The Best Field Dressing Knife on the Market 2018 – Buck 192BR Vanguard Review
This is hands-down one of the best field dressing knives available, and the difference in quality compared to other knives is visibly noticeable in experience and durability that it offers.
Blade
Steel
Design
Handle
Sheath
Craftsmanship
What We Love
  • Tremendous value
  • Razor Sharpness
  • Buck Forever Warranty
What Could Be Improved
  • Sheath
4.7Overall Score

The Best Field Dressing Knife on the Market 2018 – Buck Vanguard 192BR Review

Overview

If you’ve skinned and field dressed game in the past, and you’re like me, you know that it can an incredibly arduous and delicate process. A slip-up not only has the chance to ruin the meat (wasting all of the effort that went into tracking, and bringing down that buck), but could even cause injury to yourself.

The short of it, while field dressing is a necessary part of hunting, it’s a task where you truly live and die by the ‘weapon’ or tool that you’re using. A quality field dressing knife makes a huge difference, and radically changes the experience.

The worst situation is having to constantly sharpen your blade while out in the field, making it a longer and more-drawn out process than necessary. Or, if you’re constantly losing the grip on your knife, then you pose a hazard to yourself, and the integrity of your cuts. There’s no shortage of reasons of why a quality knife will make a world of a difference while out in the field, and why you want the best field dressing knife.

And with that being said, the Buck 192BR Vanguard is truly one of the best field dressing knives on the market today.

Why Buck Knives?

When it comes to quality game processing knives, you have options. Companies such as Benchmade, Spyderco, Gerber, and Ka Bar, just to name a few, all have solid offerings. However Buck consistently remains in top consideration as a top brand because of knives such as the Buck 192BR.  An American company (all of their products are “Made in the USA”), they source only the highest grade materials, and take product quality very serious. If you’ve used a Buck Knife before, or have done your research, you’ll know that this is not an exaggeration, but an image Buck has worked very hard to craft.

The goal of a Buck Knife, like the iconic Buck 110, is to become an integral part of your hunt, and your hunting identity. Buck has built their reputation by putting out products like the Vanguard, which is all around superb.

Why the Buck 192BR?

The Buck Vanguard is an all-around excellent knife. When it comes to field dressing it holds its own, and can do it all (skinning, gutting, butchering, quartering). As I alluded to earlier, a good field dressing knife is going to make your job easier out in the field. Even if you are taking your buck to a taxidermist, you’ll still need to clean it up in order to preserve the meat from the entrails.

What Size Game Can it Handle?

Hunting large game? No problem. I’m impressed by the Buck 192BR because of its ability to field dress just about any sized game, but particularly large game. Hunting North American big game? Yup. This knife makes field dressing a seamless process for whitetail deer, bear, and especially elk.

How is the Blade Quality?

Out of the box it is polished and sharp. Razor sharp.

Buck has constructed this bad boy with a 4-1/8” classic, drop point fixed-blade. When skinning and field dressing game, I prefer small, razor sharp blades that offer maximum precision (scalpel-like, even more-so, when I am caping).

While it is a tad longer than I prefer, it has many redeeming qualities that still make it one of the most efficient knives for field dressing.

First, it is super sharp. This is important because it can cut through just about anything, and not damage the blade. When you’re cutting through hide, and gutting a deer, a solid thick blade stock is going to make that process a lot smoother. If you’re so inclined to test, it easily passes the “shaving test”.

Not only does it come super sharp, but it retains its sharpness even after long wear and tear, which is a testament to the quality steel Buck used for the Vanguard.

The drop blade tip is very strong, and will penetrate through most things (within reason). The hollow grind creates a sharp edge, which will slice right through large game, and will hold its edge through the skinning and gutting process.

The large belly area of the blade is perfect for slicing game, and that is certainly Buck’s design for this knife.

 

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What about the Steel Quality?

The Buck 192BR is built with Buck’s 420HC steel, their standard blade material. It’s a step-down from their premium S30V, but in comparison to what most knives are constructed of, in this price range specifically, it is a high-quality steel (“steal”).

The 420HC (high carbon) steel is produced by Buck with their special heat treatment process, and it works for this knife. The 420HC offers superb edge retention and strength, and is one of the most user-friendly steels on the market.

Half of the battle is getting a knife sharp. A dull knife is useless. However, a knife that can’t be easily sharpened is almost just as useless. It’s a quick process to re-sharpen the Vangard with the 420HC steel, and that is important to note.

The Vanguard is able to maintain its sharp edge throughout the skinning process. You won’t have to worry about shaping up the 192BR as you’re in the field dressing game. When it is time to shape up the blade, it is an easy process.

A major hassle, and inconvenience for those who are not experts is having to go to a professional in order to sharpen your knife. That is not the case with 420HC steel, and is precisely why Buck uses it on an intermediate knife, such as the Vanguard. With corrosion resistance, you also won’t have to worry about having it rust when you’re exposed in the elements. Basic cleaning of the knife, and it will preserve long-term.

Overall, the 420HC is a durable and low maintenance steel, and a fantastic fit for the Vanguard.

How is the Vanguard’s Handle?

With a field dressing knife, one of the most important aspects is how it feels in your hand. While comfort can vary person to person, to me, it makes for a great impression and experience. The handle is not too small, nor is it too big.

The Buck 192BR Vanguard is made out of real wood, sporting a heritage walnut countoured handle. It’s definitely a beautiful handle, and has an extremely attractive, shiny clear finish on the handle and brass. It also appears to be treated to help prevent it from swelling and cracking.

