The Great Gerber Roundup.
Seeing that I have a 4 day holiday, this has given me a bit of time to write a slightly ambitious review on all of the Gerber models I currently have in the collection. I must warn you, this will be photo heavy.
On with the review…
Interestingly enough, when I was young, I had always assumed that Gerber was German. It was to my great surprise about 25 years ago that I found out that it was an American company. Gerber started out in a very humble manner. In 1939, Joseph Gerber mailed a few kitchen knives that he had a local custom cutler make, as Christmas gifts to clients from his family advertizing firm. These were of such a great hit, that he decided to quit the family business to start his own. Thus, Gerber Legendary Blades began. This was a lengthy haul until 1986 when Fiskars from Finland took over the business. Now when I think of Fiskars, I think of quality scissors. Buying Gerber was a logical extension for the Finish Company. It not only gave them lateral expansion not so removed from their core business, but it also helped open up the North American. Gerber introduced their first multi-tool called the multiplier back in 1991. Today, Gerber is the second most popular multi-tool manufacture in North America.
NOTE: The dates shown are those of the first year production.
1. Gerber First Run Multiplier.
2. Gerber MP400 Compact Sport.
3. Gerber MP650 Evolution.
4. Gerber MP600 Fisherman.
5. Gerber MP600 Yellow.
6. Gerber MP600 Black Oxide Military.
7. Gerber Flik.
8. Gerber MP500 Recoil Auto-pliers.
9. Gerber Suspension.
10. Gerber Radius.
11. Gerber Solstice.
12. Gerber Recoil.#1. Gerber First Run Multiplier (1991)
How do I know this is a first production run? Because Gerber was kind enough to acid etch the phrase on one side of the handle. Speaking of oddities, this model exemplifies that. Looking at the tool, one can’t help but see the original design genius of having a sliding plier head. Holding this tool, you get a strong sense that the first run tool was a design concept and not quite meant for production. The handles are badly design, and will pinch your palm every time you use them. The folding tools have nail nicks in wrong places, and the handle notches don’t quite line up with the nail nicks. The finish is not the Gerber standard, but a very nice polished stainless steel that sort of makes the tool slippery to hold. They even took the polished look right down to the folding tools. Every piece on this tool is made very solidly. It has that weight that promises quality that isn’t quite there due to some of the odd, almost eccentric design elements. Ultimately, this is a tool that promises a lot but doesn’t quite deliver. This tool is more of a historical significance then a real good multi-tool that you would want to EDC (Every Day Carry).
- Gerber unique sliding plier head.
- Nice tool selection.
- Like all old tools, weight and quality feel.
- Nail nicks in odd places.
- Pinching handles like no other tool out there.
- More of a proof of concept then a production product.
- -toy sized secondary folding tools.
More of a curiosity then something I would every carry and use. Interesting by showing Gerber’s earlier foray into the multi-tool segment that Leatherman created. #2. Gerber MP400 Compact Sport (1999)
The MP400 was introduced to complement the older MP600 line which came out a year earlier. Gerber recognized that a smaller MT would be a great seller, and they were right. The MP400 is a rather popular model for those who want full functionality in a smaller package. I don’t really have much to say about this model other then it is very well built. It has the Gerber characteristics. Sliding pliers and small secondary tools. By this time, Gerber was also bead blasting everything, another of Gerber’s signature habits.
- Small and light.
- Good tool feature set.
- Locking tools.
- Plier pivot has some play in regard to handles, making the tool a bit of a rattler.
- Small secondary tools that are almost useless.
The MP400 was and still is a very popular MT. It is very versatile and well built. Light and capable. Easy to recommend to anyone wanting something portable. #3. Gerber MP650 Evolution (2002)
The MP650 Evolution is a very interesting tool. It has a series of plier heads that you could buy separately to make your MT more versatile. Gerber basically took their very successful MP600 platform, removed the sliding mechanism, installed a locking system with a lever so that the user could lock and unlock the pliers to remove/install them. On big issue though. With the pliers installed, the tool is full length. It came with a sheath that allows you to store the long MT with one pliers attached, and a front pocket with another pliers head for versatility in the field. I don’t imagine this was a very popular model, as it isn’t very compact or convenient to carry around.
- Versatility. I think they made 5 or 6 different plier heads for the tool.
- All tools lock.
- Removable jig saw attachment blade.
- Big and bulky to wear.
- Sometimes, if you’re not careful, you can jam the pliers while trying to install or remove them.
- Gerber standard toy tiny secondary tools.
