C.J. Buck is president of Buck Knives, the 111-year-old company founded by his great-grandfather, H.H. Buck.
The elder Buck was a part-time blacksmith and preacher who later made custom knives during World War II for airmen at an Idaho Army Air Forces base.
After the war, the men returned to their homes, and the Buck name spread across the country.
It became even more famous after the 1964 introduction of Buck’s model 110 folding knife. Those knives ended up being carried by troops in the Vietnam War, firefighters and police.
“That is what propelled Buck from a million-dollar company to, 30 years later, a $30 million company,” CJ Buck recalled in an interview.
“We are literally growing as fast as we can build product,” he added.
When Buck was in St. Louis for the April 2012 convention of the National Rifle Association, customers lining up to get his engraved signature on their new knives often told him: “Keep up the good work.”
They meant that he should keep up the company’s iconic name and heritage.
“Our products are so a part of the history of our customers,” Buck said. “They are way more than tools; they are family heirlooms.”
Buck and other industry leaders say the election of President Obama has been good for knife and gun sales, based on fears that he would try to stop the sale of guns, even before the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.
“When Obama was elected, that created a nervousness about gun collections, and people wanted to get guns before they couldn’t any longer,” Buck said. “And that drove accompanying knife sales.”
Also leading to increased knife sales was increased anxiety about being prepared for emergencies, he said.
“People are preparing themselves just in case they might have to go a few weeks without power or services. You can accomplish more with a knife than any tool,” Buck said.
Buck is introducing knives that he hopes will appeal to women and a line of hunting knives to appeal to core customers. Buck has made a “strategic decision” to maintain manufacturing in the U.S., where 90 percent of its knives are made.
Sales of Buck products are running about 10 percent higher than the previous year, Buck said, adding that they make the perfect present. After all, “how many ties do you need?”