The handle overall is comfortable in the hand while dressing (even after hours of use), and still offers tremendous control while making incisions. For those who go on long hunting expeditions, the handle is perfect for prolonged usage, even in wet conditions.

It has a solid and sturdy feel to it. Some knives feel too heavy towards one side. Buck designed the Vanguard with weight distribution in mind, so it feels centered in your hand, which is why it remains comfortable to use for so long.

The ergonomics are excellent on this knife, with a smooth handle and palm swell that is easy to grip on to. A knife that gets slippery in inclement weather is a dangerous knife for field dressing. In blood, water, grease, or mud, the Vanguard isn’t going to flop out on you.

If you have larger hands, the handle is perfect. Buck included larger finger guards that not serve not only for heavy duty tasks, but give you extra hand placements and security. If you’re looking for a knife with a skeletonized, rubber, or even plastic handle, this not the knife for you. Buck has outfitted the 192BR with a real wood handle and solid finish. It may not be for everyone.

 

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Sheath Quality

If there is one complaint that people have with this model, and it is not even with the knife itself, is that Buck could have, and should have paired a knife of this quality with a higher-end sheath.

With that said, it’s certainly not a bad sheath, but many fans of this knife end up purchasing a custom leather made sheath that more properly suits it.

Out of the box it is paired with a genuine, brown leather fitted sheath. And honestly, for most hunters (particularly if you’re field dressing as more of a hobby or weekend activity), the sheath will be perfect. At this price range, Buck has paired it with a pretty good sheath (most are plastic or kydex), and a leather one at that.

In your hand, the sheath has a sturdy and strong feel to it. On your side, more importantly, the sheath doesn’t get in your way. Instead, you can feel it contorting with your body, which is a nice feature of the belt of the sheath. In other words, the knife twists naturally on your belt, so that when you sit down, crouch, or walk, it moves with the ‘grain’ versus pressing against your body.

While the knife can accidentally stab the inside of the leather, it does not pierce through like some sheaths allow. It generally sits safe and secure with-in the sheath, and snugly fits on a belt. The flap-over button which straps the blade in is an added feature for security, and overall is a decent design.

Design

When you pull this knife out on your next hunt, you definitely will feel prying eyes. More than likely, you’ll even get requests from others to borrow it. The overarching design by Buck is clear. It was designed for processing big game, and for outdoor enthusiasts.

True to Buck’s style, the Vanguard has a simple, but elegant look and feel. The feel portion is because of the high end materials, and stellar workmanship that go into this knife and sheath. The 192BR is designed to feel sturdy versus the flimsy feel. The elegant look is because of Buck’s meticulous attention to detail.

It’s a great looking knife, rests comfortably in your palms, and easy to carry.

Verdict

The Buck 192 Vanguard is the perfect companion for any hunter who spends their time out in the field, and needs a trusty tool for processing game. This is hands-down one of the best field dressing knives available, and the difference in quality compared to other knives is immediately noticeable in experience and safety that it offers.

In the field you need a knife that you can rely on, even after serious abuse, as gutting and skinning are very involved processes. The Vanguard is the tool for the job, and then some (if you need it in a pinch to help with general outdoor activities and small chores).

The reason I get so glee about the Vanguard is that it’s the type of knife that will skin dozens of deer, bear, and elk without breaking a sweat, tip or its edge.

Great price. High quality. Heavy Duty. Razor sharpness. Unbelievable value. Just about sums it up.

At its current price point, it is tremendous value for the money, and can make for a fantastic gift. Heck, you will even want to pass it down to your future little hunter it has so much character. I know I will be.

 

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PRO’S:

  • Tremendous value for the money
  • Razor sharpness
  • Superb workmanship
  • Strong edge retention
  • Corrosion resistant steel
  • One of the best field dressing knives available
  • Buck Forever Warranty
  • Made in the USA

CON’S:

  • Sheath could be better
  • Best suited for field dressing than other tasks such as bushcraft
  • Some users wish it had a flat grind instead of a hollow grind

Question and Answers

Question: Where is this knife made?

As is customary of Buck Knives, the Vanguard is made in the USA.

Question: What is one of the best features of this knife?

The edge retention is superb on the Vanguard, and ideal for those skinning and field dressing game.

Question: Is this knife suitable for other outdoor work like cutting wood?

While this knife is ideal for skinning, gutting and field dressing, it is high in total utility. In other words, while it may not be designed for these roles, it can certainly be used in a pinch for fishing, hiking, camping and other outdoor purposes. It is an extremely resourceful knife.

Question: What is the strength of this knife?

There is a reason that we consider the Buck Vanguard as the best field dressing knife. It is designed for field dressing and skinning. If you want to maximize it to its strengths, then that would be it.

Field Dressing Knife Buyer’s Guide – What to Look For

Why a field dressing knife?

A field dressing knife is ideal if you need a knife to assist with:

  • Gutting
  • Skinning
  • Deboning
  • Butchering

When Selecting a Field Dressing Knife, you should consider:

  • Style of knife that best fits your preference
  • Type of Blade
  • Blade length based on size of game you are hunting
  • Blade composition
  • Ergonomics of the blade handle
  • Quality of the sheath

Other Interesting Articles:

Click here to read our buyer’s guide for selecting the best skinning knife!

Do you cape? Then check out our review and list of the best caping knives.

Prefer a gut hook knife? Then check out our top reviews for the best gut hook knife.

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