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Gerber Instant- The Comeback Kid?

Discussion in 'Knife Reviews & Testing' started by mlanghornes, Aug 12, 2012.

  1. mlanghornes

    mlanghornes Gold Member Gold Member

    Apr 24, 2009
    Hey all, I wanted to post a quick review of a knife I picked up basically on impulse/because of a cool commercial. It’s the Gerber Instant, which I picked up for $40 at a local sporting goods chain. Now, it’s no secret that Gerber has fallen quite far in the eyes of many knife enthusiasts. What was a once-great brand has basically been driven to the brink of ruin by Fiskars. My question when purchasing this knife was, is Gerber trying to turn their game around? They’re pushing new technology and a pretty impressive YouTube Commercial, maybe this is their comeback kid? After carrying and using this knife regularly for a week, here’s my take on it.


    Let’s start at the handle. First off, it has a nice deep-carry clip, good tension, and it doesn’t dig into your hand when you hold the knife. BUT…its tip-down right hand carry only. Not good, Gerber. I know it doesn’t bother some people, but I, like many on this forum, prefer tip-up carry.

    The G10 texture is nice, slightly grippy, but not at all abrasive. The milled-out area is, surprisingly, not just for decoration. It actually makes it easy to hang on to the knife, with deep cutouts that provide grip but don’t ride up against and shred your pockets. Good job here, nice balance between grip and carry-ability.

    The ergos of this knife are great. It’s easily large enough for me to get a full grip on it, and I have medium-large hands. It has a fairly neutral handle profile, which allows you to use a variety of grips very comfortably, yet its shape keeps it firmly locked in your hand, forward and back. It’s decently thick, to provide some comfort when cutting, but not so thick that it makes carry difficult. This is a really good balance of all things required of a handle.
    It’s built using stainless liners under the G10, which are skeletonized a bit to lighten it up. It feels nice and solid in your hand, but it’s definitely not as lightweight as it could be. I’m not counting this as a negative, exactly, since it’s not a pocket brick by any extent of the imagination, it’s just something that could be improved a bit.


    OK, let’s get the negative out of the way. The Instant is combo-edged only. I know, I know, I prefer all PE too. That said, these serrations are actually pretty good. They’re pretty shallow, enough so that I tried to use the knife for detail work, to prove to myself how bad they are, and they actually didn’t hinder my work in any way at all. These are very similar to the serrations on the BG Ultimate knife, which many have said work decently well for bushcraft tasks. I do like that the serrations give me small section of the blade to use if I need to cut something really damaging to a blade, like lots of cardboard or a really dirty section of rope. They also don’t take up a full half of the blade, maybe 30%, or about an inch long, leaving me with a little over two inches of plain edge, or about the size of a Spyderco Dragonfly’s blade. Overall, not as bad as it could be, though it really should be offered in a plain-edge variant.
    The blade profile is really nice, it’s a basic modified drop point with plenty of belly and a good sharp tip for detail work. The tip isn’t prybar-like, but it’s not overly fragile, either. It’s a very “Goldilocks” shape, that’s not too thick, not too thin, not too pointy, and not too broad. Good job here.

    The blade is only available coated in what looks to be a TiNi coating. It’s even and reasonably durable. I’d prefer an uncoated blade, but that’s just me. It has a nice and even hollow grind, and holy hell, it is shaving sharp out of the box. It’s a Gerber. That is legitimately shaving sharp. I actually shaved with it (a patch on my arm). Good job here.

    Ok, here comes another point of contention. The blade steel is 7Cr17Mo, or basically Chinese 440A. Before you stop reading in disgust, take a look at how similar that composition is to 8Cr13MoV. It’s pretty close, and after having used it alongside my Kershaw RJ1 and Byrd Meadowlark, it performs pretty much the same to me. I’m sure if you took the time to do a controlled experiment, the Kershaw/Byrd stuff would come out on top, but let’s face it—if you are an enthusiast looking for edge retention, you’re probably not looking at any of these knives. For the average consumer, or for someone whose day-to-day needs do not require fantastic edge retention, this steel performs well. If you really are going to get into abrasive stuff, you have the serrations available. I’m rating this steel as acceptable/appropriate for its intended use, and counting it as a good sign that Gerber has moved away from the “surgical stainless steel” mystery crap.

    Deployment and Lock

    The Instant uses Gerber’s FAST 2.0 mechanism, which is basically a leaf spring that kicks the blade tang out from between the handles. Benchmade and CRKT use a similar system. It works well, for this type of assist system, but honestly, Kershaw SpeedSafe is the beginning and end of the discussion for me when it comes to AO knives. That’s the benchmark, YMMV. This one is good, as good as it is from Benchmade or CRKT, but it is what it is. One hit I will give it is that it can’t be deactivated, since the spring acts as the detent to keep the blade closed. That’s a big hit for me; I would love a manual version.

