Gerber US-Assist: New Direction or Same Old Story?

This week Gerber announced a brand new assisted-opening knife called the US-Assist. With a high-quality video and endorsement from Alicia “Motolady” Elfving, there is no doubt that the marketing behind the US-Assist is impressive. But is there a good knife behind the good advertising?

Gerber is an easy target for bloggers, reviewers, and online knife communities looking for a punching bagWith nine product recalls in nine years and a civil settlement in 2015, the company has earned its reputation within the knife community as a brand you should avoid. But last year, when Gerber acknowledged the issues and provided assurances that the problems were behind them, there was renewed hope that everything was about to change.

Gerber US-Assist
The US-Assist is Gerber’s biggest announcement in some time, and the knife checks a lot of boxes: a 3-inch S30V steel blade, tip-up / tip-down swappable clip, assisted-opening, a plunge lock, a proprietary ball-bearing pivot system, and it’s made in the USA.

But on the surface, there are indications Gerber continues to put more emphasis on marketing than they do on the product itself. For a knife with an MSRP of $80, the choice of S30V is a great deal. Unfortunately, the use of premium materials ends at the base of the blade. G-10 scales are more difficult to manufacture and cost a little more, but Gerber cut a major corner with the use of plastic handle scales. Expect the knife to feel cheap in hand and offer less grip than it should.

Gerber is touting the inclusion of the B.O.S.S. technology, but the use of ball-bearings is largely redundant for an assisted-opening folder. On a knife that is suppose to fly open with a spring mechanism, how can you experience the smoothness of a ball-bearing deployment? And how much more value is B.O.S.S technology really adding? It’s great marketing, but we’d rather see a knife with traditional phosphor bronze washers and better handle materials.

Southpaws will be pleased to know that the Gerber US-Assist is outfitted with dual thumb studs, until they find out that the clip orientation is right-hand carry only. It’s a gaffe that can be found on other knives, but a careless decision for one with opposing scales that are so similar.

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Look closely at the US-Assist photos released by Gerber and you’ll notice that the edge grind appears to be off-kilter, moving from a wide edge at the tip to a narrower edge below the belly, before widening out again towards the ricasso. This may only be an issue on the protoype, but it’s something you should watch out for in case you’re considering taking the plunge.

Over the years, Gerber’s focus has shifted from making knives to marketing and selling products. Their business success is more a result of well-executed advertising campaigns – the Bear Grylls partnership, the Walking Dead product placements – than well-executed knives. On paper, the Gerber US-Assist appears to be no exception. It’s hard to imagine how the knife can replace established assisted folders (like the SOG Twitch or Kershaw Blur) in this crowded segment of the market.

Gerber says the US-Assist is scheduled for release in November.

Knife featured in image: Gerber US-Assist