Then in 1987 Pete Gerber sold the company to Fiskars and everything went to crap. Innovation and quality slid downhill and Gerber became just another purveyor of boring cutlery. Over time their designs became about as exciting as a 1960 Ford Falcon. I never heard just why Gerber decided to sell out. Perhaps the money was just too good. Now, I'm not saying that the post-Gerber ownership products were/are bad products. For the most part they are good quality working knives. But they are boring, uninspiring and soul-less.
But before 1987, oh what wonderful knives they made! Today we'll look at one of those pre-1987 knives, and one of my favorites.
The Gerber A400 drop point hunter:
If memory serves I bought this new at a gun show in Toledo around 1977. It's had a short but hard service life, and all the wear and tear you see on it and the sheath is my doing. In 1979 I went on active duty in the Army and carried this on my pistol belt for a year or two. That accounts for most of the scuffs, scrapes and the overall lousy condition of the sheath.
The design of the A400 is an extension of Gerber's original knife design. Gerber began makng knives in 1939 and developed a production method involving the use of tool steel blades that were hard chromed for corrosion resistance and had cast aluminum handles. The first Gerber knives of this design were kitchen cutlery sets, but Gerber soon branched out into outdoor knives using the same basic design.
What makes this knife and other Gerbers like it is the excellent overall quality. The blades is beautifully ground and carries a brushed chrome finish. The handle is expertly shaped and extremely comfortable. The sheath is an integral part of the package, and Gerber made some of the best leather sheaths in the industry. Featuring a pouch design that is tightly fitted to the knife, it is made of high grade leather that was expertly stitched and includes touches like a steel reinforcing section at the tip to prevent the knife tip from piercing the leather. Today it's hard to find custom knife makers offering sheaths this good, let alone a production knife.
I have read that these knives were fairly expensive to produce. The steel sat at the very high end of the hardness scale for a knife - around 62 on the Rockwell scale - and they wore out the grinding and polishing wheels at the factory at about twice the rate of softer blades. They were also tough to sharpen, but they had a reputation for holding an edge a long, long time. My experience supports this - I don't think I've had to touch up the edge on this knife more than two or three times.
The A300 is long gone out of Gerber/Fiskars' catalog. Today we get Chinese made junk like the Bear Grylls knife. Sad.