The Reaper, the latest from Buck Knives, certainly earns its menacing name. But this modern tactical survival knife, based on the 100-year-old “bush knife” design, is highly practical, too.
The Reaper is made from virtually indestructible materials, according to Buck. The tang and blade are black traction coated, and the full-tang blade and textured handle help make the 11-inch knife an effective survival tool, Buck says.
We took a close look at the Buck Reaper to see if it would live up to the advertising from two angles: those of custom knifemaker Paul Granger and field reviewer Mark Allen Prince.
A KNIFEMAKER’S REVIEW OF THE REAPER
According to Granger, the handle is a highpoint of this knife. It has a nice “grippy” surface plus a palm swell in its middle, designed for the user’s hand.
Buck Knives indicates that there are two handle design choices for the Reaper—Reaper Black Camo or a Viper Snakeskin pattern. Granger likes the handle’s wrap design, saying it’s pure aesthetics and a thing of beauty.
The Reaper’s handle is comfortable in any grip handling position. The butt end of it flares outward—a well-grounded, logical feature that guards against having the knife fly out of the user’s hand when swinging it. The butt tang extends beyond the handle material a little bit; helping to guard against damage to the handle material should the butt be used to break glass or other strikes. The handle is made of injection-molded nylon. The guard is adequate.
Granger would have had the lanyard holes at the butt of the handle made with chamfer so that the rough edges of the holes would not wear on a lanyard cord.
This blade is a drop point, with a hollow grind. It was sharp out of the box.
Jimping (perpendicular grooves on the tang) where the handle meets the guard area of the knife and on the spine of the blade just adjacent to the guard area work well. The limited swedge, or false edge on top of the blade at its point, is advantageous for good penetration. Some knife owners sharpen such swedges.
Granger measured the blade at 5/32-inch thick and tested its hardness on the Rockwell C Scale as 57HRC. It’s a stout blade with fine geometry, should cut easily and its coating looks good. It should take a lot of sharpening before it gets thick.
The blade measures 6 3/4 inches, is made of 420HC steel bearing a non-reflective coating. 420HC is a good stainless steel that is made of the following steel components: chromium, manganese, silicon and sulphur.
Carbon increases hardness and resistance to wear, improving edge retention. Chromium increases hardness, strength, toughness and resistance to corrosion and wear. A content of 12-14 percent of chromium classifies cutlery steel as stainless. Manganese increases hardenability, strength and wear resistance by removing oxygen from molten steel. Silicon also increases strength and removes oxygen from molten steel. Sulphur increases machinability.
While Buck Knives certainly has produced some fine sheaths in their history, this nylon sheath is adequate but not impressive. It has a plastic liner that’s sturdy, with a minor attaching flaw that Buck Knives is evaluating. Granger felt the setup could be better. There’s also a drain hole in the liner but not in the sheath.
Granger found one unfortunate weakness with the design of the blade area, in the finger groove part of the guard that runs into the cutting edge of the blade. When he grabbed the knife tightly with his trigger finger forward of the guard, his finger was not clear of the blade’s edge. For him, the finger cutout was too small, but might not be for a user with smaller hands or thinner fingers. He would enlarge the cutout to 1 inch.
As it is, if the knife’s user choked up or used this finger cutout when doing certain types of cutting, an average-sized hand would risk a cut on the finger. This would be especially true if the user was wearing gloves because the thickness of the glove between the finger and the guard would move the finger even closer toward the cutting edge. Granger nicked his finger demonstrating this. Other than this feature, the Reaper a good knife.
So how does the Reaper hold up in action? Our reviewer puts it to the test in Part 2.
Story by Jim Weiss and Mickey Davis, photo courtesy of Buck Knives