You have to give it to Gerber. They like to try different things. The idea sounds promising on paper, but does not work very well in reality. The extra bulk that this MT suffers from makes it a real hassle to carry daily. Likewise, why are the secondary folding tools so small when there is so much empty space in the handles seeing that the pliers don’t slide down in the handles is beyond me. I guess Gerber will give you small tools regardless. #4. Gerber MP600 Fisherman (2001)
I think of the MP600 line as the Backbone of the Gerber MT Family. There are so many different models of the MP600 that it seems ubiquitous. It might even put to shame Leatherman Charge models. This version has a special plier head designed for fisherman. The MP600 Fisherman comes with a nice sheath but what I found interesting, is that it comes also with a lanyard that you can clip to your belt for safe keeping around water. The big issue with this model are the overly long needle nose pliers that extend past the tool like a sky scraper. I have tried carrying this tool around, and found that the “nose” of the pliers gets in the way when folded and stored away. Likewise, there is a handy hook groove on the file
- Well build and solid.
- Excellent specialized tools for the fisherman.
- Lanyard is a nice and necessary touch.
- Locking tools.
- Needle nose pliers needle anything within reach when stored away.
- Argh…more small secondary tools.
If you are a fisherman, then treat yourself to one of these if you can still find one. I believe they recently got discontinued. You will be more than happy with the needle nose design and will probably overlook the discomfort in carrying it. For everyone else, there are more comfortable options to entertain. If you can’t fine one of these, there are also specialized versions of the MP400, and Flik that I am aware of. There probably are more models out there that have been given the Fisherman makeover. #5. Gerber Yellow MP600 (1998)
This is one of the many variations of the MP600. This one happens to be painted a bright yellow with black oxide plier head. Oddly enough, they didn’t see fit to give the folding tools the old BO treatment. Consequently, you get a strikingly sharp if slightly mismatched MT. This one I believe caries the standard MP600 tool load out.
- Well built.
- Striking looks.
- All tools lock.
- Why didn’t they black out the folding tools?
- Typical small Gerber secondary tools.
This one is a looker. Not so sure about how long the yellow paint would last as an EDC. It does look excellent as a shelf Queen. #6. Gerber MP600 Black Oxide Military (1998)
Well, I got this one from an OTIS kit. Gerber and OTIS got together and designed several kits for both law enforcement and military. These kits are designed to help maintain weapons and equipment. The OTIS is a full cleaning kit, and the addition of a BO Gerber is just icing on the cake.
This MP600 has a few differences compared to its opposite mentioned just before this fellow. The knife is a sheepsfoot and not a clip point. Likewise, the nail nicks are only surface as opposed to right through in the yellow MP600. Also, you get removable wire cutters that allow you to replace worn out ones. A neat feature and useful if you have to cut through barb wire, chain links, etc… This one is just another variation of the MP600.
- Black looks very nice.
- Sheepsfoot blade means you can use this as a quick emergency belt cutter.
- Excellent build quality.
- Must clean the black dye off the tool when you first get it.
- More tiny toy folding tools. Why dear God why!
- Flat Phillips.
I like this tool very much. There is something nice about an all black tool that looks more menacing then a silver finished one. A good quality MT that suffers from Gerber’s predilection towards Lilliputian tools. #7. Gerber Flik (2007)
Now here is something a bit different for Gerber. The Flik came about I think, because of what Leatherman has been doing with their Wave/Charge/Surge models, and that is incorporating outside folding tools for easy access. All other Gerber MTs mentioned up to this point, necessitated the handles opening first before you could access a tool. So now we have the Flik that has 4 main tools that you can swing out without having to open the handles. However, Gerber outdid themselves on the secondary folding tools. You may have noticed me complain about the size of these tools on Gerber models. Well, the Flik’s are even smaller. They are so small in fact, there is no place to put a nail nick to extract the tool out of its hiding spot. Instead, you have to pump back the main handle lock lever which pushes out the micro tools. Well at least you have a 50/50 chance of success. I have big fingers and half the time, I just seem t push the micro tools back into the handle when I am trying to get them out. Oh well….
- Main tools are easier to access.
- Meet the micro tool.
I understand why Gerber had to come out with a Leatherman type tool. However, some of the features are just hilarious. The micro tools can be hard to get out, and once you do have them out…what next? Lets igngore the uselessness of the secondary tools. The overall premise does work well, and the Flik is undeniable useful and easier to get at then most other Gerbers. If you only need the 4 main tools and don’t care about the lost features of those micro tools, then it is perfectly reasonable to wear one. #8. Gerber MP500 Recoil Auto-pliers (2003)
Now here is something very different. Gerber, ever trying different concepts, is not afraid to go out on a limb and take some chances. The MP500 is all about one handed deployment. However, they sort of missed the boat a bit. The pliers are opened by a simple press of a button, and the plier head shoots out by spring force at great speeds and locks in place ready for use. It is a neat feature. There are issues with this though. The button has a locking feature, but you don’t ever want to carry this one in your pocket. Trust me when I say I have had firsthand experience where the button became unlocked and fired while it was in my front pocket. So the secondary lock can fail. The pliers are very stiff to put back onto the handle. The best way is to push the pliers against a hard surface. The biggest pain though, are the folding tools that come with it. They are tied into the main springs in the handle, meaning that taking them out is a stiff and difficult process. Unlocking them can be fun also as its all tied in.
