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The First Auto Knife I’ve Ever Loved: Buck ‘Deploy’ Review

I tend to find auto-opening knives gimmicky and even scary. The Buck Deploy changed all that.

Buck Deploy Blackout Pro reviewThe Buck Deploy Blackout Pro; (photo/Sean McCoy)
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Call me chicken, but I’ve always been a little leery of automatic knives. Maybe it’s the story my dad told me about a teammate slicing his leg open while carrying a switchblade during a baseball game. Why you’d do that I cannot fathom, but if Pop’s goal was to spook me off autos, well, it worked really well for about 40 years.

But thanks to the Buck Deploy Blackout Pro, the spell has been broken. After carrying this tough, fast-opening — yet safe — automatic knife for the past month, I’m singing a new tune about auto openers, at least this one.

In short: Matte black and quick as a jab, the Buck Deploy Blackout Pro is an understated beauty. It’s small enough to carry every day, yet burly enough to tackle hard-use jobs. And thanks to top-tier steel and engineering, this knife will hold an edge and lock up tight as a drum.

Buck 838 Deploy Blackout Pro Auto Knife


  • Overall length 8.25"
  • Blade length 3.25"
  • Blade thickness 0.12"
  • Blade material S35VN
  • Blade style Drop Point
  • Handle length 5.00"
  • Handle material Aluminum
  • Weight 4.25 oz.
  • User Right Hand, Left Hand
  • Pocket Clip Tip-Up


  • Versatile drop point blade
  • Excellent blade steel
  • Fast opening


  • Not legal in all states
  • Intimidating for some EDC settings

Buck Deploy Blackout Pro Review

The Buck Deploy launched in 2022 to rave reviews, and for good reason — it was a great design. But for 2023, Buck took a great design a step further with the Deploy Blackout Pro. Sure, the original 838 Deploy is a great knife. But the Blackout Pro is the version you want if you can stomach the $220 price tag. For about $60 more than the original, I’d argue it’s worth the step up if for one simple reason: the steel.

So, let’s start here with some of the finest steel (a lot of) money can buy. The Buck Deploy Blackout Pro rocks S35VN, which, aside from a few other super steels, is one of the best all-around knife steels out there. It’s very well-rounded, in that it will hold an edge, doesn’t corrode, and resists chipping.

Combine this with Buck’s excellent Bos heat treatment, and you have a recipe for one heck of a nice blade.

Buck Deploy Blackout Pro
(Photo/Sean McCoy)

And that’s what Buck cooks up with the Deploy Blackout Pro. After weeks of daily carry and a few camping, turkey hunting, and fishing trips, the blade is still hairsplitting sharp. I’ve used it on cardboard boxes and even batoned wood a few times for testing. And darn if this won’t still slice a piece of notebook paper cleanly.

Eventually, though, this knife will get dull. At that point, I don’t look forward to resharpening it. Having used other Bos-treated knives, it is a chore to get them back to a factory finish. Fortunately, they tend to stay that way for a long time, and a quick stropping every couple of weeks will keep most EDC knives plenty sharp for months.

While the Deploy has a great blade, let’s not ignore the handle. Machined from aluminum, the Deploy handle sits nicely in the hand. It is comfortable and easy to grip securely in multiple configurations.

My only gripe is that with zero jimping on the blade spine, you rely on the significant finger choil to keep your hand from sliding if pressing the blade tip forward. It’s a small ding, but worth noting if you expect to use the knife a lot in wet, slippery circumstances (cleaning big game animals, for example).

Buck Deploy: Locking Mechanism and Opening

Buck Deploy Blackout Pro batoning through wood
(Photo/Sean McCoy)

When it comes to auto knives, the spooky factor comes in the possibility of the knife opening inadvertently. And I’m happy to report that the Deploy Blackout Pro has proven very safe in my use so far.

To open the blade, you first flick a safety slide — a plunge lock — away from the blade end of the handle. Then, press a button next to the safety, and the blade springs instantly into position.

At this point, the knife is what I would call “half locked” in the extended position. To close it, you just push the button again and fold it with your hand. To “fully lock” the knife open, you slide the safety back toward the blade again. Now, the knife won’t close even if you push the button.

This makes the knife lock up hard. I used it in this configuration to baton wood — something I normally avoid with folding knives — for testing. It didn’t feel silly or risky at all. The lock seems good, although I’d still proceed with caution batoning with a folder.

Buck Deploy Blackout Pro Review: A Tough Knife, Maybe for EDC

Buck Deploy Blackout Pro
(Photo/Sean McCoy)

So, when would I carry this knife? First, I’d say for many folks, the Deploy would fit the bill as a solid everyday carry knife. But that comes with several caveats, mostly related to the law. With a 3.5-inch blade, the blade length shouldn’t be an issue in most places. But “automatic” knives can run afoul of the law in many ways, so be sure to study up on your location before sliding this into your pocket.

Beyond that, I’d argue this knife can do darned near anything pretty well. Camping? Farming? Bushcraft? Check, check, and … probably, although most serious bushcrafters are going to want a fixed blade. Does it measure up to the best pocket knives on the market? I’d argue yes, especially if you compare apples to apples with hard-use auto-openers.

My point is, this is a wonderfully versatile knife. And it’s the knife that made me get less jittery about carrying an automatic in the field or elsewhere. It feels safe and secure and opens in the blink of an eye. If this sounds right, I wouldn’t hesitate to give the Buck Deploy Blackout Pro a shot.

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Sean McCoy

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