Friday, July 29, 2011

Review: Gerber Octane

The most useful tool a human can usually carry with them is generally a sharp edge. However, other tools like screw drivers and pliers are really nearly as useful making multitools an extremely popular choice for EDC. Often EDC'ers are faced with a dilemma. Which to carry? Most multitools are pretty much large belt sheath affairs. Also, they often need to be opened up to take advantage of their knife blade after being removed from their belt pouch. In comparison the ubiquitous 'tactical folder', is positioned on the right or left hand pocket-top and opens with one hand. The most obvious solution is to carry both. But if one is already carrying CCW kit, cellphone, and possibly a flashlight... Yeah, we all know this gets heavy really quick.

Another solution is to make the multitool more user friendly. The first I know to have done this directly from the factory was the Leatherman Skeletool. Featuring a pocketclip and a locking blade that was accessible from the outside for one-handed opening. I had one for a few days, but returned it as defective after the removable screwdriver bits consistently dropped out and the blade didn't work smoothly even after oiling. I ended up getting a Leatherman Fuse and carried it inside my back pocket for a long while.

The Gerber Octane is another in the continuing evolution of these EDC multitools. Mine was bought for about $38 from KnifeCenter. The Octane features a slide out set of pliers/wirecutters which also serves as a lock to keep the tool from opening, flat and Philips head drivers, a small flat head driver for tiny screws, a bottle opener, a clamshell cutter, pocketclip, and a half serrated sheepsfoot locking blade on the outside. All the tools lock into place. Also, the frame is aluminum to keep the weight down.

Most of the negative things I've heard about Gerber's multitools is in the durability area. I would not recommend this for heavy duty use. Save those jobs for full steel multitools. However, the Gerber's role is not of a primary working tool, its a tool for those everyday small jobs. As such, the light weight and compact size is a blessing. This is coupled with an excellent pocket clip. Gerber got this clip right. The tool sits nicely and securely, perfectly in fact, in your pocket. It is a joy to carry unlike the uncomfortable times either sitting on your multitool or having it hit you in the love handles with its pouch.

The tools themselves are largely very functional except for the bottle opener. While it worked, I don't think it worked very well. It could be left off and not be missed. The screwdrivers have a decent length and fit nicely to most screws. They lock up tight, though the plastic on the lock is a possible point of failure. The plastic clamshell cutter works well. It is a very useful tool that should become popular with these more urban oriented designs. Lastly, the pliers/wirecutters are comfortably angled. The frame design fills the hand nicely for use with these. They lock in the 'use' position, but do not lock in the close position. Personally, I think I'd like them to lock closed. Also the color of the frame should be noted. It has a lot of red, and that is not a bad thing. Bright colors can certainly help when you drop this at night. Also, I think that bright colors serve to protect against the fears of hoplophobes. Reds, yellows, and oranges are often safety/danger colors. They warn that this is a sharp tool and can hurt you if you're not careful. As long as they think of them as tools rather than weapons, their fears can be kept in reserve to better bother the guy open carrying his Glock down the street.

Already, at $37 the octane to me has proven its worth. However, I must now speak of its weakest, greatest selling point. The knife. The knife is functional. It works, it does its job, but it does it in a lackluster fashion. To me, this is a 5 dollar knife strapped to a $40 multitool. The placement of the thumbhole is hard to access with my hands. It opens very smoothly other than that. Then the locking mechanism is a bit hard to operate one handed as well. The blade steel is 420js stainless. A tough steel, but too soft to keep an edge long. This is the failing point on most of these EDCMs. Cheap ass steel. After being spoiled with literally hundreds of reasonably priced 'tactical folders' in quality cutlery steel, its painful to be downgraded to this.
Overall, I feel that I got my money's worth out of my Octane. Its an extremely carry-able multitool that has a solid line up of tools you'll find yourself needed most often. I particularly recommend this to office guys and IT professionals. Its perfect for those environments where you might be opening up several clamshells a days and opening PC cases and replacing parts. If the knife doesn't matter so much for you, this an excellent buy. But if you use your knife as much as I do, you'll feel unsatisfied.

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