Monday, January 22, 2018

Product Review: Gerber Center Drive

Assuming your circumstances permit, the majority of preppers will have a knife, multi-tool, or both in their EDC.

On most days, I carry a pocket knife of some sort, (usually the Klein folding electrician's knife) a razor (usually the Gerber EAB) and a Gerber Center Drive*.

Years ago, Lokidude reviewed the Gerber MP400, and I feel that our readers would benefit from a similar review of the Center drive.

The Center Drive has a pair of needle nose pliers with a replaceable carbide wire cutters/stripper cutting surface, which extend by pressing the button on the side  and sliding it upwards. It also has one fine edge knife, one serrated knife, one cat's paw prying tool, a bottle opener, a file, a spare bit holder, and a ruler stamped into the frame.

Mine came with a belt sheath that can be positioned either sideways or in a standard up/down configuration and closes with a sturdy Velcro type fastener. The sheath is MOLLE compatible, and holds a bit driver set. With the exception of the spare bit holder, all of the tools lock when extended.

The tool that it is built around is the magnetic bit driver, which extends out in such a way that it is very close to the center line of the tool. When you have to remove a screw, or drive one, this can be a real life saver.

The Good
The build quality on this is excellent. The moving parts are all made to tight specifications, and all of the tool locks are either metal, or plastic over metal, with ridges built into them to allow easier use. I have had my hands covered in oil from working on a car on the side of the road and not had an issue extending the pliers.

The straight fine-edge knife and the pliers can all be opened one-handed, and both the bit driver and knife have a quality liner lock on them. I don’t use a file very often, but when I do, it is VERY nice to have on hand.

The magnetic bit holder is a lifesaver if you have to use it to drive screws. While not as nice as a dedicated screwdriver, it is definitely more ergonomic, and less slip prone, than a normal multi-tool.

I have not done torture testing on this, just daily use (and yes, I have put it through the dishwasher), but it seems to hold up well. Have to change a stuck oil filter on the side of the road? Stab knife into oil filter, rotate out, hand screw new one on. Have to fix your hot glue gun? Sure. Have to pry up a 500 lb steel plate so that you can get to the thing underneath it? Awkward, but not really a problem with sufficient grip strength and leverage.

The best part is that I have yet to have this one stolen. I have traveled with it, worked with it, taken it to conferences etc, and have yet to have someone try to walk off with it. I have lost several Leatherman tools that way, but for whatever reason (my theory is that it is not a Leatherman brand, and so people do not think of it as quite so valuable) no one has “forgotten” to return it or grabbed it out of my luggage.

The Bad
The “handedness” of the tool tends to get in the way. I can get the knife out one-handed using my right hand, or the bit driver one-handed using my left hand, and put them away the same way; but trying to open or close them with the opposite hand is quite difficult.

The Ugly
This is not the best bang for your buck. I dearly love this tool, and use it quite often, but it does not have the widest range of accessories, or the biggest knife, or… you get the idea.

There are tools that have almost all of the same features for about a third the price. That is something that you have to keep in mind with this.

Overall: 4.5 of 5
I really like the tool and the sheath. If it is within your price range, I would recommend this, preferring it to the other options I have used (Leatherman Surge, Core, Wave, Mut EOD, and Micra; a couple of other Gerbers; and a multitude of knock offs and off brands). It seems to overcome the ergonomic issues with using a screwdriver on a multi-tool, and it has a high build quality. If you use a multi tool on a regular basis, but don’t need any more exotic tools (like the M-16 cleaning tool available on the Leatherman Mut), it is wonderful.

If however you do not mind a somewhat lower build quality, and do not need all of these exact features, you can purchase a quality tool for less money.

*I use the model # 31-003073N multi-tool, and Amazon has a slightly different model, but as far as I can tell they are the same tool; mine just came with some driver bits.

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