Why I Love: The Gerber Armbar Drive
Say the word “Multi-Tool” and heads begin to swell with a pretty standard image: a butterfly opening, plier-based design with a knife and some rudimentary screwdrivers and pry bar deploying from the handles. Occasionally, those expectations get upended. I am happy to report that the multi-tool I spent the last week with managed to upend my expectations and solved a problem I did not even know I had with other multi-tool designs. I am extremely excited to share why I love the Gerber Armbar Drive.
The Stat Line
Simply put, The Gerber Armbar Drive is a multi-tool with 8 different tools built into it. Fully closed, it is 3.5 inches long and weighs in at 3.2 oz.
(I chose the urban blue. Shocking, I know)
It features a knife, bit driver, pry bar, bottle opener, hammer, scissor, and awl. The real story here is how it is packaged. Noticeably absent is the almost ever-present pliers.
(not in attendance, pliers)
Gerber focused on making this multi-tool more akin to a traditional folding knife to increase pocket friendliness and likelihood of carry. So, in the quest for a more knife-like silhouette the pliers had to go. In its place is a new focus tool: the magnetic bit driver. It folds like a traditional blade on a multi-tool and increases the overall length to 5.9 inches when folded out. It will also hold ¼ in magnetic bits so you can choose your bits based on your needs. Folding out from the bit-driver side are the scissors and awl. The knife is located on the opposite side of the handle, deploys via thumb hole, and locks in place.
(a locking blade on a multi-tool? Yes, please. Every time)
The hammer is conveniently located on the bottom of the tool, allowing for a flat surface to strike a nail or stand the tool on it. It also flips open to reveal the bottle opener.
Carry-ability, Reliability, and Performance
The first, most glaring thing I noticed when I went to carry the Armbar Drive is the lack of a pocket clip. Normally, this is a non-starter for me since I hate items loose in my pockets. Since I wanted to at least try to carry it, I put it in the coin pocket of my jeans (aka: that little pocket no one really knows what to put inside). Once I pocketed it, I totally forgot it was there. So, while it is definitely carry-able, it is best if you’ve got the right setup for it. Every tool in the Armbar Drive requires a deliberate action to open, and I did not find anything poking out during carry. At no point was I worried that the Armbar Drive tools would open unintentionally. The knife is less than 3 in long (Gerber says 2.5 but I measured 2.7 inches) and stayed sharp the entire time I have been carrying/using it. I personally feel like the minimal, purposeful design will ensure long term reliability.
About that problem I never knew I had. Turns out, in my daily life, I have a very small need for pliers. I find myself loving multi-tools, but rarely (if ever, honestly) find myself using their main reason for existing. What I do find myself reaching for a lot is a screwdriver. This is one of the tools that I felt underperformed on other traditional multi-tools. The extension is 2.1 inches long and is 2.5 inches with the bit installed. I like that the extension, combined with the overall design of the Armbar Drive, feels like a traditional screwdriver in hand. I found myself playing with the flip out bottle opener a lot more than I should have. It has the sensation of flipping a coin and has a tactile and audible click when opening and closing.
The title may give this away, but I love the Armbar Drive. I appreciate Gerber displacing the signature pliers in favor of a screwdriver. It literally feels like half a multi-tool in every conceivable dimension but MAYBE length closed. The only additions I could think of making would be a pocket clip and/or storage for another reversible bit. As I look at it, however, I have no idea where to put one. I take the smallest comfort in knowing that smarter folks than me designed this thing and they couldn’t solve this problem, either. This is a multi-tool I am wholeheartedly recommending to anyone who uses a screwdriver more than a pair of pliers. Now before you destroy my inbox, I know that Gerber makes the Center-Drive line of multi-tools with BOTH the bit driver and pliers. Be on the lookout for another comparison soon.
See you out there,