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Ron Hood and His Hoodlum – Evolution of Excellence

The following is a review by Joshua Swanagon, Associate Editor/Art Director, Survival Quarterly Magazine.

Ron Hood and His Hoodlum – Evolution of Excellence

Born of years of experience and design modifications, the Hoodlum brings forth a design the legendary Ron Hood had been searching for in many years of knife design and use. Coming from a background in the ASA (Army Security Agency) in Vietnam, Ron returned home and started building an empire in the field he loved so much, wilderness survival. Being one of the first in the field, Ron and Karen Hood have owned since before survival was cool and Ron has trained everybody from novices, just wanting to learn to survive, all the way to our nation’s elite fighting forces. Before his departure,Ron made survival his passion and the safety of others his ultimate goal. To this day, when serious survival experts convene around a fire to talk survival, you can bet that Ron’s name will come up. In short, Ron knew survival and Ron knew knives.


The Origin of the Hoodlum

Ron was of the firm belief that a good knife is essential in the field and was a proponent for large knives, always quick with the saying;

Buck Knives - Hoodlum

You can do a small job with a big knife, but you can’t do a big job with a small knife.”

This belief fueled Ron’s continued hunt for the perfect large knife. Being of higher than average intellect and a man who knew what he wanted in a knife, Ron set out on his 20 year quest to design the perfect large knife. After a few designs with some custom makers, Ron collaborated with Eric Fehrman of Fehrman Knives and they produced the Fehrman “Hood Hunter”.

It was with the Fehrman Hood Hunter that Ron conceived the Shock Absorber in the handle, later to become his patented “Shock Mitigation System” used in the Hoodlum today. During the design process of the Fehrman Hood Hunter, Ron wanted to fix a problem that he found with many fixed blade knives, the fatiguingly large grip, it was for this reason he and Eric toiled over the perfect sized smaller grip. This allowed for more relaxed chopping, using what he referred to as the “snap” technique while also providing secure circumference control while wearing gloves.


Ron Hood and TOPS Knives

It’s not often that you get to see a friendship that you just knew was meant to be, but when Ron and Mike Fuller of TOPS Knives met at SHOT Show fourteen years ago that was exactly what happened. Of their friendship Mike had this to say “Both Ron and Karen were two of the most creative folks I have known, a real MacGyver duo and Ron always had an inordinate number of great jokes.” So, it only made sense that Ron would look to TOPS for the next stage in the Hoodlum evolution.

Having already worked together on the Anaconda 9” and 7” (tanto and hunter points) and the ATAX  meant that Ron and Mike already had enough experience together to be able to settle into an established workflow, allowing them to focus on making the knife that Ron would finally consider his perfect large “chopper.”

The TOPS Hoodlum was where Ron perfected and finally patented his “Shock Mitigation System,” a hollow chamber inside the handle to absorb the shock of the vibration caused during chopping, allowing for extended use with far less fatigue. Ron liked to incorporate an angle orientation from the grip to the blade in all of his designs and it was in the Hoodlum that he found the perfect angle of 17 degrees, giving it increased power in the downward stroke. When the discussion of steel came up, Ron and Mike discussed the benefits of the 5160 spring steel over the CPM-F3V of the Hood Hunter or the 1095 of the Anaconda or ATAX and decided that using the 5160 in a little thinner stock would add extra springiness, which was desirable. After extensive testing, their theory proved to be correct. Finally, they coated it with a grey powder coat, instead of the black traction coating typical in the TOPS Knives line. This gave it a sleeker look, while allowing for a little easier clean up.


Ron Hood and Buck Knives

Shortly after the immense success of the Hoodlum started to surge, Ron was introduced to Buck Knives by Mike Fuller and began talks with Mike Dolmage, New Products Development Executive, being brought on board as a Buck Knives Pro Staff member. The Hoodlum found a new home in the Buck Knives line. Although a few minor changes were made, including the processing of the blades (from milling to laser), adjusting the bone scoring notch to .25” deep, changing the scale attachment method from male/male fasteners with “standoff” inside the handle to male/female fasteners, and moving the Hoods Woods logo from the handle scales to the blade; the form, function and integrity of the Hoodlum was maintained and moved almost immediately into production at the Buck Knives factory in Post Falls Idaho and the deal was solidified.

The Hoodlum moved Buck Knives into a lot of firsts for the company; this would be the first time that Buck used 5160 Spring Steel in their line and was the first time they had used powder coating on any of their knives.



The Limited Edition Buck/Hood Hoodlum – A Fitting Tribute

When the Hoodlum first moved to Buck, Ron wanted to replace the powder coating with bluing like a gun, but at the suggestion of his wife Karen and Mike Dolmage the blade kept its grey powder coating. So, after Ron’s passing, the decision was made to pay tribute to him by adding the Hoodlum to Buck’s line of Limited Edition knives with a version fit for the legend Ron truly was.

Looking back to Ron’s original wishes of a knife that tipped its hat to his love of guns, Billy Bates answered with an astonishing blade, unlike anything else in their Limited Edition cadre, which would leave collectors drooling. With the LE Hoodlum, Billy set many firsts for the Limited Edition line; with it being the first large knife, first blued steel and first survival knife to ever make LE status. In keeping with the nod to the rifle look that Ron eluded to when first coming on board with the Hoodlum, Billy also included beautiful checkered Cocobolo wood handle scales with the Hoods Woods logo featured prominently. Finally, to ensure that this would be a knife Ron could be proud of, Billy ensured that it would still be fully functional by maintaining the 5160 Spring Steel and having all heat treating done by Paul Bos himself. The LE Hoodlum is truly beauty and the beast all in one.

When I asked Billy how it felt being part of bringing Ron’s dream to fruition, he said “It was a great feeling to see something that Ron had always wanted for the Hoodlum come to be. I know that Karen was very pleased as well. We especially were very pleased with how well the checkered handle and blued blade came together to create such a beautiful knife.”

With only 250 numbered LE Hoodlums being made, this truly is a prize to behold and makes a fitting addition to any collection. Each LE Hoodlum is made in the United States and includes a numbered certificate of authenticity and sturdy mahogany display stand that sets it apart on any shelf. When purchased from, each LE Hoodlum comes signed by Karen and Jesse Hood only adding to the collectible value of this knife.

There is no argument that Ron Hood was a legend and that his knives have changed the face of the survival knife industry forever. The LE Hoodlum was a tribute to more than just a great knife, but it was the acknowledgement of a great life.



  • 5160 blued alloy carbon steel blade
  • 10″ Straight Clip
  • Blade Thickness: 1/4″
  • Blade Width: 1-7/16″
  • 15-1/2″ overall
  • Large finger choil
  • Notched spine for wire bending
  • Thumb ridge
  • SMS (Shock Mitigation System) for chopping
  • Cocobolo wood handle scales with custom checkering featuring the Hoods Woods logo
  • Double rivets
  • Hammer butt with lanyard hole
  • Mahogany display stand
  • Serialized limited edition
  • Certificate of Authenticity
  • Made in USA



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