Ok, here we go with our review of the loved and HATED Bear Grylls Survival Knife. I will be covering both versions of the knife in this review. (For those who did not know, a few years ago Bear Grylls and Gerber teamed up to cash in on the popularity of his survival shows on TV. They released a line of products, mostly knives, that were targeted toward people that liked the idea of survival but did not know much about it.)
Overall, anything that gets people thinking about self-reliance is good in my book. However, some of the stuff that has come out has not been that great. With that, let’s take a look at the knives.
So, what qualities should a good survival knife have? Most will agree that a full tang is crucial. Does this knife have one? Not quite, but close. It has a mostly full tang with a pinned-on butt plate. This is where the knife begins to have its first issue, as there were reports of several knives breaking at the butt plate. Gerber recognized this and redesigned the knife, but it hurt its reputation early on even though the problem had been addressed.
Next, I believe that a survival knife should have a blade between 3 and 6 inches. This knife is just shy of 5 inches with 4.5 inch blade length. So there, it fits. Many people also prefer a carbon blade, which this provides.
So, it fits the description of a survival knife – but is it any good? The answer I believe depends on whether you have the version with the smooth or serrated blade. I do not like the serrated version of this knife. The serrations take up over half the length of the blade and they dull very quickly, since the steel on the blade is not the best. There have been reports of the knife breaking under use, though mine has not. However, even moderate battening dulled the serrations to the point where they might as well not be on the knife. The smooth blade did not have this problem and I have found that it holds an edge much better than the serrated knife. I could not determine if Gerber changed the steel on the knife, but I have noticed a big difference in the quality of the blade, which shows me that Gerber is listening to its customers and trying to improve the knife while still trying to keep the cost down. I regularly find this knife on sale for less than $40 now, and at that price point, I highly recommend the smooth edge version for not only the blade, but also for what comes with it – and all the little extras.
For example, the grip is rubbery and feels very good in the hand even when wet. I have tested it in rain, submerging it in water and then using it to process a deer, which as I’m sure you know, can get really slick from all the blood. The grip is very comfortable and easy to use over long periods of time. This is my experience with almost all the Bear Grylls line of products. Even if I may not like the blade, the ergonomics are wonderful.
The sheath is very nice and holds the blade securely even without the velcro strap. It can be carried on a belt either vertically or horizontally and is not too difficult to tie down to a pack. The sheath is a combination of nylon and plastic and is a dark grey and black color with some orange. The knife itself has the same color scheme with significantly more orange: many people dislike this feature but I find it makes the knife very easy to find in the bush. As this blade will probably be my young son’s first big knife, that ease of visibility will be helpful as he is always setting things down.
Back to the sheath, it has an integrated fire steel which works very well for me – especially with the section on the back of the knife that has no coating: an exceptional striking surface and one of the knife’s best features. There is also a fairly loud survival whistle on a lanyard on the hilt that should suffice in an emergency. I removed this and attached it to the fire steel, which I then wrapped around the back of the sheath to further secure the fire steel.
A diamond sharpening stone is provided inside the folding sheath. While better than nothing, I do not prefer this style of sharpener. Finally, this product also comes with the Bear Grylls Priority of Survival Guide, which if you don’t know anything about the wilderness is better than nothing.
So, do I recommend the knife? Only the smooth edged version at the $40 price point. If you can only find the serrated version, then no. Love it or hate it, it’s a knife – and we can always use another one.