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.
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.
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.
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.
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.