Gerber screws around with that stamped 425 stuff *way* too much. Cold Steel is more creative, usually a better buy, and one of the few mass-market sources left for non-stainless serious fixed-blades.
While Buck also dabbles in 425 at the lower end, they also do better stuff, their newest low-end ATS34 line is a GREAT step forward and the TI-coat series is seriously kick ass. And they're easily the most moral of the low-to-mid companies described, they've supported Calif. legal reform and assist Paul Bos in getting many custom makers started.
cold steel is great. tough stuff, high quality, excellent workmanship.
gerber is also great. again, excellent workmanship, high quality, also very sturdy.
buck is crap (except for their traditional folding hunter series). generally poor workmanship, not sturdy.
gerber is tops.
"open it up and stick it in..."
as companies overall, you can't say one's better.
cold steel makes good folders, gerber makes crap folders, then they also make very good folders (spectre, SL, Walker, airframe...).
i'd say for folders, gerber is better with their ats34/154cm knives (and some of their aus-8 like the air ranger),
as for fixed blades, there's not much to compare, gerber doesn't have any like cold steel does, so i guess cold steel's better in that category.i think it all depends on the model knife you're looking at and for what purpose it's used for.
the crazied knife weilding Sarah McLachlan fan =)
I am very happy with my Gerber SLG 3.25 (ATS34/G10) but my Gerber Chameleon 2 is just a toy.
In general I think that Gerber produces very good quality in their mid to higher priced knives (which still are not too expensive).
I have no experience with Cold Steel knives but GERBER Yari fixed blade is nice!
BTW, old Pro Guide was one of my outdoor favorites for long time. What a pity that they discontinued it!
Their low end (as to GERBER of course
) folders like AR 3.0 and SLG 3.25 are quite decent knives also. They are well made and use hi grade materials in very attractive price. Definitely not the worst buys!
I'm speaking only about knives I have experience with...
However I do not see too much sense to compare manufacturers. Maybe particular knife comparison could be more adequate?
My 70's fixed blade Gerbers made of L6(?) steel are superb. However the Gerbers of the past decade use inferior recycled tincans for blades. Their ATS34 doesn't seem to hold an edge as well as others I have. Thus I must pick Cold Steel as making the best fixed blades. The use of 420 HC in some of their new knives is worrisome however.