Three Points of the Compass has previously looked at the Armbar Drive from Oregon based Gerber. That simple multi-tool combined the classic blade/scissors duo with a quarter inch hex drive capability. Focusing in on this part of their market, Gerber went on to release slimmed down versions of the Armbar Drive.
“Whether your day takes you to the office, the trails, or simply to the backyard, it’s nice to know you can do more while carrying less. Taking cues from the original Armbar design, the Armbar Slim cuts the bulk and delivers only the tools you need in an ultra-compact footprint.”Gerber
Following in the wake of the successful Armbar Drive released in 2020, the two newer variants released by Gerber in 2021 feature either a blade and hex drive (no scissors), or blade and scissors (no hex drive). A look at each in turn follows, but be warned, there isn’t exactly a great deal to either tool, which can be to their advantage.
Despite being “designed and engineered in Oregon”, these tools were manufactured in China. Nothing wrong with that, many other manufacturers do the same. Manufacturing costs are kept down which keeps the price keen in a competitive market. But steel quality can be a little ‘meh’ as a result.
Along with Victorinox, Gerber have a habit of referring to the keyring as one of the ‘tools’. I shall mostly ignore this feature from now on, suffice to say, both Slim variants have a stainless steel 9mm diameter split ring passed through a hole in the frame. But no, a tool it ain’t! It is also too large and heavy a tool to be dangling with the keys.
Gerber Armbar Slim Cut
This slimmed down version of the Armbar Drive has just three tools- blade, scissors, and, tucked away and almost un-noticed, a narrow cap lifter. This does not open bottles anywhere near as well as the full-size Armbar Drive, but it will do its job. But you may have to take a couple of bites at a cap before it opens.
“All your cutting needs in a thin frame; scissors for finer cuts and easy one-hand access to the 2 1/2″ frame lock blade that can rip through anything you put in front of it. Don’t get caught unprepared, support your daily carry with this robust tool in your pocket or on your key chain to get you out of any jam”Gerber
The plain edge blade is 70mm long with a 66mm cutting edge. Made of 5CR15MOV stainless steel, the modified sheep’s foot design has a slight rise toward the end of the blade tip that provides a decent length of blade for chopping and slicing food on trail. The blade is quite chunky in appearance- it is 15.55mm deep and 2.70mm thick across the spine. With such a thick spine and a decent large pivot, there is no noticeable side flex and the knife exhibits no sloppiness in use.
There is only a right-handed version of this tool available, which means that it can be opened one-handed in the right hand. Once open, it can be used in either hand, so lefties need not necessarily be discouraged. The liner lock is easily depressed with the thumb when the tool is being folded. This lock means the tool is non-compliant with UK knife law for street carry but could be carried tucked away in a pack while backpacking.
The blades found on the two Slim knives also include that feature most disliked by Three Points of the Compass when included on any knife used for backpacking- a hole in the spine. Used over many days while cutting foodstuffs and other ‘stuff’, bacteria happily sits and festers in these crevices, contaminating any food subsequently cut. Any sticky food, especially peanut butter, also accumulates in these holes and isn’t the easiest of gunk to clean out without recourse to a tap and brush. It is this elongated hole that is used by the thumb to open the blade one-handed. Blade has the same matt grey finish as the majority of the rest of the tool. The word GERBER is in light steel grey on the side of the spine.
- Blade- Modified sheep’s foot
- Cap lifter/bottle opener
- Length- 98mm, width- 18.80mm (max), thickness- 17.77mm (max), width-14.28mm (max)
- Weight- 62g
The scissors alternative in the Armbar range is a welcome choice on the knife market. A blade and scissors combined in one tool is a handy duo. But such a shame that the scissors could not have been a little better quality. These unfold in a two-part operation- pivot them out, then unfold the scissors. Closing them is the same in reverse. Scissors are chunky clunky agricultural in appearance with a 5mm x 3mm tab for the thumb to press against when using, which can get a bit painful under hard or extended usage. Blade length on the sprung scissors is 25mm and they come ‘reasonably’ sharp out of the box. I have found that a small sharpening stone such as my Fällkniven DC3 is ideal for honing these.
