The Gerber Grylls knives had a rough start on the market, with the fixed blade failing in early reviews. The current ones (2nd generation, it could be said) are much improved and seem to hold up pretty well.
I liked the general grip shape of the whole series from photos on the web, so I ordered the big folder. It arrived in the mail today and I was not disappointed.
This is one of the more comfortable grips I handled lately and feels good in all handling positions. The back-lock knife is very lightweight, the blade is nearly 4 inches in length with almost 5 inches of handle behind it. The grip is not flat-sided, but features an ergonomically correct bottle shape. The dark grey rubber overlay material works nicely in conjunction with the much harder orange base material.
Lockup is solid with no play in any direction. This seems to be the case with all buyer reports from the web, so we seem to have a case of chinese precision manufacturing here. At closer onspection, however, the blade on my sample is a tad off to the right when open, so there is the slightest of flaws. When closed, it is perfectly centered. You cannot ask for better quality in this price range.
The knife comes with a simple nylon sheath that can be worn vertically or horizontally on narrow belts. A small elastic pouch in it will hold a sheet of very basic survival instructions or similar small and flat items. The velcro closure has a shabby feel to it and everyone would probably prefer a nice metal snap. Considering that some online stores sell the knife for around 25 dollars, i won´t complain too much and carry it in a jacket pocket instead.
The blade is 4mm thick an hollow ground from 7Cr17MoV high carbon stainless steel, bead blasted or titanium coated and comes razor sharp from the blister pack. Any side-to-side play, should it develop with use, can be adjusted with torx screws. I could actually live without the ambidextrous thumb studs, but they are useful in emergencies.
A word of caution : No matter what Mr. Grylls or Gerber consider this knife to be meant for, the “Folding Sheath Knife” does not have steel liners in the handle scales, thereby limiting its “ultimate” toughness quite a bit. Prying open (or apart) things ? I wouldn´t even think about it with this nife. Everything here clearly depends on the quality of the somewhat flexible orange handle material. I hope Gerber got it right the first time ! To be fair, some of the most successful knives in tool history come without metal lining of the handles. In my very simple-minded universe, however, i would expect a Buck 110 should stand up to more “carelessness”.
I took the knife on a walk in the woods, being curious if the 1.5 inches length of serrations would annoy me. They are actually quite shallow, so they did not disturb me too much when whittling sharp sticks, but they are ground on the wrong side for most people. A knifesmith could probably “shave” them off nicely, giving the blade a racy recurve shape in the process.
I did not baton the blade through anything (and would not recommend it on anything but very soft woods), but using woodpecker tactics and a loose, long grip, i hacked it through a thicker sapling with success. The blade lost quite a bit of its sharpness in the process.
Knives are cutting tools first and foremost, and most cutlery products will not handle too much abuse without failure. In recent years, some very strange people and self-centered “experts” have entered the (www-)knife world. They try to destroy blades on cement blocks or treat them like they were axes. Have a little respect ! Only time will tell if the Grylls folders will handle the tasks that average users will throw at them and the anonymous couch-potatoes on the web forums will drool instantly if someone manages to snap a blade or bust a handle.
I do absolutely prefer fixed blades for any kind of outdoor usage, but a lot of people like to day-hike with a minimum of kit (in dimensions of size and weight) and the knife will only see usage during meals or walking stick procurement.
The Gerber folder will appeal to them foremost, as they will buy the knife en passant. Hunters should like it also, teenagers will love it, and if you happen to be a fan of Bear´s entertaining shows, you will probably have to get one anyway.
My sample will probably end up as a conversation desk piece and called into action only to open boxes or as a redundant backpack knife, but i have a clearly specified christmas wish to Gerber :
1) Duplicate the folding sheath knife as a full tang fixed blade, no dimensional changes are needed.
2) Leave away the serrations and give me a full flat grind on the blade, or make them an option.
3) Upgrade the blade steel to 440C or 154CM stainless, or use basic 1095 carbon steel.
4) Lighten the full tang with big holes in it and extend it at the lower end to form a hammering or prying tool, but not a “skull crusher” weapon of its own.
5) Ship the knife with an ambidextrous nylon sheath with two strap keepers (one of them removable).
All that combined could create a very compact and stout survival tool that I´d love to buy in a minute. In some regards, a bastard son of the Gerber Big Rock Camp and the Gerber Prodigy would come close.