Buck Knives continues to mine their design archives for popular knives from the past, bringing them back with a modern twist. For 2020, they’re reviving the BuckMaster, one of Buck’s rarest and most memorable fixed blades: a diving/survival knife built for Navy SEALs in the 1980s and ’90s. We interviewed BuckMaster expert Rich Neyman and retired Navy SEAL Tom Coulter, who told us the story of the original knife and its upcoming return!
BuckMaster 2.0: A Legend, Rebooted
The original BuckMaster resembled the “Rambo” type survival knives popular at the time – hollow knurled steel handle, long clip point blade, aggressive saw back – but with spikes on the guard meant to allow the knife to be used as an impromptu anchor.
This design, while innovative at the time, wasn’t perfect. The spikes made certain jobs (chopping, for instance) uncomfortable, and the saw back was too coarse to be much use against the kind of cordage a SEAL diver was likely to encounter. Most importantly, as Tom Coulter – retired commanding officer of SEAL Team 3 – tells it, the blade shape wasn’t right for the job. As he explains: “We were interested in a spear tip blade shape as opposed to a clip-tip or a drop tip; meaning: more robust. Something that was going to be able to handle the work.”
Unfortunately, just as the BuckMaster 2.0 prototypes were being finalized, Bob McDonald, one of the lead designers on the development team, passed away, and the design remained unfinished until just last year when Buck historian Rich Neyman stepped in to reinvigorate the project. Working with designer Doug Olsen, they settled on a prototype featuring a spear point blade, hollow handle, and integral construction.
The design was perfect except for one thing: the cost. The milling required to make the entire knife out one piece of steel was prohibitively expensive. So, rather than make a knife that priced out the very military divers they designed it for in the first place, the team turned to the Buck archives for inspiration.
The final design has the redesigned spear point blade, but a much simpler (and less expensive) handle profile borrowed from the late Bob McDonald’s first prototype from decades ago:
The most iconic feature of the original BuckMaster – the spikes in the guard – are back and more functional than ever. Instead of pointy, threaded pins, the 2.0 uses a removable, one-piece guard that locks into place across the handle. Since the redesigned guard is oriented across the blade instead of in line with it, it doesn’t get in the way of your grip like the spikes on the old BuckMaster. It also works with the guard pointed toward the blade or toward the handle for even more versatile uses: everything from a rappelling point to the aforementioned anchor for line when buried in the ground.
Some small details, like the handle scale color and finish, are still expected to change, but the design should enter full production soon. You can check out all the new Buck knives as they arrive, and please let us know what you think of this redesigned classic in the comments below!