Gerber Legendary Blades dates back to 1939, when the knife maker went by Gerber Hand-Made Blades. What started off as Christmas presents for clients of Gerber Advertising in Portland, Oregon ended up as one of the most respected names in cutlery. Today, Gerber is owned by Fiskars in Finland, another company with a “legendary” worldwide reputation in cutlery.
Gerber Knives have a unique reputation of perfect craftsmanship. The blades smoothly open with no roughness, catches, or uneven friction spots. Everything on the knives are radiused, and rounded. The knives are refined and as mechanically flawless as any man-made device can be. Think BMW, Cadillac, Mercedes, Lexus. That is Gerber.
New for 2011, Gerber Legendary Blades introduced three tactical folders of interest to law enforcement. These knives have three very different lock designs and two very different blade steels.
New for 2011 is the Answer XL tactical folder. This is an expansion of the Answer line of folders with 3.3-inch blades. In fact, for those operators familiar with the Answer-series, the Answer XL is the same exact knife…just longer blade. The original Answer-series of 3.3-inch blades are available in both drop point and Tanto, and with both a plain edge or a partially-serrated blade. The new Answer XL, however, is only available as a partially-serrated, Tanto point.
The Answer XL uses the Gerber FAST method of opening. FAST is Forward Action Spring Technology, introduced in 2005. That means the Answer XL is an “assisted” folder. Of course, this is not a “switchblade” nor is it an “automatic” opening knife, which both open by the press of a button or the pull of a slide.
Instead, as with all assisted knives, the operator must manually begin to open the blade. Then past a certain arc in the opening process, the blade is opened the rest of the way by a spring. In the case of Gerber FAST, the spring action takes place after the blade is opened 10 degrees. The Answer XL, like most assisted knives, has a sliding safety to keep the blade from accidentally opening.
The blade springs fully open and locks. In addition to a fast and easy, one hand opening, an
assisted knife is more likely to fully and completely lock than a manually opened knife. Some manual knives, especially liner-lock, just barely engage locking parts. The assisted knife always slams the blade home. The Answer XL has dual thumb studs to start the opening process. The blade is unlocked to close by pushing the sliding switch-safety forward, which took some getting used to.
An assisted knife, like the Answer XL, is an excellent choice for a patrol duty knife. A right handed officer needs to draw and fully open the tactical folder with the left hand from the left pocket during a struggle or gun grab or other activity where the strong side hand is very busy. While the Answer XL has dual thumb studs, the pocket clip is not reversible. That’s a problem for right handed officer wanting to carry the Answer XL in the left side pocket.
The Answer XL has a long, 4-inch blade made from a 0.125-inch thick blank, which is a good thickness for a police folder. The blade is made from a Chinese stainless steel known as 7Cr17MoV.
The Answer XL uses a hollow grind on the blade edge. This makes a concave, beveled cutting edge. The result is a thinner cross-section but a blade that is fantastically sharp. Since the blade is thinner than a typical flat grind, the edge is weaker. A knife with a hollow grind will cut like the straight razor it really is but the knife cannot be abused like a screwdriver, chisel or pry bar. That said, the pivot pin is also a bit smallish.
The Answer XL uses an aluminum handle with a textured inlay. Aluminum makes great handles for a hard-use folder. The profile of the handle has an index finger groove, and slight reliefs for the other fingers. The only drawback is giving the smooth aluminum enough roughness or texture for a slip-resistant grip. The textured inlays only minimally improve this.
Overall this is a great knife for cutting, both due to the 440C-like alloy and the hollow grind. We used the knife for awhile and it held its edge well. When sharpening a hollow ground edge, you have to be very precise with the stone.
This big folder is not the best choice for abusive use, so use the Answer XL like a straight razor—a task for which it excels. That might mean the original Answer folder with the slightly shorter blade is just as good a choice, because you are less tempted to abuse a shorter blade when the task is limited strictly to cutting.
DMF Manual Folder
The DMF Manual Folder is obviously a manually-opening version of the Automatic DMF. (DMF means Dual Multi Function.) Another big difference exists between the Automatic and Manual versions. The Automatic uses the high-end S30V blade alloy while the Manual uses 7Cr17MoV, a lower-end, 440C-like stainless steel.
The Manual DMF uses a nice, thick 0.125-inch blade, 3 1/2-inches long. The folder is available only with a partially-serrated blade, which is ideal for police use. The modified clip point blade is a bit different from traditional police-oriented folders. Frankly, the blade profile is surprisingly functional—a sort of clip point and Tanto point all in one. Like the Answer XL, the DMF Manual Folder uses a hollow grind. Again, that means maximum cutting and slicing. But with less cross-section, it also means the edge is weaker, and not helped much by the 7Cr17MoV alloy.
The Manual DMF uses G10 handles for absolute durability. The handle profile has pronounced index and middle finger grooves, with heavy jimping along the rest of the grip area. The roughened G10 and the finger grooves add up to a very solid grasp of the knife.
