Think you can’t get a high quality, US made folding knife for less than $70? Think again. Buck Knives has kicked the door down on the mid-priced EDC/tactical folding knife market with the introduction of their Vantage line.
The Vantage line consists of 3 different trim levels (for lack of a better term), each with different blade steels, handle options, and pricing but the same basic design. Within of these trim levels, there are also different finish options that are geared toward different markets (EDC, tactical, etc). This review will focus on the Vantage Force Avid. “Force” indicates that it has a darkened finish geared more toward the tactical market and “Avid” indicates that it is the mid level Vantage with 13C26 blade steel.
The Vantage Force Avid features a 3 ¼” long blade with a matte black oxide finish. The blade can be opened via a thumb hole or a flipper.
It is a liner locking folder with stainless steel liners and hardware. The handle slabs are aggressively textured, black anodized aluminum.
The pocket clip is blackened stainless steel. It affixes to the end of the knife rather than the side to allow for very deep carry. It can be configured for left or right side, tip up carry.
The Vantage Force Avid is 7 5/8” long when open and 4 3/8” long when closed. It weighs a hefty 4.8 ounces.
Observations from Use
The first thing that I noticed when I removed the Vantage Force Avid from its box is its weight. It feels heavier than it looks. Not unbearably heavy, but it has a noticeable heft. I tore the knife down to small parts and found that it has full steel liners with no skeletonization. It is really no wonder that it feels a bit hefty with those liners, an aluminum back spacer, and aluminum handle slabs. It carries well in spite of the weight.
The handle slabs are a thing of beauty. They milled from aluminum and have a very aggressive grip. The slabs have shallow rounded grooves that run from front to back and deep, sharp edged grooves at mixed intervals along the edges. This combination really locks the Vantage Force Avid into your hand though it may be a bit rough on your pockets.
The blade shape is tremendous. It is a classic drop point with a slightly dropping spine, a long straight edge near the choil, plenty of belly near the tip, and very usable point. It is fairly deeply hollow ground to about ¾ the height of the blade.
It was very sharp out of the box and came to scary sharp fairly easily on a loaded strop. I am a big fan of the Sandvik steels like 13C26. They are easy to sharpen, hold an edge reasonably well, and seem to respond to the strop very well. That is important to me because I don’t like to spend a lot of time refining my knife edge. It’s too much like work. I really don’t care for many of the modern stainless steels because of how difficult they are to sharpen but this one seems to strike a nice balance of edge holding and ease of sharpening for me. I was able to use this knife frequently over the course of a 2 months and never had to use anything other than fine ceramic stones and a strop (mostly just the strop) to keep the edge refined and ready for work.
The black finish looks great and isn’t a thick coating like you find on some blades. It barely affects the cutting performance unlike some thicker coatings. However, it wears very quickly – very quickly. Even after it wears off, the blade has a darkened, matte appearance so it didn’t really bother me.
Lock up on this (and every other Vantage knives that I have used) is excellent. The liner locks up very early with plenty of room for wear over years of service. The liner isn’t as thick as some “tactical” knives but it thick enough. It is a very well executed liner lock.
My favorite thing about this knife is that there are a seemingly endless ways to open it. The flipper deploys the knife very well and very quickly (even better after opening it up to clean and lube the pivot with RAND CLP). The thumb hole could be bigger but it works quite well and it is in the perfect location to add a zip tie to create a “ghetto wave”.
The Vantage Force Avid feels great in the hand. The handle is contoured enough to lock it into the common grips but neutral enough to work with less common grips. The flipper acts as a shallow guard when the knife is locked open. The guard is subtle enough that it doesn’t get in your way if you want to choke up to better control the knife. The blade has a thumb ramp with some mild texture. I don’t usually look for thumb ramps but I do use them if they are present.
This is a solid knife at a bargain price. It is probably a bit heavier than it needs to be but it isn’t so heavy that carrying it will wear you out. The blade shape is excellent, the grip is aggressive in a good way, and it can be opened in a number of different ways. America is back in the reasonably priced folding knife market in a big way thanks to Buck!
Knife Depot provided this Buck Knives Vantage Force Avid for review.
I like the looks of this knife. I had been carrying one of the Buck/Strider knives I picked up for $65 when they first came out. Now that those are out of production I stopped carrying it regularly due to fear of losing it. I might have to consider picking one of these knives up to replace the beater Kershaw I’m carrying on duty now. Thanks for the good review.