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Reviews > Knives > Folding > Gerber Legendary Blades Instant Knife > Test Report by alex legg

Gerber Instant Knife
Test Series by Alex Legg
Initial Report September 20th, 2012
Field Report January 8th, 2013
Long Term Report February 26th, 2013


Tester Information:

Name:  Alex Legg
Age:  30
Gender:  Male
Height:  6'4" (1.9 m)
Weight:  195 lb (88 kg)
Email address:  alexlegg2 AT yahoo DOT com
City, State, Country:  Tucson, Arizona, USA

I grew up backpacking in the Rockies.   I hike ranges throughout Arizona and Colorado year round.  I carry a light pack, mostly water.  I prefer a tarp shelter to my heavier 2-person tent.  I do many day hikes and I also spend as many as 5 days out at a time.  Temperatures range from below freezing to above 100 F (38 C), and elevations from 2,000 ft to 14,000 ft (610 m to 4, 300 m).  I bag a mountain almost every weekend, and I walk my dogs 4 miles (6 km) daily through deep sand and overgrown mesquite trees in our local washes.

Initial Report:

Product Information and Specifications:

Manufacturer: Gerber Legendary Blades
Year of Manufacture: 2012
URL: http://www.gerbergear.com
Listed Weight: 3.4 oz (96 g)
Measured Weight: 3.9 oz (111 g)
Listed Blade Length: 3.3 in (8cm)
Measured Blade Length 3.3 in (8 cm)
Listed Closed Length: 4.4 in (11.2 cm)
Measured Closed Length: 4.5 in (11.4 cm)
Listed Overall Length: 7.8 in (20 cm)
Measured overall Length: 7.8 in (20 cm)
Blade Material: Stainless Steel (7CR17MOV)
Handle Material: G-10 composite
MSRP: $49.00

Product Description and Initial Impressions:

I was immediately impressed by the sleek look and sturdy feel of the Gerber Instant Knife.  The layered G-10 composite handle looks very tough and seems to grip well in my hand.  The handle has four slits of various sizes cut into it.  I'm not sure if this is for a special purpose, or if it is just to cut down on weight.  The Gerber website does not mention anything in regards to this.  The slits have a slightly sharp edge, maybe I could cut some fishing line with them.  Regardless of their purpose, I think they add a cool look to the knife so I will leave it at that.  The handle is held together by two hex bolts near the base, and one large hex bolt at the pivot where the blade opens.  The belt clip is mounted just above the pivot bolt and extends down to the first slit in the handle, partially covering the pivot bolt.  The design of the Instant makes it ideal to clip inside my pocket on my right side.  If I were to want to carry it on my left side in this fashion, I would need to flip the knife over to open it.  It seems it would be easier to clip the knife to the outside of the pocket or maybe to my belt if I were to carry it on the left side.  I have my doubts about how long the clip will keep its tension based on my past experiences with similar knives.  Generally after a while I have to unscrew the clip and attempt to bend it back into position so that the knife will stay connected to my pants.

The thumb stud is mounted near the base of the blade in a great spot for convenient opening.  As I slide my right thumb to the left, the assisted opening 2.0 mechanism opens the blade quickly and smoothly.  It clicks into place making that sound of a knife opening that I like so much.  For me it is fun just to open the blade again and again just to hear this sound!  The thumb plunge lock is a cool feature.  Instead of looking for a piece of metal to move over or push down so that I can close the blade, I simply push the button with my thumb and the blade drops about halfway.  There is a small metal rod inside the handle that stops the blade before it chops my fingers and then by adding a little pressure the blade closes.  I think this rod must also serve as the spring for the 2.0 assisted opening mechanism.

The Stainless Steel blade is all black except for a Gerber logo next to the thumb stud and the sharp edge.  The logo on the blade looks to me like a sword stuck in a diamond, or maybe a stone.  The edge of the blade seems quite sharp.  The edge runs from the tip of the blade following a wide curve towards the handle.  There is about a 1 in (2.5 cm) section at the base of the blade that has been cut into a serrated edge, a great attribute to the blade in my opinion.  The top of the blade above the logo has 6 small grooves cut into it that add to the overall grip of the knife while in use.   They are paralleled by 5 small grooves on the handle that serve the same purpose.  I did notice some discrepancy in the measurements of the knife when I compared the packaging and the Gerber website.  I listed the information from the packaging in my product information and specifications section because it was the most accurate compared to my measurements.

Summary:

So far I like the knife!  It feels very light in my hand and it seems to grip well.  It is a comfortable size in my hand and feels naturally easy to open.  I like the shape of the blade and the overall look of the knife.  The serrated edge is a feature I have found very useful in past knives, so I look forward to working with it.  I am a bit worried that the blade may open up while in my pocket due to how well the assisted opening mechanism works, but I will have to wait and see.  I can't wait to get out there and play with this knife!

Things I like:

1.  Sleek look
2.  Lightweight
3.  Easy opening

Concerns:

1.  Will the belt clip keep its integrity or will I have to adjust it over time?
2.  Will the blade open up inside my pocket?

