Knife Review

Just Arrived from Gerber: A quartet of American blades.

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Of the 4 knives that Gerber sent us, I am most impressed with the Propel Auto.

When I initiated my conversation with Gerber, part of my goal was to get my hands on some of their blades so I could judge their quality for myself. The knife world has been grumbling. Gerber has had a run of poor QC in the last few years, but things may be changing. Marketing Communications Manager Andrew Gritzbaugh insists that there has been a fundamental change in the atmosphere and the attitude at Gerber, at least in their Portland, OR facility. I would expect a PR man to make a statement like that, but he sent us 4 of Gerber’s American Made knives to put that statement to the test.

We still would like to get our hands on some imported blades as well. David, Nathan and I have talked about doing a “$50 and Under Folder Shootout” and will definitely be testing a few inexpensive Gerber imports against their competition. For now however, I am looking forward to putting these US knives through their paces.

Andrew sent us 4 knives, and here are my initial impressions of each.

 

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The Gator Premium S30V is a classic drop-point hunter with updated ergonomics.

Gator Premium S30V: A while back Chris asked whether a Buck 119 would have a drop point rather than a clip if it were designed today. Apparently, Gerber has answered that question with the Gator Premium. The sheath is virtually identical to the Buck, and the knife is the same size. Setting it apart is the rubberized grip, which has an extremely comfortable ergonomic feel. One small criticism is the separate hilt-piece, which is a tad loose, and stands out from the 119’s single-piece design. I will be sending this knife to Nathan, both because of his skepticism about Gerber, and his love of the high-end steels.

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It feels strange in my hand, but the Strong Arm looks to be an extremely tough knife.

Strong Arm: This is the knife that Andrew is most excited about. My initial impression is that it is an extremely solid piece of 420HC steel, with a size and weight similar to an Ontario TAK. The knife fits the same niche as well. I like the plastic sheath, while I would prefer Kydex, it provides excellent retention. The convertible straps allow for several carry positions, but I find the snaps “un-snap” when you try to draw the knife quickly in its vertical carry position. I will need to experiment with my carry options. Good thing the Strong Arm provides several. The ergonomics are a touch funky, I find the saber/fighting grip to feel strange when wielding a drop point hunter. It seems like a quality knife overall though. It feels like it is well made.

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The choke-up grip was the most comfortable for the Ghost Strike

Ghost Strike: Andrew sent the Ghost Strike Fixed Blade design. This knife reminds me a lot of the CRKT Doug Ritter MK-6. The biggest difference is the sheath has no neck-carry option, but can be converted for vertical or horizontal belt carry. In the full choked-up position, the knife is very comfortable and solid, but in a more traditional rear-grip, the ergonomics are a bit funky. I am sending this knife to David for testing, since he has done several of a similar style, including the MK-6.

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The propel feels well built, has great friction to the scales, and can almost pierce 3/8″ plywood.

Propel Auto: This is the knife I have played with the most so far. It is the first Auto that I have had the chance to use more than at a Blade Show booth, and it feels well put-together. I have cycled the action probably 500 times so far and the knife actually has improved with a little working over. It opens quickly, and there is less wobble than my Mini-griptilian or Leek. My only knock on this knife is that it is going to be a pocket shredder. Its finely textured scales have a lot of friction against fabric. I find lifting the clip slightly aids in sliding this knife back into my pocket.

Overall, I am pleased with what I am seeing. There are a few minor warts, but nothing feels like junk. They seem to be well thought out for the most part, though I think that the Strong Arm’s modular and convertible sheath might be “a bit too clever by half” and a bit over complicated, David, Nathan, and I will do the TTAK Voodoo, and let you know how it goes.

Discussion

13 responses to ‘Just Arrived from Gerber: A quartet of American blades.

