Soon after I checked into my unit in the Marine Corps I needed a folding field knife that could withstand the abuse that a Marine Infantryman would be throwing at it.
Finding the right tool within my budget that could stand up to this abuse and not fail was key.
Gerber Knives seemed the most economical route at the time and they had a solid reputation within the Marine Corps, so I figured what the hell.
I ended up purchasing a Gerber Gator folding knife. The knife was always there and never failed me. I used it for everything from opening up that favorite MRE to prying open ammunition crates.
History of Gerber Knives
When I started looking for a knife to carry for field use and everyday carry in the Marine Corps, I had quite the task ahead of me. Which brand do I buy? At that time the major players were Gerber Knives, Spyderco, and Benchmade.
Where would I find the best knife for the best price that fits within my budget as Private First Class (PFC)?
The best thing to do would probably be to buy a knife from every manufacturer. However, since that isn’t feasible for most, we need to look into each brand. In this case, we are going to take a closer look at Gerber Knives.
We need to figure out what makes them so legendary. To do that we show you the history of Gerber Legendary Blades.
When Joseph R. Gerber described his new company, Gerber Legendary Blades, as the "birth of an enterprise that grew into big business," he wasn’t kidding, but it was an understatement for what it has evolved into.
Founded in 1939 and based in Portland, Oregon, USA, Gerber is an American brand whose products have global reach and relevance. Carried extensively by hunters, soldiers, and tradesmen, Gerber’s heritage runs deep. And we are now looking toward the future, where tomorrow’s problems will be solved by the next generation of innovations. – Gerber Gear
It’s been 83 years since its founding and Gerber continues to evolve. Gerber is the largest manufacturer of knives and multi-tools for the United States Military. Gerber Gear is a company dedicated to making knives and tools that combine high-quality materials, state-of-the-art manufacturing processes, and innovative designs that will stand up to a lifetime of use.
If you are looking for a high-quality blade or tool there are many factors that go into making your decision. Just know this, if you’re looking for a high-quality blade that you can afford and will last a lifetime, Gerber Legendary Blades is your answer.
Is Gerber Made by Fiskars?
In 1987 Gerber Knives was bought by Finnish company Fiskars Brands, which still owns them today.
Oftentimes, when companies get bought by larger international brands, their manufacturing process shortly follows suit and moves to said location. Since Fiskars Brands now owns Gerber, we wanted to know if Gerber Gear knives are still made in America.
Are Gerber Blades Made in the USA?
Gerber Gear still manufacturers several of its knives and other products in its Portland, OR facility. 139 products as of this writing, which equates to roughly 22% of products available on their website.
The production for the remaining products seems to be outsourced to other countries such as China, which seems to be a common trend in the knife industry.
Having roughly 139 products manufactured in the U.S. is a welcome sign and that number has been increasing year over year. Additionally, Gerber Gear shows no signs of shutting down American manufacturing in their Portland, OR factory, which they still operate 24/7.
In their USA facility, they go through an impressive 686,000 pounds of U.S. steel every year to manufacture their Made in the USA knives. Additionally, Gerber is the top direct supplier of knives and multi-tools for our military.
In order to find which of their products are American-made, each knife is marked with an American flag on the product page. We’ve also highlighted some of the most popular Gerber Knives that are made in America.
Are Gerber Knives Good?
Gerber Legendary Blades, more commonly known as Gerber Knives or Gerber Gear to most, may not be at the forefront of your mind when it comes to industry-leading knife makers.
Many microbrands steal the thunder with high-end knives and baller designs, and sometimes Gerber finds itself and its products being criticized.
But it’s also fair to say that Gerber remained slow and steady so that some of these newer micro brands could run and more than likely burn out. Slow is fast and fast is smooth.
Gerber Legendary Blades was home to Pete Kershaw as well as Al Mar before they both started their own successful knife brands, and they’ve cranked out collaboration designs with Chris Reeve, Rick Hinderer, and Ernest Emerson to name a few.
Gerber has been on the upswing for the past few years, coming out with creative and appealing products that offer more than just a low MSRP to entice buyers. Their simple yet robust designs are reminiscent of the earlier products I had my hands on in the 90s.
What Metal Does Gerber Use?
There seems to be a lot of debate when it comes to knife steel and which one is better than another. Then you have your super steel that some of those high-end knife makers are using.
That Gerber Gator knife that I bought and used during my time in the Marine Corps was made from 420 stainless steel. Now many will cringe at knives made with that steel, claiming that it’s cheap steel and won’t serve you as well as 154CM or even S30V.
