Knife Review: Gerber Gator Premium

 

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On the fourth day of Gerber Week this writer brings to you, a pretty good utility/camp knife. Did anybody sing that with me? No? I guess it’s still too early for Christmas songs, but not too early to think about getting this for someone as a stocking stuffer.

That’s right, I’m endorsing a Gerber product. While this review is not exactly glowing with excitement, I was personally expecting a low-quality, overpriced blade that was simply tagged with the Gerber logo. What I got was a fairly sturdy utility knife that will perform a wide variety of tasks around the campsite.

You might notice I have been using the word utility quite a bit. With the size, design, and sheath, it is a jack-of-all-trades kind of knife. It’s one that you carry on your belt in case you need it on the trail, but when you set up camp and begin processing wood you grab your ax or a larger blade for batoning. I wouldn’t use it for daily carry because of the sheath, which I’ll go into detail soon. It wouldn’t be great for kitchen tasks because of the grind, although I’d use it for the camp kitchen. This knife is in that weird middle-ground where it can do these tasks, but there are better options out there.

Features:

This knife is the premium version of their Gator. The blade is 4 inches long in a drop point configuration. It uses S30V steel, as opposed to 420HC and has a full tang handle. It has a textured rubber grip that is functional and visually appealing. The blade and exposed areas of the tang are polished, which for the role this knife plays is not a hindrance. If it was meant to be a tactical blade then it would not be acceptable. Overall the knife feels great in hand and balances well.

The worst part about the knife is the sheath. It is leather with a plastic insert, which doesn’t seem bad in theory, but in practice it falls short. I prefer my knife sheaths (and gun holsters) to clip on and off. This one just has a leather belt loop that needs to be put on when you put your belt on. The little leather snap gets in the way of reholstering the blade. I’m not a fan of them in the first place. The sheath flops around on my leg when walking due to how high the belt loop goes up the handle. Overall kydex sheaths are just a better option.

Testing:

One of the first things I do when I get a fixed blade is try it out in the kitchen. My favorite kitchen test is to dice an onion. This test shows how good at slicing the knife is, as well as seeing if it can handle finer tasks. The Gator accomplished this task, but it definitely is not Michelin star worthy due to it not being a full flat grind. Like I said before, I think this would be great in a camp kitchen. (Didn’t have any kitchen test pictures because I got a new phone and misplaced my old one).

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This is about how thick the stick I was messing with were

This is about how thick the stick I was messing with were

Before I get into the outdoors testing, I should say that I’m not the greatest outdoorsman. I know bits and pieces here and there but most of my knife use is cutting boxes with my EDC. Also with my increase in hours at work I was only able to take the Gator out once. With that being said, I think I still am still able to accurately assess the blade in this role.

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I started off by hacking at a quarter-sized branch from a dead tree. The weight of this knife isn’t too conducive to for chopping, but the branch was small enough that it went through with no trouble. I then chopped off the mini branches coming off the sides to smooth it out. I even tried my hand at a fuzzy stick and did OK. (I didn’t start a fire with it though). Then I decided to make a spear out of the branch, and again the Gator did well. Overall with these small tasks well with no noticeable wear on the blade, except for a touch of tree sap. I even stabbed a stump a few times to try and bend the tip, but it is quite resilient.

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While it is good with the small chores, it’s downfall is when it is needed to do something bigger. I believe that an outdoor knife should be able to baton, and the company should back up its product (I’m looking at you, Cold Steel). The grind profile on the Gator is not the best for batoning. Full flat grinds work the best because they serve as a wedge and help split the wood as you go. Even if it was FFG it would not be good for anything more than kindling-sized sticks because of the length of the blade. In a survival situation I’m sure one would be able to make it work, but it is definitely not well suited for the bigger branches.

Kindling-sized branch I tried to baton through. I'm not good at batoning in the first place

Kindling-sized branch I tried to baton through. I’m not good at batoning in the first place

After the outdoors test it still shaved hair

After the outdoors test it still shaved hair

In an EDC role it performs OK. For me a 4″ blade is at the upper end of comfortable. In the cardboard tests I did at work it broke down boxes well, even without touching up the edge between the outdoors test and the cardboard test. I sliced the boxes down the folds because I didn’t want to be a complete jerk to the next person that took the trash out and have a bunch of tiny pieces of cardboard flying around. Because of the sheath I would not carry it around town, and definitely not work. When cutting the cardboard, sometimes the blade would slip down to the belly, which did not seem to be as sharp as the rest of the knife. Maybe they had a new guy that didn’t sharpen curves well at the factory. Also sometimes the blade would slip from the folded part. When this happened the blade would not cut well and actually tear the cardboard. Besides the edge issues, the knife felt great in hand and is definitely comfortable.