    The Instant uses a button lock, which was subject to a recall earlier this year. I know what you’re thinking, that Gerber, with its notoriously bad fit and finish, should never do a button lock. Actually, I’ve gotta say, they pulled it off. The button fits precisely, and locks up well and very securely, with no play at all, up and down or side to side. Well done here. I’m not sure how it is rated in terms of strength; I know the lock on the Hogue EX01 is very strong, and I also know that this knife is no Houge:D I’m sure its comparable with any well-done liner lock or lockback, and it has remained secure and easy to use during my testing time.

    Here’s a neat bonus: Gerber’s Venture knife is heavily marketed as a premium knife due to its titanium handles and ball bearing pivot system. Guess what else has a ball bearing pivot, at half the cost, with G10 handles instead of slick Ti and a drop point blade instead of a tanto :)Yep, they’re in there, and they work well; the blade flies out, almost frictionless, its dead-centered in the handle, and when you unlock the blade with the button, the knife drops with the force of gravity alone. Very cool, I’m not sure why it’s not mentioned anywhere, maybe to preserve sales of the venture?
  2. mlanghornes

    mlanghornes Gold Member Gold Member

    Apr 24, 2009

    The Instant looks like it is marketed as a go-anywhere, do anything type of knife…and for the most part, I would agree with that. It is a very versatile design, and would meet the needs of most people doing most things. It’s not as strong as a ZT, nor does it slice as well as a FFG Spyderco, but it is a nice all-around design that could be used as a backup when hiking, as a work/utility knife, even as an emergency self-defense knife. It’s a knife that you can clip in your pocket and be prepared for the vast majority of what life throws at you, (provided you use it as a cutting tool) for an investment of $40 or so. It’s not better across-the-board than other value offerings from Kershaw or Spyderco/Byrd, but it is easily competitive, and many people will like it more.

    If Gerber made it available with a plain edge, uncoated blade, with manual deployment and a tip-up option, I’d buy three and call it the best knife under $50. As it is, I won’t hesitate to recommend it to those new people on the forums who want a folder that can do everything under $50.

    Good job Gerber. Please let this be the first good effort of many, I know many on this forum would love to see you return to your glory days.
    PS. Please excuse the crappy cell-phone pictures, they were pretty spur of the moment.
  3. jacksterp


    Jun 3, 2011
    Terrific review and good looking knife. Enjoy!
  4. Angus McGunnigl

    Angus McGunnigl

    May 22, 2002
    Looks like a decent knife to me.
    The video ad is very good.
    I haven't written off Gerber.
    They still make some good basic knives and are trying to stay afloat like many old companies.
  5. FCFER


    Aug 18, 2006
    I've had mine for a little over a week now. Gotta say I love the knife! I stopped carrying Gerber a few years ago as the quality just didnt seem to be the same anymore. I was very glad to see that they stepped thier game up and produced this little gem.
    Great review!
  6. JPD1998

    JPD1998 Gold Member Gold Member

    Oct 18, 2004
    Thanks for a great review.

    I haven't written off Gerber either.
    I recently bought two of their knives, a DMF folder and the manual Combat Folder. I'm happy with both.
  7. Tilaran


    Jul 29, 2012
    I wrote them off. Buck too.
    "Stay afloat" ? Nonsense. Greed ? No question.
    Click here for a real knife company(on pontoons)
  8. starstryker


    Jun 29, 2009
    Great review and I concur. I too have a Gerber Instant. I have been carrying it since the end of July and have really put it through its paces using it for every cutting task I have had, from the garage to outdoors to the kitchen. It does seem to be the do anything go everywhere knife they market it to be. It came out of the box shaving sharp and it has retained a very good edge and is still shaving sharp. The blade locks like a bank vault. This knife has really made me come to like Gerber again. IMO it is a home run. I have far more expensive assisted openers that I dont like as much as this knife, which I bought for less than $40 from Amazon.

    I would buy this in a plain edge in a heartbeat.

  9. Howling Dingo

    Howling Dingo

    Aug 11, 2012
    Great review!!
  10. Rapt_up


    May 4, 2012
    Blade shape is very reminiscent of some Benchmades (Rift Contego for example)

    Their ads are all about the people, hardly any info on the knife, hardly any even views of the knife.
  11. ursamajor


    Oct 27, 2010
    Good luck with Gerber-and I am not trolling. I bought a Gerber Fast Draw from Wally World a few years ago. Looked like a find, sharp looks, spring assisted, etc.

    Well the lock on the blade crapped out after a couple of months, so I contacted Gerber for a warranty claim. Filled out their online form and was told that I would hear from them within 3 business days. Well it has been more than a year, and no email, no phone call.

