The Buck Hartsook Ultralight 860 is a useful and practical knife. It gives the option to comfortably carry a high quality, fixed blade knife without feeling like Crocodile Dundee. There are other good small knives on the market, but I haven’t found one as small, as light, as functional, as affordable and as high quality as the Hartsook Ultralight. Buck Knives and knife maker Doug Hartsook joined forces to produce a knife that fills a need that needed to be filled. The Hartsook is a very small very functional fixed blade knife. It was intended to primarily be worn around the neck, but I let her ride in my pocket. It’s extremely thin profile, petite dimensions and lightweight allow it to disappear when stowed away, awaiting action. It’s comfortable to wear anywhere; in my pocket, around my neck / under my shirt, even in a sock or waistband. I often forget I’m carrying it. The build quality is excellent. The knife is full tang, skeletonized, made with premium s30v steel and coated with a matt black oxide. No tool marks or sharp edges (except the blade). Made specifically for knives by Crucible Industries, s30v was at first considered a perfect knife steel. However, after some time in the field, it has lost some popularity. Although it is very abrasion resistant and takes a very fine edge thanks to its high carbon content and fine and evenly distributed carbides, many find s30v too brittle and prone to chipping. It has since been improved upon in the form of Crucible Industries’ s35vn, a tougher variant of the once king, s30v. Although I don’t disagree that s30v could be tougher, it is only a concern in bigger knives. Also, Buck’s heat treats are natoriously really good and this is no exception. Buck seems to have really made this steel all that it can be. That being said, as its hollow grind implies, the Hartsook is best used as a slicer. Try not to pound on it, if you can avoid it. Considering its small stature, using it to baton or chop just seems silly anyway. Alright, already.
- Blade Length: 1.88” / 48mm
- Overall Length: 4.25” / 108mm
- Length + Sheath: 4.75” / 121mm
- Width + Sheath: 1” / 25mm
- Thickness + Sheath: .25” / 6mm
- Weight + Sheath: .5oz / 14g
Don’t let its size fool you, the Hartsook is no toy. Nor is it clumsy, fiddly or at all difficult to use. I have moderately large hands and I regurly and comfortably perform tasks like slicing apples, sharpening pencils, opening boxes and have even done some minor wood carving with this little guy. I really don’t notice that it’s such a little guy. The addition of a lanyard to the Hartsook gives a little more to grab onto and acts as a bit of a handle extension. It doubles as a tether from knife to sheath and makes it easier to pull out of your pocket quickly. This is my personal carry preference and how I set mine up. I’m not saying it takes the place of my Fallkniven F1 or Condor Sapien, but it definitely rides right along with them. Infact, it rides along without them too. Because this little bugger is so capable and discrete, it quickly became one of my everyday carries. Carrying a fixed blade as opposed to a folder has so many advantages. There is no locking mechanism to worry about breaking or wearing. There are no springs to worry about being week or fatiguing. You will never experience blade play or wobble. A fixed blade is easier to clean, as there are potentially no, nooks or crannies in which dirt and grime to build. Fixed blades are low tech making them easy to maintain, as there is little to go wrong. If you keep it sharp and oiled and treat it with respect(I don’t mean you have to hold the door open for it, just don’t stab it into rock or use it to pry open a safe), a fixed blade will last a lifetime. The Hartsook’s sheath is half of its appeal. Like the knife, the sheath is thin, small and low profile. Its clever retention system consists of a short peg screwed to a leaf spring integrated into the sheath. When the knife is sheathed, the peg lines up with a hole in the skeletonized handle as the spring pushes the peg into the hole, locking everything into place. To remove the knife, simply push down on the peg opposite the spring’s force and the knife will slide free. It’s fast easy and intuitive. Cons: If I had to be picky and come up with something, it would probably be the steel and finish. I would like to see an updated version with s35nv instead of the existing s30v because, why not. If the better steel is available, use it. Although I don’t see this happening. It seems buck is heavily invested in s30v as they offer it in many of their knives. The matt black oxide finish is unnecessary as the steel is already very corrosion resistant. The matt black makes the knife look too tactical. I carry this knife practically every day and whip it out when necessary. Because it’s a fixed blade it already carries the stigma of being a weapon instead of a tool. The “tacticool” matt black doesn’t help to soften its image. I am sometimes reluctant to pull it out in places like the grocery store, so as not to scare the little old lady buying bananas out of her orthopedics. I could sand the finish off myself, but it really doesn’t bother me enough to warrant to labor. However, if Buck offered the option, I would go for the bare steel. Now that I think about it, I would also like to see a removable belt clip added to the sheath. That would just be plain-ol’ handy. All in all, this is one of my favorite knives and one of my everyday carries. It is a well-made, well designed useful little tool that has given me years of faithful service. No doubt it my mind it will be by my side for years to come. Please be aware: Buck makes a less expensive model called the smidgen. It is uncoated and made of 420 steel, which does not hold an edge like s30v. Also, there are a lot of fake Buck Hartsook Ultralight 860s for sale, especially on Ebay. The fakes seem be larger and come with a whistled integrated into the sheath. Buyer beware.