A box full of shredded cardboard

A box full of shredded cardboard

An example of one of the tears

An example of one of the tears. Also notice the “Do not cut with knife” on the box? I ignore that

I do have some tests that I wanted to do that I just did not have time to do. One of which is batoning large limbs. I explained above why I don’t think it would do good, but all I was able to baton was some kindling-size sticks, maybe a half-inch thick. Another test I would like to do is skin an animal. I’m not a hunter so I don’t know much about skinning, but I think that the large belly on this knife would do pretty well. Finally I did not get to sharpen the knife, which I like to do before concluding the review. I have sharpened S30V before and it is not as bad as some people make it out to be. It takes a bit longer than 8Cr13MoV and AUS-8, but it is not as bad as other steels I have come across. The grinds are also even, so it shouldn’t be tough to get the sharpening angles correct. I will most likely do an update post in the future addressing these tests.

Carry companions

Carry companions with the Walther PPQ

Stats:

  • Blade steel: CPM-S30V steel
  • Handle material: glass-filled nylon w/ rubber overmold
  • Blade length: 4.0˝ (10.2 cm)
  • Overall length: 9.0˝ (22.9 cm)
  • Knife weight: 8.0 oz (249 g)
  • Overall weight: 10.4 oz (295 g)
  • MSRP $146
  • Country of Manufacture: USA

 

Summary:

As I have said before, this knife is able to perform tasks, but it does not really excel at much. This is not a bad knife, I just am having trouble finding uses for it. I have other knives that accomplish certain tasks better than this knife. Like I said in the introduction, this knife is a good knife for when you’re hiking into an area (if you don’t mind it bouncing on your leg).

I hate the sheath

I hate the sheath

The overall construction of the knife feels very solid. There is a wiggle in the bolster that is hard to notice unless you try to find it. I did not notice it wiggle at all during testing. The edge as it came from the factory was good, and as I said the only hang up was on the belly. This is the first good knife I’ve seen come from Gerber in a long time, and I was pleasantly surprised.

I seriously abhor it

I seriously abhor the sheath.

Rating:

Construction: 4/5
I don’t think this knife would fall apart, but the wiggle in the bolster is still present and brings it down a notch

Sheath: 2/5
One star because it’s a sheath. One star for not falling apart.

Performance: 4/5
Jack of all trades, master of none.

Overall: 3.5/5
I still have trouble finding a role for this knife. If you find one, I’m sure it will serve you well.

*Gerber provided the knife for this review with no stipulations on its use or return.

Click here to see all of our Gerber Week reviews.

comments

  1. Robert H says:

    Nice PPQ.

  2. cmeat says:

    maybe don’t worry about four reviews a week?
    this makes me want a vanguard.
    how did you feel about the sheath?

  3. Ivanator says:

    Do you work at Burger King?

  4. Max Peters says:

    Are you kidding? This leather sheath is nothing but class. Strong holster leather that will last a long while if you take the time to rub some mink oil on it.
    It’s reviews like this one that has convinced knife makers to save money and issue those cheap clackety plastic sheaths with their wares. Why go to all the trouble and expense of providing a quality leather sheath, when reviewers are just going to trash them no matter how well they’re made?
    This knife looks right at home in it’s leather. It’s comfortable and quiet. And classy. I guess the reviewer would like it to look more tacti-cool, but I hope Gerber ignores his adivise, and continues offering it just like it is.

  5. Mark says:

    I appreciate the reviewer taking the time and energy to get out and use this knife-that’s much appreciated. The comments on the sheath are personal preference, so I have no issues at all with “hating” the leather sheath. I happen to like leather, but I already know that. The one thing lacking for me was using the knife for what it was designed to do: processing game. I realize that’s a lot easier said than done, but this is clearly not a camp knife. This knife should never be used for batoning wood. As a result, I think the “jack of all trades master of none” assessment is misleading. If the knife can’t be tested in the one situation that it was built to excel, then I think you have to pick another knife or wait for deer season.

  6. James says:

    This is first and foremost a hunting knife. Its handle is designed for sure gripping. The blade is not longer because long bladed knives are not optimum for field dressing wild game. I got my original Gator around 35 years ago, and it is the best of its class for a hunting knife. Batoning? No real woodsman heads into the wilderness without an axe. I have never seen anyone baton a knife outside Youtube–and I have been an outdoorsman for well over a half century.

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Knife Review: Gerber Gator Premium

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