They aren’t the best of small scissors, nor are they the worst. If you do not expect anything remarkable of them and use them for suitably light tasks, they will not disappoint. It must be said however, this little multi-tool is pitched directly against various offerings from Victorinox that also feature both blade and scissors, and the Victorinox scissors are superior.
My Armabar Slim Cut example is in a smart ‘urban’ suiting Baltic Haze colour. This anodised colour only appears on one scale and that is quite minimal and discreet. It really is a modern good looking tool. Slim Cut is also available in Onyx and Orange colouration.
Gerber Armbar Slim Drive
This multi-tool has four ‘functions’- blade, and a quarter inch hex driver, fitted when purchased with a small double-ended bit, this has Phillips and Flat head tips. The third tool is, whisper it, the keyring and the fourth, flicked out with the thumb on a thin jimped corner, is a slim cap lifter. This is the same as that found on the Slim Cut. The hammer feature found on its larger and wider cousin has gone.
“The Armbar Slim Drive takes a minimalist approach while giving you the tools to help what you do the most: cutting, driving, and opening a beer”Gerber
My example is in a fetching shade of Burnt Orange, it is also available in Onyx and Bronze colours. In common with it’s brother, the anodised colour only appears on one side of the tool. The other has a pleasing skeletonised ascetic that also reduces the weight of the tool, just a little.
Both Slim models have clear unambiguous marking on their frame locks, a simple press of the thumb releases the blade for closing. As mentioned earlier, this lock throws these little folders up against UK knife law. Get pulled in public with one of these in your pockets and it will not go down well with the Old Bill, unless you can show good reason for carrying the tool. Having it packed away in a rucksack, alongside some piece of equipment that the Bit included with the tool fits ‘should’ be enough, but have your reasoning worked out in advance.
The blade is exactly the same shape as that on the Slim Cut. My two knives feature blades with differing finishes. The Drive tool has an unfinished plain steel appearance with the word GERBER in black on the side of the spine.
- Blade- Modified sheep’s foot
- 1/4″ hex drive, with space for one short double-ended Bit (included)
- Cap lifter/bottle opener
- Length- 97mm, thickness- 17.90mm (max), width- 15.18mm (max).
- Weight – 72.5g, including 4.5g bit
The hex driver found on the Slim Drive has pluses and one big minus. In it’s favour, it folds away neatly into a small package and provides a 50mm extended drive capability. There is a small rare earth magnet secreted in the driver base to securely hold bits. On the negative side, other than being able to hold a two-ended mini bit, there is no facility to store another bit anywhere on the tool. The biggest problem with this tool is that the hex drive has no lock when open. There is the lightest of snaps as it fully opens, but not enough to hold it. Under torque and sideways pressure, it will want to fold while in use. The drive can also be folded to the ninety degree angle to provide a little more twisting torque when in use. Though again, not locked while doing so.
Three Points of the Compass has looked before at various options when wanting to carry specific tools on trail, especially the small range of accessories that Leatherman produce. It is worth noting that the wide range of thin and lightweight bits included in the Leatherman Bit kit will all fit the Gerber Armbar Slim Drive.
The exact same cap lifter/bottle opener is found on both Armbar Slim Cut and Slim Drive. This is a great deal narrower than the one found on the full size Armbar Drive, and that one was probably the best found on any small multi-tool. The opener found on both Slim models does work, after a fashion. Note the small split ring passed through a hole in the frame on both these tools next to the cap lifter, this is the so-called key ring.
It just could be that one of these two tools provides exactly the combination that you want and with a reasonable price point, why not snap one up? Both tools have an excellent warranty- a lifetime guarantee in North America and 25 years elsewhere. Needless to say this does not cover abuse or misuse and most damage that would occur to either tool would be due to subjecting them to too heavy a task. The two Armbar Slim tools are an interesting continuation from the slightly better equipped Armbar Drive and it will be equally as interesting to see where Gerber go next with the design, or even if these Slim and fullsize models continue to be produced for any length of time.
Three Points of the Compass has looked at quite a few knives and multi-tools that may, or may not, be suitable for backpacking, day treks or Every Day Carry. Links to these can be found here.