Robust. Inexpensive. American-made. The Gerber StrongArm hits all the right notes when it comes to selecting a fixed-blade knife.
A good knife can be a soldier’s best friend in the field, but only if said knife is of quality construction. The same applies to the outdoor enthusiast. During this past winter, we had a survival exercise where our rucksacks were stripped of all food we had brought along, and we were given a rabbit each and told it would be our only source of food for two days. Needless to say, at that point, I really wished I had a solid cutting implement at hand. All I had was a multi-tool.
Then, we had to build ourselves a shelter with minimal tools at our disposal. Again, I had to rely on the less-than-stellar performance of my multi-tool. As you might expect, the first order of business upon my return from the field was to get myself a good fixed-blade knife. I opt for Gerber since they are readily available at large retailers in my area, and the price is fair considering my soldier’s salary.
I prefer the Gerber StrongArm over the renowned LMF2 Infantry. Why? At 7.2 ounces, it is nearly five ounces lighter. It is also close to a half inch shorter. Price wise, it sells for $85 compared to $125 for the LMF. On soldier pay, every dollar saved counts.
I also really liked the way the StrongArm could be carried—either MOLLE-mounted, horizontally on a 1.75”-wide belt, or in a traditional drop configuration. I run the knife on the side of my issued Canadian Forces vest using the MOLLE clip provided with the knife (below).
The sheath of the StrongArm is much slimmer than the beefy sheath of the LMF, but it’s as bombproof as its bigger brother. The sheath is built like most sheaths with a thumb-break snap closure, but I found that the retention is solid enough to leave it open without fear of the knife coming free. You actually need quite a bit of force to take it out if you are only pulling and not using a thumb to contribute to the upward force.
The handle features a striking pummel (below) that can break through some pretty solid material or, in a rescue situation, smash a window. But if you want to smash things, you need a good grip. Fortunately, the fine people at Gerber made sure you never lose your grip on this knife; they designed it with a rubberized cover on the handle. No matter the conditions, you will not lose your grip.
As with many military products made by Gerber, the StrongArm blade is made with 420HC stainless steel with a ceramic coating to ensure your investment lasts through years of hard use. Although the 420HC does not provide the same kind of wear resistance provided by stronger stainless steel alloys like the S30V found in the Gerber De Facto, at some point you have to make a choice: price or durability. That being said, the 420HC is known for great corrosion resistance, and the actual chances or breaking the blade are slim.
As I said earlier, the StrongArm retails at around $85 while a De Facto goes for twice the price. With both knives, you get a premium product, as the Gerber military knives are designed and made in Portland, Oregon, and are not a cheap product made in China. Gerber backs their products with a solid lifetime warranty should their knives ever fail you.
I am confident that the StrongArm will provide me with years of service, just like the other Gerber products I have had for longer than I can remember and still use every day.