resharpened.” Easy to sharpen and easy to dull are two sides of the same coin. This steel alloy might be Better for a generic hunting and outdoor knife. However, as a part of the Survival/Tactical series, these knives are clearly intended for more rugged, tactical use.
Buck routinely uses two other blade steels that are much more task-oriented for tactical use than 420HC. These are 154CM and S30V. The blade makes the knife. That makes knives with 420HC Good, knives with 154CM Better, and knives with S30V Best.
To the point, 420HC has about the same toughness and edge retention as 440-C. The 154CM alloy is considerably Better in both these tactical areas. And among today’s production blade alloys, S30V is the Best blade steel for tactical use.
The injection-molded nylon used in the handles of all four new knives is also clearly only Good in comparison to other Buck knives. Micarta® (epoxy bonded linen) is a Better choice, while G10 (epoxy bonded fiberglass) is the Best choice.
In addition, the nylon handles on all four new knives are relatively smooth. Either the milled grooves in Buck’s other Micarta handles or their machined Rocky Mountain Tread in the G10 handles would have been more tactical use oriented. Handles with a rougher texture would have made the four new knives easier to grasp under the adverse conditions that literally define tactical operations.
Standard materials are used in the blade alloy and handles, of course, to keep the costs to the absolute minimum. That said, is there any really good news about these four new Survival/Tactical knives? Definitely yes.
Robust and Practical
First, the blade thickness. It runs from 0.140-inch for the Sentry up to 0.150-inch for the Intrepid-L and Reaper up to 0.175-inch for the Intrepid-XL. Some other makes of fixed blades aimed at the police tactical market have thin little 0.100-inch to 0.120-inch thick blades. The way we use fixed blades causes knife makers to cringe. The better alloys let us get by with that abuse but so does a greater thickness. In that regard, the 0.175-inch thick Intrepid-XL really shines.
The blade style of these new fixed blades is definitely tactical-oriented. With these four knives, two are drop or clip point and two are Tanto. On a pocket-carried, tactical folder, the preference is evenly split between the drop point and the Tanto point. Not so with the fixed blade. Tactical operators have a strong preference for the Tanto.
Tang length is right up there with blade thickness in determining how much abuse a fixed blade can take. All four of these knives have full-length tangs. The knife does not rely on the handles for any strength or structural integrity. The two Intrepid-series blades and the Sentry have a slightly exposed pommel for shattering glass, which is a very valuable feature.
Another great aspect of these new knives lies in the cross guard (front quillion) and to a lesser degree, the blade back jimping or spine notches. If the texture of the handles is not roughened or grooved, a knife with a full cross guard and/or heavy and aggressive notches and blade jimping can enhance the grip. The new Buck knives have these features. The Sentry and Reaper have a good front quillion and spine jimping. The Intrepid-L and Intrepid-XL are excellent in both regards with an upper and lower cross guard.
Finally, the sheath materials and design. We have seen a lot of great fixed blades that come with totally lame sheaths. Not so with most of these new Buck knives. For tactical use, the heavy-duty nylon sheaths for the Intrepid-L, Intrepid-XL and Sentry are above average. These are made of an external heavy nylon carrier and an internal Kydex® sleeve for rigidity and two-way protection. The sheaths are MOLLE compatible, have a variety of Velcro® secured carry options, and even a leg lanyard.
The fixed blade is held in place by a snap strap. The snap is OK, but the dual cross guard on the Intrepid-series catches on the strap during both the draw and replace motions. This is only a minor bother when removing the knife. However, when replacing the knife, one or both sides of the strap get caught under the cross guard making it unhandy to snap the knife in place. The blade is a loose enough fit inside the Kydex liner that the knife must be secured somehow or it will fall out.
The Intrepid-series and Sentry knives can also be held in place by an adjustable para-cord loop. This secondary, para-cord retention device is an excellent feature. Most of the time we want to be absolutely sure that all of the gear remains in place regardless of the level of physical activity, even at the expense of double retention devices.
The sheath for the Intrepid-series and Sentry knives has a secondary pocket secured by a nylon buckle. With these 420HC alloy knives, this pocket is best used to hold a sharpening stone; however, it will also hold a spare pistol magazine.
Blade alloys and knife features aside, how did these new knives actually perform? We used all four fixed blades to cut heavy nylon rope and para cord, cut metal window screen, pry open window casings, shatter glass with the point, cut through light sheet steel and aluminum siding, pry open cans, loosen both Phillips and slotted fasteners, cut through insulated copper and aluminum wire, and cut both carpeting and drywall.
In other words, we did what most operators do—treat the fixed blade like a sharpened wrecking bar. The new Buck fixed blades did it all. Yes, the lighter Sentry and Intrepid-L struggled a bit. Yes, we dulled the edge of all these 420HC alloy knives. Yes, 420HC was easy to resharpen.
In the roughest use, the 5.5-inch long, 0.175-inch thick Intrepid-XL rose to the top. For hacking heft, the 6.7-inch, 8.5-ounce Reaper was the best of the four, with the 5.5-inch, 8.5-ounce Intrepid-XL nearly as good. For the most precise tasks, the clip point Sentry did very well. The knives all had good balance, especially the Intrepid-XL and Sentry.
In the final analysis, we don’t rate a tactical blade Good, Better or Best. Just like our tactical missions, pretty or not, we rate it as Pass or Fail. All four new Buck knives passed. The 620 Reaper with the viper snakeskin handle is as cool as any zombie knife but the 626 Intrepid-XL found a home on our web gear.