The Gerber Bear Grylls Ultimate Survival Knife Review

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.

 *images may be used only with express written permission of green beetle llc.

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11 Responses to The Gerber Bear Grylls Ultimate Survival Knife Review

  1. Lemonte says:

    Good Review. I quality knives (currently have about 50) and purchased this knife just for fun. At first, I really hated it as an initial reaction. It looked and felt kind of like a toy… a total gimick. I literally almost threw it away, but it is still a knife and I decided just to use it as a garage work knife. My house is on 5 acres and I have many garage and property projects. I must say, this knife has actually been growing on me for that purpose and has been quite handy. It is comfortable to hold and the sheath is great for removing and restoring the knife with one hand. It stays secure without having to use the velcro strap every time which is nice when working on a project, etc. I have done some prying and used the pommel to hammer a few things and it has held up fine so far. I must say, it makes a good general work knife you can beat up instead of using a more expensive knife with a less user friendly sheath. (I must admit I am kind of embarrassed for anyone I know to actually see me working around my property with this knife hanging from my belt…. just looks pretty gay… but other than that, it is fine. Again, good honest reveiw…. best I’ve seen on this knife.

  2. Tim Keeton says:

    Good review. I am trying the knife out myself, right now. Thanks for the cutaway handle photo! I really wanted to see how the tang and the pommel were placed.

  3. Brian Hall says:

    I recently got one of these for fathers day so far so good. I really haven’t used it much though I added a linear, one on whistle wouldn’t fit over my hand. Also added one to fire striker as not to loose seems to be growing on me looking at other bear knives fair price for quality.

  4. GreatCaesarsGhost says:

    No offense, but I’m resisting the urge to laugh. First you say that the whistle is kind of weak, the fire steel will fall out if not seated properly (though works well), the survival guide is “generic and nonspecific at best”, the alpine rescue guide is cheesy and you didn’t even try out the diamond sharpener; then you list other knives in the same price range, give or take $8 to $25 but point out that they “lack extra features”.

    I do appreciate the view of the inside of the handle, though. Anytime I see a knife whose handle is molded on, I get curious about what’s underneath. Not too long ago I did a search to find out what what’s inside the handle of the Cold Steel SRK. The transition from blade to tang is more gradual on the Gerber. I wonder how that affects durability.

    BTW, came to this review from an older thread on where you mentioned you’d cut the handle open.

    • Greenbeetle says:

      Sure and will say again: Whistle is weak. Fire steel will fall to ground unless secured properly. Survival guide lacks useful detail. Alpine rescue guide is not needed. Sharpener is like any other sharpener. Has extra features – poorly implemented.

  5. George says:

    so what you think? can I use this knife for hunting? or not?

    • Greenbeetle says:

      Your choice of a hunting knife depends on your preferences and what you are skinning. I know someone who field dresses a deer with a tiny 1″ SOG Micron (uses saw on ribs) and another who carries a knife that would make John Rambo choke. Generally speaking the knife in question is big enough for larger game, has a desirable drop point on the end and a quality grip. No gut hook. Maybe you have a separate gut hook or don’t use one.

      In the end it’s a personal choice. Good luck!

  6. Cosmin says:

    The Not Full Tang Blade it is for safety in case you want to cut some electricity wire and not get hurt !

    • Cosmin says:

      That’s why I think the Pommel is separately by the rest of the blade, and the handle is made out of rubber@ plastik.

  7. Elise says:

    I absolutely love your closing remarks, especially the bit about wanting to hate the knife badly. It’s so true, it looks like a complete gimmic, especially considering it’s branded with Bear Grylls’ name, but it’s really not too shabby considering all the features. Obviously not the best knife in the world, but certainly nowhere near the worst either.

    Thanks for your review!

  8. koba937 says:

    my buddy brian field dressed a 400lbs black bear with it, he said it dulled quicker than he would have liked but it gets a nice edge after a couple strokes on his personal sharpener.

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