Field Report:

Field Conditions:

I carry the Instant daily around town as well as in the backcountry.  Below are a few of the backpacking trips I have carried the blade on.

I took an overnight trip to the Santa Rita Mountains in Coronado National Forest, Arizona.  The elevation ranged from 4,500 ft to 7,080 ft (1,370 m to 2,158 m) and the temperature ranged from 15 F to 45 F (-9 C to 7 C).

I went on another overnight trip to the Wilderness of Rocks in Coronado National Forest, Arizona.  The elevation ranged from 7,280 ft to 9,080 ft (2,219 ft to 2,768 m) and the temperature ranged from 25 F to 50 F (-4 C to 10 C).

I carried the knife on a 22 m (35 km) segment of the Arizona Trail starting in Patagonia Arizona.  The trip was 2 days and 1 night.  The elevation ranged from around 4,100 ft to around 6,400 ft (1,250 m to 1,951 m) and the temperature ranged from 20 F to 55 F (-7 C to 13 C).

Performance in the Field:

The Gerber Instant Knife has performed decently.  I can't say that I am totally satisfied, or that I am totally unsatisfied.  My initial concerns about the belt clip wearing out did not turn out exactly as I had anticipated, however it still had some pretty serious problems.  I was concerned that the clip would stretch out and no longer hold the knife onto my pants but that did not happen.  What did occur is that after dropping the knife once from about waist height, the entire clip broke off.  Then I had to carry the knife in my pocket loosely.  The bolts that held the clip in place snapped during the fall.  I was surprised by this because many of my knives get dropped, sometimes often while being used consistently.

The blade has held its strength and sharpness.  I have no complaints about this.  I have used the knife to open boxes, to cut into packages, to cut meat and cheese, and various other things.  It has been in my pocket on many backpacking trips and has served me well cutting food and carving sticks to pass the time.  I have managed to put a few small scratches on the blade but nothing too deep.  Mostly the scratches have just worn off the black coating, but never gone into the metal.  The serrated edge has proven very effective at sawing through rope for projects around the house and at campsites. 

The G-10 composite handle is still very strong.  I really like the grip that it gives while working with the blade.  It has held up to a decent amount of abuse and proven an adequate beer bottle opener.  There are a few small scratches from the bottle caps, but to my surprise, nothing very deep at all.

The biggest issues I have had involved the assisted opening mechanism.  Initially the knife opened a bit too easily.  I can count the amount of times the blade has opened inside my pocket on two hands.  This is not something that makes me very happy, especially when I realize it has just opened while my two year old is on my lap.  Luckily no one has been injured, and my clothes have not been damaged.  The second problem proved to be a game ender.  I pushed the blade open and out of nowhere the thumb plunge suddenly went flying.  To say that I was surprised is an understatement.  I spent about ten minutes trying to find the plunge in the dirt.  When I did find it I figured that it could easily be put back into place, but in fact it could not.  The plunge does not stay in place and falls out easily now.  Without it in place, the blade does not stay open and is useless for anything past drawing in the sand.  Wow what a bummer.  It is too bad that the entire function of the knife depends on the small little thumb plunge.  I was really liking the knife before this happened.  I always carry a similar knife and I have been doing so for years and this is the first knife that became utterly useless without any cause.  I have to say I am disappointed in Gerber and disappointed in the Instant at this point.

Customer Service:

I emailed Gerber in regards to their warranty information.  I received a response the following day that contained a paragraph about normal wear and tear and such.  I felt that the mood of their letter sounded as if they did not want to replace the knife, but they did provide me with an address to ship the Instant to be examined.  The company did not offer to pay for shipping costs or to reimburse me.

I received a phone call from a representative about two weeks after sending in my knife.  This came after several emails were only answered with the stock message alerting me that they had indeed received a message from me.  I was happy to hear that Gerber would replace the knife.  They told me that the Instant was back ordered and offered me a credit of equal value or to wait for my knife to come back in stock.  I chose to wait for the Instant so that I could continue the testing process.  My new knife came about one week later.

The Replacement Knife:

I got the knife out of the packaging and flicked the blade open.  I noticed that this knife was much harder to open than the first knife.  I also noticed that the thumb plunge did not protrude from the handle near as much as it did on the first knife, it also seemed a lot more stiff and difficult to use.  Next I looked at the edge on the blade and saw what looked to me like a noticeably larger area of stainless steel showing past the black color.  In my experience, this can be a sign of a blade that has been sharpened after the original sharpening.  I also noticed that on the belt clip side of the blade, the number 1212 was imprinted near the thumb stud.  The original knife had no number there at all.  My first thought was that the knife may be a refurbished product and not a new one.  I have no way of telling for sure, but the action of the opening mechanism is considerably more stiff and I really have to push hard with my thumb to get the assisted opening mechanism to engage and close.  As of yet, the belt clip on the new blade has not had any problems.