- Unique and entertaining sliding plier mechanism.
- Folding tools are no joy to use.
- Locking mechanism can get unlocked during normal wear causing an unexpected discharge.
- Flat Phillips. #4. Gerber Suspension (2005)
The Suspension I am told, is Gerber’s most popular multi-tool sales wise. Interestingly enough, this is considered a Butterfly opening MT. It eschews the famous sliding plier head mechanism seen in all previously mentioned Gerbers except for the MP650.
- A competent average multi-tool.
- All tools Lock.
- Standard Gerber silliness.
- Cut outs in handles can be dangerous if you manage to get small fingers in there.
Ok, I like some features on the Suspension, and absolutely hate others. For some reason, I tend to like the Gerber sliding pliers feature probably because it is what sets them apart. In recent years, Gerber as gone away from this and started to make Butterfly opening models. The Suspension is one of many different styles that Gerber has out there right now. Not only that, but it is strongly copied by third party Chinese makers. I have several larger MTs that look exactly like this one minus the tool locks. It isn’t a bad MT. Seeing that its one of Gerbers best sellers if not the Best seller, it can’t be all that bad. It just doesn’t float my boat as much as the sliders. #10. Gerber Radius (2007)
I bought this one as a lark. As a collector, I was intrigued by its sheer size and oddness. As a buyer, I was not pleased once I peeled this MT out of its blister pack. The Radius was proudly advertized on the packaging as being the most comfortable MT out there. That is true. The handles are super comfortable. That comes with a price though. The price is a heavy one as it makes this tool both large and weak. This is easily a monster in size. For that size, you only get 4 measly folding tools. Weak in that there is no metal in the handles (if there is some, its minimal at best). This means the handles flex when you clamp down on anything.
- Comfortable handles.
- Meet Mr. Noodle of the MT world.
- Limited tool selection.
- Big, Fat, and Huge.
Ok, what was Gerber thinking on this one? #11. Gerber Solstice (2004)
The Gerber Solstice is a minimalist tool. It is based around a pair of scissors and offers some good functionality to round out the package. The scissors are comfortable to use once you get the rhythm going. The main drawback with this little tool is its construction. The handles pivot around the scissors for storage. During use, it is all too easy to have one of the handles pivot on you during use. Likewise, storing the handles in their closed position is a bit fun as you are fighting against the spring mechanism of the scissors
- Handy small pair of scissors.
- Bonus tools in a very small package.
- Is that a real shaped Phillips from Gerber I see? Do my eyes deceive me?
- Handle storage is fiddly.
The Solstice is a nice little MT. It is not perfect. I don’t like fighting the scissors to put away the handles. I do understand that compromises had to be made in such a small tool. #12. Gerber Clutch (2005)
The Gerber Clutch is a keychain sized MT that I think is supposed to compete against the Leatherman Micra and Squirts.
- Tools fold out without having to open the pliers.
- Nail breaking tools.
- Gerber’s infamous flat Phillips.
The Clutch has a nice feature set. I do not like the fact that I sometimes need another MT to pen the tools on this one. I find the nail nicks that are rounded are very hard to open. They are too shallow for one thing. Likewise, the springs are super strong on this model. Does it compete with the Leathermans? Not very well.Conclusion
Gerber is one of those companies that I like and dislike in one breath.
I like how they are innovative and not afraid to try something new. As a collector, I have found that Gerber has many unique and interesting models. Once I get them home, I quickly realize why nobody else is producing or copying them. They are still interesting to the collector. It is a point I enjoy about Gerber….their uniqueness.
Many of their older sliding plier models are very high quality. Their Multiplier lineup is the true quality gem when it comes to Gerber MTs.
I also dislike Gerber for several things that rather infuriate me at times. These are the reasons why I am currently focusing on Leatherman.
- Gerber is infatuated with the flat Phillips. Why even bother.
- Gerber recently likes to bead blast everything. I know it’s a cheaper finish, but it doesn’t last as long.
- Gerber is definitely in love with small secondary tools and on a few models, micro tools. They will use small tools even if they have all the room in the world.
- Newer models have taken a decline quality wise compared to the older models.