In Part 1 of our review, we examined the look, feel and basic functionality of the new Reaper bush knife from Buck Knives. For Part 2, reviewer Mark Allen Prince went out into the field to see the Reaper in action.
According to Buck Knives Operations General Manager Bill Keys, the Reaper is a tactical survival knife based on a 100-year-old “bush knife” design.
The Reaper is marketed by Buck Knives as a “bush knife.” As you know, the term “bush” these days normally refers to outdoor survival. So I tailored the field evaluation to these types of tasks for the Reaper.
When I began working with the knife, two things stuck out in my mind: 1) this knife is light in weight, and 2) the quality of the sheath does not match the mission of the blade.
Build and Appearance
The overall length of the knife is 11 inches, with 6.75 inches being the blade. Blade thickness is 0.15 inches. The blade is marketed as a “kukri” type with jimping fore and aft the thumb stop, with a choil forward of the finger stop. The blade is of full-tang design with a false edge on the backside of the tip. It’s made of 420HC blade steel. The knife is coated with a black traction coating. Two glass-reinforced nylon slabs are screwed onto the knife as a handle. An ominous-looking skull serves as a reminder of the knife’s namesake on the right side handle. The knife came razor sharp.
The sheath is of a basic and rudimentary design which is devoid of any of the desired necessities of today’s knife purchaser. No hook and loop retention devices, no polymer, no MOLLE (Modular Lightweight Load-carrying Equipment) anything, no drain holes, no multipoint lashing slots, no universal-ness, and not even a hole at the bottom of the sheath to affix your 550 cord to tie it to your leg.
The sheath is black nylon with a basic belt loop, and includes a plastic insert. The knife is secured in the sheath via one silver metal snap, and has a tendency to rattle in the sheath. The sheath can only be worn on the right side.
While in the bush, the Reaper did a fantastic job at chopping. Although a bit on the light side for such tasks, I was impressed with its ability to chop through a maple log about 5 inches in diameter. It took a while, but did in fact complete the task. It batoned wood for the fire with ease and deftly performed the task of carving small gorge hooks from both pine and maple branches for survival fishing gear.
I abused the Reaper with the standard steel claw hammer test where I struck the blade on the left, right, spine and pommel sides 100 times each. The black traction coating was quite resilient, but did give in a bit on the spine side. Stabbing and chopping the ol’ poplar stump 100 reps each yielded great results with a lot of wood flying through the air.
Next I coated the handle with cooking oil and stabbed the stump underhand for 50 reps. I was very impressed with the traction the nylon handles provided! My non-gloved hand did not move much at all, and there was no pain involved. Next, I inverted the grip in my hand and with my thumb over the pommel, I stabbed overhand 50 reps. It was a delight to perform this task.
When I approached the wooden pallet, I was a bit concerned. The Reaper does not have a thick or “pry-bar” style blade, nor is the knife marketed as a “tactical blade” per se. However, as a woodsman, I’m aware of instances in which prying is a critical task. So with a bit of anticipation, I thrust the blade between the two oak boards. I had to hammer the blade in between the boards with my fist. Once in, I began to gently pry. I noticed the blade began to flex or bend. I then shoved the blade in farther and began prying once more. The blade was inserted deeper into the boards, which caused more of it to flex. Eventually the board did come free on one side, then the other. Upon close inspection of the Reaper’s blade, I found no permanent bend or chipping of the edge. Mission accomplished.
I then went to the old Jeep truck bed for the penetration test. I thought that if anything could break the tip off the blade, this would be this activity. I selected a virgin spot on the old metal, inverted the knife in my hand for an ice pick plunge, measured the stroke several times, and then released the stabbing technique with a controlled but forceful strike. The knife actually bounced off the truck bed. I inspected the bed and then the knife. The tip barely penetrated the bed, and was not chipped. So I did this again. Again, there was a moderate penetration wound from the tip of the Reaper’s blade and yet no breakage of the tip. I counted that as a victory for the Reaper’s resiliency.
The Reaper was easy to re-sharpen after evaluation tasks with kitchen steel.
In the kitchen, the Reaper was utilized in slicing steaks, and blocks of cheese and onions. The design of the Reaper with the jimping and choil matched with the deep-belly design of the blade and the swell of the handles with their excellent texture, allows the Reaper to operate deftly in the hand of one who wants to push it to its limits in fine cutting and carving tasks.
Regarding its anti-personnel capabilities, I think the Reaper serves as an excellent slasher/cutter with a suitable ability for penetration. If one would do a little work on its false edge, this attribute could magnify significantly. I think many martial skills people would enjoy the benefits of the Reaper’s design. It shines in this area as it’s very light, strong, bloody sharp, and could be carried overtly or covertly in a multitude of fashions.
All in all, the folks at Buck Knives have made an excellent blade for those going into the bush. And, retailing at around $100, the Reaper is hardly a grim purchase.
Story and photos by Jim Weiss and Mickey Davis