Tuesday, March 2, 2010

New Gerber Descent Carabiner Framelock

Oh jeez...where do i begin? Another cool-looking 2010 Gerber design, made in China and sold at a reasonable price. It retails for about $38.00 USD, but can easily be found for about $20.00 USD on better knife retail sites, or in my case, warehouse membership sporting goods stores. Right off the bat, I have to say, this is one of the most difficult opening knives I've ever bought! It has dual thumb-studs, but the action is terribly stiff. Not to mention the fact that the pivot tension adjustment screw (torx) is under the clip, what's more, under the section of the clip that doesn't have any cutouts. In other words, to adjust the pivot action, you'd have to remove the clip screws, take the clip off, adjust it to your liking, then re-attach and tighten the clip screws! Ridiculous! It's either an incredible design flaw, or it's intentional. If this knife is being marketed toward rock climbers and other folks for general highly active outdoor sporting purposes, maybe Gerber's design team intended this to be a folder that was incapable of accidental opening. It's almost like the CRKT/Halligan KISS knife in principle, what with the frame-lock design, however, the sharp edge of the blade is always protected by the back spacer (in blue) piece that connects to the spring loaded carabiner.
In fact, the longer I play with my new purchase, the more I'm beginning to think that the stiff action is intentional, especially if, as Gerber mentions in their literature, the knife is to be attached via the built in carabiner to backpacks, pants etc. I know I wouldn't want a super touchy knife to drop into the open position while attached to my pack strap, running the risk of cutting me or my other gear. The front pivot area is capped with a stepped disc that matches the look of the thumbstuds.

Gripe aside, it can definitely be opened one-handed, it just takes a little extra push and effort. The dual thumbstuds are typical and have that sort of stepped-down machining for a better grip. The lockup is rock solid, and while the liner/frame lock must be depressed flat into the handle, it takes some getting used to, but is fairly convenient. I like the open construction, as knives built like this are very easy to clean, rinse and maintain, especially when used outdoors, where your only option might be running your folder under water, or swishing it in a riverbed or something to get some of the grime off of it.

I like the fact that the traditional pocket clip was included as well as the springy carabiner. The clip is mounted high and folded over, so it sinks deeply and discreetly into your pocket. Because the knife rides so deeply, the textured front pivot disc aids in getting a solid grip as the knife is drawn. The whole package is very light, @ 2.7 oz. The frame, clip and housing are aluminum, while the blade material ins't specified, it's probably in the CroMoV family of Chinese steels that are so popular with American manufacturers who manufacture some products in Taiwan and China. From my understanding, these CroMo V type steels are essentially Chinese equivalents of 420 and 440 type steels.

The Descent's blade shape is what I would describe as an upswept sheep's foot. It almost reminds me of a platypus' beak or something. Mine is plain-edged and dangerously sharp, right off the shelf. In my opinion, this is one of those knives that's so odd looking, it's attractive. I mean, it's nothing special, and certainly nothing we haven't seen in various combinations on other knives, or at least bits of its aesthetics, but the longer I handle it, the more I like it. Again, this was another Aaron-impulse-buy. I'd actually gone to the store to get some wadcutter lead pellets for a new air rifle, and pick up a pack of hi-vis targets, as the weather was decent, and I felt like getting fresh air. I'd noted that this establishment just started carrying 5 or 6 new Gerber items last week, and though the Descent was in their display case last week, it was without a price tag, and I was in a hurry, so I figured I'd look at it later. I paid about $20 bucks, and so far, despite slightly difficult opening, I'm not regretting my purchase.

EDIT 3/15/10:
I AM indeed regretting buying a Gerber Descent. I've only had the knife a week or so, I haven't really used it too much, I've just been carrying it in my pocket. Today I noticed that the pivot is loose and the blade is being pushed forward to the point that the knife will not close without excessive inward force in order for the blade to clear the frame upon closing. There's at least 2mm of vertical and horizontal play in the blade. As I stated, I haven't used this knife very much yet, and I certainly haven't had any chance to be rough with it. I plan on returning it to the store I bought it from this week, and if they won't exchange my defective product, I'm going to send it back to Gerber for replacement, though it would suck to have to pay shipping on a knife that is inherently unadjustable, by design. The way this folder has degenerated, poor manufacturing is the only explanation that makes sense. Gerber seems to have had lots of recalls in the past few years, their original EAB razor blade folder, and now on their site, looks like they're recalling the original Gator Machetes because they lacked a safety ramp, and that a user's hand could slip upward onto the saw edge of the blade during heavy use. I wonder if it's only a matter of time before the Descent series of knives are recalled too? Either way, I'll let readers know if Sportco takes my exchange, or if I have to go through Gerber to get a replacement. Good thing I kept the box and receipt!