Here’s my rebuttal to that argument. First off that Gerber Gator knife that I used heavily for 4 years in every climate imaginable never had any issues. Why? Because I took care of it. Even though it was only 420 stainless steel, I kept it clean, oiled, and sharp. I still have that knife today, over 20 years later and it’s still going strong. Take care of your gear and it will take care of you.
What To Look For in a Knife Steel
You want a durable blade that won’t bend under stress because its steel is too soft. Additionally, you don’t want a knife steel that’s so hard that it becomes brittle and chips over time with normal wear and tear. A good Goldilocks mixture of these two qualities is best.
You want a blade that can take an edge and hold an edge through repeated use. A knife that is easy to sharpen and maintain is a must in the field. How hard a blade steel is also affects how easy it is to sharpen and maintain. That’s determined by the amount of carbon in the steel. Other elements can affect how well a blade can hold that edge through repeated use as well.
Non-stainless steel knives need oil and maintenance to keep corrosion at bay. Stainless steel knives are much more forgiving, but they can still end up rusting if neglected. The number of elements such as chrome and vanadium present in the steel alloy help mitigate corrosion. But as I stated before, take care of your gear and it will take care of you.
Gerber products use a 100% high-grade stainless steel. Stainless steel is not completely resistant to rust but rather is corrosion resistant to rust. Corrosion can occur in the absence of proper maintenance. Your Gerber product should be cleaned, dried and re-oiled periodically to inhibit rust and corrosion; this is especially true in a damp or marine environment. If your Gerber product comes in contact with any substance that you are uncertain about, it is always a good idea to wash your blade off with tap water, dry it and apply a light coat of oil. If your Gerber product comes into contact with saltwater you must flush it with tap water immediately after use and coat it with good quality lightweight oil. Salt water is extremely corrosive and will attack and destroy any type of steel. – Gerber Gear
The three most popular knife steel I’ve seen Gerber Gear use is 420 stainless steel, 154CM, and S30V Steel. There are a few others, but these are the primary three.
420 Stainless Steel
If you own an older knife, chances are it’s manufactured from 420 stainless steel.
420 stainless steel that provides high corrosion resistance, high strength, and high hardness. It’s a very popular budget steel, used by many knife makers to craft high corrosion-resistant knives at an affordable price point.
When it comes to the individual properties of steel, you can easily find yourself going down a rabbit hole to understand it all. I’ve narrowed it down to the three most important properties for EDC knives, field knives, and combat knives.
Edge Retention and Sharpness: 420 stainless steel is known to be a softer steel and thus will lose its edge quicker than other steel. Being softer though lends itself to being easier to sharpen. Whether you’re using a Japanese whetstone or just a small field sharpener, you’ll get that edge back in no time. The name of the game here is consistent maintenance if you’re using your knife regularly.
Corrosion Resistance: The composition of 420 stainless steel is 13% Chromium which is a pretty good number when dealing with this budget knife steel. When you see a number like this, you know you’re going to have a higher resistance to corrosion.
Wear Resistance and Toughness: 420 stainless steel possesses a decent amount of wear resistance being that it’s a softer steel. Overall, 420 stainless steel has proven to be pretty tough. I’ve personally seen this with my Gerber Gator folder from the 90s. I used it for everything from EDC (before that was a thing) to field use. I always kept the 420 stainless steel blade dry and honed, which resulted in a high-performing knife for four years of active duty.
In general, the 420 stainless steel, thanks to its 50 HRC, possesses a good hardness and high resistance to corrosion. The corrosion resistance of 420 lends it well for use in humid or wet environments such as a Jungle, which I’ve used mine in, and other maritime environments. Even though it’s softer, it’s easy to hone and sharpen which I think is an overlooked feature of this knife steel.
154CM steel has been known for over a decade for being higher-end knife steel.
154CM steel is a stainless steel developed by Crucible in 1970 for jet engine turbine components. This steel offers high hardness, wear resistance, and enhance corrosion resistance. Today it’s used by many knifemakers.
No knife steel is 100% Immune to rust, but due to the chemical composition, 154CM steel will not rust for years. It’s a high-end stainless steel with high Chromium percentage, which enhances corrosion resistance.
154CM Steel Properties
According to the chemical composition and the steel hardness, you can expect high marks in the following properties.
Edge Retention and Sharpness: The combination of Chromium, Carbon, and Manganese in combination with a 61 HRC allows the 154CM steel to possess great corrosion resistance. Keeping 154CM sharp is a relatively easy task as well thanks to the chemical composition.
Corrosion Resistance: With a generous 14% Chromium makeup, the 154CM steel offers outstanding corrosion resistance.
Wear Resistance and Toughness: 154CM steel is a very tough steel with regards to standing up to repeated abuse. Because of how well the chemical composition and 61 HRC hardness work together, this steel is considered to be extremely impact resistant.