  1. I know I might be in the minority on this and some of you have already written Gerber off, but am I the only one quietly rooting for them? I mean, I know they brought all of this bad press on themselves and the QC issues are no one’s fault but their own, but to see an industry giant that most of us grew up loving flounder and put out cheap, dangerous tools is no good for any part of knife culture. Hard to imagine Gerber in the “underdog” role, but they have kind of put themselves there, and I am a sucker for an underdog. Not everyone can afford a $200+ boutique custom made knife, so these are the companies that have the buying power and brand recognition to bring high quality USA made workmanship to the masses at affordable prices… if they so choose. Word of advice Gerber, see the Kershaw/ZT business model (even their Chinese made stuff is quality work). I’m in your corner for now, but one more line of lip service and box store, gift set crap and I’m out.

    • No one would love to see Gerber pull themselves together more than us here at TTAK, but we won’t let that color our judgement during the review process. No one gets a free pass. As ever, we will strive to tell the truth about (these) knives.

      • Yes and I appreciate that honesty, and that’s what brings me back continually to this blog. You have introduced me to several new makers as well as saved me some money on purchasing garbage. I look forward to your reviews of Gerber and am hoping it comes out favorable, but either way I won’t shoot the messenger.

  2. You’re not the only one. I know a lot of people like to dance on the graves of companies like Colt and Gerber, who have brought about their own destruction, but I would love to see Gerber go back to being the company that it was 20 years ago, when you could put my Gerber multitool against any Leatherman any day, and it would be just as good, while being less expensive.

    I really hope they pull their problems out of the fire.

  3. I am personally not in the mood to give these clowns a second chance any time soon. Greedy C-suite executives lining their pockets have soiled this company badly. You have to go back decades to find anything of quality in Gerber’s lineup. To get this company back on track they would need to scrap most of their current production and start over. I purchased a plain edge Fast Draw 3.0 a couple of years ago and for the first week I owned it had to use a screwdriver to operate the sliding lock to close the blade. I ended up giving it away because it was just too shoddy to rely on. The entire Bear Grylls line is much the same, cheap steel and cheaper plastic. Chinese manufacture is not entirely the fault, since Kershaw and a number of other brands produce quality cutlery sourced from China. I look forward to the reviews, but I remain unconvinced.

    • I think you are making a very ridiculous step out that they have made nothing of quality in “decades.” I seriously doubt you own more than 5 (tops) Gerber products, so calling their ENTIRE line junk is just internet commando hyperbole. If that were the case then they would have been gone long ago. Actually, the thing that is so frustrating with Gerber is that they do make some very high quality American made stuff that shows flashes of their old name, but the big box/mass merchant/Bear Grylls crap soils the opinions of all. I said on another post that I have carried a USA made Covert Auto every day for about two years now and it has been a phenomenal knife. It holds an edge like a champ (S30V) and I even used it to chop about a two inch sapling when I got in a pinch in the woods once, which of course is a no-no for an auto, but it’s the only tool I had. Thing still locks up tight and deploys super fast. Someone else mentioned what a awesome tool their Downrange Tomahawk is which I have no experience with, but the reviews have been glowing. Again, Gerber has the capability… they just have to get their heads on straight.

      • I don’t care what you think. Having been ripped off more than once by Gerber, I choose to disassociate myself with the source of the ripoff. I do rue the fact that at one time the company was a fine provider of quality blades, and now that is not the case. I do own near antique examples of quality craftsmanship that I purchased from Gerber, and wish I could continue to purchase the same quality. If you choose to give your money to a company that does not honor their contract to trade value for value, then that is your decision, and I don’t care. I also don’t give a damn about what you think about me. You sound like a shill for the company. So can you honestly say you are not paid in some way by this company? When Gerber shows they can offer decent quality cutlery for a reasonable price, I will be back to the bargaining table. Until then, I will call out these corporate thugs for what they are. They don’t need to get their heads on straight, they need to get their heads out of their A$$.