The Manual DMF uses dual thumb studs and a solid, reliable wedge lock against the tang. The blade release is ambidextrous. It is possible to pull the blade release with one finger, but a pinch is a lot easier. The Manual DMF has a reversible pocket clip. It also has an exposed pommel for striking – a nice touch.
Overall the Manual DMF is a lower cost version of the Automatic DMF. The hollow ground and the 7Cr17MoV blade alloy seem to be at odds with the indestructible G10 grips and sure-grip finger grooves. The former says ultra-sharp, but fine edge. The latter says rugged, rough use. Depending on state laws and departmental policy, the Automatic DMF is probably better suited to how cops really use knives.
06 Manual Combat Folder
The 06 series is Gerber’s best selling line of tactical folders. The Made-in-USA 06 Manual Combat Folder simply continues that line of excellence. Again, the new 06 Manual is obviously a manually-opening version of the 06 Automatic. This 06 Manual and the 06 Automatic use the same high-end S30V blade steel.
The 06 Automatic uses G10 handles while the 06 Manual uses aluminum. Aluminum is a good choice for rough duty folders as long as the aluminum handles are machined with grooves for texturing – and these definitely are. They make for a good grip with bare hands and gloved hands alike. We like the exposed pommel-sometimes objects simply need to be pounded or struck.
We tested the new 06 Manual with the drop point, partially-serrated blade. The other knives already in the 06 series include the 06 FAST Tanto, serrated and the 06 Auto, Tanto, serrated. With the new 06 Manual, Gerber now has a manually-opening, an assisted-opening and an automatic-opening folder in the 06 series. All the 06-series tactical folders use 3.6 inch long blades.
The blade design of the 06 Manual uses the same awesome S30V stainless steel as the other 06-series knives. However, there are two differences with the 06 Manual. First, it is a classic drop point. Sometimes we can get the thinner drop point into places we can’t get the thicker Tanto point. Frankly, we prefer the drop or clip point for “patrol” knives while the Tanto point should be considered for “SWAT” knives.
The other difference between the 06 Manual and the other knives in the 06-series is the slot on the back of the blade for wire bending, tab bending. The super-tough S30V alloy allows this sort of task. On the topic of ruggedness, the 06-series blades are secured by nice large pivot pins.
The 06 Manual has dual thumb studs top open the blade. It also uses an excellent plunge-lock design. Moving between two slabs of hard aluminum, the plunge-lock engages a large notch in the blade tang to lock the blade open. This unique tang-lock is a more robust lock design than the lower-cost liner-lock. We like the plunge-lock…a lot.
We used the 06 Manual quite a bit, for quite awhile, with both bare and gloved hands. Never did the plunge-lock unlock, even with hard hand-twisting. This is something that cannot be said about a liner-lock or lock-back. The plunge-lock is simply out of the way.
One additional area of excellence: the 06 Manual has a 3-way pocket clip. It is fully ambidextrous with a tip-up carry, in addition, the optional mounting allows a right pocket with a tip-down carry. This shows attention to detail.
Overall? There are many good reasons the 06-series is Gerber’s best selling tactical folders. Just take your pick for police use. We like autos and assisted knives a lot for police use. Just personally, we like the clip (or drop) point more than the Tanto. In the case of the 06 Manual, the blade opens so silky smooth, it is about as easy to open as an assisted folder. It might be a manually opening knife, but it is a Gerber manually opening knife.
Online, the 06 Auto runs between $140 and $170, while the 06 FAST runs between $90 and $100. The 06 Manual checks in between $110 and $140. Any of these 06 Combat Folders will handle more than we can dish out either on-patrol or during a callout.
What is 7Cr17MoV?
This is becoming a Frequently Asked Question in the blade world. As more companies are importing knives from China, more knives are coming to market with the popular-in-China stainless steel known as 7Cr17MoV.
Some parts of this steel are easy to decode. This alloy has 0.7 percent Carbon. That is comparable to 440A stainless, but far less than 440C. This Chinese stainless steel has 17 percent Chromium, which is exactly what the 440-series has.
The exact amount of Molybdenum and Vanadium appear to be proprietary, but educated guesses are 1 percent and 0.1 percent, respectively. Moly helps hardness and prevents brittleness. Vanadium increases wear resistance, allows a sharper edge and adds toughness. The addition of small amounts of Vanadium make the 7Cr17MoV better than 440A, and more like 440B. The Rockwell Hardness C-scale for 7Cr17MoV is an overlap for 440B and 440C.
Being close to 440C is okay for a duty knife. In fact, 440C was the standard of performance for a stainless steel knife a decade or so. Today, 440C (or its equivalent) should be considered the minimum acceptable grade of stainless. As such, 7Cr17MoV qualifies for most kinds of police work.