Summary:

Overall I still like the knife.  It is not as smooth feeling as the original but still seems like a good blade for the cost.  I have my doubts about the longevity of the Instant due to my experiences with the first one I got, and due to the sluggishness of the assisted opening mechanism on the replacement blade.  I suspect I received a refurbished blade as a replacement, but I can't tell for sure. 

Things I Like:

1.  Sharp blade
2.  Sleek looking knife
3.  Composite handle is tough and grips well

Concerns:

1.  Blade opens in my pocket
2.  Belt clip couldn't hold up to a single drop from about waist high
3.  Replacement knife opens sluggishly
4.  Replacement thumb plunge requires a lot of force to engage

Long Term Report:

Field Conditions:

I have carried the Gerber Instant on all of my recent backpacking outings.  I have also carried it as an everyday tool.  I have used it for many things from opening boxes, cutting cordage and cleaning my finger nails.  Some of my backpacking outings are listed below.

I took the knife on a 2-day 1-night trip to the Catalina Mountains north of Tucson, Arizona.  The elevation was around 7,500 ft (2,286 m) and the temperature ranged from 25 F to 55 F (-4 C to 13 C).

I also used the knife on an overnight trip to the Santa Rita Mountains south of Tucson, Arizona. The elevation ranged from around 5,000 ft to around 8,000 ft (1,524  m to around 2,438 m) and the temperature ranged from 30 F to 45 F (-1 C to 7 C).

The knife was also carried on an overnight car camping trip to the Rincon Mountains east of Tucson, Arizona.  The elevation was around 6,500 ft (1,981 m) and the temperature ranged from 35 F to 50 F (2 C to 10 C).

Performance in the Field:

I feel I need to be objective in reporting back on this knife because I have mainly had problems with it during everyday use.  Generally while I am on a trail the knife is in my pocket, not being used.  Since I write reviews on products for backpacking on this site I feel that it is important to say that most of my experiences while backpacking were good.  The knife cut through food well, scraped the bark off small branches decently, and stabbed into tree stumps without much force.  The knife generally stayed clipped to my pocket except for after the clip weakened and became very stretched out.  Again, I feel that while backpacking I am mostly upright and walking, so this was not a huge issue.  It wasn't until the knife was used extensively for everyday use that I began to have problems.

The stretched out belt clip became a problem after nearly a month of being clipped to my pocket daily.  Bending the clip back to shape did no good, even if I unscrewed it from the handle and over stretched it with pliers.  These attempts seemed to just weaken the clip more.  Toward the end of the testing period the only thing holding the Instant to my pocket was gravity itself.  I did noticed that the blade would open in my pocket a lot more often after the clip was stretched and the knife had freedom to wobble about.  The clips lack of strength eventually led to the knife falling out of my pocket while sitting in a loud restaurant, and I was never able to recover it.  I will note that the testing period had finished when this happened.  Of course it fell from my pocket about a week after the testing period was finished but it was the second knife I received from Gerber.  In actuality, each knife lasted far less than the four month testing period.

Although the point of the Instant sticks into wood easily, a fairly flimsy piece of painted drywall managed to bend the point.  I can't express my shock in seeing this adequately here.  I remember loudly exclaiming something along the lines of "you gotta be kidding me," but I think there were a few other words mixed in.   Again I feel I must be objective because the tip never failed while backpacking, but I like to be able to keep a knife as a tool on me at all times.  I never use them for tasks that I feel they would have any problem with, or that would abuse them.  Since drywall is just dust filled paper and paint is measured in millimeters, I really didn't expect what I saw.  I can say without a doubt that this moment changed my opinion of Gerber in a big way. 

The blade of the Instant has remained strong, but not especially sharp.  Certain things like cloth mesh or thin nylon rope it can still cut through with ease.  Other things like the plastic rings that hold a six pack of beer together seem to take a monumental effort to cut through.

My personal opinion is that this knife being mass produced for Gerber in China has had the effect of providing a less durable tool that falls apart easily.  I have had Gerber blades in the past that I swore by and have kept sharp for years, but I noticeably did not find the words made in China anywhere on them.  Unfortunately when a tool is mass produced to save production cost, quality often goes out the window.   I'm glad that I used this knife on an everyday basis and not just as a backpacking accessory because I may not have seen how flimsy the knife truly is during the course of the test.  This is a situation where looks can be deceiving.  The Instant looks like such a tough knife, but my use during this testing period has shown me otherwise.

Summary:

When I compare the Instant to similar knives from other trusted companies, I find many stronger and longer lasting blades that sometimes cost about half of what the Instant is retailing for.  I hope that Gerber goes back to the drawing board with this one because they have a lot of time honored customers who still have nothing but trust in the Gerber brand.  I think this same knife being built stronger would keep me satisfied for a long time to come.

Things I liked:

1.  Cool looking knife
2.  Handle grips well

Things I didn't like:

1.  Flimsy construction
2.  Weak blade tip
3.  Weak belt clip
4.  Quickly dulling blade


I would like to thank Gerber Legendary Blades and BackpackGearTest.org for the chance to participate in this test!





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Reviews > Knives > Folding > Gerber Legendary Blades Instant Knife > Test Report by alex legg



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