    IMHO they are the worst mainstream knife manufacturer in the business. Horrible product, and a farce of a lifetime warranty-they will just ignore you. So I submitted another claim. Cant say that I have been anxious to get in contact with them-just crack jokes on them with my buddy who is from Oregon and used to brag Gerber up. I know that even if Gerber eventually does replace the knife, if it is another Gerber product, it will be nothing more than replacing 1 turd with another turd.

    There are too many good companies out there to justify gambling on Gerber.
  12. ursamajor


    Oct 27, 2010
    When looking at plumbing ads in the phone book, you usually see only people too-the reason why...no one really wants to look at a photo of a turd.
  13. ASBOB

    ASBOB Gold Member Gold Member

    Feb 8, 2008
    Solid review, but Gerber is nowhere near the "brink of ruin". It has moved powerfully into another market and is likely doing quite well there. Every big box store has the, even before Bucks sometimes, and I just went into REI and their entire knife section was a solid wall of Gerbers. Not even a SAK.

    Folks like us might recognize what they're doing and condemn it, but financially I assume they're doing fine.
  14. bean_sips


    Jul 26, 2010
    I'm glad to see this knife come out from Gerber. I'm aware that Gerber has, for the most part, fallen out of favor in our community, so I'm excited to see any step in the right direction in terms of knife design. I have to admit that the commercial made me want to go out and cut some stuff.
  15. Henry44


    Nov 6, 2007
    I have 5 or 6 Gerber knives. I have the Crusader,Air Ranger, mini covert, LST 400,. All bought used. None of them are for sale. Non have disappointed. I have a problem deciding to carry the mini covert or Delica 3, so depends on the day. Some days i have to decide on the Crusader or the Recon 1. I realize that the Delica and the Recon are of higher quality, but i like the Mini and the Crusader almost as much. I also have to say that i was never impressed with the "Good Old Gerbers". They mostly seemed to have a lot of square shouldered brass and plain looking drop points. Oh, there was the big folder with all wood handle that was big and fat and looked like someone squeezed a dog t-rd for the pattern for the handle(dumb old me,they are $300 to $500,collectibles now).

    I am pretty sure that the "Good Old Gerbers" were of higher quality and build. Don't know, cuz i never wanted one. I have wanted several of "The New Junk". "The New Junk", i find more aesthetically pleasing and i have not had to use diamonds to sharpen them.

    Bear in mind, i managed to get through the most abusive years of my knifehood (8-18) with a mere Imperial "KampKing". I still have it, it still works.

    I do know quality and fit and finish. I do understand pride in ownership. I do understand new improved steel. I am not a knife newb. I just don't want get sick and mourn the loss of better knives than i have. I rambled, i am sorry. regards Henry
  16. JPD1998

    JPD1998 Gold Member Gold Member

    Oct 18, 2004
    Here's a picture of a Gerber Combat Folder I bought a few months ago.

    This one is made in Oregon, and is top shelf.
    - premium steel
    - anodized aluminum over a steel frame.
    - steel glass breaker
    - button lock

    I normally don't buy serrated blades , but I got a good deal on it.

  17. Lycosa


    Aug 24, 2007
    Nice job.
    Gerber is coming back. It'll take awhile but the word will get around.
    I EDC the Gerber Remix Tanto. shhhhhhhhh...
  18. umustbready


    Aug 16, 2012
    The Gerber Instant - It's Stoppable

    I purchased a Gerber Instant about three weeks ago. The blade shape and the feel of the knife in hand was my main reasons of purchase.

    The first week I had it I absolutely loved the knife. I bought it as my work knife, one I would not mind thumping on. That entire week in the back of my mind I was thinking "this is a really good design, I don't know why everyone is always bashing on Gerber for their lack of quality." Then exactly week after getting it, the spring assist function broke. The bar that applies pressure to the tang to spring it open broke.

    And no I was not nor had I hard used it by any means. I was simply closing the blade and it broke. I have been meaning to take pics and post something. Anyways I love the blade design but thus far I am very displeased with the quality and warranty services.
  19. PropThePolecat


    Jan 31, 2009
    Good review.

    I really liked that ad. It looked professionally produced and they deserve a pat on the back for investing money in such a ad for a 40 buck knife.

    I like some knives from Gerber...every single one I've owned has served me well, be it the Gator, LMF 2 or the mp600.
  20. mlanghornes

    mlanghornes Gold Member Gold Member

    Apr 24, 2009
    Yeah, I think the torsion bar design is prone to do that, which is one reason I prefer Speedsafe. Let us know if there is a repeated failure- I can understand one getting by QC, its happened to me with a Benchmade Aphid that used this same assist system, but a repeted failure is a problem. Let us know how Gerber CS treats you, too.

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