Those who know me best understand that I am a minimalist. To me, less is better than more. I like my game care tools simple, straightforward, with as few “bells and whistles” as necessary. And this holds true for my knives. For these reasons, I tend to favor fixed-blade models. I don’t have to fool around getting a blade out, or for that matter, folding it back into the handle. You might think this is an easy chore, but try it when the temperature outside reaches negative numbers.
Some years ago the folks at Gerber brought out their line of Gator knives, both fixed-blade and folding. These were about as simple as it gets, consisting of a full-tang, flat-ground blade and a thermoplastic handle. No pins or screws to come loose, everything was one-piece and even the folders were simplistic in design. A review of their current cutlery offerings reveals that they still carry these knives. Even though quality stainless blade steel is used, it’s really the handle grip where the knives shine. Gerber begins with a relatively hard, glass-filled nylon base that is chemically bonded to a resilient Santoprene rubber outer surface. The result is an enhanced hand-to-knife-handle grip.
Taking Stock In The New Gerber
The folks at Cabela’s have taken the original Gerber concept to an entirely new functional dimension with their new Gator Bell & Carlson fixed-blade knives. Bell & Carlson is well known for their top-of-the-line, nearly indestructible gunstocks. Cabela’s has applied the famous Bell & Carlson finish to the handles of two Gerber fixed-blade Gator models. The knife handles with this finish are impervious to environmental invectives, as well as the fluid byproducts of field care. Best of all, the handle treatment adds even more tactical contact for the grip pocket of the hand.
Cabela’s hasn’t just made a sophisticated handle adaptation to these knives; they’ve also made a substantial change in the blade structure by using S30V blade material. The 4-inch full-tang blades are now crafted from this premium stainless steel. One of the features that users will instantly notice when using the knives is a huge jump in edge retention. This is something the S30V is well known for. In tests, S30V has shown to hold an edge 45 percent longer than standard 440C stainless. When you’re field dressing and skinning big game and daylight is fading fast, stopping to sharpen your knife is something that’s best avoided if at all possible. And S30V offers the necessary edge retention to get through the job without sharpening.
Two Basic Patterns
The Gator Bell & Carlson fixed-blades are available in two basic blade patterns, drop-point and drop-point with a guthook feature on the back of the blade near the tip. Furthermore, the glass-filled Bell & Carlson handles come in black or tan. Each knife comes with a ballistic nylon carrying sheath with a retaining strap to ensure safe containment.
I’ve had extensive experience with this knife, both the Gerber original and the new Bell & Carlson version. That experience covers a wide range of big game, from elk to wild pigs and everything in between. Interestingly, I found the guthook variation of the knife works well on both large game and small, including rabbits and squirrels. The feature facilitates not only opening the visceral cavity (its primary function), but also as a skinning aid. Slitting open hide with this feature is like having a built-in zipper. Doesn’t get any easier!
Sharpening the S30V Blade
To be sure, sharpening the S30V blade steel took some effort (actually quite a bit), but both the edge and the guthook responded well to a tapered diamond rod. I also was able to produce a great edge on the blade with an EdgeCraft Chef’sChoice electric sharpener. Sharpening difficulties are to be expected when superior edge retention is part of the package.
In all, this new version of a Gerber standard will be a welcome addition to any hunter’s game care gear. The combination of an outstanding handle coating and a premium stainless blade steel ensures constant performance in any hunting venue. The Gator Bell & Carlson fixed-blade knife (either blade shape) is priced at $89.99 in Cabela’s Fall 2008 catalog.
Boker adds more compact folding knives to its ever-growing line of martial arts blades!
by Ralph Mroz / Mar 20, 2009