I do like too, that the Gerber Descent is very thin, even with its full-size pocket clip. A combo edge version is available as well, and I would not be surprised if we see some different color schemes on the Descent, in addition to the bead blast gray and light blue that's currently available.

Gerber is offering the Crevice series for 2010 as well, the Crevice features a similar style carabiner clip and is slightly larger than the Descent. These should be available right now also:

And it appears that Gerber has revived one of their classic designs, I can't remember what they called their folder that pivoted around a giant index finger hole (it may have been called the Remix originally too), but it's been out of production for several years now, it wasn't a bad knife, but I do like the looks of the 2010 mini-Remix much better. The Remix series now is offered with sheepsfoot blades and should be available now at most reputable online knife dealers, and probably stores like REI.

It seems like several years back, Gerber, as a company, realized they had to do something to compete with the fair prices and innovative ideas of (at the time) newer rivals like CRKT. They seem to have been doing a majority of their manufacture overseas since the mid-late 1990's, and depending on where you shop, Gerber prices can be very inexpensive. I just wish they'd follow Buck's lead and continue to move back toward their American manufactured roots. Either way, the venerable company, originally founded by an advertising exec 100 years ago, continues to move forward and keep on trying new ideas, in 2010, and probably beyond.

Check out Gerber's official site to see the 2010 lineup and more.

EDIT 3/18/2010:
So, I returned the defective Descent to Sportco, in Fife today. Dan @ the knife counter was very helpful, and just as bothered as I was by the loosed blade which would no longer close without extreme lateral pressure. He was more than happy to exchange it for a brand-new Descent from their back stock. So, time will tell, if Gerber just made a few sketchy knives, or if this is a whole "bad batch" problem. I plan of carrying and using the Descent in the coming weeks, and if the same problem occurs, I'm sending it back to Gerber with a harshly worded note. There's no excuse for a Gerber knife, foreign made or not, to have catastrophic lock failure, by simply being played with and carried, before any real use has occurred. The thing that bothers me most about that defect, is that, in the store, the knife looked ok, it wasn't until several hundred open/close cycles that the defect presented itself. I would encourage readers to stay away from the Descent, at least for a few months, until it becomes clear whether the knife has inherent manufacturing defects, or if mine was just a fluke.


Anonymous said...

I bought a this knife the other day and in a matter of an hour or two just opening and closing the pivot was loose. I'm taking it back today but haven't yet decided if I'll want to replace it or get a different knife.

Aaron said...

Anonymous, I'm right there with you, I had to return mine in a matter of a couple weeks, the pivot loosened so bad, the blade was laterally pushed out and would not clear the frame to close. I exchanged it, and threw the replacement in a drawer. It sucks, I'm willing to bet that my new replacement will loosen similarly if I play with it enough. Too bad. Gerber used to be highly thought of, and it's a shame that people still associate their name with quakity knives, because in 2010, there are VERY FEW knives from Gerber which are innovative in design or made with any sort of quality in the USA. I've had it with Chinese made junk, who would have thought that much of Gerber's output, in 2010, would be no better than $5.00 made-in-China shit from the Quicky Mart shelf?!
I've always preferred American knives, then Japanese and European, hell even Taiwan-made knives are slightly better than stuff from mainland China. Jeesh! Good luck getting a new knife, Blade-Tech, here near Tacoma, WA has a site and their Taiwan knives are mostly in the $20.00-$35.00 USD range, good quality, light weight.


the Ganyana and Katana from Blade-Tech are way light and well made...cheaper @ other online retailers than BT's site tho.
thanks for commenting

Anonymous said...

Aaron, thanks for the advice I'll take a look at those knives. I agree with you about Gerber. I have an old one my Grandfather gave me as a child which is amazing. I swear its indestructible and rarely needs sharpening. It seems like the biggest problems with their new knives are the quality of steel and the pivots. I took the Descent back and got it replaced with a fixed blade, still by Gerber, but at least the only thing I have to worry about with this one is sharpening.

Aaron said...

good! I'm glad the shop let you exchange, I mean, most reputable stores would recognize a defect, and that your knife still looked brand new, but you never know when you're gonna get an argumentative clerk or something (and I understand, I've worked in knife shops!). Anyway, yeah, Gerber's fixed blades aren't bad at all, even the overseas made stuff. Their new USA made LHR combat knife looks big and cool too. It's just such a shame, CRKT has a 15 year (or thereabouts) history of making nice knives on a budget, but their overall quality has dropped as well. I'm happy that Buck knives built a new factory in Idaho and returned most of their manufacture to USA making. At the very least, an American manufacturer can be held accountable for defective product, and they're usually good about repairs, whereas if we buy no-name stuff from the gas station, we have no recourse if a knife breaks. Good luck with your new blade and thank you for reading and commenting.