        • Haha well I can guarantee that I am not on Gerber’s payroll (wish I was), don’t own stock in their company, and don’t even receive a Christmas card from them. Seriously, this is why these message boards on the net are so hard because apparently adults behind a keyboard cannot disagree about something without feeling personally attacked and threatened, then following with the obligatory insults and cuss words. “I also don’t give a **** about what you think about me.” Personally I don’t think anything about you… I don’t know you. All I can tell is by your choice of name that you served in the Navy, and for that I thank you for your service. But after that, my knife loving brother, I think you are completely, 100% missing the point of all of this and getting your britches in a wad for no reason. No one has said that they will continue to support Gerber if they continue on the path they are on, (hence the call out by TTAK) only that we are hopeful that they will turn it around quickly and return to their former reputation. That would be good for us and the the whole knife culture in general. I cannot speak for the publishers and writing team of this blog because I am not associated with them nor on their payroll either, I am just a lowly occasional commenter, but I think that is what they are saying also. Go back and read my first post that started this thread and then read your last one… No reason to put your fists up like this blog is a bar and I just hit on your girl, we are saying the same thing brother. “When Gerber shows they can offer decent quality cutlery for a reasonable price, I will be back to the bargaining table.” If Gerber wants to put out a line of products that are affordable WITH quality then we will all be happy for them and support them, but put out more sellout Bear Grylls crap that is both cheap and dangerous and even their most ardent supporters will be writing them off as another gas station brand before long. A Ford man doesn’t burn all his shirts and roll his truck off a bridge after the first announcement of an airbag recall, but he might if the company starts to see issues with every model and it doesn’t seem to bother them. Since I cannot afford to buy every new Gerber knife and test them all myself, I depend on these fine fellows here at TTAK and others to put them through the gambit and see how they fare, then I can make a decision on whether Gerber will get another dime of my money.

  4. Let me get the ball rolling w/ this (potential) criticism: I am not altogether on board w/ the choice of 420HC for the Strong Arm. For a full sized knife in its price range I don’t get it. And I know about Gerber’s rep for doing better-than-average in the heat treating department. I also know its easier to sharpen. Maybe I am being too picky, but if there is a cogent reason(s) why Gerber went w/ 420HC then I would like to hear it.

    • That is one of my issues, though not a major one. The Strong Arm is meant for the field where you will likely not have as many sharpening options. I have a bigger beef with 420 in the Propel. Most of my EDC blades have something higher end, at least 154CM. I can touch up the blade with proper tools at night at home if necessary

  5. After reading many reviews and watching every video on YouTube by “actual owners/users/testers” (especially the ‘Gauntlet series’) of the Gerber Strongarm, I purchased one for just under $40.00 total on Amazon.

    I find that the majority of negative feelings voiced towards the Strongarm:
    1. Come from people that have bad past experiences with Gerber.
    2. Have never owned/used a Strongarm and never actually held one in hand.
    3. Often tend to be “steel snobs”.
    (you will not get this price point with S30V or higher end steels)

    I have yet to read anything at all (even 1) negative about the “actual knife” itself (from someone that “actually owns one”) other then some complaints about certain aspects or drawbacks of the sheath design.

    The knife was intended for specific purposes and for a specific demographic.
    It is not an EDC knife per say, though somewhere I’m sure there’s an EDC’er.

    I own all kinds of steels, too many to notate them all here, what attracted me to purchase the Strongarm is the usage tests I viewed by “actual” owners/users, its light weight (7.10 oz.), it’s design (drop point/handle/glass breaker etc.) and compact blade length of 4.875″.
    The Strongarm won’t replace my Survive! Knives GSO 4.1 (M-390) or GSO 3.5 (CPM-20V), but it will easily replace my Becker BK2 which I’ve never used since purchasing it 5 years ago as it’s like carrying an anvil around, I am all about “pack light/carry light.

    I have no problem with 440HC treated correctly which Gerber has done.
    It’s made in the U.S.A. and has a 100% lifetime warranty, no questions asked.
    At the price paid, for me is a steal.

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