Bear Grylls 31-000751 Survival Knife
There’s been no shortage publicity for Bear’s new knife and like moths to a flame, detractors and knife afficianados have come out of the woodwork to post negative reviews o’ plenty. Defective parts and consumer complaints about the initial version released last fall have only fueled the fire – issues which Gerber claims to have remedied. In the end, Gerber and Bear probably couldn’t be happier with the interest generated by the feeding frenzy. Our suppliers both have large back-orders on the knife suggesting, if nothing else, it is at least a commercial success.
What did we make of Gerber’s entry level survival knife with Bear’s name on it? I will review the knife one feature at a time:
– Weight: Ours was 13.8oz with the sheath, whistle and fire starter.
– Blade: 4.75″ drop point, 1/2 serrated blade with 3/16″ thick tang. Very nice. There are many descriptions floating around regarding the type of steel from Gerber’s own “high carbon steel” epitaph to claims of 440A stainless touted in various knife reviews. The unverified HRC is 57 +/- 2. If true, that is slightly softer than many users prefer but in line with most knives in this price range. In our opinion, a good, hardworking knife probably shouldn’t have an HRC much higher than 56 anyway so we think the listed HRC is great.
– “Full tang blade.” There are rumors that the knife only has a partial tang. Here’s what ours looks like. Is it full tang? The tang reaches the bottom of where my hand grips the handle and has four attachment points so we’re calling it ‘full tang with a floating pommel.’ As pointed out by others, the proper term is probably encapsulated.
– Steel pommel handle that can be used as a blunt hammer or striking device. You aren’t going to be framing a house with this tiny, mechanically inefficient doo-dad so let’s not get carried away. It’s good for cracking nuts. There were reports of the pommel flying off with batoning, initially. We drove three 2″ nails into lumber (so very slowly…) and then batoned through a pine 1×4 thrice without any issues. We felt batoning a much wider piece of wood might engage the serrated portion of the knife.
– Rescue whistle. Sounds like a mono-tone instrument. It starts to trail off at 40-45 yards to our ears. We recommend replacing it with a louder and inexpensive, dual-tone Howler rescue whistle from Adventure Medical.
– Nylon “military grade” sheath with built in diamond sharpener on the back. For the money it’s a decent sheath. Functional and tough but not very pretty. It has Bear’s signature on the front in orange. We have not tried the sharpener yet but it appears adequate. The fire starter snaps into housing on the front of the sheath where it hangs upside down and, if improperly secured, will fall out.
– Lashing points at the top of the hilt. Nice.
– Ferrocerium rod firestarter. There is a 1/2″ area on the back of the tang where the finish is removed and a little “fire” insignia indicates where you are to strike the rod with the knife. We found the fire starter to produce a plethora of sparks . It’s well done.
– Alpine rescue signals are located on the back of the sheath. To quote Raising Arizona – “Ok, then.”
– Pocket survival guide. This thing is tiny. It unfolds into a 10.5″ x 10.5″ double-sided guide with inches and centimeter markings along one side. The advice seems generic and nonspecific, basic at best. There are many diagrams demonstrating shelter types, navigating techniques, fire starting, water collection and snaring – none of which are accompanied by meaningful explanations. We fear most will find this guide inadequate in many respects. But, hey, you can fit eight of them in your pocket at once so what did you expect?
– Textured, rubberized handle. The handle is uncontestably fantastic. It feels and handles great. Period. Could it have been made of kraton or zytel or thermorun or G10? If you want to pay more. We find nothing wrong with the current handle.
– “But it’s made in China”. Many knives are these days. Even knives by Spyderco, Kershaw and until recently a few Benchmades. Since fixed blade knives aren’t rocket science we feel as long as the design, heat treatment and quality control are acceptable knives made in Asia are ok in this price range and, in fact, commonplace.
Remember too, Bear’s Ultimate Survival Knife is targeting a specific demographic and it isn’t Busse owners. Keeping the knife under $50 by manufacturing it overseas was the right call.
Our final impression: Lingering questions about the steel and overall quality will likely taint the knife for enthusiasts who may rightly tout other fixed blade knives in this price range: Gerber’s Prodigy is $8 cheaper but not as feature rich. The Cold Steel SRK, Gerber LMF II, SOG Field Pup, SOG SEAL series, and most Ka-bars are $10-$25 more expensive but lack extra features as well.
Not all the knife’s gimmicks go off without a hitch. The whistle is better than nothing but may be inadequate as a true rescue whistle. The pocket survival guide may be incomplete. The alpine rescue instructions on the back of the sheath are just cheesy. The sheath appears durable but of average caliber overall.
We handle and sell many high end knives. We wanted to hate this knife. Badly. But for the money you get a thick blade, a grip-worthy handle, a reasonable sheath and a nice fire starter. It’s not going to make our personal collection but we think it’s an adequate-to-good entry level knife and based on the sample we bought, provided you know its limits, a good value.
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