Friday, April 6, 2012

"Made in the USA" Gear Review: Gerber Gator Fixed Blade



From doing research and talking to many people in the outdoor field, I've realized most are completely unaware that Gerber is still making knives in the good ol' USA. Not only is the Gator series made in the USA, but so are several of Gerber's other blades, including the EZ Out and LST folders, as well as the Prodigy and LMF II survival knives. The sheath itself is made in China, but considering the knife itself was made domestically we felt strongly that it should be included in our "Made in the USA" gear list.

The SPECS:

Overall Length: 8.86"
Blade Length: 4.02"
Weight: 6.6 oz.
Blade Style: Drop Point
Blade Material: 420HC Stainless Steel
Blade Type: Fine
Handle Material Glass-filled nylon with Gator Grip overmold
Sheath Material: Ballistic nylon with molded plastic insert

The Knife

To give an idea of its dimensions, we compared it to the popular Mora Bushcraft Force, which is similar to the Gator in overall size and weight.


The blade on the Gator is slightly thicker than the Bushcraft Force. It's also shorter by a 1/4 of an inch.

(click to enlarge)

The Gator has a bead blasted matte finish compared with the Mora's mirror polish. This matte finish is actually one of my favorites, as it cleans easily, and resists staining and scratching yet doesn't rub off or dull like blades with mirror finishes or baked-on epoxy finishes (i.e. Cold Steel SRK, etc).

(click to enlarge)

SHEATH

The Gator comes with a durable and attractive cordura nylon sheath. The knife is held in place with a single button strap. There is also a plastic liner inside the cordura which provides additional retention and also keeps the blade from piercing through the sheath.

I actually prefer the Gator's composite sheath over the Mora's. The Mora has a problem with the detachable swiveling belt loop where it attaches to the main part of the sheath, in that if you pull it with any force it comes off rather easily. I've actually had my Mora Force pulled off my belt when going through thick brush because of this design flaw.

The Gator's sheath doesn't suffer from this shortcoming. During field testing, I never had a problem with the knife coming out of the sheath or detaching from my belt, so it works well in holding the knife safely and securely.


Another nice feature is how the belt loop unsnaps, making the sheath easy to take on and off without having to remove your belt first:


The Gator was originally designed as a hunting knife, so the sheath does tend to ride high on the hip (like most hunting sheaths). If you want to wear the Gator while backpacking but need to have the sheath sit below the waist strap, just attach a carabiner to it and hook it to the belt loop on your pants.

(click to enlarge)

Grip

True to its name, the grip pattern is actually shaped like the surface of an alligator's skin. In use, it makes holding the knife comfortable, secure and slip-free, especially under less-than-ideal conditions like when cleaning fish or game, wet weather, etc.

(click to enlarge)

Field Test

To test the Gator, I took it up on top of a mountain to one of my favorite bushcrafting locations and gave it a battery of tests. These included food preparation, making feather sticks, batoning wood (to get to the dry inner wood needed during wet weather wilderness survival) and overall comfort.

The Gator proved more than adequate for all these tasks.

Batoning 

The slightly wider blade is an asset when batoning compared to the Mora, for instance. The knife was used to baton several pieces of wood to make fire on our mountain trip. After the batoning no damage to the edge was detected and it was still very sharp. The picture below is an illustration of one of the tests.
 
(click to enlarge)
 
Feathersticks

The Gator doesn't cut with quite the finesse of a Mora, for instance, but it is still a great cutting tool.

(click to enlarge)

Tip Strength Test

To test the strength of the tip, I jammed it into a piece of split Ponderosa Pine and twisted it around in a circular motion to create a small hole. No breakage, edge rolling or chipping was detected:


Conclusion

All in all the Gator makes for an excellent bushcraft, hunting, hiking or camping knife. What it lacks in pure Mora-esque cutting performance it makes up for with a more robust blade and in my opinion, a better sheath. I also happen to be a fan of Gerber's matte blade finishes, as they work especially well with food prep and keep maintenance down to a minimum. Dave actually liked the Gator enough that he wanted to buy one as a backup to his Mora Clipper.


Definitely check out this knife if you're looking for a versatile, yet affordable US made bushcraft blade.

4 out of 5 Stars (Recommended)

2 comments:

  1. Great review as usual. My brother has used this knife for about 6 years now and it has held up very well. He uses it for hunting and an all-round camp knife.

    -OutdoorEnvy

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