After reviewing these properties, it’s safe to say that it’s great knife steel. It has better wear resistance, toughness, and corrosion resistance than many other knife steel making it one of the best steel for field knives and combat knives. Although 154CM possesses some great properties it’s not by any means considered a high-end knife steel. Therefore many knife manufacturers are using it today for everything from kitchen cutlery to EDC folders and combat fixed blade knives.
S30V steel is a high-end Martensitic stainless steel that is high in Carbon, Molybdenum, and Vanadium. S30V was originally developed by Chris Reeve and Crucible in the United States. Now it’s mainly used in the making of high-end EDC knives and Culinary knives.
According to the above chemical composition and the 61 HRC of the steel, the CPM S30V Steel possesses the following features.
Edge Retention and Sharpness: With a 61 HRC due to the mixture of Tungsten, Vanadium, Manganese, and Carbon, the S30V steel offers a great hardness followed up by an excellent Edge Retention. Although S30V steel will hold an edge for a long time, it’s going to require a little patience and elbow grease to sharpen it.
Corrosion Resistance: Similar to 154CM, S30V steel offers great corrosion resistance due to having 14% Chromium as part of the chemical composition.
Wear Resistance and Toughness: Known as one of the best knife steels with regards to wear resistance, being high in vanadium and Chromium, S30V steel is a great knife steel for wear resistance. Because of this, S30V steel is a great option for EDC knives for the simple fact that you’ll not have to sharpen it for a long time.
S30V steel offers high hardness, high wear resistance, high corrosion resistance, and great toughness. S30V steel is considered a high-end knife steel, and many knife enthusiasts consider it a super steel.
With all that being said, here are my top 3 Gerber Knives based on my personal experience.
Best Gerber Knife
I’ve got years of personal experience with the following Gerber products and can 100% vouch for the build quality, usability, and toughness.
Gerber Gator (Made in the USA)
The Gerber Gator is my go-to for a field knife, whether that is a day hike, multi-day camping trip, or hunting. The rubber Gator Grip combined with the great blade design rock in outdoor environments. My original Gerber Gator was made from 420 stainless steel and is still going strong. Newer models are now also available in 154CM steel.
The Gerber Fastball has been my daily user for several years now. Because of that S30V steel that the blade is made from, I’ve not had to hone or sharpen it to date. If you’re looking for a compact and durable knife that is damn near maintenance-free, give the Gerber Fastball a serious look.
I carried my Gerber multi tool for four years straight in every weather climate imaginable. From the forests of North Carolina to the Sierra Nevada Mountains in Northern California. From the jungles of Okinawa to the Middle East deserts. It was a dependable workhorse.
I used it for cutting through a myriad of materials over that timespan; Fieldcraft tasks, disassembling my M16-A2 service rifle (before there were specialized tools for this), and even some field repairs on a Humvee (HMMWV). It truly was a multi-use tool and probably even endured some tasks Gerber never thought it would be used for.
Gerber Pro Program for Active Duty, Veterans, and First Responders
The Gerber Pro Program provides leading members of the community and industry with exclusive access and pricing on knives, tools, and equipment.
It is offered by Gerber as a Thank You, for the significant contributions made to their industry, community, and nation.
I’m personally signed up with their Veteran Pro Program which gives Military Veterans a nice discount on some killer blades. For example, The popular Gerber Center Drive Multi Tool is normally $115.00, but with my Veteran Pro Program discount, my cost is $80.50.
Every Gerber Knife and MultiTool is warrantied to be free of defects in materials for the life of the owner. Gerber Knives will repair or replace with a new one of equal value.
Some products cannot be repaired depending on the availability of parts. In these situations, Gerber will replace it with a current product that most closely matches the knife or multitool you sent in for repair.
Gerber Knives does NOT warranty its products against normal wear or misuse. Knives are not meant to be used as hammers, screwdrivers, or pry bars (although I’ve done that!).
Gerber is proud to offer a limited lifetime warranty in North America, and a 25 year limited warranty outside of North America. Gerber products are warranted to be free of defects in material and workmanship for as long as the original consumer owns the product. At Gerber’s option, defective product will be repaired, replaced, or substituted with a product of equal value. This warranty does not cover damaged product due to misuse or abuse, sharpening, normal wear and tear, accidental damage or industrial/commercial use.
For cutting tools: Gerber shall in no event be liable for incidental or consequential damages. Some states do not allow the exclusion or limitation of incidental or consequential damages, so the above exclusion may not apply to you. This warranty gives you specific legal rights, and you may also have other rights which vary from state to state. – Gerber Gear